Transcript: Women in ERP – January 2022

Women in ERP – January 2022

Featured Panelists:
Jessica Gadbois, Anya Ciecierski and
Laurie McCabe

Hello, happy new year, and welcome to our Women in ERP show. This is a show where Sarah Scudder from SourceDay and I will be hosting 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 ain’t all pretty.

Believe me, our initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with ERP.

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 voices and their stories. I’m Kris Harrington, president of GenAlpha, and today’s show host. Our digital commerce solution integrates with manufacturers’ ERP systems, so my team is intimately familiar with all that can go right and all that can go wrong when utilizing an ERP system to drive a business. I’m joined by Jessica, Anya, and Laurie. They have a wide range of ERP experience, and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories with us today.

To kick off our conversation, please put in the comments where in the world you are joining us from and the best ERP advice you ever received. Don’t be shy—please engage with us in the comments throughout the show and post your questions anytime.

Anya, I’m going to start with you. Please tell us a bit about yourself and share one fun fact about you.

So, my name is Anya Ciecierski – it’s a bit of a hard name, but two chairs and a ski, and I’ve actually worked in the ERP space since about 1999, always in sales and marketing for reseller partners, especially Microsoft Dynamics partners. Later in my career, Acumatica. Back in 2009, I actually started something on the side as a side business—side gig—and the ERP Software Blog, CRM Software Blog, and ERP Cloud Blog, which are group blogging programs to help VARs, resellers, and ISVs add-on partners to all contribute their content to one place and reach a broader audience. So, that was a side gig, and now it’s my 100% gig. Because it’s 100% online, I am able to be very flexible. So, the fun fact about me is that, although I’m from Connecticut and most recently the Boston area, before I left the United States four years ago, my husband and I moved to Sofia, Bulgaria. So, very random. I don’t usually tell people when I’m talking to them on the phone that that’s where I’m sitting, but with the seven-hour time difference, it’s often at midnight or whatever. Yeah, we’re enjoying a very mobile flexible lifestyle in Europe while working online.

That’s so wonderful. And if you would like to put the blog into the comments so people can connect with you and your blog, that would be great too. Alright, so let’s start it off with the first question to Anya. When someone is evaluating ERP systems, what should they keep in mind? Evaluating the features, the functionality is very important, and of course, that’s Laurie’s specialty—helping people to compare the different vendors. But I would say it’s also just as important to evaluate the partner that you’ll be working with to install it. So, you can get referrals from companies that have been successful. Do searches online, look at a site like the ERP Software Blog, the ERP Cloud Blog that lists partner directories. And then, I feel a really good way to get to know that partner, to know their style, is to read their blog posts. So, Laurie has a really good article that she’s going to talk about later that mentions that what people want when they’re looking for ERP systems is for the vendors to make it easier to get answers to questions and to better articulate how the solution will help them improve their specific business goals. Right, Laurie? And so, I think that blog posts are an excellent way for companies to really show who they are and shine in that way and for a prospect to get to know them in that way. So, that would be my advice to someone who’s evaluating an ERP system.

Awesome. Did any of you other ladies want to comment on that by chance?

I will if you’d like, Kris. I mean, a lot of what Anya just said echoes pretty strongly with what I do. I guess I can start with an introduction if that makes more sense. Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s do it. One contract and one fun fact. You got it. I am Jessica Gadbois, very pleased to be here today and really thrilled to meet all of you. I have spent the last eight years in the cloud ERP world, so I really think of myself as a cloud ERP product evangelist and a cloud ERP guru. My passion is helping businesses to move out of these very analog manual worlds that they often live in and take them into the 21st century and give them the solutions and the tools that they need to run their businesses better and to save them money and to ultimately do more business at the end of the day. So, that’s a little bit about what I do. I’ve always worked directly for ERP vendors. So, I’ve worked for Oracle, I worked for NetSuite prior to them being purchased by Oracle, and I worked directly for Acumatica for about the last five and a half years. Three very powerful players in the ERP world. And my newest gig that I’ve taken on is I’m now the Acumatica practice director at a software reseller.

So for those of you that are newer to the ERP world, you will find that oftentimes a reseller partner, as Anya described, is the partner that will end up helping you to implement your software system. So, I am currently at a reseller of Acumatica and I’m running the business unit dedicated to Acumatica. So, I’m almost thinking of myself as a CEO of this particular business unit. It allows me to have really great freedom and creativity and a lot of control over what Synergy is doing as a company, but all in regard to how we can make businesses better through ERP. That’s everything that we focus on. Now, I guess my fun fact really quickly is nothing like Anya, but I grew up near Cape Cod, so people tend to find that interesting because most people think of Cape Cod just as a vacation spot. But some of us actually live here, so our beaches are empty right now, but we’re still here.

Now, the thing I was going to comment on, just to Anya’s point, I think when you’re looking for an ERP partner to work with, yes, you want to really understand, do they understand your industry? Do they have references out there? So asking to speak to a reference, finding references, or reading their blog information is certainly something that can help with that. But I always go deeper – put yourself in the shoes of the folks that are purchasing ERP. Empathy can get very lost in this industry, and personally, that’s what I try to hold on to. So look for ethics. If you’re evaluating partners and evaluating ERP providers, really understand the ethics of the company that you’re dealing with. Are they an honest company? Like Kris was right at the beginning of this and she said, implementing ERP is not easy, but anybody that pretends that it is, is lying to you, and you really need to work with a partner that is going to guide you through that risk and help you understand that risk, and not pretend that the risk isn’t there because it is. So, I would say honesty, trust – you know, can you trust that your partner is going to a) be there for you when you need them, but b) that they aren’t going to, you know, knock you over the head with crazy price increases every year? Can you trust them that they can honestly tell you that? Access – can they give you access to your data anytime you ask for it, and can they prove that? So, I think a lot of people get really deep into the functionality and features, which is important, but we’re all people at the end of the day and we’re all buying from people at the end of the day, and really making sure that you’re working with an ethical company, in my opinion, is hugely important. So, first answer to the first question for you, Kris.

Thank you. No, I think that was great advice that I would – I would even say that it’s great advice when thinking about any vendor to partner with, you know? I love that you brought in the ethical part of that and even that empathy. You know, as we think about selecting vendors in our own organization or we hope to be chosen as a supplier and partner from other organizations, we would hope that we lead with some of those characteristics as well. So, that’s wonderful. You know, are there any other things that you can think of when evaluating an ERP partner to work with that you would want to add here, or I’m ready to go to Laurie if you’ve got anything?

I guess just a few final thoughts. I think it is definitely worth understanding the size of the company that you’re dealing with. Um, you know, is this an organization that has two resources that they can dedicate to you, or is there the deep bench, as we always hear, that is prepared to help you and support you? So, I think company size is important. I think CSAT is definitely important. I think we’re hearing a lot more about customer satisfaction and seeing that users have the ability to score these ERP products. So, it’s not, you know, Acumatica or NetSuite or Sage saying how great their products are, it’s the actual customer users. So, looking at those CSAT scores and those net promoter scores and understanding how the end users are scoring those products that they are actually dealing with, I think that’s another important thing that you can look at when evaluating a partner or a vendor. Yeah, that’s great. Thank you all right Laurie can you please tell us a bit about yourself and share one fun fact about you. Yeah, sure, hi I’m Laurie McCabe and I’m one of the two co-founders of SMB Group, and I have been an industry analyst in the tech industry for a long time. We started SMB Group about 10, 11 years ago after working at different analyst firms, and what we do is really focus on helping small and medium businesses better understand technology and help vendors, quite honestly, better understand their needs – you know, the customer needs and customer constraints. And we look at a really wide variety of business solutions, and as most of you probably know at this point, there’s so much overlap, right, in terms of business solutions. You know, even what’s in an ERP suite – well, sometimes there’s marketing in there too, right? And sometimes there’s HR in there, you know, it’s not just about the financials and manufacturing and logistics anymore. So, we tend to take a pretty holistic view. We do a lot of market research with small and medium businesses, and that’s kind of our focus and the lens we view everything from. It’s through that customer lens. And I guess my fun fact isn’t here with me. I have a Covid puppy, she’s now, I guess, a dog, she’s a year and a half old, almost, a beautiful yellow lab, and she’s usually with me for all of my meetings, but today, for a couple of reasons I won’t get into, she’s not. But she’s been a very fun fact in my life, and yeah, that’s kind of my intro. I didn’t know if you wanted me to continue on with the thread that we were on Kris or not.

Well, let me ask you the first question and then we can continue to go from there. So, you know, you recently wrote a blog beyond features and functionality, evaluating cloud business solution providers for trust and flexibility. Why did you write this?

I think, you know, there’s so many different solutions out there for ERP, you know, and especially in SMB – now almost everybody is targeting small and medium businesses, right? So, the very big Oracles, SAPs, etc., you know, they’re, you know, aggressively going or trying to go down market. Then you have all the companies that have been in the mid-market and even small business with solutions. So, it’s a really crowded, noisy space. And then on top of that, for all of these solutions, for the most part, you’ve got all these prospective different, you know, reseller and implementation partners. So, there’s a lot to think about, and it’s not surprising that, you know, we find that small and medium businesses in our surveys rank year after year – they say their top technology challenge is just figuring out what solution is going to work best for their businesses, because all the vendors are giving them a lot of hype. A lot of times, even if you read what vendors are saying, it’s the same thing, you know? We’re going to help you do this better, cheaper, faster, easier. So, you really have to peel back a lot of layers on the onion, and it – you know, we’ve already mentioned Anya and Jessica, so you have to go beyond functionality and price and consider some of the softer factors, because I really think vendor trust and vendor flexibility to work with you as your business needs change and as the environment changes – god knows we’ve been through a lot of change lately, and I don’t think it’s going to stop – but that trust and flexibility is going to really help make the solution stick and make that implementation successful over the long haul. Yeah, great points. Thank you for that, Laurie. Um, alright, let’s head back to Anya. Anya, how can reading blog posts help someone evaluate an ERP partner to work with? So, you know, Laurie shared her blog post, I’m just curious now that you’re in that blog space and you’re doing it full time, what do you think about how it can help someone evaluate an ERP partner?

Yeah, so I read a lot of blog posts by ERP resellers, partners that do the implementations. We get about probably 600 a year new posts on the ERP Software Blog. And I’d say what it does when you can read either on a company’s blog, you know, on their own website, or a site like ours, it really helps you to kind of – or can help you, should help you – build a picture of what that company is all about. What is their personality as a business? Their expertise – do they really know your industry? So, if they’re talking about ERP for the wealth management industry, I mean, is it, you know, marketing fluff or are they really using the lingo, the pain points that are specific to that industry, so that you know, ‘Okay, these guys, these guys really know what they’re talking about.’ And I think that’s the power of really content marketing, blog posts specifically. I mean, I talk all about blog posts because that’s my thing, but, of course, it’s not the only way, but I think it’s an excellent way to be able to get to know that company. Now, that being said, it could be that the poor marketing person at the reseller is tasked with writing posts and they don’t really know all the ins and outs, right? And that’s too bad. I always recommend to the members of my blog, the subject matter experts, the billable consultants, they’re the ones that have this amazing knowledge trapped in their brains. But in my experience, it is nearly impossible to get a billable consultant to sit down and write a blog. So, I always suggest to them, to the marketing people, you know, record them because people like to talk, just like this group. It might have been harder for some of us to write this all down, but we can sit here and talk about it for an hour. So, record that subject matter expert talking about a question. Why is Microsoft Dynamics GP, you know, different than Acumatica? How do you handle commission calculation for, you know, this type of manufacturing or sales firm, whatever it may be? And then record them. And then, my method is that I have that transcribed a few hours later, I get a Word document back, and then that’s very easy to have somebody polish up into a blog post. So, companies who do that, that kind of go beyond just the marketing fluff blog posts and really get deep, I think that’s a huge opportunity for them to stand out with prospects that are researching. Another thing is to see – we talked about trust and ethics – is how open are they about their pricing, for example. Do they tell you their process? When one person in the chat mentions their training schedule or methodology. So, those are all kinds of details that can again help you to differentiate them from another company. Is being open and honest. I see so many companies that say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t want to tell anybody our pricing, we don’t want to tell them our secret sauce.’ That’s what’s going to get them to engage with you, is that type of trust and honesty.

So, I think the more information, the more honest information that a company can put out there, the better. Yeah, great advice. I think transparency with that information, building the level of trust through the information you’re reading. And, you know, even again, this is broader than ERP, with some insights here because, you know, as a company, we write a lot of blog posts and create a lot of content. And, you know, it’s true for new ideas that sometimes just interviewing people across the organization to get a cross-functional view of a topic and then turning that into a blog post, we found to be very effective. I know Laurie, you talked about your blog that you created. Jessica, do you have any comments on blogs specifically? Are you a blog writer and do you create any content? Maybe even on Anya’s face?

Yeah, it’s actually interesting. The three of us, Laurie, myself, and Anya, didn’t know originally that we would all be shared guests on this webinar, but we all know each other from being in the ERP world. Synergy, my company, is actually partnering, looking to partner with the ERP Software Blog, so we can do some blogging there. But yeah, my perspective on that, to Anya’s point, is from the product side. Because I really started my career in the product as a solution consultant, which is still what I’m doing today, working deep in the product. It gives me an opportunity to speak as a subject matter expert. And I think that’s just a phenomenal point – is that you can tell very quickly if the blogs that you’re actually reading are marketing fluff or if there is a deeper understanding of not only the pains that you’re going through, but also often, it’s what they don’t know. You know very well what you’re dealing with, the problems that you’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis, but some businesses are so caught up in those problems that they don’t even actually realize what their potential can be. So, educating during that blogging process as well. Yes, speaking to the problems, but also speaking to the potential of these companies once they accomplish those problems or solve those problems. Really, some advice and, I guess, perspective on how I see blogging.

Kris, yeah, that’s great. Thank you.

All right, let’s move on to our next question, and that’s to you, Jessica. What are some common mistakes to avoid when selecting a new ERP product?

Yeah, there are a lot. I think every time a business goes down the path of evaluating ERP, it’s important to understand that you are not the first business to do this. I think many companies that start out down this path and down this journey get very overwhelmed because, just like Laurie said, the biggest problem that she hears is trying to actually figure out what solution is best for you. And it’s because of how overwhelming this market can be. So, the first thing that I would say is try not to evaluate too many systems. And that I’m saying, do your research, watch your videos, read your blog posts. You don’t have to sit down and evaluate the top 15 ERP systems end to end. If these companies have done their marketing and their blogging and their video creation right, a lot of that work should already be done for you. So, we have the power as buyers now to actually use the internet to help us with that, the first couple of interactions that we take with a vendor. So again, what I’m getting at is don’t try to evaluate 15 systems. Pick the top two or three that you see as the best for your industry, that have the best reviews, the greatest analyst data, and then sit down and evaluate those two or three systems end to end. Really common mistake that I’ve seen is companies that really try to do this with 8, 10, you know, 15 pieces of software. It is just too much, and there is no reason to do that anymore. I think another one is probably shopping for price over value. You know, everybody wants a shopping cart like Amazon, right? We all want to deliver this Amazon-like experience. But how many of us actually want to invest the millions of dollars that Amazon has invested in that product? Very few, right? So actually understanding what is important to my business, what is the value that these solutions will bring to me, and then understanding the pricing piece later. I’m not saying that you should never consider your budget against this, but we really often see companies that are just comparing pricing and making a purchase based on that. And I think it’s more about value. If you want the Amazon experience, there’s probably going to be dollars and cents that come along with that. But there’s steps you can take along the way at a lower cost to get you closer to that experience.

Yeah, I would just interject something that we see quite often is that, you know, before you even start the shopping experience to find the right thing, I think a lot of times where people need to spend more time is by really figuring out where are we today and where do we want to go tomorrow, and what do we need this solution to help us to do better or do differently or do additively to the business, right? And I think that’s where a lot of the confusion comes in because once you narrow that down and you can really set your own priorities, I think it is easier, as Jessica said, to kind of then narrow down the vendor options, right? Because you’re going to find that the top things that you really absolutely have to do, like maybe e-commerce is critically important to your business as a manufacturer, you know, in that case, you may be picking a different solution because they, then, another company where it’s just not that big a deal for them, right? You may be picking a different solution because that e-commerce capability is just front and center, and how you know, everything else in the ERP kind of has to revolve around that and integrate with that really well right off the bat. You know, the other thing is, I wanted to mention earlier on the industry side, almost every ERP vendor now is touting their industry editions, their industry versions, their industry this, their industry that.

And, of course, if you’re in any industry, you know, you’re in construction, you’re in wealth management, you’re in manufacturing, whatever you’re in, you do want something that is more tailored to your industry. But again, I’d say buyer beware because sometimes this is just a veneer, an industry veneer. Other times, it’s really deep. So, you know, find out, do a lot of the people who work on this product come from the industry? Do they have that industry expertise? Because then, when whoever’s writing the code, they can take that expertise in terms of the actual functionality and things you need to have. It’s not just, yeah, we’ve adapted the lingo and we talk the same talk. You know, really, is it, do they walk the same walk? Yeah, I love your point about the veneer because we do see a lot of companies cater to an industry, but the depth of their experience related to that industry might not be might not hit all of the requirements that are necessary for that business. But the depth of another organization, while they might not be specifically broadcasting their business expertise in that industry, they, in fact, have the qualifications, the support, and the features and functionality needed to meet the requirements of the business. So, I really like you pointing out that point as well. Anya, did you have anything you wanted to add?

You know, when Laurie said that, it also made me think that sometimes those very industry-specific niche software packages can be lacking on the actual accounting financial side. And really, that’s what you wanted in the first place. So, yeah, sometimes it can be better to go with a really solid package like Acumatica, like Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, whatever it is, and then add on that extra functionality that you need. So, it’s really a balance because you could end up getting a bit more of a no-name package and then be looking for support later on. There’s not as big of a partner network to support you. So, definitely going with industry-specific versus something more standard with add-ons or customizations is a serious choice to make. Sure, I think too, and I know we haven’t talked about this, but the ability for these ERP systems to integrate with other systems today, how easily you can integrate with another system, because technology is being developed all of the time, right? So, one of the points that you might want to make sure as a business is, is, in fact, how easily can I integrate this to other solutions if and when I need them at a later point in time? Yeah, it fits into that flexibility, right? So, you have to look absolutely at the partner network and app. Do they have the open APIs? Do they have a healthy, strong partner ecosystem? Because nobody is going to deliver everything all the time. And not only does that help you to get the extra functionality you need, if the vendor has a very modern, open architecture, it also makes it easier for them to embed newer technologies. So, whether that’s AI or internet of things technology, edge computing, whatever may need to be in that solution next, that modern open architecture is going to make it easier for both them and their partners to add new capabilities. And that’s going to help you as a customer down the road, sure. Jessica, did you have anything to say there? I thought you had a thought.

You’re reading my mind. Yes, I didn’t want to speak up, but yeah, the point around integrations and just finding point solutions or customizing your system heavily and unnecessarily, I think are some pretty common mistakes that we see as well. You know, you hear about some of the most famous ERP failures of all time, and very often, it’s because of some of the same reasons. You know, Hershey, Nike, there’s a lot of massive companies out there that have famously failed at their ERP implementations because they tried to customize things that maybe they should not have. You know, spending millions on these customizations that there are solutions that exist for those exact purposes. So, I know we’ve echoed that point a few times, but you don’t need to go out and build your own quality module. Someone else has already done this. They have invested a lot of money in it, many people, and thinking that you have to do these things custom for your business because your business is unique is not necessarily always true. Yes, your business is unique, but building custom software to match it probably isn’t the safest route considering how many industry experts have gone before you. So, just in the way of integrations and adding on point solutions, I guess that would be my two cents in that area. Yeah, great comments by everyone there.

All right, Laurie, back to you. Many of the factors around selecting an ERP provider can be more difficult to assess than functionality and price. Everyone prefers to do business with someone they trust. But how do you recommend people assess vendor trustworthiness? We talked a lot about trust today, so can you just give me some insight there?

Yeah, just trust me, Kris. Yeah, I mean, there’s no litmus test, but I do think there are some ways that you can at least get a better handle on, you know, is this vendor or vendor partner gonna be somebody you’re gonna be able to trust? Because it’s gonna be a relationship. I think, as Jessica said, none of these things are easy, so you need somebody that’s going to kind of see you through and stick with you with it. But I think, you know, just first of all, early on in the process, are they listening to you?

Are they, you know, hopefully you have really figured out what is what we really want to do.

This is what we need to do, this is what we can do on our own, this is where we’re going to need help, you know, all those things. Are they listening to you, and do they really understand what you need? And then do they clearly explain to you how their solution is going to help your business, right? So this is after you’ve done that initial evaluation, you know, reading blogs, getting your short list. This is when you’re really kind of talking to the vendors one-on-one because it’s just like a relationship, right? A personal relationship or a relationship with your doctor. They have to understand what you need and then they have to be able to tell you how they’re gonna help you. I don’t remember who mentioned it before, but definitely connecting you with reference customers and very much reference customers that share some similarities to your business. If you are a distributor and they’re sharing a reference from the construction industry, I don’t know how helpful that’s going to be. Or you’re a company with 500 people and they’re telling you what happened at Nestle, I don’t know if that’s going to help you either. So you want to be able to talk to these customers, not just re-case studies.

Now, another thing I think is important is what’s their employee culture like? How do they treat their employees? Because you know what, if their employees aren’t happy, you are not gonna be a happy customer. So go on Glassdoor and go on some of these other sites where you can see what employees are saying, you know, how are they stacking up? This company, happy employees are probably going to make you a much happier customer. And then finally, you’re going to be signing a contract. Can you, you know, is this contract obviously your legal team’s going to look at it and everything else, but I mean, is this all clearly explained to you? Are the SLAs, the service level agreements clear? Is what’s going to happen with your data, who they may be sharing it with, if they’re sharing it, or when it would get shared, how you get it back, all those kind of details? What happens in terms if they do have an outage, if things go down, is there any kind of compensation for you from them? So those are the things you, you know, in addition to the legal kind of t’s and c’s, do you understand that? Do you understand the business impact of this contract? And I think vendors that take the time to make sure you do and make that easier to do are probably going to be more trustworthy in the long run. Yeah, all great points on trustworthiness there, Laurie. You know, even as a solution provider, again not an ERP solution provider but a digital commerce provider of solutions, I take a lot of that advice to heart. And I know we’re always continuing to try to ensure that we expose our people to the buyers so that they see again not just the sales team but the team that they would be working with after the purchase. And I think that’s so important as companies think about selecting their ERP provider. Who is it when you move from that sales person into the team that’s going to help you implement that ERP system? What does that team look like? Do they understand your business needs? Do they understand the problems that you’re facing and the ones that your new ERP system are designed to solve?

And I think that exposing yourself beyond just the sales person can be really valuable in that buying process. So and can really help you to understand how trustworthy they truly are. So great stuff all right, Anya, back to you. You know, you started your business, the ERP software blog, to use the power of the group. What does that mean to you? I’m a really firm believer in the fact that we can all help each other when we are part of a community, build a community, the high tide floats all ships kind of concept. So when we started, my business partner and I started the ERP software blog, that was really the goal.

How can we help even small companies to get a louder voice and more traffic, more, you know, exposure by using this group power? Even though, you know, we have about 150 VAR and ISV partners that are resellers and add-on providers, I should say, too many acronyms in our ERP industry. We have about 150 companies that participate in our group blogs, and they’re all competitors, right? But they’re still able to come together and to really work together to get their message out. And that just improves all of us in the ERP industry, you know, as a group. But I think, along those lines with building community and the importance of that, another strategy that people that are looking for the right ERP system and the right partner can do is to attend some of the user events, even before they purchase the software.

Get connected with the local user group if there is one. You know, every year most of the big part vendors have some kind of a show, like Acumatica summit. I think Jessica’s been very involved with that as a speaker. You know, Microsoft Dynamics user groups, and those are the ones I’m familiar with, but I’m sure they all have them – SweetWorld, whatever. And when you go to events like that, of course, you’re hearing what they’re saying officially from the stage, which is very valuable, but you’re also hearing what’s going on in the background. Are the partners happy with the product right now? Are they seeing good developments coming? Is there a lot of complaining? You know, a few years back, if you go to the Microsoft Dynamics events, gosh, there were some angry partners. And then I would go to the Acumatica events and everybody was happy and pumped up, and I thought, ‘Okay, well, this is a very good indication of what’s going on with this particular vendor right now.’ But very, very few prospects, I would say, attend those events. It’s generally the 99% is the actual people who have already bought the software, and those are the people that you can be talking to. You can find people in your industry, specifically ask questions kind of off the record, not when they’ve been given to you as an official reference possibly. So, I think that taking the time, and yes, it is an expense, time and expense, although a pro tip is you can usually get those tickets comped to those events if you’re a prospect, is that you should attend those and really get a sense of the people and the community and the group that you’re going to be joining. Because an ERP system is a big part of your company, and when you dive in and become a part of it, you’re going to benefit from it so much more. I think Anya’s asking for a shameless plug to talk about Acumatica summit, which is coming up in a few weeks. But seriously, we are having our annual Acumatica vendor event. It’s January 24th through the 28th in Las Vegas. So if any of you are out there evaluating the software, we’d love to have you. Well, that’s good. Do we get the pro tip from Anya as well then? Can we get that comp? Send me an email, we’ll figure it out. Great. No, all good advice. And I just want to mention that we’re reading the comments that are coming in. Please continue to bring those comments, and if there are any questions for our panelists, please feel free to ask those questions. We appreciate all the comments and everybody taking interest here today. So, Jessica, any advice you can share on how to excel as a woman in ERP or software in general? Absolutely. I think in my personal experience as a woman in ERP, the single biggest step that I ever took to advance my career was just learning the product. I started in ERP when I was 22. I knew not even what ERP stood for, and it was very scary.

You look at, I was in business development at the time, and you look at the folks that are solution consultants and implementers and sales reps, and it all seems very far away when you enter this world. And all it took was for one person, one person, a manager that I had, told me that I could be a solution consultant. They said, ‘You have what it takes, go learn the product, and I really think it will help you for the rest of your career.’ And that one person, who to this day still is so near and dear to my heart, is the reason why I took the leap because someone told me that I could. And I learned the product, and it’s now what I love really more than anything. As I talked about in the beginning, just being able to not only tell a business how we can help them but to show them and to be confident in myself and comfortable enough to be able to show them, but also to be confident and comfortable to know that what I’m saying is really true and that we really can help these businesses. At the end of the day, that’s what means so much to me. So, as a woman in ERP or a woman in software, I encourage you to learn the product no matter what your role is. If you’re in marketing, if you’re writing blogs, if you’re a BDR, if you’re a sales rep, do what you can to learn the product. It is going to make you so much more credible and also, frankly, better at what you do because you have had your hands in there and really gotten dirty with it yourself. And I guess my final comment is to lift other women up. As you’re doing that, that one person that told me I could do it means so much to me, and my hope is to be able to lift other women up, other men up who want to do the same thing.

That’s really important for me in this world as well. Oh, such a great story. I can tell you that it really resonates with me personally because, in my first manufacturing role, as a professional, I guess I would say, after having gone to university, I started as a financial analyst. And my manager basically told me, ‘Use the ERP system as a tool.’ And it was the best advice I had ever received because, like you, I didn’t know what ERP was. I had no training about ERP, but I came into this role understanding that that was the tool that was going to help me do my job. I moved into product management, and eventually, I was in business strategy, really trying to get performance for the business. Ultimately, it was sales, sales leadership, and I can tell you that, as a sales leader, the ERP system was my tool. And I don’t think that many salespeople think about the ERP as that tool. It’s a place to get facts. So much of business is managed by opinion, whether that’s internal opinions about the business or your external customers and their opinions of your business. And within the ERP system, you actually have facts, and you can run reports and measure your business. And maybe those opinions are validated in facts, or maybe they’re not. But at least you have a place where you can talk with transparency with the actual data. And I just love that advice. I would ask all of you, do you have any women advice for women in ERP? Laurie, do you have some advice that you’d like to share?

Well, I guess my advice would be more broad than, you know, I think just for women in general in your career is, I think sometimes, you know, we may suffer a little more than some men from what is commonly called the imposter syndrome. And, you know, and I agree with Jessica 100%. We should try to get to know, like for me, it’s research and analysis. We should try to get to know whatever we do as well as we can. But we also have to realize that, in a lot of cases, there are a lot of people faking it until they make it, right? And I think sometimes, we tend to expect way more from ourselves than some other people may be able to bring to the table. So I also don’t think, you know, women in general, don’t sell yourself short just because you may not know everything about something. I think, in most instances, because women are so diligent and really trying to understand and learn and genuinely be able to be credible in their space, they may not realize that they’re actually much more credible and much more steeped in knowledge than men, sadly, in some instances, who tend to think, ‘Oh yeah, I can go in and do that. No, I’ve never done that, but sure, I can do that.’

So, don’t be afraid to take some leaps too, right? Because I guarantee you, you’re probably way more qualified than you think you are in most cases. Yeah, great, great advice. Jessica, did you have something to say? I just love that. It really sums up what I was saying too, Laurie. The imposter syndrome is the reason why I think a lot of women don’t get their hands dirty in the product, which is what I was talking about. And proving to yourself that that is not true is something that I think we all have the power to do. So, just really like that point. Yeah. Anja, what about you? Did you have anything you’d like, any advice for women in ERP or women in software or in general? You know, Laurie, what she said reminded me of a story just probably 12 years ago or so. I was invited to be on the press panel for a big Microsoft event. And, you know, I felt quite young at the time, and this was my first big deal thing. And I went into the room, and it was all men, mostly older men, and me. And I’m sitting there with the president of this Microsoft business division, and I’m thinking, ‘Who am I to be sitting here?’ And Jennifer Harris, who was on your first show of Women in ERP, she came up to me later and congratulated me on being a part of this, and I downplayed it, you know, and said, ‘Oh, it’s, you know, I don’t really know why.’ And she said, ‘Stop doing that.’ She said, ‘If you were a man, you would not do that. You would just say thank you and be proud of where you are.’ And that’s always really stuck with me, that you, it’s not to put ourselves down as women and not to minimize our impact. I know I see Candace Edelman that’s chatting a lot in this comment.

She’s been a real inspiration to me in that fact, that kind of know your worth and value what you can offer to people. Don’t diminish that and give your time away for free and do things just because you, you know, like you said, have imposter syndrome or just feel like always giving, giving. So appreciating when you are given these accolades and things is huge. And then, the advice I would give, that’s worked so well for me in my career, is just to get connected with communities again. I mean, I’ve run kind of a little informal marketing group of marketers like me in the ERP space since, gosh, I think, I don’t know, 15 years or something, 2016 maybe, and we just get together once a month. We talk, we chat. What are your challenges? You know, recently, I started something called the Channel Marketing Academy. Same thing, it’s just a place for marketers in our space to come together and ask questions. So, I really think that not staying in your own little bubble but expanding and connecting with other people that do what you do can really help build your career, build your confidence, and build you as a person. Yeah, all starts with saying yes, that’s right. Love it.

Yeah, I know a lot of people have been doing the happy hour, you know, virtual happy hours now too, which I find are so easy to say yes to, right? Because at the end of the day, you don’t actually have to leave and join people, but you still get to join with others who have a common interest, a common challenge, a common thoughts in the space. And sometimes, we just need that at the end of the day, right? Yeah. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said yes to something and didn’t really, I thought I was just doing it to stretch myself, but in the end, I really, really needed it and was so glad I said yes. So, I’m sure we all have similar experiences. Were you going to say something, Anya? We’re just going to say, I mean, there are women like Jessica that are saying, ‘I want to help other women, I want to support 200 careers,’ and if you didn’t ask and you didn’t reach out, then you might miss out on that opportunity. So, you know, find people that you respect and ask them for their advice, for their, maybe, mentorship if you want to go that far. But reaching out to other people is always a good idea.

Yeah, I think very few of us would be, you know, would say no. I think very few of us would ever deny someone who was looking for help in this world. So that’s one of the beautiful things that I’ve found too. Yeah, I love it, good stuff. All right, we’ve covered a lot of topics today.

Laurie, this one’s back at you, and I know you touched on it briefly earlier, but before we leave, let’s talk a little bit about flexibility. What are your thoughts on flexibility?

Well, I mean, obviously, if we’ve learned anything lately, it’s that change is the only constant. It’s a cliché, but it’s really true. So, you definitely need to, you know, ERP is a big decision, it’s probably something you’re gonna live with for a long time, and you need something that’s gonna work today to satisfy those requirements that you know you’ve prioritized today. But you also have to be thinking, well, you know, the unexpected can always happen, and I’m going to have to probably make adjustments on the fly.

So, I think, you know, a couple of things here, first of all, is, and it sounds very, you know, simple, but it’s just ease of use. Because having the flexibility to use it today and get everybody productive on it today and tomorrow is going to come down to, is it easy to use? Do people actually, hopefully, like, or at least, you know, not mind using this solution? And God knows, I’ve talked to a lot of people that hate the solution they’re using, right? So, make sure everybody gets a chance that’s going to be using this ERP in different departments of the company to kick the tires and make sure people are going to adopt it and use it without, you know, being having to be yoked into it.

And then, you know, we talked about this before, but the functionality for today and tomorrow. So, do you have, does it have what you need now, but also, you know, looking into the future, you know, you may not think you’re going to need, I don’t know, voice-enabled applications or IoT and edge computing and things like that, and the vendor might not even have those some of those things today or what might be something you would need. But what’s their roadmap? Do they have an innovation roadmap? And do they have, you know, a chief technology officer or somebody else in the company that can really talk about how they see the future and how they see some of these newer technologies, you know, helping you and companies like you in the future?

And then, finally, we, I already mentioned this, but it’s that partner ecosystem. Because, again, no vendor is going to do everything you need, so you need a partner, you need a solution vendor that has that partner ecosystem that can fill in all those gaps, again, today, but also something you may not even realize you’re going to need in three years.

Yep, great. Any other comments on flexibility as we close with that topic from Jessica or Anya?

It goes with what Laurie said too, but I think just understanding the ongoing investment of the provider that you’re working with. There are a lot of very big ERP products out there that don’t even have new enhancements anymore; all they have is bug fixes. So, understanding the future of the company, as Laurie said, the roadmap, the underlying platform of that product, and if it’s even built on the correct tools to allow it to be flexible, these are just some additional pieces that I would add to that.

Great. Anything from you?

I think we’ve done a great job of covering it. I didn’t think we would have enough to say for a full hour, but yeah.

No, it’s been brilliant. You ladies have a lot of experience to share. Thank you for all of your participation. Thank you to the audience for all of the great comments and just participating with us today. Our next show is February 1st at 1 pm Eastern. I believe I will be the host for that one as well, so please join us again in a month’s time. And again, I just want to wish everyone a very happy new year. Let’s make 2022 great. Let’s grow this tribe of women in ERP. I look forward to having Jessica, Anya, Laurie, comment with future shows and future guests. So, thank you so much. Have a wonderful day, everyone.