Expert Interview Series: Derek Hitchman, SCS Cloud

DerekMeet Derek

I'm Derek Hitchman and I am the CEO of SCS Cloud. We are a Netsuite and Salesforce solution provider so we resell those platforms and then implement them across a variety of different clients.

What Does SCS Cloud Do?

 

 

So we sell Netsuite and Salesforce.com, which are two large software packages that can be used to automate business processes in a company. And on top of those, we also resell and implement a variety of additional add-on solutions or extra modules which are kind of best of breed and help expand those products out to work better for companies and help them automate their business processes.

What makes your tools different than others on the marketplace?

So I think what we've done is we've tried to choose solutions which are really customizable and adaptable easily to our client’s processes. So when we approach a project, we've chosen tools to use that allow us to actually get into an organization and understand their process and configure the software to what they need rather than trying to change them to what the system needs. So that's kind of the reason we've chosen the platforms that we have and why we've been successful in implementing them.

What do you think a client should know before they make a big decision on a software purchase?

So a client needs to understand exactly how the system will work and what it's going to achieve for them. A lot of clients, when looking to purchase software, are looking for an outcome or they're looking for a result of what that software is going to provide. And oftentimes it's easy to get caught up and hung up on what that result is going to be and kind of miss the path to get there. And that's really the difficult part with implementing a software solution is that sometimes it's a bit of a long road to get to that envisioned goal and the business has to change as well. So I think it's important for clients, especially if they don't have experience in this industry, to be able to understand what it's going to take to implement the solution that they choose. And as part of that, making sure they have a committed team to do that.

What are the top two or three mistakes that you think customers make when they are choosing software?

A lot of customers will listen to what people are saying but they don't necessarily look at what the solution is and that can be very dangerous when choosing software. If you are listening to the sales people or maybe what people have past experiences with a certain solution in a different industry or different business, that may not apply to their company or their business or industries. So I think it's very important for someone who's looking to purchase software to actually look at the solution and really dig down and make sure that that product is going to work for their processes and their needs. I would say that's one of the biggest ones. The second piece is really making sure that they have a committed team and that's not only an internal team. Internally you're going to need executives buying in on a project, especially a large project because change is always difficult within a company. So having that executive buy-in to really force change down throughout the organization or business is really important. And then having a committed project team who knows what they're doing and knows what they want to achieve. It's very easy with software implementations to talk a lot about systems and not really take the actions necessary to configure and get it done. So it's important to have a committed internal team and then, of course, to have a really professional and experienced and competent external team helping you and guiding you through that process to make sure you don't make any mistakes.

At what point in the selection process should a customer start planning for implementation?

I think as a customer initially approaches selection they're looking at a lot of tools. Maybe they understand what they need or they've spoken with a lot of different salespeople, but they're not really sure exactly what their requirements are. And once they've narrowed down their requirements, hopefully, they've then narrowed down the solutions that they are looking at to select. And once that happens implementation is really such an important part that it's important to start looking at that pretty early in the selection process. So software really is a two-fold piece. It's this tool itself and what the tool can do and then the team that's implementing that tool and how that tools going to be configured. You can take a mediocre software tool that's really well implemented and it will work quite well. But even the best software solution, if it's not implemented properly or a team doesn't understand or makes a very low-level design mistakes, it can completely fail even if the tool was a better selection. So I think implementation is really important to start looking at early in the game and making sure that you have the right team on board to do that implementation. That's an important piece of the selection process.

What are the potential stumbling blocks during implementation? How can those be avoided?

So there are quite a few pitfalls with software implementations. You know the biggest is that you either have a team that is not committed or that is not experienced with the software. That can be a couple of big issues. And that applies internally and externally. So if your internal team is not committed. It takes a lot of work to implement software. And if your team is not committed or this is a side project that they think would be a nice thing to do but not really required, then you're going to run into trouble because implementations are difficult and you're eventually going to run into roadblocks. And if you don't have the commitment throughout the company at the executive level to really ensure that the project gets done and at the lower level to ensure that those obstacles can be overcome and the time and energy can be put into it make that happen, then it's going to be difficult. And that also applies to the external team. If you have an external team that's implementing your system that is either not committed, meaning that they don't have a lot of time for you, they're not available for you, that's going to make it a lot more difficult to actually get the solution implemented. And on top of that if you have an external team that is not experienced or actually doesn't really know their stuff with solutions, then it can be very difficult to get a product implemented successfully. So sometimes large organizations, which implement many dozens of solutions, their teams may not be as experienced or may not have that depth of knowledge that it takes on one specific product. So it's very important to have at least a couple of implementation resources that are really really knowledgeable and they can shortcut a lot of problems.

What’s your relationship like with ERP Advisors Group?

So my team has been involved with the ERP Advisors as kind of a trusted partner. They've been involved in selections and project managing implementations of software solutions. We've been in multiple projects with them where we've either been brought in or wound up on the same project, where my team is implementing this solution and sort of doing the heavy lifting on configuring and building out the product to meet the client's needs and ERP Advisors has been there through the selection process; defining those requirements making sure expectations are set and then project managing the system through to a successful implementation. Their support has really been amazing throughout. Software implementations and selections are quite a difficult area and if you take a misstep it can set you back a long way. By having them involved and defining out all the requirements in the beginning during the selection process and then monitoring the implementations to make sure that those requirements are actually successfully configured and that the system does work as the client had envisioned, helps to provide kind of a thread of continuity throughout an implementation and really has made a big difference and made it so much easier for my team to come in and just work on configuring the solution to do what it needs.

What is the difference when your client is working with a consultant versus on their own?

So when a client is working solo, oftentimes an individual within that client is going to be earmarked as kind of the champion or the leader of the project. And that can be good or bad. You know, if that person is really well experienced and can almost act like an external consultant themselves, that can go well. But most of the time, that person is an internal individual and they don't have the context or the experience, they haven't worked with many many organizations doing this process, so they can miss out on the pitfalls and internally there's obviously a lot of politics and things as well, within any organization and relationships between people, so it's very difficult for an internal resource to properly collect all the requirements from all the areas and to properly define and set expectations with the team. So when we're working with ERP Advisors, they have such a deep level of experience and knowledge about all different products and they've been through so many implementations that they can look at a project and pretty much see where the pitfalls are: what could go well, where the risks are right from the very very beginning. So they can kind of set that and set expectations with management and put some risk management in place to really spot and prevent those areas where the project could go off the rails from happening. And having that kind of external view and external context of how these things flow through, can really make a big difference. So we've seen a much higher level of success and that also relates to client satisfaction, feeling the system is meeting their expectations and protecting the internal team so that you know people internally have a have a group like ERP Advisors to fall back on and to really trust that they're making the right decision as they go each step along the way.

How does ERP Advisors help the implementation process?

So they really provide a group that we can look to, to help guide us through and make sure that we're actually achieving a result which is going to meet what the client wants from the system. So by having them there and having them help envision that process from the beginning, were then able to come in and build the solution. Oftentimes when you get into an implementation, especially if the software has already been sold to a customer beforehand and your team comes in to do services for that client, those expectations have already been set and oftentimes they've already been broken by the time that you get onto a project to help implement the system and that's what me and my team face all the time. So I think with ERP Advisors, when we come onto a project, we kind of get brought in, we know what our scope is, we know what we're supposed to do, and we know that the client has been primed and set up so that they're aware of what the system can achieve, what it can't achieve, and they have a sense of understanding and you know ERP Advisors brings that honesty to the table when it comes to selecting and implementing software, which is very difficult to get from software salespeople and their resulting implementation teams.

What makes a client project successful?

So implementing large software is a complex process and each implementation is different. If there were only one or two kind of cardinal rules as far as implementing it, everyone's projects would be successful. But in this industry, implementing large software systems has one of the highest failure rates of almost any type of consulting work. So what makes the project successful is really having the committed team in place and really working through all of those obstacles and making sure you don't hit the pitfalls as you go. It comes down to making sure the system can do what you want, making sure that your vision for the software is correct, that it's done in the correct approach with the right phases, and that the time, budget, and resources are committed properly to the project and that it's monitored and tracked. And I think that that's where ERP Advisors can make a really big difference because the projects not only going to be successful because you have a good implementation resource on it. That's only one piece of the puzzle. It takes a lot of managing people, timing, budgeting, planning, and really defining out for each area, making sure you've got all the requirements correct. So just having someone there who configures the system based on what he's told or what she's told, it doesn't really make for a successful project and especially when projects get larger, it's actually a recipe for disaster because you're going to wind up with each department telling a person what they want and then you wind up with this kind of hodgepodge of solutions. And what ERP Advisors has been able to do is bring that high-level executive vision to a project and work out what's important versus what's not important in each phase of the project and focus on actually getting things completed and getting things done. And that has made it, from the projects that I've seen where they've been involved and where they've been managing teams, that's led to a lot of successes in their clients.

 

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