Women in ERP – April 2023
Laura Bradbury, Stephanie Shrader and
Hello everyone. Welcome to our Women in ERP show. I hope everyone is having a great start to the week Hello ladies. Hi. Hi. It’s great to have all of you here. So for those of you new to Women in ERP, this is a show that Sarah Scudder from SourceDay and I host the first Tuesday of each month to bring women together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs. I’m Kris Harrington, CEO of GenAlpha Technologies and I’m your host for today. I’m joined by Stephanie, Kim and Laura and they have a wide range of ERP experience and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories with us today. To kick off our show, I want to send a big shout out and thank you to our sponsors SourceDay, WBSRocks and GenAlpha Technologies. I also want to ask you to engage with us in the comments throughout the show and post your questions anytime. We would love to take your questions. Please say hello and let us know where you’re joining us from as well. I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I’m going to shout that out today because we are having some severe weather. So just in case the weather gets a little nasty here and we get shut off, you’ll know you’ll know what might have happened. So with that, let’s get started.
And Laura, I’m going to start with you. So, please tell us a bit about your ERP experience and share one fun fact about you. So my ERP experience started a long time ago – about 15 years exactly. Right out of high school, I joined a manufacturing company. So, I got a first-hand look at what it feels like to be on the floor to use one. It was not great admittedly at the time and then throughout the years I’ve kind of gotten very good at the data side of it as well as the transactional expectations and the implications of that. So now I’m actually heading straight into another ERP implementation it will be my fourth one. So, it’s it’s I know it’s coming and I also am excited but also scared at the same time. Fun fact about me: I like to make soap on the side. I don’t know how it happened. I just kind of saw some YouTube videos and I really thought it was such a creative outlet and I’m not a very creative person. I can barely draw a stick figure. So, I started diving into it and my skin thanks me for it and I just kind of got really good at it. Oh that’s awesome. I love my local soap. I actually that’s something I do kind of always gravitate toward when I’m out shopping in any local environment. So very cool. I’m curious on your ERP experience. You started on the floor using it I’m curious what the position was back 15 years ago. So, I was an Optics Assembler and I was using an ERP system to process jobs through the floor. Nice. Alright that’s a… I haven’t heard of that one yet on the show. So, very good.
Well let’s start with the first question to you as well. So what was one of the biggest challenges you faced during an ERP implementation? I would have to say it’s staff buy-in change is never fun and we already have the rumbles of change happening here and I can already feel that. You know, density in the air when it comes to talking about ERP changes in having them buy into the process changes that are going to be required in their their expertise – that are required in order to be successful in that implementation is definitely by far the challenge that I faced in all of the ERP implementations I’ve done. It is quintessential that people get engaged and they get excited about the potential, you know, effectiveness of the ERP system with their job themselves and the continuous improvement efforts that could come out of it as well. So I you know people are our biggest asset and getting their buy-in is is definitely hard but it’s well worth it. Yes what… so are you upgrading an ERP system or moving to a brand new one? We’re upgrading to a new one. We have one currently that has all of the basic functions that you would need MRP. It does lack an advanced planning system and scheduling but we’re moving to a much more robust comprehensive system that’s built for aerospace and military which is more along what we do here and we have very complex BOMs in functions within our organization. So, we’re pretty… I’m fairly excited because it’s I know the system, I’ve implemented it before, and I know what the alleviation of some of the problems we’re having that is coming our way. Yeah no that’s great. It’s actually always a little bit more comforting when you’re going to a system that you have experience with in the past are there other team members on your team who have experience with the new system or that will they be relying on you. So, thankfully, my boss her name is Sarah Fenimore, she’s actually the Director of Supply Chain here. She’s implemented the system at a previous organization too. So we’re very much two peas in a pod when we’re talking about the system and we’re talking about the future capabilities and the changes that’s going to come into play with our organization here and she’s just as excited as I am. That’s wonderful. Yeah love it. Okay well great. Thank you.
Stephanie, I’m going to move over to you next. Can you just tell us a little bit about your ERP experience and background and then share one fun fact about you as well? Sure, so I started about 25, 26 years ago in the procurement space, just as a kind of a fluke. Just, you know, hey Steph never takes no for an answer, maybe she’ll know how to negotiate. Can you help us do this and just ask for a better price. So okay. So, that’s my launching of my career. But as I got more into it and as our company grew and developed, a company that I was with about 20-25 years ago the MRP became a part, you know, that we relied on every day. And, at first, we were working off Excel spreadsheets. So, when when we got that MRP and understood how quick it and how effective it made us, it was something that I wasn’t used to at all and just saved saved my life. So, I got excited about it and interested in it at that point. Now my career has been in strategic international strategic sourcing and procurement. More supply chain logistics side of things. But, it’s always been around a manufacturing site and it’s always had MRP or ERP systems that I’ve relied on. The MRP and, right now the company that I’m with because of acquisitions along the way, we’re getting ready to do away with several. We all work out of different systems depending on where you are geographically in the world. So we’re getting ready to go and focus on the one system that we’ve decided to go with which is fairly robust as well and I just am 100% an ERP geek. I’m in procurement. I’m in that space. But, it relies on an ERP system and when you use it every day and when you you start to look at things and think this isn’t working, why isn’t this working? It’s exciting as can be. So I know I shouldn’t be excited about purses and makeup and all that kind of stuff, but no I talk to ERP with my friends. So it’s a lot of fun. Fun fact is I just became a grandma three weeks and two days ago for the first time so quite excited. Yep my little girl had a little girl named Raya and she’s with us in half Japanese, half American and just the cutest little thing. So it’s kind of cool to be a working mom, a working grandmom loving ERP but then still being able to take the time in this life that we live in now and be able to spend a little time with with the family and the baby. So that’s kind of a fun fact. Oh that’s a wonderful! Congratulations. Thank you. And I would definitely say you’re in good company and I’m sure the other ladies will smile with, you know, I always say geek of the week, nerd of my herd. You know, we’re all together in this love of these crazy systems and, but, we all want to move away from spreadsheets and we want to get on to easier ways of doing business so that we can use our minds rather than just being so tactical all the time, you know, an annual error we want to avoid. I also have a team member of mine that says that she speaks Japanese. So she she refers to SAP and SAP language S7. That’s great. You know it’s just definitely when you’re around this stuff it becomes like that.
So Stephanie first question for you what is one thing you must have when doing an ERP integration within an organization? And, you know, why does it matter? So, to Laura’s point, the buy-in is important. Specifically the company that I was at previous to where I’m at now, you’ve got to have the right people at the table whether it’s a new system or whether you’re integrating, you know, or whatever you are doing with the ERP. You’ve got to have those right people. So in the company I came from, unfortunately it was the heads, the executive team, the CEO. We need to do this, we need to go in this direction. Now these are people as we all know that are very good at what they do and very smart but they’re not in the day-to-day details. They’re not using the system. So when they say we’re going to move from, let’s just say NetSuite to Oracle, or you know this to that, they’re not using it. Yeah it really caused a major cost, time, and money for us because of the decision that was made with… I’m going to say the wrong people or the people that were right not being included with the other people. So if you don’t have the doers the workers, the people that understand day-to-day, this is how it functions this is where I go for this, you can possibly fail. And, what happened with our company is we actually, and it happened after I left to go to the company that I’m with in Vegas, but they after a year and a half of trying to force an e-commerce part of the business into a manufacturing, built type ERP system. It just didn’t work and they realized we really needed to stay, in this case with NetSuite for the e-commerce in Visual for the manufacturing and come up with a different way to do this because both don’t work well in just one system that they were trying to merge to. So, they’ve since had to go back. So you can imagine the time you spend a year you try to force it you try to train people people are not understanding because it’s not working well, bolt-ons, workarounds, etc. And so, without the right people at the table and that buy-in from the top they’re needed. They’re just not necessarily needed to make the decision on which system works best for everybody but their input is needed for the buy-in of course but you’ve got to have those those workers there the people that really are doing what what some of us do every single day using it. Great. Yeah. Excellent advice. You know I always think of stories where yeah leadership is making the decision from the top. Maybe they’re the ones analyzing a proposal and they’re looking at the dollars, but if the scoping exercise wasn’t with the team members who will actually use it and you know their their input wasn’t brought in, then you could even be evaluating the wrong proposals for the company before you ever get into the execution. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. It happens every day. Go ahead I got a comment actually. So very similarly I was in an organization when I had come on board they were in the middle of an ERP implementation and probably two or three weeks and then I was like I had some comments to say and then we forced it and of course we spent a lot of money to force it and we customized the system to the point where if they try to do anything else it broke and they got to the point where now they’re implementing their third ERP system. So it takes a lot and you gotta have the right people. There’s a good book that I love it by Jim Collins. It says the right people on the bus so to speak because you’re never gonna get there if you have the wrong people. Yep, right. People on the bus in the right seats. Right. So, yeah good advice.
Alright, Kim we’re gonna move over to you to round out our questions here and to get to know you a little bit. So can you tell us a little bit about your ERP experience and one fun fact about you? Sure, so similar to the other panelists here I’ve been in a procurement tech role for about 17 years. I’ve always been in the education space. Now that almost now has nothing to do with anything. When I started out certainly it was a supplier management situation for content development but since then I’ve grown through my different roles taking on a lot more procurement. But at each place I’ve been first we were implementing Ariba and when I say we it wasn’t me and I was very much on the outskirts. So I had like a little bit of knowledge and enough to be dangerous. The next place I went when I came onboard they were in the process of implementing an ERP and they weren’t even creating POs for the folks that were working for them. When we were hiring independent contractors or whatnot, I was like wait a minute, what do you mean you don’t have POs? Like holy cow and it was like we need an ERP. Somebody knew somebody who had used this system so Sage intact it is and now we need a consultant to help us figure out how to do this because there wasn’t anyone in Turtle who knew what they were doing and at that time there was nobody from procurement. Not that I would have been able to really help, but at least you know there’s things that are missing here. Something doesn’t feel right let me ask these questions and maybe that would have been you know a little bit more helpful. Moving on to the next spot where they didn’t have procurement at all either. So I was standing at a procurement department. Same situation. No ERP. How can a company this large not have an ERP? How have you been paying vendors? What’s going on here? And everything you guys are saying must be happening everywhere because executive leadership made the decisions .They picked a consulting company, they were on their fifth project manager from that consulting company by the time I left, and they when they chose the system, even though they knew they were trying to centralize the procurement function, they chose to not get a procurement module as part of the ERP. And so, they gat some feedback from me, but there wasn’t a procurement module. So other people were like well what does she have to do with any of this. So it was just like the blind leading the blind almost. And it was, I don’t know. I don’t know if they even got it off the, you know. It was supposed to go live on February 1st. My transition happened January 31st. So I really don’t know what happened but I do know that everything you guys have just said we… I’ve been experiencing the same issues at the places that I’ve been. A fun fact about myself that I don’t really advertise too much is that I self-published a book called Grandpa Gin living the multi-generational dream because my husband and I took my parents in, bought a significantly larger house to support my parents from a financial aspect and medical issues, and we really were not prepared for what we were getting into and ultimately my father passed away in our home under hospice care. My mother’s health took this huge turn for the worse and I had to write. I simply had to start writing and capturing and doing something to help other people because I knew that something that would be faced by many people and they’re not going to be prepared for it and it’s easy to say, oh yeah we’ll just take my mom in. Holy Toledo, make sure you have your ducks in a row and ask every question you possibly can about that. But the reason I don’t advertise is because my mom has graduated from hospice three times which is lovely for her, but if she knew about that book I’d be in big trouble. No well it’s out there and if you’re experiencing having to care for for elder parents I’m happy to talk to anybody about it. But you know, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you say Kim Moeller has terrible language but when you’re living in that day-to-day you do whatever you can to sort of relieve your stress. So anyway that’s my fun fact. Yeah what a, what an interesting fun fact and thank you for sharing the resource with all of us because I think yes as we have aging parents, aging grandparents. You know I have a personal experience that you’re just not prepared for it so I think that will be a lovely resource and I really like that you shared the progression in your ERP experience too because I think a lot of people listening will have had a similar experience. If they’re very new to ERP they might resonate with something that you just said or if they’ve they’ve moved companies and they see in that transition how one company is using an ERP versus another company and sometimes you’re like why does it have to be this way when I know it can be this way, you know. So, it’s important to share those comments.
So my first question for you Kim, is in your opinion, what’s the greatest organizational challenge when implementing a new ERP system? It is the same as as Stephanie and Laura has said that change management piece is enormous and I think it has to go from top down but also the people working here have to continuously, proactively, confidently, and with a cheerful smile on your face promote the reason we’re doing it. Change is so hard for people and we had one person who worked for us who happened to be an hourly employee and she was over every single week doing these manual entries because we didn’t have the system yet but it was what she knew. It was what she was comfortable with. It was inefficient, it was costing the company more money, and she was constantly frustrated. And it’s similar to procurement people are like well what do we need centralized procurement function for? Here’s all the wonderful things you need this centralized procurement function for and it can be fun and it can be invigorating and I am also a procurement geek and I’ll be in an interview and I’m like and then this and then this and it’s so exciting. I don’t know people think it’s exciting or not, but I do and if I can generate that kind of enthusiasm you’ve got to put it play. But, the leadership has to be doing the same thing I know they don’t have time, a lot of time but instead of just lodging the complaint from so and so well we’ve got to change to an ERP get it out there. Communicate positively about the benefits to the company to the organization to your own personal time. You’ll become more productive, you’ll be a more efficient worker, you better get to do some other stuff in a different area that you didn’t know you had a skill in because you’re saving 10 hours a week on nonsense. Yeah, yeah management I think leaders I hope you’re all listening because these three talented women just shared some things that are really important for you to take back to your organizations. I do see that there are some comments that have come in. It looks like Larry is with us. Bill is with us. Sam Gupta is with us. So hello everyone. Great to see you here. Love it. Please keep the comments coming in.
So Laura, I’m going to come back to you. What was a strategy you’ve used in the past to immerse yourself and others into an ERP? So my go-to when I go to train people is everybody loves lunch and that’s the thing you’ll hear me say a lot. I love lunch. Lunch is a coveted thing for me. I have actually right now an hour blocked off every day for lunch. What I’m doing with that is usually geeking about ERPs. I’m currently doing research about our new system, about some of the updates that have happened since I’ve last used it, but what I like to do with my team or the team that I’m working with the ERP is plan on is do a lunch and learn but it’s a pilot database where we go in and we take a function that you know people are interested in learning about they’re interested in how it affects what they’re doing and they’re interested in the implications of what that module does in an ERP system and then we just run it through process by process and we try to break it essentially and find the gaps. It’s a lot of fun. You get a lot of laughs out of it and again everybody loves lunch. So it’s a really good incentive to get the employees involved and it gets some more knowledge just by experience of using the system, just seeing the different module functions and knowing that yes it’s an imperfect system until we process orient it to be a perfect system and there is no such thing as a perfect system. There’s always continuous improvement but that’s I still do these. One should learn even to with a system that is implemented if there’s a lot of value in trying to break it because we’ve found a lot of gaps that way. Yes try to break it ready companies aren’t doing enough with these lunch and learns. Right everybody loves to eat. You usually get more attendance if the company is paying for lunch, you know, people love those opportunities and what a great way to get to know the people that you work with and not that normal you know stand by your cubicle and talk over a person as they’re sitting at their desk kind of way. When you’re all together and in a room like that having some lunch, it’s just just a great way to learn. I really like that. Thank you. It takes the pressure off. Yes it does. Yeah and I will go back, you know we tell customers when we launch into UAT or the the test environment is like break it try to break it you know all the little things. We don’t have test scripts that we can create for your things that are unique to your organization that you know can be hiccups. So try those things, test the things that have been difficult for you in the past to check the limits of whatever’s, you know, solution you’re using.
Alright Stephanie, back to you. We hear people talk about dirty data and the challenges it creates. Where do you start when, you know, you have dirty data? so it depends to me and that’s something that we’re dealing with now and I think most companies unless you’re really proficient at what you do and and have an excellent team? You’re going to deal with maintaining data that’s that’s in your system. To me it, in a company the size of the company that I’m with, I’m in I’m technically in Nashville now because of the grandbaby, but I live in Vegas. I moved there a year and a half ago to take a job with a company called Scientific Games now called LW or a Light and Wonder Gaming and we do all the manufacturing of anything when you walk into a casino you see. So not only the digital games that you see, the electronic games but actually the slot machines, the roulette tables, all of the gaming devices that are on the floor. If you can imagine, it’s not like rocket science or aeronautics, but it’s pretty complex as far as all the intricate pieces that go into build these machines. So our BOMs are fairly intricate. If you don’t maintain the data it becomes what we call dirty data. To me, a company our size you need some outsource outsourcing or outside resources to help. There are people all day long, many of us could name some that are either, we’re friends with or that we’ve done business with that have a business in helping you get a jump start on cleaning up the data. Whether it’s you know a supplier name spelled a couple different ways just easy fixes quick wins. I think is a great place to start. In the company that I’m in, I took over the procurement department in July of last year and when I got into our ERP system that I was not familiar with, I did not come from an Oracle ERP system. It is so large and so robust compared to what I came from. The amount of education is just, I mean I can’t even tell you where you could start to learn, however you can also have many users do it their way and so you’re putting in unless you have that you know centralized hub. I think you really do need a data integrity department and the department can be a person, you know, it can be a person or two people. You need a group that really knows what they’re doing and it’s kind of your primary go to when you’re setting up, whether it be parts or different things with BOM changes that need to be made, suppliers, customer set up. So, I believe that having somebody from the outside can help if you can afford to do that. I think that’s a great way to start and they can also kind of guide you and take a bigger top-down look at it where we get down in the details and I’m only seeing the procurement piece. How does it fit in with the forecasting piece over here? Or how does it fit in with the work orders that the order management team is putting in? And they keep saying that we’re short. You know, we’re always short on parts. Well, wait a minute, it’s because this isn’t working or this is dirty and driving us to buy more or less, etc. So it all fits together. So it helps to have somebody that really understands it. But do have a couple people whether it’s IT, etc that are really honed into what’s the best way to do this? Define those SOP training. I think is one of the biggest problems we can clean up the data we can pay to have it perfect and we can come back in tomorrow and unless it’s people have been trained to keep it maintained. It’s going to turn back to dirty data again. You know, it’s… there is no other way other than a very rigid maintenance program in place with people that understand what they’re doing which means your company has got to spend the time training and if you don’t, if I leave it to Laura to train the next person who comes in and then that person who’s fairly new trains the next person, you can really be left with people that think they’re doing the right thing but end up doing it incorrectly, inconsistently, and then the data is shot and anybody that’s in the procurement realm, sourcing realm, etc., you know, that without good data, you are over buying, you are under buying, you will not be successful. And so that was my first goal when I came back to this procurement department. To say now that Covid’s over and everything’s kind of just been not chaotic through the years really but we’ve all been left on to do our own thing kind of in the system, let’s pull that back together. Let’s see where we need to clean up things. Let’s put back in this training in these SOPs. Let’s get this cleaned up. So this buying team that I’m in charge of isn’t the go-to which procurement we all know we end up being the scapegoat a lot of times but so they’re not the ones that everybody’s saying they can’t do their job. She’s not managing them. They don’t know what they’re doing. We’re always short on parts. Hold up a minute. Let’s get the lead times right, let’s get you know, let’s get it all right, so that we do understand but it takes the whole team and everybody in operations knowing and doing you can’t just do it with one department. That’s right. Yeah, oh there’s so much in there I’m curious on a gaming machine. What’s the average life of a machine average? So the machines can last, I mean physically last for decades as far as that goes, however the life as far as from a standpoint of when they want the casino may want them out my understanding is about five years. Okay even shorter now but you may have a life a life cycle you know that lasts you five years in different geographical locations. Yes but it’s down to a complete science where you know what’s performing, what’s not they know what’s performing, what’s not performing, what they want to move around and get in and out really quickly yeah and I would believe there’s a second-hand market right so probably the the casinos in Vegas they want them out in five years but they might move into a secondary market and and and and what I was going to share there is like supersession and obsolescence for the parts that make up those machines if they’re not handled consistently that’s how data can get really wonky and supporting those machines over their complete lifetime that’s when the mistakes will start to be made and because it’s the longer the life of a piece of equipment the more that equipment might change and then that’s going to have an effect and you’ve got to have good processes that can support all of that. So yes exactly. Yeah good stuff.
Alright Kim, I know this comes up a lot for teams. How do you deal with lack of knowledge or experience with any one particular ERP system? We just went through a situation where, and I don’t know if this is going to answer your question exactly, but there was a lack of consistency across the two systems. So we had physical print inventory at 3PL that used a specific system, and they had our inventory at the unit component and item level. Internally, we tracked at the component and the item level. So we had a lack of marriage there to begin with. And as we were looking to move the inventory to another place and trying to make sure that the inventory accounts were accurate, we had an individual who was familiar enough with the system on both sides where she was saying, “Okay, here are the counts. Looks like here’s what we have here, and this is the dollar amount.” It was completely different from what the CFO was saying. No, this is what I see from the inventory amount. And what it amounted to was that this individual didn’t have the training that she needed from the previous person. The data had been dirty for a long time, and there was nobody else internally until I came along who was overseeing that and saying, “Hey, that’s not quite right.” Nobody was checking the numbers. So then you say to yourself, “Okay, who cares here? What is it going to take to move the needle to make somebody acknowledge and drive some change?” Because if you don’t have someone to train the person, and they kind of learn on their own, and then everyone takes that as gospel, “Yep, she knows what she’s doing. She’s been doing it for a while.” So, if the driving factor is it’s all about the money and making sure that the numbers add up, then that lack of training has to be addressed starting at leadership and coming all the way down. You’ve got to have somebody that’s saying, “Hey, we’ve noticed there’s been a big discrepancy here. Let’s understand why,” instead of either pushing it under the rug, firing that person. Do we take the time to understand why, what went wrong? And that’s where training comes in. That’s where you say, “Okay, we’ve got to spend a little bit extra money. We’re implementing NetSuite. We’ve got a consultant, but I want the NetSuite people to make sure that we’re getting trained and that that training can go further down the road. If this person leaves and somebody else comes in, do I as the supervisor have enough skill to train, or do we bring NetSuite or whoever, you know, back in to continue that training?” Which then goes into, “What do you have in your contract? Did you hit that correctly when you were negotiating with them?” So, you know, back to your question, there are so many different scenarios that can go awry, and I think enough people aren’t familiar, and they just choose to kind of not address it. And when I look at a procurement role within an organization that’s not sitting at the head table, hearing all the conversations, and being part of the strategy and being able to be in a position to say, “Hey, hold on, let’s make sure we have the right people in place, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I think you’re setting yourself up to not be as good as you can be because you’re not acknowledging that more voices are needed at that table. Yeah, you know, I think you’re bringing up something we don’t talk about very often. You know, something I hear, and maybe this will, you guys will agree, but train the trainer.
We talk a lot about “train the trainer,” right? And so, when somebody learns something, and I don’t know, there are some stats out there that we pick up 10% of what we learned the first time. So, if you don’t repeat right away, you’ve basically missed 90%. If you’re really good, maybe you pick up a little bit more, but the point is that you’re going to miss some things. So, if there aren’t any documented procedures to go with somebody’s training that they can refer back to, even as part of the training, to say, “And this is where you can find the written area to be able to perform your job and what are some of the expected outcomes after you perform a task,” I think we don’t often, and I know talking about procedures with some people and documenting procedures is a headache. People don’t like to do it. I recognize all of that, but if we are going to perform to the expectations and get the most out of our solution, we have to document things. So, I think you’re bringing up a really important point. Well, it’s like a recipe, yep, just to bake a cake or whatever. You can’t skip things. You can’t go out of order. There’s a reason that things have a process and step by step. Even though I’ve always felt that process documentation is still like a living breathing document, yes, today, this is the process. This is how we do it. As we grow and change a little bit, you can update that process. But of course, you’ve got to be continuing to communicate it out. Maybe you do additional training throughout the year, what have you, just being present and having the opportunity and the platform to get out there and say, “Hey, everybody that I work with, here’s where all of our stuff is capped. Here’s why we do things the way we do. Here’s what it looks like today. Please keep yourself informed and up to date because as this changes, you might get to learn something new.” Yeah, no, that’s great. Can I make a quick comment? Yes, please. Kim has said something too, kind of related but not 100% related to what you just were talking about, but you had said originally talking about money. You know, as far as there’s a cost with not doing this or not training. I have learned, especially, and I’ll just bring it down to just be real here and being a woman in with a lot of men in the supply chain operations manufacturing ERP space, I would talk with emotion. You know, I get all excited, and you just don’t understand how dirty this stuff is, and we can’t function, and you know, they would kind of look at me and go, “Okay, fix it. Take care of it.” When you come, though, and you do start talking money and you start talking facts, your inventory, if we buy everything that’s in the system right now, your inventory at the end of next month, or for a publicly traded company, at the end of next quarter, is going to be 5 million more than you wanted it to be. All of a sudden, it’s like, “Why? Because we’re driving demand because we haven’t cleaned up lead times or old work orders or whatever the case is.” Yeah, instantly, you can stop, and it can be a woman or a man that you’re talking with, but instantly, when we’re talking with data and we’re talking with numbers and we’re talking money, all of a sudden, it’s, “Well, what do we need to do to train people? We can’t have this. Well okay.”
So, you know, and so we’ve got to also remember that, especially like I said, being women where we’re more, you know, just emotional about it, and we see this big thing, and it’s hard to get it down to that precise five million dollars at the end of next month would be sitting on your floor, and then all of a sudden, people will perk up about ERP, what it’s needed for, how it can be used, and why it’s a cost savings in the end, everything that goes into it. Yeah, facts and numbers draw attention, right? And that they can be used to leverage the discussion that I think many of us may want to have when we’re trying to improve something. So, I like that you inserted that. Before we move on to the next question, I’m just going to jump in here and show a few comments. Sam said, “Kim, love your honesty. Typically we, meaning only me in the ERP Community, you are the first one I heard saying we equals not me. Thanks for making everyone understand that ERP is not supposed to be one person’s job.” Love that comment.
Sam, thank you. We also have Maria. I love that a few of you have mentioned being an ERP procurement geek. I’m in good company. I get all fired up talking about the importance of ERP and hearing you all speak about it. Thank you, Maria. You are welcome. Welcome to the club. And then we have Tracy here that also said, “Poor planning on their part does not constitute the emergency on my part. There is such a disconnect between operations planning and procurement. This is excellent, ladies. Thank you.” Tracy, this is…we appreciate the comments.
So, you know, Laura, I’m going to come back to you again here for our third round of questions. So, if you had to train someone in an ERP, what is the most important lesson? Well, as you mentioned about, you know, when you’re training somebody, they only observe absorb about 10 at a time. I think the most critical part when training an ERP, at that 10 of the time, to drill into someone’s head, as everyone has mentioned already, dirty data. I have the fortune of having an organization right now we’re going into a new ERP system, but the data we have currently is…they’ve done a very good job at maintaining it. Our challenge will be is just switching to a different language. So, training the employee to understand that your transactions have much larger implications than what you are currently looking at. It doesn’t just talk to the module you’re in, it talks to all of them. So, dates matter, prices matter, the part number matters, the bombs matter, the structures matter, the GL coding matters. It has such…being a transactional employee is so critical to the ERP system, but being a good transactional employee is something that’s very difficult to train. So, when it comes to training, I always say you have a very, very important job of maintaining this organization’s data, and we need to know that when we are being transactional, that has a bigger effect than what we’re looking at on the screen. Oh yeah, just good, good stuff. And building up on, you know, a lot of the things that we’ve been talking about, I like that. Anybody else have a comment on top of what, you know, Laura had just talked about or shared?
“She’s exactly right. I mean, she couldn’t have said it any better. Yeah, great.” All right, Stephanie, I’m going to come back to you, and I know that we talked a little bit about this already with the maintenance. So, you know, I think if I were to ask you what’s the most important word to use once data has been cleansed, you would say maintenance. You started to talk about it a little bit last time, but how do you go about maintaining data once it’s clean? So, can you kind of walk everybody through how you ensure the maintenance and maybe some stories about what’s worked for you or something that’s been implemented in the past?
So, yes, maintenance I think is critical. Without it, it just doesn’t work. You go back to exactly where you started, you know? So, you’ve got to maintain your data. There’s power in planning, is what I always say to people. To have a plan, whether it – and it depends on your company. I’ve come from a company where we didn’t really write formal standard operating procedures. We had processes that were kind of known, and we did train, and we learned, and we did a really good job of that, but we didn’t have official documents. The company that I’m at now, which is a large, extremely large company, we have to have documents. You know, we need those documents in place so we can hand them to somebody as we train them, and they’ll have something to look at as they go forward. But I believe that you’ve got to plan, you’ve got to set up certain documentation, as we’ve already talked about. You’ve got to plan for that training. Make sure you have the right people that are doing the training. There has got to be follow-up as you go through just day-to-day, month-to-month. You know, you’ve got to do some follow-up, some spot checking. Do we run, for instance, do we run an open PO report, and we see the supplier ABC supplier, and it’s ABC all caps, and now it’s ABC lower caps? Is that the same supplier? You’ve got to do some spot checking, and generally, you would have people in place to do some of that, and you have to then act on that and then go back. I mean, take the time, and all of us are busy. I mean, I hate the word busy, but we’re all literally, you know, there are days that I think, “I don’t even have time to do that one last email.” You know, there’s so much going on, but you got to go back to that person. You’ve got to find out who did it, what department did it, what person. Pin it down to that person. “Hey, let me show you why this affects everybody,” as Laura said, because it does. It affects everybody. So you’ve got to check your data, and there’s no, like I said, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s different for every company, but I think you just start with a plan. How are we going to maintain this? Who is responsible for this segment versus this segment versus this segment?
How are they going to train? What documents are in place? Do we have a central depositor or repository for all of the documents? And you just lay out the plan that works for your organization. But without doing it, you will not succeed with an ERP system. You can do it, but you’re going to find when you go over to Larry or Susie or Sam over here, they’re working off an Excel spreadsheet and you’re looking, going, ‘But we have this multi-million dollar system.’ ‘Yeah, but it doesn’t give me what I need.’ ‘Well, that’s because we have it maintained and we haven’t put in the proper and maintain the data. Put in the proper data.’ ‘It’s easier for me if I just do it outside the system. So much easier. I’ll check it at the end of the month.’ ‘Yeah, yeah, every day, the just great.’ You know, I think we’ve all are nodding because we’ve heard these things before, right? You know, I can share an experience when I worked with a manufacturer that we had a gentleman who wrote reports, and we were all encouraged to ask him to write the reports we needed. And oftentimes those reports were to check work or to find the discrepancies. So I would encourage organizations not to forget that you have the ability to pull reports out of your ERP system. That’s one of the beautiful gifts of putting data and making it the safe source for information is that you can get reporting out of it. And you know, think about as you’re building a process, how can we validate our processes working? Is there a report that could show us the ABC all caps or the ABC small cap so we can catch that maybe on a monthly basis? So that it also becomes a part of our process to run the report and do this check or run the report and check these things. Reporting is such a valuable, I think, just opportunity in these spaces too, especially with an ERP system today. All right, Kim, how can you ensure a successful ERP implementation from a tactical standpoint? That’s a hard question.
I still think, oh, I was thinking inside my own head for a bit here, and I wanted to go off of what Stephanie was saying because there has to be a level of personal responsibility and accountability by yourself, your manager, and leadership further up. I was sort of tongue-in-cheek saying it’s easier if I keep it in the spreadsheet outside of the system, but it truly happened, and the person who ran that department was like, “I don’t want to stress my people, let them just do it the way that they’re used to,” and then the leaders a little bit further up were like, “Okay.” So they just shot themselves in the foot. They didn’t enforce the use of this new system that has many dollars associated with it. They’re not forcing accountability. If you’re responsible for having clean data, for maintaining data, and you’re just assuming that it’s happening, and then you know you get three months, six months down the road, and you’ve got a big issue, and you can trace it back, again, it doesn’t mean let’s fire the person. You said it’s a learning experience to train further, to help somebody understand why, to give them the power to be accountable for the work that they’ve done, be responsible for it. It’s just amazing that here it’s just four of us, and we all are experiencing the same things in multiple places where we’ve been. So how do we, as a group of procurement professionals, ERP women –
I don’t care if you’re a man, woman, green, or yellow. You know, like, we’re all trying to get to the same place, which is inefficient and not in an efficient way of working, a productive way of working, trying to not spend money where we don’t have to and in helping the people that we work with feel good about what they’re doing, feel confident in what they’re doing. So much of it boils down to how your individual resources feel about themselves and the work that they do. There’s so much psychology involved in truly leading your organization forward. It’s not…I feel less tactical, yeah, in more people-oriented because it’s again that everyone’s goals should be the same at the end of the day. And yeah, I’m getting my little geek going on again, but you want the buy-in at all levels of the organization, and if they don’t understand why, it’s not going to happen. The person who’s handwriting reports or typing in the data on the weekends wants to know why she has to change to this new way of doing things, and by golly, as a leader, you need to give her the time to help her understand, to make her feel part of the organization and that her role is not going to change. She’s not losing her job. And I think there’s a big part of it right there, ERP, that’s automation. What does that do to my job? Am I going to lose my job because they’ve implemented this new system? Maybe I’ll hang back and, you know, not be as productive as I can be because I’ll keep my job. Nothing I’m thinking, but there’s just so much that goes into it from a mental standpoint and having the emotional intelligence to deal with all of the needs of your people, whether it’s your current team or you know you’re the CEO, it doesn’t matter. There’s still a concept that needs to be implemented. Yeah, you know, I really love that you brought in the threat or the perceived threat or risk that people sometimes absorb on themselves related to systems and processes and improvements and change. Change is always hard, but I know as a person leading a technology company, we design technology to make people’s jobs easier. That really is our goal. If we weren’t accomplishing that, then we wouldn’t be successful as a company. So we know these ERP systems, at the same time, are also designing their features and their functionality to make these jobs easier for people and to automate things. If it’s complicated or it is requiring manual intervention or other things, then we have to go back and look at the current state and observe how they’re doing things and say, “What could this state be with the system?” and move into that. But I do think sometimes we have to address that perception of threat or a risk of an individual by saying, “This is how your job will change. Here are the new things we’re going to expect from you. And by the way, we plan on growing our business by 30% over the next five years.”
So, this is going to help us scale. You know, you get a hundred requisitions today for this particular supplier, tomorrow we hope it’s 1500, and you’re not going to be able to process 1500 doing it the way we’re doing it today, so I need you to be involved in this process to make it easier. So, I think that human element is really important, and we all are responsible for understanding how we can help support that change. Really, really good stuff. I know we’re coming near the end, so maybe just a minute here. I’m gonna go around and any last advice that you’d like to share with our audience related to working in an ERP system? You know, any advice that you were given? My best advice that I gave, I’ve shared on this program before, but to use the ERP system as a tool. So, I have walked in my life with the ERP, knowing that it’s a tool in my toolbox, and I have to know the tool deeply if I’m going to get the most out of it. And I know that I became an incredible resource for people and for the companies that I’ve worked for because I considered it a tool. So, that’s kind of the advice I would share, I guess. Laura, coming back to you, any last advice? So, to kind of build off of that, if you are using your ERP system and you’re still functioning externally with your Excel sheets, having conversations with leadership about that, because that just even and of itself, data dumping or data mining or any of that could potentially be done in the system.
It’s just learning that tool and how to use it the proper way and just letting leadership know, “I’m still doing this this way and I really could use some help, and maybe the system can do it, but I just don’t know how.” So always ask for help is my advice. Yeah, great. Stephanie, I would say don’t look at it, don’t look at the ERP as, you know, it’s not really my job. So a lot of times it’s, well, ERP, that’s really the I.T people, they do it all, we just use it, we just go to it and, you know, hit a couple buttons, print out a report, and then do what we’re supposed to do based on this. Look at it as a tool, as you said, but I love not being afraid of it, you know, and it’s kind of like math. I hated math because I was told, “Oh, math is no fun, ERP is no fun,” is what people will say. But once you get into it and you understand that when I do this, it affects them, and you do become Kim, Kris, like you said, a resource for other people. They come to you, they need to understand, and to see them then get excited and go, “Oh my God, I really did this. Now I do have that report that gives me all the open POs in one place with standard cost in it,” you know, or whatever it is that you need, and to see people get excited over something that we all say is kind of hard. And if you look at something like an Oracle, you know, all of this type, big, robust, it’s overwhelming. So just don’t be afraid of it, you know, just take a look at it, get with it, because generally you have somebody in it that really knows it, or on LinkedIn, I’ll just give them a shout out, there’s people like Larry and Sam that deal with this kind of stuff every day that have been great just to say, “Hey, how would you do this? What do you think about this? How much would it cost to do this?” Great resources, and tie into them as you go through, and don’t be scared of it. Yeah, great advice. All right, Kim, in the same vein here, but I’m a hashtag lifelong learner, so I’m going to say use your LinkedIn learning and be curious. I literally was not chosen for a job just the other day because I didn’t have enough Ariba experience, and I was like, “Well, what the hell?” Oh, sorry, but they’re all kind of similar. I’ve worked in Ariba, I’ve worked in NetSuite, I’ve worked in Sage Intact. Like, be curious.
So what I did was I started a LinkedIn learning course on SAP at Rebound because I thought, “I’m not going to let that happen to me again. Like, what does she think? I don’t know?” I’ll just go in here and if nothing else, it’s more information for me. So my advice is to just, you know, stay curious and keep learning. The systems are continually going to change. There’s going to be something new next year or two years down the road. Whatever, we’re all going to have to keep learning something new, so just be open to that. Be open to change. It’s a cool thing, not a scary thing. Yeah, no, great! You ladies killed it. This was a great conversation, really enjoyable. I think we left the audience with a lot of great advice to take into their own careers and take back to their company. So we have come to the end of our show. Thank you to everyone in the audience who attended today and all the comments. Our next show will be May 2nd at 1 pm Eastern, and my lovely co-host Sarah Scudder will be with you for that one. So please join us again in May and have a wonderful week, everyone. Bye, everyone! Thanks, everybody! Thank you, everyone! Bye-bye.