Transcript: Women in ERP – September 2022

Women in ERP – September 2022

Featured Panelists:
Angel Thurman, Clair Mann, Amanda Clossey and Anna Barlas

Hello everyone, welcome to our Women in ERP show. It’s Labor Day week here in the United States. I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I was just telling the ladies that I was with four of my nieces and nephews, and I’m completely exhausted after a family weekend but had a great time. So welcome to all of you in the states who just had your Labor Day weekend. For those of you new to Women in ERP, this is a show Sarah Scudder from SourceDay and I host on the first Tuesday of each month to bring women together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs. Our initiative aims to bring together, educate, and empower women involved with ERP systems. The main theme of this series is to highlight the contributions of women, create social awareness to enhance women’s representation in ERP teams, and highlight their stories. I’m Kris Harrington, president of GenAlpha Technologies and today’s show host. I’ve spent the last 20 years working for and with industrial manufacturers, leveraging the ERP system to deliver better business outcomes, so I’m intimately familiar with all that can go right and all that can go wrong when utilizing an ERP system to manage different business functions. I’m joined by Angela, Clair, and Amanda, and I’m so excited to have all these ladies here today. They have a wide range of ERP experience, and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories with us.

To kick off our show, I want to send a big shout out to our sponsors: SourceDay, WBS Rocks, and GenAlpha Technologies. I also want to ask you to please put in the comments one word to describe your latest ERP project. And ladies, I would welcome you to decide one word that you might want to share with everybody on your latest ERP project when I introduce you as well. Don’t be shy; please engage with us in the comments throughout the show and post your questions anytime. We are here to answer them. This is meant to be interactive, so we would love to hear from anyone in our audience today.

So with that, let’s get started, and Angela, I’m going to start with you. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and share one fun fact about you? Okay, thank you Kris. So, I’m Angela Thurman; I own a project management company in Houston called Thurman Co. I am an electrical engineer with a background primarily in technical project management that spans about 30 years in aerospace and telecommunications. And one fun fact about me, when I was in college, I had the fantastic opportunity to travel to Ecuador with one of my professors and a couple of other students. And I worked for the summer at a shortwave radio station high in the Andes Mountains. It was a missionary radio station called HCJB, and I spent about six weeks or seven weeks there in Ecuador. And I don’t speak Spanish, so it was great. I loved it, and I learned a lot about the culture and just, you know, a lot about engineering. And I came away with a project that eventually led to landing my very first job at NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland. Awesome, sounds like it was well worth it. It was wonderful, oh great.

All right, well, I spent some time in South America, and I spent one week in Ecuador, so I’m very slightly familiar, but I’m sure it was a great experience for you. So the first question for you, Angela, today is how did you get started in ERP systems? Oh yeah, so my first introduction to ERP systems was when I was working for a telecommunications company in Tulsa called WillTel, Williams Telecommunications. And they had what I would just about bet was a homegrown ERP system that was called the F&E system – Facilities and Equipment system. And so, it kept an inventory of all of the physical equipment for the entire network. It kept all the financial information, all the customer information, but it also kept what I think is kind of unusual, an inventory of the non-physical assets of the company. So in telecommunications, you have to keep a record of all the circuits and what customers own what circuits and the capacity, the bandwidth that is available on the switches and the fiber optics and even copper circuits. Yeah, so that was kind of unusual, I think. Yeah, I think, you know, as large as telecommunications have become, I’m sure that these non-physical assets are probably familiar to some people, but I know that that’s certainly something different than the experience that I have. So I do appreciate you sharing that. I haven’t heard that before. Sure, all right.

So Annee, I’m going to move over to you. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and one fun fact about you? Absolutely, thanks Kris. So my name is Anne Barlas, and I’m part of this group due to the company I operate with my brother William Barlas called Quick To Bid. So we partner with software companies to deliver implementation services primarily in the manufacturing space. I also have an engineering background that I branched out into PM and operations work lately. And one fun fact about me, I think this was in our LinkedIn show promotion, but I’ve climbed the highest 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s called Longs Peak. So really good test of physical and mental endurance, but yeah, so I’ll share that. I’ll also say my first job out of college was updating compliance information using the balms of faucets. So anything that touches water and then your mouth or hands is regulated, and I spent a lot of time looking at certificates within our company ERP. So today, my work is mostly in managing the staff that integrates into ERP systems for data required for product configuration mostly, but yeah, super excited to be here. Yeah, we’re so excited to have you. I’m curious how long did you have to train to climb that 14er? Yeah, so I did it from no elevation at the time. I was working near Raleigh, North Carolina, and I was out in Colorado for about a week. I tried a couple of longer hikes; I got up a 13er, and then I kind of just went for it.

So, I wasn’t doing a lot of training per se, but you know, I think just in general, I was working out a little bit. So, not a lot Kris. Awesome, awesome. Well, my first question for you, Anne, is how does ERP integrate with other software, such as CRM or CPG? Yeah, thank you. I’m going to approach this question and maybe a bit of an uncommon way, but in the past, these tools were on paper, so CRM could have been thought of as a Rolodex which captured contact information and notes about customers. An ERP, like a ledger, used to draft sales orders and complete manufacturing resource planning, and then a CPG, like a product catalog where you can configure options for products. So now that we’re using software for these things, a CPG truly replaces a product catalog in a way that’s much more data-driven. A CRM captures data about customers and sales activity, and an ERP maintains sales orders and manufacturing resource planning. So the way that I think about them integrating is almost why these softwares are implemented and how they relate to each other. Yeah, I really like your explanation and it’s so true. I think sometimes when we take it from what it was or for some how it still is, you know, and then we transform it into what it can be or what it is through technology, helps people understand the transition of it because I still think for many businesses that fully utilizing an ERP system is just one task in itself, but then integrating it to all the other available systems is where the opportunity exists. So appreciate the way that you kind of framed that for everyone, thank you.

All right, Clair, I’m going to move to you. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and one fun fact about you? So, I’ve spent my career working in heavy construction and mining. I’m in Canada, so I’m fortunate to be only five hours away from the oil sands and have had the advantage of being part of visits to mine sites, different types of mine operations, and the equipment. So my focus on when you add it to the ERP side is the maintenance of equipment, the fleet, and the parts. So all of the same things you’re talking about, my customer base needs to have this all in place too, so this is what gets me interested in ERP is having an impact on all of those different categories and how to get them all together. So my fun fact is that I danced as a child, and when I danced, I felt that I could, pardon me, I felt that I could impact the audience by how I danced. And I found that as I grew into my career, that I could also impact this audience, and I think one of the most important parts to me in ERP all around is making sure that we don’t forget about the people. We make sure that we include the people and their process and their functionality day in and day out, and that’s where I feel like I really strive with my experience. So it’s exciting to hear that there’s so many other aspects to ERP. Well, you’re the first on the show to ever correlate ERP and dance, and I love it because it is a dance, right? It is, it is, but you can impact your audience, right? And this comes into play in everything you do in life, how you train people, how you influence people, and encourage people, have them part of the process. It’s, yeah, yeah, no, I like that. I’m curious if you can, for the audience, Clair, and I have worked together in a former life, so I spent some time up in Canada and in the oil sands, but anything you want to mention about the oil sands to give people perspective on what that means in Canada, because especially in mining, yeah. So, the oil sands are really Alberta, the province that I live in. It’s our bread and butter, but we don’t just support Alberta, we support additional economies as well, right? You know, oil sands is only one of the resources that we mine in Canada. There’s lots of mining that goes on. You don’t hear as much about it, but it’s an important piece of Canada’s contribution to the world’s markets, and in my opinion, and I feel very fortunate to have had boots on the ground on the mine sites, to see the plant operations, the production, all of those aspects, and you know, going on equipment and understanding how equipment works and understanding the capacities that you affect when machines are not up and running, so yeah. Yeah, no thanks for that support. I think it’s so great to give maybe some younger men and women who might be listening to this just to understand where the world of ERP can take you, in as far as a job and an opportunity, right? Because we’re all coming from all these very different backgrounds, but ERP is certainly present in all these places. So, thanks for providing that explanation.

My first question for you, Clair, is what is your favorite aspect of working in ERP? Well, of course, I love that I have educated business decisions at my fingertips. You know, the data that’s in there, but I go back to the same thing again. One of my favorite parts is working with the people, making sure that the people that have to use the system understand the system. They understand the functionality, they understand that nothing’s in stone, we can change it if it doesn’t work well. But my goal is always to encourage people to be part of the change, whether it’s implementation or upgrade or whatever it is. But I just, I enjoy the people piece. I enjoy facilitating training. I love being the one that they can call when it’s not doing what they want during that initial implementation or upgrade or whatever. I really, the people are everything. But obviously, in my role as a procurement professional, I love that I have my fingers on all of that data. And the better that I can teach people to put the data in, the more beneficial this information is to not only me but to everybody within the organization. Yeah, there’s a reason, right, that they say people, process, technology, and why people is always at the front. So yes, no, that’s great. And I also think, you know, we don’t talk enough about the data inside an ERP system. I always like to say that it’s so important to run your business on facts rather than opinion. And if we’re not putting those data elements into the ERP, sometimes what happens is that we are using our opinions to come up with answers when we should be utilizing the facts that could be coming out of the ERP system to assist us in better business decisions, right? So all great points there. Thanks, Clair. Thank you.

All right, Amanda, I’m going to move to you next. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and share one fun fact about you? Sure, first, thank you so much for hosting this today and getting us all together to meet and to connect. And I just encourage everybody who’s listening today to go back and listen to other previous sessions and also engage in this one. They’re just so filled with so much knowledge and amazing women in ERP. So for me, I’ve always been in positions of sales, sales operations, customer-facing operations. So in the ERP world, that tends to be called the order-to-cash—everything from quoting, pricing, all the way through invoicing to even your customer experience, where you’re doing your warranty and making sure that your customer is fully satisfied with the experience of the service or product that you’re providing. So when I look at how I got into it, I really got into it from the fact that I was a business stakeholder and asked to participate in a program or in a project. And then I became a project SME and then I kept getting a little bit taken down a little bit further. Then all of a sudden, I was—I know—and it generally was because my emphasis was originally more global and international sales. And so, the domestic side tended to have a stronger system in place and international tended to be done in Excel sheets or more manual processes. But then all of a sudden, for scalability and repeatability, they wanted to bring the international operations back into the fold. And so, we really had to start engaging. I went all the way from being that person in the business that they kept tapping on to being a global process manager and then leading a COE after implementations, to making sure I was bringing the voice of the business back into the process and bridging between the GPS team or your IT team that’s implementing and the architects and the business. So, kind of being that bridge or interpreter and making sure that the connections are strong between what the people and the processes need and what the system can provide. So, it’s so funny when I first started in my career 20 plus some years ago, we were working on Mainframe. I still remember like the first couple of months that my job, they were Mainframe free t-shirts, everybody’s wearing it. And then we went to AS/400s, and then AS/400s weren’t providing it, so then we went to an ERP, but not everything was incorporated into the ERP. So then you go into the cloud solutions, and now you have your add-on solutions like your PLM, your Product Lifecycle Management systems, and your CRM systems and tight integration with your e-commerce solutions. And so, yeah, it just keeps growing. And so I know it can be very overwhelming for more small and medium-sized businesses that are realizing that they’re outgrowing their current systems and need to adapt new—all the way up to the larger, you know, Fortune 500 companies that are doing global operations, working in 96 different countries, and trying to standardize their processes unless it’s legally or compliance-driven to be different. And it’s not an easy feat, but there are great rewards for the effort that a company puts into it. But I love to think about the ERP process kind of like painting a room. It’s 90 percent prep and then just 10 percent painting. And if you shortchange the prep, it is not good. We can definitely have a few more conversations on that.

But yeah, so for me, a fun fact is that if I want to get to know a community I love, and go going and checking out a farmer’s market. I’d just love to see the people in the community that are bringing their products, either you know, produce or creative ideas or products that you didn’t know about, and so it’s just so fun to just kind of see the tapestry of a community through a farmer’s market. So especially if there’s like music and crafts and stuff, they included so it’s great when all the generations are out enjoying and celebrating each other. So, oh well, yeah, I love that. I love farmers markets too. Like, I fall into that bucket, so and you’re right about all the generations enjoying, I think that’s a great observation, right? Yeah. And it, there just seems to be so much joy on everybody’s face when they’re at a farmer’s market. I also think you did a really good job drying out a history, an evolution of ERP, and you’re doing all these acronyms. So, you know, we almost need a dictionary. Yeah, well, sorry about that, but yeah, you just think about your career and you kind of have evolved with it, you know, and you building. I’m sure all of us have a toolbox that we’re willing to share, a tool or a trick that we learned along the way today. And so when I look at what I’ve done in my career, I think you know, whether I’m working on an ERP solution or another type of project, I still can take the lessons learned and apply it forward. So, I think that this is like a great conversation to have. Yeah, thank you.

Well, my first question for you, Amanda, is what would be your top advice to a team working on a new ERP instance? So, before you go and start the RFP project in a process of going and figuring out what the right vendor is for you, I think you really need to do an inventory of your processes. A lot of times, the systems that you’re using today have been organically grown, and sometimes they may be supporting functions that don’t really even belong in that business function, right? You know, you were just trying to come up with a quick solution to make it work, and so it’s kind of organically grown and kind of patchworked in. And so, sitting back and looking at that 30,000 feet, like what do you see as your overall arching goal and which business units are going to be involved in it, and making sure you understand who is an input and who is an output for each of those processes. And then that 30,000 can be brought down to really look at the lower level. Now, you wouldn’t do that necessarily before you start the RFP process, but keeping that process mapping and stakeholder assessment going all the way in your data, don’t forget your data, it’s like spread like peanut butter all the way through. You can never get away from making sure you have got how you’re getting your data, what your data means, right? The power of dirty data is unbelievable. But you know, really understanding that, and you know if you do good process mapping up above, you have good business requirements. If you have good business requirements, you have good testing scripts, you know, if you have good testing scripts, you’re making sure that there’s no surprises. You know, and that and even doing that process mapping really helps you to even identify where your risks are and if you have to do a recovery plan, where should you be looking at and spending your effort on a recovery plan? So, the process maps and understanding the current process and current state, future state, really helps to make sure that you stay on point and that you uncover some of the things so there aren’t really big surprises for everybody throughout the implementation. So, but I also think it helps me with the discovery and finding the best vendor for yourself also. Yeah. Oh, I think that’s excellent advice, and you know, I bet if we were to check in with anybody who’s been in an ERP implementation in the last two years and well said, how many of you did your process mapping beforehand, we would have a small percentage, and I think a small percentage would say yes, we did that. But to your point, it’s such a valuable exercise and it’s going to help later, especially with the observation of the inputs and the outputs. So good. Yeah, you know, when you start asking the five whys when you’re doing that process mapping, you can really identify some non-valued activities that you have in a current system that you don’t need in a future system. And if you try to think you’re going to go into an ERP process of making it mirror exactly what you do, you’re doing today.

I think you’re shortchanging the benefits of an ERP system, so but that’s really a mindset that needs to happen, and you know, I love Clair’s point of really working with the people and making sure they understand that and communicating that and being transparent that you know how we do this, we may get to the same result, but how we do it could be very different, sure. You know, and even understanding when you’re doing this of hey, I don’t know what best in class is in this area, you know, I don’t understand what industry leaders are doing, and so even when you say okay, this is our current process, but it isn’t functioning very well, let’s go and figure out who’s doing it really well, you know, and then I know there’s a ton of blogs and people out there to use the resources, you know, in communities that you can connect to and really get some, you know, best case scenarios but also benchmarking opportunities for you to go and ask them questions to understand a little bit deeper of how they did something. So sure, I think that you know if you don’t take that moment to do that pre-work, it really makes the process when you’re working with expensive resources such as your implementer or your ERP provider a lot more costly, so that’s my big tip is try to do it early, yeah. And hopefully, your partner can, you know, your implementer partner can give you some of those best practices, but hopefully, this community would be a resource for people as well. So all the wonderful women that we’ve had, you know, can be that resource. So thank you for that, Amanda, I appreciate that. All right, Angela, I’m going to come back to you. What ERP modules most intrigue you and why and why? Well, since I am a project manager, project, any project management modules obviously are gonna catch my eye, and I think that we’re seeing more and more that the ERP companies are adding project management to the ERP systems and I’m so glad to see that because we we do need that. Some some of the tools are adding more than just contract management and and the CRM tools but linking real project management like like bidding or the RFP cycle but then adding in the the monitoring and controlling phases of the project management and being able to control the schedule and track scheduling of various projects and I really am excited to see that included in the ERP system as well because so much of the the output of say inventory control projects are dependent on that. And then of course, quality, a really robust quality module with really great corrective action tools and tracking, I really like to see that and I’m gonna I’m gonna dig down into that a lot, yeah.

I you know, nobody’s really brought up quality modules in any of these discussions and you’re right, it’s really important if we think about overall customer satisfaction, our productivity throughout our our supply chain including our own production and our own Factory, so having a good quality control process and then one that is observed correctly inside the system to uh trigger certain things at the appropriate times is really important as well because quality touches so many different areas of a business. I appreciate you bringing that up. Project management as well, that’s one I think that every company can benefit from. I find that dependencies and my on Milestones is such a critical piece and it’s where we end up having the ultimate challenge and why dates move and there are delays and everything else because that dependency and observing of the Milestone and then making sure that everything else moves after a delay, you know, I can tell you many times where I wasn’t delivering product on time but I wasn’t informed early enough in the process because we weren’t using the right project management activities to trigger some notification so that I could even inform our customer that we weren’t going to meet the expectation and I think that kind of falls into all of that, so thank you for sharing that Angela. So when you when you have a a lean manufacturing activity especially and that can be internal, you are likely to have some sort of out outcomes and that will launch several projects and that’s where I see quality and project management linked and I think that if if you launch these improvement products projects rather continuous improvement projects and you get a list of to-do’s and then never follow up on them that that just becomes waste all that that activity is just waste and the whole point of lean is to reduce waste, right? That’s right, we all know it, we’re all working at it but yeah you get realized at least even if it’s going to get realized it’s not something that happens overnight so they’re there’s exact patients and persistence through that as well. All right, great, and I’m going to move on to you second question. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the implementation of a project that involved an ERP system? Yeah, and I’m actually going to agree with a lot of what Amanda was saying with this question. The biggest lesson we’ve encountered at Quick to Bid is that before implementing software, you should have standardized and agreed-upon business processes and one example I have of this is a company that has one division with parts, one division that’s configured to order and one division that’s engineered to order and if they’re unwilling to standardize on a system that works for all three, that can make the implementation really difficult. And it’s not that it’s not okay that they had different processes, it’s that they need to see the value in standardizing on a common process so what we found is getting there is about business sponsorship from executives within the divisions so thinking about strategically what is it that we want the software to help accomplish.

So, I’d say that’s our biggest lesson we’ve learned. Yeah, and that’s a big one. You know, what I find too, and I completely agree with you Anne, is that oftentimes these companies don’t understand how far off their processes are across the different divisions. And by doing a project like an ERP project or an integration project, you can find a way to standardize it. It helps create awareness of what is happening across the different businesses, and the outcome is that you have now standardized. And standardization brings you greater efficiency, and even with whatever integration or whatever you were trying to achieve, achieve that’s creating some automation potentially as well. But the standardization brought a lot of benefit to the project. So, sometimes just standardization is a win, and it’s a really big win depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. So that’s great, Clair, back to you. What challenges have you faced when going live with a new ERP?”

I’m going to go back to the people. So, you know, you put your plan in place, you start to train your people early in the process, you’ve written all your ‘as is,’ you’ve, you know, maybe even come up with a few new ideas on how you might manage things a little bit more efficiently, you get right into go live, and everybody just loses their mind, literally. So what I have experienced, like I say, back to the people, is that when you go live, everybody does get a little bit of shock, even though they’ve been trained. And I think that it’s important that people understand that that’s okay, that’s normal. We’re all kind of feeling that, and that you know that that you can get through it through working together in groups, working together just in, you know, having a partner, someone who gets something that you don’t, just encourage those kinds of practices so that people don’t feel alone at their monitor, just saying, ‘Why can’t I make this do what it’s supposed to do?’ or the call that says it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do but it really is, it’s just that the user’s forgotten the training, the order, you know, the process and the steps in order. So this is a place when go live I like to be the person wandering around, checking on everyone, everyone that’s been involved in the project and everyone that was just a trainee in the project. So I like to make sure I’ve got lots of people on my side that can take my place when I can’t be at everyone’s desk and make sure that everybody feels that they’re that they’re not on their own at their computer just trying to remember what they’ve been taught. So, I find too that even people in my line of work often work long days, numbers of days in a row, and then they go on days off and when they come back, they’ve forgotten everything. So, I’m always looking for people, super users and subject matter experts within my team so that I can push those people to help, you know, the person that I know has gone off shift for 20 days and now we’ve got to retrain. So yeah, it’s all about all about the people, and I mean all the things you guys are saying are all good things too. I’m all about the data and and I agree, bad data, well that’s just an opportunity to make it better. Yeah, but yeah, it really does come down to the people. The people are are going to be the ones that are going to voice their opinion about the system, about whatever you’ve done for them, and you want to make sure that what they’re saying is all good and feel part of it. They’re they’re part of the project, they’re not they’re not just along for the ride. Yeah, you know, I really like what you’re saying because I think that we all naturally know how important that prep is up front, and then you you’re going through all this implementation time and then launch seems to be this like line in the sand, right? Like we’re launching and we’re launching on this date and we don’t take enough time maybe post launch to make sure the execution of what we intended. And if we go back to our process maps and yeah, are we getting the results we’re looking for, are we checking in with the people to make sure there’s not just that they’re doing it right, but they understand why they’re doing it and they’re there’s just this this understanding of their contribution, right? So there is almost this attention we need to pay to the people and to process after implementation that’s equally important as well, yep, yep, yeah, good.

All right, thank you, Amanda. I’ll move back to you. You know, companies focus on increasing revenue and managing and reducing costs, so how do you do this within an ERP system while staying customer focused? Such a good question here. Yeah, it is a balancing act, but I really think that you need to, as you’re going through that process mapping exercise and you’re really trying to understand what are your performance measures that you’re going to be looking at. They can’t be all internally focused. They also have to be very much externally towards your customer-facing operations. And kind of ask yourself, would the customer pay for this functionality? Would they be really interested in knowing that you’re going through these many steps or this kind of complex process to get them the results? Or would they be much… They would just be as happy with a solution that wouldn’t add as much cost to the product or to, you know, potentially cutting the margins that they may be able to gain on a product or service. So really keeping in mind, would a customer pay for this? Is this, you know, value added? Is this complexity that is providing what our stakeholders need? And sometimes they could be internal customers, not just always external customers. But I think if you take that view, by doing that the costs will be reduced. And I think the opportunity for revenues and being able to scale up and repeat what you’re doing for increased growth is definitely within reach. But it is a lot of due diligence of really looking at, you know, taking that customer-facing mindset into your internal processes. Can we do this differently? You know, is there so much administration? I mean, do we really want to touch a PO this many times? Do we really want them to click this many times to be able to submit an order? Do we really want to have this extra validation step in here? Because it may be nice, but is that really what the customer needs? You know, so taking that lens and taking that time to really, you know, make sure. And sometimes it might even be having a customer focus group coming in and looking at something and getting their feedback on it or a dealer advisory council understanding what you’re doing. You know, that transparency throughout the whole thing, because as Clair said, you know, it’s, you know, people are definitely… Your employees are definitely impacted by this new system, but so will your customers, especially if you have, you know, a very defined network or a closed network that you’re dealing with, you know, they will be impacted also. So how do you make sure that this isn’t something that they’re like, ‘Oh, this is so complex, I give up. I’m going to find a different supplier that can give it to me without making me go through so many hoops,’ you know? So, I think that it’s really important. And sometimes I think everybody thinks that an ERP is an internal system, an internal process, and you know, it’ll be good for the customer. But if you don’t make sure their voice is included in the process, you could find yourself in a difficult situation. So yeah, no, this is such a great point. You know, so often I think because ERP in its nature is basically a back office function, we often are always thinking how it’s impacting our customer, and it’s just such a great… I mean, even your idea about, ‘Do we need this validation step?’ That’s so critical. I mean, because you might be asking a question that either we should know the answer to or is this just kind of a waste of everybody’s time and let’s just keep the process moving. So asking ourselves those questions and how it impacts the customer. So good, really, really good. Well, I know even like at one project we were working on, someone went and did the determination of how much it cost to even cut a check to send it out to somebody, right? And I think it was like at the time that I did the project, which is already probably dated, but, you know, it was like $14.57. And it’s like, well, then why should we be even issuing anything under, you know, 15 dollars because where it’s costing us more to issue it than to do it, you know? But that’s where all of a sudden that was before you could do, you know, the ACH transfer, right? Well, why wouldn’t we pursue doing an ACH transfer versus, you know, but I think it forces you to look at other technologies or understanding the way that you have been doing it could be costly or maybe, you know, and the customer would prefer ACH because they get it right away. It’s not stuck in the mail, right? So, I just think taking a look at understanding the manpower that’s put into a process, the cost that’s into it, and how do you measure success, you know, and making sure that you’re looking at also from the customer standpoint is really impactful. Yeah, great advice. I love it. And somebody in the comments said, ‘Yes, yes.’ All right, Angela, I’m back to you. In your opinion, what is the number one challenge with ERP implementations today?

Well, that’s a little hard to narrow down. I think it’s actually two-fold. So, customization is a big challenge. There’s so much that’s being offered and determining when you actually need customization and the costs around that. I mean, it’s very costly to customize an ERP system. And then, going back to Clair’s point, adoption. So, once you’ve got this project, this ERP project that you’re going to roll out, this new system, getting the people involved and on board to adopt the new system and to begin to use it and to understand why the organization has made this decision to move to a new system or changes to a system is really, really a challenge. Because my experience has been that about 20% of your population are going to be those eager early adopters and they’re going to be the champions and ambassadors of your project. And then you’ll have about 60% that will one way or another eventually get on board and use them to some degree. But you’ll still be left with about 20% that are actively going to work against the change, yes, and say you know they’ll grumble, ‘Well, why do we have to make this change and what we already had was good enough and that’s the way we’ve always done things.’ And that’s very challenging and overcoming the grumblers is really, really difficult. So, I would say that that’s the biggest challenge. Yeah, no, I love both of your answers. Customizations, they are a challenge, and they’re really… They become a really big challenge if you want to integrate to something later that has standard API set because now you’re not standard, you’ve done a customization. So that’s a challenge, but it doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it just means, you know, it really needs to be carefully looked at. And adoption is so key, and this is true for every technology today that gets implemented, right? If we don’t have users using it or using it consistently or with the same learnings, then it’s very difficult to get the true result that you were hoping to get out of it. So, great answers there, Angela. All right, and I’m gonna move over to you. What should an organization look for when selecting a system integrator partner for their project?

Yeah, thanks, Kris. And I’m just gonna highlight again what Clair and Angela have been saying about people. So, one aspect that’s not usually considered when deciding on a partner is the fit with the internal implementation team.

So, this can be accomplished by aligning on standards and expectations, such as how the project is tracked. It’s almost as if you’re hiring somebody to work for the company, the same as any new hire. So my advice is to get a feel for the people who actually do the work, as a lot of planning happens at the executive level, but those who complete the work can make the project really successful. And a couple of other suggestions are like, do they have a way of doing things, a plan and structure to make sure that you get best practice results in your implementation? That’s what comes to mind.

Yeah, no, those are great, you know, making sure that your partner is the right fit. I think is really key to a successful relationship, and that’s what turns them into a partner versus a vendor, right? So exactly. I think those of us who are trying to partner with an organization as a service provider, we love it when companies refer to us as partners. That usually means that they see us as someone who fits within the culture of their organization and we’re helping them to achieve things. So, I do appreciate that comment.

Okay, Clair, over to you. When did you first realize that your ERP experience was so valuable?

So early in my career, very early in my career, right out of high school practically. I went to work for a company that was, so in those days, that was when we were converting from manual processes to computers on the desk. So of course, I worked for an organization that wanted to computerize everything. Everything was going to be done electronically, all of our sales, all of our planning, and so I was fortunate here to get to be part of that team. But little did I realize that that really wasn’t going to be a huge benefit for me until, you know, sort of 15 or 20 years later when I had the opportunity to get more involved in full ERP implementations and upgrades and bolt-ons that we could do to make things better. And every now and then, I would just have this little, this little reminder in my mind that that time I spent in those early days really was valuable to me in the capacity that I was in. I really was just, probably they would have considered me a super user or an SME or something like that. But how that experience has helped me grow and taken me through all of the different pieces, the collaboration with the different departments, the different stakeholders, you know, the internal and external customers, the, you know, the naysayers who, ‘What’s wrong with how we’ve been doing it for 20 years?’ It all, you know, in disguise, it really… I realized that this was all something that was meant to be for me. They may not align in what I was doing, but they align in the goals for my career path, for sure, personal and professional path, right? So yeah, that it was a very basic ERP system that they were creating and they were building it in-house. But nonetheless, it was the same things were done, the discussions about how do we do it manually, how would we… What would we gain from doing it on the computer? Well, at first, it took three times longer to do it on the computer than we could have done it manually, but eventually, we could see this gain. And this is something I talk to people about all the time, is that capacity that we create with the people by giving them more tools to do their job. They might not realize it at the beginning, but eventually, they do see that that’s what happens.

Yeah, you know, you’re reminding me of how many people that I’ve talked to now who love the ups and downs of working with an ERP system, right? That there’s just so much joy and fun in the challenge. I think those of us who love ERP really do love a challenge. So let’s not be real about this. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. But so many people tell stories of their first experience and they can recall something in that first experience that they realize later, ‘Oh, that was so valuable and I’m so glad I was a part of that.’ And it might have felt like really something foreign because I don’t know about for you ladies, but I didn’t learn about ERP systems when I went to University. I didn’t know I would be working in a system like that. I didn’t even understand the impact to all the businesses. So, it felt like you did all this learning and then you came into a role and you’re told that you’re going to use this tool that it felt like, ‘Why didn’t anybody teach me about this?’ right? So, but we all have those little stories of the first time. So, I think that’s so valuable. Great, thank you. All right, Amanda, last question of the day goes to you. As someone who has led teams who use ERP systems daily for their job, what could you share regarding your expectations related to how employees and team members use the ERP?

Oh, so important. It does really tie in nicely to what Clair has been saying about people and checking in and understanding them. And it… I would have said if I had to add one thing to Angela and say… No, she talked about adoption and not project management, but I would also emphasize change management, right? So, as you’re leading your teams, as you’re wanting to see high adoption of the system and you want them to understand not to fight this, right? That this is going to allow them to level up, to build a new skill set, it’s going to be a win for them because it may mean some of the work that they’ve done before they don’t do anymore. But it allows them to be open to do additional work or to learn additional skills. But with that, I think the things that are key to making sure that you’re communicating that is communication, and you can never over communicate. Right? Making sure that there’s transparency, making sure there’s the check-ins, making sure that they’re involved in the whole process, making sure maybe those people who are going to fight you the most in the team, those are probably the least resistant to change might be the people that are actually on your pilot teams, right? So, they’re part of the engagement because if they go and they flip and they buy into it, the rest of the team is going to go fairly easier because you’re not going to have those resistors in there, right? But I also think that documentation, having strong work instructions so that they don’t feel like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t even know how to turn this thing on.

I don’t know what to do.’ Yes, I went to two days of full-day training, but I don’t remember it, right? So that they have those tools, those points of reference that they can go back to, having someone who had been on that pilot team be a trainer, right? So that when they do get into a position and they’re feeling very humble in not understanding how this is working, that they can go to a safe person that’s not necessarily their manager and ask those questions in a very safe environment, right? But then also having what we did in… We had some… You know, part of the user acceptance testing had a few people involved in that. But then I think another thing that we really learned was having check-ins, you know? So, like the first, your hyper-care when you’re in hyper-care and you’re first going live, having maybe even a morning check-in, a lunch check-in, or an evening check-in, you know, capturing the issues, you know, what’s the errors, what are the issues? And then giving them off to the team and then having that put into a central depository that everybody can access so they can see these things are getting resolved, so that they feel like their voice is being heard back in as the issues are coming up. It really helps them to understand that they do have a say in what’s happening, that their thoughts… You know, as something… You know, because you can try to design something that’s perfect, but don’t let perfection stand in the way of good, right? And yeah, so you have to be open to people giving you that feedback, right? And eventually, they get more comfortable. The things… The issues, the bugs… You can’t have a good picnic without some bugs, you know? You did those go away, right? Those get resolved. And then it does go into your center of excellence, right? This is bigger than a bed box. This is going to take longer, but this would be a better solution going forward. And so that it evolves into your… You know, your enhancement list, right? So, but I think engaging the team along the way, understanding how their skills are very valuable. I managed a team recently that most of the people when they came in did not have CRM experience, did not have ERP experience. We invested in them. We had very strong working instructions. We had a really strong training program. Unfortunately, in this day and age, there was a reorganization and that team was dissolved. But I would say 75 percent of that team was able to go and level up and able to move into other things because of the skill base that they had achieved during that process. And that a lot of them were so thankful, saying, ‘I was able to go in there. They asked me in the interview what my favorite SAP T code was, and I was able to tell them.’ You know, and it was pride in their work, right? It came away with pride, knowing that they’ve done it. Also, that they’ve experienced these significant system implementations and they kind of understand what to go and what will happen going forward. So, yeah, I think as you lead a team, making sure that you have empathy for them, understanding the change management does not always come easy, over-communicating, and making sure you can show them what’s in it for them, you know, how… In their customers, right? How it’s going to be for the people that they serve or take care of, both internal and external. So yeah, those are my thoughts. Yeah, great. Love even ending on the word empathy. I think that’s a great change management word to throw in there. Yeah, for sure, ladies. I so enjoyed this conversation. Thank you. You were all fantastic.

I appreciate everyone who has joined today in our audience, listening. Thank you for being a part of the show. Our next show will be October 4th at 1 pm Eastern, and my lovely co-host Sarah will be here for you. So, please join us again in October and have a great week, everyone.