About This Podcast Episode
So you’ve decided you are ready to take your business to the next level with a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software solution – what’s next?
Join 3XC CEO Jason Bittner accompanied by Senior Developer Andy Webster and Marketing Director Lauren Gulli as they walk you through their ERP selection process – and how they make sure they are choosing the best software solutions for their clients.
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Jason Bittner (CEO): Hello everyone, this is Jason Bittner from Triple Helix Corporation, and welcome again to our Helix Insider podcast. I’m actually joined in studio today with two of my colleagues, Andy Webster, one of our Senior Developers, and Lauren Gulli, who is our Director of Marketing. And today we’re going to be talking to you about how to select the right ERP system. So first off, let’s talk about what is an ERP system. Andy, why don’t you start us off?
Andy Webster: An ERP is just basically like, it’s a single database, that’s got all the parts of your business that you can track in there, like, typically, a lot of them are tailored towards manufacturing, but they have ones for just financial groups and things like that, too. But they’ll cover things like ordering, and then raw materials, you know, your bill of materials, if you’re not familiar with that term, that’s like, what you need to make a finished good for your company. And then they’ll also track, you can also track customer orders. So when your customers will take an order, somebody in your company will put that into your ERP, what they need, and then they can send out that order to manufacturing, and then they can figure out how much of this raw material they need to order to make this. And so it kind of just tracks a bunch of different components of your system, and you know, then going on to like invoicing, things like that. So you’ll have a list of all the invoices you’ve ever done, however much you choose to keep in the end. So it’s a kind of an all inclusive way to track the heartbeat of your business. And then you have that data for reporting and, you know, taxes, things like that. So you don’t have to do as much work later on if you capture all that information as you’re going. So that’s kind of the general gist of what an ERP is.
Jason Bittner (CEO): And just for clarification, what does ERP mean? What’s that stand for?
Andy Webster: Enterprise Resource Planning, a little bit of a tongue twister for me.
Jason Bittner (CEO): And it’s a software platform, correct?
Andy Webster: Yeah, usually they’ll have like a database that’s on the back. But on the front, you’ll have like a nice or kind of nice GUI to a graphical user interface to interact with. So, you know, you can fill out forms for orders or invoices and things like that.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Got it. So in our world, you know, we’re actually asked many times to help companies find an ERP system. And we’ve actually created a process that is for ERP selection consulting that we call phase zero. And finding an ERP is a very challenging endeavor for a couple of reasons. Number one, the software companies that sell these, they’re not cheap. And they’re very, very complex. And the sales teams are very motivated to try to sell these to our manufacturing partners. And in so doing is that they’ll do anything and say anything that the software can do to try to make that sale. But in reality is these tools are not always the same one size fits all sort of thing. So we find in practice, it becomes very challenging to validate that the ERP they’re looking at is actually truly going to do what it says it does. So for that matter, we’ve actually in our work has been able to remove some of the bias and the mystery in finding a new ERP. The other thing is that we’re experts at finding these because we’ve worked with them for so many years. However, if you’re a business and you’re trying to find your next ERP system, you know, you’ve got a company to run, you’ve got a business to operate. And sometimes finding an ERP in the process can be almost a full time job. And you know, certainly if you’re not skilled at it, and you don’t have the time, then you know, the ability to find that ERP becomes even that much more challenging. So we recommend using someone that has expertise to help find an ERP and not going right to the vendors and say, does your system do this? And most often the times they’ll say yes, of course, but an objective
viewpoint is very necessary here. Lauren, why don’t you talk to our listeners a little bit about how we perform our phase zero once entailed with actually helping a company find their next ERP.
Lauren Elizabeth Gulli: Absolutely. So I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in on a couple of different phase zero calls with our CEO, Jason, and they are really comprehensive. We really dive in depth with our different potential clients to really understand their needs and make sure that we are meeting and addressing all of their pain points. So a lot of the times, from my understanding, we will sit down and we’ll talk to different departments within the organization. So everybody from production to operation to quality and engineering, just some examples of the different departments that we’ve spoken to at different companies. And we really try to talk to the key players in those departments. So whoever the lead of the department is, the people that are really doing the brunt of the work in those departments on a daily basis, we really want to make sure we talk to them and have a pretty detailed conversation about what they need in order to make their business run smoother. Basically if you talk to the head of these different departments, they already can jot down off the top of their head one to three different pain points that are really causing them to struggle and slowing down overall operations. So we really try to talk to them, talk through those points, and understand how and what solutions we might consider implementing that will help to make their lives easier and help their business run smoother overall. A lot of the times they do have current systems in place, but those systems might not be meeting their needs or not all of their needs, or they’re kind of doing patchwork to make whatever system they have work and putting Band-Aids over problems that really could be better addressed by augmenting the existing system with new modules or integrations that can help meet a lot of those pain points, address them and make their lives easier, or by even implementing a completely new system like we talked about previously. And really finding somebody that understands those systems and works with them every day and really knows the ins and outs of ERPs and what works for each business is really critical. Because another point that I see a lot, we work with a lot of different industries, right? So we could be working one day with somebody in manufacturing and the next day working with somebody in a completely different industry and different industries have different needs based on their industry that they might be looking for in a new software. So you really want to find somebody that you trust that does this every day that really knows the ins and outs of these systems and can help you find the best match for your business. So once we’ve met with those departments and we’ve had those conversations and we’ve sat down and we’ve gotten to know them and their needs a little bit better, we come up with a requirements matrix. So we’ll detail out what their must haves are, their wishlist items, so to speak, what would make their lives easier, we’ll write all of that down, we’ll do some research on the back end. And then we’re normally able to go to them and present them with our recommendations as far as going forward, what we suggest implementing and what we suggest to go ahead and get that process started on their end.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Right. And just to add to that, that matrix is so very critical because it’s sort of that detailed understanding of what the company needs, but it also allows us to match ERP systems that are out there to those needs and see if there’s a right size, right fit. Typically, we start with like a list of over a hundred different ERPs, but by the time we’re having interviews, we’ve kind of whittled it down to like maybe the top 20. And then after the interviews are done, the matrix is created, we’re down to like a top 10. And then by the time we look at a top 10 list and then go to the vendors and start to match suitability and fit with that matrix, we’re actually narrowing it down to like the top one, two, three recommendations. And those things include things like price is also very, very important because not all these are priced the same. Some companies don’t have a large budget, so we have to be sensitive to certain solutions might be a perfect fit, but they’re too expensive. So we have to consider that. The other thing that’s really, really big thing right now is what they call a CMMC compliant cyber security model maturity levels, which allows the organization to work with the Department of Defense. And if they’re required to have that certification, the ERP system must actually match that. And not all of them do. So you could, again, have a perfect fit, but if you’re not meeting all of those requirements, it actually creates a problem that they have to be able to choose the right solution. And on that, I mean, these things are never a perfect fit. I mean, if you have the best, best outcome, you’re not going to get all of your needs met. Andy, why don’t you talk to the point about like how much of a good fit can you really get for an ERP system, and then what can they expect if they don’t get everything they want?
Andy Webster: In most cases, they’re kind of a generic sort of thing. So it’ll be like a general, it’ll cover a lot of different cases, and a lot of them are pretty, it can be pretty comprehensive.
Jason Bittner (CEO): But what percentage level would you say is like the perfect fit that we get in our work and in our history?
Andy Webster: I mean, like 80% of the way there probably is pretty good.
Jason Bittner (CEO): They don’t ever get 100% then, yes?
Andy Webster: No. And you know, that’s where we come in later. But so nothing’s going to fit you, your company perfectly, obviously, but if you can get most of that work done with an ERP, then that’s still going to save you a whole lot of time. And if you really want to make it more tailored to your business in particular, that’s something we do too. We don’t customize, we don’t customize the ERP itself, but we build layers on top of it that will augment, usually, an existing ERP. So you can do extra things likelive reporting, maybe you want to have a touch screen with live data showing up on your shop floor, you know, so that everybody knows what’s in production and who’s making what, things like that. So yeah, if you need help with something like that, then, or selecting an ERP or customizing an ERP, then that’s what we’re here for. You can give us a call and, you know, we’re more than happy to help fit it to your
Jason Bittner (CEO): That’s a really excellent point because, you know, we’ve met so many companies that are searching for their ERP, whether they don’t have one yet or they’re replacing an older one, and they actually have a tendency to think of it as a silver bullet that’s going to solve all their problems once they have it. And your point about, you know, 80% of fit is very accurate. I mean, that is literally the best we’ve ever seen. Basically, ERPs are far less than that. Most companies we meet who are struggling are maybe 30% or 40% of fit, so, you know, getting even to an 80% is quite an achievement, but it’s never going to be that 100% fit. And to your earlier point, augmentation is sometimes necessary, which is what we do. We run software layers that go on top of things. So yes, absolutely a fair point. So you know, just a little bit about, you know, some of the work we’ve done today, guys, you know, ERP selection consulting, if you’re looking for a new one or if you’re actually struggling with an existing one, but you’re not really ready to get rid of it, you know, we recommend ERP augmentations, which we can actually assist with. Any final thoughts, Lauren?
Lauren Elizabeth Gulli: Yeah, absolutely. So definitely we’ve worked with a variety of clients across varieties of different industries, everything from ERP selection consulting to augmentation. Really the key takeaway for me and for our audience, I think, is really making sure, you know, ERP selection, from my understanding and from what I’ve seen working with our company, can be a full time job. It can be really easy to become overwhelmed with finding a new system. There’s so much that goes into it, not just about understanding your business, but understanding about how these different ERP systems work and how they operate and what the best fit might be for your business. And most people, most business owners and decision makers are so busy running their own business, they just don’t have the time to invest in researching and finding the right fit for an ERP. So they either end up delaying that process and
putting it off when it’s really critical and their business is suffering and their operations are greatly slowed because they don’t have an efficient system in place, or they just end up settling for a system that’s not really a great fit for them. So I think the best thing that we can really recommend is, you know, finding somebody to partner with such as Triple Helix, who knows ERP, who does this on a daily basis, who’s worked with a variety of different clients and many different systems. Like you said, I mean, we have a matrix of over a hundred different ERP systems that we’ve worked with and that we’ve partnered with. So we really know these systems and finding somebody that has that intelligence so that we can do the legwork for you so that you’re not taking time away from running your business and working with your customers to find a new system to better your operations. You’re able to work with a company that really knows those systems and can help you get the right fit for your business the first time. So you’re not wasting time and money, and that you can make sure that you have the best fit for your business, your employees, and your company.
Jason Bittner (CEO): No, actually, very well said. Thank you. Andy, any final thoughts?
Andy Webster: Yeah. Just to bounce off of what Lauren said, oftentimes when we will delay these kinds of things, but honestly, the sooner you start doing something like this, something like using an ERP for your company, the better, because it’s kind of like organization in your personal life. You know, you’ll be living in chaos forever, and then you’ll be like, as soon as you get organized, you’ll think, why didn’t I do this sooner? Because it takes a lot of stress away when something is doing a lot of the work for you, or you can delegate a lot of your tasks that you would normally be running in your business, and things like paper forms and things like that, and keeping track of all that. The sooner you do it, the better, because electronic, it really is better in that it is extensible, so the sky’s the limit for what you can do with the data you capture.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Well said. Well said. Okay. Well, that’s, I think, all our time for today. I want to thank my two guests, Andy Webster, our Senior Developer, and Lauren Gulli, our Director of Marketing, for joining me today, and we’ll see you next time. Thank you, everyone.