Women in ERP – February 2022
Melissa Drew, Renata Pataki, Lisa Anderson and Jennifer Mesiano
Welcome to our monthly Women and ERP show. This is a show that Kris Harrington from GenAlpha Technologies and I host on the first Tuesday of each month to bring women together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs, and it is not all pretty, believe me. 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 representation in ERP teams, and highlight their stories and challenges, voicing their opinions with ERP transformation initiatives. I’m Sarah Scudder, CMO at SourceDay and today’s show host. Our platform integrates with ERP systems, so my team and I have lived through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am joined by Melissa, Renata, Lisa, and Jennifer. They have extensive ERP experience, and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories today.
So, to kick off our conversation, please put in the comments where in the world you are joining us from, and a word or phrase that describes your last ERP implementation or experience. And no sugar-coating things here, so if it wasn’t awesome and if it was kind of a train wreck, let us know how it went. And please, please do not be shy, engage with us in the comments throughout the show and post your questions anytime. I will make sure that we get to your questions and that I ask the question to the appropriate panelist.
So today, I’m going to have Jennifer kick us off. So Jennifer, if you could start with a brief intro and would like to have a fun or random personal fact about yourself as well.
Good morning, everybody. So just to kick things off, my name is Jennifer Mesiano, and I have been in the world of ERP software for nearly two decades, primarily focused within the Epicor ERP platform. I started off my career in manufacturing, so I’ve been doing this since I was in my early 20s. I was a production manager, cost accountant, warehouse manager. I’ve held most roles within the manufacturing realm over the years, including about seven years as a director of IT. About five years ago, I came over to the dark side, what we say the consulting side, and have been doing that ever since, worked for an Epicor partner, and now have my own firm for about the last five years. We are located in San Antonio, Texas, and we specialize pretty much in anything Epicor.
Fun fact about myself, yes, so I do have fun sometimes. I don’t have time to have a lot of fun, but I did find a new hobby during Covid, so that Covid hobby has been I learned how to make wine. So I currently have probably about 40 gallons of wine to bottle when I finally get home. I’ve been traveling, as you can see, I’m in a hotel room. So that’s a fun fact. Favorite type of wine, right now I’m really into the dry roses, the really robust dry roses from New Zealand, Australia. So I lived in Sonoma County wine country for a long time, so I’d like to say I’m from the real wine country.’ ‘Yes, you are.’ ‘Yes, you are. I figure it’s a good fallback when I get tired of ERP, which will not happen anytime soon. But, so Jennifer, one of the things that I always like to learn from people is how they wind up in this crazy, random ERP space. So we’d love to hear your story about how you got into the space and maybe why you’ve decided to stay in the ERP ecosystem.’ ‘Yeah, absolutely.
In my early days of working in a manufacturing facility, I went to go work for an employer who was just about to go live on Epicor software. They were about three weeks away from go live, so I kind of stepped in at the tail end and had to hurry up and learn how to use the ERP in the manufacturing facility for inventory and warehouse management. Basically, I don’t think anybody else in the company was as enthusiastic about the system as I was, so I became that default go-to super user. Eventually, moved into a cost accounting role which I really did enjoy and then on to the tech side of system administration and tools, report writing, all of that fun stuff. So just kind of stuck with it. It’s definitely been a great career choice, and people always say, well, you know, how, why, why did you stick with Epicor? And I just always say, you know, you got to pick one or two. I’m not going to learn something new at this point. I’ve been with it for almost 20 years now, and it’s been a great decision for me.’ ‘Awesome. Well, thank you for being with us today, Jennifer.
Thanks, Sarah. Renata, we’d love to have you introduce yourself and share a fun or random personal fact.
Okay, hello everyone. So my name is Renata Pataki, and I’ve been working in analytics actually for almost 15 years now. As an enterprise analytics consultant, mainly for companies in manufacturing, retail, FMCG, and supply chains, so that’s why the ERP part, especially like Procops. Currently, I’m managing a startup called Gitential, and we are focusing on improving delivery team performance for any kind of companies with software engineering or data analytics teams.
And some fun fact about me is, well, I studied Econ, that’s my first degree, and then I had a change of heart and started to study chemistry. So whenever I go and do my groceries, I always check everything, all the ingredients on the labels, and I only buy things that I actually like, whatever it consists of. That’s why I hardly change anything I eat; it’s very rare because it takes so much time. I can spend like hours just looking at a couple of things, the labels in the store.
So, Renata, my question for you is around people. One of the things I hear a lot from companies is how do we know if we have the right talent or people on our team to deal with an ERP transformation, deal with the selection process, or maybe we need to get out of an ERP and look at something else. And then there’s the other aspect of people performance management when you’re actually in the middle of working on an ERP transformation or an ERP project, actually managing the people. So, we’d love to hear your thoughts and input on the people piece of all of this.
Absolutely. So, my experience is that you have the right people if you have a mix of everybody. I do believe that personalities matter and that you need to have some multiple different personalities who match, but they complement each other. And sometimes, somebody is lazy, that’s not the bad way, but if that person is creative and boosts the other person who is very hardworking but cannot solve the biggest issue, they are complementing each other and that can boost the whole team and the whole department, whoever they are working with. So, there is the collaboration aspect and of course, having talent. You can have so many tests and review, okay, do you have the knowledge, but I do believe that knowledge can be earned throughout time and with training, but the personality and kind of the attitude towards different things is unique to the person and that should be tested more.
Is there something in particular that you’ve seen in regards to skill sets that have worked exceptionally well or maybe not so well when it comes to ERPs?
At my previous client, what the manager of the whole supply chain department did is she did like a personality test for everyone within her team. And what she did, she like grouped, partnered up people together based on who was an introvert versus extrovert with the same kind of personality traits. And they were like mentoring each other because if an extrovert can one-on-one talk to an introvert, they can have the same line of thoughts, they can come up with very nice ideas and work together.
Awesome. Well, thank you for being with us, Renata.
All right, next up we have Lisa. Lisa, we’d like to have you introduce yourself and share a personal or random fun fact.
All right, so, uh, I’m Lisa Anderson, president of LMA Consulting Group, and I started off out of college at Coca-Cola Enterprises and planned what they produced and what they sent to their sales branches. And from there, I had a career in supply chain and operations management. Ended up becoming the Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer and did—it was quite the experience in terms of turning around a company after a merger, relaunching product lines, saving a whole bunch of costs, and straightening out an ERP system and all sorts of activities. So after that role, I ended up starting my consulting practice, and I’ve been consulting now for the last 16 years. And I have a business process specialty as well as an ERP selection process specialty in my consulting practice. And a fun fact is, is that I love to go to New Orleans to have beignets at Cafe du Monde, but they’re—they’re just amazing, so it’s a good thing that I don’t live close by.
Awesome. So, Lisa, my question for you is around utilization of an ERP. So what happens oftentimes is a company that invests significant time and resources in selecting software, then they implement it, and then they don’t always utilize the ERP as they should. And so they’ve made these, you know, significant investments, but they’re not maximizing the ROI and what they could from the tool. So we’d like to have you share some best practices that you’ve seen in clients to help them better utilize their ERP system to achieve results.
Absolutely, because I definitely find that most clients utilize 20% at best of their ERP system. Most of the time, much, much less than that. You know, they get through the ERP implementation and then they’re so exhausted and, you know, they’ve—they’ve spent a lot of money, so they—they stop. And so, really, the best clients continue to develop super users and they provide—give those super users time to be able to sit with, you know, groups of people that, you know, where they can understand what is the day-to-day function that they’re trying to, you know, to do and how. What opportunities do the users see, like, are they, you know, are they doing still quite a bit of manual work? Are they, you know, what challenges are they having, and what, you know, what would they really like to do to be able to serve customers better? And once they find out about, you know, find those aspects out, they can, you know, look into the system, talk to colleagues, and find ways to implement additional functionality. And sometimes, it’s just as simple as the functionality already exists and they just, you know, need a tweak here or there. They need to be trained in a certain function. So, it’s really about having people who are familiar with the system and have a business analysis sort of mindset to work with users, and, you know, do set that in as a part of your schedule every—you know, some sort of a cadence like once a quarter or once a month or something like that. You can, you know, rotate functions. So, that’s one way. And another way is to have, you know, a cross-functional view and make sure that you’re providing training, providing education, and allowing, uh, your employees to maybe go to sessions that don’t relate to the ERP system but they relate to what concepts are—you know, would support the industry you’re in or what support customers are in, and give them ideas. And then, support them in learning about how the system could help them with those concepts. And you’ll be surprised that, uh, you know, you can shoot up from 20% utilization to 40%, and they could suddenly start doing, you know, a much better job with planning, for example, and having improving customer service and reducing inventory levels, while even increasing efficiencies.
Lisa, have you—you mentioned about 20% of companies actually utilize the functionality that they should be. Have you seen any best practices that stand out for the companies that are maximizing it and using every capacity that they should be? Is there a kind of a theme or something that you’ve seen with all the different clients that are doing it well?
Well, first of all, it’s probably unrealistic to utilize all of a system, but what’s important is to utilize the parts of the system that fit with the company’s strategy or—you know, the uh—what’s really going to advance them with their customers. So, with that caveat, because if they can utilize those aspects of the system, you know, to 100 percent and forget about the rest, they’re gonna be wildly successful. So, from that point of view, I would say, you know, it depends on the situation as to which functionality they should use. But one of the areas of best practices relates to something as simple as reporting. You’d be surprised how often clients take all sorts of reports out of their system, but none of them are useful. So, you know, like work again with the people who are using the system and understand what would really be meaningful, so they could make good decisions to be able to, like, support their customers in a better way. And develop a report or, you know, more likely the better way to go is if you have like a BI database and you can allow them to slice and dice the data so that they can get more familiar with, you know, whatever information they need to make good decisions or to be able to support their customers in a better way. So, I would definitely say to look at their ability to select data and turn data into insights is one of the areas that—I could talk to this for hours, but you definitely don’t want me to do that.
Yeah, we almost need to have a separate panel on ERP data because I think there’s a lot to dive into on that topic.
Well, Lisa, thanks for being with us today.
Melissa, you are up next. Melissa’s one of my faves. I think she’s been on several of our panels before, so excited to have you back. We’d love to have you introduce yourself.
Hi, so my name is Melissa Drew. I have around 27, 28 years in procurement and my relationship—you know, the good and the bad, the ugly—my relationship with ERP is around digital transformation. So, for example, most often, I am there trying to determine what should stay in ERP and maybe what should be taken out of ERP and pulled into other procurement applications. I started working with ERP early on. I’m considered old school when there was nothing around but an ERP system to work at. And then, around 2008, when cloud procurement and other cloud technologies came around, that’s when we started going back and forth between when is the right time to shift some of the things out. I agree with Lisa. There are certainly things that need to stay in an ERP system, but there are some things, I think, that maybe they best fit elsewhere. To follow on with your question around fun favorite things, I’m going to stick with Jennifer’s Australian note and follow on with I used to live in Australia for a little over a year, and one of the fun things I did was to go up into the blue mountains for a three-day hike. And every night, we would camp with the wild kangaroos, which was pretty exciting. It makes it very difficult to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because you definitely don’t want to navigate around the wild kangaroos. But that—that was something that was exciting.
So, Melissa, my question for you—I know you’ve had some experience with clients that are kind of on the reverse of what Lisa just talked about, where they’re actually trying to do everything in their ERP and maybe they shouldn’t be doing that, which is kind of the exact opposite. So, maybe you can share a story or example. And I think would be really useful is to talk about how can somebody identify when they shouldn’t be using their ERP for something.
So, I have a couple examples, and I’ll just consolidate them into one. But we recognize—you know, things have changed, you know, from 2008 to 2015, 2015 to gosh, two years ago, and then everything’s changed again in the last two years. We’re in this constantly changing global economy, we’re in this constantly changing supply chain. Our consumer demand changes almost as the wind changes. They want more quality year-round, even though, you know, fruit doesn’t grow year-round. And the challenges that we’re having—or at least some of the customers that I work with—is they’re trying to do everything in that ERP system. They’re trying to implement a self-service, or they’re—they’re trying to develop, you know, supplier onboarding processes. They want to automate and simplify. They—in order to do that, they—in staying in their ERP—their push is, ‘I’ll just customize it.’ And so, they create these great customizations to automate the flip from a requisition to a PO, to create an automated approval that, instead of having, you know, requisitions around office supplies, they’ll create a customization that will automate that. And it just continues to go on and on and on with one customization on top of another customization. And more recently, the experience I’ve had is this um company that I’ve recently worked with—their feedback was, ‘Well, we want to do this and we want to automate it, so we’re going to add 20 people to just manually do some data entry.’ Okay, that—that’s one way to do it. And then, as we’re talking about something else and they want to simplify a process, that’s great. But in order to simplify it, they need to go add 30 more people in Manila to support the process that they were just trying to simplify in their ERP system.
So, you know, I walk in the door with this philosophy that I do believe that there are right business cases for ERP and in agreement with Lisa, but I also really need to embrace and fully leverage a lot of the cloud technology, cloud analytics for SAP or ERP systems, and other procurement technologies that make it a little bit easier to adapt as our retail and financial systems need to adapt.
Yeah, any other feedback from the panel about companies using an ERP maybe when they shouldn’t be?
Well, I’ve definitely had clients that feel like they spent too much money on their ERP system, so they insist that users use it for everything and it’s ridiculous because they shouldn’t be using it for these functions. Generally speaking, I see that come up quite a bit in the planning arena where there’s some type of a product that just doesn’t—or a situation where it doesn’t work effectively. Um, to send it through ERP, so like the planners are trying to do all sorts of things behind the scenes without being caught so they can actually figure out what to produce and where to produce it in order to have the right products for their customers. And it’s just kind of crazy because their corporate environments say no, no, you have to use it and they don’t want them to use like an add-on or peripheral software that might work really well for their situation. Like, for example, a forecasting system or something like that. So, I see it come up quite a bit, unfortunately.
Well, Melissa, thank you for being with us today.
Jennifer, so I want to pivot back over to you, and one of the things that I love about this show that we’ve put together is it’s a female-only panel. It is possible to have a panel with only women—very, very rare, but I love and have gotten a lot of feedback that people love seeing that we actually have women speakers on every single show. And so, I know Jennifer, you have spent most of your career in the manufacturing space, which my company does a lot in that space as well. And so, I know sometimes it can be overwhelming if you’re walking into meetings or having conversations and you never interact with a female. So, would like to get your take on what the world of manufacturing and ERP, what the opportunity landscape looks like for women today, and maybe if you have some tips or advice for people who are wanting to get into ERP or manufacturing and are women and are not quite sure how to do that?
Yeah, absolutely. So, I think that, you know, going back to, you know, 20 years ago when I started in the manufacturing realm, it was, you know, mainly men-owned, men-run—you know, there would maybe be a woman finance officer and maybe, you know, a couple girls, you know, entering sales orders. Over the years, and I think it really, in the last maybe five to ten years, I’ve seen this uptick in more and more women being interested in manufacturing. I think we can all agree that, you know, the pay is typically above average that you would find in an from a normal, you know, retail or other type of position that women typically hold.
So I think women are kind of catching on to this, you know, hey, I’ll go work in manufacturing, either work on the shop floor or maybe work my way up into an office position or a leader position, leadership position.
So, you know, looking at it 20 years ago, again, working for a company, I was probably one of the only women in a leadership role or anything that had to do with inventory management or warehouse management, purchasing, job scheduling, whereas now I typically see that it’s more than 50 percent. And a really good example here is I’m currently working on a go-live. I have bags under my eyes because I was up till about 2:30 this morning working on a cutover. So we went live with a customer, and 90 percent of the leadership team and core team are women at this manufacturing company that we’ve gone live with. So they are all holding roles in production, supply chain management, sales, and customer service, as well as some IT roles. And just on the flip side of that, not only the core team but our consulting team as well. The consulting team as well as internal, quote unquote, consulting from corporate. Seventy percent of our internal functional consultants and tools consultants are women, and that is not that is not intentional where the companies have gone and just hired women. It’s just, you know, from a talent pools perspective, and I think you can all agree with me that, you know, the women like to hang in there a little bit longer and make sure that the job is done and it’s done on time. Just a funny story, like I said, I was with this customer until about 2:30 this morning, and as you started getting closer to two o’clock in the morning, people started dropping off until it was about, there were three of us, the two of our consultants who are both women and the finance person. So we were the ones left standing and were very driven and motivated to get the business up and running by 5 a.m. this morning. And I think, you know, I do think that employers are recognizing that, and so when you’re matching up skill set and talent and just overall personality culture fit, there are some really great opportunities out there for women.
Awesome, and I’m just gonna speak for all of us and say if anyone’s listening and interested in getting more information or more involved in the world of ERP, please, please reach out to any of us on LinkedIn. I think all of us would be more than happy to mentor and give some advice or feedback on the best way to advance your career or get into the space if you’re in another industry and wanting to tackle something new and interesting.
So, Renata, question for you about unresolved challenges from clients. So, what is the most interesting unresolved challenge you’ve heard from a client, and maybe some of the lessons that we can glean from that?
So, as part of the resource management that I’m in, people resource management that I’m working in, one is like how to measure employee health and burnout rate. So, there are a lot of default measures that we are currently using, kind of like retention rate, like how many hours overtime somebody is doing. But it’s not clear enough because we don’t only want to prevent somebody leaving but to make sure, right now it’s the focus on how healthy somebody is at the work because somebody can be like motivated enough, like working 16 hours, and not leaving because somebody’s like that person loves their job, it’s just not healthy on the long run. So, how can we measure the health of every single employee? That is one of the challenges that is very difficult to measure currently because we do not only like there is no measurement, well-known, defined, but also difficult to measure the healthiness of somebody. We were starting to brainstorm on, okay, how many meetings a day somebody has or how much time in between meetings in the calendar they can take a little bit of a break. So, especially right now in the pandemic, we thought like working from home can be some positive because I can like do my laundry during the day or things like that. But what we are seeing is everybody is working way much more, there is no differentiation between private life and work, and that can harm families too. So, for example, this client mentioned his own wife who is working in supply chain like procurement operations and working with different kinds of, like from India through California, and she is like in Europe. So in this case, she has like from seven a.m. in the morning like meetings until midnight, and sometimes she doesn’t even have time to eat or like go to have five minutes of a break. And this is like pretty concerning nowadays.
Yeah, I think it’s a really important topic that we bring up as people take on more and more and don’t focus on and think about their health and family, so I appreciate you highlighting that topic and as women leaders in our industry, I think we need to set good examples for our teams as well about having balance and not sending emails or slack messages at midnight to our team because they’re going to think right, that’s what we expect.
Lisa, I want to pivot back over to you. You mentioned you help companies with ERP selections, and I know this can be a really, really big challenge for companies who have maybe never done this before or don’t have the expertise in-house. So, what are some pointers that you have for people that are going out and going to be doing an ERP selection process this year?
Well, one is to not get mired in all the details. I mean, you do have to document the requirements in order to keep your ERP suppliers in line, if you will. But the most important thing is to look at what are your critical requirements. And what I mean by that is, what is essential to either serving your customers or your differentiation in the marketplace or, you know, a key profit driver or what’s unique to your business, what is or maybe what’s unique from a functionality standpoint. You know, food processing companies do not need the same type of software as a highly engineered company does, as an example. And so one is to understand those key differentiators, which is really just a handful, like generally speaking, five or less. Those are the areas you really want to focus in on when selecting the ERP system. Yes, of course, you have to look to see if it meets the overall business requirements, which will be hundreds, but you know, just those five is going to give you the 80/20 in terms of the ideal software. And then the next step here is, is that the software as important as it is, you should have software that’s well-suited to those needs. However, if that software does not come with the best partner that fits your needs, you will still be wildly unsuccessful. So, it’s very important to look for the appropriate partner. And, for example, recently worked on an ERP selection and the softwares were largely the same. I mean, of course, there’s nuances, but from how my client needed to utilize the software, they were, for all intensive purposes, largely, you know, there was no differentiation between them.
With that said, one of the, you know, they liked the demo, you know, software suppliers have smooth-talking demo-ers, so you know, they liked one of the demos better. However, when they talked to the implementation, uh, the people who are going to actually help them implement it, became a night and day difference because the experience level, I mean, having an implementation partner that understands your business and understands business processes goes a very long way, especially in what you said, Sarah, is if you have a client that’s newer to this process, but it really doesn’t matter. Like I’ve seen clients that are extremely experienced, and there are so many pitfalls that it’s just really helpful to have somebody who is going to roll up their sleeves and can understand, um, what the down-the-line impacts are going to be so they can help you avoid lots of wrong paths, which is completely essential in having a successful implementation. So I would say critical success factors and your partner are the two keys to success.
So, Melissa, somebody makes this ERP selection, they spend all this time and money, and it doesn’t work out. What best practices do you have for companies that need to get off an ERP, and whether that’s transferring to a new system altogether or maybe not using something in the same manner, but there’s companies that I know that have to completely dismantle and get off something?
Yeah, I still think that there’s good use cases for having an ERP system. You know, I think Lisa and Renata mentioned it before. You’ve got your planning, forecasting, inventory management, MRP, and more specifically, not everybody nowadays with the global economy has just one ERP, so you may have multiple ERP systems, and having that backbone of that infrastructure to pull all that data together is important. But yeah, it’s, you know, a lot of times it just doesn’t work out. You know, like Lisa said, to try to put everything in there, and it really comes down to, you know, again, Lisa, I think you mentioned it really well. It really comes down to how do you get them out of their head? You know, you’ve got a couple different things. One, we put a lot of cost and effort into it, and why can’t we just customize it? Why is it wrong to just add 30 more people to do data entry? I’m working with a, you know, a team last year, and if I look at the team and I broke down what they do, fifty to sixty percent of what they do is manual data entry and requisitions in their ERP system. The other ten percent is, you know, fighting fire drills, and the other twenty, thirty percent is focused on liaison between the buyer and the supplier because the delivery date, you know, keeps changing. You know, I’m going to give one more example. I recently got into some data because I saw the comment about dirty data. Yes, dirty data. We’re going to mention that, Susan. So I recently dived in, and someone said, ‘Can you help me understand why I’m recycling my PO so much?’ And their definition of recycle was, ‘We just keep touching it over and over and over again.’ And their data was surprisingly, they were having POs getting touched 25,000 times in a month. And I was like, ‘I don’t understand why you’re changing your PO that much.’ Well, come to find out, because they’re in this ERP system, every time the supplier wanted to change the delivery date, they would go in and change the delivery date on the PO because it was the only time and the only way that they could communicate that change to the end user. Well, in the end, they have no performance indicators now because every supplier is delivering on time, and yet it’s great that the buyer knows every time that the delivery date is changing, but ultimately, it’s causing more problems, and it’s creating a group of a lot of people to sit there and do data entry on delivery dates. So it is difficult to get them out of their own way sometimes. It’s their own obstacle. So, if you talk about leading practices, it’s really having them get out of their head, recognizing that there are other options and better ways. You don’t necessarily need to change the delivery date every time it’s delayed. If you want to move towards leading practices and move towards world-class, sometimes the ERP is just not going to be there to support you.
So, Jennifer, when Melissa was talking about that and people getting out of their head, it made me also think about all of the integrations that people try to do with ERP systems. So you’ve got your core system, and then you’ve got all these niche software solutions that can help with different areas, but integrations can be a total pain in the butt. So what advice do you have for companies that are looking for specific niche solutions that they want to integrate with their ERP?
Well, of course, you know, it goes back to needs analysis and what do we need, how big of a project is this, and can we handle it internally? You know, people like Lisa or your implementation partner can certainly cut through a lot of the red tape to tell you, ‘Hey, these are the best in class, the best in business, so we should probably start with taking a look at these handful of solutions that will help you.’ Another question that you should be asking yourself up front is, can my ERP system handle an integration, and what does that look like, what is the amount of effort to integrate? ERPs these days, if you’re on a later version, especially in the cloud, you’re going to get an API, and those sorts of integrations are a heck of a lot easier than if you have a homegrown custom or antiquated system that doesn’t necessarily have those building blocks put in place to integrate to. Another thing to, obviously, check is, you know, when you’re kind of whittling it down to maybe a few different vendors, is what is going to be the path of least resistance, all things being equal? Am I going to have to build a custom solution, or am I going to be able to find an integration that already maybe has one built for my particular ERP? I will say something about that is that those types of integrations, um, generally aren’t, you know, you slap it in and out of the box, everything works perfectly. You should expect maybe a little tweaking here and there, some configuration, and then also budget. What is it worth it to you to do this type of integration? Again, having someone to partner with to help you cut through that red tape, do needs analysis, and then some ROI. If we do this, this is how much it’s going to save us in terms of headache, resources, etc.
So, Lisa, one of the things I know some of my friends who run digital transformations that companies struggle with is how do I know when to hire and do things in-house and how do I know when I should go and find an outside person to help? And I know that you do consulting and you’re someone that companies hire to bring in and help. So, maybe you can provide some insights and questions or best practices that people should think about versus internal versus external.
So, in better utilizing ERP, do you mean, yes. So, I would say that, and so I would even say, and even in the whole implementation process, okay. That’s true, you could always supplement that as well. So, I would definitely say that one area where you would want to bring in a consultant is if you need results more quickly. So, it’ll help your internal people accelerate progress. That’s one of the key reasons that our clients bring us in, and it really is a big deal because they may have clients may have great people on board. They could absolutely do it, but the amount of time that they can dedicate is just limited because they have their day jobs. So, they bring in consultants to help accelerate that progress. The other piece there is, is that you may have a really well-rounded resource that could figure out the answers eventually, but what it does in addition to accelerating the process is that it provides some additional expertise for your employees.
So, when you see that your employees are, you know, struggling to find the answer, you know, help bringing them some expertise, so they can get over the roadblocks quicker, goes a long way. And what’s really important about that is not necessarily even getting the answer. It’s helping your employees stay engaged and feeling like the company is supporting, or the manager, whoever is supporting them. Because these days, people who are good with ERP systems and good from a business process standpoint are hard to come by. So, the last thing you want to do is lose your key people. So, I’ve seen a lot of the folks that we work with are saying, ‘Thank goodness that you’re here, thank goodness that they, you know, they agreed to extend your contract,’ and they were thinking just because that made their lives simpler. So, from that point of view, I would consider bringing in a consultant if you’re looking to keep your employees and retain them and educate them. So, that’s the other piece here, is that if you can get them to a better place where they’re learning the process, you know, we’re not coming in to do it for them and then just leave. Really, it’s that at times, we will jump in and do something for the client to help them if they need it, but most importantly, if we can help them sustain the process going forward, then they can be successful, and it really just helps the client. So, those would be some areas where you would want to bring them in. I would say, if you have, certainly if you have the resources internally you can dedicate, and I would definitely say, don’t dedicate the people you’d like to get rid of to your ERP upgrades or your ERP, like better utilizing your ERP system, because you’re trying to move them out of their jobs. No, no, has to be the best people you have to be successful. So, if you do have those people, you know, by all means, there’s no need for a consultant unless you have to accelerate the results for some reason. You know, that would be, and the other thing is, maybe you have somebody internally that’s an expert. Like I’ve worked with somebody in IT who happened to be really awesome in the software we use. We were using that person sat with users and helped them move forward, and they really didn’t need somebody to come in to help them further because they had resources internally. So, look and see, maybe you have, like, I can tell you that every client has hidden resources that they don’t realize, that people that are working there are talented in one area or another, where they have ideas. So, you know, look around, you never know what you might find.
So, Melissa, another thing that people struggle with is the change management aspect. So, you buy an awesome tool, it’s super simple and easy to use, it’s going to do all these great things, but nobody will use it. And I think Sam put a stat in the notes, something about, you know, 70 percent of software that people implement, users don’t actually use, which is kind of crazy. So, would you like to share some change management best practices since they know you have a lot of experience doing this?
I’m a huge advocate for change management. If you spend tens of millions of dollars on an ERP system, and you or multiple ERP systems, and you’ve integrated them and you’ve gone live with them, and you did not use change management, then you have no return on your investment, you have no user adoption, no one’s going to use it, and it’s basically a big black box that’s sitting there taking up a lot of space. So, I’m always surprised when I walk in the door, and someone says, ‘I need to cut the price,’ and the first thing they decide is, ‘Let’s get rid of all the change management.’ Oh no, no, you know, you’ve got this, like, ‘Oh no,’ because you know, no matter how good you are at implementing it, no matter how much they love the process, you know, how much the process is simplified, if there’s nothing on the back end to help it, you know, re-emphasize that, then yeah, that’s one of the primary reasons for failing. So, what can you do about it? If you don’t want to hire a lot of people to help you with that change management strategy, oftentimes there are key things you can do. For example, Microsoft PowerPoint has a recording capability, and it’s really simple and really used, and it’s really easy to maintain. So, that you can adjust as your processes change. You open up your PowerPoint, you start the record, you record your process in your ERP system, you save it, and you upload it to your internet, your internet or your website. And there’s now at least some basic recordings that when you’ve got new hires and new individuals that are learning the processes, they’ve got it. Something else that’s also really simple is, instead of doing really long detailed user guides, keep it really simple, quick reference guide, one page. What are the basic five steps that someone needs to do to create that requisition to a catalog or to create the requisition against that outline agreement? Those are the two major things I would say that if you don’t have anybody externally to hire, at minimum have somebody part-time that can dedicate at least 20% of their week to start focusing on that. I mean, obviously this is one of those conversations, just like you mentioned, we could talk an entire hour on. But for something that you could start tomorrow, those are the two quick things I’d recommend.
Renata, so I know you have some experience with AI. So, how does artificial intelligence fit into all of this, or does it have a place in ERP and this ecosystem that we’re talking about?
So basically, what I’ve seen, whenever I mention artificial intelligence, everybody is saying, ‘Oh my god, we are going to be replaced by robots,’ right? That’s not the case. So, Lisa mentioned one problem is that we don’t have people looking at the data or people don’t trust the data, or whatever. We talked about dirty data. So basically, there is a requirement first. We can add advanced technologies and advanced analytics everywhere. It’s have the correct data and user adoption to understand, like, the people trust their data. It’s not like, ‘Oh, there is a number 55, I have no idea how we came up to that.’ So, once it’s there and people can trust the data, my experience is that the next step is kind of simple analytics in a way. Like, using AI in a way to have a recommendation engine or kind of risk management, risk mitigation. And that works in a way that, okay, I have to get together all the SMEs and, like, figure out a methodology, like how they make any kind of decisions, and kind of program their decisions into, like, a programming language and in the code and in analytics. So it’s not like having a robot, just a programming language figure out what’s going on and, like, give you your next items and next action items, what to do. It’s more like based on the experience of the people within the organization, get together, put their knowledge together, their actions, how they are making decisions, and then convert that to your recommendation. For example, if some PO gets more than 10 touches, what should happen? Somebody has to get alerted or in what phase a PO is. Who should get it assigned to? In that case, what kind of message that person should get if it sits like more than 10 days in their queue? These kinds of items, like, we are doing it every single day. We are making these decisions, but if it can get converted into, like, analytics and notifications, that can reduce so much hours and get the whole flow a little bit more efficient and effective.
Melissa, we have five minutes left. Your closing thoughts on where AI fits into ERP? Should companies be looking at it? What should they be doing? How should they be assessing it?
Yes, yes to all that. No, yes, absolutely. Everything that Renata said was spot on. The most quick and powerful ones I’m seeing is the RPAs. Being able to, again, let’s go back to that huge 30, 50-plus team that’s spending 50, 60% of their time doing data entry. A lot of this is the same key strokes over and over and over again. You spend a little bit of effort up front, you build an automated bot that can go in there and just do the exact same thing, and your return on investment is immediate because now you can take those individuals and shift them to something a little bit more strategic. So, for me, the most quick-win, low-hanging fruit, immediately get in there with AI is those automated, tactical, repeatable keystrokes that you can use the AI for.
Can small companies afford AI?
Yes, yes, they can. There are so many suppliers out there, small business suppliers, that have AI. They can, and I think the challenge is recognizing that you don’t have to go to a big firm to get it. There’s a lot of suppliers out there, small and medium-sized, that have been building these applications for three, four years now. They’re just coming into the limelight with their production environment. Yeah, if you look, you will be able to find somebody that can do exactly what you need them to do and fit within your budget.
Aka, you don’t have to try to do it yourself.
Yeah, I wouldn’t, I don’t. I go to the team behind me and ask that question.
Awesome. Well, Lisa, Melissa, Renata, Jennifer, thank you so much for being here today and sharing your wisdom. I encourage anybody who is with us today that wants to continue the conversation about all things ERP to connect with us on LinkedIn. And this is a show that we host every single month, so if you enjoyed the conversation, got value from it, a recording will be made available as soon as we end the show, and our next show will be March 1st at 1pm Eastern Time. So, look forward to seeing you next month.