Transcript: Women in ERP – December 2022

Women in ERP – December 2022

Featured Panelists:
Dany Capodieci, Rachel Hoffman, Dyci Manns Sfregola, and Alicia Gilpin

This is a show that Kris Harrington and I host the first Tuesday of each month to bring together women in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs, and it is not all pretty, believe me. I’ve lived through some crazy experiences myself. Our initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with ERP transformations. The main theme of this series is to highlight the contributions of women, create social awareness to enhance women’s representations in ERP teams, highlight their stories and challenges, and voice their opinions with ERP transformation initiatives. I am Sarah Scudder, Marketing Maven at SourceDay, and today’s show host. Our platform integrates with many ERP systems, so my teams and I have personally lived through the good, the bad, the ugly, and anything really in between relating to ERPs. I have asked Dyci, Rachel, Dany, and Ali to join me today. All of them have extensive ERP experience, and I want them to share their wisdom and stories today. For those of you joining us live, we’d like to have you drop in the chat and tell us where in the world you are joining us from. So, put a note, and then also, if you have a word or phrase to describe how you are feeling about your ERP right now, drop that in the chat as well. I know we sometimes get some funny quotes and comments and phrases coming in about how people are feeling about their ERP at specific times throughout the year. And don’t be shy about dropping questions in the comments as well. All of our panelists are very open and transparent, and so I’ll be happy to address questions that come in from the audience as well. So feel free to drop those in at any time. So, Rachel, I’m gonna have you kick us off today. Would like to have you do a super, super quick intro about yourself, and then my first question for you is what type of experience do you have with ERP systems?

Okay, my name is Rachel. I’ve been with Barkman Concrete for just shy of 25 years. I’m almost hitting my 25-year mark, so I’ve kind of grown up with the company here. My experience with ERP systems is not at all on the technical side or the implementation side. I’m a user, and I mean that in the good sense. So, over the years, I’ve built up my experience within our ERP system. We upgraded back exactly 10 years ago, actually this weekend will be 10 years. So, we’ve used this. I’ve been using this system for so long and just discovering more ways that it can be used to help us do the things that we want to do. Our company has grown significantly over the last 10 years, so our processes need to do the same, and my goal is to use our ERP system to try to find better ways to do things in more efficient ways and to bring all of our information together so that we’re all working off the same platform with the same information, and that will help us align with the strategic objectives and have us all working on the same page.

Rachel, you’ve been at your company almost 25 years. That seems crazy to me. I’m on the tail end of being a millennial, and that seems like a very long time. How long have you been using the current ERP that you’re on? This weekend will be exactly 10 years. We implemented it back in December of 2012. So, looking back now, knowing the things that we know now, if I could go back and change the way we did things when we implemented, I think we would do things very differently. We spent a lot of time trying to make the system work the way we worked, instead of trying to make our people work the way the system worked. And now, we’re finding that there’s a lot of hurdles and roadblocks that are coming up because of all the customizations and the workarounds that we created back when we started, but nobody knew anything about the system or what it was capable of. So, it’s been 10 years, and I’m constantly learning something new that can be done within the system. So, it’s always evolving. And Rachel, how would you describe your adoption of the system 10 years in? Our adoption of this system, I think the more we use it and the more we highlight the capabilities, the more people are getting on board. There was a lot of resistance when we first implemented. It was an overwhelming amount of information. Our older system had very little information compared to what we have now. So, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking at and what you’re looking for and how to use it. But over the years, people have kind of become adapted to how it works and where to look for information and how to use it. And if we can focus on change management as we continue to improve our processes, I think it will help everybody embrace it fully.

Yeah, I like to ask that question because you’d be surprised how many organizations I talk to, and they’re, you know, 10, 15 years in and they have very, very low adoption still. For a spend that was, you know, substantial, an ERP system is not inexpensive, and in some cases, millions of dollars. And when you’re making that big of an investment and you have such low adoption, it can be a frustration and a challenge, right? Dyci, so Rachel said something that I wanted to make sure to highlight, and that her company has been on their ERP system for 10 years. And the reason I think that’s important is that buying an ERP system is a really, really important investment, a lot of money and resources. And oftentimes, once you do select an ERP and do an implementation, you are using that system for a very long time. It’s not something you’re typically going to change in and out. So, I’d like to have you do a quick intro, Dyci, and then my question for you is how can manufacturers choose the best ERP since there are so many options in the market? There’s a lot of ERP solutions that have been specifically built for manufacturers. Okay, my name is Dyci. I am the founder and CEO of Nugent Architects, and the architect’s for solution architecture. So we work with manufacturers who are looking to go from 2010 to 2020 for their ERP upgrades and any other systems that they’re looking to do. So we provide advisory support for a lot of the things that you talked about with Rachel, Sarah. Avoiding over customization, ensuring user adoption, changing processes as you change, as customer behavior expectations change, what does that look like? How do you bring your systems in your ERP along that journey? So it’s really important, I think, to understand what you’re trying to accomplish with the ERP when you’re trying to choose what the right ERP is or the best ERP. Just because so much of it can lead you down the path of over customization, and it seems like a nice thing to say, ‘Oh, we customize this ERP just for us,’ but it was just for you in 2010. Will it still be the same just for you when you have, you know, 10 to 20 employees, or 20 to 50 employees, or you have customer changes, or business process changes, or your accounting process changes? And is it still the right system? So, I think that the first thing to help determine what the best ERP is, is to make sure that everyone in the organization really understands what the business processes are that the ERP supports, and that’s your order to cash, procure to pay, you know, let’s call it those two top ones, and then whatever falls down underneath that. But everyone understands what their role is in that process, what’s happening upstream, what’s happening downstream, and then that is documented and defined. And from there, you have some requirements that you can take to the ERP vendors. A lot of people just start looking at demos and just start talking to ERP vendors, and then an ERP vendor might say, ‘Oh yeah, it does this. Have you guys thought about doing this thing?’ And maybe it sounds cool, but do you need to do that thing, you know what I mean? Do you want to get that feature, even though that’s not part of your business process and will likely not ever really be truly adopted? So the first step in choosing the best ERP or the right ERP is to understand what the business process is. And yes, so that isn’t really, so I was trying to think of a way to diplomatically say, ‘Don’t let it be a vanity project for one person,’ but Susan’s comment is definitely hit the nail on the head. You know, make sure it’s the entire organization and not just one or two or a handful of decision-makers that are saying, ‘This is what we’re gonna go with,’ and really bringing everybody into the conversation to determine what the business needs are that the ERP is going to support and then going from there, as opposed to the demo-fancy, ‘What can we get for it?’ and then trying to figure out how to make it work.

Do you see how long should a selection process take?

Oh, that’s a good question. Oh, can I give a typical consultant answer and say, ‘It depends’? Elaborate then, because I, yes, absolutely. Absolutely such a broad spectrum where they’re like, ‘We’re gonna do a selection in one month,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, right,’ or, ‘Hey, it took us three years,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Well, that seems like a pretty, now this is paralysis, correct?’ And then you’re, it’s no longer relevant, so what should somebody plan for? I personally think, so a month is not necessarily too short if you have a per like, if everything is documented, you know what the requirements are, you know where you’re starting, and someone is dedicated to just doing that, like that’s the only thing they’re going to do. The only thing they’re going to do is talk to vendors and all day sit on the phone, which we know is unlikely, but you know, if you think about it from that perspective, then sure, that’s all that person to do, and all the team is doing is completely dedicating themselves to vendor selection and everything is documented, and the requirements are gathered, and you know exactly what you’re looking for, then now even then a month is too short. I’m taking that back. I’m walking that back because there’re just so many things that are out of your control, you know, with vendors and their time and their availability and what they can get back to you. I think just for the sake of, you know, conversation, I think three to six months is a good time frame, a good healthy time frame. If you’re thinking of planning, if you’re saying, ‘Hey, we need to do some sort of ERP upgrade or implementation, and we know the direction that we want to go in, we want to start talking to vendors and figuring things out, I think three to six months is, you know, a good time frame to give yourself, to not go into analysis paralysis but also, you know, not to say, ‘Oh, we feel so under pressure,’ you know, we have to choose somebody tomorrow,’ and I’m thinking about that also from the perspective of a customer who was doing some expansion from Central America into the States, and they had completely outsourced all operations. They’re now wanting to bring things in-house, and in September, I got a call, and the CFO said, ‘I want to go live with an ERP in January,’ and I was like, ‘Well, you know, let’s set expectations. Let’s, let’s circle, let’s unpack that,’ you know. So the first thing, you know, is obviously understanding a realistic timeline to your question of like just how long it’s going to take to even find someone that’s going to be ready to go, again, considering that you’re not that only customer, you know, they have other customers. There are, despite inflation, economic downturn, you know, expectations, etc. Studies have shown, surveys have shown that 50% of customers are still moving forward with all their digital transformation efforts, and that includes upgrade implementations in ERP and upgrades and implementations for ERPs. So, you’re not the only one that’s out there. So, you also have to consider, you know, those factors of how fast can my vendor partner move, who I’m going to be working with.

Yeah, and Dyci, I think the other important thing is to set reasonable expectations with your internal team as well. So, we were talking about, you know, kind of setting expectations with partners and consulting firms or implementation leads, but it’s also important to communicate that internally with everyone who’s involved in the project and potentially company-wide. If the team expects something to roll out in January and it doesn’t happen until June, I think you’re going to have some people questioning, you know, what’s happening with this project, why did it go so slow, maybe we really shouldn’t, you know, use this as much as we were hoping. So, communication is important across the board, all aspects of using all those confidence in the tool before you even roll out. That’s exactly right. Ali, welcome to the show. I was asking you before, how many hats you have behind you. So, I want to count at some point, but it looks like you have quite a collection going.

So, I asked Ali to come on the show because they like to have very different perspectives about people who work with and or use ERPs. So, Ali, love to have you do a super quick intro and then tell me about working with ERPs from an engineer’s perspective. So, varied very different viewpoint than Dany, Dyci, and Rachel bring to the show. Sure, so I am Ali G. I started a company after 10 years of engineering, and in that 10-year engineering span, I spent a good amount of that time with OEMs that had ERP systems, you know, to push out their products. And then I would help, like, as a field engineer, actually put, you know, build that stuff and commission, you know, those, you know, products that were coming out of the ERP. But I was also part of putting, you know, assemblies into it, into the ERP system. So, I worked with two different, you know, OEMs that made different types of machinery. One of them was more for, like, ovens, cooking, you know, so they would sell coffee roasters. And then another company I worked for sold Aerosol Machinery. But both of them, you know, have to use an ERP, and I would, you know, put assemblies into them. And, you know, I guess I’m also a user like Rachel, but I was a user in terms of putting the assemblies into it. And it is, at least in my experience, doesn’t go back like that recent, so I guess 2018 was the last time I was using an ERP within a company. But, you know, it’s nothing but pain from the engineer’s standpoint when there is, you know, it’s so rigid. There are a hundred spots to put just to create, like, one item. And then, and then I have to create assemblies of those items because that’s more how my engineering type works. I don’t like mechanical engineers put together, you know, how do you build the item, you know, and that’s part of the ERP system. But my stuff, the types of assemblies I come up with, are just purchasing from all kinds of vendors and putting that together as a package, and that is my assembly. And so, you know, that there’s so much change that goes on, even in those products themselves.

So, it’s, as far as I’ve seen, like ERP hasn’t been modular enough or what is it like, it has to be able to like, can you go back to your ERP vendor and say, ‘I want a new feature.’ How easy is it to get new features to kind of gut with the times as they’re changing because it seems like people do get scared of being boxed in. And from my standpoint, I’ve never got to decide anything about an ERP, but you know, once it’s there, everyone has to use it. And I think there’s a lot of money that gets spent on that training because I’m an engineer, and I’m pretty good with instructions, and I had to be shown, you know, three or four times the same thing because it’s so intricate how to put the parts and where they come from, and you know, there were just too many things inside of making these assemblies on top of our normal engineering work is just like, sucks. If we have any other engineers in the crowd today, drop a note in the chat so Ali can feel some love from her fellow engineers. Thanks.

Dany, I love the hair. I think when I first connected with you, you maybe had purple hair. Today we’ve got more of a teal blue, a little bit of maybe some green in there as well, so love the look, and I always enjoy checking out what you’ve done with your hair. So, nice, nice branding. I would like to have you do a super quick intro about yourself, and then one of the things that constantly comes up with companies implementing ERPs is how hard the implementation process actually is from start to finish. There’re so many moving parts, so many moving pieces, getting people to actually adopt. So, would like to have you talk about some best practices that you’ve maybe experienced yourself or with clients around successful implementations.

You got it, Sarah. I think that’s a great, also. I like that question. That goes nicely with what Ali was talking about from the vendor. Dany Capodeici, I’m the Senior Vice President of Sales and Growth Strategy at StratusGreen. Strata screens and NetSuite solutions consulting firm, and you know what’s interesting, the way I came to knowing ERP is actually I was a customer. I was in the other side of the fence. I didn’t always live in the consulting world myself. I was in my early 20s and got tapped to buy my CFO to lead the lead-to-cash process for our software sales team at the time for our software company. So, you know, I live that exact question, Sarah. I live that exact question for many, many, many days of my life about 10 years ago. And so what’s interesting is then kind of marrying that experience of being a real-life customer in the ERP world and then coming over to the consulting side. I’ve been at StratusGreen for almost two years now, and when I think through what my experiences were as the person sitting in the seat having to help lead a successful implementation and then being that consulting resource today with my customers is a lot of it comes back to the vendor that you work with. And it’s similar to Ali’s point about needing some new features or customizations, right, because a lot of the implementation journey and after the fact with upkeep and advancement optimization, really that success is going to be dictated by the teams that you pick with your implementation teams and how well and how thoroughly and energetically they dig into the business processes today that you currently have today that actually are the heartbeat of your business because when you have somebody on the other side of the fence who’s on the implementation team working with your business to help lead them and guide them through the journey, what you’re going to find is someone asking the specific process questions but then they’ll say, ‘Okay, but tell me exactly how that handoff works today, what needs to happen in that handoff.’ Because if you don’t have somebody on the implementation team who’s really digging into the house that that happens and the expectations of how that’s going to now happen in the new system today, you end up missing a whole slew of requirements. And then you’re overtime, you’re over budget, you’re late, and everybody’s mad and says it sucks, like, you know, some of the other people I’ve heard already. But yeah, that’s really, I mean, a lot of the best practices too come from sitting back and and being a good human in general in your business and with having true and honest communication, and then going back and reconfirming that the people you’re working with have the same expectations that you two just covered. And everyone is on the same page with what it means, whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, whether it’s indifferent, that’s the reality, and y’all got to live it together and be successful.

Yeah, I would also add to that, Dany. Not every company uses the third party to help with the implementation process, and that’s something I highly recommend organizations look at. Do you have the right resources internally to manage an implementation? And if not, it’s really important to find the right third party or the right partner to do that because someone who is on the supply chain team or the project management team or the accounting team may not have the right skills to actually lead an implementation. So, it’s really important to look at the skill set and who’s on your team. Or to that point, Sarah, not even leading the implementation, but I think that a lot of people underestimate the level of effort and skill set experience to maintain after the system is implemented. So, you know, I’ve sat in conversations and I’ve said, ‘Okay, post go-live, who are your super users?’ Well, this person is, you know, they’ve been here for the longest on the accounting team, so they’re gonna be the super user. Okay, how many hours per day can they dedicate to fielding questions, you know, working with the vendor, especially now that we’re in the cloud world? The vendors push out updates and upgrades, and you have to—you don’t have to adopt them, but then if you don’t, you know, you might get an email which one of our customers got that said, ‘We are no longer supporting this version of, of, you know, insert ERP here. Your options are to upgrade or leave.’ So, if you want to avoid that conversation, you have to keep updated. And we—you know, we have a customer. I feel like in the last year, I’ve maybe seen the vendor four or five times say, ‘Hey, this new patch has to be, you know, sent out, and this is how your processes are going to change. This is what the new format of this screen is going to look like.’ You can choose not to do that, but then you’re also not leveraging all of the great functionality, and you’re missing out on opportunities like what Ali mentioned to say, ‘Hey, this would be a cool thing to do.’ Well, maybe other customers are also telling the vendor that they’ve already pushed it out; you just don’t know about it because you didn’t think about having a user or a center of excellence or something like that for maintenance and any ongoing costs. And it—it—it’s, I wanted to shake people sometimes and say, it’s—it’s—it doesn’t have to be hard, but you have to, to your point, Sarah, I just, I don’t think there is a world where, and you know, maybe in my particular world I work with, you know, small and medium manufacturers, but I mean, even before that, in my previous lives, I was working for other consulting firms and working with, you know, huge Enterprises. Just bring in somebody else. It—it seems like it’s a larger cost in the beginning, but it saves so much heartache on the back end because to Dany’s point, they will say, you know, well, why are you doing that? And not in a, you know, belittling ‘you have no idea what you’re doing’ kind of way, but if I can understand why you’re doing it, I can help to figure out what the best way to do it in the system is going to be. And I can tell you whether or not you should do it this way in a system. Or even in the sales process, I can tell you, actually being a good human, that isn’t the right tool for you and you should go look somewhere else. But if you don’t bring someone in, you just miss so many different nuances that you wouldn’t know unless you were doing it day in and day out. So, it doesn’t mean that you don’t know what you’re doing, it just means that you can’t know everything. No one can know everything. And that’s why we bring in, you know, experts and Consultants. So, that’s my soapbox to just lean on others. Like, it doesn’t have to be hard. ERP doesn’t have to be the worst thing that everyone wants to avoid because it’s a headache. But, you know, we do have to work together and admit where you need assistance.

Rachel, being that you’re representing the end users today on the show, anything that you can contribute or kind of think about when you did do the implementation years ago that worked well or that kind of stood out as, ‘Wow, you know, we probably should have done this differently?’ Yeah, it doesn’t have to be hard, but it is. There’s, coming from a manufacturing environment, there’s so many pieces that need to be put together and that need to be assembled correctly and just like simple things that you don’t really think about until they become an issue, like unit of measure. If you’re putting some parts in with this unit of measure and some parts, you know, each isn’t square feet, and down the road, things are going to get complicated because there’s not there’s no consistency. There’s, there, there’s just a lot of pieces and and a lot of different people involved, so it’s important to have somebody from each department, all of the stakeholders there while you’re doing it, so that they can give input to say, ‘Okay, yeah, but if you do this, what about this?’ Because there’s always things that we don’t know that we don’t know. And yeah, so definitely if we could have gone back and done things differently, we would have. I’m pretty sure we would have used our ERP system out of the box and and changed the way we work to match the way the ERP system was designed to work, instead of trying to make it what we used to have. And our intention was to make it as painless as possible for all of the, the staff. Change is scary, and it’s, it’s not always received well, so you know, trying to make it as easy as possible was one of the things that I think we were trying to do, but yeah, at the same time, and we did testing. We did extensive testing, but there’s so many situations that come up that you don’t anticipate, so it’s impossible to, to test everything. But yeah, there, there’s when I was listening to Ali speaking, it was like I was listening to one of the guys in our maintenance department because he was, he has the same issues. We’ve got modules that we’re not using because they weren’t set up initially, and now in order to get them set up, there’s so many pieces involved in, in putting the stuff together and making it all flow and all the, the different aspects to it. It’s overwhelming, and we, we still haven’t done it. But it is something that we would like to do because as we’re growing and learning more about our system, this, this one module, the maintenance module, is the only piece that I found that connects my assets to the production side. So, it’s important. It’s never been used. It’s not set up, but it’s something that we want to get to eventually. So, it’s going to take a lot of time and energy and resources to, to figure out what do we need to do to make this happen and how does it, how do we, we get it to just kind of flow with what’s already going? It’s, it would have been so much easier if we would have done it in the beginning, but we didn’t. So now we’re learning all kinds of new lessons.

Rachel, for those that are listening that are new to either using an ERP or have a new ERP that’s recently been implemented, what would you call out, or a couple of the main challenges that you’ve had with your ERP? I think it’s good for people to have awareness about that so they can be on the lookout and maybe plan and prepare, so they don’t, you know, go years down the road and then figure it out themselves. I think it’s important to know what you want the system to do, where our processes are evolving, and, and I’m realizing that there’s ways to make these things more automated or easier within our system. And it’s getting all the, the information in place and, and kind of getting the system to, to direct you on, on how to do this instead of trying to change it to how you want it to work is, is really huge. There’s so many, there’s so many things that you don’t know until you start discovering it. So, and that’s kind of one of my, I like, I can’t remember who said it, but somebody says ‘super user.’ I feel like I should wear a cape sometimes because if it gets exciting when you, you know, you start digging in and you’re like, well, where does this lead, what does this do, and what happens if I do this? So, another thing that I think is really important is to have a test environment because when you’re playing around with stuff and saying, what happens if I do this, you don’t want to be in your live environment and screw up everything that’s already going on because then you’ve got even bigger issues. So, I spent a lot of time in our test environment just playing around and poking through the different modules, the different screens, to see how they link up with other areas and and see you get a better idea of how the information flows through the entire system. That’s kind of one of the challenges that we’ve had in the past. We’ve been working, each department is working within their own silo and, and not communicating with other departments to say, ‘Hey, we’re changing this now,’ and then all of a sudden down the road, it’s affecting another department, and now they have to create another band-aid and work around that change that was happening over here. So, just recently we’ve developed a special projects team, and this team is dedicated to using our ERP system to solve problems and discovering how do we make this work that works best for everybody. And it, I think it’s been a game changer because everybody’s being brought into the process, all the stakeholders are involved, and they’re testing it from one end to the other, and seeing how it works and what will happen and what we should change. And sometimes what we’re doing is we realize that we should be doing something else, and we’ve, we’ve made a lot of improvements. So, we’re 10 years in and we’re still—it’s, it’s, we’re discovering things as if it’s a new system because we’re investing more time and energy into figuring out how do we utilize this system in the best way possible. So, yeah, testing is, is very important, and having a, a safe space to do that is definitely the way to go. Rachel, I would also add to the list. I think a big challenge is inventory, an inventory management within an ERP. We work with a lot of mid-market manufacturers where inventory will make or break your business. If you don’t have your parts and materials, you can’t produce product; therefore, you don’t have anything to sell.

So, Ali, I, I know you and I talked a little bit about this too as we were prepping for the show. You brought up the whole challenges around inventory a couple of times, so would like to have you talk about why maintaining inventory or keeping accurate inventory counts in an ERP is so challenging. Sorry, I couldn’t unmute myself. So, with my experience, there’s a lot of customization that goes into some of the builds, and that’s kind of like a nightmare for ERP. Because you want to just keep making, you know, some a large amount of the same unit, but if there is a lot of customization to what you’re selling, keeping inventory is a nightmare because you may build, and especially now with the supply chain that blew up and died, you know, having the option to grab, you know, parts from somewhere else is like crucial to getting, you know, your assemblies out. And I think a lot of companies, for a while, have been saying like, ‘Okay, we can’t get that one part we normally use, so we’re going to keep telling our customers that, you know, we need another 10 months, we need another six months.’ And a lot of customers are just being like, ‘That’s not going to work.’ So, they are being forced to be like, ‘Okay, well, where else can you get that part from?’ Because that should stop you. If there’s somewhere else you can get the part from, even if it’s going to cost you more or whatever. So, you know, with, you know, you, you buy inventory, and then depending on how well the system to receive the inventory is—I mean, we all, normally, you do have someone dedicated to, you know, receiving everything. But then once it kind of gets into the shop environment, stuff just like, yeah, stuff just disappears or crawls into the hands of people building something else in an emergency setup or, you know, there’s just, like, you know, you do have to teach people when they receive items that, like, if they let that go, they’re not getting another one. Otherwise, you know, again, there’s a lot of collaborative, you know, engineering and stuff going on in shops, so that ends up, you know, moving inventory to places that, ‘Oh, well, you know, we may need that here too. Okay, well I’ll buy some more.’ And then, you know, we don’t know if that ever got received because they don’t care, they got their part. So, I guess parts just kind of go all over the place. And if you don’t have a really militant or automated way to receive those parts and, you know, and someone always checking that that, you know, happened, if someone is sick, does that mean all the inventory that day that came in just, you know, do you know where that is? You know, that’s the other thing, is do you have eyes? It’s not like you scan, you bring extra parts and you scan them all in, although that would be the perfect world. That’s not how, like, most businesses run, especially smaller ones. So, yeah, inventory goes all over the place, and it is kind of crazy with how many people handle it. And a few people who, you know, know where some of that stuff is, and then they quit, so it’s somewhere in the boxes somewhere, you know. That was a weird rant, but that’s what I got.

Dany what about from your perspective you work with a lot of companies on the NetSuite ERP which is big in CPG and e-commerce and retail and inventory is a huge part of those companies businesses and leveraging you know NetSuite to be able to do that yeah no thanks for sending that question my way Ali your point is really really perfectly spot on especially the last few years right last three years you know we actually had that exact use case presented to us from a customer who does manufacturing either an aftermarket automotive part manufacturer was the specific use case and what they they were having that exact challenge because what they saw though is the shop came to them the engineering teams came to them and said hey there are these other parts there are these other parts that are very very very similar that we can get but we just have to do a slight mod to these parts because we and we have the machinery we have the technology so if you get me that part I can actually fulfill these orders and keep everything moving along the supply chain and what ended up happening is it’s a interchangeable parts process is what we call it and to your I mean Ali in your point when you get these parts in there’s a process that we put right inside a NetSuite that’s automated and all somebody has to do that has the know-how is say yeah these parts can be used for those other ones so when the inventory is gone of the part they normally use they just use the interchangeable one do a slight mod and they’re back in business for the customers it’s such a cool it’s such a cool process in place so I just want to add that awesome thanks Dany yeah one of the other things that I think is important to talk about when we are discussing ERPs is cost and finding and selecting and maintaining an ERP is not inexpensive even if you’re a small business and you’re going with you know a more cost-effective solution there’s still a lot of things to consider Dyci when you and I were having conversations before the show you used a terminology that I think is interesting about being cautious about creating a Frankenstein system and would like to have you speak around why you think manufacturers aren’t digitally educated which can actually have them go for ERP solutions that are kind of cobbled together that can be very very expensive so I I think that manufacturers aren’t educated because it’s time consuming that’s honestly the only reason a lot of what Ali was talking about I wrote it down like sub items complimentary items not knowing where inventory is like a lot of that is solved by a lot of technology now and it’s it’s easy to say that technology exists because yes I can say the technology exists but it is heavily reliant on the people from a SIPOC perspective you know your supplier’s input process outputting customers I always think about that when we’re doing the process maps that will go into you know whatever systems to be able to say who is providing me the information what am I going to do with this information what is the next person going to consume of this information and that’s how you can figure out all of of these little nuanced data points so I can say yeah the technology is there but if the people don’t understand that there is an app for that you know what I mean they won’t necessarily pursue it and from a time perspective of digitally being digitally educated I don’t have time to sit and look at the pretty new ERP connector and supply chain startup tools of 2022 when there are 200 different ones for all my different business processes I’m gonna say okay what’s my ERP do they have a module for that and it’s probably going to be very expensive so then someone in IT or some friend might say oh you can do that this way and then that’s just what ends up happening and we get these cobbled together Frankenstein systems that make no sense versus you can’t have sophisticated Frankenstein systems that are cost effective because the module in your ERP is probably going to be at least from my experience so I don’t want to you know make a an ultimate blanket statement but my customers have found them to be clunky and kind of in afterthought of oh let’s also try to be this to the customer whereas there are a lot of point solutions that do that one thing very well so they do substitute items very well they do understanding you know inventory management very well and it takes a sophisticated solution architect to be able to say you can still have one system because a lot of people want one system it’s called single sign-on you know it’s called API like it does exist and it’s it’s not coming no maybe you had a lot of candy you only had two that’s enough for today but but it can be cost effective and there are sophisticated ways to do it but it just comes down to time and you know you don’t have the time to understand all of the different possibilities

Dany, what about from your perspective? You work with a lot of companies on the NetSuite ERP, which is big in CPG and e-commerce and retail, and inventory is a huge part of those companies’ businesses. Leveraging, you know, NetSuite to be able to do that. Yeah, no, thanks for sending that question my way, Ali. Your point is really, really perfectly spot on, especially the last few years, right? Last three years, you know, we actually had that exact use case presented to us from a customer who does manufacturing. Either an aftermarket automotive part manufacturer was the specific use case. And what they saw, though, is the shop came to them, the engineering teams came to them and said, ‘Hey, there are these other parts, there are these other parts that are very, very, very similar that we can get, but we just have to do a slight mod to these parts because we, and we have the machinery, we have the technology. So, if you get me that part, I can actually fulfill these orders and keep everything moving along the supply chain.’ And what ended up happening is it’s an interchangeable parts process, is what we call it. And to your, I mean Ali, in your point, when you get these parts in, there’s a process that we put right inside a NetSuite that’s automated, and all somebody has to do that has the know-how is say, ‘Yeah, these parts can be used for those other ones. So, when the inventory is gone of the part they normally use, they just use the interchangeable one, do a slight mod, and they’re back in business for the customers. It’s such a cool, it’s such a cool process in place. So, I just want to add that. Awesome. Thanks, Dany. Yeah, one of the other things that I think is important to talk about when we are discussing ERPs is cost, and finding and selecting and maintaining an ERP is not inexpensive, even if you’re a small business and you’re going with, you know, a more cost-effective solution. There’s still a lot of things to consider.

Dyci, when you and I were having conversations before the show, you used a terminology that I think is interesting about being cautious about creating a Frankenstein system, and would like to have you speak around why you think manufacturers aren’t digitally educated, which can actually have them go for ERP solutions that are kind of cobbled together that can be very, very expensive. So, I think that manufacturers aren’t educated because it’s time-consuming. That’s honestly the only reason. A lot of what Ali was talking about, I wrote it down like sub-items, complimentary items, not knowing where inventory is, like a lot of that is solved by a lot of technology now. And it’s easy to say that technology exists because yes, I can say the technology exists, but it is heavily reliant on the people. From a SIPOC perspective, you know, your supplier’s input, process, outputting customers, I always think about that when we’re doing the process maps that will go into, you know, whatever systems to be able to say who is providing me the information, what am I going to do with this information, what is the next person going to consume of this information. And that’s how you can figure out all of these little nuanced data points. So, I can say, yeah, the technology is there, but if the people don’t understand that there is an app for that, you know what I mean? They won’t necessarily pursue it. And from a time perspective of being digitally educated, I don’t have time to sit and look at the pretty new ERP connector and supply chain startup tools of 2022 when there are 200 different ones for all my different business processes. I’m gonna say, ‘Okay, what’s my ERP do? Do they have a module for that?’ And it’s probably going to be very expensive. So then, someone in IT or some friend might say, ‘Oh, you can do that this way,’ and then that’s just what ends up happening. And we get these cobbled together Frankenstein systems that make no sense versus you can’t have sophisticated Frankenstein systems that are cost-effective because the module in your ERP is probably going to be, at least from my experience, so I don’t want to, you know, make an ultimate blanket statement, but my customers have found them to be clunky and kind of an afterthought of, ‘Oh, let’s also try to be this to the customer.’ Whereas there are a lot of point solutions that do that one thing very well, so they do substitute items very well, they do understanding, you know, inventory management very well. And it takes a sophisticated solution architect to be able to say, you can still have one system because a lot of people want one system. It’s called single sign-on, you know, it’s called API, like it does exist. And it’s not coming, no maybe you had a lot of candy, you only had two, that’s enough for today. But but it can be cost-effective and there are sophisticated ways to do it, but it just comes down to time. And, you know, you don’t have the time to understand all of the different possibilities.

Okay, you can have a pink one then, and, and it just comes down to do I have the time to sit and talk to all of these vendors, and do I understand the technology enough for to be able to understand to Dany’s point? I want to choose a vendor who has a team who gets what I’m doing, and maybe they don’t know it now, they don’t know my business process now, but they seem to have some sharp people who can understand it, versus someone who’s just going to sit on the phone and say, ‘Yeah, we can do that. Yeah, we can do that,’ and then you get into the build, but that’s not really what you can do. So it’s, it’s not an easy world for the manufacturer right now, it’s a lot of shiny objects, and it’s a lot of really fancy marketing words, and there’s no time to make a product and fill orders and also understand all that is digital.

Rachel or Dany, thoughts from you on bolt-on solutions for ERPs? It’s, yeah, it’s, we’ve got a lot of modules, not maybe not a lot, I don’t know how many there are that we’re not using, but there are times where the question has come up, can we do this, and you know, we find out that yeah, there’s a module for that, and we’ve been paying for it all along and we’re not using it. So it is kind of, we don’t have outside things that are kind of pieced together, but we do have the ones that we do have, I know we’re not using them as well as we should be, and there are others that would kind of supplement what we’re already doing, and finding ways to to link information and pull information from outside of the ERP system is something that is quite often would help us to keep everybody on track, like especially our outside sales reps, they’re, they’re not working in our ERP system, but somehow we need to be able to link the information that they have about the customers to the system so that we have all of that documented and we can kind of store it in one place, and and just kind of make sure that we have everything updated, but yeah, it’s, it can get overwhelming very fast and there’s so many different ways that you can do it, but sometimes there’s ways that you can do it within the modules that you already have, like you don’t have to always have another one, a new one.

Yeah, Rachel’s right with her, honestly I think Rachel’s right with her take on this, because I’ve, I get asked in my role, I get asked a lot to evaluate and help people to think through the newest, ooh, shiny, right? I think that’s a great a great phrase for it, oh shiny, that comes across their email, their LinkedIn feed, their Instagram feed even right these days and ads. And I have a rule where because I evaluate these as well from my own internal businesses for bolt-on solutions, and bolt-on solutions have to solve more problems than the tasks they create, plain and simple. They have to solve more problems than the tasks they create, and if, if they don’t create that kind of value for your business and you already have functionality in your current ERP, nine times out of ten, maybe there’s just a little tweak that needs to happen in that module that you’re already paying for in your ERP, and you can check, you can check that requirement and it’ll fit the need for the use case for the business, because a lot of problems and questions and solutions will come up and it always comes back to, and I’m with working with our clients, it always comes back to, okay, yeah, well that may be true, how much value does it bring to you specifically in your environment today? Okay, is that worth the effort? That’s the question, that’s really, I think, the important question behind that, so that’s my take on bolt-on modules. From you, have you had any experiences with bolt-on or integrations with the ERP system? No, it kind of sounds like the magic diet pill that can’t ever actually work. I feel like Ali has a bunch of tweets that she should be making daily. I, I’ve been writing out some of your comments, they’re, they’re very, they’re very fun. I Nikki put a comment here that I wanted to pull up on this the screen and get the panel’s feedback on API Integrations. Nikki said, ‘We recently had a customer need access to the API module of their ERP. They had to pay money for it months ago and still haven’t gotten the resources to get it up and running. So what are your thoughts on API Integrations?’

Is that to anybody, Sarah?

Yep, anyone on the panel, and Dyci, probably you, you may have had, and Dany probably have had more experience than most. You guys, I’ll back you up and see if you want to leave us. No, I mean, in the context of Nikki’s question or her comment, the I guess it’s an API module within the ERP that they have to access and pay for to do integrations with, like other systems or just another module. So maybe some clarification there, because from my experience, and I think maybe Rachel might have mentioned it, like your ERP is the backbone system, but there’s also a lot of other stuff that happens outside of your ERP, and it comes down to being able to, from my perspective, get those data pieces that we have been talking about, a little bit of ‘oh this is kind of over there’ and ‘that’s kind of over there’ and this team is doing that and this team, the outside sales reps don’t use the system, but they need to know what the inventory is in order to be able to sell. So how do you then share all of that information in an automated way that keeps the business going, that’s not ‘oh can you send an email and check it and let me check and then maybe it’s right and maybe it’s not, what is our 3pm they’ll have, and you know what does the vendor have, and you know, etc., etc.’ So, the only situation that I have considered using Integrations is, you know, to Dany’s point, will it make life easier and is there data and automation that needs to be shared between teams and between people, whether it’s internal or external, who are not in your ERP, and then you integrate from there. I don’t know if that answers the question, Sarah, or if you’re looking from like an integration developer perspective, of, you know, how to actually make the systems talk to each other. I know that their license did not include API access, that is, I have not experienced that. I don’t know if Dany, you have experienced that, especially in a cloud-based world now, where you know, if nothing else, my ERP integrates in some way with my data warehouse, not everyone has a data warehouse or a data Lake, but you need API Integrations. I don’t know of any customer who’s paying for additional access to an API.

Yeah, I can chime in on that. Dyci, that’s, I think that’s a really good setup, just thinking through APIs, right? Because when I, when I think about APIs, the first thought I have, just knowing, I’m a salesperson by trade, but knowing the technology, I, I use phrases like ‘all APIs are not created equally,’ right? Some APIs, when I’ve come across some APIs in my different experiences, some can be in their infancy and have very little data point, that’s a nice way to do it, that’s very diplomatic, ‘Hey, we all got to start somewhere, don’t work, Dany, it is what it is.’ Well, it’s a matter of, right, what’s the point of what was the original point of built with the API, right? It doesn’t work for the specific use case that it was birthed for, probably, but salespeople don’t always get that translation right. I think as it goes through the different telephone ears, I’m thinking about people playing telephone as a kid, sharing the phrase all the way through the group. But when you get to some advanced APIs, look at the end of the day, it’s a matter of who is doing the hookups and the connections, and then how well do they understand the API and how familiar are they with the API? Is it their first time doing this connection or not? You can also then get APIs that are so well built, even salespeople like myself who have a technical understanding can go through those steps, because the UI is built in such a way. But like, if you get down to just the down and dirty APIs, you can come across, I mean, some of them you need a, what do you call that, spelunking, is that the light? Sometimes you need to go in and dig in and figure it out. But that’s it, that’s why I take out APIs. I hope that helps everybody.

All right, ladies, well, I want to thank each of you for coming on the show today. For those of you who joined us live, I recommend reaching out to them on LinkedIn, following their content. They’re doing a lot of really cool things in the ERP space. Our next show is January 3rd at 1pm Eastern time. That is 2023, yes, folks, we have less than four weeks left in the year, it’s kind of crazy to think about. So we will see you again in the new year.