Women in ERP – October 2023
Aimee Keenan, BobbieJo Bawcum and Sara Duff
Hello everyone! Welcome to our Women in ERP show. Happy Tuesday, and happy Tuesday to everyone that’s joining us from everywhere. We do have a special guest today joining us from the UK; she’s one of our panelists today, Sara Duff. So, Sara, thank you for joining us from the UK. It’s always great when we get people from all over the world to join these conversations. Yeah, you bet.
So, for those of you new to Women and ERP, this is a show that Sarah Scudder 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. I’m Kris Harrington, CEO of GenAlpha Technologies and your show host. I’ve been working with ERP, many different ERP solutions across my experience over the last 20 years, so I certainly enjoy learning from these ladies, but I also love hearing the different stories as well.
You have a special treat today because I’m joined by Amiee, BobbieJo, and Sara. They have a wide range of ERP experience, and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories with us today to kick off our show.
I want to send a big shout out and thank you to our sponsors: SourceDay, WBSRocks, and GenAlpha. I also want to ask you to engage with us in the comments throughout the show and post your questions at any time. Please, please say hello and let us know where you’re joining us from. With that, let’s get started.
All right, BobbieJo, I’m going to start with you today. Please tell us just a little bit about your ERP experience and share one fun fact about you.
So, I actually started out kind of going into the deep end with SAP power user training when I first got into procurement, so that was an eye-opening experience, and it really set me up for success in my subsequent organizations because I ended up going through an SAP implementation for another company from start to finish. Scrubbing through master data, transitioning all of our purchase orders, and things of that nature over. So, it’s been quite a journey to learn how different organizations operate outside of SAP and then transition into SAP, some organizations transitioning out of them. I’ve actually worked for an organization that does not have an ERP system, and they do everything with Excel, which is a challenge. So, just that journey from starting in the deep end has been very, very helpful.
Yeah, you know, I have an employee on our team here that says that she speaks Japanese because she knows SAP so well, and I think that’s kind of what happens when you get to know one ERP system so well. And it’s amazing how much things translate into other systems; it’s just different lingo and ways you think about it and where you go to access that information. So, is there a unique interesting fact about you that you’d like to share with all of us?
I actually was a competitive roller skater for 20 years, and I have four national titles. I have two silver medals, a third, and a gold. That is awesome! So, is it like roller derby, or it’s separate from that? It’s just like artistic ice skating but on wheels.
Okay, can we find you on YouTube? I actually don’t know; I’ve never looked. I would love to see that; you now have me interested. I always say if there’s something true about reincarnation, I want to come back as an Olympian; I really don’t care what sport it is; I just love to play sports and I want to be a DJ, so my next life, I will not work in manufacturing; I will be an Olympian and DJ. Well, that sounds like an exciting life! Well, thanks for that fun fact about you.
So, first question for you today, BobbieJo: With more women getting into supply chain and procurement roles, how do you see the business world evolving?
I think that we still have a way to go before we get to a place where we’re really making an impact. I know that I’m seeing a lot more women in the procurement space, but in terms of the full supply chain, there are very few women still in logistics, very few women in warehouse and operations. And I think that the more we encourage women to join those fields, I think that it’s going to soften that environment because they’re traditionally harsh, brutal in some fields. So, I think we’ll see greater collaboration across corporations when we’re working cross-functionally, when we’re making business deals with our suppliers. I think you’ll see a lot more of that collaboration between teams.
Yeah, I’m curious if that’s your experience as well, maybe both you, Sara and Amiee, are you finding a lot more women coming to procurement roles as you experience different businesses and work alongside businesses?
I think in the UK, the figure at the moment is generally across the sectors about 50% of women in the workforce. In manufacturing, it’s about 25%, and as you get into senior positions in manufacturing and manufacturing directors and on the board, I think it drops to about 14-15%. There’s a lot of work that various trade associations, like Make UK, which is the biggest manufacturing trade association representing about 25,000 manufacturers in the UK, there’s a lot of lobbying of the UK government to make it, especially starting with schools and colleges, to get people even interested in manufacturing.
We have a big challenge here in the UK about people’s general perception of manufacturing. I mean, I meet people in my personal career who go, “Well, what sector do you work in? Manufacturing? Do we still do any manufacturing in the UK?” I mean, we’re very proud; we’ve just overtaken France to be the eighth manufacturing nation globally, and we’ve got some really incredible manufacturing companies, not just the traditional job shops or precision engineers, but some really advanced manufacturing going on. But there’s definitely a need for more women to join, and a lot of that starts at school with the younger generation seeing that manufacturing is a sector they want to join.
Yeah, any comments from you, Amiee?
So, I’m more on the sales and marketing side of things, and I’d have to say, you know, I’ve been in this channel a very long time, and I’m not going to say when, but it’s been a very long time. In the beginning, when I first started out, there were very few women in Channel sales marketing roles. I remember going to a conference, I’m not going to say which one, but I remember going to this conference for one of the ISVs I worked for. We were a sponsor, and they had like a partner kickoff meeting right before it started. I was probably one of the only few women in there, and I know it’s definitely changed and evolved over the years, and thank God there’s a lot more women that we see at these conferences. But yeah, it was weird; it was very weird being one of the only few women in that room. Yeah, yeah, you know, I just attended the Women in Manufacturing Summit in San Diego last week, and it was the most well-attended show in its history. It is a show for both males and females; it’s a show for everyone, really; it’s for allies as well, and the community experience of it is so wonderful.
And I think there are some really interesting issues that come up, but for those of us that have loved our career in manufacturing, we certainly want to advocate for more women in manufacturing. I think here in the US, again, we’re 50% women in the workforce, but only 30% in manufacturing, which means that women could fill a lot of the key roles that are open; we just have to find a way to attract them. So, I think that would certainly be my comments on that. And I have heard, if we talk specifically about procurement, and I don’t know if this is true, but I’ll just say it, that women make good buyers. I’ve heard that historically, women really excel at that purchasing position, so you would think that it would be a great place for women to kind of enter into manufacturing and potentially expand from there, but of course, there are so many roles where women could play a role.
All right, Sara, I’m going to move to you next. Please tell us a bit about your ERP experience, and then share one fun fact about you as well.
Okay, so I’ve probably had the least amount of direct years in manufacturing. I spent a lot of time in corporate IT and Telecom, selling cloud-based software, so that sort of put me in good stead for the work that I’m doing now. But it was probably just over five years ago, and my first experience with manufacturing software was with a US software company, a company called Shoptech, who now, recently, well, they sold out to E2i, but they had a job shopping piece of software. They were looking for a partner in the UK; we were already doing a lot of work as our business. We implemented ISO standards, so we were doing a lot of work in manufacturing, which is a big sector for ISO standards, and they said, “How would you like to work with us to help us introduce the software?” My fellow director is an ex-operations director at a number of electronics and manufacturing companies; he’d worked with Syspro as an ERP platform. So as a combination, we were probably a good match. So we did all of the big manufacturing shows; we got to know that software really well. And then they dealt us a great blow just when COVID started, to say we’ve looked at our ROI, we haven’t quite seen the right results yet, so we’re going to retract to the US. But by that stage, we’ve got a huge amount of experience; we started coming across other ERP platforms, so we had a big pipeline to fill, and we’ve taken off since then, and we work with several MRP platforms, so we’ve got good experience across the board.
But for us, it’s really about making sure that the processes are optimized first; it’s seriously planned, and we can act as that independent between the manufacturer and those software vendors.
Interesting fact about me, sorry, BobbieJo, I think you’ve definitely beaten me to it. I’m thinking, what can I say that’s even half of interest? But I guess my claim to fame, although I’ve never seen the end result, was I was once interviewed by a Japanese film/TV company many moons ago because my youngest daughter, it’ll be coming up to 25, so it’s probably about 23 years ago. So I was working for BT at the time, which was quite a pioneer in the world of flexible working, and Japan at the time was looking to introduce flexible working. So they came to BT as a big player in that market and said, “Have you got examples of women who’ve come back after their children were born, and can we do a film?” So I had them filming me for two days in my house, simulating my first thing in the morning with my dressing gown on, at four o’clock in the afternoon with my neighbors peering in, “What’s going on here?” And then touring me on a local train station, moving people out of the way, and “What is this woman?” So, yeah, it was interesting. I’ve never actually seen the film. What a shame. Don’t know if I’m even famous out in Japan.
Oh, well, you need to find that; I think that would be wonderful for your family as well to see that. Thank you for sharing that with us. We’re all gonna have to go out and search and see if we can help Sara find that. Thank you.
All right, the first question for you today is: What are the main obstacles getting in the way of small manufacturers adopting ERP software?
I think a lot is fear of technology, and this comes a lot from the age. So I think the average age of anybody in the manufacturing sector in the UK is 52 years of age, and boy, have I seen a lot of much older generations. So technology they haven’t grown up with the technology, and there’s a lot of fear, there’s lots of jargon going around manufacturing in the UK about industry 4.0, smart factory, where do we start, we don’t understand all of this jargon. So sometimes it just comes in that we’ll just avoid it because we don’t really understand it. So the fear factor is certainly key. I think the perceived cost, you know, there are big platforms, some of them we mentioned earlier in this conversation, but for small manufacturers, you know, certainly in the UK, there’s a good supply of systems that have been specifically designed and specced so that they’re within the usability and also the affordability. But a lot of companies have heard big stories about big multi-million-pound transformations, and that took months and months, if not years, and so they tend to think that’s, and the same, gosh, we’ll avoid that. I think time, you know, we see a lot of manufacturing companies, they’ve got so many other challenges hitting them at the moment, so they’re just in their, you know, their treadmill, if you like, and just continuing to do their manufacturing, and it’s all, I don’t have the time to look at this, it’s all too hard, we’ve always operated it this way, we’ll just continue. So I think, you know, those are some of the key factors that we see as being resistance. Yeah, yeah, you know, thanks for mentioning the fear of technology because I think that’s an underlying one that often people aren’t really openly admitting or it’s there but it’s just not expressed so much in words, so I think that is a really key component. And I certainly know that the perceived cost, so many companies struggle on how to get that ROI right, and if you certainly if you don’t have adoption, wide-range adoption of the tool that you’ve just invested in across the business, then it becomes very difficult to get what you originally expected to get out of any solution. So I think there is the perception of cost and then that other concept of how do we ensure that we get the ROI that we’re expecting when we make this investment. So very, very good points there.
All right, Amiee, I’m moving to you. Can you just tell us about your ERP experience and one fun fact about you, please?
Sure. So I’ve been in the ERP space for a long time, over 20 years, and originally started just in Great Plains back in the day. Now it’s Microsoft Dynamics GP. And over the years, I’ve had the fortunate to be able to work in various ERPs based on the ISB that I’ve worked for. So it’s been Dynamics GP; it’s been SAP; it’s been Infor; Epicor; Sage; NetSuite; I think probably almost all of them and Acumatica. You name it, I’ve done marketing and sales and channel enablement in all of those different ERPs. So, it’s been interesting how it’s evolved. It’s been interesting to see how the different ecosystems are the same but different. Sure, and definitely learned a lot over the years. So, I have deep ERP experience but overall ecosystem experience, partner-related, channel-related experience.
Yeah, I’m sure it surprises you sometimes how much you actually do know when you have that cross-functional view of all of the different systems. You probably know a lot more than you think you do, even so.
Yeah, some interesting fact about you?
Sure. So if a lot of people who do know me know, I’m a fitness junkie. I’ve, for a very long time, did a lot of road races. I did a half Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which I highly recommend anybody doing a Disney race; it’s very, very fun. And then I switched over to Sprint triathlons for a while and done quite a few of those, which is really fun too. But I’m not a fan of swimming in the water with a bunch of other people splashing and kicking, so I try not to do those anymore. Now I’m kind of sticking to at-home online workouts, especially since COVID happened. So it made the transition there. But yeah.
All right, well, so the next event will have to be watching for you on the road races to see if we see you go by. Make sure you let us know if you’re in our city so we can hold a sign. That’s awesome. So, a question for you, what do ISVs struggle with when expanding into new ERPs?
Sure, and I’ve had experience with this firsthand for a number of different ISVs that I worked for and worked for in the past. So I would think a lot of us lack the expertise and knowledge of those different ERP ecosystems. We automatically think, ‘Hey, our solution works great in this ERP, so it should work great in that ERP too.’ And I feel like we have to just take a step back, make sure we understand the ERP, make sure we understand the solution, and our solution, how it plays into that environment. Because who knows, maybe it works, maybe they already have that functionality in that ERP. Maybe they don’t. Maybe there’s a ton of ISVs already, like AP automation, for example. There’s a ton of ISVs that do AP automation. So, really, I feel like to take a step back and understand that first, make sure it’s a fit before we decide, ‘Hey, we’re going to enter this new ecosystem.’ Obviously, understanding the competitive landscape, and then it all trickles down from there once you get into that ERP and building those relationships with partners, making sure you’re having the right messaging, making sure you’re creating content that’s engaging and informative, and starting… It’s almost like starting from scratch in a way because you are going into this new ERP ecosystem. There are partners that are going to cross over and overlap, but you are going to have to do some research and analyze, and maybe something that works for one ERP ecosystem doesn’t work in this one. So, it’s trial and error as well.
Yeah, any thoughts on training, I imagine?
Yeah. So I guess it depends on the ERP because some are different. Some of them require you to be certified or trained in specific modules for whatever product that you are integrating or customizing to. So I definitely feel like we should know the ERP, maybe not obviously in-depth like we’re going to be selling it, but know it from a standpoint where, ‘Hey, this is how our solution fits into this ERP. This is how we help this ERP.’ Great, thank you.
You’re welcome. All right, BobbieJo, I’m going to move back to you. How do you think AI will shape ERP processes in the future?
You know, again, I was just at two conferences in September, and I will tell you that in the breakout sessions and many of the moderated keynote speaking sessions, AI was a really big topic. So how do we look at that inside ERP? What are your thoughts on that?
I think it’s really interesting that you bring that up. I was at a supply chain conference back in May, and again, I mean, just like you mentioned, it’s such a hot topic that everyone’s talking about. I think the exciting piece of it is being able to leverage the technology to catch mistakes. I think that’s going to be big, especially when it comes to procurement. That’s going to be a big impactful component. We actually started one of the companies I no longer work for, but one of the companies I worked for, we started developing an in-house algorithmic procurement tool which leveraged historical data, forecast data, married the two, pulled in capacity, and started to look at lead times and market data and collaborated all of that information into a dashboard that tells you, ‘Okay, this is changing here. This is an opportunity here to be more efficient.’ So I think that early adopters of the technology are going to be the pioneers. They’re going to work through all of the kinks, if you will. And then eventually, it’ll roll out, I hope, to make more procurement folks’ lives easier. There’s definitely that big divide where you see individuals really hesitate to adopt because they’re afraid that it’s going to take over jobs, it’s going to have catastrophic failures. But then you also see the other side of it where once you do adopt this technology, it can make our lives so much easier, make our work more efficient. I think Chase just announced that they’re targeting a three and a half-day workweek because they can leverage AI technology. Yeah, work-life balance is going to be an attractive element for a lot of people. So, that increased work-life balance is going to be, hopefully, the carrot to get everyone over the hump. Yeah.
Yeah, I think certainly there’s a security aspect that lots of people talk about when they talk about AI. So I think you can’t not talk about that. And then the fears that people have, those are real fears for people that have to be overcome. But I think if we remember that technology has been assisting us throughout our lifetimes and across the many different generations in assisting us to do our jobs better, if we can use AI in that same way, with that same methodology, I really think that’s where a tremendous amount of breakthroughs are going to come. And some of the… when you talk specifically about procurement inside ERP and all the different reports that you would have to pull before, so the reports were there, the data was there, but then somebody would have to do the analysis to do the decision-making. If you could have the insights and something is already pulling that data and then giving you recommendations, where now the person just has to think about those recommendations and whether they’re going to say yes or no to them.
It’s a very different reality, right? And it could really assist. I know that there are so many procurement people that stay after hours to get their last requisitions in, and they have to do this research to understand if they should increase their MQ or their whatever it might be. They’re thinking about those things constantly, and if there was just a place that they could go to say, ‘This for this part, this for this part, this for this part,’ and then they do some checks and say, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna pull that trigger,’ it could be a huge improvement. I mean, that’s the whole appeal of a dashboard from a procurement standpoint, so you can see all that data in one place, and you’re not looking at your master data fields over here for your lead time and your minimum order quantities and your capacity and your warehouse over here. You know, how many pallet positions do I have remaining, and where’s my safety stock level, right? So it helps build all of that in so that you’re right. You’re not spending an extra two hours a day cross-referencing all of your information just to make a decision. Yeah. No, I look forward to seeing how it changes things. So, thanks for sharing your ideas on that.
Sara, what are the main benefits that implementing an MRP system will bring to small manufacturers?
I think, first and foremost, it will support improved collaboration. So we see lots of small manufacturers in the UK still working from disparate spreadsheets, and often a spread, and then there’ll be another stakeholder who’s built up another spreadsheet, and they’re all working in their silos. I think, you know, first and foremost, it joins up that organization. They’re all seeing from the same hymn sheet. They’ve got a single system that they’re accessing, albeit at different levels and different functionality. So it certainly gives that joined-up view. I think BobbieJo mentioned a dashboard. I mean, we see again so many small manufacturers who’ve been utilizing all of those different spreadsheets, and even if they are being kept up to date and the information is accurate, often not because it’s just too painful, and some of them are so sophisticated they’re not usable. They’ve been built by the MD. You know, and then they’re just not being kept up to date. So that dashboard that gives people that single version of the truth, as often we call it, of all the information in one place is so valuable. I think we also see the biggest sort of pain point that manufacturers come to us with is, you know, the control or lack of control over their inventory. You know, they’re either overstocking, and therefore that’s an impact on their cash flow, or they go to start a job, and oh God, somebody hasn’t ordered that raw material. So the in-control management is key. From the shop floor staff, you know, the production scheduling, you know, often we were at a manufacturing company locally to us last week doing some process mapping work for them, and they said the amount of time they’re spending, not just on scheduling a job, but then they’ll be told that that particular material that’s not suitable for that customer anymore, the cost has gone up, they’ve got to find another one. So they’re rejigging all the time. That manual work. So the production scheduling efficiency, absolutely. And I think a lot of manufacturers want to be able to give, you know, that accurate lead time to their customers and make sure if they have quo a lead time, they can deliver it. I mean, we’ve seen examples where companies haven’t got an ERP system, and a customer calls, ‘Oh, is my job still on track for next Thursday?’ And literally, as often the production manager is running around the factory going, ‘Oh my God, is it? Oh my God, it’s five days behind schedule. Who’s going to be the brave soul that’s going to tell that customer that?’ So, I think the customer satisfaction as well, and also I mean, we’ve got a lot of, and I mentioned that earlier, we’ve got a lot of talk about Industry 4.0 and AI and sensors, but you know, there’s so many small manufacturers that we deal with which are miles away from that, and at least if they move away from those spreadsheets, get onto a cloud-based ERP platform that’s relatively easy for them to use, so they can get that adoption. They can get all that information real-time. They can start really making a big difference to their business, and they can start having that information that will allow them to make those changes to the business or get into bigger customers, bigger markets. So, a huge range of benefits, but yeah, it’s about the starting point, and I think joining up an organization is key. Yeah, yeah. I hope all of our manufacturing friends are listening because I will tell you that I meet with a lot of companies. I’m more on the e-commerce, so the customer-facing end or the dealer-facing end, so they’re using, we’re integrating to ERP systems to display information to customers to make their buying decisions, and in the 12 years that we’ve been in business, we continue to hear about the fear of display inventory. So most, if it’s in stock, they feel good saying it’s in stock, you know, and the count. So, as long as they have the good mechanism and routine accounts and things in place, they feel good about that. But when, if it’s out of stock and when it’s going to be available, they are so concerned about those lead times and the messaging related to that, and you know, a foundation to having a good customer experience is to make sure that that information is as accurate as you can make it. Of course, things are going to happen in the world, we have to take some chances, right? But not everything should be taking chances. You should have a good system in place to know what your inventory is or when it will be replenished, when it’s not available. So, some great points there.
All right, Amiee, this one goes to your marketing experience, and I have a heart for marketing and sales as well, so I’m curious, does marketing have a role to play in ERP, and if so, what is it?
Yeah, so it definitely does have a role to play, and I feel like you have to have marketing to do anything, right? If you don’t have marketing, how are you selling anything? How are you getting your content out in the world? How are you getting your education? How are you informing customers? How are you informing prospects? I mean, that all kind of ties in together, so you definitely need marketing, kind of that hub, so to speak, to basically provide that education. So, yeah, like you mentioned, you have that stock that’s low, wouldn’t it be nice to say, ‘Hey, customers that are interested in this inventory item, we only have two left.’ You send them an email saying there’s only two left. If you really want this, it’s time to get it now. I mean, we can get those insights. We can really drill down and bring that customized email to those people that we want to bring it to, which is really awesome nowadays. And you can really customize the experience. I mean, there’s just a ton. And relating to BobbieJo’s AI question, I mean, obviously, AI is playing a huge role in marketing right now, and a lot of us feel like, ‘Hey, is AI going to take our job?’ And obviously, it’s not going to take our job; it’s going to make our lives easier, like everybody else, and we can really leverage the AI technology to craft those better messages. Obviously, we won’t use it word for word because we still have to put our brand, our voice behind it, but just think of how much time it can save because we all get writer’s block, and we all get, ‘Hey, I want to really say this question this way,’ or, ‘I want to reword this to sound like this.’ So, obviously, AI can be a huge tool to help us really craft our message and pinpoint our message and really get it specific because the more specific you are, AI, the better turnout or better information you’ll get back from it. So, that is going to play a huge role coming forward into the years of marketing and sales, and I know it’s going to be a huge turning point for a lot of us and being able to leverage that technology as well from a marketing and sales standpoint. So, don’t be afraid of it. Automation is huge, obviously, and in our space and being able to automate all of our information that we like to share from a marketing perspective, leveraging social media, obviously, like we are today, like LinkedIn, I think is the prime example of social media and how we can leverage it to our advantage, doing these LinkedIn Live events and providing that educational, informational content that LinkedIn likes.
So leveraging the platforms the way you should leverage them is so important, and just getting your name and brand out there in a consistent way, which I think is even the most important thing because no one’s going to know who you are if you’re not consistent. Yeah, well, I love that you’re bringing Mar marketing into this conversation, and for all of my engineer friends, I’m going to ask you to plug your ears right now. But you made me think of something while you were talking, and what if marketers were responsible for filling in the commercial description box inside the ERP system? So when you do integrate to your website and other systems, you’re pulling a marketed product description rather than all of the, you know, abbreviation things. You know most companies put their Engineers, yes, in charge of creating the engineer description, which that’s probably the appropriate field for them is to have that very specific engineering description. But when we all convert that into something that the customers going to experience, it’s just jargon or it doesn’t mean anything to any of us. And that’s certainly not what people are Google searching for that eventually you want to bring back into your system. So if we’re going to connect all these things together, it would be great if companies would pull marketing into setting up some of these things that will be used in other areas. So I, I, you know what you were saying really triggered that for me, so, oh good, good. All right, so let’s move to the next question. I’m BobbieJo. I’m going to come back to you. What aspect of the process is most critical in terms of accuracy and completeness? Oh, hands down and 100%, Master data. It’s, it’s, I don’t, I think you could ask that question across a thousand people, and maybe one would say something different, but it’s, it’s so critical because you can have one tiny aspect be off in your master data set, whether it’s a raw material, a finished good, a WIP item. You could have one minor little something off, and it throws everything off before and after it. If your lead time is wrong, if you have a WIP item that has a shelf life on it when it comes to food manufacturing, if that shelf life is wrong, and you go into to use that product that you’ve made and it’s spoiled, you have to go all the way back, and you’re losing dollars and you’re losing time and you’re losing service level and order fill. If your pal counts, pounds per pallet is off, your Warehouse capacity model is completely off, and you could run out of space very quickly. So I think that Master data, hands down, is, is, it’s most impactful across the entire supply chain, the entire ERP, the entire business. Yep, Master data, item Master, customer Master, what am I missing, are those the big ones, or are your vendor master, vend Master, yep, no that’s, that’s great. And I would say, you know, this is such an interesting one because you still have to move and do the work, so people get so concerned about the data that sometimes they can’t get started with things. So, you know, there has to be a mechanism to go back as well, so process, because you are going to have some things that are off, but make sure that you build in checks right to mitigate those risks when mistakes are happening. Go ahead, yeah, no, and it’s interesting that you bring that up. We actually, one of my projects the last couple of months has been to build that process for my current organization, a master data audit process where you’re comparing your system with actuals. So you’re leveraging your buyers to go back out to your suppliers and ask them to validate and just make sure do we have this correct in our system. This will help us plan, and this will help us give you your proper lead time. It’ll give us an opportunity to correct any of our payment terms that might be off on our vendor master. So, and that impacts cash flow. So if we have a vendor that’s set up as Net 10, but they actually on their side have given us Net 30 Terms, then you’re saving that 20 days of cash flow right by extending it out. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s absolutely critical, and I think it’s a piece that a lot of organizations miss is to go back and have those regular audits where you’re looking at the monthly, quarterly, annually, some at some regular Cadence. Yeah, thanks for mentioning that, because I think that’s, that’s a solution right, so make the changes that you need to do, don’t be afraid to make those changes, and then set up these audit processes post to make sure that you keep that data accurate, and you know and catch those things that you may have been missed. So I really like that audit process step. Sara, how can small manufacturers ensure that they maximize their Roi from implementing ERP software? I think I’m going back to Basics, and I’ve ceased to be shocked by what I see, and I hope that there’s not too many small manufacturers on this call, but what we see is a lot of them just don’t start off with the requirements capture. So, you know, they’ll talk to a friend or one of their customers or suppliers will say, oh, there’s this great software we’re using, and oh, yeah, we’ll Google it, or they Google it and find it, but they haven’t actually got to what are their requirements, and therefore is that software relevant for them? I mean, we’ve just had an experience with a lighting company that has lots of variations, so there are different lighting fittings and the amounts, so being able to do Matrix bomb functionality to be able to cope with these variations is absolutely key. They’ve spent four or five years with this particular software platform trying to make it work, they haven’t made it work. They’ve brought an external consultant in who’s gone, well, let’s call in the vendor. Oh, you can do Matrix bomb functionality, no, and this is a classic. So getting the requirements right at the front, you know, working out what your KPIs are for your short, your medium, long-term, and then making sure that you’ve got a team of people who either are capable internally of meeting with those software vendors and perhaps asking those awkward questions or getting in an external consultant who’s got that capability to do it, because often we find when we get called into a company who’s maybe gone down one road and they’ve said, but you know, we got a little bit Bamboozled, you know, we didn’t know the difficult questions to ask, and then we got these glossy PowerPoint presentations, or we thought everything reporting that was free or now we find there’s extras because we didn’t know those difficult questions. So I think, you know, perhaps bringing in an external consultant who can ask those difficult questions and act as an intermediary for you can be very helpful. And I would say also not only, obviously having the Buy in and the direction and the commitment from the directors of a company, but also making sure that you bring your people along, where we’ve seen challenges with organizations as well, maybe the MD was absolutely up for it, he knew it was the right thing to do for the business, but then didn’t bring his key stakeholders on at an early enough time, they rebelled because they didn’t understand, and they Pats feared their jobs, that, you know, oh gosh, this is going to take away all of that work that I’m doing, and therefore, you know, they voted with their feet or they just didn’t use the system properly, and therefore, you know, it ended up, or we go back to our spreadsheet. So I think getting the people orientated and then also sort of walking before you run. So we work with um a particular s software platform a lot called MRP or Mr. pey as a lot of our customers call it that’s globally, and I think when people see it, it is relatively easy to use, so they are, you know, very excited, gosh, we can get this in, but then it’s like how quickly can we get it in, and we say to them, stand back, spend some time, but also look at your processes, because they think this magic piece of software, oh, that’s going to be the answer to all my prayers, and they’ve built up habits and systems over 20, 30 years of operation. Unless you look at that system and align it with those processes, then you wonder why it’s not going to work for you. So I think the process piece and then work out, you know, how you’re going to use that software. So if it’s got, you know, free text fields or custom Fields, then work out what is the information reporting wise I want to get out, how do I best set the system up, so you take your time on that, and then very much we always sort of mandate a phase roll out, do things in a methodical logical way rather than, as I said, running before you walk, take that time, and also then do regular assessments with your team and make sure they understand, we, we had a, they manufacture saers here in the UK, and we had, we brought in the whole team under the MD, and you know that we had the sales guys saying, I know the system is going to benefit the business, but you know, I’m a bit worried, what’s it going to mean for me? And I said, well, you’ve just told me that you spend how many hours a day filling the same information in three spreadsheets, that will change, you’ll be putting the information in once in MPS, and literally the guy’s face lit up, and it was like that’s wonderful, it’s going to be save me so much time, I can do the job I really want to do, and the MD was sitting in the corner smiling. But I think bringing the people with you, never underestimate, especially for small companies where they get used to doing things in a certain way. Yeah, no, that’s I, I mean, I just love there’s so many great points about what you just said, you know, the phased approach, but, you know, establishing KPIs, I, I think that’s so critical when you’re, you know, you’re getting into an ERP system and establish the things that you can’t do today that you really want to be able to do afterwards. I, I know in a company that I worked for, and we had subsidiaries around the world, and we wanted to be able to measure our Consolidated margin, so that people were making better decisions in country on what they sold things for. But if we only gave them credit for the in country margin, so if they bought it from the US, it transferred to another country, and so there was a cost to that, but there was also a price that we sold it to, so there was a margin in the US, and then there was a, a margin globally in country to see that Consolidated margin and credit the country for that Consolidated margin because they’re selling it to the end-user was huge for them, and margin has a huge payback to an organization as well. So when you give visibility, H people, you know, they will make different decisions, but sometimes you can’t even give visibility if the data doesn’t exist in a way to pull that out and have it in a dashboard. So, you know, what are the KPIs that we wish you knew about your business that you think would make for Better Business decisions, establish what those are, and make sure the solution that you’re going to put in place will allow you to do that as well. So it’s a great point there.
All right, so Amiee, what is it like building a channel from scratch?
Sure, so geez, I was lucky enough to have been an intern at a company right out of college. I started interning in my senior year, and then when I graduated, they actually hired me. Originally, I was doing marketing for their ERP, which, again, is Great Plains. So, we were doing all this ERP-specific marketing while they were also developing products for these customers, distribution, manufacturing customers, realizing that, hey, a lot of customers could utilize these products, just not ours. So, we’re going to look into becoming an ISV or independent software vendor. They’re like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna need you to help build out a channel once we do this.’ So, I’m like, ‘Oh, okay.’ So, I kind of had to switch my brain around to think more of a channel-specific marketing approach versus what I’ve been doing for the last six-plus months as an intern and then being hired full-time. Back then, we didn’t rely on emails. We didn’t have anything automated, really. It was a lot of fax machines and in-person events, if you can believe that. Like, there were no webinars, no demos online, no. You went to the customer site to do demos; that was the way. No one, you know, it was just a very in-person approach back then, which is also very expensive. So, they used to have five events a year, and that was, we would do all five events just because that’s the only way you could get in front of these people, were doing these in-person events. So, it got really, really expensive. And then, like, I kind of cherish the way it is now a little bit because it’s not as expensive. But we relied on the community, being part of different communities, leveraging thought leaders like you. I mean, just really immersed ourselves in the people that are well-known in the channel, getting to know them, learning about the partner ecosystem. I had to start from scratch, no brochures, website, content creation, partner program, I mean, you name it, I pretty much had to do it. And really, I think the biggest thing is just having marketing and sales be separate but working together. A lot of the times in many of my roles, I was doing both marketing and sales, which can kind of get a little time, not only crazy but, like, just, you know, you’re just exhausted by the end of the day, and it’s hard to switch your brain from marketing to sales, even though they’re very tightly integrated in a company. You still really have to have a different mindset based on what role you’re playing in the company. So, I much prefer to do marketing over sales, I’m not going to lie, but I did get to do both. And really, having consistent messaging, as I mentioned earlier, really being in the forefront of people’s minds, the only way you can do that is through community and relationship building with partners, listening to partners and what they want, what they need from an ISV perspective. Again, leveraging the ERP and knowing where you fit in from your product’s perspective, how you are benefiting this ERP, how you’re benefiting these customers and partners, how they should learn from and take your expertise in whatever industry that you are focused on, which I think Niche is huge, like having a niche and focusing on it, which is really nice. Like, you guys all focus on manufacturing, so that’s awesome, but there’s a lot of people out there that are all over the place with industries, with niches. Like, really try to focus and dial down and be really specific to your target audience, because I think that’s what makes it so beneficial and why people come to you as being leaders in that space because you are focused on a specific niche or industry, and there’s really a ton of content you can create around those. So, don’t feel like you have just because you’re niching down you’ll have less content; it’s actually the total opposite, and you’ll see this triple effect right of what you can create from being able to be really specific in what you help with. And, of course, if I had AI back then, it would probably make my life a lot easier as well. But, yeah, it was a lot of learning, a lot of trial and error because, you know, hey, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I just went with it and tried everything, and whatever worked, I stuck with, and whatever didn’t, obviously went away. So, yeah, it was a long road of learning, a lot, I have to say, but building a channel is a lot of fun, too. Yeah, yeah, I have to say that I like the marketing more than the sales as well, although we all need to sell, right? I mean, that’s how the companies survive. And so, hopefully, our marketing is assisting in the sales process, right? And that’s the biggest key, I think. Marketing is playing a stronger and stronger and stronger role in the way people search for information, and it’s why all of these systems have to connect really well. Right? Because, for the marketer to do their job better and to highlight the attributes of products, it has to come from the ecosystem of where that information even starts. An attribute of a product is the price, and prices often come from the cost, and then there’s a calculation of some kind on a product category, right? And all of this information, an attribute of a part is if it’s available in inventory or not or how quickly it can come, and all of these answers come from the ERP system, right? So, if we really think about marketing and, ultimately, sales, this information that becomes the attributes of the products that we’re selling, it’s so important to have it correct in that system, and it all has to come together. I think about supplier products where sometimes you don’t have the exploded view of the supplier product. So, you buy a whole good from that supplier as well, and then it gets engineered and designed into your whole good. But sometimes, your customers don’t want to buy that whole piece; they just want the bolt and the seal that go on it, you know, that are broken. But oftentimes, you’re just buying it as a whole good. So, how do you get that information all the way through all the different spaces where you need to, where you have that bearing information, you have the bolts, you have the seal information? Good suppliers will help you with all of that. And, you know, some of the best companies I’ve seen have pulled sales teams in or product management, more product management, with the vendor and the purchaser to have conversations together so that the product manager was hearing all the information from that vendor company so that they understood the product better to be able to go market it in your own business. So, yeah, that collaboration, any thoughts on that? I think that you bring up a good point in bringing sales and product development teams out from behind the curtains, right, and in into the procurement space and vice versa and having conversations where these ideas can be generated. I know, in my experience over the last probably five years of my career, it’s been this transition to being more open with your customers, even, and bringing procurement into customer meetings so that because we have this great relationship with our raw material suppliers, and we understand their full capabilities, we should, and and then having that conversation with customers. We can bridge the gap where customer wants; they just want the bolt, they don’t want the kit. So, then we can take that back to our suppliers and say, ‘Hey, what do you have that can help provide a solution for our customer?’ And then bridging all of those efficiency gaps that you have in the middle. So, I think it’s a very interesting, and I early on in my career, I never, I never was involved in customer conversations like that. I think that might be kind of a new phenomenon that’s popped up. Yeah, I, I, I like the suggestion, certainly meeting with the customers, bringing your vendor into the, certainly, it’d have to be the right vendor and in an exclusive relationship where you don’t feel threatened that you’re going to lose that business with your customer. But, in the right scenario, that would be beautiful. So, good. Well, we have three minutes left, so I thought I would give each of you a minute just to share any best advice that you’d like to leave the audience with in their journey of using an ERP, something you’ve learned or you just want to share with people here. I’ll start with you, Sara. I think having an open mindset is important. So, even if you don’t understand the technology, and you may have been doing certain things for years and it’s always worked for you, you know, we’re all in much different environments now. There’s a lot more competitiveness, you know, you need to look at how you can become more efficient, or you’ll be swallowed up. It’s not a question of, ‘We’ll carry on like this,’ we’ll, you know, it may not, we may not thrive, but we’ll continue to survive; you won’t, unless you are open to that change. But I think it’s having and then don’t be worried about bringing in some experts. If you, as a manufacturing company, you don’t understand the technology, you fear it, as from my earlier conversation, bring in people that understand manufacturing, understand technology, can look at your interests, and look at it from a bigger perspective because it, you know, the right technology, implemented correctly, with the right people on board, can really, I’ve seen it, can really drive your business forward. But, yeah, have that open mindset to that change. Thank you.
Amiee, what about you? Yes, and taking a little bit of what Sara said is definitely lever not being that you don’t always have to be the expert in everything or in the ERP, leveraging people outside the ecosystem, bringing in others that know it and hearing from others is just as good, and leveraging people that are just as good in this space and have the niche, and make sure you have your niche and you focus on a niche and not focus on everything. And then, of course, leveraging technology, leveraging AI because it will help you, and it will be a game-changer in your business and helping with process improvement, time spent, and just making everyone’s job easier. Thank you. BobbieJo? I kind of want to build a little bit on something Sara had brought up about KPIs and understanding when you’re going through an ERP implementation or a review, maybe you’re in the decision-making phase, whether you need a new system or not, leveraging KPIs and really understanding where your opportunities are and having a history that you can fall back to and look at and trend and really understand what your business needs to move forward is absolutely critical.
Thank you. And thank you to all you ladies for joining me today and for the audience for listening in. I really appreciate all of your insights and the wisdom that you shared here with us. I hope you will continue to follow the show. We’ll certainly be following you. Our next show will be on November 7th at 1 PM Eastern, so please join us again next month. Have a beautiful day, everyone.