Women in ERP – March 2022
Dawn Fludder, Sneha Kumari, Peyton Cork and Lacey Hill
Welcome to our monthly Women in ERP show. This is a show that Kris Harrington from GenAlpha and I host the first Tuesday of each month to bring women together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs. We don’t sugarcoat things here and it is not all pretty, believe me. Our initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with ERP transformations. The main theme of this series is to highlight the contributions of women, create social awareness to enhance women’s representation in ERP teams, and highlight their stories and challenges, voicing their opinions with ERP transformation initiatives. I am Sarah Scudder, CMO at SourceDay and today’s show host. You’ll see in the background this is a new addition to our media room, so it’s a neon green sign. We have an ugly cord hanging down that my team is working on to put in the wall, so future shows you may not see it, but it’s a fun addition to our background.
Our platform integrates with ERP systems, so my team and I have lived through the good, the bad, and the ugly working with the ERPs. I am joined by Dawn, Sneha, Lacey, and Peyton. They have extensive ERP experience and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories today.
So, to kick off our conversation, please drop us a note in the comments and tell us where in the world you are joining us from. Love to see the demographics. And then, let’s go ahead and have you share a word or phrase that describes your last ERP implementation or experience. So, no holding back, word or phrase to describe what you’re feeling about ERPs today. And please, please do not be shy. Engage with us in the comments throughout the entire show and feel free to post your questions anytime. I will make sure that the appropriate panelist responds to the questions throughout the show.
And today is an extra special day for our show in that it is kicking off Women’s International Business Month. So, it’s a whole month celebration of all the awesomeness of women in business. And we are launching today our Women in ERP Awards program that goes in conjunction with the show. So, I am going to be posting on LinkedIn later today a nomination link. So, if you know any fabulous women at your company or in your network and you feel that they deserve to be recognized for their work, would love to have you submit a nomination. You can put a note in the comments or pop me a note directly on LinkedIn and I can make sure to send you a link to that form.
So with that, Sneha, I’m going to go ahead and have you kick us off today and start with an introduction and share a fun or personal fact about yourself.
Absolutely. First of all, thank you so much. I couldn’t have started this month, especially on a better note. So, thank you so much for having me and thank you, SourceDay, for actually this platform where we actually focus on highlighting women. A quick introduction about myself: I have a decade in supply chain and manufacturing experience, doing a lot of supply chain, meaning starting from procurement to demand planning, tactical supply chain, manufacturing operations, warehouse logistics, reverse logistics. So, that’s a lot, pretty much covering every aspect in the supply chain umbrella. But the best part of it, like what I’ve seen as a customer, was implementing modules in ERP and working with ERP day in, day out, the pains, the good, the bad, the ugly that I have faced in working with ERP. So definitely looking forward to sharing stories. I am a mom to very, very young kids, and so most of my time goes on either dancing or running around them with them. So, they keep me on my toes. But also, of course, the work that I do, especially in supply chain, is something that I’m absolutely passionate for and really looking forward to what, you know, what will what is coming in supply chain in the future. Things change so fast here. The best part of being in this industry for me has been learning every single moment that I’ve been here. You know, bring on the challenges, we are ready to face it, and that’s what, you know, that’s how I describe supply chain. But yeah, that’s a little bit about me and I’m looking forward to share more about my experiences. Fun fact, Sarah, as you shared, um, in your post too, my first name is really like if you say in Chinese, it sounds like ‘nihao,’ which means ‘hello.’ And a fun experience was when I was visiting China for work, a lot of them got confused thinking that I knew Chinese when I actually was telling them my name. It was super for me, and I was confused because I didn’t even know ‘nihao’ meant hello. So pretty much I hadn’t done my homework pretty well before visiting the country, but that was that was a fun experience living there and actually navigating the challenges of being a vegetarian and living in a non- you know, in a country where vegetarian, vegan options were not popular back then.
This was like years back, but that’s a fun fact about me… So, Sneha, dance party is welcome anytime throughout the panel. If you feel the urge, turn on some music and bust a move. And I am also a vegetarian, 28 years, no meat or fish, so we definitely share that in common. When Sneha and I met up at the end of last year, we actually went and had a vegan lunch together, which was super yummy. So, we’ve got people joining us from all over the world. We’ve got Knoxville, Tennessee; New Hampshire; Delaware; Columbus, Ohio; India. Shane is joining us from Austin, Texas. Juliet’s joining us from New Jersey, so love to see all these awesome women joining us from around the globe.
So, Sneha, since you did your intro, I’m going to go ahead and ask the first question to you. My question is: Why is it important to evaluate if you really need an ERP?
Absolutely, like tons of… You know, literally, like this is a topic that we can keep going on and on and keep continuing talking about, but, you know, I’ll keep it short because I definitely want everyone else to speak more about ERP too. The first thing that I would always suggest any company before they make this decision if you really need an ERP is to understand your why. Like, it depends where you are in your business status. Are you growing? How many employees do you have? How big or complex is your supply chain? Downstream supply chain, upstream supply chain, and how integrated or non-integrated your systems are. So, look for symptoms, look for pain points that are actually telling you if you really need something as complex as an ERP to navigate all these systems and bring them together. Are you… Do you feel the pain of having non-integrating systems that is slowing your business down? You’re not able to meet your customer SLAs. Your inventory problems are growing up because you have no idea what’s physically there versus what you have been maintaining your books for or however whatever software you use to manage that. Do you have unhappy customers? How’s your communication going? How manual are your processes? Are you utilizing Excel to keep track of all the data that you have? So, bringing… Are you facing difficulties in getting all this data together, making informed decisions, and do you have a growth strategy? For, you know, most small businesses, it doesn’t matter what industry you are, what kind of software you are working with, and how are you managing your financials and accounting and your inventory and all of that will be super important. Or look, you’re looking at these factors that I actually just talked about will be super important and nailing it down, look, bring… You know, take input from all the key cross-functional teams. It’s not an exercise that you do in silo. You know, you have a CFO or a CEO and you sit there and you talk about it. Talk to people, bring everyone, a big everyone, in the same room, and then make an informed decision whether you need an ERP.
But at the same time, what do you think you will be able to accomplish with it and the time needed to? In it’s not a, you know, I’ll talk about it later too, but it’s not a magic wand. You will not—you cannot expect an ERP to come on and solve every problem of your life. It won’t. You have to invest time, resources, and find, you know, cost. It will cost you too, so think about that; think about your needs and then bring them together, marry them together, and then decide whether and what ERP makes sense and, absolutely important, hire consultants, hire industry experts to make that decision for you. You will not if you do not have an ERP expert in-house. Do not shy away from doing that because, trust me, the time you will spend, spend in all these exercises and implementation and you can actually end up doing it all wrong if you do not have an industry expert or, you know, consultants doing that for you. So do not shy away from taking help because they can make it quicker, faster, and way more seamless for you.
Thank you, Sneha.
Dawn, I would love to have you introduce yourself, maybe tell us a little bit about how you wound up in the ERP space, and then we’d love to have you share a fun or random fact about yourself. Okay, perfect. Well, thanks for having me, first and foremost. Again, like Sneha said, you know what a better way to start this month than doing this show, so thank you, Sarah, for the invite; appreciate it. I’ve been in the ERP industry for about 15 plus years, in many different facets, in many different roles, from business development to executive leadership. Today, I work for Synergy Resources. We’ve been helping companies for over 20 years with our ERP products as well as our services, really change their operational performance. Our goal—there’s 90 of us—we’re dedicated to our customers and them getting more out of their ERPs. We’re always preaching continuous improvement; you don’t just set it and forget it. And a little fun fact about me: I hate spiders. I’m very scared of them. And you also shared earlier that my dog likes to eat in a figure eight. I see that you are branded today, so you win the marketing award, rocking the branded shirt.
So, Dawn, my question for you: one of the things when I think about you is like you’re so positive, and you just seem to have so much passion for the industry. What do you like most about working in the ERP space? And this might be useful for somebody that’s listening to us that is thinking about going into the industry and is kind of weighing multiple career options. Yeah, what I love about—I am passionate about it. I love manufacturing; I love ERP. I love working with my customers, going on-site, walking the shop floor, seeing how our systems are affecting supply chain, scheduling, MRP, and helping them, you know, do more with less. You don’t want to add bodies and machines, per se; you want the system to run the business more effectively and efficiently.
I would say, you know, for me, just seeing how things are made, when people say to me, “What do you love about your job?” I love seeing how things are made. I’m sure we’ve all seen that show before where it actually shows you a manufacturing process and how someone makes something. I’ve seen things like a big CNC machine make the CNC machines that they sell—you know, from widgets to casters to castings. There’s just so many things that I’ve seen how they actually go through, you know, from raw material to the end product at the door, and I just find it very exciting.
And we had a funny comment coming for you, Dawn, as well from Sam Gupta. Sam, thanks for being with us from Canada today as well.
“Hi, I’m in Kitchener, Sam. Nice to see you there. I’m not far.”
Alright, Dawn, thanks for being with us today. Welcome.
Peyton, you are joining us from a real office today, so we’d love to have you introduce yourself, maybe share a little bit about your journey, about how you wound up in the ERP space, and then a random or fun personal fact about yourself.
Okay, yeah. I’m kind of in my natural habitat right now, I guess, but I’m Peyton Cork. I work for a company called Bolta US in Northport, Alabama, live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s right outside Tuscaloosa, and most people know Tuscaloosa because of Alabama football; however, I did not graduate from Alabama. My journey into ERP is interesting in the fact that my degrees are in French. I have a master’s in French Literature. I had no idea about this manufacturing space, and then I started working for a textile manufacturer, actually through my first marriage that kind of landed me in Tuscaloosa for a bit, and just took off with it. So, I’ve spent 10 years now working with ERP, and about eight or nine of that was spent in procurement with a textile manufacturer. And now I’m here in the title as a material planner at Bolta, but really brought on because we’re going through an SAP process right now, and they needed somebody with a lot of SAP experience, and that just happened to be lucky me. An interesting fact is I feel like my background in and of itself is sort of my interesting fact. I taught French at Alabama for three years and taught French at Mississippi State. So, you know, still have a love for language but landed in lean manufacturing.
Awesome, Peyton. Well, thanks for being with us today.
So you mentioned in your intro that you have a lot of SAP experience, and I know that you told me when we connected last week prepping for the show that you’re actually working through an SAP re-implementation. So tell us, what does that even mean? What growth opportunities have you identified?
So I call it a re-implementation because when I came on at Bolta, it was very much still in a transition phase, moving from a group of leadership to a new group of leadership, trying to identify areas of opportunity and improve upon, you know, what we already have here. One of those was our ERP system. Previously, Bolta has not been open for very long. I think it’s something like five or six years, so it’s still relatively new, and they weren’t relying. They had SAP and implemented SAP from day one, but they weren’t relying on it a whole lot and they weren’t doing a lot with it. And the way the master data was set up to begin with was basically a migration from our parent company in Germany. So, the master data really reads more like a value stream map of the parent company and not what happens here in Tuscaloosa. By re-implementation, I mean we’re overhauling the master data, identifying opportunities to improve the process. I think it really starts with the overhaul of the master data for integrity, accuracy, and, you know, growth opportunities. To me, it’s getting buy-in through training. We have people here they’re a little scared of SAP because there hasn’t been, you know, on-site. I probably have the most SAP knowledge. There’s a couple of other people that are really strong as well that we’ll work with as key users as we kind of train everybody. But as they get more experience with the system, they’ll be more comfortable relying on it and letting it work the way it’s supposed to work.
And Peyton, a follow-up question to that. You mentioned that there’s a challenge, which I feel like it’s always a challenge with any new software implementation, is the change management piece. Getting people to do something new and different. Have you found anything that’s been effective so far in getting your team to start using SAP?
Listening to their frustrations and, you know, I’m still getting to know the people I work with here. And so what I run into is they’ll find out that I know about SAP. There’s about 300 of us here. And I’m currently in logistics, and so we’re kind of in a back corner, so the front office doesn’t see me as much. But when they start talking to me, they’re like, ‘Oh, you know about SAP? I need to know how to do this. I need to know how to do this.’ And so I listen to what those needs are, and then I say, ‘Guess what? There’s a way that this can work. SAP does do this thing, and I will show you how to do it.’ And I’ve got more buy-in just going from that angle. It’s like, ‘Okay, you’re willing to invest the time in me and in my process,’ and that has helped bring people on board with it. It sounds like sometimes hands-on is the way to go.
That’s at least my belief, and I maybe that’s the teacher in me, but awesome, Peyton. Well, thank you for being with us today.
Thank you, Lacey. You are up next with an intro and a fun or random fact about yourself.
Thanks, Sarah. Well, I am honored to be on this panel, and thank you for putting together this woman-only focus panel. In my opinion, there is not nearly enough of them, especially in this industry, so thank you so much. And great to hear that I’m also a fellow vegetarian with you, and yeah, I love this; like, never happens. So I’ve been in supply chain for about 16 years, most of that being in manufacturing. I started in retail buying, of all things, and thought that I would be buying kitchenware gadgets for my life, and then eventually moved out of Seattle and had to look for other buying opportunities. So stumbled into manufacturing, and I’ve held positions from purchasing to purchasing managers and planning managers and supply chain managers. I’ve had personally worked with a myriad of different ERP systems to complete my daily tasks and have also worked on very large scale kind of two-year implementations for an aerospace company as an end user and as a key user, so I’ve seen it all; I’ve been in the trenches.
And found throughout that process kind of a passion of mine, which is finding solutions for end users and finding every day. You know, I was listening to Peyton talk a little bit about, you know, just being that source of resource for a company, and I’ve definitely been in that spot myself. So about two years ago, I shifted my career path a little—okay, probably a lot—and joined an ERP company. So I work for ProShop ERP, it’s a machine shop and manufacturing process management solution which was designed for small and mid-sized manufacturers. We offer ERP, MES, and QMS solutions all in one suite. I started at ProShop as an implementation specialist, training our clients on solutions and helping them with their go-live strategies and implementing the software. And then, recently, as of this past month, I actually moved from implementation onto the product side of the business, into a product business analyst role. So now helping understand the challenges that our clients are facing and their needs and distilling those down into kind of clear, concise specs so that our development team and our design teams can work on launching new features quickly and efficiently. So, it’s a bit about me and how I ended up in ERP.
Fun fact, and Sarah, you posted a bit about this on LinkedIn. During COVID and the start of the pandemic when we went on lockdown, I took up a hobby that I long abandoned since college, which was making jewelry. And by about a year of quarantining, I had so much inventory built up that I decided to launch a hobby business so I could actually sell the inventory. So started it with my sister, and we started The Hill Sisters Co. And it’s been a blast, definitely a fun creative outlet. And we even went international this past year and sold a few pieces over the holidays up to Canada. So that was really exciting for us. So it’s always fun to hear about people’s side hustles—totally, yep. And it looks like we’ve got some vegetarians in the audience as well, so we are not alone, Kris. Kris mentioned that we’ve got more vegetarians in the house. I love that. So, Lacey, my question for you—yeah, what has been your experience during the actual days around the system of record change or go-live with a new ERP system?
Yeah, great question. So, before joining the ProShop team, as an end user kind of bracing for go-live or being in the thick of it as a key user domain expert, it’s really been a mixed bag. So I’ve been on some really smooth integrations, and when joining the ProShop team, it’s been great to contribute to that smoothness. But there’s also been some really challenging ones. I think probably one of the most challenging go-lives I can think of was when I was working for a large aerospace company. I was a key user and a focal for the supply chain solution implementations, and we had scheduled a site-wide go-live for a weekend. And this was probably the first and only time in my entire career that I worked for 48 hours straight with absolutely no sleep and not leaving the building, which I didn’t think that was a thing that happened in corporate business, but um, the reason for the round-the-clock need was we really hadn’t talked through or planned for some of the very last steps around GL, so general legal postings in inventory and purchase order transactions. So, the amount of data validation that we had to do and reconcile took this huge go-live to almost a complete halt. We never walked through that requirement as a team. You know, I think the accountants probably had an idea that we were going to have to do that, but for the rest of the team, we really hadn’t come through and looked at that requirement leading up to it. We were flying a little bit by the seat of our pants, and I remember standing in a breakroom 24 hours into go-live and realizing I wasn’t going to go home and sleep or shower until those accountants matched all the way down to, you know, a penny.
So, a lot of lessons there, and really, one of the key ones is just be prepared. You can’t plan enough for a go-live cut over. You know, focusing on your milestones leading up to it, knowing your goal or no-go decision points as you head into a go-live, having contingency plans scheduling wise if you face a no-go situation. You may need to notify customers of impacts of your ERP system conversion, and really working with your ERP implementation specialist, your project manager, to understand what the day of or the weekend of activities are going to be, who your key resources are. Are there going to need to be approvers, management on hand to bank those, and also make sure you have a contingency plan if the go-live isn’t successful. What do you do Monday morning if you weren’t able to turn on that system? So we do a phased approach of implementation at ProShop. It’s a great way to go. I personally love it so much more than a straight go-live, but I think that might be because I have a little bit of PTSD from a traumatic go-live event. So, thanks, Sarah, for the audience.
Give us a shout if you’ve had a horrific experience like Lacey. Put a word or phrase or share—feel free to share a story. She definitely reminded me of my days of physical inventory. So those are my, you know, you start one day, and the weekend goes, and you’re having sleepless nights and the longest days that you could think of, and you know, matching that inventory, making sure, you know, my ERP is matching what really physically was counted. Oh my god, you just reminded me of those days. It’s—it was like a, you know, nightmare that we had to live with, but of course, nothing comes close to, you know, your whole go-live piece that you shared, Lacey. So thanks for sharing that.
Oh yes, I’ve done wall-to-wall inventories for huge multi-millionaire or multi-million companies, and it’s, yeah, nothing keeps you awake at night like the week leading up to a full wall-to-wall inventory count. It’s the thing of nightmares. I still have dreams that I’m an ERP. So, Sneha, my next question is for you. One of the things that I’ve lived through many times is someone decides they’re going to do a new ERP implementation, and they think it’s going to solve all their problems. ‘We’re going to spend this money, everything’s going to be perfect, my life’s going to be amazing,’ and it’s not really the case. So, what can people do to set reasonable expectations with their teams as they’re thinking about implementing a new ERP?
Absolutely, thanks for that question, Sarah. I shared a little bit when I started. Like, people, some—you know, companies come with a mindset, especially the ones who are very new to ERP, and you know, they’re absolutely taking this big step of investing money into this implementation, and they come into this whole process thinking it’s going to solve all their problems. But we have to understand that it’s a two-way process. We cannot—I think that ERP implementation is done, perfect, everything’s going to work great, things are going to be perfect for now and forever. But we need to understand that implementing an ERP system is more than just, you know, following prescriptive also following a prescriptive project man, right? I will touch upon a little bit on what Peyton mentioned, which was change. This is a huge change. While you might be at the core of implementing it, there are users who will be actually doing it, living with it day in day out. So, it’s a change that has to be managed carefully, and making sure that that gap is bridged between what existed before to what this whole new system would look like. Do you have enough training capabilities to make sure that while you are doing the training now, you have to continue this process forever? Like, it’s an ongoing continuous process. You cannot just look at this project piece and then leave it there. No, a large part of implementation also is involving training, and this should not be neglected during the ongoing process as you add new people. So, you need HR engagements to make sure that, as you—it’s part of your training plan as you have new employees being onboarded. So, things like these should not be left out. Then, making sure that you have your—you assess your internal capabilities also. Like, you know, understand what your people who will be using it day in day out can handle.
And, you know, who are you working with, the consultants. So, what’s the maintenance plan looking like? How is the IT team going to manage in case of issues? What’s your disaster recovery plan, as we were talking about a little while before? And ensuring those are also documented, verified, and actually tested too. And, me, always make sure that you are aligned. You have your parameters set for, you know, service level agreements, because they, that’s an important part of, you know, making sure that your maintenance services of your ERP are met. And then, you are making sure that you, whoever is maintaining your ERP, whether it’s a third party, whether it’s your internal IT department, they are aware of this process. So you have compliance and, you know, gatekeepers there to make sure that all of these regular steps are being taken, so your ERP functions the way it should be and it’s giving you back the power and the money that you invested in. So, ERP has a lot of huge gains that, like you, a lot to give. But that’s not gonna happen automatically. You need to make sure that your data integrity is always intact and all the processes, all the change management steps that you have highlighted, that’s taken care of. Audit it, make sure you always audit all those processes. Have your metrics in place to make sure that that’s happening. Do not let go of this process. If you do that, you’re actually, in the end, you will realize that you’re not fully utilizing the investment, the time, and the money that you paid to implement this for.
So, Dawn, question for you. There’s a lot of different ERP softwares in the market. Some are industry-specific, some are larger scale and serve many industries. What sets different ERPs apart?
It’s a great question. For me, I’ve dealt with many ERPs over the years, like you, Lacey. I’ve been exposed to many. And for me, it almost comes down to the partner who’s going to understand your business, who’s going to understand the requirements of a make-to-stock company versus a make-to-order company. Who is going to be able to help you make decisions, like should I schedule forwards, should I go backwards, should I do infinite, should it be finite? You know, I think having partners that just understand the business and can apply that to the ERP. Most ERPs today are going to meet the needs that you have, right? They’re sort of like an 80-20 rule. And I think, you know, just working with the company that’s going to be around, that’s going to be here 10 years from now, 20 years from now, because you really want a partnership when it comes to ERP. Because, like I said earlier, it is sort of a continuous journey. You’re always looking to enhance. And it doesn’t solve all your problems if it’s not set up correctly. We’ve all had those painful experiences. We’ve heard about these implementation nightmares. You know what the partner thought and what the client, the customer, thought were two very different things. And therefore, the underpinnings weren’t set up properly for what Sneha had said before. You know, if it’s not set up correctly, it’s not going to meet your business goals. And at the end, what does success mean to you? How do we, as your partner, help you implement? And how do you, as the customer, you know, what success looks like and who can get you there? So, I think for me, I would say the partner and their team that understands your business is really what’s going to set the ERP apart.
Peyton, question for you next. What impact does an ERP have on an improved production process?
Alright, thank you for that question. And I was gonna say, like, I’m over here nodding my head as everyone talks because I am living that right now. I’m over here, like, I’m explaining that to people here every day about, you know, how does the ERP work? You know, this is why we need to do these things. And so I’m like, say it again, this is my life.
So, it’s nice to hear that language, I guess, because I’m on an island right now, almost, and not in a bad way, but it is just me, improved production process and ERP. You know, you are asking a former buyer and a current material planner, so the answer for me is always going to be MRP (Material Requirements Planning) and the ability to produce based on demand and having visibility on the demand in the backlog, and the ability of the system to track what’s needed and alert production procurement to do their part so that we can move our material through the process and have the shortest lead time possible. When I came on board to Bolta, and like this kind of made me twitch, so it might make someone else twitch, we were not running MRP, and when you have a system like SAP, one of, you know, arguably one of the most expensive ERPs that’s out there, when you’re not running MRP, what you have is a glorified database, and I was like, okay, well, we have to get to where we’re running MRP, and so my first task was to overhaul our production process within the ERP system. We’re in phase one of that, which, you know, the easiest way to roll that out is using the discrete manufacturing model. So, I got all of that set up. We’re still working on the master data, and I don’t have the capability right now, because of the way we’re running, to lock the system to make master data changes. So, making master data changes, especially in routings while you’re in a live system, is really fun. So, there are definitely some non-ideal situations that we have here, but we’re working through it, and the system is working better. And, you know, the next phase is to move to repetitive manufacturing, which will serve our process a lot better. Using the ERP system coupled with a good MES (Manufacturing Execution System) system is what’s really going to support the lean processes and moving the goods through the production system with as little movements and as few steps as possible, which is the lean manufacturing concept. So, we’re also in the process of trialing a new MES system, and hopefully, we can get SAP and that system to marry and give us some good feedback and good reporting. But, you know, again, step one is getting that master data where we need it to be, so the system is working the way we need it to work. Thank you for that, Peyton. We’ll have to see how the year goes and do a check back in in December.
Oh, good. Lacey, we had a question come in from the audience that I want to throw your way. Sam wants to know why do we have so many people and companies involved in an ERP implementation? Why can’t we just find one person that knows it all?
It’s a great question. I think if you only have one person involved in your ERP transition or even in considering an ERP software, that you really miss out on the engagement of end users. You’ve got stakeholders in your company that are a wealth of knowledge as to what they need in their daily tasks to complete them successfully, and they don’t have to be every day in those decision-making processes, but engaging them, I think, makes for a very robust requirements list as to what you need for your company. What solutions are going to be in one software versus another? Can you find them in one package? Are you going to have to go to multiple solutions to meet your end user needs? So, I’m a big proponent of engaging end users. So, I don’t think you can have one sole person, and that slows down too. Then you’ve got, you know, poor Peyton who feels like she’s on an island of one as the only. I was like, sister, you’ve got a whole network here, so you are not an island of one. You just, you reach out to us anytime you’re having a tough day, and we’ll all provide support 110%, but I think that moment where you’ve only got one person who also knows the solutions can be a really tricky spot to be in, because if that person, you know, we want Peyton to go on vacation. We’d love for her to, to be able to, to travel and enjoy life as well and have a nice work-life balance. And there’s a lot of pressure, I have to imagine, for Peyton to be in the building and being that one source of knowledge. So, I just, I concur completely, you know, I feel your pain, and, and to be an island of one is terrible. And what it actually does is put the business at risk. So, having, I love that you have a training plan, and you’re going to train other super users, you know, to have more knowledge in the building. I think that’ll really help you make, be more successful for sure. Yeah, and you know, as you mentioned, like having ambassadors across is important, right? Across teams. So that way, we all are contributing. So, you know, say you have ground-level associates day working day in, day out. They have questions. You have ambassadors actually proposing solutions, training them ongoing, you know, live help is important. And that’s why someone also commented like you cannot like say, him, I say you cannot be working with an ERP and, you know, and working in silos. You need representation from across the team, from the customer to actually also the ERP team who is working with the customer to implement it. So you also don’t want to be the only bad guy, sorry, Sarah. You know, or bad gal. You know, oftentimes the, the one focal that’s like the, the ERP know-all, like can be that bad person who has to impart that. So sorry, the software doesn’t do that or, you know, that’s not the exact way that workflow works. So spreading that, uh, that bad news bearer sometimes also makes the job a little bit more enjoyable. Sorry, sorry.
So, Lacey, follow question for you. Sneha talked about it. I think Dawn and Peyton have all kind of touched on it. The whole change management piece is really challenging but important. So, what tips do you have for people struggling with change management as it relates to their ERPs?
Yeah, great question. You know, nothing stops an implementation dead in its tracks faster than that like key phrase, ‘Well, we’ve always done it this way.’ So, when I start training clients, one of the first conversations that I have in a kickoff meeting is around change. I found that some of the most successful ERP implementations are the ones where the organization is open to change. Change is driven from the top down, even so to the point that change is infectious in an organization. If you can get to that point, that really reads to me that you’re going to have, you’re going to be very open to what change is going to come down when you start a new ERP system. And in manufacturing industries, that’s often driven by lean or continuous improvement.
So, you kind of get that mindset already in the organization, and then when you come across these kinds of situations where you’re switching systems, it’s, it’s already incorporated in the values of the organization. I think one of the other tips and tricks is really focusing on two key areas. I know Sneha talked about training; I also think education. So, before you start training, you need to understand your organization’s current processes, workflows. Are those mapped? Are they documented? If they aren’t, you might take some time to do so, just at least sketching them out so you can identify who completes a task, where it’s done, and if change happens in a particular area, you can really pinpoint down to how that’s going to affect your current workflows. Looking at is your organization flexible and agile enough to adapt potential changes? And if you’re not, where are the levels of decision and approvals going to be made when you really do have to enact change? So, who are those decision-makers? What kind of process are you going to have to bring executives or managers in to make those decisions? What context are they going to need? If there really is a kind of rigid approval process to change.
And then, training really comes down to, um, engaging end users, like I said earlier, in decision-making processes, engaging key users in helping support training efforts. You know, don’t just have one trainer in the organization who knows the full solution, but get multiple people involved so that you can have key points of contacts in each area that can help with that. And I’ve also seen executives, management teams, owners often underestimate the level of education and training necessary to implement an ERP system, especially in large organizations, as well as potentially some associated costs with that training. So, I think the top management team kind of fully needs to commit to incorporating training costs as part of their ERP budget and knowing that that’s going to be that in the mix. And as Sneha mentioned, training is ongoing. So also have a plan for, you know, development of training documents or training videos if that works well for your organization, and what is your new hire onboarding process going to be around training? Those are a few tips and tricks.”
“It makes me cringe, Lacey, when I hear organizations talk about budgeting for ERPs and then the first thing they cut is the training or change management. Training is so key, you know. A lot of times, people say, ‘Well, what if I invest in my people and they leave?’ Yeah, but what if you don’t invest in your people and they stay? You know, that’s not helpful to anyone. And here in Ontario, we’re very fortunate. The Ontario government actually really loves manufacturing and loves supporting training. So, we even have funding programs up here that will help offset some of the cost of an ERP implementation in regards to training. So, if anyone’s looking for a new ERP and wants to know more about funding, a good meeting…”
“So, Sneha, to change the conversation a little bit, what can ERP suppliers do to be more proactive in the sales process?”
“Yeah, I wanted to share this because I haven’t represented an ERP company per se. I have been involved in using it and worked with consultants in implementing some of it. But, so, some of the feedback from a customer standpoint that I wanted to share out there. And, you know, since some of you are already are in that space, like directly with ERP, feel free to, you know, Lacey, Dawn, Peyton, and like share, you know, share or, you know, let’s debate it out. But this is what, from I’m sharing from what my experience. It’s a small story where I was. We, you know, we were using, in one of the companies that I worked, we were using a vanilla version of an ERP, and there were, we hadn’t upgraded to the latest version or the cloud version. So, it’s very possible that there were some pieces of it that we were missing. But then, we were growing as a business. So, it’s not that we are just sustaining operations. So, it’s okay, you know, things can work with as it is. And, as we said, like, it works as is. So, why need a change, right? So, then, eventually, as the system grew, we wanted more control on, you know, how our routings looking like. And then comes also the shelf life pieces. We are looking into different markets. So, now, if I’m looking into a medical devices market, I’m more concerned about shelf life and stuff like that.
So, how did we manage that? Well, Excel is right there. Excel is my go-to tool to see how we can manage it. But then, hey, we have invested thousands and thousands of dollars in this great ERP system, which has MRP, which has everything inbuilt. Why don’t we see if we can do something about it or does it have some offering? So, we went to the vendor. We asked for specific support there. They connected us to their third-party consultants. And then, eventually, I worked with them to lead this whole project to make sure that we enabled that piece. And how did it work across quality, across manufacturing operations, across inventory management? And of course, the day-to-day users that who are going to use this. And we also needed a little involvement from the product piece and engineering piece as well.
So, all of this happened, but then think about what happened in this process. It was us who actually reached out. It would have been great if I had an ongoing conversation with someone like this proactively from their end. I would have upgraded to a cloud MRP, ERP much faster. So, it would have worked out for that ERP vendor as well, right? But since that wasn’t happening, I went back based on my needs. And then, you know, there’s also some frustration there as well because, hey, you had, like, why don’t you come to us? Why don’t you tell us about it, instead of me figuring out and googling my way out of it? There’s no, why would you do that? So, I would think that it’s always beneficial for also ERP vendors to constantly have a mechanism to see how you can collect customer feedback, and that will give you more insights and, you know, about what the customers are doing. Are they engaging in new markets? Are they growing? What’s their growth plan looking like? Or, you know, research about them and initiate such conversations. And remember, word of mouth still works. So, you know, I have invested in this ERP. It would really take me, I mean, you would think that why, you know, usually if you have a huge ERP implementation, you don’t change to someone else, right? So, you try to stick with that and you continue, you know, upgrading your versions. So, you take that opportunity and make sure you connect with your customers. I think this works for any market, for any role, for whatever place you are playing in in any company, but more so in ERP because it will also work for the third-party consultants or the vendors whoever is engaging with your customers. So, just from my experience, I did want to highlight this, especially during this show.
It’s a great point, and as working for an ERP provider, I actually manage, you know, about a quarter of our customer base. And so, I am proactively reaching out and saying, ‘Let’s sit down and talk. Let’s talk about what’s new with you, what’s new with us, what’s new with Infor. Let’s talk about the strategic initiatives. Let’s talk about where you want to go in the next year, three years, five years, and let’s come up with a plan together.’ So, I think communication is key. And then, if you feel like you’re not getting that from your vendor, you know, kick and scream until you get the attention that you need because they really should have sort of like customer success people like myself line specific to your account that are interacting with you on a more proactive basis.
Yeah, Dawn, we do the same thing at ProShop. We’ve got customer success teams that are there to see the success of our existing clients and separate from new client onboarding. And we also engage through webinars. So, we host a monthly webinar that talks about new features. We go more in-depth into existing features. We try to keep our communication with clients if they want to engage on a monthly basis in the features of our given software so they can go really in-depth in areas that maybe they haven’t explored before.
Yeah, we’re the same. We’re always trying to educate, educate, educate. It’s not necessarily a sales thing. It’s, we want you to know that you can do more with what you have today. ERPs are, you know, to cash, and so often in the market, I hear customers saying, ‘You know, I’m using 10% or 20% of the solution,’ which breaks my heart, you know, when I hear that someone’s not using MRP, they’re not using scheduling, you know, how can you run a business like that? You know, so you both bring out, like, great points, especially with webinars. And I think you have used this word more often now, which is educate.
Dawn, thanks for sharing that education is so important, and it’s an ongoing process. And the more I know about it, trust me, it’s way easier for me to purchase some, you know, additional versions or upgraded versions from an existing ERP vendor than actually, you know, scrambling my way around and looking for it and hating my ERP system. Well, absolutely. And the thing is, if you look at something like Excel or Word, you know, we’re busy doing our daily jobs. There’s so much more I could do with those tools, but unless I know how to use them or someone shows me, I’m never going to get to it. So, you know, ERP is the same. If you don’t know what the capabilities are and what it can do for you to make your life better, you know, and get more out the door quicker, faster, than how are you supposed to get there on your own? So, yes, lots of education. I think that’s key for sure. Absolutely. Yeah, thanks, thanks, both for sharing experiences here. Dawn nailed it. So Peyton, a question for you. So, companies will implement an ERP and, and I think Dawn mentioned the figure that she heard people say they only use 10 or 12 percent, or it might have been Sneha, of the actual system. What can companies do to optimize and extend their ERP, and maybe even talk a little bit about what that means?
Okay, so yeah, the 10 to 20% thing, that’s kind of when I came on board, and I’m from the south, obviously, you probably hear it very well in my voice, but I’m just looking around like, y’all, y’all, what are we doing? We have all the power, we’re not using any of it. So, but you know, going back to education, they’re because we have a lot of new people here, you know, I know that our accounting department, everyone there is, it’s like three months in, and everyone there is their first view of SAP. And when they started, the training was limited, and now I’m coming in, and I’m like, you know what, we’re overhauling everything, let’s make your process, your process. So, getting away from that, but optimizing, extending ERP. I’ll never stop harping on master data governance. You’re only as good as your master data, your system is not going to do what you needed to do if your master data isn’t there. You know, I think if anyone in my company hears me say the word costing or cost release again, they’re going to slap me, but this was something this is something that I had to explain to people. What? Because it was either that our parent company, who at the time was doing our SAP, was doing for us, and people just didn’t understand what I meant by that. And I’m like, this is why we’re here, this is what we’re wanting, the system to capture. And so getting the data in place to do that, and so that that, in turn, once the integrity and accuracy of your master data is there, that develops trust in the system for the people who are using it. You know, I run into a lot now where, you know, people will do something like, it didn’t work, it doesn’t work well. It doesn’t work because this. Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes I messed up, you know, I changed a bunch of routings here and accidentally left a material out of one, and they’re like, well, now we can’t do it. I’m like, okay, it’s me, I’m sorry, but that develops trust, is knowing that the system is going to work how it’s supposed to every time you go in and use it. And we’re working on that. And I think, too, you know, great ERP support, it’s like, you know, you all are saying, you know, whether it’s consultants and we do have a consulting firm. But I came from a company, granted it was about four times the size as far as employees, but had a whole ERP department that was there to provide support for SAP. And so I think the support system you have in-house is a huge factor in how successful and well your ERP system will run. So, training people on the ERP systems, like you’ve said, educate, educate, and it’s not just, you know, I know how to run a program in SAP. Wonderful. I need to understand how when I do that program, it affects the business process further down the line. You know, a great example I’ve had here is, accounting, purchasing, and receiving all work very closely together as far as, you know, their effects on each other in the SAP system.
And so, an invoice comes in. Accounting accounts payable can’t post it because there’s no goods receipt. So, they would go to receiving and receiving, like, ‘Well, I didn’t get it. I can’t post the goods receipt, and I don’t know what to tell you.’ And then they, they might go to the buyer, they might not go to the buyer. And so, I just sat down with all three of them one day, and I was like, ‘Let me explain how all of this affects all of you in these ways.’ You know, if we receive a different quantity, the invoice isn’t going to match. We need to let AP know that the packing list was different than the purchase order. Let the buyer know so she can talk to the vendor and try to get all of that worked out before we get to the point that everything’s, you know, everyone’s asking these questions. And they just didn’t know. They didn’t know how what they were doing fit in the larger pieces or the bigger picture. They’re all pieces of a puzzle, but they didn’t see the other pieces. And so, that is something that I’m working on here too, is to kind of, I’m actually going to write them an ‘Order to Cash’ process just so they get a feel for that. I write training materials anytime I train on anything in SAP. I wrote an entire training book for purchasing at my last company. It’s just so, you know, if I’m going to develop something for someone to learn from, then keep it, file it, and we have that script for later. And I try to make it very practical and not very technical, screenshots exactly what you’re doing and why, why you’re doing it that way. And always looking for areas of improvement, you know. I think Lacey mentioned that sometimes the system doesn’t do that, and so then the question becomes, can the system do it through customization, or do we need to find a workaround? And, or, you know, if you’re starting to see that things aren’t working, do a root cause analysis, find out why. You know, I’m not a believer in heavy customization because then, yeah, what’s the point? But customization in moderation is not a bad thing, and there are things that you can do to make your system work a little bit better for your process through that. Sneha, Lacey, or Dawn, as we close out, any final thoughts on optimizing or extending your ERP?
Sure, I’d love to contribute. For us at Synergy, often, you know, we go to the market and certain ERPs sometimes have gaps, and so we’ll go to market for something best of breed, like a source-to-pay. You know, with the PO automation that you offer our customers or the AP three-way matching, and you know, why would we recreate that functionality when it already exists and we can integrate it into the ERP systems? So, we do have strategic partnerships with other vendors that all add value to the ERP implementations that we do, just depending on requirements.
Yeah, I’ll add, and we’ve said it before, is education. Know what the software can do. You don’t know what you don’t know. So, as often as you can connect with your ERP solution on an education side, whether it’s individual training for you and your team, tapping into webinars, the more education you have on all of the solutions the system offers, the more that you are going to get that return on investment for what you purchased. That’d be my advice.
And I first want to definitely thank Peyton. The story that you just narrated, it felt like I could, I was living that at some point in my life. And as much as you know, we can talk about strategic initiatives and all of that, remember that the day-in-day-out firefighting can cost you. And so, making sure that your users on the ground are aware of your ERP, what this change means, make sure that you take time to bridge that gap. Do not underestimate the power of investing in your training. Your users are the people who are going to use your ERP system, and so train them well enough that they are utilizing it to the extent that they should be. And then eventually, that will actually convert in having good customer SLAs, meeting your customer expectations, and keeping your customers happy. And one last piece was, you know, ERP implementations can happen at bigger companies who could be, by you know, very spread out, it could be multinationals across the world. Take time to, in, you know, you might have one PoC that you are connecting with. Take time to make sure that you talk to every regional point of contact and understand what other business units are doing too. So, do not restrict yourself, like this for ERP vendors mostly don’t restrict yourself in your communication to just one point of contact. Like spread that out and learn more about the business, the more diverse the business is, the better it is for you to understand the gaps and then fill it with whatever offering you have for them. But yeah, that’s it. Those are a few points from my end. Thank you so much for this. Well, we are at time, so I want to thank everyone who is able to join us live, those who are going to be listening in on demand. Dawn, Peyton, Sneha, Lacey, thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience. And with that, I’m going to wish everyone a wonderful afternoon.