The smell of a freshly opened bag of coffee beans, mmmm, it’s the best!
Last weekend I went into the city for the first time in weeks since the Covid-19 lockdown! I found myself subconsciously holding my breath when passing others, and it was all a bit weird, so I quickly ducked into a cafe for a much missed Cappuccino.
It was soooo good.
I stood there and closed my eyes for a minute just sipping on the freshly made coffee – taking in the smell, the smoothness, the sweet taste. A world away from the instant I’d been chugging in my PJ’s for the past month. Geez it tasted good, and I knew why. It was made with 100% Arabica beans – how do I know? I just do – the quality and taste is a world away when you know the difference.
Now I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘coffee snob’, except having been trained by Lavazza in a previous life (long long ago) I know a little about it. Being young and interested, I couldn’t help but learn about the history of coffee (again probably in my PJ’s but shoosh). Nowadays my training and focus is all about implementing the best ERP solutions, but maybe it was the time spent away from drinking quality coffee (and the office) that had awoken my brain like a forgotten love, as parallels between coffee beans and their manufacturers, to ERP Consultants and their Partners, began to dawn on me – no really, just bear with me here.
Nowadays, as we know it, there are generally two types of coffee bean – Arabica and Robusta, and both can be blended together.
Arabica coffee is one of the most highly prized agricultural products in the world (a bit like a seasoned ERP consultant ;)) It needs time to mature, is selective where it can be grown, and produces a much tastier bean. Whereas, Robusta beans are about half the price of Arabica beans, are easier to grow, more plentiful and are cultivated sooner than the mature Arabica. But remember, Robusta by itself is awful. It needs to be blended.
Coffee is everywhere nowadays, in all it’s various blends, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a point when coffee fell out of…flavour? In the US and Europe during the 1800’s right up until the 1950’s, coffee was hugely popular, and there were only a few major coffee distributors around, including General Foods who owned Maxwell House, and due to taste, they only produced 100% Arabica coffee.
But this all changed after the great frost of 1954, which decimated Brazilian coffee trees and sent the supply chain into disarray and the price of Arabica through the roof. Whilst supply was short and prices were high, Maxwell House still had to fulfil the increasing demand for that great Arabica taste – and so began the great bait and switch of the coffee industry. It was an idea, that led to an experiment, which eventually caused the demise of coffee for a generation.
Coffee manufacturers started to reconsider their stance on Robusta – even though Robusta by itself wouldn’t be palatable, maybe if they added a few Robusta beans to their leading brand, no one would notice. The overall blend would be cheaper, and they could stretch their profits. So they swapped Arabica for a little Robusta to start with, and they found the drinker or customer on the whole didn’t complain.
But with a cheaper coffee, the demand surged and still there was not enough Arabica to go around, so what did they do? You guessed it, slipped in a little bit more Robusta. This went on for years, every time there was some outward profit pressure, they slipped in some more Robusta.
This bait and switch method worked perfectly, especially for the current coffee drinkers of the time, who never noticed the incremental changes in quality. But one day, the revenues started plummeting. Why? A business ultimately needs repeat business, and their brew had become unpalatable to the next generation. Basically, for a new drinker of coffee, who wasn’t gently lulled into a crap tasting drink, they could see the coffee for what it was. A bitter drink to swallow. Consumption died off, sales declined, and profits dropped, until a new revolution of quality took place. Again, driven by Arabica beans.
Can anyone else see the parallel yet?
In my coffee epiphany, I saw that ERP Partners were now a blend of Arabica and Robusta consultants. Where Arabica represents the mature, know their stuff, seasoned and specialised consultant and Robusta representing the less experienced counterpart.
ERP Partners are known for the old bait and switch method. The client gets sold the Arabica in presales, but will never know the true Arabica/Robusta blend until they taste the coffee so to speak. Behind the scenes less experienced consultants (through no fault of their own) are put into the blend. Partners think no-one will notice, and for the most part, no one does. Until at worst, the project fails to go live or at best, the client has not realised the benefits promised to them during the vendor and system selection process.
Now I want to make clear, that the quality of consultant for each project by no means reflects the individual, as we all have skills in definitive areas of scope. And I’m sure many can relate to that time you’ve worked for a partner and been suddenly pulled onto a project just to fill a seat. Like with the beans, there’s always supply and demand, so consultants can’t always dictate how they are to be utilised and continue working on projects best suited to their skillsets. Many of us are Arabica in some areas and Robusta in others I’m sure.
And yes, you can maybe learn on the job and enhance your skills, but that’s not what a client pays for, and yes, for a project to go live there’s always more than one problem to solve. Just like when you order coffee, there’s more to it than just beans, there’s other moving parts, the packing, the temperature, the logistics etc.
So there are many reasons a bad outcome can happen – but my point is, without Arabica, it’s never going to be good. Experience counts.
Like Maxwell House, I’m sure all ERP Partners started off as an all Arabica blend, experienced consultants delivering a quality brew, but as demand grows, and availability for skills start to strain (pun intended), there will never be enough Arabica to go around, so they have to continually blend with the less experienced Robusta consultant. True quality versus cost and availability is the constant compromise.
So what’s the perfect blend? Again, inspiration hit as I looked around the funky boutique coffee house I was in. The layout, the staff, the quality machines they used, the way the barista made it. Like its coffee, its business too was 100% Arabica.
There’s a reason our latest coffee revolution started again in the agile and innovative boutique coffee houses. Even Starbucks comes from boutique roots. A truly experienced team, with true passion for what they do, can produce the best results, and that’s what we’re all about at Elysian2.
We are 100% Arabica.
Leaving the coffee house, for some reason I breathed a little easier. It’s amazing what a quality coffee can do!