Women in ERP – May 2023
Wendy Broone, Beth Schlitt, and Lauren Polasek
This is a show that Kris Harrington 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, and believe me, it is not all fun and pretty. Our 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, and to highlight their stories and challenges, and voicing their opinions with ERP transformations.
I am Sarah Scudder, marketing maven at SourceDay and today’s show host. Our platform integrates with ERPs, so my team and I have dealt with many, many ERPs throughout our journey. Today, I am joined by Wendy, Beth, and Lauren. I’ve asked the three of them to come on for the hour today and talk about their experiences and stories. I’m a huge believer in storytelling; I think there’s so much we can learn from each other’s experiences, both good and bad.
For those that are with us live, if you want to drop a note in the comments and tell us where in the world you are joining us from and a word or phrase to describe your most recent ERP experience, we always get some fun comments dropped in. Also, feel free to ask questions throughout the conversation. So if Beth, Wendy, or Lauren say something and you want to contribute or you want to ask a question, you can go ahead and drop those in the comments, and I’ll be making sure to monitor and manage those throughout.
To kick us off, I am going to have Wendy do a super quick intro and tell us, and make sure to include a fun fact about yourself. I always like to have a random tidbit to remember people by. Great, thanks, Sarah. Hello, everyone. Thanks for having me today. Wendy Broome, and I am the marketing director at Guide Technologies. We are an Infor gold channel partner, and we specialize in manufacturing technology solutions and manufacturing ERP solutions. I am relatively new to ERP. I have been fully ingrained within the ERP arena since about early 2021, but I got my first taste in 2018, working for a CPG company that was utilizing an internally developed ERP solution. A little fun fact about me is I recently checked something off my bucket list. I tried surfing, so yeah, awesome. Well, Wendy, welcome to the ERP space. It is so much fun, lots of craziness, lots of tears too, but I think you’ll find there are awesome people in our industry. We have Ritu joining us. Hello, Ritu. She says, “Love the topic.” We have Heidi Jensen joining us outside of Minneapolis, who is a NetSuite ERP consultant. Her entire life is ERP. Beth, would love to have you do a quick intro today.
Okay, thank you Sarah. Yeah, my name is Beth Schlitt and my experience in ERP spans over various levels over a 30-year career in a combination of supply chain and marketing functions and specifically in industries of specialty chemical and process automation and controls. I was most recently with a company called ChampionX which provides chemicals and services to the energy industry where there I led our global supply chain planning and order-to-cash processes, so a lot of fun there and obviously a lot of involvement with ERP systems. A fun fact, I recently relocated from Houston to just outside of Atlanta. I’m living on a lake where we have lots of golf courses around us, and I am actively working on improving my handicap. So there you go, anybody wants to come out and play golf, I’m in when we have time in between working on our ERP systems. Alright, we’ve got a call out to the audience, if you are in or near Atlanta, Beth needs a friend to golf with, yes, so pick her up if you are a good golfer or wanting to learn as well. Thank you, Beth. We have Nicole joining us from Wisconsin. She is a financial systems manager using the NetSuite ERP. We have Brenda joining us from Texas, fellow Texan shout out Brenda, I am in Austin, and she works in SAP for Exxon Mobil. We’ve got Kris who is the co-host of our show, recently promoted to CEO and has spent many, many years working with ERPs, and Susan Harrison from Florida. She’s not really involved in ERPs but has 23 years supply chain experience, so lots of more notes and comments coming in and we’ll make sure to shout out those throughout the show. Lauren, we finally get to have you on a show. You and I have become LinkedIn friends, so glad to have you on the panel today. I’d love to have you introduce yourself. Thank you, Sarah. You know, I’ve been dying to work with you very closely and I follow everything you guys do. So, I live north of Houston. I live in a very rural area in Southeast Texas, lots of oil and gas, lots of manufacturing, blue-collar wholesale distribution, so that’s where my career started. I am I started out in wholesale distribution and resale for industrial supplies. I worked for a large corporation for five years, sold everything from bike parks to Cheesecake Factories to stainless steel rods, and then I moved to a startup chemical company, and that did wholesale distribution-type confined inventory, a lot of hazardous chemicals in and out, and they took up tolling blending. So, that chemical industry, we actually implemented NetSuite at our plant, and I just fell in love with that software. So, I said, nope, this is I need to try this, and I am now a NetSuite functional consultant. I have done freelance work, I’ve worked in different consulting areas, I started in education, so really setting my core foundation in training and user adoption, and now I do NetSuite consulting for post-go-live implementations where we support everyone who’s been live in NetSuite for a little while with optimization and making those systems stronger and better. So, appreciate being here. Fun fact, I put my Golden Girls calendar up for all of you today because I am a Golden Girls fan. So, appreciate the intro. So, Golden Girls must be a thing. I have to admit I’ve not seen it, but I was with girlfriends on Sunday for a birthday and everyone was talking about their binges, and the entire dinner table is binging Golden Girls. Oh, it’s a thing.
Beth, Susan Harrison was in Atlanta for 25 years and moved a year and a half ago to the beach. She said she’s so much happier being by the water. I’m outside of Atlanta.
All right, so Wendy, we’re going to start the conversation with you today, and I want to kick off talking about selecting an ERP. So what are the most important things in your mind that a manufacturer should look for when selecting a new ERP? So this could either be first time ever using an ERP, maybe they’re on QuickBooks or using Excel, or they’re on an existing ERP and they’re going to buy a new one. Great question. I think my perspective, you know, with Guide Technologies specializing in manufacturing, I feel like it’s really important for any business to, in conducting their due diligence, to look for a solution that is, you know, industry-specific, that has perhaps been developed with their specific industry in mind. I think also, I’m partial, but I think it’s important too if a business chooses to work with a technology partner like Guide Technologies to look for a partner that has that same industry experience. In addition to that, I feel like it’s very important to identify a solution that is both flexible and scalable. You know, for example, is the chosen solution flexible enough to support ever-changing variables? We’ve seen supply chain disruptions, any company is going to go through staffing changes, inevitably shifting markets, refined internal processes, so it’s important to look for something that’s going to be flexible enough to change with those variables. And also, a solution that’s scalable. Most businesses are in business, they’re looking to grow and expand, and it’s important to identify a solution that’s going to be able to expand. You know, flexibility is a part of that, but you’re also going to want to find a solution that can help your company grow and grow with your company. Go ahead. I was going to say, Lauren or Beth, either of you have experience with ERP selections and have a tip or two to share today.
Yeah, I would say, as you’re talking, Wendy’s talking about being able to expand and grow, taking into consideration as well acquisitions, mergers, and acquisitions because there’s, you know, many companies do grow organically, but more often than not, as their growth comes with mergers and acquisitions. So thinking about that with, you know, you’re gonna be involved with the integration of a company that may have a different ERP system. So then, how do you determine what is going to be? Are you going to continue with all those individual ERP systems, which can be, you know, it all depends on what the strategy of the company is, right? If it’s going to be fully integrated, or are they going to remain independent entities? So that’s super important and can, in considering, I know the company’s company that I had been with for the last 17 years, we had been acquired and merged and acquired and merged and then ultimately were separated. So you had all those legacy things that happened and then, okay, then we separated, and what do we do? How do we stand on our own? Which system do we stay with? So I think that’s really an important aspect of any company when you’re thinking about that ERP strategy and making that selection is, what is your company’s growth strategy for the future to, in helping determine what that ERP should be? And then, if you are part of an acquisition and you have five or ten different ERPs, what do you do, right? That’s a whole nother strategy and conversation because I’ve worked with companies and have friends that work at companies that have so many different ERPs, and it can be quite challenging to get anything to talk to each other, let alone try to transfer data or run meaningful reports. Yes, and I agree with all of you completely. The only other thing I would add to that would be to identify a list, actually sit down and define a list with your departments and just as a whole of the company, what basically sucks right now about not having an ERP or what is really difficult to navigate in your current ERP because if your big pain points, which are going to drive your need to go out and source a new ERP, if those are defined clearly, and you can come and you can go into your demos with your new companies and say, “Does it fix these problems because these are my very defined set of big problems right now?” And if they can’t, you know, spit that solution out right away, I have a lot of clients that come to me and say, “I can’t send a whole bunch of emails at one time for past due invoices.” Well, I have a solution for that right away because I know that’s a common problem. But if they don’t have that clear, defining answer to your problem, that may be kind of a red flag like, “Ah, maybe I should look for a different solution or maybe I should look for a different partner to work with that has seen this problem regularly.” And the other point of that is usability. If you see a demo of a product or an ERP, and it just looks like it’s going to be really hard to use, your users are also going to look at that and say, “This looks really difficult,” and there’s automatically going to be some tension and frustration there. If your users don’t like it, they’re not going to use it the right way, and so you’re going to go through these huge periods of rejection of the software you just purchased as a company. So those are my two things that I try to help people keep in mind, you know, and could I, Sarah, could I, could I just learn? Because it’s such a critical point, right, defining what are what is it that you’re trying to do? What really are the needs, was the problem you’re trying to solve? And I would just add on an addition that depending upon the size of the company, the ERP may not be the only system that the organization has, right? So you may have a, you know, I mean start with, you know, a procurement system, you may have a planning system, and more and more organization has those. So how do they, what’s the flexibility of the ERP either to take on those capabilities that you’re using another system for or how are you going to be able to integrate into that ERP? So great, great points. Arm, thank you. I think one other factor too, you know, we’re talking about products, solutions, but as manufacturers, businesses are seeking solutions, I think it’s also important to look at the people, the people representing and supporting the chosen product. You know, you want to make sure that it’s a good fit, you know, and that the customer, the end-user feels seen and feels heard and is listening to these problems. And because without that listening element and the good people behind that, it’s hard to identify the ideal solution. So let us not forget the people behind the product and ensuring that that team with whom you’ll be working with, whether it’s the products team like, you know, NetSuite or Infor or it’s a partner like guide Technologies, you really want to, I mean, we all want to do business with people we like. So I think people are an important factor as well.
So, Beth, that brings up a question that I have for you, and I also want to give a shoutout to Jennifer. She is on day two of a new job with Epicor. She just joined the Epicor team, but she’s been in the industry for 20 years. So, Jennifer, congratulations on the new role, and very excited for you. My question is around using consultants. Some people cringe when they hear the word “consultant.” They think expensive, they think cumbersome, they think, “Oh, somebody’s going to come in and tell us how to run our business,” and they don’t really understand how we operate. But there can also be a lot of value in bringing in a third party to help with an ERP selection and implementation. So, we’ll start with you, Beth, and then I want to get Wendy and Lauren’s perspective as well. But when should somebody consider working with a consultant to help with a selection and implementation? Yeah, that’s a great question, right? Because then, you look at, “Okay, it’s going to cost us X, you know, X amount of dollars.” Because, I mean, in general, consultants are not inexpensive. We know we’ve got plenty of experience in our company. We know this. We can do this. But what I’ll say, you know, what I have found, or one finding the right consultant is absolutely key, but I think that there is real value there. The people within the company that are going to be using the ERP and ultimately making the decision, they may have their biases. They, you know, there’s so much that goes into, like that we just talked about, making that decision. Having someone from the outside that one has the experience, one doesn’t have that bias, there isn’t an emotional connection in making that decision. I believe, whenever making any, whether it’s an ERP, whether it’s a supply chain planning system, whether it’s a procurement system, there is huge value, but it is important, really, going back to even what Lauren said about making that ERP decision, is what do you want from the consultant? What do you want them to provide you? Is it to help you to construct, how, what are our decision-making criteria? Is it to help you construct that matrix? Is it helping you to run that whole project? You know, there could be a scenario where you have a consultant that is doing just that. That is going to, you know, what’s the criteria, how do we do the project management, but then I have a consultant that’s really embedded like with whatever the system is, whether that’s with SAP or it’s Oracle, whatever that is, that then they’re doing the nuts and bolts and the design and getting that up and running. So, there’s, I think, there’s multiple aspects to making that decision on bringing in a consultant, what you want that consultant to do, and you may have, you know, more than one consultant in an ERP decision and implementation. But I think finding the right one can just be, I mean, pays dividends in making an ERP selection or a planning system decision, and then ultimately that implementation. And I would say a third thing, though, in making that is a cultural fit. Every corporation has their own culture. Wendy, you mentioned about people being so important. I’m a huge, like, I lean into people first, right? People, process, technology. And finding that consultant that you and your team click with, right? You get that good vibe, and you know it’s going to be like, you’ll be able to challenge each other, but they fit with the culture.
Lauren, what about you? When do you think a company should consider using an ERP consultant? So, I am a hundred percent everything that Beth said. I think that’s a very great definition of how to find a good one. The big part of it is the people, like Wendy said too. We have usually, when we are doing consulting, because I am a functional consultant for implementations and after implementations, if I don’t, I’m gonna use a corny word here, but if I don’t jive with you or you don’t drive with me, we’re never going to be productive. I’m going to be your Tasker; you’re going to assign stuff to me and then just say, “I’m paying you to do this, go do this,” but with Consulting, there has to be an advocate for this system itself. So somebody who’s gonna say, “I’m listening to you. I’ve got your side. I’m listening to your business needs. I’m listening to what you know, maybe SourceDay is trying to help with something. I’m listening to the user, but at some point, somebody has to sit and say, ‘this is not the best. This may not be the best solution for the system itself. There may be a gap in the process here that doesn’t align with how you actually do something,’ and without being able to communicate that with trust, they will never trust that you are making a decision that’s good for everybody, and everybody on the client side is going to say, ‘no, this is how I do my job,’ and deciding to be able to do it right now in this system. If they don’t trust you to have their back and to have their business at your forefront of your priorities, you’ll never get anything done, and if they don’t like you, you’re never going to get trust with them. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I truly don’t believe that. I’m a younger consultant, and so sometimes someone may question, do I have the experience to be able to advocate for them or to be able to solution for them or consult for them? And that’s not a trust in me as a person because they don’t know me, and they don’t know how I do my job yet. I can build that with them if they’re willing to, and if they’re not, I have other people that may work better for you. But in that sense too, moving from consultancies, so when do you need a consultant? I almost 100% of the time, you’re going to need a consultancy or a consulting firm to help implement software if it’s not the implementation team from the software company itself. You know it’s very difficult for clients to do that. There are some larger companies that do that, but we want to make sure we advocate for every size, and so Consultants are a great tool to implement. Select, you know, use consultants for everything in your business at some point or another, but if you say, ‘I don’t really have a great relationship with this one. I need to move to this firm for different purposes for my Consultants,’ I always advocate, or I always reassure people, try to reassure them even after you go live with the system. Your system still needs Administration. It needs monitoring. It needs to be improved. You are growing, so your system has to match your pace. If it’s not even just a little bit ahead of you because if you grow exponentially quickly and you outscale the solution that was built for you at the time that it was implemented, you’re going to run into performance issues.
You’re going to run into, “What the heck is happening? I don’t know what’s happening. This thing is not doing what I needed it to do anymore, or I am spending way too much time in this one little area of my system every day.” That didn’t used to be a big deal because I was only doing five transactions a day. Five POS a day is not a big deal for a pretty manual PO process. When you get up to where you’re doing 20-30 POS a day or monitoring 50 to 100 open POS every day, you’re not going to be able to look at those one by one kind of things. So, you need some automation in place. You, as the user, may not even know that that exists. So, I think it’s always a good point, really important to keep a consultant on hand in your back pocket, in connection with you to help. “Hey, I have a problem. I don’t know the answer, but maybe you can help me,” because that is our job to be able to answer that question. So, that’s my two cents. Keep them on or keep somebody close to you afterward. Rightly said, Lauren, it’s challenging to convince the client to accept the change, and Robert says, “Thank you for joining us. When Lauren arrives on a call, I know I will get an honest answer, even if it’s the one that I don’t want to hear. That trust is a huge part of what makes the consulting experience worth it.” So, Robert, thanks for that, and feel free to drop us a note and tell us where in the world you are joining us from as well. Wendy, what about you? How should a company assess whether or not to use a consultant? Well, I’m very much on board with what Beth and Lauren said. I’m partial and just kind of piggybacking on what Lauren said. I think it never hurts. I think that a business should consider, if not decide, to use a consultant 100% of the time. And to kind of summarize why, I think not only that trust aspect, but I feel like a partner consultant is a guide to technology, okay? But I think that it enables the end-user, the company, to be less reactive. I think reaction can be very costly, and it empowers the end-user to be more proactive. So, you’ve kind of got that person or that consultancy in your corner at all times that has not only the depth and breadth of product knowledge but also hopefully industry knowledge. So, they can kind of, they’ve seen many times the challenges, the obstacles associated not only with the product but with the industry, and they can help customers be proactive and mitigate the risks of the unforeseen, whatever that may be. So, I’m a proponent for 100% of the time. I would add two things that I think are really important as well. I’m also a pro-advocate of using consultants for third-party technology implementations. One is your team is already overworked, and if your supply chain team is already maxed out at 60, 70, 80 hours a week, they’re already scrambling to keep up, and you throw on an implementation, you are going to burn your team out, and people will leave, and you will have productivity issues, you will have quality issues with your team. So, think about the bandwidth that your team even has. And the second thing I would say is consultants can save you a lot of money. People think, “Oh, a consultant would be so expensive, and we just can’t afford, and we don’t have it in the budget.”
I would argue that if you don’t use a consultant, you’re going to wind up going more over budget and paying more than doing it right the first time, so just keep those two things in mind. – Robert Roi.
Robert Roberts from Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve got Jesse joining us from, oh, it looks like it’s cloudy Los Angeles, and we have Steve joining us Dallas based in Dayton today, so lots of people joining us from all over. So I wanna fast forward a little bit in the process. We just talked about selecting an ERP and then should we use a consultant. I want to transition now to post-implementation. So I’ve made my selection, hopefully, I’ve worked with a consultant that I’ve jived with, we’ve implemented, now how do we make sure our stakeholders actually utilize the ERP to its fullest? So we’ll start with you, Beth.
That’s such an awesome question, right? We just talked about consultants and the consultants now they’ve taken on all of this, and maybe we say, “Okay, we don’t need the consultant anymore,” and they go, right? So here we are, we’ve gotta do it, we have to make it work. So before the consultant leaves or we even write, and I’m looking at Lauren on my screen here, right, we continue to engage with the consultant that whole the change management have, what is that change management process that we have put in place so that people have learned, you know, how did their work change? Maybe the people are different. I mean, I think in today’s days as we’re transitioning and there’s so much more digital than there were, we’re actually moving away from Excel as we implement these systems, but the skill set of the people, right? Did we upskill, right? Did we train our people? Do we have the people, new talent coming in with those new skills? All of that needs to be part of the change management so that we are prepared when the implementation is done and our consultants leave. Another piece of that though is then what is the structure of your organization? Is it time to implement a Coe, a Center of Excellence? Do you need, it’s not just the IT team, it’s not just the particular I think about an ERP, right? Because it goes across so many parts of the organization. So is your structure set up that maybe you do implement a Center of Excellence, and there’s leadership there that is full-time, but then you also have, and this is just an example, right? Then you have SMEs within each of the functions, and if you are a global organization, perhaps within each of the regions that dotted line to that Coe, they have this part of their job description, what they do, so that you are really embedding those best practices.
People know how the system works, as well as what you know. As we continue to learn more, grow, and expand, what new things do we need to have the system do? Having a Center of Excellence (COE) and a dedicated group that is monitoring and training people right when new people come in is important. It’s not just a piece of paper. When I first joined the company as a marketer, I had to know what my costs were and understand my lead times. One of the other marketers handed me a piece of paper with all these transaction codes and a description of what they were. I asked my colleagues in finance and procurement for help. It’s essential to have subject matter experts (SMEs) to sustain the implementation and not start breaking along the way as people and processes change, and you integrate new companies into your organization. It’s crucial to think about it upfront as part of your project plan on what you’re going to do on day one when you take it over and then how you want to sustain it. Wendy suggested always gathering feedback from users and the team’s experience within the ERP to learn where there’s an opportunity for continued improvement. It’s also important to stay up to date about updates and enhancements with your ERP provider. One of the tools recommended is NetSuite, which is ideal for supply chain and WD clients who are busy and want to go do their job rather than sit at the computer all day.
It’s how the users are most of the time going to react, so they’re not sitting there monitoring their feeds, their dashboards, or their new release portlets. Or, you know, they’re not going to the website to look at LinkedIn. You know, they’re not reaching out actively, going and looking and monitoring whether there’s updates or upgrades. Or, then with NetSuite, you have whole test environments that have to. Sometimes there was a big roll-out recently with NetSuite that affected electronic payments, I think it was last year, but we had to go and test a lot of that for our clients and make sure that, hey, your process, your business process, may change because of this upgrade to your software without having that knowledge. That’s going to turn on whether you want it to or not, and then you miss all of that prep time to prepare your system, your users, your business to adopt those new upgrades or updates, and then all of a sudden you log in the next day, and you can’t do your job. And that affects money. I can’t move money, I can’t pay something, then it’s a big emergency. Then you are paying for emergency services, basically, is what I call them. You are calling a consultant and saying, ‘I don’t care how expensive this is, and I don’t care what you need to do, I need you to come fix it right now.’ And so you, one of the things that I think is important to you, is not only having a consultant, okay, because that is the goal. One day, we are all, we all move through our life cycles, so we all know that we are replaceable from internal resources. So one thing that I truly advocate for a lot with my clients, whether that goes against whether it’s not a good business decision for me or not, is you need to have an admin, okay? That admin is going to replace me as a consultant, but they’re actually going to advocate for you and your business processes a little bit more. So, a systems admin or somebody who knows your ERP very well, and part of their job, part of an admin’s job, is to monitor for updates, upgrades, changes in the way that things are used or, ‘Hey, I got an error 23 times in a row on this record.’ A user is not necessarily going to know how to address that. They’re just going to keep hitting that button like, ‘Go, go, go.’ They’re not realizing that something is wrong in the system. So, I always paper an admin, somebody who knows it, who knows what to look for. But then that person is also going to know when there’s a critical stop or when something is coming up that maybe they aren’t comfortable with, and they can kind of predict the future and say, ‘We are going to need a consultant firm for this. We can look for a competitive partner with to help us with this solution. We don’t have to call 9-1-1 for our computer or our system.’ I mean, so that’s my suggestion. If anything, keep your consultant handy. Actively look for an admin, especially if you’ve been live for a while, and have that admin’s duties include monitoring upgrades, new releases, and things like that, and how to mitigate risk of failure, critical point failures, when your daily operations inside that system.
So that’s another thing that comes up a lot in the ERP space, is investing in bolt-on, what I call bolt-on solutions. So I made my investment in my ERP, I’ve trained my team. Now, I’ve found other niche software solutions that solve something that my ERP doesn’t. How do you go about deciding whether or not to invest in bolt-on solutions, and advice you have for managing those implementations? Because the challenge with that is that can be a very significant investment when you do buy a third party, and then you have to manage that integration with that ERP. Yeah, it’s a great, really great question and very real that we all need to be thinking about. And you look at the tech, I mean, even the different technologies there and suppliers are starting to think about, well, how do I have that flexibility? Because we’ve kind of gone from, you know, just like every industry has, you know, its ebb and flow, all these different types of systems, and then there was the ERP that would handle everything, right? And now it’s starting to migrate more that there are these different systems with the advent of digital and the cloud. So it’s not just, you know, something that as an enterprise or corporation, you’re thinking about, but all the different suppliers are thinking about it too. How do I really integrate with all these other systems? Because there may be organizations that don’t just have one big ERP, they have a lot of different ones. So, you know, we were just talking about how do I maximize what I have in my system. I mean, that’s, it’ll let you repeat, that’s the first thing, you know, that I think is really important for an organization to do is work with your consultant, work with your ERP provider. What do you have? You know, where my procurement team is coming to me and they say they need this, my planning team is coming to me and saying they need to be able to do, you know, predictive planning or they want to be able to take in all types of other external impacts and be able to model, you know, model what’s happening. Do you have that? And I think that’s, you know, that’s absolutely the first place, understand what your ERP system has before you go out and start saying, “I’m going to bolt this on, I’m going to bolt this on,” and you have a mess. Once understanding that, and if truly the ERP system does not have that capability or it’s going to be too far down the line, then it’s still, you know, what is that bolt-on system? And you have to start doing that assessment of, “Well, who can do that, and who has the capability to link into and mold onto my existing ERP?” So it kind of starts to have a ripple effect, but it’s, you know, going through that same process that you just went through, or you may have gone through, or you should have gone through to determine your ERP system. “I want to bolt this on, these are the different capabilities, who has those capabilities, have they done this integration before, can I identify a consultant to help me?” But then also recognizing there’s probably not just one function that’s asking for that bolt-on, right? I said procurement and planning, but what about your sales and your marketing teams that are looking for pricing, right? They may need pricing tools that they want to be able to, or you’re looking at a control tower, right? Everyone’s trying to figure out what’s, you know, what does the control tower look like, how do I use that? So then what are the priorities, and you start
So, then, what are the priorities? And you start by backing yourself up with your organizational strategy – what’s your enterprise architecture? That’s an area that I think is critically important. What’s the enterprise architecture, and within that, the priorities, to help make the decision which one of these systems am I going to invest in, and then who is the supplier of that system? So there’s so many different layers to it, but certainly, what is my corporate strategy, what’s that enterprise architecture before you start just bolting on, because every function is going to have “I need this, I need that.” Where do we get the value? How’s it going to help us to achieve our strategy and our growth ultimately for the corporation and the enterprise? Beth Sam Goop in the audience says, “Could not agree with you more, Beth. Understand what your current ERP system has first.
So, Lauren, you have a unique perspective on this subject because NetSuite is very partner-friendly and was an ERP that was built to almost encourage companies to integrate and work with third parties, which is a little bit unique in the ERP space. So, what are your thoughts on companies looking for third-party solutions to integrate with something like NetSuite?
Yes, we are. You can shop and plug and play and add accessories. I like to say accessorize NetSuite with basically anything, but that comes with the challenge in itself. The availability of accessories can become very tacky very quickly. It also is about prioritization, like what Beth was mentioning. You have all of a sudden supply chain comes to you, and the head guy in supply chain says, ‘I can’t do this, this and this in NetSuite, or it’s too slow, or we messed up,’ or it’s just a very emotional or a very urgent issue right now. The thing with NetSuite is that small problem, like what Beth was saying, that small problem could probably be solved pretty quickly with a small solution because there are multiple solutions out there. So you can go and buy a very small solution and bolt it on to solve the problem right then. However, this problem, without really having good consultants or good companies to work with that say, ‘You know, I’m seeing the beginning of a ripple effect here. You’re running into this issue, but I’ve worked with clients in the past that it starts here, but in about a year, six months, you’re going to scale, and that problem that you just that solution that you’re looking for is not going to help you in six months when the next wave comes within your business organization because it’s usually not. Especially with NetSuite, there are system limitations and there are things that are a little bit more difficult to manage. NetSuite is notorious for being a little difficult with process manufacturing, so there are a lot of bolt-ons or like what SourceDay does, PO automation. You know how difficult it can be to go and manage those POs individually in bulk. So, do we go with something evaluating whether you go with something that immediately puts a Band-Aid that stops the bleeding right then, but probably will come off?
So am I putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole, or am I going and looking for something that’s actually going to heal the issue and stay with me as this issue gets bigger? As I continue to scale, and as I continue to bump through the dark as a company, startups are notorious for saying, “I want to buy the other side of this coin,” and startups do this. “I’m gonna buy the biggest thing I can buy. I’m gonna buy the WMS, the TMS, IPO automation. I’m gonna buy all these little things and add it all on,” and then I’m just like this walking grandpa through a thrift store is how I picture it when I see these big systems like that. They’ve got a hat and they’ve got bracelets and two watches, and you’re like, “But you didn’t really need this. I don’t feel like you needed all of these little things.” But that comes with trust with your consultants. Okay, is your consulting firm or are your people that you’re trusting selling you everything, and that maybe you don’t need just because you’re being very, “I need I needed to fix this. I needed to fix this. I want to do this maybe one day in the future.” Or are they really trying to dig deep into what your goals are as a business or as an enterprise, what your challenges are daily, versus do they have knowledge of what challenges you could face in the future to help you select the right add-ons, partnerships from the ERP side between, so for my company, I work with intimate partners, and we work with SourceDay. I can trust Sarah. I can trust SourceDay. I know that I’m not going to oversell my clients. I’m really trying hard because I know myself. I’m trying hard to evaluate my client’s needs and really discuss this openly and transparently with them. I’m not a salesman by trade, so I’m just trying to fix your problem, so therefore, I’m going to turn to other solution providers that I also know are also trying to do that for my clients and not oversell me. So long-winded version of that is partnerships, but in the ERP space between third-party providers, implementation provider, solution providers, and managed services like what I do, as well as clear needs and industry knowledge that that consultancy or that third party can provide to the client who’s asking it. I don’t work for SourceDay, but I know I don’t know all of the questions SourceDay typically get, but I do trust SourceDay to be able to come to my client with me or come directly to my client and provide answers to them. So really bonding here, lots of bonding, and not overselling, but not underselling, just to put Band-Aids on bullet holes. There’s a lot of imagery here to help with that. That’s how I talk to my clients too, so I love the accessory analogy. That was a good one. I may have to borrow that. Anna McGovern is in the house. Beth knows Anna. Anna is a dear friend of mine, so hello, Anna. Thank you for joining. Sam calls out Anna had to decide between the Yankees game and the women in ERP. Seems like her priority is women in ERP today. Good choice, Anna. So I want to close out our conversation today. I’m going to switch gears a little bit. We were kind of going in a nice flow, but I have something that is just really top of mind that I want to address with these three ladies today, and that is about crappy data in the ERP. Almost every buyer that I speak to complains about the data in their ERP, and that they do not trust it, and it’s a point of contention and it’s a point of frustration. So we’d like to have each of you share a thought or insight about, one, why is the data in ERP so crappy? And what should companies be doing to maintain and clean up the data and keep it clean? So, Wendy I’ll start with you.
That is a great question. I don’t know that there’s any easy answer. I think, you know, Lauren spoke of the importance of hiring an admin, like I think that it starts with that, you know, that role kind of overseeing, at least helping to keep data clean. But when you have so many people on a team, it can seem like an exercise in futility to keep data clean. But I think it does start with processes, establishing those, you know, standard operating procedures and processes, and really instilling in team members to adhere to those. That’s in a perfect world. I don’t know what the answer is. That would be. I’ve had some luck with that in my experience, but it certainly is a challenge, and you know your data is guiding your business decisions, so it is extremely important. But I would say it starts with your processes and procedures, and then you know, like Beth spoke of, you know, center of excellence and ensuring people are, you know, educated and trained appropriately. That would be the answer in a perfect world. But, so Beth, what can companies do to clean up the data in their ERP, and then second point of that, and I think more importantly, is keeping it clean?
Yeah, yeah, I think the very first thing is admitting that you have a problem, you know, we data is absolutely right, that’s the linchpin of any successful system or ERP. Nobody wants to own it, and then all of a sudden it’s like, okay, well, everybody everybody owns it. I recall several several years ago, and we had started a project to clean up our data, and it was being led by the IT team, but it doesn’t own the data, right? So, you got to figure out, you know, who owns the data? It’s the function. There’s certain data that is commercial data, there’s certain data that is finance data, there’s certain that’s planning or manufacturing or procurement. We spent in my previous company, we spent a good six months just back and forth between planning, manufacturing, and procurement about lead times and PDT, and it was, it was like this, right? People were just, you know, and so one, admitting that you have a problem, and then really organization, you know, I tend to say, you know, you heard me say, just like with the Enterprise architecture and with the corporate strategy, but it’s very important to have leadership in your organization to say, this is important, right? We talked about having, you know, somebody in a systems admin, which is a key part of that, but having someone or people’s role that they are responsible for that data in every transaction that they do. They want to make sure that they’re keeping their data clean, and they understand what is master data and how that flows through the entire, you know, process and the organization.
So, because it’s each of us as an individual, it’s our responsibility wherever you touch that process, you need to keep that data clean. And then I mentioned about a CoE. There can be lots of different types of CoEs, but for data, how do you keep that clean and make it sustainable? Well, who owns what? What is the master data? Define it. Who owns a particular piece? Because it’s not one function that owns all master data. Like I said, each function has data. And then, what is the process and the governance by which you’re going to use to be able to routinely look at and clean so that whether you had it maybe manual at first, but there are systems. We talk about photons and all right, there are systems and tools out there that can help you to look, and you know they’re looking whether it’s daily or weekly. You know these are outside of this data is outside of the parameters by which we want to manage. Okay, who owns that? “Here, Bob, these pieces of data are outside of our operating parameters. These need to be cleaned up by X period of time.” And then that comes back to that CoE or whoever is managing that, and then okay, you know they’re 90% compliant, great. This organization is only 60% compliant. Why is that? So establishing that governance, that you know who owns what, defining master data, all of those are really key components of that process of managing, keeping it clean, so that ultimately our systems, whether it’s an ERP or a planning system, whichever that system is, is operating optimally. But first, recognize that there is a problem, and data is super important. So, Beth Sam says, “I think the better question should be, who owns data governance? Everybody wants to be a yummy dessert, but who is responsible to make sure it’s going to turn out to be yummy?” Yeah, that’s a great, such a key point, Sam. And I know we’re running out of time, but just, you know, to come, you know, how do you start, right? Where do you start? Do you start out and say, “Okay, we’re putting in data governance, and it’s going to go across this two, three, four billion dollar, 10 billion dollar company?” Or do you start small and say, “You know, we’re going to start, everybody, you know, start working on your data. We’re going to start and organize this, whether it’s finance or it’s procurement. We’re going to start setting up the tools and that governance and rules within this realm, but then gradually start to roll it out around the organization.” So it’s a, you’re right, Sam. I mean, who owns the governance? You have to start somewhere. Absolutely. So I want to give a shout out again to Jennifer in the audience who is on day two of her new job at Epicor. So congratulations to you. She’s been a great partner and a great friend of ours. Our next show is Tuesday, June 6th at noon Central. Again, Kristina and I host this show every single month. That’s first Tuesday of the month to bring a community together to talk about what is happening in the ERP space. And we love to shout out and highlight the women in the industry. So as you’ll see, we do all female panels. And I want to encourage you each to reach out to Wendy, Lauren, and Beth on LinkedIn, connect with them, send them a note, follow them. They are doing really, really impressive work in the space and want to make sure that we don’t miss any of the wisdom that we have to share. With that, wishing everyone a wonderful afternoon and we will see you again next month.