Announcer 1: This is The ERP Advisor.
Announcer 2: Today's episode, Lessons from the Trenches: An ERP implementation Consultant’s Year in Review.
Juliette: Shawn Windle is one of our speakers for today. Shawn is the founder and managing principal of ERP Advisors Group based in Denver, Colorado. Shawn has over 25 years of experience in the enterprise software industry, helping hundreds of clients across many industries with selecting and implementing a wide variety of enterprise solutions. His podcast, The ERP Advisor, has dozens of episodes with thousands of downloads and is featured on prominent podcast platforms such as Apple and Spotify.
Quentin Dewitt is our guest joining us today. Quentin is the Director here at ERP Advisors Group. He has over 20 years of IT experience with a wide variety of technical knowledge, experience, and skills related to helping businesses with needs analysis, software selection, and implementations.
On today's call, Shawn and Quentin will share lessons learned throughout this year to help prepare businesses looking to tackle and conquer an ERP implementation in 2023. Quentin and Shawn, thank you so much for joining me today.
Juliette: So, Shawn 2022 has been a busy year for our company, our consultants, our clients, and their various projects so we have a lot to cover. But I think it might be good if you could start us off by just sharing, from your perspective, a little bit that has happened this year with our clients and their projects.
Shawn: Sure. So, 2022. Are we really? Are we talking about 22?
Juliette: Right, I know what's happening.
Juliette: I know, I know, I know, hard to believe.
Shawn: Yeah, but it's been. I think it's been a good year. You know, the economic swings are like “holy moly!” You’ve got to pay attention to stuff; when I think about our clients and the projects we did with them, and the experiences our clients have gone through, and the successes that they've had, and some of the failures we're going to talk about those here today too. We're going. To talk about it all for sure.
Juliette: Right, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Juliette: No, not that much, ugly though.
Shawn: I know not that much that's right, but I think overall it's been a good year.
Juliette: Yeah, yeah.
Shawn: I really do. I think folks have been super, super busy from the client side, from the implementation partner side, even the software vendor side. There are a lot of people that are very, very busy. We're definitely way out of the pandemic for sure, but the effects of Covid are still here. Lots of folks, just had somebody recently was traveling and we went on-site to meet the client and go through a bunch of work, and he had just been traveling and he wasn't well, so we had to stay home, and we didn't get to see him and that was a couple of weeks ago. There's this flu, this sickness for sure that is still having an impact, but I think we're handling it in a really good, isolated manner; take the individual, they go home, they get better, and come back.
Shawn: So that's been good, but I can tell you that was an effect, absolutely, in 2020 where we had clients implementing manufacturers, and they *voop* we all got Covid, and they couldn't work. We're definitely through that for sure, but there's still a little bit of that kind of trailing in. Then again, kind of macroeconomic level, we've had this inflation and then some talk of a recession, and the economy is changing, and the problem is that it changes fast.
Juliette: That's right.
Shawn: So, you make a decision that it's more long-term, like an ERP implementation, and then boom something occurs. And that's like, “whoa, well, we shouldn't do it now, right?” We had a couple of clients that sort of had to change their direction this year because of that. But for the most part, thinking back to all of our clients this year, I think most folks were able to really run through their projects, do the needs, figure out what they really needed. “Are you really sure this still makes sense with your strategy?” Yes, we're growing. We're going into adjacent businesses. We’re a manufacturer now, but we're really more distribution." Quentin can talk a lot about that, and I'm excited to hear more about ancillary services coming on because I think that's another thing that’s happened this year is a lot of our companies, organizations really, even nonprofits, they're still reinventing themselves.
Juliette: Right, right?
Shawn: They're still growing and trying to figure out new ways to add more value for their customers and their customer’s customers, so it’s been a really dynamic year.
Shawn: That's probably the best way to say it, and not only on the client side but also on the vendor side. We have some vendors that are continuing to sort of emerge from small, medium-sized businesses and growing. We have a lot of vendors that are an enterprise that are still moving down market, still figuring out those strategies, and we have other vendors that are, “oh, we're all about the cloud, and we got to go cloud.” But that same vendor also now has a strategy of “hey, if you want to stay on-premises, and you want to stay on certain legacy platforms, we're going to support you with that.” So, it's really like, I feel if you're doing ERP--I mean I'm not just saying this because this is what we do--but man if you don't have an advisor, I don't know what you would do. I don't know, if Rebekah wasn't doing the ERP minute every week, I would have no idea what's going on in this industry.
Juliette: Right, because it’s moving so quickly and changing so quickly, right?
Shawn: Yes! It's all the time, so I would say 2022 from an ERP perspective is the year of a lot of dynamic change.
Juliette: For vendors, businesses, even our company, right?
Shawn: Even our company; look how much we've grown and changed, and we got a big office.
Juliette: Exactly, yep.
Shawn: We doubled our space, and most folks are.
Shawn: Downsizing the space, yep, but it's great cause we have lots of nice places and this beautiful view.
Juliette: That's right exactly. Well, Quentin, let me ask you this, I know that one of our projects this year was working with a construction firm, and they had some challenging issues, but they ultimately went live. Can you talk to us a little bit about the challenges they had and then the success that they ended up having too?
Quentin: Absolutely, the construction industry in general is somewhat on older technology, so any evolution to a newer technology platform is very much a change management risk; there's struggle there, there's a lot that goes on, and getting a new platform in place just in general is hard. Some of the struggles that occurred there were because of the industry, and other ones were because of resources changing; on a large implementation like that you have a ton of people, you're depending upon to get you through it successfully. And if any one of those key resources changes, it can crash the entire project. So especially with so much dynamic change this year, organizations changing, getting new resources, resources leaving for new opportunities, when you have an implementation like that and you have that happen, which we did several times.
Quentin: It creates an environment where there's a lot of risks you have to mitigate, and as advisors, we go in there and have to handle that, have to understand what's going on, reorganize the team, make sure every point is covered and that they're going to be successful no matter what happens. So, with all that change, there are a lot of risks, and we're here to help mitigate that risk. We can talk more about the construction industry, but that's another topic.
Juliette: Yeah, I mean, that's a good high level to get us started, but I mean every company encounters challenges, don't they?
Quentin: Yes, they do.
Juliette: At some point, I think it just depends on how deep they go and how quickly they're resolved, right?
Quentin: Yeah, I mean in an implementation, your timeline is very important. You're looking to get that ROI on getting that new system in place, and a change like this could double the implementation time. If you lose a key resource, all the information and knowledge that came with them is gone potentially, and so it can double or triple that time.
Quentin: And so, getting that ROI, getting to that point where you can really use the new system is the goal to successfully get on it and recoup some of that. We saw so much change that it pushed out dates. It pushed out resources. They're expecting to be able to go on vacations and they couldn’t, so those were some of the difficulties we dealt with just because of the nature of ERP and this year.
Juliette: Right, they ended up being successful in their go-live though in the end.
Quentin: They did, you know, but there are a lot of mountains to overcome. A lot of struggles from data to resource availability, training, testing, an area that sometimes gets very much forgotten, is you have to test the software before you try to use it.
Juliette: Yes, gosh.
Quentin: And if you don't have the resources from the client side to really go in there and test it and to bring their subject matter expert knowledge to the platform you're putting in place, it can be a disaster.
Quentin: And then you try to go live even if the platform is great and does what you need it to.
Juliette: Right, and as we know too, it’s data, data, data, right?
Quentin: Oh, data, data, oh yeah.
Shawn: Oh, that one in particular.
Juliette: We've done a lot of calls on that, yeah.
Shawn: That one. That one I mean I'm like a real tough guy, but man I was crying on that one. I was like “oh my God, there's more to do.”
Juliette: Was our data team crying too? Or no they handled it?
Shawn: They just, they just do great.
Juliette: They do.
Quentin: They're troopers.
Juliette: I know, I know, I know.
Quentin: They will just keep going no matter what is going on they will get.
Shawn: Holy moly!
Juliette: Yeah, they're amazing, right?
Shawn: Yeah, yes.
Juliette: Oh my gosh, it brings back bad memories, right?
Shawn: Yeah *laughs*.
Juliette: Oh my gosh. Well, we had another client that took on changing their ERP after 20 years and they had no idea what to expect.
Shawn: Yeah, yeah.
Juliette: So how did you work with them and help them get to where they needed to be so they could go live successfully?
Shawn: Yeah, so a somewhat adjacent industry to construction and the one I'm thinking of in particular is really going live right now, so we can share those experiences. Again, what's helpful for people listening, this is the most important thing; you may hear this phrase minimum viable product or a phase one, or just do enough for heaven's sake in your first go live don't do more. Whatever that strategy is called, and I think that's something that was reiterated with this particular client because--there's actually two of them I'm thinking of--and one of them, which is sort of engineering services, and then the other one is a consumer products company, and with the engineering services firm it was hard. It was really, really hard to change.
The people that are probably listening to this, that listen to our advisor podcast or come to these conferences, they're already thinking “hey, I'm thinking about changing and being a champion, and going through this, and helping my organization through this, et cetera, et cetera.” They're not the problems. It's the people that have been in the organizations for a long-time blah blah blah blah blah. We all know change management, et cetera, et cetera, but when it comes down to it, if people are resistant to the change, oh it's going to affect you. It absolutely is. Now sometimes it doesn't matter, you still have to do it anyway, but it's just tricky. It's like you sort of see who people really are through some of these changes.
For the one I'm thinking of on the engineering services side, it was hard. It was very, very hard, and they had two sorts of businesses. We said “one of them is out. We're just going to focus on the main for now. Get them comfortable with the software, bring the other one in later and it'll be totally fine.” The other organization I'm thinking of the mis expectation that folks have is “we've been in this software for 20 years.” So, when they first start, they have this much, and then over 20 years, they have this much.
Shawn: So then go live with the new app, they want this much. It's a new app and the software has evolved over time and all this functionality. We're not that different, we don't want to customize, blah blah blah, all that stuff. But the reality is, they built out their own business processes and their expectations built on 20 years. And then you want to deliver this in the first phase, it'll take you five years and it'll fail, so it's like--I still don't know the right analogies--it's like a house or whatever. But it's also like you built all this stuff into your software, and the whole business is just ingrained in how the software works; the old one. But then say the person who wrote it is going to die or the application’s so old you haven’t upgraded it and there are vulnerabilities for cybersecurity attacks, or it just doesn't support your business; there’re real reasons why you have to get off it.
Shawn: And we talk a lot about that, as you know, more than anybody else does. You got to know your needs. Then you’ve got to change, but your expectations are all of those years of development, and whatever you're going to get that in phase one; stop thinking that way. Don't think that way. I mean, I don't know what the analogies are, but you just have to understand packaged software is exactly that, it's packaged. It's not built for you; it's built for all of these organizations. “Ohhh, you can configure and customize,” says the salesperson. True. “Oh yeah, you can do that in the app, eventually, but it's going to take you five years to do it,” but they just set the expectation of getting it on day one.
So, I think that's the biggest thing I continue to see because we are--I guess another trend would be that we are seeing a lot of legacy platform customers really like, “oh my gosh, we're going to do this,” and that has not been the case, even in 2020. Certainly, people needed to figure out how to work from home, so if they remote desktop in or whatever, they got that solved, but along the way they realized “oh wow, this is a major risk, this old software, and if we don't do something about it, we're really putting the organization at risk.” And so, you've got to set the right expectation, minimum viable product. So specifically, if you have logic and very custom logic on how you know when a product is going to be available to send to a customer available to promise, and maybe you built out a little module that the person who wrote it is now a gazillion years old or whatever.
When you go into the new solution, the software salesperson is going say “of course, we have available the promised functionality. I'll even show it to you.” And then you look at, uh, this is great; good. But then you get into, and you start using it and you're like, “oh no, it doesn't work the way we work.”
Juliette: This doesn't work.
Shawn: Yeah, welcome to packaged apps. What else can I say? It's really challenging.
Quentin: I think there's also setting expectations with your staff, if you're the client, you're receiving a new platform, and especially with the 20 years they're used to operating a certain way, so you have to communicate to them upfront and tell them this is not going to be what they're used to.
You're going to change; your processes are going to evolve. Maybe we'll be doing things differently than we have forever, and you have to get some agreement on that. There will be some, as you said, that don't agree, and you'll have challenges there.
Quentin: But at the end of the day, most people want to get you through it. They want to improve. They want to do better, and so setting those expectations upfront is one of the most important things I think that you can do at the beginning of an implementation. Otherwise, you get to the end, and they have expectations that are not real, they think that it's going to be This big, and it's this big.
Juliette: Or they just don't know, right?
Shawn: They don't.
Juliette: Like maybe not even have expectations, right?
Quentin: Right, they've never been through it before.
Juliette: That's right.
Quentin: They've been on this platform for 20 years, so those changes are very important.
Shawn: And that's why we do this, why from back in the day. Hello, is this on? Juliette are you there?
Juliette: Yep, yep, yep.
Shawn: I always have to do that, I love that. Not to think of any Saturday Night Live skits in particular, but that's what it reminds me of. Anyway, I mean that's why we do these calls is so there are these huge lessons learned, and that if you think about that construction company, there was the gentleman who chose to do business with us, basically did it because of this call because he saw my Star Wars stuff.
Juliette: Oh, I love it.
Shawn: He was like “I love that!” That was cool, or this other company that we gave some of our employees the product they make.
Juliette: Oh my gosh.
Shawn: We gave that as a gift to them this year which was cool.
Juliette: Right, right, right, right.
Shawn: And I think what we've learned from--and the gentleman who ran that project, the CFO, and he had a warehouse manager, director maybe who did most of the work. I mean I love these guys; I mean we love our clients. We are all in with these people and it just breaks my heart when we didn't set an expectation, or we should have said something more.
Shawn: And you know if we really got into what could happen, then we would tell the client not to change because there are so many risks.
Juliette: Right, yep.
Shawn: But if you look at the fundamentals, like the things I mentioned earlier, the app is so old, and your business is totally working differently now that it's working against you; you're having to hire a bunch of people to do manual stuff. Hire a bunch of people to do the really cool analytics and value-added stuff that's different.
Shawn: So, at the end of the day, you just need to know it's going to be hard. Go in with realistic expectations, you don't know what the expectations are; you're exactly right. Listen to these podcasts. Talk to people who've been through it, and every single person who's going to be honest with you is going to say, “you have an expectation for here, it needs to be here.” And you know what? Remember that most clients barely even make it off the ground with the go-live. A lot of them fail.
Juliette: It's pretty bumpy, right? Yeah, yeah.
Shawn: It’s real bumpy *shudders*. Ok, what’s next Juliette?
Juliette: Oh my gosh, well, it's kind of the thing too, that the decision sometimes is the hardest part of a project. It’s deciding are we going to do this or not, and then not saying that the rest is easy, but sometimes making the decision can be the hardest part.
Shawn: Well Q, especially in this kind of uncertain economic time with gas prices and supply chain issues, what did you see with customers on how they finally were like “that's it! We're just going to do it.” What was that decision like?
Quentin: They were somewhat forced into it by the nature of technology and the pandemic, saying that “we have to change this company in order to continue to operate, grow, etc.,” and so there was sort of this chrysalis that came out of the pandemic saying, “we need to transform into a new type of business.”
Juliette: That's right.
Quentin: We have to have technology forward thinking, we have to allow for differences that we haven't had in the past. That helped them make the decision because they didn't have a choice, maybe that's not so much of a decision as forced into it, but it did help them get the impetus to move forward.
They did move forward this year. We saw so much going on this year whereas it didn't really slow down in 2020 or 2021, but it definitely shot up as more companies came out of that going “ok, this was rough. In order to survive we need to change, let's change now, and then move forward with it.” There's also the end of the road decision. Even after you've decided to do the move, you've gotten it, you're through implementation, that go live is a big decision too. Are we ready? Are we really ready?
Juliette: Yes, that’s right.
Quentin: Are we going to be successful here? So, there are other decisions that go into that and they are very important. As well.
Juliette: Yeah, yeah, well Quentin, you touched a little bit on having the right resources or if a resource leaves like this seems to be a time of like a talent shortage.
Shawn: Yes, it is.
Juliette: Yes, so to speak. Are there leadership best practices to kind of consider even if there isn't a turnover or a resource issue? But just if you're going through an implementation, is there leadership best practices that a company should consider?
Quentin: I would definitely say so. The first thing I would say is executive sponsorship and oversight is a must. That's the first layer. That's the leadership you have to establish, and that is not a single person that can be a team; sometimes it's a single person, but usually, it’s a team, so you have redundancies there. If one of those resources leaves, you still have a group making good decisions for the overall organization. After that, you have some key resource levels in the leadership area. Really, it all kind of circulates around your project manager, and there are multiple project managers involved with the project; so, having a good team of project managers from the vendor, from the partner, from the client, additional help from ERP Advisors Group, something of that sort. It is that leadership that makes everything else operate and coordinates it.
After that level of leadership, you're going to your business analysts, you're going to your technical analysts, your resources, and your subject matter expert leads. You can build it out from the top level down, assigning responsibility and redundancies where necessary. So, there are definitely best practices around the leadership structure from a project management and an implementation standpoint, but even in needs analysis or selections you have to have that leadership structure as well. So, it's not just in implementation, or after going live, or at the very beginning, it has to be consistent throughout. For resource changes, build that in from an expectation perspective to say, “what are we going to do if these resources are available?” They've got a 40-hour week job already.
Juliette: Mm-hmm. That's right.
Quentin: You put them into an implementation, how do we mitigate this based on that resource availability? They change, they leave, they get promoted, and who knows what happens; that would be the best thing. And so, you build it based on a structure of hierarchy with responsibility.
Shawn: Yeah, I think I would add to that Juliette some practical things, I think we saw this year, one of our clients asked us for best practices on a bonus structure for people that are involved in the implementation.
Juliette: Right, oh interesting.
Shawn: Yeah, a very, very good topic to have, and typically what we see there is it sort of depends on if an individual is doing their day job, plus the ERP project, equals more comp.
Juliette: That's right, that’s right.
Shawn: For sure. If the person sort of alleviated from their day job, and moves to the ERP project, ok fine, maybe their comp makes sense, maybe it doesn't. But it's a different hat that these people take on.
Juliette: That's right.
Quentin: Oh yeah.
Shawn: It's a very different role. Thinking back to that construction company that was basically a great engineer who became responsible, the project sponsor, for an ERP project. It was pretty cool.
Shawn: Yeah, it was great. He did a whole different job.
Juliette: That's a whole different job responsibility, yeah?
Shawn: Whole different responsibility. So, you know the compensation is definitely important for individuals, for sure on the project. And then I would also say, we had one client that looked at kind of a performance bonus. We’re here in Denver, and I mean I guess I'm showing my age again, but there is the big project T. Rex if you remember T. Rex?
Juliette: Mm-hmm I do yeah.
Shawn: As the big construction project downtown. I think it helped.
Juliette: All along the highways, yeah.
Shawn: All along the highway. 25. Not the 25, we're not in California, but 25. I remember with that project.
Juliette: Yeah, that's right. That's right, that's right.
Shawn: There was a bonus put into where if the work got done early then there was an additional bonus. So, it's those kinds of comp models are kind of interesting.
Juliette: A motivating factor, right?
Shawn: Exactly, especially if you're doing a time and materials implementation where the implementation consultant basically gets paid for just the time they put in. And then maybe they're not incented to make it longer, but there might not be that much incentive to get it done sooner. That's another strategy to take a look at is maybe there is an incentive on how to get them done sooner. Maybe they make less if it gets done sooner, but maybe you split the difference. So, everybody's busy. Implementation partners are wicked crazy busy, so they want to get projects done and get on to the next one too, so definitely an opportunity there as well.
Juliette: Right. Yes, well, I think we're coming to the end of our time, so I'd love to get a little bit of your thoughts on what to expect for 2023; better, different, same as 2022.
Quentin: I think that things are going to continue to evolve. I think it will be a little bit different, we'll still see an uptick as this process takes a while to do, and it's not done in an instant. It may not be contained within a single year, so I think we'll continue to see implementations, larger ones. I think it will go a little bit, I mean, it's definitely heading towards the cloud and has been for a long time, but there will be, I think, a little bit more best-of-breed as technology advances. And APIs and integration platforms really make that integration less of an issue. It can be more out-of-the-box and work like a single solution, even though it's multiple applications. We'll see a little bit more of best-of-breed involved with our implementations versus our typical core ERP or single solution; so that's what I'm expecting, but we'll see how it goes.
Juliette: Right, yeah, Shawn?
Shawn: Yeah, and I would say from our ERP minute that Rebekah hosts, Rebekah McCabe, our awesome ERP minute gal she's amazing.
Juliette: Our anchorwoman.
Shawn: Yes, she’s amazing because of the research and we're watching all these vendors, and the earnings reports are super high. I think Oracle released theirs this week; 25% growth.
Shawn: And this is on a lot of revenue already.
Juliette: Wow, that's right. Oh boy.
Shawn: But we've seen it with Unit 4, Sage, Workday, so those folks are continuing to just kill it. The revenue is super high, so that means lots of folks are still buying software. And implementation partners and different services folks are doing different things and being more creative about how they can market and offer value. We're in the middle of hockey stick growth, but I would say it’s maybe even the middle to the beginning of a lot of growth. I think 2023 is going to make 2022 look small.
Juliette: Interesting, ok.
Shawn: I think there are a lot more people that know they have to make a change, and they're actually doing something about it. I think there are more services like ours
Shawn: We're just a small flea on the back of a very big dog, right? I mean, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent around the world on ERP, and we're tiny.
Shawn: But a lot of folks need advice and so they need to know what to do.
Juliette: That's right.
Shawn: So, we're getting a ton of people coming in, but I really think the next 10 years are going to make the last 40 in IT look like nothing. All the indicators are there, the broadband telephony connection with the Internet. The basic transactions are automated, there are all these interconnecting networks and stuff. If you look at some of these vendors, they’re trying to figure out how to create value-added networks for their customers that run their software. You have Amazon, you have Google with their cloud-based services that are bringing these micro-communities together. And I just think IT is in its infancy. It's truly in its infancy.
Juliette: Wow, I mean that's kind of exciting, right?
Shawn: It is. Scares me, but that’s exactly right.
Juliette: Yes, I know right. Exactly so yes, my gosh, well thinking how quickly 2022 went we will be back here again this time next year discussing 2023.
Shawn: I know! And our lease on the building goes for a couple of years, so we'll definitely be here.
Juliette: Ok, good, good, good, good. All right, well Quentin, and Shawn, thanks for joining me, I appreciate it.
Shawn: You're welcome, thank you, Juliette, thank you.
Juliette: Thanks, thanks, and thank you everyone for joining us for today's webinar. Please let us know if you have any questions, we're happy to help in any way we can. Be sure to join us for our next webinar scheduled for Thursday, January 5th, 2023, ERP Trends and Predictions. When our own Shawn Windle will share his predictions along with Rebecca McCabe, and they'll examine the industry trends from 2022 and share their insights into the next wave of forward-thinking technology being developed by ERP vendors heading into 2023. Please go to our website erpadvisorsgroup.com for more details and to register.
ERP Advisors Group is one of the country's top independent enterprise software advisory firms. ERP Advisors Group advises mid to large-sized businesses on selecting and implementing business applications from enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, human capital management, business intelligence, and other enterprise applications which equate to millions of dollars in software deals each year across many industries. This has been The ERP Advisor. Thank you again for joining us.