Transcript: Women in ERP – January 2023

Women in ERP – January 2023

Featured Panelists:
Jacqueline Kuhn, Kris Harrington and
Ritu Jauhar

Welcome to our first Women in ERP show of 2023. Kind of can’t believe we are already in the New Year. Hopefully, you were able to refresh and relax over the last couple weeks. I know I’m still in the San Francisco Bay Area, given the Southwest craziness, and we’ve had quite the flooding and torrential downpour here, so it’s been an interesting couple weeks of travel and weather. Our Women in ERP initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with ERP Transformations. The main theme of our series is to highlight the contributions of women, create social awareness to enhance women’s representation in ERP teams, to highlight their stories and challenges, and voicing their opinions with ERP transformation and initiatives. I am Sarah Scudder, Marketing Maven at SourceDay, and today’s show host. Our platform integrates with many ERP systems, so my team and I have lived through the good, the bad, and the ugly involving ERPs. Today, I have asked three experts that have been involved in the ERP space for quite some time to join me today to share their stories and experiences, and hopefully you’ll take away a couple of tidbits that you can apply and implement immediately in your business and in your career.

So, today, I’m joined by Kris. She actually co-hosts the show with me, so each month we rotate hosting. So excited, Kris, to actually have you as a panelist today. We have Jacqueline and Ritu. To kick off the show, I would like to have you drop a note in the comments, give us a shout, say hello, tell us where in the world you are joining us from, and then put a note about the thing that you enjoyed most about your holiday season or time off the last couple weeks. We love to get a sense of who’s in the audience each time we host the show.

So, Kris, I’m gonna have you kick us off today. Looks like you’ve got quite the book collection behind you. We may have to get into a combo about a favorite reading for the yes, that would be great. So I’m gonna ask you a question, but before you answer, we’d like to have you do a super brief intro too so the audience gets a little bit of a sense about who you are and what you do. But I’d like to have you share a story when you first started using an ERP system so many many years ago, the very first time, and then share your best advice for anyone who is just getting started on their ERP journey. Ah, great. Well, thank you, Sarah. It’s a pleasure to be joined with you. This is the first time that the co-hosts are together in one Women in ERP session. So, I was just excited when you said, ‘Hey, do you want to kick off the year and be joined together?’ So, welcome back all of the Women in ERP followers. We’re so glad to have you here today. I am Kris Harrington, the President and CEO of GenAlpha Technologies, and we help original equipment manufacturers integrate their ERP systems with an e-commerce site to help them sell their products online. In its most simple form, that’s the best way to describe it. And you know, I’ll start with my best advice because I think that will take us back to the story. Because the first time I started working with an ERP was when I first went to work for an equipment manufacturer. We were a manufacturer of mining products, very large equipment. The shovels sold for 20 million dollars on average. A new piece of equipment used in dragline mining was over a hundred million dollars. These products had a lot of parts and SKUs, and I joined the company as a financial analyst, and it was my first career after university. So, I graduated from Marquette University. I had just come out of business school. I was a late bloomer, so I was a non-traditional student. I graduated from Marquette when I was 29 years old. So, I was going to work for this large manufacturing company as a financial analyst, all excited that I got this education and I was going to be doing something different with my life. The first thing they told me is, ‘You’re going to be working with the ERP system,’ and they talked about this ERP system all day long, ERP, ERP, ERP, and I didn’t know what the hell an ERP system was. I never even heard of it, and I just left university, so I do remember eventually just asking, ‘What is the ERP?’ And, at the time, it was gone, so if you guys are familiar with Bonnets and Enforce Solution, so they had just upgraded their Bond solution throughout the company, and the best advice I was given was to use the ERP system as a tool, and I have taken that to heart everywhere I’ve gone and with any company that I’ve worked with, both today at GenAlpha Technologies, but also as my career moved with me. I always considered the ERP just a tool that could be used by everyone. As a financial analyst, I was running reports out of the ERP system for all of the executives in the company, from finance, accounting, parts management, our purchasing department, and the manufacturing floor. And what I started to understand is that every field in the ERP had data, and that data could be analyzed. And with the data, we could draw insights. And that was really my role at that time, was to draw insights from these reports and then not just pass along a report that anybody could run, but determine what the information was telling us and should there be something that this executive leader should be aware of. So, I really started to learn that the ERP system is a place where data is stored, and that if we use that data in the right fashion, we could gain business insights to help us make better business decisions. So, I would share my best advice, given to me: use it as a tool. I use it as a tool everywhere I went in my career, and I just kept understanding how the ERP was used across the different areas of business, and I just became a real resource for everyone by doing that.

Jacqueline, thoughts on or memories from your very first ERP experience, and you’re on mute. You’ll have to unmute, thank you. Hi, Jacqueline Kuhn with HArchitect. I’m one of the principals, and we specialize in the HCM portions of the ERP. That is all my company does, and me, myself, and my team actually help people select and do change management on ERP that’s right. For those who may not know, what does HCM mean? Human capital management or human resources. All of the human resource modules of an ERP, including workforce planning, time and attendance. We kind of throw that into our world, even though oftentimes we’re working with operations folks when it comes to that portion. But yeah, we specialize in that piece. And my first ERP experience is really going to date me. It goes back to 1984, and it was the good old MSA system, Management in Science America mainframe system. And I came out of university with a social work degree and hated it. So, I went into human resources, and they were implementing this big thing called MSA ERP. And I just found that very much like Kris, being the keeper of the information, and in our case, it was about people. Hiring decisions, who to promote, the cost of people. And I learned that way back then, to follow the money, learn how the business makes money, follow the money, and learn how to present the information in a way that tells the story so that folks can make better business decisions.

And, Jackie, what was the first ERP system that you used? MSA, Management Science America, and then from there, went back in the ’80s, it was all Mainframe. And then with Cloud, SAP, and yeah, and then the PeopleSoft route, etc., etc., but yeah, way back when. I was two when I started. Ritu, thoughts from you on your very, very first ERP interaction. Let me unmute myself, okay. Wow, again, I’m, you know, my experience is a little bit like Kris. I started with BaaN, and my first job was with EDS, Electronic Data Systems, a prosperous company. I started in a support center. So, my first job was a good job, but again, I knew nothing about ERP. When I got hired, they’re like, ‘You’re going to work on an ERP system.’ I’d never heard about it, I had no clue. But, you know, they looked at my degree, they’re like, ‘You have all the right courses, you can do this.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, well, you know, they had enough confidence in me, I did not have enough confidence in myself, but the organization did, right?’ And so, the first six months, they just, you know, trained us in the software. That’s all I did, you know. It was like, you know, EDS was a big company back then, I think it was 1997. I think it was, you know, that whole revolution in computer jobs and all that. So, we got trained in the software, the BaaN software, for six months. We went to Grand Rapids and worked with, you know, the BaaN people, and I worked in the support center where we supported customers, 4,000 customers in North and South America. It was an amazing experience working with the BaaN company, working in the support center with about, you know, working in these teams.

I used to work in the support center where we had like a finance team, a supply chain team, a technical team. I used to work on the technical team, and it was an amazing experience because, you know, we got trained in the software. So, I worked there for about a couple of years in a support center, and then, you know, I got picked up by a customer. I used to work with Japanese company FANUC Robotics, who used to use the software, the BaaN software. And that’s it. So, I worked with BaaN for about four years, and then I started working with Microsoft Dynamics, which was at that time called Exacta. Again, I knew nothing about Exacta. I knew it had been bought by Microsoft, and then I started my Microsoft journey. But I did work with BaaN for about four or five years. But, you know, I love, and that’s when, you know, when I started working with ERP, I loved it because, you know, I had my business degree, and you know, that was my first experience with the BaaN software. What was the most important thing you learned when you had your first interactions with ERP that you think is still relevant today? Well, you know, the fact, what I love most about it was, first of all, you know, it was all about business. You got to work with every department of the company, which I really love because I knew I was not sitting in a silo. And, you know, if somebody is a people person, they’re going to like it. And I was a people person. I like to talk with everyone. So, if you’re a people person, you will get to talk to every department in an organization. You will go talk to accounting. You will go talk to some people in the warehouse. You will talk to HR. And that’s something you do when you work with the ERP system. And you know, that was something you do when you work with the ERP software. So that was something, you know, amazing. You know, I talked to everyone. And then you work in IT. So, you know that that was, I kind of like that. And if you’re technical, you get to pick and choose. If you want to be technical, you can be that. If you want to be functional, you can be that. And when you’re early in your career, you can kind of decide what you want to do, which is what I got a chance to do. You know, I was in the beginning, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I was actually doing coding. And I did that the first five years. I was actually more of a coder. And then I decided, oh, I don’t think I’m enjoying doing this coding thing because, you know, my degree was actually in accounting. And after five years, I decided, I think I’m going to excel more on the accounting side, and I changed my path. So when I came and started working with Microsoft, I actually changed my track and I went more on the financial side, which is now what I have been doing for the past 15, 20 years. It’s more, you know, I’m finance-focused, as opposed to being, you know, more of a coder. But because I’ve done coding the first five years, you know, I’m able to work with, you know, the developers because I’m, you know, good at that too. But my focus has been financials. So you get to, you know, play with everything because, you know, you have like played around with everything and you get a 365 view of things. Yeah, it reminds me of internships. You get a lot of really good experience doing many different things at a company, and then you can decide, hey, I love this, don’t like this, might be interested in this. Right.

We’ve got Maria joining us from the San Francisco Bay Area. Maria, I am also in the Bay Area today in Danville. So, where in the Bay Area are you? Would love to have you drop that in the chat. We’ve got Susan Harrison joining us from St. Petersburg, Florida. So, hopefully, she has better weather than I do. And we’ve got Sam joining us from Canada today. So, for those who are just tuning in, drop us a note in the chat, let us know where in the world you are joining us from and put a word or phrase to describe your favorite thing about the holiday or your time off.

So, Jacqueline, I want to fast forward. We just talked a little bit about all of your very, very first experiences with ERP. I want to now talk about 2022 and what was your most successful ERP project and why? Hi, yeah, thanks. Last year, we worked with clients like I said, helping them select software, and the most successful project was a client where the CEO, the CFO, and the Chief People Officer or CHRO (they’re changing that title daily), whichever, they all agreed on the strategy and the vision for the company and what they needed from technology to support them. All that is so unusual. I have to tell you, it was involved but to vet the technology, not to drive the business decision. It was so exciting to work with them because the result that came out of it, the CFO choked on the price, but he understood that it was right for the business to do that. It wasn’t just a ‘Hey, we’re buying this piece of software.’ It’s, ‘We are moving our organization forward.’ The organization was growing quickly. They had to, they were at 2,000 employees, and I think like 50 million at the time we started working with them, and within a year, they had more than doubled. And so they needed the right applications to be able to not only do the administrative work but understand the insights, like you said earlier, right?

What are the insights for what we’re doing, doing? And it really was what I call the three rights. This head of HR, the head of people, the head of money, and the head of the organization all understanding that they’re on the same road. This is our roadmap, this is where we’re going, and I really wish all projects did that because it really is a lot of fun to be a part of, and it’s great to watch. Now that they’re implementing that, their successes are actually coming through to fruition. So, Jacqueline, that sounds awesome and kind of a perfect-world scenario that almost never happens, at least in my experience. So for those that are with us right now and thinking, well, that’s I can’t relate to that because that’s not the case at my company, what things did you notice about why they were aligned or how they were aligned that maybe somebody could bring back to their organization to try to get better executive alignment? Yeah, so I think the first, the first thing was when we start working with any client, we start our conversations talking about the business strategy, and we ask that they all be in the room together for that discussion. The CEO had had separate conversations with the head of HR and the head of finance but never all together, and I think that is the key. Usually, executives have one-on-ones with a CEO, but it’s very rare that on their own they come together and have a conversation on what each area is trying to do and accomplish and come to an agreement. We helped facilitate that, so but if you don’t have a consultant who could do that for you in your organization, find somebody who should who can do that because that really makes the difference. Don’t assume that they’re having those conversations because they’re probably not, not to the level that you need that kind of alignment. Kris, anything from your career that you’ve found that has helped with executive alignment for all of the projects that you’ve worked on? Yeah, I mean, certainly, Jacqueline brought up I think what’s so critical is getting the executive team together to have the conversation. It has to be intentional, you know, this is a big project, it’s going to affect every area of the organization, and it’s really key that stakeholders come together to say this is what we’re trying to achieve, and each business area understand individually within that area what they’re trying to achieve. I also have heard many of our guests on this show talk about mapping processes and how important that is. I will say that having a current-state business process and then a new-state business current-state business process when the ERP is rolled out that everybody gets to visualize and understand as part of the training process is really critical as well, and that’s something I continue to hear from everyone. Yeah, Kris, something else that I have found very important in my career is making sure that the people in the trenches are involved. So many times you hear about an implementation that becomes a disaster because no one in the warehouse was consulted and the parts and item numbers weren’t set up correctly and therefore nothing can be received into the new ERP system, or accounting wasn’t involved. And so think about your end-user stakeholders and make sure that they’re involved in the process to make sure things are set up correctly for them because if you get a couple of key stakeholders that have a bad first experience, it’s going to trickle down through your entire organization very quickly. Yeah, love that. I always like to say, have influencers from all those areas because those are the people that people follow, and if they’ve been involved in the project, typically that project is going to have more trust right from the beginning because those people have been involved.

We’ve got Susan saying it’s sunny and 81 degrees in Florida, so jealous. I hope you get to have some beach time. Maria is joining us in South San Francisco today, so lots of rain and flooding. Sam’s favorite thing about the holidays was no ERP in his life. He was excited not to have to talk about or think about ERPs for a couple of days. Maria’s best part of the holidays was having time away for a week and forgetting what day of the week it was. Love that.

So, Ritu, one of the things that you do quite a bit in your job is you actually work on ERP implementation, so helping organizations actually implement the system and get the end users trained and using the new platform. What would you say are the most common pitfalls that you’ve seen that cause ERP implementations to fail? Sure, yeah, I hate to sound negative but it happens a lot, quite a bit. You know, people tend to over-customize, even though like, you know, we try to avoid it as much as possible, but you know that tends to happen quite a bit. They try, not everybody likes to do things manually, or they want to over-automate things, so they want to start running before they even actually, you know, where they they just want to automate everything and they’ve, you know, so that’s something we, we, we don’t want to automate things too much in the beginning or sometimes they also ignore, ignore opportunities to re-engineer their business process as they’re building. So we are always telling them, hey, you know, I know you do things a certain way, let’s, you know, look at this opportunity, maybe we can re-engineer your process, maybe you’re doing things in 20 steps, let’s re-engineer your process so you can just do this in 10 steps, so you know, you’re not doing this in 20 steps, or sometimes, you know, we start doing things in 20 steps, and you don’t want to complicate things, right? So, it’s like, you know, this is like a great time, let’s fix things, right? So, the, it’s like, this is the time, let’s just fix things, right? But people just want to build the exact same system and I’m always trying to like, tell people, let’s not build the exact same system, but people just want to do that, it’s like, we just have to constantly sway them away from building the exact same system, which they built 50 years ago, right? That’s like a situation I’m always trying to avoid, let’s, let’s not do that, let’s not go all the way in, let’s just, you know, do a proof of concept and then also not testing mission-critical reports, sometimes everything is done, we are ready to go live, live, and nobody has even tested, you know, tested our financial statements, nothing’s been worked on, there is not one report which has been worked on, and you know, we’re ready to go live, underestimating the required time and resources. I, I’ve been working on an implementation where 50 of the people have actually left the organization and the project has come to a halt, so you know that is, you know, a bad situation to be in, excluding the key end users from the decision-making process. So, if you don’t have buy-in from the people who are actually going to use the system when this time to go live comes in, you know you’re not going to get buy-in from the users, so, you know, that’s a really bad situation to be in. So, those are, you know, just very high level. For those that are joining us live, would love to have you drop in the comments for us what you’ve seen as some of the failures or causes of challenges with ERP implementation. So, drop us a word or phrase or explanation.

Jacqueline, what about from you? What have you seen as some of the common reasons why implementations don’t work out? Amen. Just about everything Ritu said. I will add, not understanding that change management is as much about managing expectations and communications as it is training. People will assume the new ERP is going to do everything they’ve ever dreamed it’s going to do, and if you don’t manage the expectation as to exactly what is being rolled out, when, you know, what will it do, what won’t it do, you will, if you can’t manage that, people are going to go, ‘Oh, it doesn’t do this,’ and think automatically that it was a failure. Most people look at change management as training, and really the change management should all be about communication and managing expectations, because as long as people know what they’re getting, they may not like it. I mean, humans do not react to change well, they have to be prepared for Change and as long as you do that, they may not like the change, but they can’t, they’ll, they know it’s coming and they can better adapt to it. And I think the other thing really kind of jump piggybacks on what Ritu said about selecting the right application. It’s about understanding and what Kris said about your future State, it’s about understanding how you want to work in the future, and can the ERP do that for you? You know, most organizations don’t know what they don’t know, they only know what they’re doing today. So, working with folks who know the capabilities of the platform, what it potentially can do and how it can actually transform your organization is super key. And trying to do it all by yourself is a recipe for a disaster.

Kris, Ritu said something else that triggered a question I have for you. She mentioned that during implementation, sometimes people try to automate everything, and that’s too much at the beginning, right? You can’t go from doing nothing to doing everything; it’s just too much change. But there are a lot of use cases where ERP systems can be very, very impactful by automating business processes. So, how can organizations use an ERP system to automate business processes? Sure, yeah, and you know, ultimately at the end of the day, the ERP system is designed to move away from the manual work and to help automate many of our processes. So, it really is identifying that, and I picked up on Ritu’s section on automation as well, right away. What I think is so unique about an ERP system is that with integrations, we can automate many of the different things that are happening in the world today. So, and what I’m speaking of specifically is more of the innovations and technology that continue to keep happening. If I think about warehouse management systems and how we manage inventory, and if you think about a barcode scanner and the ability to integrate what’s happening in the warehouse to the ERP so that there’s better accuracy in your ERP system, so you make sure that you’re not over or under on your inventory management, the ability to integrate is something as simple as a scanner for however the warehouse personnel are using it to bring that information in real-time back into the ERP system can be extremely valuable, as compared to the way business processes would work if you had to write it down on a note, take it back to the machine or your machine, and then type that in. The number of people that would interrupt you, that you might forget what was the quantity, how many. I mean, I worked in a warehouse in the past, and that’s the way we did things, so I’m very aware of how that can happen. If we think about CRM systems and how we integrate CRMs to ERP systems, and when there is a new opportunity that your Salesforce should be following up on by pushing information safely from that ERP to the CRM, it can be in the hands of the sales team if they’re out in the field or a technician is in the field, and they’re going to be calling upon your customers. Now they have this data easily available to them, whereas before they might have had to go through many contacts and information that would be very challenging and time-consuming and oftentimes at the detriment to the customer because the information has been shared somewhere but it doesn’t always get to the salesperson, so he or she is asking questions that aren’t necessary. If we think about e-commerce and integration to the ERP system today, for e-commerce, we’re essentially allowing customers to self-service, so they can look for items, they can check price and availability for, you know, especially if they have contract pricing, they already have an account with the customer. By logging into that e-commerce site, they can safely look at the information that they need. They can create a quotation, they can create an order, they can follow up with that order over that order history. So, all of these are creating an opportunity where we don’t need people manually doing the work to provide answers, and I think that’s the beautiful way as all of these companies continue to create these new technologies that are making our life easier, by integrating them in and having that ERP be the safe source, we can automate all these business processes and truly make things easier for everyone. So, both the organization wins, customers win, technicians win, dealers win, depending on who’s involved. So, I love the speed at which we can now move, and that’s really what this is all creating. Yeah, and Kris, I think it’s often overlooked how important it is to have a central source of truth. When you have somebody goes out and is sick for a week, you don’t have a central system that you can log in to pull data on information; you’re really out of luck. That person has everything on their desktop, everything in their email, that can cause major, major issues throughout the business. So even something as simple as that, an ERP solution can really help by having things centralized and needed to access place company-wide.

Yeah, can I just, I have this burning addition to Ritu’s and Jacqueline’s list of the things that can fail, please, please do. I know to be quite long. Yeah, and I thought the list was so good and but what triggered for me was that sometimes we’re so internally when we go through an ERP implementation, we become so internalized. We’re looking at our own processes, we’re thinking about our own stuff, and what we often forget is our outward-facing stakeholders. What is the impact of our decisions to the customers and our dealer partners, our distribution partners? You know, what’s going to happen if we change part numbers and how are we going to handle that? Because ultimately, at the end of the day, we all have to continue running a business. So, as we’re doing our internal work, where I see things fail is when they get launched and now the customers are delayed in responses because internally things are a little, some things haven’t been thought through, and that’s that external-facing part of the organization. So, I just wanted to add that as well. Yeah, if I could just do a really quick piggyback on there, Kris, when we do change management, when we teach people how to do change management, we do an external stakeholder analysis as well as an internal stakeholder analysis, just to make sure you don’t forget about all those other people that have to be touched and let them know what’s going on because you are so right. You could have all of your internal processes done and the minute you launch a new invoice, oh crap, the customer didn’t know that it had now changed, it doesn’t match the PO on their side, right? So, yeah, absolutely, Ritu. We’ve got a note from one of our audience members that I’d like to send your way, and then Kris or Jacqueline, if you have anything else to add. So, Susan says, ‘One of my suppliers is about to go through, I’ll put it up here so you can see it, is about to go through SAP. I’m dreading it, my past experience has not been good. POs disappear, inventory levels were always off. To be proactive, we’re placing POs as early as we can. We may have to sit on product, but at least we’ll hopefully get it.’ So, any feedback from the panelists for Susan? She’s got, again, a supplier that’s about to go through, it sounds like an SAP implementation.

Yeah, I’ll just share some of my experience. Whenever we’ve had suppliers who are going through any significant change, what we made sure to do was meet with them more often. We would typically get reports from them and actually ask those reports to be updated, so all of our open POs would be on a report with the promise date and the expected due date. So often, it sounds like Susan’s already a little worried that some things aren’t going to arrive on time, so making sure that you know what that original promise date is, what the current due date is, and then making sure that you truly see when things have arrived so that you have that the information before they launch into the new ERP system. You have the historical data in a report that you can keep regularly matching up to on a weekly basis, so it’s just like a check-in to make sure that all your orders are still there, that you’ve had the deliveries, and if anything’s changing, it’s communicated to you frequently. So, it can be a regular stand-up meeting where you have a call. We call them stand-up meetings. If you have a quick call, go through the list, and then wait for that next update, but have some routine so that an expectation is set and communication is really clear.

Ritu or Jacqueline, anything you want to add for Susan? Yeah, one in a previous life I ran the SAP operation at OfficeMax, and what we did when we changed things, particularly in our assets or in finance, is we asked a few of our suppliers to be a part of our test cases and to participate in our testing, and some suppliers were willing to do that. And if you are comfortable doing that, maybe Cargo will do that for you because it really helped us. We could test our own internal things, but we didn’t know if the invoice, the new invoice we were creating or the new order we were creating was going to be right on the other side. So, to get that true end-to-end, if your organization is willing to participate and they’re willing to have you participate, it really can help make sure that go-live goes smoothly. Susan said thank you, Kris. I’ve heard that the item number is changing, so we have that on hand. Right now, we’re told early February, but we’re going to have those weekly check-ins. Susan, you’ll have to join our show in February that Kris is hosting and give us an update and ask more questions to the panelists because I’m sure this is going to be a pain point and quite a project for you this year, when it’s such a big supplier that you’re going to be dealing with. Yeah, and Susan, if you want to join us on a future show this year and share your experience, that would be great as well. I’m sure everybody would benefit from learning from what you’re going to go through right now, so that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s a Kris great idea. Susan, ping me, DM me after if you’re interested in coming on one of our shows. I agree that your journey is something that I think a lot of people could relate to, so it might be fun to have you share your story and learnings with us. She also said, ‘I like Jacqueline’s idea as well. Great insight.’

Jacqueline, another question that has come to mind as we’ve been having this conversation today is, what do you think is going to be top of mind for the c-suite in 2023 as it comes to, as it relates to ERP? So, I would say the majority of our audience already has some sort of ERP implemented at their organizations. The question is, what are they going to do with their ERP this year? How are they going to expand, grow? What’s going to be their priorities? Do you think we’re going to see a lot of companies looking at changing ERPs? Right, there’s a lot of things I’d love to get your feedback on that, and then we’re two. Would love to get your insights as well. Yeah, no, the appetite to change ERP is not necessarily going to be there. However, what I am seeing is implementing tighter, better, or first-time workforce planning. Most organizations haven’t taken advantage of that piece of their ERP or even a third-party add-on technology. And what is really happening now is making sure that the plan to recruit, the plan to promote, the plan to compensate, the plan to create materials, the plan to send out the invoices, right? Aligning all the people and the processes together and making sure you have the plan. The number one issue on CEOs is hiring the right people because there is gonna, even though we’re in a reset, in a recessionary period, we are still in a hiring period because we went into this without the right people in place. And the workforce planning piece of the ERP is probably the number one most underutilized piece that we see. Some people haven’t even turned it on, and it’s really about making sure you know what people, what bodies, what positions you need, what do they need to do to carry out all the various things, what are they going to cost you, and then how are you going to get it? And we’re really seeing a lot of folks come to us and others to say, ‘Hey, we need to get our arms around this workforce planning thing because we’re not talking together, modules aren’t talking together.’ The one clear example is we helped an organization integrate learning and certifications into their scheduling software.

So they are now scheduling people based on what they can actually do and what they’re certified to do in the tool, and now they know, ‘Oh well, I don’t have anyone certified on this piece of equipment, we better get somebody, we better get two or three people certified on this piece of equipment.’ And so really bridging those gaps between what is happening on the shop floor, the people that you need, and the cost of all those resources. That’s what I see the focus of this year and beyond being. Jacqueline, for companies that can’t afford or for whatever reason don’t want to use recruiters, where should people go to find the right skill sets that have experience and different ERP applications? It’s tough, yeah, it’s really tough and it’s I would have to say contractors, and this is the cool thing about the new world, project-based contracting is actually the way most people want to work these days, particularly folks who know ERP. They don’t want to be at an organization, they don’t want to have to operationally maintain these giant systems, but there are so many skilled and qualified people who are contractors, who will work on a project basis. And you have to be open to them working anywhere in the world for you. They are located in places where the four of us aren’t, for sure, right? And they may be on islands because they’re retired from the real world and are now just doing this on the side. You have to open up your mind as to what a worker is going to look like and you have to open your mind to say, ‘Yeah, they can be on any shore, it doesn’t matter where they are.’ With the technology today, to get the right person and the right skilled person, you have to go and look under the rocks because they are there. It just you have to go to these other sources, and you’re probably not going to be hiring them, you’re going to be contracting to them for a period of time. Something else that I would recommend is do a LinkedIn post and put a list of what you’re looking for and the specific skill sets. I can’t tell you how many times at our company we have found incredible talent, either contract or permanent or for speakers, or just many different things by simply doing a post and saying, ‘We’re hiring, we need somebody with this skill set. Reach out if this is something that you can do, and/or that you know somebody in your network.’ I think a lot of times people overlook the simple ask.

Ritu, what about from your perspective? What do you see as kind of the top priorities for the c-suite this year as it comes to, as it relates to ERPs?’ Well, you know, I generally work in, you know, when I work in an organization, I work in IT departments or, you know, I’m implementing a system. And when we go in, you know, I generally expect, you know, we expect people to, these are the kind of people we seek, people who are a little bit out of the box, who are not just like, you know, regular people who go outside the box and do things. Those are the people we seek. They know how to use the software, they do things which are out of the ordinary. They, you know, they kind of surprise us. People who are, like, in a department, they’re, like, using Power BI, they are, like, going and getting third parties, they’re telling us, ‘Oh, do you know about this? I found this, I found that.’ So, and these are just regular people in departments, and they tell us about things which even I don’t know about. So, those are, like, the smart people we’re looking for, and they tell us about softwares and I’ve run into, and they’re just, these people are few and far in between, right? And they tell me about softwares which even I don’t know about, and over the past two years, I’ve run into some of these people, right, and different, you know, I work in an organization, some of these people are sitting in different parts of the country, doesn’t matter, they don’t have to be in a location. And they tell me about all these things, and those are the people, you know, who’ll stick out. Those are the people we seek, you know, they’re very technology focused, they don’t have to be in IT. And then we pull them in, right? People who are very technology focused, and that’s what, you know, the c-suite people are looking for, people who are more technology focused, who know about technology, and that’s what I think the c-suite is looking for, who will, like, you know, automate things, where technology focused. And I think that’s the path which, you know, is going, the data-driven AI, that is what is going to, like, you know, be the driving force over the next five years. So a lot of dev-ops, we are going, you know, that is going to be the focus, third parties, we’re going to be doing a lot of third party over the next five years. So I’ve been working with organizations, nobody wants to do manual stuff anymore. There’s a lot of data, you know, organizations are growing a lot, and there’s, you know, thousands of invoices they deal with, which, you know, organizations cannot keep adding, you know, employees, and they cannot keep adding, like, 20 clerks in order to manage invoices or, you know, process checks. They’re moving more towards the European way of doing things, ACH and stuff like that. So everything is going to get automated and for that, you know, they need all these third-party softwares. Everything is moving towards automation and third-party softwares. So it will all be very, very technology focused.

Jacqueline, that triggers, Ritu’s comment triggered something from a question for you.

When people are looking at investing in technology, what is the one area you see the greatest return on investment and consequently encourage organizations not to skimp on their investments in this area? It is the buying of knowledge workers. The, you know, making sure you spend money on people who understand the technology. Like Ritu said, it, I don’t care if you’ve been on your application for 10 years or if you’ve just implemented, when you are looking for people, pay extra money to be hiring folks who know what you are working with. It is very, it’s not easy to, and cost-effective to train people on these ERP applications if they’ve never touched them before, especially modern-day ones. When you look at Infor, SAP, Oracle, they are very complex, they are very complicated, just even if I’m in accounting working with it, let alone if I’m going to be in IT. Finding and paying the money for someone who has experience is really what you can’t underestimate, and I see that all the time. I see people trying to hire folks who have never touched an ERP, they may have touched an application but not an ERP, and they are very, very different. So spend the money, you will be better off in the long run, and the person you hire will also be successful because the other piece of that, putting the HR hat on, is when you start hiring people who have never touched an ERP, you don’t, you know, in this day and age, they are not tech, they are, they are not get… they don’t have the skill set that you are going to need. Working on a QuickBooks is completely different than working on SAP, Oracle, or Infor, right? They, those skills are not very transferable. Yeah, I always say don’t skimp or nickel and dime to try to save five or ten dollars an hour on a contractor that knows what they’re doing versus not because if you get the wrong person, it’s going to cost you so much more money than just paying for the better person upfront. So Kris, a question that I get asked a fair amount and my team and I, we work primarily in the manufacturing space in the mid-market world, people will ask, ‘What’s your favorite ERP system and why?’ or ‘What’s the best ERP system?’ or ‘What ERP system should we use?’ So I’d like to throw that your way and see how you respond.

So Kris, do you have a favorite ERP system and why? Oh, it’s a trick question. I will tell you, and I think this is going to go back to a lot of Jacqueline and Ritu’s shared experience here and some of the things that they shared throughout this conversation, and that is that the best ERP system and my favorite is one that everyone is collaborating with and ultimately using. So, you know, ERP software is tremendously sophisticated, as Jacqueline just mentioned and she went through the complexities, or, you know, highlighted why it’s so important to hire people. I think, you know, there are differences between the systems, and it’s so important to reduce the point to make sure that you’re defining what are the objectives and then finding the solution. Right, so there is a solution that can fit for every company, but the most important thing is to use it, to adapt it as an organization, as the safe place to do business. That’s my favorite one to work with because everybody, it doesn’t matter who you approach in the organization, they will show you in the ERP system where they handle that. And when people can do that, when you go to other organizations and they go to an Excel file or they go to a list or they’re checking notes on their screens because they’re doing things that are outside of the ERP system instead of inside the ERP, then it becomes very challenging for all of us to work with, it’s very difficult for others to pick up where you leave off, it’s difficult for your partners and customers to have an easy experience doing business with you. So it’s really critical and my favorite ERP to do business with is really the one that everybody is rooting and using, so that would be my answer to that. Yeah, I would say really important if you are in the phase this year of actually selecting an ERP for the first time or potentially selecting a new ERP, there are ERPs that perform better than others that are very industry-specific, so be very, very conscious of that. If I’m working in retail versus construction versus manufacturing, there may be very, very niche ERP applications that were built specifically around an industry vertical. So keep that in mind. The other thing is do your due diligence and talk to customers that are using the ERP that you’re thinking about or considering because talking to the actual end users who are living and breathing and using the tool themselves is so much more powerful than trying to talk to the ERP company themselves. And I feel like people will be pretty open and honest with you and tell you what’s working, what’s not working. But do your due diligence and spend that time and actually talk to some of the end users, not just the c-level execs who maybe signed the check and said yes, but they’re not the actual people using the platform. Thoughts from you about if you have kind of a favorite ERP or tips for somebody who is maybe in that process of trying to select an ERP, what are some of the things that they should look out for? Well, I mean, when you’re trying to select an ERP, always have, you know, you go through a process, have all your business requirements on paper, like, you know, you’ve done that, you’re doing like an interview process, right? So you have this, all your requirements, and then you like bring in the ERP, like you bring in your, you know, your companies, and they will say, ‘Okay, here is my software.’ So you bring in, you know, you say, ‘Okay, Oracle, Oracle comes in for an interview, they will show you, so, and that’s what I have done in organizations, and they come in for the interviews, Oracle will come and they’ll say, ‘Okay, business requirement, you know, you have 20 of your key business requirements, and they’ll show you, this is how Oracle will meet those key business requirements.’ So you won’t present, you know, 200 business requirements, but these are your major key, like, you know, there is no negotiation, right? Those are the things that they’re like total must-haves, and then, you know, NetSuite will come, D360, Microsoft will come, and if that software provider can say they can meet those business requirements, then, you know, they move forward. So it’s quite possible out of those, you know, let’s say, five software providers, three go to the next round, right? And then towards the end, it’s quite possible, you know, final round, three out of the ten, let’s say five, and then three, and then towards the end, you know, one hour and the final running, right? And that’s like the process you go through, you know, the one is the final person who’s, you know, finally selected. So that’s the process you would go through last minute.

So I’ll let you do a closing thought here to round us out. So, a closing thought is, you know, be very careful when you pick that software provider, you know, don’t, like, you know, pick somebody because you love this person, right? You’re going to be sticking with this ERP for the next 20 years, and you want to make sure that you, you know, pick the right software because it’s, it’s a lasting legacy, right? For this organization, you, you want to get blessings from this organization, right? You’ll be gone, but the software is going to be around for the next 20 to 30 years, right? So our next show is February 7th at 1 pm Eastern Time. Kris will be hosting, looking forward to seeing you next month.