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BOOST Your ERP Podcast

Join industry experts as we talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of ERP. Interviewing product experts, and discussing ERP implementation and integration ideas.

Join us as we talk to one of our favorite tech partners in the industry Allison at Versapay. Alison has years of experience helping our customers getting accounts payable dialed in and more cash flow. Listen in and hear all that and more.


Listen as Bruce and Todd discuss how most companies have underutilized IT investment. By aligning all IT activity with the goals of the company, technology becomes a strategic partner in the success of the business instead of a necessary cost center.


Join us as we interview Ruth Rosenstock, Global Partner Engagement Manager at RF Smart. RF Smart and NetSuite are two of the most powerful business management tools currently available. In this podcast, we'll explore how to use both platforms to their fullest potential to streamline your operations and make you more efficient. We'll discuss topics around the integration, using RF Smart for warehouse management, and optimizing inventory visibility with NetSuite. Harnessing the power of tech and knowing you can't manage what you can't see.


We are here with Andrew Zwerner, CEO at Chassi and we are taking a dive into continuous improvement for business leaders. Andrew has been a leader in this field for many years and is excited to share some of his insights on assessing your current tech stack and when to look for new tech. Find out how leading with a continuous improvement mindset is crucial to jumping on opportunities when they arise. We'll also hear about some of his adventures along the way!


Ever wondered how embracing technology and automation can revolutionize your business? Join us as we chat with Chris, founder of Cloud Extend, and learn about his entrepreneurial journey that led him to discover the power of NetSuite and create a wildly successful chain of nine stores. Chris opens up about his unique experiences and shares the invaluable lessons he learned throughout his fascinating journey.

Dive into the world of tech and automation with Chris as he talks about his role at Celigo and their integration platform, Integratorio. Learn how Celigo empowers businesses to connect disparate systems and automate processes, leading to growth and success in the mid-market and beyond. Chris emphasizes the importance of customer service and building strong relationships when working on complex projects, drawing from his experience developing a custom online booking system for his limousine service.

Lastly, don't miss out on Chris's best business advice that has helped him succeed in the challenging world of entrepreneurship. Discover the power of challenging the status quo, empowering people to do the right thing, and making small yet impactful changes to boost your business. Listen in and gain valuable insights that can help you overcome the challenges of implementing and adopting systems like NetSuite, and ultimately transform your business for the better.

Speaker 1: 0:00

Hello everybody, welcome to the Boost Your ERP podcast. Here at GoVirtual Office we're going to talk a little bit about an ERP from a recovery perspective today. I'm thrilled to have on the podcast Tracy from CPED. She's the Senior Director over there at CPED. We've worked together for multiple years on a recovery project for their NetSuite account. Just for their background, they use NetSuite for their back office but also sweet commerce advance. We really work together over the years to improve that process. Very excited to have you on board today, tracy. Welcome.

Speaker 2: 0:39

Thank you, thanks I'm really excited to be here.

Speaker 1: 0:42

Yeah, Well there's a lot to talk about, so we're going to dive right in. But first, before we drive into the ERP stuff, give me a background. I know a little bit, but I'm actually curious to know the full background. Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you're from, where you go to school, stuff like that.

Speaker 2: 0:58

Sure, maybe I'll start with what our organization does and then I'll back into what my role is and how I got here through my background. Cped is actually online and in-person programming, like education. We offer certificates that give professionals modern, relevant skills needed to advance their career. Then we partner with organizations to provide customized professional development programs so we can actually come to your company and help you develop right there on site with your team. I love working for CPED It's Center for Advanced Studies in Business. We have a lot of acronyms, but when I refer to CPED, that's what we're talking about. I grew up in Platteville, wisconsin, so not too far, but I love Wisconsin, so I was not really motivated to go much further. I've been interested in technology since I was a child. I remember taking apart radios and I'm dating myself now, but because I was always fascinated with how things worked and how technology worked From there, i immediately started working after high school and going to college. My focus was always on technology, but I find the most joy when I'm helping other people translate and understand how to utilize technology within their space. There's the very technical speak and the technical way of doing things, and then you have the practical business needs. I've been really fortunate to wear a lot of different hats in my career. I've always been that person that bridges that gap between technology and what the business is doing and how they need to utilize technology. Other than that, i actually was a contractor when I started at CPED and I am now an employee there and I'm really grateful. But I have three certificates from CPED. I'm a lifelong learner. To be on the other side of that, supporting the organization and helping other people continue their education, has been a real treat.

Speaker 1: 3:21

That's awesome. To me, one of the things that I learned really quickly when we were starting to work together is you do a fantastic job on that practical application that you mentioned. I always could tell right away that you understood the nuts and bolts of the technology, but to be able to almost be that interpreter for those people that were end users, toss as a consultant, was extremely valuable. It was two directions that you would be able to take information that we would give to you and then you would translate it back to them. That was extremely helpful. You do really have a great long suit in that area Lifelong learning. so where'd you go to college at?

Speaker 2: 4:03

I actually started off at UW La Crosse, but I have a degree in electronics and then a computer science degree from Herzing. Then I've built on a PMP and besides the CPED courses I've taken a lot of other leadership and development education as well. I'm always getting myself into something where I'm a little bit outside of my comfort zone and continuing to learn, to develop as a professional.

Speaker 1: 4:34

That makes sense that you landed at CPED, which is about learning. You're really at the root of what you do and what you enjoy doing. That's very cool. You got your degree in Herzing. Where did you start out in the industry? How did you get into the industry For what we do? how did you get there?

Speaker 2: 4:51

Yeah, it was an interesting journey. I actually was an electronics technician while I was going to school. I was working full-time and working at a company called Mark Whip. I'm not even sure that Mark Whip's around anymore, but they were headquartered here in Madison. Then, when they shut down the Mark Whip here in Madison, i worked at Nicolet Instruments as an electronics technician as well. We were working on spectrometers that use computers to do the calibration and to run the equipment. I wedged myself into the space where you were setting up and configuring the computers that run all of this equipment. It was a need that they had and it was something I was passionate about. I was going to school for it as well. From there, things just really took off. I was working all the way through school and then I started at UW Health in their IT department a few years ago. I was really fortunate there, because I was in IT for 15 years and I got to wear a lot of different hats, all the way from the boots on the ground installing computers and software to eventually overseeing the systems administrator team and a big focus on telehealth at the end of my tenure there as well. Then, naturally, within technology, you were always project managing, and so that was a skill set that I really built upon as well. Then I was a PMO director after that. Now I'm not only the IT director at CPED, but I'm also a senior advisor, and I create online content. as you're aware, i'm always learning, i'm always growing and I'm always trying to share the lessons that I've learned in technology and in the business space.

Speaker 1: 6:47

That's a really good point. You talk about the continuous learning a lot and you really went from the nuts and bolts all the way up to where we deal a lot on the application level of those electronics. What are some of the key things that helped you continuously learn? What would help you be successful in that area?

Speaker 2: 7:08

I think my natural curiosity about how things work and then my drive to always take things one step further In healthcare, the other driver for me was. I was so passionate about what the hospital was doing and the use of technology, the role that technology played in patient care. Ironically, as you know, i've been dealing with a cancer diagnosis and recovery myself, so to know that I helped not only the patients that were there before but ultimately myself in the work that I did is incredibly, not only rewarding but it's very motivating. I really am just naturally driven to understand how technology helps everybody within their role, whether their organization or their personal life. I've just naturally fallen into these roles where I'm constantly helping others bridge that gap as well.

Speaker 1: 8:14

You do an excellent job with that, just of what I've seen, just in our experience together. One of the questions I always tend to ask and like to hear there's a couple of them kind of together but related like technology. There's lots of different viewpoints, lots of different users of technology. I'm curious what's the best technology advice you've ever been given?

Speaker 2: 8:36

Yeah, i mean that's a really good question And frankly I don't know if the advice was something somebody actually gave me or it's just best practice that I learned over time in my different roles. But it's really around technology change control and having a process in place. You know, in every role that I've had there was some level of I don't know if unruly is the right word but there wasn't a lot of control or oversight with not only the technologies that people were bringing into the organizations, but how they were using them And then the risk it was introducing, not only from a data security perspective. But you know, if you are utilizing a technology that doesn't get the job done or it's problematic, you are risking your business, whatever that business might be. So one of the first things I did when I came to CPED was I implemented a technology change control process, and it's really a way to allow our end users to take their technology ideas or the tools or things that they think they want to use and have a process to follow, to have it brought into a governance process to be vetted and to be very thoughtful about what we are utilizing. And I think one of the biggest things that it does is it gives visibility to the entire organization and to those decision makers, so that when we're looking at different tools, we have the opportunity to ask those questions, to make sure it aligns with our strategic plan, to talk about what is in scope, what is out of scope, and then to follow another process for actually implementing it, using change management processes, to make sure that when you're making those changes, you're being very thoughtful and intentional about that as well.

Speaker 1: 10:26

Yeah, and it's great and really to me is so interesting when people start looking at you know, a change management or change requests or things like that. It's really a catalyst for communication. Yeah, and really, in where it forces businesses to cross the part, mentalize and say, hey, what is going on, hey, this is going to affect me and X reason. And to me there's two different schools of thoughts a lot of times with that, especially when it comes to reporting. You know, like, do you allow people to go create their own safe searches or reports or do you lock that down? And there's really two thoughts you can go with that. Well, i want them to go ahead and be able to have that and just make that change. But, as we all know that, you know, a lot of times data isn't always wrong. It could be the safe search and the criteria or what have you that is wrong, but then it promotes that concept that the data was wrong. Right, you know. So it's one of those things that even on a safe search or report level, sometimes it's really beneficial to have that stripped away, that permission stripped away, to be consistent with reporting.

Speaker 2: 11:35

Yeah, i mean, you're absolutely right And in our instance, we're still working on the data And our goal is ultimately to do what you're talking about, which is empowering our end users to be able to get into the system to get the things that they need. But, like with anything, you have to have that foundation in place. You have to have clean data, you have to have structure and bumpers to ensure that they're creating reports or accessing data that is the correct data, and so we're not there yet. You know, as far as giving our users the freedom that we're hoping to give them, you know we're very much sort of like in control of that, but in a way that's very supportive. We would never, you know, dictate what data people can and can't see, but it's really about what you are saying making sure that what they are accessing is accurate And it's going to also get them the end result that they're looking for, because that's the other big piece that, even when changes, workflow changes with a net suite or data request, you know, a lot of times, end users, they know their business and they think they know what they need to accomplish. You know what they're trying to achieve, but it's up to us and technology to really translate that, to hear their goal and then to tell them how they can get there utilizing the technology or the data. And so we that is the role that we are playing right now Eventually we'll have, you know, dashboards and data that's just being readily available, and so that's our long-term vision. You know, we'll get there. Just it's, we got a little work to do.

Speaker 1: 13:20

And what's amazing is that you know we're talking about reporting with this. But at times when we started to do more in the last year, we actually have data analysts, not just data import. People have data analysts and really taking that because that's there's so much data, super data, rich, but you know how do you get actionable data out of it. And as we started to do more with Power BI you know Power Query and things of that nature with their data analysts you know people really had to reframe because a lot of times we would just have a request because I need a safe search, you know, or I need a report, and we would just generally do that. But as we've gone into the data analytics, we actually had to do a requirements phase prior to going into that and that it needs to have the diligence to say, okay, you've clearly said what you want, but like, let's peel that onion back because you're starting to look at the different layers and it almost requires that requirements analysis, that solution design, you know that vetting, proof of concept and that QA. So it's really started data projects. It started to mirror what we've done for a long time in custom scripting And it was really pulling it back to say let's start to apply these principles to data, to validate and make sure, because it is that important.

Speaker 2: 14:44

Yeah, absolutely. I mean the data. There's the data governance of the data going into the system and making sure that we're, you know, always putting good data in but then pulling out the right data based on the needs and you hit it right on the head with that requirements. That that's part of that change control. And the technology governance is, you know, making sure we understand what the end result is that we're trying to get to. And you know, the business. They have their focus, they have their expertise and our expertise and especially in our small group we don't have business analysts, but that is a skill set that I brought with me is to do that requirements gathering, and so important because then otherwise you're delivering on something that doesn't get you what they were trying to accomplish and then you've wasted your time.

Speaker 1: 15:35

So Correct And to me, the worst thing with data is people not having confidence in the data. The worst thing is data right and them having no confidence in that, because then the value of it is very minimal. On that, Yeah, completely Yeah, So with your recovery. So you guys, you know when we first met, you know you brought us in to help with recovery or struggling with certain aspects. So tell us a little bit about where you were at when you started in your recovery when you came on board the CPAC. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Speaker 2: 16:07

Yeah, i mean, that's, as you know, quite a story. So I, as I mentioned, i was brought in as a contractor to replace NetSuite and I very quickly you know you go back to that requirements discussion I took a step back and I just said you know what is the big picture? What are we trying to accomplish? What are the limitations of what we have now that are preventing you from getting there? And what I realized is that we couldn't just up and replace NetSuite. We had all of this sort of foundational legwork that had to be done first. And so the first thing I did was that technology governance. So you got to stop the bleeding. So no more changes without vetting, no more data requests, because you go back to saying you know, trusting the data, nobody trusted the data on the system, but come to find out It was a lot of those, you know, bad reports and that kind of thing. And then so, and then the next, the very next thing I did after that governance is I did an RFP to find a solution provider to help support us. You know, when it comes to there are systems that you can be trained on and you can learn, and it's one thing when you come in clean or you're part of an implementation, but when you're coming into something that has had years of customization, that wasn't best practice you need to bring in experts. And so we interviewed about 10 different service providers and you guys were the clear front runners. I mean, it was night and day the conversations I had with you compared to the others, but it was so important And that's why we did the RFP. We had our requirements defined for the service provider itself, and we needed somebody that was going to have our best interests at heart, that was going to actually partner with us, that was going to tell us the truth and then give us options to move forward. We're a very small nonprofit And so we couldn't just, you know, bring in the Calvary and do an overhaul. We needed to have a plan, and we needed to do it in a way that not only my little team could digest it, but that the organization could manage through that change. And so you know, one of the things as a leader that's so important is recognizing when you need help or when you need people who know what they're doing, and that's where you guys came in. And so, as you know, you came on site and our primary issue was that our website was unstable. It was unsupportable And we were about eight versions behind. I think I don't even remember It was bad A lot of versions, yeah. It was bad, and so you know our priorities sort of spoke for themselves. You know we needed to address that website And I knew and you talk about an overhaul that was something that needed an overhaul And we needed a partner to do that. And then the third thing that I did is that I brought on Dr Katie Forster. She's our Senior Systems Administrator And, as you know, katie is just outstanding, amazing, incredibly smart but dedicated and also somebody who you can trust to come in and have the best interest of the company at heart, to use best practice, to be able to partner not only with everyone in the org but with you all. And so between GVO coming in and helping us create a plan and then Katie really supporting and bringing the muscle from inside of our organization, we've been able to really turn that ship around. But it's been a journey. We just went live with our new website in the summer and that was a ton of work but it was so successful. A sign of a good goal live is that nobody says a word, and that's exactly what happened. But we had sales the morning of goal live right off of our website. We're already seeing our return on investment definitely pay off, but that was clearly our first priority. There are a few of other things that you had pointed out that we needed help. I mean, we needed to stabilize, to get to the point where we could start planning for that website. So there were some other foundational things, and now we're really going to start. We've assembled a team, a data team, that's really going to focus, or is focusing, on our data You know what is and defining what is a customer in our system, what is a company in our system, what are the data elements we need to capture and why on those things. But because of sort of the history of our environment, our net suite environment, we're going to start defining those things and then we're going to have to kind of back into it. So not only do we have like enhancements to the data that we're collecting, but we're going to have to go back and do a pretty big data cleanup effort. But what I can say is that, through this journey that I was just describing, we've taken the team of us, including you. We've taken a system that they were just over. They were like get it out of here, i don't want anything, and I really took a risk. I was like well, actually and the truth is, with all systems and that's where the experience comes in. From me and from you guys We know that you can take the world's best system and customize it or whatever, and not use best practice and ruin it. It could have been the perfect tool for you in the wide world, but if you're not following these processes, if you're not following the governance, it's the wild wild west, and then, of course, you end up with a mess, and it's not as easy as just picking it up and replacing, which is what they wanted to do, which is the start of how we got to this point. We had a different system long before I was here, and they sort of tried to do this lift and shift without really being planful about it, and a lot of the data didn't carry over and it didn't match up, and then we just kept building and building and building on a foundation that was unstable to begin with. So just a ton of work to get to the point where we are. But we are now at the point where people are actually excited about NetSuite Our biggest I don't want to say critics but the people who were suffering the most from what existed before are now singing the praises. They're excited about the opportunity that we have with that system And now that we've implemented a new three-year strategic plan to be able to use the system to execute on that. I mean, it's almost like I can't hardly believe it saying it myself, but it was a lot of work and getting the right people in place and the support of you that made it happen.

Speaker 1: 23:34

So really exciting stuff but a lot of work And I know when we talked in September I think, of last year, after the dust has settled, the relaunch of the website and everybody's able to exhale a little bit it was very, i know, satisfying for both of us Because we knew where that recovery process started And it was. And to me, as you talk about that, i vividly recall some of those first meetings This was pre-COVID, a couple years before COVID and coming on site and sitting down And I remember those first meetings and it would be very reminiscent of being a therapist in front of a couple that had decided that we're divorcing. We just need you to help. How do we do this? Do the paperwork? Yeah, yeah, and really it was at that point, and understandably so, because, as we're going through some of that, and to me, from my perspective of what I saw is there was some probably gross misunderstanding of what Nest we could do and how it had been set up, and it wasn't through anybody's fault, but there have been a number of different partners that have been in. There were some things that I wouldn't say that we're set up wrong, but we're set up right. But there were some and to me, as much as anything, those first meetings were education of okay, nest, we can do this. Well, it's not doing that, understand it's not, but the functionality is there to do this. And there was a lot of people that, and I always say that whenever you have that much energy against the product, people can take that as a negative, in a negative way, which is not a positive situation. I'm not saying it that way, but the fact is is you had some people that really cared about doing their job and doing their job well, and they were not able to do their job well because of the system set up or the data set up or whatever, or not having enough education and knowing how that system works. That that was all being manifested because, like I want to do my job, i can't even come close to doing my job. And so when it did cause a lot of pain And I remember the conversations that we had probably nine, six to nine months there was really that vetting process of like starting to get initial buy into, like okay, plus, not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let's step back. I remember you saying what you said that like look okay, even if you guys decide to go away from Neswee, what you have to do is figure out where you're at in Neswee from a data perspective and how do you want that to work and get those requirements. So even if you do go to another platform, you at least have a roadmap of where you're at now before you make that transition. Then it was really interesting and you did a great job leading your team and just like they're like okay, you're right, we have a good tool. We've just gone way off the path of that, so we get to that point. So everybody's just like okay, we'll pause, we're not going to shoot Neswee. What were the next steps on your side that you guys saw as far as getting towards that recovery process to move in a positive direction? What was next for you?

Speaker 2: 27:00

I mean, I think what was important to the business because they were putting a lot of trust in me and it was a risk, frankly So they needed to see some sort of positive movement And so it was really important for me to start to make some changes or to open there, to educate them through you all on the possibilities, the capabilities, and then also sort of explaining why we were in this situation. We were in because I don't think anybody really understood it And, frankly, there's still some gray area right, i mean it changed through a lot of different hands before it got to us, and that trust was something I really had to earn. And then we had to start delivering. So in my role, i not only had to deliver on Neswee, but I had to deliver on technology across the organization and prove that I'm not making these things up or whatever. There are real reasons and they're going to add value. And so I think we talked a little bit about the instability of the website. Your team made some immediate changes to the website And then suddenly it wasn't the topic that everybody was talking about, it just went quiet. And again, the best sign of a successful technology changes that nobody says anything. And that's what happened. And I remember our CEO, john, saying to me one day I haven't heard a single person complain about Neswee, and this was pretty early on, maybe six months in And he realized like, oh, we are, there's hope here. We are really going to be able to either use this or we have hope moving forward. And so I can't say enough about how much I appreciate John's trust and support I mean even out of the gates, but I really did have to earn that. It was sort of like okay, i hear you, i hear Todd, but the proof is gonna be in your action. So, like, let's get to it understandably and very scary, probably mostly for me, a little less for you, but I mean, i remember having very frank conversations with you about, like, i'm putting my butt on the line here and we need to do this, and I trusted you and I'm so glad I did. But that's that partnership I was talking about when we were talking about looking at other vendors from like a tactical checking the box there. Well, maybe we're some others, but what I felt with you and the message that your team gave to us is that we are gonna be your partner. We are here with you. And you even said something along the lines of, well, you probably might get rid of NetSuite. I don't know, we don't know enough to know right now, but what I can tell you is that we can make a difference And them, hearing you say that, and in a way that was really genuine and honest, resonated with them. So, yeah, but we had to start making action very quickly and your team did, and that's really what started that momentum. And then we went from a timeline of where I was. We had the NetSuite replacement on our roadmap. It was still on a roadmap even a few months out In my mind, though I knew that we were gonna move in sort of iterations, we were gonna address sort of like chunks of problematic pieces to build that trust, and then, eventually, i was able to put out a roadmap. That was also probably the second most scary conversation of my career, where I put out a new roadmap and I hadn't told anyone about it And I just said we're not replacing NetSuite. We got a plan and it's gonna work, and I just know it. And here we are, it worked. I mean it's just like the most incredible, exciting, exhilarating, but yeah, that was pretty intense there.

Speaker 1: 31:27

And I remember a couple of those conversations and one of the things that for those that are listening that may be going through need to go through recovery or stuff like that. The one thing that there's two things, two things really that happened that you mentioned, that were imperative. One is there was a lot of honesty, and when you were able to share it, you're just like, hey, todd this, and we were very, it was very honest. Dialogue, okay, this, what needs to happen, this is what I need to do to start gaining that trust and stuff like that. So it allowed us to have the insight into the playbook. It wasn't a guess And we weren't ever. I think we've been very honest, Like we're not trying to gouge you on anything. If we think it's gonna be this, we'll give you an estimate And if it's less, it's less, if it's more, we'll try to give you an advanced warning. And the reason why so it was always that the goodwill was always there And it was on your part as well and that really helped. But then also the one thing is I look at successful projects, not just recovery projects, but successful projects. The executive buy-in is mandatory. It's really not negotiable for a successful project. Now it could be a middling project, it could be a failed project, and so many times it does end up there. But in one thing I wanted to come back to is that you mentioned Katie before, and we do manage application services, where we do help businesses manage their Nesuit account and we do projects, and there's this common perception that we would be averse to people having a Nesuit administrator. That's farthest from the truth, because we actually probably get the most out of it because whether it's that buffer layer or the summing internally that can help herd the cats or what have you, that that is really important. Now, do I think that every business has to have a Nesuit administrator? They're not cheaper resources. No, i don't think that's the case. It depends on the business. Now what I do see is like your minimum viable product for you. What you have is you do need to have a super user that understands the bigger concepts, so maybe it's not an administrator but has that understanding of like. Okay, i just can't go do the save search right, understand the data structure enough to create a save search that I can validate, improve file and things of that nature, because you guys did have a fair amount of complexity built in some of your projects And a lot of way you had a learning management system where you're tracking, certificates and things like that. So you did have a lot of complexity. That absolutely warranted a Katie And to me, from my perspective, sitting on our side, i never doubted that we could get to where you needed to be. But once our team started working with Katie, and when you brought Katie on board, it was a multiplier effect. It just spent everything up because we could spoon-feed Katie And to give her that. Okay, i think this is what's going on. I'm not quite sure. The next week documentation and and Corey could hop on a call and say 15-minute call and say, yeah, you know what you're, you're not going down the right path. It's close, go this way, tip it to the right a little bit. She's like, oh, i get it, and then she could go full speed ahead and she was definitely one of the keys to success On the relaunch and just the whole recovery project. So anybody's listening the super user something that you just can't underscore. How big of a impact that has.

Speaker 2: 35:01

Yeah, i mean, i think if you put Katie and Corey in a room together, they could solve all the world's problems with enough time, frankly the two of them are just, uh, outstanding, um. So, yeah, i mean, katie, we did. You know, i went back and forth with I. I also had to sell, like getting a senior administrator within our organization. But for us, we, we have to implement. We, well, we had to implement a lot of different changes, especially to the net suite system and and it. It needed sort of like constant management and also support for our, our end users, because we were making so many changes and You know you go back to that change management component, the communication, the ability to ask questions, and she was that translator and not to say that your team couldn't have translated but Because we were doing so many things, having somebody with, you know, in the seat in our organization overseeing all of that, making sure that Everybody in the organization was coming along. She had the visibility into every single role within our, within our org, and to be able to make sure that they were Understanding and coming along with this change Was just critical. I don't think we could have done it any other way and you know you, i'm surprising here that people think that you guys Are not supportive of that type of relationship, because I mean, that has been the secret to our success. You know, not everybody's, like you said not everybody but like, yeah, katie, you know She is anytime she taps into you guys. You know, you know we. We got something big. It's either a big project, there is an issue, there's a change to net suite, that You know we need a level of expertise. You know people that are just living and breathing this all the time And if you have access to Oracle and and you know all of the things. But you know, what I love is that she can come to you with something real tough and You guys are nothing but supportive. And one of my favorite things to do is to be on a meeting when Katie and Corey are brainstorming and just cranking it out and They always come up with a solution and then Katie is able to take that back and execute it in a way in a time That works with our small little company who's already gone through so much change, and really help them through that. So You know we I just can't say enough about those two and and how much their, their partnership together has Impacted the success of of net suite implementation and the and the sweet commerce, goal life and and build last year. I mean just amazing work, amazing.

Speaker 1: 38:00

Yeah, and to me, and really was, it was two-sided on both sides. I totally agree on that. So to me you mentioned a couple times and I know you work with far Well or and you've had experience in change management And really so much of what we did, you know, together was really changed management. Because you know, is it's one thing and I think a lot of times people Take for granted that, like you may have an idea, okay, and the idea is a million dollar idea. There is truth to that, but the execution of that idea the more I do this is the Execution of those great ideas, because there's a lot of great ideas that fail From a lack of execution. So much of that relates, relies back on effective change management. Can you talk a little bit about what you guys did with change management and like your recovery project?

Speaker 2: 38:54

Yeah, so my, my little team actually owns change management, business process management, project management and IT, and so To have the ability to put processes in place for all of those things and sort of marry them together has Really been sort of the secret to success from a technology change perspective. You know people change management is really about helping people through change, which means you need to be communicating with them, they need to feel like they're a part of it, and so we have different tools that we have available to us at CPED. You know, depending on what the project is, we have, you know, a stakeholder list, but we have a communication plan, and the communication plan is, you know, really one of the best tools that we have, because Whether you follow it to a T or not doesn't really matter. The idea is that you're being very thoughtful and planful about who you're communicating to and what you're saying to them, so that they feel prepared and they're not surprised, and You're asking questions to make sure that the change that you're Implementing isn't going to, you know, totally derail What they're doing on their everyday job. Because, you know, we went from our organization, went from 100% in-person program delivery all of our classes were in person to 100% online, basically overnight, and You know then you throw me into the mix where we're, you know, changing the way we utilize net suite. We're upgrading SCA, we are totally Changing the way that we deliver and support and utilize technology within our organization. We also went from 100% on-prem hardware to 100% cloud infrastructure. So if we didn't have good change management, if we weren't communicating, if we weren't planful, this would have been a complete disaster. I mean it was. It was risky, to say the least, but it was so necessary. And so for me to come in, you know, with the experience I had, i have learned from some of the best project manager or, excuse me, change managers out there. I mean I am very fortunate to have worked with some people that are, just like I mean, unbelievable in this space, and so I was able to take those things that I've learned and Apply them here, and I'm a big fan of, like, applying what, what makes sense for your organization and only what you need, and not overdoing it. So we weren't, like you know, exhausting the change management practice to the point where people are. Just that's all we were doing, but it was being very mindful about those different things that you can do around communication and And you know the other thing, that we have done a lot within our company. That's really helped with change management, as we do a lot of lunch and learns. So any changes with net suite, any new features with net suite, any changes with any of the other technology, we always hold to lunch and learns and we invite the entire organization And we talk through what those changes are gonna look like, how does that impact them, and then we give an opportunity for questions and then, of course, we record those for the folks that can't be there. But we always err on the side of over communicating, making sure that everybody is just, you know, as comfortable as they can be in the midst of all of this change. But it has been a, it's been a priority for us to make sure that that's How things are, are being implemented, because I've seen the other side in. As you know, if you can have the best idea in the world with the best project plan in the world, but if it's a surprise to everyone and it's derailing their daily jobs or the other Responsibilities they have and they you don't have their buy-in you can forget about it because it's not gonna happen.

Speaker 1: 42:47

Yeah, and they'll use that energy to circumvent instead of Adopt. And and to me that's really and I kind of forgotten about that that Really this whole recovering project with cove it is, with everything. Cove it changed everything, that you really had to put this on the shelf For a while, because we're like We just learned that we're no longer gonna be 100% in person and if we want to survive we have to transition And so and that's a really good lesson for a lot of people that it's not always a linear On on how you go from like it was a to be okay We hate Ness, we all sudden this week is great. It was really a to M to C to D to Z to back, and so it was really There's a little bit of it and to me you can blame that on cove it, but I see that in other businesses as well. It's never just a linear transition and part of it is really. When you brought up the change management I love that you guys do your lunch and learns and things of that nature, because one of the bigger challenges for people that are doing a recovery project on an ERP or implementing an ERP The reality is, is an ERP, if done well, is going to affect everybody in your organization. And now, if you're a manufacturing plant and you have a new machine, you're gonna train your manufacturing people. A salon machine Everybody speaks the same language, everybody does the same thing. But what's an ERP? you have sales, you have accounting, you have ops people, you have purchasing, you know you have CFO with your book. So you have a lot of different people that you can't Share the same message. It needs to be communicated in a message that they're going to understand and that's where we talk. Go back to, like Katie and yourself I mentioned earlier that that buffer and at times It's really one of the values of that internal administrator or the super user that knows those different roles and say, bob, you remember how you did this. Okay, it's gonna be like this, but it's gonna be on this dashboard. And they go, oh, oh, yeah, i don't have anything to worry about. It's that internal communication with those different people. That it's just a spot. You know a little bit of wisdom that it's hard for us at times, unless we're fully engaged, which you know times times with the smaller companies It's hard to be like engaged That level. But having a super user can be very practical And get in and do that change management with that.

Speaker 2: 45:15

Yeah, yeah, especially when you have, you know, with a recovery. There are so many things that are going to need to happen. Having that One constant person who's in your org, that's, that's got their thumb on what the business is doing at all times, but also understands what's happening from a technical perspective in net suite. It's really helpful because this was a, this was a long journey and we're not we're, you know, still in the thick of it, and so, um, for us to have somebody like Katie, you know, as a constant Um has just been instrumental in, in being successful with this And ensuring that we're not derailing the business, that we're supporting the strategic plan that we just rolled out. Yeah, so it was. It was incredibly important for us and continues to be, and and will be, for some, the fourth foreseeable future.

Speaker 1: 46:09

Yeah, that's great. And my last question on the recovery is is there anything you would have done differently, having known what you know? now, going back, and it has been very successful, is there anything? or like, oh, i wish I'd done that differently. Is there anything that jumps out or no?

Speaker 2: 46:25

It's funny. I thought about that and Katie and I chatted about that. We talked about potentially, maybe earlier on, getting on the same page with defining what a customer and company is and bridging the terminology of our business with the terminology that NetSuite uses, because NetSuite is generally for people who are selling widgets and we are not Some of the terminology. There was confusion there about what is a project and a company and all the things. Maybe having aligned everybody sooner would have been helpful, but not to our horns. I don't know that. There's a lot we could have done differently or should have done differently. We were very flexible and mindful and we had to roll with the pandemic and all the other things. Hindsight is 2020, but I'm just really, really proud of what this team has accomplished together. That's including you all. It's astounding and I just don't know that we could have done it any differently. That we did That speaks to your flexibility as well, and you've always given us options. We could do A, b or C. You make a recommendation, but you're not being prescriptive about how we have to do things. You're understanding that we have our own insights, we have our own knowledge and you're pairing that with what your insights and your knowledge are. We're coming up with the best solution at the best time, and we are ebbing and flowing based on what's happening around us in the business or in the world, or whatever the case might be. I honestly don't know that there was anything significant that we could or should have done differently. It's just awesome what we've been able to accomplish.

Speaker 1: 48:29

I thought about that as well. Thinking back over the years that we did this, i don't think there was anything that jumped out to me. I think that you did a great job having your plan in place and was very methodical. That helps a lot. I thought that you guys did great with the resources that you had available One thing that I think that you mentioned a couple of times. I just wanted to call out that you guys were very methodical in the steps that you took For those that are doing a recovery and the process of recovery or wanting to recover. How you're using that suite, iterative approaches, is really successful to gain that confidence and that's, like I said, one of the things that you guys did great with the resources that you guys did. One of the first things I remember, when Corey and I left, that I'm like they have lost complete trust in that suite as a product and that's the first thing that we have to address is can we get them to a point where they believe that we see SEA can do this? I remember we don't normally do this, but in that situation I remember one of the first steps that we actually did is we actually did a demo for you guys SweetCommerce advanced like you had never seen the product before because you were so old. In some of your versions it really wasn't a brand new product. I remember Corey and I we just did a complete demo of here's SweetCommerce advanced and what you could do and that was like started to defrost a little bit. But it was iterative steps along that and I see times where people where they have some frustration they spent some money on a poor implementation of things like that that they try to boil the ocean and we try to slow that process down a little bit to say, okay, let's get some wins. So the people in the warehouse are feeling like there's some love. People on accounting do they trust their data? Are there financial reports accurate? Can we get that and then go forward?

Speaker 2: 50:28

Yeah, i mean, people could only consume so much change, and it's. I talked about all the different areas that fall underneath my group, but I can't stress enough how important it is to be planful and intentional. And so you know, every year my department puts out a roadmap and what people need to see is maybe not that everything is going to be done right now, but they want to see that it's on the plan, that they are coming, and what we've done is we've taken, like, all of the things that need to happen and we've prioritized them very thoughtfully so that we're doing them in the right order, in a way that isn't going to disrupt business, in a flow that people can consume, but that everybody is going to be benefiting from this long-term plan. And it's a journey and it's not a switch that you're flipping, because we all know that that's especially in technology. That's sort of the old school mentality is like all this planning and then you big bang, and you know the iterative is really that hybrid between the waterfall methodology and doing sprints for agile. It's iterative but not constrained by those methodologies and the out-of-box, if you will, and the out-of-box ways that you can implement. Yeah, and to be able to implement in that way in this organization has been really fun because I haven't always had that opportunity. But then to have you as a partner also be open to doing that, to doing things and like using your common sense and finding a bridge instead of, like you know, doing the textbook way, is so refreshing and that's, i think, why we've been so successful as a team.

Speaker 1: 52:31

And to me, and this one thing that you know I come from a simple background. I'm a farm kid, you know so, and to me, a lot of those things I've learned, you know, going back in the military and like how like in the military is like things to get very complicated and see what the bureaucracy but also see, okay, i need to get this done. What is the most practical way to get that done with the least effort? but the most, you know, most return. You know, really, that's where you know I encourage anybody. Get a good partner. You know that you trust and that you can talk to and that you get on a game plan. So well, that covers a lot of the questions. I have My last question for you, for those that are interested in you guys do have great classes. I one of the cool things working on the website. When you're looking at the courses and stuff like that, i'm like, oh my God, i could never work there because I'd be like, okay, i want to take that class, i want to take that class, i want to take that class. And so how do people find you guys, where they find the classes? How do they get there?

Speaker 2: 53:31

Yeah, so go to uwcpedorg. We have. you know, i talked a little bit about what's called open enrollment, so we have all kinds of classes available for you to sign up and, depending on where you work, there could be different benefits and discounts depending on your company and the relationship they have with us. but you can also build on certificates. So if you're interested in continuing your education and getting something tangible that you can put on your LinkedIn profile or on your resume, we have some amazing certificates in leadership and project management. We have a CIO program that I took myself and it's outstanding, and it's not for people who are currently CIOs necessarily absolutely it can be but it's for people like me. I'm a senior director with a lot of responsibility, and this program covers the gamut of all of the different skill sets and tools that you need to be successful in a technology role. So, absolutely, take a look at our upcoming programs and see what fits with you. If you have any questions, we have the world's most amazing customer service person, brooke, and she would be happy to answer any of those questions. Or if you're a company who you know you need a leadership series specific to your company, reach out to us because we would be happy to come in and give you a consultation and make a recommendation. So, yeah, i loved working here. I loved coming here, i love working here. I can't say enough good things. We're all good people. Everybody within this company is here because they want to be here. They're passionate about it and the culture reflects that. It's just an awesome place to be. And we're at the Fluno Center where we have amazing food. So if you've heard about the Fluno 15, that's the weight you gain when you come to one of our week-long classes.

Speaker 1: 55:28

Yeah, and I've been there. The food is fantastic, Again for those not familiar with Fluno. it's right there in the UW campus, right across from some really good drinking establishments. If you're Wisconsin, there's some great places right next to there, And to me what's really interesting is I have the benefit of seeing the data on the back and side. but for those companies that are looking to have ongoing learning and things like that, what was really refreshing for my perspective is you guys do such a great job of tracking for companies what they've done and what courses they've taken and things of that nature, So that was definitely a great start And we offer virtual.

Speaker 2: 56:08

If you don't want to come down to the Fluno Center, the amazing Fluno Center, or downtown Madison, we can do virtual as well. Obviously, thanks to the pandemic, we have really made that something special as well. So, yeah, definitely reach out to us. We would love to have you.

Speaker 1: 56:25

Awesome And so, and for those that are wanting to learn more about ERP, you can check in our LinkedIn group. Boost your ERP can sign up for that. So get a community to sign up, we'll get you in. We post a lot of articles about new things, so watch out for modules. Maybe you're not familiar with things of that nature. So, with that Tracy, as always, enjoy the conversation. Always learn a lot, too, as we talk about this in the process. So thanks for sharing today and thanks for being a customer. I really appreciate it.

Speaker 2: 56:54

Thanks for having me, Todd. This has been a really fun journey with you and I look forward to continuing it.

Speaker 1: 57:00

Awesome, Awesome. Well, everybody thanks so much. Have a great day.

Join us as we talk technology with one of our favorite lifetime learners Tracy Borchert. Tracy has had a natural curiosity for how tech works and is passionate about utilizing tech in the workforce.

NetSuite can be an amazing tool, but getting it implementation right is key.

NetSuite Recoveries are more common than you think. Listen along and find out how that journey looked for Tracy and her team.

Featured Guest:Tracy Borchert, Senior Director of Technology and Organizational Effectiveness at Center for Professional & Executive Development
Wisconsin School of Business

Speaker 1: 0:00

Hello everybody, welcome to the Boost Your ERP podcast. Here at GoVirtual Office we're going to talk a little bit about an ERP from a recovery perspective today. I'm thrilled to have on the podcast Tracy from CPED. She's the Senior Director over there at CPED. We've worked together for multiple years on a recovery project for their NetSuite account. Just for their background, they use NetSuite for their back office but also sweet commerce advance. We really work together over the years to improve that process. Very excited to have you on board today, tracy. Welcome.

Speaker 2: 0:39

Thank you, thanks I'm really excited to be here.

Speaker 1: 0:42

Yeah, Well there's a lot to talk about, so we're going to dive right in. But first, before we drive into the ERP stuff, give me a background. I know a little bit, but I'm actually curious to know the full background. Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you're from, where you go to school, stuff like that.

Speaker 2: 0:58

Sure, maybe I'll start with what our organization does and then I'll back into what my role is and how I got here through my background. Cped is actually online and in-person programming, like education. We offer certificates that give professionals modern, relevant skills needed to advance their career. Then we partner with organizations to provide customized professional development programs so we can actually come to your company and help you develop right there on site with your team. I love working for CPED It's Center for Advanced Studies in Business. We have a lot of acronyms, but when I refer to CPED, that's what we're talking about. I grew up in Platteville, wisconsin, so not too far, but I love Wisconsin, so I was not really motivated to go much further. I've been interested in technology since I was a child. I remember taking apart radios and I'm dating myself now, but because I was always fascinated with how things worked and how technology worked From there, i immediately started working after high school and going to college. My focus was always on technology, but I find the most joy when I'm helping other people translate and understand how to utilize technology within their space. There's the very technical speak and the technical way of doing things, and then you have the practical business needs. I've been really fortunate to wear a lot of different hats in my career. I've always been that person that bridges that gap between technology and what the business is doing and how they need to utilize technology. Other than that, i actually was a contractor when I started at CPED and I am now an employee there and I'm really grateful. But I have three certificates from CPED. I'm a lifelong learner. To be on the other side of that, supporting the organization and helping other people continue their education, has been a real treat.

Speaker 1: 3:21

That's awesome. To me, one of the things that I learned really quickly when we were starting to work together is you do a fantastic job on that practical application that you mentioned. I always could tell right away that you understood the nuts and bolts of the technology, but to be able to almost be that interpreter for those people that were end users, toss as a consultant, was extremely valuable. It was two directions that you would be able to take information that we would give to you and then you would translate it back to them. That was extremely helpful. You do really have a great long suit in that area Lifelong learning. so where'd you go to college at?

Speaker 2: 4:03

I actually started off at UW La Crosse, but I have a degree in electronics and then a computer science degree from Herzing. Then I've built on a PMP and besides the CPED courses I've taken a lot of other leadership and development education as well. I'm always getting myself into something where I'm a little bit outside of my comfort zone and continuing to learn, to develop as a professional.

Speaker 1: 4:34

That makes sense that you landed at CPED, which is about learning. You're really at the root of what you do and what you enjoy doing. That's very cool. You got your degree in Herzing. Where did you start out in the industry? How did you get into the industry For what we do? how did you get there?

Speaker 2: 4:51

Yeah, it was an interesting journey. I actually was an electronics technician while I was going to school. I was working full-time and working at a company called Mark Whip. I'm not even sure that Mark Whip's around anymore, but they were headquartered here in Madison. Then, when they shut down the Mark Whip here in Madison, i worked at Nicolet Instruments as an electronics technician as well. We were working on spectrometers that use computers to do the calibration and to run the equipment. I wedged myself into the space where you were setting up and configuring the computers that run all of this equipment. It was a need that they had and it was something I was passionate about. I was going to school for it as well. From there, things just really took off. I was working all the way through school and then I started at UW Health in their IT department a few years ago. I was really fortunate there, because I was in IT for 15 years and I got to wear a lot of different hats, all the way from the boots on the ground installing computers and software to eventually overseeing the systems administrator team and a big focus on telehealth at the end of my tenure there as well. Then, naturally, within technology, you were always project managing, and so that was a skill set that I really built upon as well. Then I was a PMO director after that. Now I'm not only the IT director at CPED, but I'm also a senior advisor, and I create online content. as you're aware, i'm always learning, i'm always growing and I'm always trying to share the lessons that I've learned in technology and in the business space.

Speaker 1: 6:47

That's a really good point. You talk about the continuous learning a lot and you really went from the nuts and bolts all the way up to where we deal a lot on the application level of those electronics. What are some of the key things that helped you continuously learn? What would help you be successful in that area?

Speaker 2: 7:08

I think my natural curiosity about how things work and then my drive to always take things one step further In healthcare, the other driver for me was. I was so passionate about what the hospital was doing and the use of technology, the role that technology played in patient care. Ironically, as you know, i've been dealing with a cancer diagnosis and recovery myself, so to know that I helped not only the patients that were there before but ultimately myself in the work that I did is incredibly, not only rewarding but it's very motivating. I really am just naturally driven to understand how technology helps everybody within their role, whether their organization or their personal life. I've just naturally fallen into these roles where I'm constantly helping others bridge that gap as well.

Speaker 1: 8:14

You do an excellent job with that, just of what I've seen, just in our experience together. One of the questions I always tend to ask and like to hear there's a couple of them kind of together but related like technology. There's lots of different viewpoints, lots of different users of technology. I'm curious what's the best technology advice you've ever been given?

Speaker 2: 8:36

Yeah, i mean that's a really good question And frankly I don't know if the advice was something somebody actually gave me or it's just best practice that I learned over time in my different roles. But it's really around technology change control and having a process in place. You know, in every role that I've had there was some level of I don't know if unruly is the right word but there wasn't a lot of control or oversight with not only the technologies that people were bringing into the organizations, but how they were using them And then the risk it was introducing, not only from a data security perspective. But you know, if you are utilizing a technology that doesn't get the job done or it's problematic, you are risking your business, whatever that business might be. So one of the first things I did when I came to CPED was I implemented a technology change control process, and it's really a way to allow our end users to take their technology ideas or the tools or things that they think they want to use and have a process to follow, to have it brought into a governance process to be vetted and to be very thoughtful about what we are utilizing. And I think one of the biggest things that it does is it gives visibility to the entire organization and to those decision makers, so that when we're looking at different tools, we have the opportunity to ask those questions, to make sure it aligns with our strategic plan, to talk about what is in scope, what is out of scope, and then to follow another process for actually implementing it, using change management processes, to make sure that when you're making those changes, you're being very thoughtful and intentional about that as well.

Speaker 1: 10:26

Yeah, and it's great and really to me is so interesting when people start looking at you know, a change management or change requests or things like that. It's really a catalyst for communication. Yeah, and really, in where it forces businesses to cross the part, mentalize and say, hey, what is going on, hey, this is going to affect me and X reason. And to me there's two different schools of thoughts a lot of times with that, especially when it comes to reporting. You know, like, do you allow people to go create their own safe searches or reports or do you lock that down? And there's really two thoughts you can go with that. Well, i want them to go ahead and be able to have that and just make that change. But, as we all know that, you know, a lot of times data isn't always wrong. It could be the safe search and the criteria or what have you that is wrong, but then it promotes that concept that the data was wrong. Right, you know. So it's one of those things that even on a safe search or report level, sometimes it's really beneficial to have that stripped away, that permission stripped away, to be consistent with reporting.

Speaker 2: 11:35

Yeah, i mean, you're absolutely right And in our instance, we're still working on the data And our goal is ultimately to do what you're talking about, which is empowering our end users to be able to get into the system to get the things that they need. But, like with anything, you have to have that foundation in place. You have to have clean data, you have to have structure and bumpers to ensure that they're creating reports or accessing data that is the correct data, and so we're not there yet. You know, as far as giving our users the freedom that we're hoping to give them, you know we're very much sort of like in control of that, but in a way that's very supportive. We would never, you know, dictate what data people can and can't see, but it's really about what you are saying making sure that what they are accessing is accurate And it's going to also get them the end result that they're looking for, because that's the other big piece that, even when changes, workflow changes with a net suite or data request, you know, a lot of times, end users, they know their business and they think they know what they need to accomplish. You know what they're trying to achieve, but it's up to us and technology to really translate that, to hear their goal and then to tell them how they can get there utilizing the technology or the data. And so we that is the role that we are playing right now Eventually we'll have, you know, dashboards and data that's just being readily available, and so that's our long-term vision. You know, we'll get there. Just it's, we got a little work to do.

Speaker 1: 13:20

And what's amazing is that you know we're talking about reporting with this. But at times when we started to do more in the last year, we actually have data analysts, not just data import. People have data analysts and really taking that because that's there's so much data, super data, rich, but you know how do you get actionable data out of it. And as we started to do more with Power BI you know Power Query and things of that nature with their data analysts you know people really had to reframe because a lot of times we would just have a request because I need a safe search, you know, or I need a report, and we would just generally do that. But as we've gone into the data analytics, we actually had to do a requirements phase prior to going into that and that it needs to have the diligence to say, okay, you've clearly said what you want, but like, let's peel that onion back because you're starting to look at the different layers and it almost requires that requirements analysis, that solution design, you know that vetting, proof of concept and that QA. So it's really started data projects. It started to mirror what we've done for a long time in custom scripting And it was really pulling it back to say let's start to apply these principles to data, to validate and make sure, because it is that important.

Speaker 2: 14:44

Yeah, absolutely. I mean the data. There's the data governance of the data going into the system and making sure that we're, you know, always putting good data in but then pulling out the right data based on the needs and you hit it right on the head with that requirements. That that's part of that change control. And the technology governance is, you know, making sure we understand what the end result is that we're trying to get to. And you know, the business. They have their focus, they have their expertise and our expertise and especially in our small group we don't have business analysts, but that is a skill set that I brought with me is to do that requirements gathering, and so important because then otherwise you're delivering on something that doesn't get you what they were trying to accomplish and then you've wasted your time.

Speaker 1: 15:35

So Correct And to me, the worst thing with data is people not having confidence in the data. The worst thing is data right and them having no confidence in that, because then the value of it is very minimal. On that, Yeah, completely Yeah, So with your recovery. So you guys, you know when we first met, you know you brought us in to help with recovery or struggling with certain aspects. So tell us a little bit about where you were at when you started in your recovery when you came on board the CPAC. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Speaker 2: 16:07

Yeah, i mean, that's, as you know, quite a story. So I, as I mentioned, i was brought in as a contractor to replace NetSuite and I very quickly you know you go back to that requirements discussion I took a step back and I just said you know what is the big picture? What are we trying to accomplish? What are the limitations of what we have now that are preventing you from getting there? And what I realized is that we couldn't just up and replace NetSuite. We had all of this sort of foundational legwork that had to be done first. And so the first thing I did was that technology governance. So you got to stop the bleeding. So no more changes without vetting, no more data requests, because you go back to saying you know, trusting the data, nobody trusted the data on the system, but come to find out It was a lot of those, you know, bad reports and that kind of thing. And then so, and then the next, the very next thing I did after that governance is I did an RFP to find a solution provider to help support us. You know, when it comes to there are systems that you can be trained on and you can learn, and it's one thing when you come in clean or you're part of an implementation, but when you're coming into something that has had years of customization, that wasn't best practice you need to bring in experts. And so we interviewed about 10 different service providers and you guys were the clear front runners. I mean, it was night and day the conversations I had with you compared to the others, but it was so important And that's why we did the RFP. We had our requirements defined for the service provider itself, and we needed somebody that was going to have our best interests at heart, that was going to actually partner with us, that was going to tell us the truth and then give us options to move forward. We're a very small nonprofit And so we couldn't just, you know, bring in the Calvary and do an overhaul. We needed to have a plan, and we needed to do it in a way that not only my little team could digest it, but that the organization could manage through that change. And so you know, one of the things as a leader that's so important is recognizing when you need help or when you need people who know what they're doing, and that's where you guys came in. And so, as you know, you came on site and our primary issue was that our website was unstable. It was unsupportable And we were about eight versions behind. I think I don't even remember It was bad A lot of versions, yeah. It was bad, and so you know our priorities sort of spoke for themselves. You know we needed to address that website And I knew and you talk about an overhaul that was something that needed an overhaul And we needed a partner to do that. And then the third thing that I did is that I brought on Dr Katie Forster. She's our Senior Systems Administrator And, as you know, katie is just outstanding, amazing, incredibly smart but dedicated and also somebody who you can trust to come in and have the best interest of the company at heart, to use best practice, to be able to partner not only with everyone in the org but with you all. And so between GVO coming in and helping us create a plan and then Katie really supporting and bringing the muscle from inside of our organization, we've been able to really turn that ship around. But it's been a journey. We just went live with our new website in the summer and that was a ton of work but it was so successful. A sign of a good goal live is that nobody says a word, and that's exactly what happened. But we had sales the morning of goal live right off of our website. We're already seeing our return on investment definitely pay off, but that was clearly our first priority. There are a few of other things that you had pointed out that we needed help. I mean, we needed to stabilize, to get to the point where we could start planning for that website. So there were some other foundational things, and now we're really going to start. We've assembled a team, a data team, that's really going to focus, or is focusing, on our data You know what is and defining what is a customer in our system, what is a company in our system, what are the data elements we need to capture and why on those things. But because of sort of the history of our environment, our net suite environment, we're going to start defining those things and then we're going to have to kind of back into it. So not only do we have like enhancements to the data that we're collecting, but we're going to have to go back and do a pretty big data cleanup effort. But what I can say is that, through this journey that I was just describing, we've taken the team of us, including you. We've taken a system that they were just over. They were like get it out of here, i don't want anything, and I really took a risk. I was like well, actually and the truth is, with all systems and that's where the experience comes in. From me and from you guys We know that you can take the world's best system and customize it or whatever, and not use best practice and ruin it. It could have been the perfect tool for you in the wide world, but if you're not following these processes, if you're not following the governance, it's the wild wild west, and then, of course, you end up with a mess, and it's not as easy as just picking it up and replacing, which is what they wanted to do, which is the start of how we got to this point. We had a different system long before I was here, and they sort of tried to do this lift and shift without really being planful about it, and a lot of the data didn't carry over and it didn't match up, and then we just kept building and building and building on a foundation that was unstable to begin with. So just a ton of work to get to the point where we are. But we are now at the point where people are actually excited about NetSuite Our biggest I don't want to say critics but the people who were suffering the most from what existed before are now singing the praises. They're excited about the opportunity that we have with that system And now that we've implemented a new three-year strategic plan to be able to use the system to execute on that. I mean, it's almost like I can't hardly believe it saying it myself, but it was a lot of work and getting the right people in place and the support of you that made it happen.

Speaker 1: 23:34

So really exciting stuff but a lot of work And I know when we talked in September I think, of last year, after the dust has settled, the relaunch of the website and everybody's able to exhale a little bit it was very, i know, satisfying for both of us Because we knew where that recovery process started And it was. And to me, as you talk about that, i vividly recall some of those first meetings This was pre-COVID, a couple years before COVID and coming on site and sitting down And I remember those first meetings and it would be very reminiscent of being a therapist in front of a couple that had decided that we're divorcing. We just need you to help. How do we do this? Do the paperwork? Yeah, yeah, and really it was at that point, and understandably so, because, as we're going through some of that, and to me, from my perspective of what I saw is there was some probably gross misunderstanding of what Nest we could do and how it had been set up, and it wasn't through anybody's fault, but there have been a number of different partners that have been in. There were some things that I wouldn't say that we're set up wrong, but we're set up right. But there were some and to me, as much as anything, those first meetings were education of okay, nest, we can do this. Well, it's not doing that, understand it's not, but the functionality is there to do this. And there was a lot of people that, and I always say that whenever you have that much energy against the product, people can take that as a negative, in a negative way, which is not a positive situation. I'm not saying it that way, but the fact is is you had some people that really cared about doing their job and doing their job well, and they were not able to do their job well because of the system set up or the data set up or whatever, or not having enough education and knowing how that system works. That that was all being manifested because, like I want to do my job, i can't even come close to doing my job. And so when it did cause a lot of pain And I remember the conversations that we had probably nine, six to nine months there was really that vetting process of like starting to get initial buy into, like okay, plus, not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let's step back. I remember you saying what you said that like look okay, even if you guys decide to go away from Neswee, what you have to do is figure out where you're at in Neswee from a data perspective and how do you want that to work and get those requirements. So even if you do go to another platform, you at least have a roadmap of where you're at now before you make that transition. Then it was really interesting and you did a great job leading your team and just like they're like okay, you're right, we have a good tool. We've just gone way off the path of that, so we get to that point. So everybody's just like okay, we'll pause, we're not going to shoot Neswee. What were the next steps on your side that you guys saw as far as getting towards that recovery process to move in a positive direction? What was next for you?

Speaker 2: 27:00

I mean, I think what was important to the business because they were putting a lot of trust in me and it was a risk, frankly So they needed to see some sort of positive movement And so it was really important for me to start to make some changes or to open there, to educate them through you all on the possibilities, the capabilities, and then also sort of explaining why we were in this situation. We were in because I don't think anybody really understood it And, frankly, there's still some gray area right, i mean it changed through a lot of different hands before it got to us, and that trust was something I really had to earn. And then we had to start delivering. So in my role, i not only had to deliver on Neswee, but I had to deliver on technology across the organization and prove that I'm not making these things up or whatever. There are real reasons and they're going to add value. And so I think we talked a little bit about the instability of the website. Your team made some immediate changes to the website And then suddenly it wasn't the topic that everybody was talking about, it just went quiet. And again, the best sign of a successful technology changes that nobody says anything. And that's what happened. And I remember our CEO, john, saying to me one day I haven't heard a single person complain about Neswee, and this was pretty early on, maybe six months in And he realized like, oh, we are, there's hope here. We are really going to be able to either use this or we have hope moving forward. And so I can't say enough about how much I appreciate John's trust and support I mean even out of the gates, but I really did have to earn that. It was sort of like okay, i hear you, i hear Todd, but the proof is gonna be in your action. So, like, let's get to it understandably and very scary, probably mostly for me, a little less for you, but I mean, i remember having very frank conversations with you about, like, i'm putting my butt on the line here and we need to do this, and I trusted you and I'm so glad I did. But that's that partnership I was talking about when we were talking about looking at other vendors from like a tactical checking the box there. Well, maybe we're some others, but what I felt with you and the message that your team gave to us is that we are gonna be your partner. We are here with you. And you even said something along the lines of, well, you probably might get rid of NetSuite. I don't know, we don't know enough to know right now, but what I can tell you is that we can make a difference And them, hearing you say that, and in a way that was really genuine and honest, resonated with them. So, yeah, but we had to start making action very quickly and your team did, and that's really what started that momentum. And then we went from a timeline of where I was. We had the NetSuite replacement on our roadmap. It was still on a roadmap even a few months out In my mind, though I knew that we were gonna move in sort of iterations, we were gonna address sort of like chunks of problematic pieces to build that trust, and then, eventually, i was able to put out a roadmap. That was also probably the second most scary conversation of my career, where I put out a new roadmap and I hadn't told anyone about it And I just said we're not replacing NetSuite. We got a plan and it's gonna work, and I just know it. And here we are, it worked. I mean it's just like the most incredible, exciting, exhilarating, but yeah, that was pretty intense there.

Speaker 1: 31:27

And I remember a couple of those conversations and one of the things that for those that are listening that may be going through need to go through recovery or stuff like that. The one thing that there's two things, two things really that happened that you mentioned, that were imperative. One is there was a lot of honesty, and when you were able to share it, you're just like, hey, todd this, and we were very, it was very honest. Dialogue, okay, this, what needs to happen, this is what I need to do to start gaining that trust and stuff like that. So it allowed us to have the insight into the playbook. It wasn't a guess And we weren't ever. I think we've been very honest, Like we're not trying to gouge you on anything. If we think it's gonna be this, we'll give you an estimate And if it's less, it's less, if it's more, we'll try to give you an advanced warning. And the reason why so it was always that the goodwill was always there And it was on your part as well and that really helped. But then also the one thing is I look at successful projects, not just recovery projects, but successful projects. The executive buy-in is mandatory. It's really not negotiable for a successful project. Now it could be a middling project, it could be a failed project, and so many times it does end up there. But in one thing I wanted to come back to is that you mentioned Katie before, and we do manage application services, where we do help businesses manage their Nesuit account and we do projects, and there's this common perception that we would be averse to people having a Nesuit administrator. That's farthest from the truth, because we actually probably get the most out of it because whether it's that buffer layer or the summing internally that can help herd the cats or what have you, that that is really important. Now, do I think that every business has to have a Nesuit administrator? They're not cheaper resources. No, i don't think that's the case. It depends on the business. Now what I do see is like your minimum viable product for you. What you have is you do need to have a super user that understands the bigger concepts, so maybe it's not an administrator but has that understanding of like. Okay, i just can't go do the save search right, understand the data structure enough to create a save search that I can validate, improve file and things of that nature, because you guys did have a fair amount of complexity built in some of your projects And a lot of way you had a learning management system where you're tracking, certificates and things like that. So you did have a lot of complexity. That absolutely warranted a Katie And to me, from my perspective, sitting on our side, i never doubted that we could get to where you needed to be. But once our team started working with Katie, and when you brought Katie on board, it was a multiplier effect. It just spent everything up because we could spoon-feed Katie And to give her that. Okay, i think this is what's going on. I'm not quite sure. The next week documentation and and Corey could hop on a call and say 15-minute call and say, yeah, you know what you're, you're not going down the right path. It's close, go this way, tip it to the right a little bit. She's like, oh, i get it, and then she could go full speed ahead and she was definitely one of the keys to success On the relaunch and just the whole recovery project. So anybody's listening the super user something that you just can't underscore. How big of a impact that has.

Speaker 2: 35:01

Yeah, i mean, i think if you put Katie and Corey in a room together, they could solve all the world's problems with enough time, frankly the two of them are just, uh, outstanding, um. So, yeah, i mean, katie, we did. You know, i went back and forth with I. I also had to sell, like getting a senior administrator within our organization. But for us, we, we have to implement. We, well, we had to implement a lot of different changes, especially to the net suite system and and it. It needed sort of like constant management and also support for our, our end users, because we were making so many changes and You know you go back to that change management component, the communication, the ability to ask questions, and she was that translator and not to say that your team couldn't have translated but Because we were doing so many things, having somebody with, you know, in the seat in our organization overseeing all of that, making sure that Everybody in the organization was coming along. She had the visibility into every single role within our, within our org, and to be able to make sure that they were Understanding and coming along with this change Was just critical. I don't think we could have done it any other way and you know you, i'm surprising here that people think that you guys Are not supportive of that type of relationship, because I mean, that has been the secret to our success. You know, not everybody's, like you said not everybody but like, yeah, katie, you know She is anytime she taps into you guys. You know, you know we. We got something big. It's either a big project, there is an issue, there's a change to net suite, that You know we need a level of expertise. You know people that are just living and breathing this all the time And if you have access to Oracle and and you know all of the things. But you know, what I love is that she can come to you with something real tough and You guys are nothing but supportive. And one of my favorite things to do is to be on a meeting when Katie and Corey are brainstorming and just cranking it out and They always come up with a solution and then Katie is able to take that back and execute it in a way in a time That works with our small little company who's already gone through so much change, and really help them through that. So You know we I just can't say enough about those two and and how much their, their partnership together has Impacted the success of of net suite implementation and the and the sweet commerce, goal life and and build last year. I mean just amazing work, amazing.

Speaker 1: 38:00

Yeah, and to me, and really was, it was two-sided on both sides. I totally agree on that. So to me you mentioned a couple times and I know you work with far Well or and you've had experience in change management And really so much of what we did, you know, together was really changed management. Because you know, is it's one thing and I think a lot of times people Take for granted that, like you may have an idea, okay, and the idea is a million dollar idea. There is truth to that, but the execution of that idea the more I do this is the Execution of those great ideas, because there's a lot of great ideas that fail From a lack of execution. So much of that relates, relies back on effective change management. Can you talk a little bit about what you guys did with change management and like your recovery project?

Speaker 2: 38:54

Yeah, so my, my little team actually owns change management, business process management, project management and IT, and so To have the ability to put processes in place for all of those things and sort of marry them together has Really been sort of the secret to success from a technology change perspective. You know people change management is really about helping people through change, which means you need to be communicating with them, they need to feel like they're a part of it, and so we have different tools that we have available to us at CPED. You know, depending on what the project is, we have, you know, a stakeholder list, but we have a communication plan, and the communication plan is, you know, really one of the best tools that we have, because Whether you follow it to a T or not doesn't really matter. The idea is that you're being very thoughtful and planful about who you're communicating to and what you're saying to them, so that they feel prepared and they're not surprised, and You're asking questions to make sure that the change that you're Implementing isn't going to, you know, totally derail What they're doing on their everyday job. Because, you know, we went from our organization, went from 100% in-person program delivery all of our classes were in person to 100% online, basically overnight, and You know then you throw me into the mix where we're, you know, changing the way we utilize net suite. We're upgrading SCA, we are totally Changing the way that we deliver and support and utilize technology within our organization. We also went from 100% on-prem hardware to 100% cloud infrastructure. So if we didn't have good change management, if we weren't communicating, if we weren't planful, this would have been a complete disaster. I mean it was. It was risky, to say the least, but it was so necessary. And so for me to come in, you know, with the experience I had, i have learned from some of the best project manager or, excuse me, change managers out there. I mean I am very fortunate to have worked with some people that are, just like I mean, unbelievable in this space, and so I was able to take those things that I've learned and Apply them here, and I'm a big fan of, like, applying what, what makes sense for your organization and only what you need, and not overdoing it. So we weren't, like you know, exhausting the change management practice to the point where people are. Just that's all we were doing, but it was being very mindful about those different things that you can do around communication and And you know the other thing, that we have done a lot within our company. That's really helped with change management, as we do a lot of lunch and learns. So any changes with net suite, any new features with net suite, any changes with any of the other technology, we always hold to lunch and learns and we invite the entire organization And we talk through what those changes are gonna look like, how does that impact them, and then we give an opportunity for questions and then, of course, we record those for the folks that can't be there. But we always err on the side of over communicating, making sure that everybody is just, you know, as comfortable as they can be in the midst of all of this change. But it has been a, it's been a priority for us to make sure that that's How things are, are being implemented, because I've seen the other side in. As you know, if you can have the best idea in the world with the best project plan in the world, but if it's a surprise to everyone and it's derailing their daily jobs or the other Responsibilities they have and they you don't have their buy-in you can forget about it because it's not gonna happen.

Speaker 1: 42:47

Yeah, and they'll use that energy to circumvent instead of Adopt. And and to me that's really and I kind of forgotten about that that Really this whole recovering project with cove it is, with everything. Cove it changed everything, that you really had to put this on the shelf For a while, because we're like We just learned that we're no longer gonna be 100% in person and if we want to survive we have to transition And so and that's a really good lesson for a lot of people that it's not always a linear On on how you go from like it was a to be okay We hate Ness, we all sudden this week is great. It was really a to M to C to D to Z to back, and so it was really There's a little bit of it and to me you can blame that on cove it, but I see that in other businesses as well. It's never just a linear transition and part of it is really. When you brought up the change management I love that you guys do your lunch and learns and things of that nature, because one of the bigger challenges for people that are doing a recovery project on an ERP or implementing an ERP The reality is, is an ERP, if done well, is going to affect everybody in your organization. And now, if you're a manufacturing plant and you have a new machine, you're gonna train your manufacturing people. A salon machine Everybody speaks the same language, everybody does the same thing. But what's an ERP? you have sales, you have accounting, you have ops people, you have purchasing, you know you have CFO with your book. So you have a lot of different people that you can't Share the same message. It needs to be communicated in a message that they're going to understand and that's where we talk. Go back to, like Katie and yourself I mentioned earlier that that buffer and at times It's really one of the values of that internal administrator or the super user that knows those different roles and say, bob, you remember how you did this. Okay, it's gonna be like this, but it's gonna be on this dashboard. And they go, oh, oh, yeah, i don't have anything to worry about. It's that internal communication with those different people. That it's just a spot. You know a little bit of wisdom that it's hard for us at times, unless we're fully engaged, which you know times times with the smaller companies It's hard to be like engaged That level. But having a super user can be very practical And get in and do that change management with that.

Speaker 2: 45:15

Yeah, yeah, especially when you have, you know, with a recovery. There are so many things that are going to need to happen. Having that One constant person who's in your org, that's, that's got their thumb on what the business is doing at all times, but also understands what's happening from a technical perspective in net suite. It's really helpful because this was a, this was a long journey and we're not we're, you know, still in the thick of it, and so, um, for us to have somebody like Katie, you know, as a constant Um has just been instrumental in, in being successful with this And ensuring that we're not derailing the business, that we're supporting the strategic plan that we just rolled out. Yeah, so it was. It was incredibly important for us and continues to be, and and will be, for some, the fourth foreseeable future.

Speaker 1: 46:09

Yeah, that's great. And my last question on the recovery is is there anything you would have done differently, having known what you know? now, going back, and it has been very successful, is there anything? or like, oh, i wish I'd done that differently. Is there anything that jumps out or no?

Speaker 2: 46:25

It's funny. I thought about that and Katie and I chatted about that. We talked about potentially, maybe earlier on, getting on the same page with defining what a customer and company is and bridging the terminology of our business with the terminology that NetSuite uses, because NetSuite is generally for people who are selling widgets and we are not Some of the terminology. There was confusion there about what is a project and a company and all the things. Maybe having aligned everybody sooner would have been helpful, but not to our horns. I don't know that. There's a lot we could have done differently or should have done differently. We were very flexible and mindful and we had to roll with the pandemic and all the other things. Hindsight is 2020, but I'm just really, really proud of what this team has accomplished together. That's including you all. It's astounding and I just don't know that we could have done it any differently. That we did That speaks to your flexibility as well, and you've always given us options. We could do A, b or C. You make a recommendation, but you're not being prescriptive about how we have to do things. You're understanding that we have our own insights, we have our own knowledge and you're pairing that with what your insights and your knowledge are. We're coming up with the best solution at the best time, and we are ebbing and flowing based on what's happening around us in the business or in the world, or whatever the case might be. I honestly don't know that there was anything significant that we could or should have done differently. It's just awesome what we've been able to accomplish.

Speaker 1: 48:29

I thought about that as well. Thinking back over the years that we did this, i don't think there was anything that jumped out to me. I think that you did a great job having your plan in place and was very methodical. That helps a lot. I thought that you guys did great with the resources that you had available One thing that I think that you mentioned a couple of times. I just wanted to call out that you guys were very methodical in the steps that you took For those that are doing a recovery and the process of recovery or wanting to recover. How you're using that suite, iterative approaches, is really successful to gain that confidence and that's, like I said, one of the things that you guys did great with the resources that you guys did. One of the first things I remember, when Corey and I left, that I'm like they have lost complete trust in that suite as a product and that's the first thing that we have to address is can we get them to a point where they believe that we see SEA can do this? I remember we don't normally do this, but in that situation I remember one of the first steps that we actually did is we actually did a demo for you guys SweetCommerce advanced like you had never seen the product before because you were so old. In some of your versions it really wasn't a brand new product. I remember Corey and I we just did a complete demo of here's SweetCommerce advanced and what you could do and that was like started to defrost a little bit. But it was iterative steps along that and I see times where people where they have some frustration they spent some money on a poor implementation of things like that that they try to boil the ocean and we try to slow that process down a little bit to say, okay, let's get some wins. So the people in the warehouse are feeling like there's some love. People on accounting do they trust their data? Are there financial reports accurate? Can we get that and then go forward?

Speaker 2: 50:28

Yeah, i mean, people could only consume so much change, and it's. I talked about all the different areas that fall underneath my group, but I can't stress enough how important it is to be planful and intentional. And so you know, every year my department puts out a roadmap and what people need to see is maybe not that everything is going to be done right now, but they want to see that it's on the plan, that they are coming, and what we've done is we've taken, like, all of the things that need to happen and we've prioritized them very thoughtfully so that we're doing them in the right order, in a way that isn't going to disrupt business, in a flow that people can consume, but that everybody is going to be benefiting from this long-term plan. And it's a journey and it's not a switch that you're flipping, because we all know that that's especially in technology. That's sort of the old school mentality is like all this planning and then you big bang, and you know the iterative is really that hybrid between the waterfall methodology and doing sprints for agile. It's iterative but not constrained by those methodologies and the out-of-box, if you will, and the out-of-box ways that you can implement. Yeah, and to be able to implement in that way in this organization has been really fun because I haven't always had that opportunity. But then to have you as a partner also be open to doing that, to doing things and like using your common sense and finding a bridge instead of, like you know, doing the textbook way, is so refreshing and that's, i think, why we've been so successful as a team.

Speaker 1: 52:31

And to me, and this one thing that you know I come from a simple background. I'm a farm kid, you know so, and to me, a lot of those things I've learned, you know, going back in the military and like how like in the military is like things to get very complicated and see what the bureaucracy but also see, okay, i need to get this done. What is the most practical way to get that done with the least effort? but the most, you know, most return. You know, really, that's where you know I encourage anybody. Get a good partner. You know that you trust and that you can talk to and that you get on a game plan. So well, that covers a lot of the questions. I have My last question for you, for those that are interested in you guys do have great classes. I one of the cool things working on the website. When you're looking at the courses and stuff like that, i'm like, oh my God, i could never work there because I'd be like, okay, i want to take that class, i want to take that class, i want to take that class. And so how do people find you guys, where they find the classes? How do they get there?

Speaker 2: 53:31

Yeah, so go to uwcpedorg. We have. you know, i talked a little bit about what's called open enrollment, so we have all kinds of classes available for you to sign up and, depending on where you work, there could be different benefits and discounts depending on your company and the relationship they have with us. but you can also build on certificates. So if you're interested in continuing your education and getting something tangible that you can put on your LinkedIn profile or on your resume, we have some amazing certificates in leadership and project management. We have a CIO program that I took myself and it's outstanding, and it's not for people who are currently CIOs necessarily absolutely it can be but it's for people like me. I'm a senior director with a lot of responsibility, and this program covers the gamut of all of the different skill sets and tools that you need to be successful in a technology role. So, absolutely, take a look at our upcoming programs and see what fits with you. If you have any questions, we have the world's most amazing customer service person, brooke, and she would be happy to answer any of those questions. Or if you're a company who you know you need a leadership series specific to your company, reach out to us because we would be happy to come in and give you a consultation and make a recommendation. So, yeah, i loved working here. I loved coming here, i love working here. I can't say enough good things. We're all good people. Everybody within this company is here because they want to be here. They're passionate about it and the culture reflects that. It's just an awesome place to be. And we're at the Fluno Center where we have amazing food. So if you've heard about the Fluno 15, that's the weight you gain when you come to one of our week-long classes.

Speaker 1: 55:28

Yeah, and I've been there. The food is fantastic, Again for those not familiar with Fluno. it's right there in the UW campus, right across from some really good drinking establishments. If you're Wisconsin, there's some great places right next to there, And to me what's really interesting is I have the benefit of seeing the data on the back and side. but for those companies that are looking to have ongoing learning and things like that, what was really refreshing for my perspective is you guys do such a great job of tracking for companies what they've done and what courses they've taken and things of that nature, So that was definitely a great start And we offer virtual.

Speaker 2: 56:08

If you don't want to come down to the Fluno Center, the amazing Fluno Center, or downtown Madison, we can do virtual as well. Obviously, thanks to the pandemic, we have really made that something special as well. So, yeah, definitely reach out to us. We would love to have you.

Speaker 1: 56:25

Awesome And so, and for those that are wanting to learn more about ERP, you can check in our LinkedIn group. Boost your ERP can sign up for that. So get a community to sign up, we'll get you in. We post a lot of articles about new things, so watch out for modules. Maybe you're not familiar with things of that nature. So, with that Tracy, as always, enjoy the conversation. Always learn a lot, too, as we talk about this in the process. So thanks for sharing today and thanks for being a customer. I really appreciate it.

Speaker 2: 56:54

Thanks for having me, Todd. This has been a really fun journey with you and I look forward to continuing it.

Speaker 1: 57:00

Awesome, Awesome. Well, everybody thanks so much. Have a great day.

What happens when you combine the worlds of physics, marketing, and e-commerce? You get Jake Cook, our guest this episode, who shares his unique perspective on leveraging data science for e-commerce marketing success. Currently teaching at Harvard Business School and the University of Montana, Jake dives into the importance of data structures, actionable insights, and how the five Cs of e-commerce can propel your business forward.

Featuring Jake Cook, President of Tadpull


Jake has spent his career spanning technology, digital marketing and analytics for companies such as Microsoft, Google, Kickstarter, Caterpillar and DonorsChoose.org. As a cofounder at Tadpull, he works closely with leadership teams to help them scale eCommerce businesses leveraging data and customer-centricity. An adjunct professor since 2007, Jake teaches innovation and digital marketing courses at Montana State University and teaches the ‘Pillars of Profitable e-Commerce’ course in the business analytics graduate program at the University of Montana. Jake is also member in the eCommerce Fuel Capital Group. He holds a MA in Marketing and a BA in Physics from Drury University.

Discover how to build an 'insurance policy' for unpredictable events by owning your data and using it to make informed decisions. We also discuss the ripple effect of a CEO's attitude on company culture and the changing expectations of employees in the post-COVID world. Plus, we delve into the potential of AI and robotics to revolutionize both creative tasks and financial decision-making.

Finally, don't miss out on our conversation about the importance of staying up to date on the latest features of your ERP software. Jake encourages listeners to join the LinkedIn group ‘Boost Your ERP’ for valuable tips and tricks to maximize the benefits of your investment. Tune in and unlock the power of data science to transform your e-commerce business!

Speaker 1: 0:00

Well, welcome to Boost your ERP podcast Today. We got Jake Cook from Taphole with us today, so welcome Jake.

Speaker 2: 0:09

Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 0:11

Yeah, thanks. So the Boost our ERP podcast. As always, we're just focusing on really things in the next week ecosystem and different partnerships that we have and, just like everybody plays in the same space, we all need to learn from different lessons that different perspectives that people have. So really just want to focus a lot on best practices, just things like you don't know what you don't know And one of the things that, jake, we've been working together for years and I've always been fascinated by our conversations and you really do bring such a unique perspective to the next week road And just really excited to have you on because you bring that just a different light site into some of the things that we in this week take for granted. So I'm excited to have you on the podcast today. We're going to get into some questions, into some kind of remotely technical stuff. But first tell me a little bit What is your background, jake? I mean, i've known you for years. I'm like where are you from? Where did you go to school, all that stuff? Tell me a little bit about that.

Speaker 2: 1:19

Sure, So I grew up in Northeastern Wyoming I'm a fifth generation super small town And I ended up in Bozeman, Montana, for swimming. So it was a swimmer from could have swimmer starting at age five, some all the way through college. That kind of went to school on a swimming scholarship for a division two school, Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, And I got into it was a liberal arts school. So I was very confused as a student. I started off in sociology, did business, But I had a high school physics teacher that kind of blew my mind with showing what you can do with science and math And so, yeah. So I ended up getting a degree in physics, was going to do a dual degree with mechanical engineering at Washington University in St Louis. He did engineering. I worked full time as an intern about nine months in industry for in a biotech company And then from that I got my masters in marketing. This is like 2002 to 2004, kind of when the consumer, consumer, internet really takes off. You know broadband comes on in a big way Yeah, Pre Facebook, pre YouTube, And so, so, yeah. So I kind of fell backwards into kind of the digital e-commerce space from there.

Speaker 1: 2:26

So what made you fall into marketing? So what, what, what drew you to marketing?

Speaker 2: 2:31

You know it's funny, when I was working for that, trying to figure out what I can do with my life, i would work in this R&D lab for this French company And the engineers would come in and review like what they were producing and in the lab and complain, the marketer, people can't explain it, and then they would leave. And then the marketers would come in and be like, well, they're building something that nobody wants, so it's going to know how to use And so. But having been in that room on both sides and hearing both of those conversations, you could see like they both have valid points on what they're what they're saying And I was like, huh, so maybe there's this kind of weird area where you kind of span kind of technical and business, and so that's kind of why I decided to go back and do and do marketing And I was going to a PhD in physics after that. I love teaching but I dropped out of a PhD program And then I just kind of once I found kind of digital marketing. It mapped to physics really cleanly because it's like the site. There's data that comes off the back end of that, which is really fun, So yeah, but you're still involved with someone with academia now.

Speaker 1: 3:27

Is that correct?

Speaker 2: 3:28

Yeah, so I teach at Harvard Business School. I do some guest lecturing there on analytics and customer analytics and do some research in case study development with some professors there, and then and then I teach a create, teach a couple of e-commerce courses, one for University of Montana and one for computer science here at Montana State.

Speaker 1: 3:45

That's super cool And to me and I really want to dive in I'm going to ask these questions because it's such a good one. I mean, do you see really where that because you know, i remember the 80s and 90s and marketing and things like that Do you see that there's really pretty big adoption of like there's a science behind marketing or is there still more of a? it's a field business, not a science business?

Speaker 2: 4:08

You know, as you'd imagine, kind of like at a Harvard Business School. There's a faculty there that's very focused on, like, marketing science, marketing analytics. We work a little as some faculty at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and these are kind of but they're kind of more quant based. Yeah, you know, really deep on quant based research methodologies. But in academia in general, i think when you look at what's going on in the world with marketing and digital like there, there are a lot of them are, you know, just way, way behind. Yeah, i mean, talk more about this, but it's just to do great research, you have to have data and it's very hard to give a for for them to get access to really good cutting edge data. So, yeah, so there's always that challenge on that, but it's definitely a lot better than when, i think, i started first teaching in 2007.

Speaker 1: 4:52

So, yeah, it's way better than it was five, 10 years ago, for sure, yeah, And I think that's one of the reasons why, you know, when I attended one of the seminars the sweet world where one of your customers was talking about different data, analytics and stuff like that And that was one of the things that drew my interest in. what you guys were doing with your customers is, you know, taking that, that that rich data, you know, in doing something with it other than just your standard reports. So you know, so that's really interesting. So tell me a little bit about tadpole and how. how does tadpole play into that? Or, or how did tadpole come about?

Speaker 2: 5:29

Yeah, So we started almost 10 years ago around this idea that data customer data in particular, but lots of data blended together gives you great insights. Yeah, so we founded the company, initially doing user experience research, kind of qualitative user experience research like you know our very first client was donors choose in New York and they had this huge, interesting challenge because it's a crowdfunding platform for teachers Yeah. So if you have a school district and you want to go on and get paint brushes for your art class, a lot of these teachers are reaching to their own pockets and paying for that. Yeah, and if there's amazing opportunity, we have so much capital to deploy for the teachers. But they have a huge challenge getting people like teachers to on board onto the platform. And that was one of the first like wow, if you can change an onboarding flow or how someone goes through some forms to sign up for an account, and what does a teacher think about who's busy in a classroom and doesn't have a lot of time, even over the lunch hour for 20 minutes or trying to fill out this form. So that was kind of the first like really getting like empathy for an end user and then using, like you know, user studies and then running prototypes off that. So from there we just kind of grew and e-commerce continues And e-commerce continued to explode and data did too. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So today, yeah, we have a software product, then integration to leave that suite, and Shopify and big commerce and claveo, and then we have our own kind of We call a first-party pixel, so a way for these smaller merchants to build their own really powerful data sets, similar to what an Amazon's building on their side every day. Yeah, and then we so yeah, so that's that. And we have a services arm that takes that data, kind of guides clients through these very specific stage gates to kind of scale their e-commerce business and a very kind of predictable methodology.

Speaker 1: 7:14

Yeah, well, that, like, is a always enjoyed working with you guys, because I always come away learning something From from the marketing world and from the application of it every time I talk with your team is so it's really interesting.

Speaker 2: 7:29

Well, likewise, and as I tell my grad students, i teach a data science class and 80% of data science is cleaning. Munging data and Partner like GDO across the table, like an algorithm, is only as good as a clean, as a psychic car. If the gas is dirty It's just gonna sputter on the side of the road. So you got to have got that data, got that data out of the, out of the ground, and refine it and get into the car clean.

Speaker 1: 7:51

So yeah, yeah, super critical for our work. Yeah, and it's interesting is the more and I've had some, some of our delivery team who says some go lives and and recently and just talking with the team, the delivery team and you know, just talking about data and blah, blah, blah and how Important it is for that data to be accurate prior to a goal, live and just thinking about the analogy that you know, like that's with the body, you know, if that's with the body, the data is the blood, is the life blood of that ERP And you can have all of those elements in the correct order, but until you have the right item data, the customer data, the pricing and things like that, it's just so, it's just it's not optional, you know, you know to have clean data and the importance of that. so Well, i got some questions for you that I always ask everybody. So the first one I'm gonna ask you is You know, being in the tech jobs, so this may be a tough question, but what's the best technology advice anybody ever gave you? You?

Speaker 2: 8:58

know it's disposable Technology is disposable and get used to it. So it's gonna move quick. And you got to have a mindset that you're gonna build something But you're gonna throw it away, probably. Or you know, ie upgraded But I think that idea it's easy, especially when you're building technology, to really get Emotionally attached to this, like artifact you know, and thinking that it doesn't need to change or grow. But I Think technology is always gonna. The Darwinian nature of it means you're always having to kind of Ah, you kind of get comfortable with the.

Speaker 1: 9:30

Yeah, in the CFOs on that are listening to your cursing you right now because I've capitalized this, this great product That we built out. That is gonna, but that really is. But that really is true, you know, because if you look at a fax machine, you know, or a beeper, or anything of that nature.

Speaker 2: 9:49

So and I think, disposable of the sense of you know what you bought and thinking you can just you know, for example, yeah, the ERP system.

Speaker 1: 9:55

Okay, great.

Speaker 2: 9:56

Now what do we add, what do we both on to that? or how do we take that data and diffuse it across your organization? and then you know And then also say, for example, examples, maybe you're feeding that data in your e-commerce site, but it loads really slow on mobile or whatever. Yeah, yeah okay, now we it's technically works, but it does need to get kind of disposed of an upgraded.

Speaker 1: 10:15

So Correct, make it load quicker or whatever so but and it's really true and you know as a good mindset Do you think that? I'm just curious from your perspective? Does technology ever get to a point where it's more fluid and that that it is more? I don't say organic, but you know it's a little bit more. That foundation is always there that you just build upon. Do you think it ever gets to that point, or no?

Speaker 2: 10:40

I think, i think data does to some degree. I mean data changes all the time, but I would should be just to be clean with my language here. I think data structures get to a point where they can be very stable for a business.

Speaker 1: 10:52

Yeah.

Speaker 2: 10:52

Yeah, and what you can do on top of that data structure in terms how you ingest it and exchange it, do all that fun stuff and transform it. All That got voted, the ETL work, that stuff, i think can That some there's always gonna be. You know, bugs in the system and quirks, but you bet, you bet. More importantly, i would say, is the culture that comes out of that too. So the culture, how they use the data and how you take that and get people to Okay this, this is broken. Who's gonna fix it in by when? Yeah, and then having the rhythms and the roles against that. I think that's another way of like Wage that the technology was, tell you what it should get fixed or upgraded and things like that, but a lot of times is, you know, like the sits in a dashboard deep in the vowels of a company that nobody looks at.

Speaker 1: 11:36

Yeah, yeah, yeah, and to me and and I've always believed in the nest we world. You know, and, as I've done, dealt with nest week for years and years that it's such a great platform For capturing data. Yes, but really, where that Can see, or where that, that place that we all want to get, is like, what is the actionable data From that? because data should be leading to an action or a correction or something that nature, not just a static. Here's my, you know my inventory turns. That's great, but what are you doing with that inventory turn or how is it affected?

Speaker 2: 12:14

100% and I think of data is kind of like tombs dashboards, like tombstones, right. Yeah, i'll tell you when something lived and died And that's about it, right?

Speaker 1: 12:22

You don't know was it a good life a bad life.

Speaker 2: 12:24

Yeah, you know you want to be. I think with data To it should be more of an EKG. So you know we're checking it. Okay, how's our EKG doing? What's?

Speaker 1: 12:33

you know Well, we have high blood pressure markers.

Speaker 2: 12:34

Yeah, what's your markers on the markers and how do we kind of adapt off that And then, especially with data, just as a common practice I see all the time. How did this compare? Oh, we're up 30%, 30% to last year, last month, last week, and then all the things that influence that where we were back in stock or we're out of stock or all that kind of parts that live beyond kind of a Just a simple static dashboard. But that's the conversations, and data should really drive Conversations to get results from it. I feel like so correct.

Speaker 1: 13:06

You know you mentioned the data structure. That's interesting to say that because I know whether it's a new implementation or a new subsidiary that's coming on. One of the first things that From a vendor and that's we partner is that we always want to say, okay, can you get us the export over coming with, and we're very in the large times. People say okay, well, what format do you want and what fields do you want? And you know we're very clear about you. Know like dump at all you know, I'm like. And it like every single field that you have on there, because you do the, the, the doubles in the details, because you're like, okay, we expect on vendors to have the name, the contact, the address, the bill to all that. But then when you see those other fields, you're like what's that? What's that field, what's that field, what is that field? Well, that's how we track this. Okay. Well, why do you? why do you do that? And but there it is. The anomaly is, yes, you're correct that I think that the data structure is probably kind of set, you know, when you look at master records, but some of that Ancillary information is really what's driving the conversations.

Speaker 2: 14:12

Well, and I think that's where you have a, a great expert like a gbo in there that can bring some creativity. Yeah, yeah, you did it this way and you set that up, you know with maybe it was an on-prem system or quick books or whatever, And it's like well, did you know you? could do this, and I think that's where a net suite can start to really shine and be powerful, it can also be kept. You have to be kind of careful too, because if you don't have an expert in there helping you think through, you can get real rats nest too.

Speaker 1: 14:35

Yeah you can't, yeah, yeah so you know and that is one of the questions that we asked I'm like okay, do you still need this data? You know, do you? do you actually need that historical data? Is there a value to that? So, but yeah, that that is. That's really a lot. I love that a technician, but it's going to go away. Don't get locked into it and keep and keep.

Speaker 2: 14:55

Fluid is why here is keep fluid, keep fluid and updating, and I think that especially with big digital transformation projects, big capital outlays to do it, it's like I'm all this money, now We're, we're done, right, and it's like, yeah, you are. But it's kind of like going to the gym And be like, okay, i'm in shape now. It's like, no, everything degrades. Entropy is everywhere. Second law thermodynamic rules the world and so like you'll have to kind of fight that entropy and go back and upgrading things as you go through it.

Speaker 1: 15:20

Yeah, no, that that's, that's great advice. So then the follow-up question is is what's the best business advice, non-technical? What's the business when you're a business owner yourself? you deal with business? What's the best business advice you've ever heard or received?

Speaker 2: 15:34

it's not, it's kind of I mean, sounds kind of trite, but no with. you know, when you see a wave paddle and get, just go, and you know You got to be in front of those waves to really see big opportunities. and um, even like you, look at a Warren Buffett right, he says, when I see something I don't just kind of commit, i put all my chips on the table. So I think a lot of is like building your spidey senses, if you will, your intuitions and some decision criteria to really think. if you are in front of a wave, and that's yeah. And if you've ever been to the ocean when you feel that pull of that wave going out and you're like that, i think you're kind of listening for that in like the business and the economy and then really starting to paddle.

Speaker 1: 16:17

So Yeah, no, that's great advice And to me that kind of leads to my next question that may line up with this is that when you deal with businesses and every business has had customers that are just like, wow, this business just crushed it They get it And other businesses are good not to diminish them, but everybody deals with customers like, okay, i love what I do, but if, like, i didn't work here, i go work for that company or work with that company, what those companies? I'm sure you have them. What are they doing? right that you know that you don't see other businesses do? Is it tie in, kind of what you're saying before?

Speaker 2: 16:56

You know it's funny, i teach this kind of a model. We call it the five Cs of e-commerce. Yeah, and the first thing I would say for the ones that kind of crush it and you could abstract it it's a little bit in the ways of digital stuff, but basically they have capital, right, they're not trying to like, take $2 and turn into $1,000, right, they invest accordingly and against a conviction or a thesis. I think the next step is they've got a culture that's obsessed on customers. Yeah, and everything they build from a product or customer experience kind of anchors off that you know down to. You know shipping confirmations And what is that experience? We click over to track that order or whatever, and then they build great products. And I think that's the thing with the internet is, if you build garbage products, you know it's easy to knock it off and put it on Amazon. Yeah, and then you know it's really easy, like all of us, if it's a new and up and coming brand and it's a high price point, you're going to go look at the reviews, you're going to go to Reddit and you're going to go to YouTube. So you, within 15, 20 minutes, have a really good triangulation if this is worth investing in And I think some people think that like the old days of commerce where you could kind of hoodwink people like God, you know, no one will find out.

Speaker 1: 18:03

It's like oh, yeah, yeah, Yeah Yeah. You can outmarket the customer, right? You know, in the old day and you could just like it does this and you're like it's so hard to return or I can't get ahold of somebody on the phone that you just you buy him, what do you do? You just kind of live with it. There's no recourse back to that. Now you have that recourse to reviews.

Speaker 2: 18:24

And the patience to back that capital and time like it takes a lot of people, i think, and I live more in the, obviously in the e-commerce you know, on the general, space. But when it comes to like direct to consumer or D to C, a lot of people think, well, i just got to put up this site and I just have an ATM in my business. It's just going to throw out cash, right. It's like it takes a lot of time. It takes years to get something to compound and not linear growth. But if you want to get exponential compounding growth, that does take time.

Speaker 1: 18:48

And I think that's back to that kind of cultural component of the way leadership thinks about the capital and when they expect returns and we're not going to build a new website and put in an ERP and then we're going to make millions of dollars in three months, it's like, hey, you know so And I guess follow a question on that, and I do see that as well Those that treat their customers while you see it And to me, i've been at sales in part of my background I could always tell great companies by how companies treated their vendors, because I was at sales And it's just like this whole methodology. We'll use a word earlier that I think has been a great buzzword industry is empathy. We have empathy is really, and to me, like when you know, we hire primarily on business experience for our consultants. You know, in our managed applications, our business department, the number one criteria is you have business experience, have you lived in that shoes? Because it's extremely hard to have empathy if you haven't lived in that shoes. Where your website's down, or you got this and I'm dealing with an image issue And you know when, when you've lived in that world and they call you up and you know, or somebody's trying to close their books tomorrow and they've been a controller and like I got to get this deck to my board, and when you've been that controller, you're like, oh, i know what you're at, i'm gonna drop this and we're gonna get it out the door, you know. So to me that empathy is really cool. But how do you see you know companies because they're always say start at the top. You know it's rare to ever see a great customer-focused department. You know our business not have a start at the top because it takes so much energy and it takes an investment. You know, like I said, you see an investor relationship, it's a customer relationship. How do you see those get that down to that next level? Have you ever run across where you see a good transformation from here down to here?

Speaker 2: 20:49

Yeah, i think that Peter Drucker quote you know that management guru, peter Drucker that said you know a culture strategy for breakfast. Yeah, peter Drucker, michael Porter, one of those two, but that culture piece you know, the most strategic, smartest, amazing. you know business plan analyst, blah, blah, blah. But you know how does the CEO treat the person in the front desk? Yeah, how do they treat a vendor, or, to your point, and then how do they treat, you know, a junior intern right, and I think that all just kind of like will emanate out. And in this new world post COVID, i mean, people have lots of options where to work. they expect a lot more in terms of the cultures they work in. Yeah, and so you know there's. you know that old, you know nice guys finish last. I would argue that you know.

Speaker 1: 21:34

That's changed.

Speaker 2: 21:35

That's changed a lot. That's changed a lot. Yeah, exactly So yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1: 21:40

And to me, what's interesting is, as we talk about this whole industry and the paradigm is, in some way, e-commerce really started to drive that, because so much of this self-service, i can get more data, i can give more feedback, i can give all that that. There is this 360 degree loop. Now that wasn't there before. You know, you didn't have all that.

Speaker 2: 22:04

Yeah, i think and depending especially in B2B, like some of that speed if you come up natively in e-com, like you know, and then you know if you're seeing like a Warby Parker or Albers, they're kind of going the other way right, come up in e-com and then they back into stores. But that culture coming up in e-com is built on agility, speed. You know, scientific methodology applied on like a 24 hour basis, you know. I mean they're going through that And then you know they'll back into traditional retail that way. And so for other companies, i think we're in an interesting time where we're seeing a lot of baby boomers and people retire. There's a whole digital thing coming And some of our clients like, oh, i don't want to deal with that, and they're either building a succession plan, you know that next generation that believes in tech and data and all those things, the ones that don't I think they're. It's going to be a really interesting opportunity the next few years because, you know, coming post COVID, we all got trained to buy something on our phone And you look at the buying power of Gen Z and you know if you have it, if you're selling electrical supplies and you're an electrician and you're 25 years old on a job site as a journeyman, who are you gonna you know, i need these outlets covers, whatever. You're gonna do that on your phone, probably increasingly. Just use AR to take a picture, download, load and get a shipping confirmation for your boss And like, if I have to call or fact, i mean, i mean it's almost yeah. So I think there's a huge opportunity in B2B and kind of these transformations coming.

Speaker 1: 23:29

Yeah, and I agree when we talked about that a lot is that so much gets pushed towards the B2C. You know the B2C, but that B2B and just thinking about, you know, putting the mindset of let's just use cell phones, imagine your life without a cell phone. Yeah, It's just like you can't go back. You know, your brain is expanded and to me, once, those companies that are done or doing, or still doing and building out their B2B, you can't go back, you know, because there's just no better way to do some of that, you know.

Speaker 2: 24:07

Yeah, And it's gonna start at the core with data, right, If I'm that electrician on a ladder, do you have it in stock? Can I get it overnight? It's holding up the whole job site, Correct. And then if it says there's 45 in stock, live in the ERP, pushed to the front like you got that sale or better yet, it's an auto subscription model. We know you need electrical outlets every 15 days you're on the thousand, you know, yeah, yeah, so yeah, No, that's very All sorts of real estate opportunities, i think coming from that space.

Speaker 1: 24:38

Yeah, and that leads into my next question is I always say that you know, on your, from your perspective, you have a totally different perspective than a CFO, ceo, you know, director of marketing that's working with you, just because of your experience and what you guys do, and you know I see it all the time that you know, as an S&P consultant, if I was running a business, i have a totally different perspective because I've sat on this side of the bed for nine years And to me and at times we try to actively do that through our consulting and our managed application services okay, hey, i used to own my own business, so I know this is tougher, et cetera, et cetera. So what is the thing that you're sitting on your side, you know, not talking to any specific customer? you're like, hey, if I were in your shoes, i'm like, do this or don't do that. What is the perspective that you see that never working in your job before? what do you see that your customers should see?

Speaker 2: 25:40

I'm trying to tie together the two themes we just spoke about. One is empathy for your customer. Really get out and see it through their eyes. Is that a demographic that's changing? What are their habits are going? really, we're in a really turbulent, interesting time, right now in the industry, the market share is up for grabs for who's gonna win and build the best experience. And once you have done that work with your executive team or your board and you have conviction around that, then go deploy the technology to deliver an experience that will meet that customer's expectations And be patient. That's gonna take a few years to do it, and so, and underlying that, i think, is AI And you know, i think, the biggest thing I've seen and been working in space for a long time but chat GPT is the first thing where people non-technical nerds can get in there and see what it can do. And we've had different waves of technology. We had broadband, we got the cloud, we had mobile. This is that next wave. And if you have the data and you're building on it back to like I think you know we talked earlier about second-hand this is a wave to paddle out for for sure.

Speaker 1: 26:44

So chat, gpt is this? I mean, in 10 years from now, are we gonna look back and say this is when everybody pivoted.

Speaker 2: 26:55

I think it's a great example. People get you know and then they obviously have to be a little bit like oh, it's sentient beings And you know it's not like. you know, we're not quite in the Terminator stage here, but I think there's things here of like, when you look at AI, a lot of people thought AI would come for the radiologist or the finance people, like that's the first piece that would get automated out. And what AI has actually shocked everybody is it's gone after creative Things that like creating images or writing a book or writing text. and you look at Codex which OpenAI has. you like, just talk to the computer and it writes the quick it will write code back for you, right? So there's some incredible things and moving really, really quick on that And so, and that's what robots should do, that's what automations have done throughout history, right? So instead of, like you know, saddling the horses to ride to town over an hour, we can do it in five minutes, which frees us up to go. you know human beings to go do other like fun, creative things. So I don't think it's something everybody. there is some whole ethical issues on this, but I think it's. yeah, it's an amazing wave, it's here.

Speaker 1: 28:00

Yeah, and to me and let's go a little deeper in the AI because I think it's a really interesting subject. You have a little bit more context than I think the average person does on it. What do you see? You know you mentioned finance, you know stuff like that. Where do you see the practical application? You know there's that knee jerk well, we're gonna lose the AI battle through the machines, terminator, stuff like that But what is the practical? Where do you see the practical application of AI?

Speaker 2: 28:29

Yeah, that's a great question. So let's start with a very common thing How much more money are we gonna make in two or three years? Yeah, right, and you would say that you probably could say you know, it's probably gonna be driven to some degree off how much we made two or three years ago. Yeah, yeah Right. And so you know this is linear or linear regression. What we would call it in different times but basically, what's the slope of that line gonna be? Yeah, we were, we built this into one of our tools, a forecasting tool where we can take what they call time series data, where we take a date, you know a date, we sold this much right, time series date stamps, right. And then this lives in any transactional data set you can find, yeah, and you can run it through these really powerful algorithms and it does some incredibly amazing math underneath the hood that will abstract out things like Black Friday, cyber Monday or you know what. We had an inventory hiccup three years ago. We were out of stock for 90 days that the robot can figure out. Ooh, how much do I weight that into the model and all this kind of stuff? And what it spits back is it's like upper and lower bounds And typically when you're in the analysis it'll kind of fan out because the robots are super accurate five years out, right, yeah, but it can be darn accurate in the first 12 to 24 months. And if you have like five years of transactional data you can have, like we're gonna be in this range. So if I'm the CFO, it's like ooh, i feel comfortable pulling a line of credit, knowing these are the upper and lower bounds of what we might do for revenue. Yeah, and so you can use that data to kind of think and make some good financial decisions off of. A very common problem everybody has is how much are we gonna grow Or are we gonna grow? And you'll see. Do the other thing too, like ooh, it's kind of flat but it's tanking. In three years you're gonna be down 30%. And that can be kind of shocking too, because it's buried in the data the butterflies flapping its wings, that's creating the hurricane and the robots are helping us figure out where those hurricanes are gonna originate.

Speaker 1: 30:16

You know, there's so many questions that when you talk through some of the stuff that asked, well, the first one is like and we've talked about this before one of the things that draw on each other is those businesses. is that, you know, Nesweet, you don't have to be a large, mid-market or enterprise to be able to afford an ERP. Okay, You know, and so it's really opened the door for those smaller to medium-sized businesses to say I'm gonna be on a true ERP system that has a lot of horsepower in it to process my operation and stuff like that. So when we talk AI, you know, is that same truth that it doesn't have just to be for a big business or a large market? Is that available on a practical scale for smaller businesses?

Speaker 2: 31:02

That's our whole mission behind Tadpole. The same tools as an Amazon or a Netflix or a Walmart has to build that we wanna equip. You know we say we're kind of. Our job is to try and be Gandalf. We're just helping Frodo get the ring to Mount Doom. Yeah, yeah, we're just really like Gandalf And I think that you know, helping the hobbits, yeah, fly back and like or Luke Skywalker or whatever, like we're kind of the Obi-Wan Kenobi's where like, ultimately, we wanna give them the lightsaber to fight this stuff, And so, yeah, it's absolutely within the reach. The thing is is this stuff sounds hard and nerdy and what is machine learning and you know neural networks and it has all this buzzwords and acronyms, yeah, but I think about the internet, consumer internet 20 years ago, and it was, you know, http, blah, blah protocols and like that was nerdy, It's like okay, you know it's the way we can send some information over connection. Yeah, and so I think the forward thinking leaders are. I don't understand AI. I don't quite understand get it, but could it do this? And that's what I think. I think we try and work with our execs or our boards or people that just assuming. if you had a magic wand and you had this, what would you wanna be able to predict? Yeah, what patterns would you wanna identify? And if you start with a really open-ended question like, oh gosh, how much do we lose in stockouts? Yeah, yeah, well, if we have that ERP data, you can run a model on that really quick and say, well, the demand loss on that is hundreds of thousands of dollars. And now we have some data to drive a business decision on how to deploy the capital.

Speaker 1: 32:25

So So do you see, from just I'm just trying to baseline just an average. Do you feel like an average next week customer has enough data So long as they have some longevity, you know, take some time. Do they have enough data to feed those AI models?

Speaker 2: 32:40

Absolutely. You can do some very simple thing with customer transaction logs and a friend of ours, dr Peter Fader wonderful human being basically has done a lot of the bleeding edge work in the world around this. A lot of his and Dan McCarthy's work is around using customer transaction data to predict the value of the company. You basically start at the atomic level of the customer How much do they purchase, how frequently they purchase, how recently do they purchase In each one of those little things, the time between when they purchased, how much it was and what the cadence of that is. You can develop off margin data, a discounted cash flow analysis on an individual customer basis, wow And you roll that all up in a group or a cohort. Year over year you can start to see what the value of the company is And if you ever want to shop at or raise money or whatever, you've already got that in your back pocket as an operator And that's just basically very simple order data. That was in NetSuite.

Speaker 1: 33:42

So and I know you work a lot with PE firms or those PE firms using some of the stuff that you guys have built out to help kind of identify that value of that.

Speaker 2: 33:52

So we'll start big, broad brushstrokes with that machine learning to predict traffic, revenue, revenue to the site, and then that's kind of the top. And then we'll kind of zero in on the individual customer base And we might find that, wow, the customer base in 2019, total garbage, like they're not loyal, we're losing, 95% haven't bought again. By the way, we spent massive amounts on online marketing. Acquisition costs for our lifetime value is like way out of whack. But 2020, whatever we did then And then like oh, it turns out we actually used email more than paid ads And we built an email to like nurture those. We weren't buying those customers after we had them for a repeat purchase And so yeah, so that's kind of there's kind of layers we'll peel back of the onion to get to.

Speaker 1: 34:34

To get there And then. So then to me, you know we talk a lot about change management. You know, whether it's an ERP or any tool, is your your? your moving people's cheeses. You're looking, asking people to look at different things, and one of those keys is like knowing where you're going to be, you know. So if you had somebody that's like, hey, okay, i want to go down this AI path, i'm going to spend X amount of dollars to get there, What does my world look like in like two years? I'm just curious what does that world look like for those companies that successfully do that?

Speaker 2: 35:06

I think you can start to have some well. First of all, you can sleep a little. Ai is not perfect, right? There's? always yeah, So that's one thing sometimes people feel like Oh, this is like GPS And it's like you know it's, it's it's ordinal directions, right, but it can be pretty accurate And it's like it's all going to cut off that data. So the better data we have, the more accurate. It will predict to some degree. So yeah part of it, I think, in fact follow up with Zillow. you know, Zillow let the robots buy houses and then basically they had to lay off 25% of their staff. So yeah yeah, and, but the robots had never seen something like the COVID housing bump right. So the models were trained and they never seen and it's just running and running and running. So it's like bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, and then yeah, yeah. So there's there's some cautionary tales, but there's a kind of a crawl off of running AI And the first step is build a data warehouse or just build good, clean data And we say it's just like an insurance policy, it's really cost effective. And if you follow what Apple did to Facebook, if you don't think there's value in owning your data, i mean Mark Zuckerberg's got a huge problem right now because Apple can cut off access to their data and their entire business models and Jeopardy. Yeah, so that's the first step. And then from that, once you have the data clean and organized, working with like a GVO to get that clean and organized, then you can bring in the nerds to say you want to be able to understand how much well customers buy in a couple of years, how much are we losing with stockouts? That's, our margins. Should we run ads for products and what's the right ratio based on the margin data? Yeah, and then from that you can kind of like, kind of level up and the clients that kind of buy into that vision. You know, we've seen incredibly. It takes years, especially in, you know, seasonal swings, but three or four years you see incredible compounding.

Speaker 1: 36:50

Yeah, and to me what's interesting is, you know, as soon as I ask a question, you know my head is like, well, covid, and you know, no AI, no tool is going to predict COVID. But for me, from my perspective, the thing is, is that when you get to COVID, if you do have that data and you need to pivot, at least you have data to help assist in how to pivot. And those that don't have that, that are forced to make those decisions without having any data. when you get to that injunction point, then it goes purely off feelings and gut And then you start. that's the rolling of the dice.

Speaker 2: 37:29

Yeah, that's your analogy of a patient. You know, my knee hurt, i tweaked it. You know I fell on the ice. Well, we're just going to cut it open and see kind of what's going on in there, And you'd be like you know, like you know, you want an MRI and an X-ray And you want to see, you know. So there's a part of it of, like, you know, if the business is the patient, you got to have a way to diagnose, you know, do the diagnostics on it And so, yeah, that's where I think people get a little overwhelmed, which is understandable, just if you can think, you know, if you take one thing away, just get the data clean, get it organized and start building that as an asset. And why? that's not gap principles. I do feel personally and I've talked to Pete about this at Orton a lot, i do think, changing accounting standards. where you look at data as some component of the balance sheet, i think it's hard to put a value. but when you look at customer lifetime value or individual customers, we're already moving in that direction in the research And what's fascinating is the models they ran. they're within. I mean, they're incredibly accurate for, like Wayfair, they're pulling Wayfair's public data sets and they're predicting like 2% or 3% of earnings calls. So again, we're already there. The futures here is just not widely distributed, as the old saying goes.

Speaker 1: 38:37

You know and I know we're both big fans of MPS or Net Promoter Score, and to me that was one of the things that from a NestWeep perspective, we had certain customers that were doing that were. We were doing email surveys, mps surveys out of NestWeep periodically to be to be customers and things like that and recording what they were as a customer are they a detractor, a promoter, all those things And we're storing that on the customer record. And to me, what was so exciting is that you're able to go look at your sales for the year, since you have your customer records And not only is it just a number of okay, our MPS is 77. Well, that's great. What percentage of your sales are to promoters? What percentage of your sales are detractors? Because that maybe you may have a 77, but your top five customers that 80, 20 rule 80% of your business come from your top 20. What if those top 20 are detractors? But the bottom is like that's my promoters, but if you lose two or three of those, to me that was the best when you started to see that blending of a technology to try to put some measure to what that value is, and I know you can do more with it, like you said, but that's really to me it was a great start of like hey, we got the customer data, we know what they are, we got their sales data, we know what items they were buying, we know what the impact is on our balance sheet.

Speaker 2: 40:18

Yes.

Speaker 1: 40:18

Now let's start to blend that together And I think that's really interesting. when you start looking at that And to me, if I was buying an organization, from my perspective, you're like, hey, what would I do differently Before? I never buy a system. there's a lot of things you have to sign, but I'm like, let me see your data.

Speaker 2: 40:34

Absolutely. I'm going to start with customer data. It's that blended. there's kind of a trifecta, at least in e-commerce, of data. You can use customer data, the campaign they came from, how you acquire them. Really, you need to have the product catalog, the ERP data A lot of people have campaign data. They don't really marry that well with customer data. Only the best of the best. This is what Amazon has done for 20 years. They married that with the catalog data. But you have a great point there. I think MPS is a really good way to get changing cultures. Yes, our software will capture MPS at checkout and then if someone gives us a two out of 10, the promo code didn't work I got an email we can catch for that. E-mails goes out at 10.02, it's going to work across the globe. Oh, shoot, go in, fix this thing. You're catching it at 10.05, and you don't disappoint any of your customers. That can be one thing. That feedback loop of the actual customer can change cultures a lot. We have a really good point in that too, which we call customer heterogeneity, which is a really fancy mouthful, basically saying like can you look at values? it's all spiky right. There's not like this smooth distribution. Yeah, what are our detractors? We had MPS. Blah, blah, blah, ooh. Did we Our promoters? we're not growing promoters year over year, we're actually losing promoters. Well, there's another one of those EKG signals like we've got some high cholesterol here. we got to change our diet and get going Yeah.

Speaker 1: 41:58

To me and I really do agree that you look at it is to me I've always thought that, like MPS, gets you in the ballpark because you're starting to see where you're at. What's interesting and I know we talked about this a little bit in the past that, from a net sweep perspective, one of the I call it the canary in the coal mine, it's the park cases, because in that suite on the case record, you can actually track that item. Now I have my item. I know what my case issue is broken product, late delivery, blah, blah, blah. Manufactured defect, what have you? well, now I can tie that to an item. Okay, well, my item is connected to a vendor record in net suite. So now I can say, okay, looking at historically in 2022, here are my top item defects. Now these are related to my vendor and how many support cases do I have based off that, which gives me a lot more ammunition as I go to my vendor. But also started to identify those trends And to me, like the support cases, like hey, you got to do all these phenomenal things, but I'm like, no, just track the data points on the support case, which is gonna facilitate a lot of things, but it's just that, one little thing that allows you to say I know from a CEO and I log in to net suite and I can see my support key issues, manufactured bad products. Click on that. How many cases do I have? And all of that information, because it is, goes back to your tombstone analogy what happened in this last week?

Speaker 2: 43:33

What died What died, and I think and that's just a great example of using the data to start to change the culture Correct, and we're talking about empathy for vendors. But if a vendor is like, hey, you're putting my business at risk by not delivering product on time or high quality, and I have a, and then in oh no, we're ship on time, we hit it. And when you say no, over the last five quarters you've declined our lead times are increasing 20%. So we need to have a conversation around this, because we know from our other data set of lost sales by stockouts or whatever, right, and I think that's it's so much easier to start with an objective conversation to have when you have that data and the trend line data especially.

Speaker 1: 44:10

Yeah, well, that's really cool. Well, i know we're coming up here on time. That to me. My last question I have for you, jake, is if somebody wanted to start working with you guys to start in this area, what are those first steps that they need to take? What do they do?

Speaker 2: 44:26

You know the first thing we'll do is we say we move at the speed of trust And so we have a very we try to design a very affordable option. You'll have some data science dropped into this. You don't need to know what this stuff does. But, you know, for a very normal amount we will go through and basically audit all the analytics. We'll run some time series or some predictions on what we can think. Well, also, people think through the staffing, like an org chart, for example, and then we can kind of say, okay, what do you need Here, here, here, and at the end of that they have a really good blueprint for what they need to do over the next three years. And if TAPL is a part of that, you know, like we say, we're gonna kind of try to win that business as we grow. But versus showing up with some hey, we got this big vision and this, you know, sticker shock type of thing. It's like let's bring everybody along, cause again, e-commerce is so new It's not taught really in MBA programs. You can't go get an exec ed training. We're working on some exec ed training programs for this, but it's a very nascent field And it's so interdisciplinary with finance and ops and marketing, that you know we're gonna try and bring you along over two or three weeks with some of these principles that we teach it in some of our grad courses. And then from there you know our clients have a really good stance And sometimes it's like hey, we're not quite ready for that kind of horsepower, we're gonna wait a year. Some clients, especially with PE, it's like sweet, we've got 12 sites, we're gonna do these three this month or this year or whatever, and then we can kind of stage, gate it and then put it at a minimum. We're dropping the software and build the data sets And that stuff, but it's built again from. We'll go first. We tend to use it as a loss leader, but we'll use the data and our methodology and our IP to hopefully win the business At a way where I think our clients we care about lifetime value a lot And so we don't want clients that are in or out and this stuff takes time to compound. So that's what we start And then from there it's like, oh, we need some help with the RP. Well, we're gonna give Todd and his team a call over there, and we've done that a lot of times And we'll need to. On the other side, we're kind of like a baseball team. We need a pitcher and we're kind of the cashier So.

Speaker 1: 46:22

Yeah, And to me and those people that haven't had a one-on-one call with with Taphole, highly recommended. They bring so much to the table and I've said in other podcasts and other things like great consultants just don't provide knowledge. They ask great questions And I know that, Jake, with just the conversations we've had that have been customer specific, just the questions really do make you start to think in a different way. I've always enjoyed those conversations because I've always felt like every time we've been on a joint call I've walked away knowing more than I did prior to that call, So thankful for that Likewise.

Speaker 2: 47:00

Yeah, no, i think of us as a general practitioner, but we're gonna call on the orthopedic surgeons. Yeah To the RP.

Speaker 1: 47:05

Yeah, so how do they get a hold of you, jake? If they want to get more information, how do they get a hold of you?

Speaker 2: 47:12

At tadpolecom T-A-D-P-U-L-Lcom. The poll stands for empathy, pulling customers, pulling data in and using that to scale businesses. So yeah, tadpolecom, jenny and Chris would love to chat with you. They have a whole easy step through quick 15, 20 minutes walk through what we do and, if we can help you, as we say, try to turn data into dollars.

Speaker 1: 47:32

So yeah, yeah, and they're fun to work with. I've worked with both of those And for those that are new to a GVO, go to shellofficecom. We also have a LinkedIn group called Boost Your ERP. Go ahead and go there. We have a lot of tips and tricks, new concepts. Just posted an article in there on support cases. Like I said, one of the most flexible records in Neswy and Moffton, most overlooked in Neswy, and you already paid for it, so use it. But with that, jake, as always, pleasure. Wish you the best and we'll talk to you soon. Awesome Thanks, todd. Appreciate it, man, no problem.

In this episode, we take a look at some of the best practices when it comes to accounting. We invited Jennie from AccountingDepartment.com to talk about what her view is from the accounting side of an ERP.

Speaker 1: 0:00

Welcome to the Boost Your ERP podcast. Today we have on Jenny Hoffman from accountingdepartmentcom. As with all of our podcasts, this really is designed for you, as Nesweet users, to have insight to our Nesweet ecosystem, the different processes that people use, best practices, things like that. We've dealt with accountingdepartmentcom. We've had shared customers and we've had great experiences. Today we wanted to bring on Jenny to really talk about what her view is from the accounting side when it comes to Nesweet and that. Welcome, jenny. Welcome to the podcast.

Speaker 2: 0:40

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 0:43

Let's get started with just a little bit about you. Why don't you just give a little background about yourself first, and then about accountingdepartmentcom? Sure Love to.

Speaker 2: 0:53

I live about 30 miles southwest of Chicago. I grew up in Southeast Wisconsin and pretty much stayed in this whole area my entire life. I went to college at Northern Illinois University. That's where I graduated from and received my CPA from there shortly afterwards.

Speaker 1: 1:12

Oh, cool, cool. So you're Husky. Is that Husky?

Speaker 2: 1:16

Yeah, at the time we're not very good in football, but they've reclaimed that, yeah, great little program there. We proud now.

Speaker 1: 1:23

Yeah, cool. So how about accountingdepartmentcom? Tell me a little bit about them.

Speaker 2: 1:28

Yeah, So I've been with accountingdepartmentcom now for about 11 years. We started out as a Quick Book Shop So we did business outsourcing, So mostly your bookkeeping and controller outsourcing services And in the last two, three years we decided to go into Nesweet and really open up our opportunities to work with clients that have ERP systems, larger systems and just Quick Books.

Speaker 1: 1:55

Got it Cool. So how did you get into the industry? How did you like one get into accountingdepartmentcom? How'd you get into being a? Tell me a little bit about that.

Speaker 2: 2:06

It's actually funny because I, If you know knowing me, I went to college actually to be in marketing, which is actually really funny. So I was at Northern and one of my really close friends was in the accounting program And to be anything in business you have to take accounting And as an undergrad, And so she had to take the accounting qualifying exam to get into the accounting program And so I said I would help her. I had two years of accounting from high school. So, we studied together and I helped her and we took the test together and I passed it when a lot of people didn't, and I thought, well, maybe that's what I should be doing. I really enjoy it and I like actually like teaching it, and so I changed my major to accounting after that.

Speaker 1: 2:47

Oh I can say there's probably not a lot of people that went from marketing to accounting and did that successfully.

Speaker 2: 2:54

It was a great high school and college was marketing. But you never get to see in marketing.

Speaker 1: 3:01

So what did you do after college then? So you get into accounting and go in. So tell me about that. What did you do then?

Speaker 2: 3:07

Yeah, finished up, went, like a lot of people do, straight to public accounting. They kind of groom you for that.

Speaker 1: 3:13

Yeah.

Speaker 2: 3:14

And I was in public accounting for about nine years And then decided I didn't want to be a partner in a public accounting firm That just wasn't for me And went to work for an industry and for a privately owned company and with their controller for seven years And it was. I wish I already had the experience to work like in a business before they're auditing a business, because I learned so much more about how a business operates And then just coming in and doing an audit And then after about seven years of that I was starting to get bored because it's the same thing every day.

Speaker 1: 3:48

Yeah.

Speaker 2: 3:49

I liked a lot of the aspects of public accounting.

Speaker 1: 3:51

Yeah.

Speaker 2: 3:52

Of meeting new people, being in different places, and so I found accountingdepartmentcom and it was like it was literally a perfect match for me, because I had my accounting background. I'm able to utilize that, challenged with different industries, different clients, and it's something different every day. So while it's still accounting, it's every day can be different.

Speaker 1: 4:15

So, going back to, I'm curious. So what did you learn being a public accountant? What did you take away from there?

Speaker 2: 4:23

Honestly, the confidence is a piece of that, because you're in somewhere different. You really don't know. Yeah, you know accounting rules, but you don't know how it actually all works in real life until you go in. And one of the biggest takeaways, honestly, for me from public accounting I had a partner I worked with a lot. And we were in a client one day And we were going over their end of engagement results and talking to them about the findings and going through the reports And he was the partner that was like a third year And, as he's telling them things, they kept looking to me like looking for that head mad, looking for that insurance. I could tell when they didn't understand something and I would try to like rephrase it to something that they could understand. And when we left, the partner pulled me aside and said don't lose that. And I was like, lose what He's like you relate to people. And he goes your that skill set will serve you well. And he's like so don't be afraid to like be that relatable with people. And so that was probably out of my whole experience there, because it is hard in public accounting, very demanding, but I always went into engagements where I got to know the people that I was working with.

Speaker 1: 5:36

Yeah, and I spent a couple of years at an accounting firm early part of my career And the one thing I took away from it is learning the language of business. When you work in an accounting firm, a public account and it's the business of business and just understanding so much and the value and there's great value in public accounts and just knowing that detail of business And when you get that right partner or the right account that you're working with that and understand that business and apply that and really have that bridge between those two worlds, that's really, it's really valuable, such a great relationship when you get that built up, so that's really cool. So so you did the public and went to be a controller. What did you learn as a controller?

Speaker 2: 6:31

There was a whole lot more about running a business than accounting.

Speaker 1: 6:35

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2: 6:36

So I as the. it was a small company, so I was responsible for not just accounting but HR in some facilities, and so I learned a lot about, before you recording an invoice, what goes into that, what happened before that, that occurred, collections, making those hard decisions about when there's seasonality in a business or when that big project that we thought we were gonna get we didn't get. How did we adapt and how do you pivot from that? So, it was. I learned a ton being there. It was probably, on experience-wise, more beneficial probably than public accounting. If I could have flipped them, it probably would have meant more.

Speaker 1: 7:19

Yeah, that totally makes sense, Cause also then as a controller with a public account and dealing with a controller, you're just focusing on finances. As a controller, you're being forced to interact with every department and how to interact with each department and personalities within as well. So, yeah, so then you go to accountingdepartmentcom. So what was that transition like? What was the first thing that really stood out to you on that?

Speaker 2: 7:46

Well, first it was I mean, i've been here for a long time that there was really an opportunity to work remote and it was real.

Speaker 1: 7:53

You know they had a lot of work from home job back in that time that weren't real.

Speaker 2: 7:59

And we are, because we've always been 100% remote. We're incredibly disciplined. There's a lot of procedures in place for us to be successful, so we have the same messaging, so we communicate. We see things the same way, we name them the same way. So the first thing I noticed was just an abundance of processes. That taught me how important those processes are with pretty much everything you do.

Speaker 1: 8:24

Yeah, yeah. Definitely applicable outside, even of work, but That's super cool And I can see that. You know, and as we've grown as a company, those processes when you're a smaller company you can get away, you know with, but when you just got all of those and different people that are coming in and have account, you know just those processes are.

Speaker 2: 8:45

It's not optional you know to do it professionally you know. It ensures our accuracy but also our high. You know what we demand of ourselves a high quality of work, because everybody we know what's acceptable and what isn't acceptable.

Speaker 1: 9:00

Yeah, yeah, totally. So what type of clients do you guys normally deal with? You know, is there a certain vertical or size?

Speaker 2: 9:07

There is. That's a good question, because we used to be really industry agnostic and we are still to that extent where we have all different types of industries that we work with but we internally have silos. So if you are, you know, warehouse supply, you're in one silo. If you're a law firm, you're in a different kind of silo. So that way the controllers who work with clients, they're really more industry specific.

Speaker 1: 9:34

Yeah, and to me, what I've always found is that you know, in our industry, coming into Nesweep people like, oh hey, we're a warehouse distribution, do you do a lot of that, or service or what have you? Or like we only want to work with somebody that's done service. And to me it's always been part of an education process, because what's really interesting is there's truth. Have you worked in a vertical? and there's just certain things that you can't fake, nor would you want to fake, but you're just like boy. I need to understand that. But one of the benefits I've always found is that we do work in so many different verticals And as we process, engineer and solution design and bring things to the table, there's so many times where I have background in service and I'm doing it with somebody in a warehouse distribution, i'm like have you thought about doing this principle from service? and like what are you talking about? I'm like if you go to a service industry, they do this. Can you go ahead and model that? And it's like boy, i've never thought about that. So to me there is some truth to having experience in that vertical, but also we're like industries in some ways and that you do deal with a lot of different verticals, that you can bring those things to the table and say, hey, why don't you look at it from this perspective And, as we all know the last two or three years, especially that product companies are adding services, service companies are adding products, and how do you? our subscriptions are things of that nature, and it really is a blending of those verticals. So it's really interesting, so okay, so I guess the next question I have for you, the first really like technical question, is what was the best technology advice anybody ever gave you?

Speaker 2: 11:21

I was saying backup and document. I'm probably the first to It's painful as the documentation is how critically important it is. But, honestly, the best advice was probably don't assume you know everything about. Yeah, because not only especially in the counting space. I have to say, like probably more than ever, there's more counting technology than ever before. It's moving faster. You're seeing a lot more players in the market. With Netsuite, you're seeing a lot more add-ons, a lot more entities that come in and say, oh, we can connect to Netsuite and do this And being able to use that skill set of like I know, business processes. So I can talk to you and say, okay, but do you do this And give up this piece and trying to help find the one that does it right. That's what we think we do very well Because we have that experience. But just don't not making the assumption that because you're using one system and one thing that's not going to change, it's always changing.

Speaker 1: 12:25

What are some of the? you mentioned all the different technology and I agree there's a plethora. What are some of the good ones that you think of? I mean, we're buys, we're not sweet, but I'm like, doesn't that mean that? What are some of the things that you're seeing out? there is like technology. I'm like, yeah, this is kind of cool or worse out there.

Speaker 2: 12:43

So with NetSuite I mean because we're a quick bookshop and a NetSuite shop, So I have references for both It's more in like what they're trying to solve. So on the invoicing side, solving the clients, our clients, customers can see their invoices real time. Can see their history, can pay their bills pay by credit card change their payment information, all of that. So we have you know, biller Jean is really great. On the Quick Book side, versapay is a good one on the yeah, they're great Yeah. Bill payments, not just paying the bills but approval, routing, all of that. So we work really closely with billcom. We also work with Ramp. We have other partners and then the biggest one where we're seeing a lot more players is the expense reporting. And so you know with billcom and Divi's relationship, and then Expensify and Tally and Ramp has an expense app now and all of that can be built into NetSuite. So that's a question that I've been asked as well. Why this if it's in NetSuite? Sometimes it's a matter of what's actually more user friendly for you.

Speaker 1: 13:53

Do you?

Speaker 2: 13:53

really need all those people in. NetSuite if they can just log into another app and do what you want them to do. So, but there are so many different solutions out there.

Speaker 1: 14:04

You know, and that's a really good point And at times I've asked the same question as when you go to Sweet World and you walk to floor and you see Expensify, you see all these different third party products, i'm like, yeah, they're in the same room as NetSuite, who technically does the same thing. So what is it? I think that that's the one really good thing for those listening, that you know sometimes you know a NetSuite license isn't free, you know. So can you go with a different third party product that allows them to live outside with that and be really specific and specialize within that process? Because you know NetSuite is a monster of a product in a good way, that there's so much in that when you do, okay, i just need to focus on expenses Okay, do you need to be entered into this vast kingdom of NetSuite, when maybe you just really only need this aspect of it?

Speaker 2: 15:00

Exactly.

Speaker 1: 15:01

Yeah, and in VersaVe. You know we dealt with VersaVe for a long time and great staff and love working with them as well. So, yeah, i definitely love that. I see a lot, so okay. Next question, you know really is like what's some of the best business advice? So go back to your public accounting control or account. I mean, you've had the opportunity to see all of this, all these different businesses outside of technology. I mean, what's some of the best business advice you've seen or heard?

Speaker 2: 15:32

Like what I'm seeing too, and I don't know if it's just where we are as a company. There's a lot of professional organizations out there now. There's you know Vistage and EO and Young Entrepreneurs and there's just a lot out there for people to use. So where it bridges for us is like do what you do best. And so if you are, if you have a business and this is what you're doing and what you're passionate about accounting is most likely not what you're passionate about. So, let somebody who is passionate about it do that piece of it and let them synergize with you. Yeah, Talking to people, I think that's becoming more acceptable to say that I can't do it all and that we can bring in somebody else who can help us out. And it doesn't have to 100% be homegrown. That's probably like for business. Advice would be. Let a lot of people who know what they're doing best do that piece of it and find those good partners to work with.

Speaker 1: 16:28

You know, as you and I were talking in the past, that you know you don't know what you don't know. I know it's very cliche And when you do have those people like yourselves that know accounting very intrinsically, in that space there's going to be things that you're going to ask. And I've always said the mark of a great consultant in what we do is not spewing knowledge but asking great questions. And if you ever want to know a great question, you know great consultants. When they ask a question, everybody just stops and goes, oh, i've never thought about that. That's a really good point. And really getting to that, getting to those people that can ask those questions that really force you to say, boy, i don't have this process baked out yet, i'm not ready to implement or modify or do what I have to like, have that. And then to me, i found that the turnout to be really good advocates and in challenge, you know on that, but that takes trust, you know as well, to not be like, oh, you know, it's really developing that trust And over time you really got to know that So um, so okay. So then that with all these different people, you've learned all this different stuff Once that you know we all have our client list. Anybody who's worked you have a good clients is some not so great clients, stuff like that Usually, at least for my perspective. At times you just see it wow, they're really good because of this or they're doing that. What are the best people out there doing that from your perspective? when you're looking at like through my lens of accounting, what are the best people doing out there?

Speaker 2: 18:08

I think they are realizing that they don't know it all. I think the ones who are like saying, okay, I can connect with, like an accounting department to account, I can connect with GBO and maybe I already have NetSuite but I'm not using it like full list and looking to others to help in building that network, I think is what the best ones are probably doing.

Speaker 1: 18:31

Yeah, okay, and then, kind of alongside that, like I said, you don't know what you don't know unless you worked on that side. What would you tell somebody that, hey, from my side you guys don't see it, but from my side this is what I'm seeing. Is there anything that like jumps out that you're like, hey, this is something you guys could really learn from? Is there anything? That's a tough question.

Speaker 2: 18:56

I know I'm trying to think of anything else. That's a good one. I have so many different like partial examples.

Speaker 1: 19:07

I'm trying to get one, that's.

Speaker 2: 19:11

I think sometimes it's in that cross industry knowledge helps, like you were saying. Yeah, sometimes I have some clients that are in nonprofit and then clients that aren't. Then when you're in the nonprofit space you think nonprofit and there's times where there's some applicability of other things that you can plug in to make things work. I think of a really good example of that.

Speaker 1: 19:35

But in one the knowledge is in my thing. I'll share one just for my example is that in our industry, the one thing that in everything it's dollars, we're time, we're built for time and things of that nature is having really clear requirements before you really start going down a path was people is really efficient. The process of writing down what those requirements are really is therapeutic, because you're like, well, what about this or what about that? To me, going along with that is like writing. I know people don't have time to write down requirements, but they don't write down test cases. To me, when you're like I want to do this and like when we get it done with that script or what have you, we need to test this, this and this. To me, that's what has been so much of it. And like we're great at putting the nuts and bolts together to solidify a process or automate a process. We're here, we have ideas on how to do that, but so much of them. We need those requirements When people can start at the point of we've met with our team and this is what we want, and starting there is so efficient for us and, ultimately, for the customer as well.

Speaker 2: 20:59

Well, that's honestly my biggest net suite From QuickBooks to NetSuite. My biggest learning experience for me has been about that documentation and that requirements upfront. With QuickBooks there's not a lot to configure NetSuite. We had a client that was all on board, very involved with the process but didn't have the right people involved in your team. We had misses on how important some functionality was. That they said that's okay if it's two-step-three but it was really a requirement for step one. That was something like 100 percent being more direct about what those requirements are upfront, gathering them, making sure that they're coming in on that. It's probably for me, one of the most things I've learned with between those applications and moving to an ERP, it's how important all the different areas are to come together.

Speaker 1: 22:01

Yeah To me. And QuickBooks is a great product. We do NetSuite and there's fists for both. That's really one of the challenges that we see at times that you go from QuickBooks where this is how you use it There isn't five ways to do this or at scripting. And to me, when you move into that NetSuite world, they're like, well, what do you mean? Okay, well, if you don't like that process, you can do it differently. What does that entail? But it's really a different mindset to say, okay, now I've been let out to Pash or I can go all these different ways in this little scary at times, but it doesn't. Not everybody has that business analyst mindset to figure that out. So that's part of those things that people sometimes it's beneficial to learn a little bit of that BA mindset to the questions I should be asking how am I documenting When people talk about the five ways, why are you doing this, why are you doing that? And really, for those that really at times have a specific budget that they need to stay in, from our side it's just like okay, it can be really efficient, we'll help you where you need help, but we got to get to the end of the five ways before we bake that out, and sometimes that could be a little bit. It takes a little time and, like I said, time is money. So now that leads me to my next question is kind of like I don't care what it is about those expensive high billcom versus pay you us. We're all in the business of change management.

Speaker 2: 23:39

Yes.

Speaker 1: 23:40

You know, in that you know, and I know for my experience as much as the challenges of what we do is is managing change management. How do you guys do that? because I mean you really are, you're really helping people like totally change your business. So how do you? guys do that.

Speaker 2: 23:57

Yeah, and we were all we joke in implementation So we are Change kid. I mean, it's always difficult to be downright hard, sometimes right. So we have clients that come in that As much as they have gone through our Yeah, sales process, they know what we're about There are still clients who are like, oh, you're gonna change that?

Speaker 1: 24:18

Yeah, oh, you want to talk about that We've always done it this way. Yeah.

Speaker 2: 24:23

And I think it all comes down to communication. Yeah empathy piece that you talked about, of understanding why they did it the way they did it Yeah, Yeah and being able to bridge that to where you think it can go and where they can be.

Speaker 1: 24:36

Yeah.

Speaker 2: 24:36

I'm see the benefit of that. So, yes, this is how you've been doing it, but there's a huge benefit if you're doing it this way, and this is that benefit. Being patient Yeah, there's a lot of patients. You don't want to Not change and not move them along that path, but you also have some. You know, sometimes you have to say things a couple times or a couple different ways or show it.

Speaker 1: 24:56

So a lot of it's.

Speaker 2: 24:57

How do they need to hear it or see it.

Speaker 1: 24:58

Yeah, are they?

Speaker 2: 24:59

a visual, what you know? how are they need to hear it? and, yeah, we use a task management system, so we're, you know, putting milestones in front of the client. We're being as transparent as we can about yeah here's where we are. Here's where we're going. Yeah this is what it's gonna look like. We're very time intensive for a client when they first come aboard Yeah, a lot of questions, you know a lot of things that need to happen and then when they move on to our client services team, then it's a more recurring and it's more comfortable. But we're very upfront. You know, at first it's a lot.

Speaker 1: 25:32

It's a big mountain decline to find and and. To me and that's where you know We share, especially when I talk to our delivery team that does implementations and our managed applications team that takes over after that delivery That is always the the mindset that you have to remember that people had a full-time job before you asked them to change the system. And You know you have somebody who's probably really busy in their 40 45 hours a week to get everything done. I don't know anybody in the professional world This is I. You know I. I surf the web 20 hours a week. I don't know anybody who does this. So you have somebody who says that that compressed work schedule and now you're saying We're going to holy, you know we're gonna implement net suite or gonna implement this or that, that they have to do that On top of that 40 hour job that they do. That does cause a lot of friction and you know it takes a lot of time. So, yeah, i love a lot of things that you called out there and to me is getting that vision of why you know and you know I'm you and I talked in different times that you know, like salespeople, you know stuff for, like CRM, you know for people, that you know businesses, that they had a disparate sales force and they had quick books. They weren't attached. Now They're together. You know, and really the one of the things that we see that's been most effective with adoption of CRM is Really educating the salesperson on all the benefits of having a 360 degree view of that. Okay, well, do you know that you can go in and see support cases, you can see whether that has been delivered, you can see where that sales order is and you can see all that data? You know in one system. You know, but it does take effort, but there is a payoff, you know, in the end on that. So that's that's really cool. Thanks for that. And I guess so you know from your vantage point. You know, looking forward in 2023, early 2023, what are some of the opportunities you see out there for people?

Speaker 2: 27:36

Yeah, i know, for I mean for us. I know I'm excited you know that suite is a newer vertical for us you know, and so I'm excited just about Meeting these prospects, talking to them. It's one of my favorite things that I get to do is talk with Prospects as they're coming in, asking questions, learning about them and, yeah, i just see a lot of growth opportunity for us and in that space, yeah, and I also see For staffing, because now you have individuals who maybe got a taste of working from home. Maybe it wasn't for them. Yeah and now they realize that there is opportunities out there where you can work from home And do what you love to do, and so I I think there's a lot of opportunities. Covid may have also given businesses the ability to see that they needed help, so maybe people weren't in or people left and they needed outsourced and it was successful. So it's okay to ask for help and it's okay. If your accounting doesn't reside within your brick and mortar and it's somewhere else, it's okay. And so I think we have a lot of opportunities, i think, ahead of us in 2023.

Speaker 1: 28:50

Yeah, sorry, i agree that there is. And to me, i know as a partner group at GVO that, looking back, that we came out of COVID better than we went into it And it really did force a lot of people to analyze how they do business, how their staff works, how you measure and what are the metrics that you look at and things of that nature, and it really forced a lot of businesses to say I have to do business differently to keep up. But yeah, and I think a lot of people have figured out the big chunks of it, but I still think there's some opportunities to do that. And to me, the last question I had for you is I know a little bit, and that's one of the reasons why I think we work well together as partners is that you guys have a fairly intense process to get to know, and we do too. We don't like to do anything and in that sweet account, unless we know the topography. You know it's really easy to step out of landmines when you don't know their landmines there. But, like, when people like, how do people start with, like what you guys do, how does that look like?

Speaker 2: 30:02

It is. it is intensive And so, but it's so successful We need. if somebody's interested, we have a prospect. they can connect to us. you know calling us around our website, But once they go through a demo and they are interested in more we do, We have a CPA, a dedicated CPA and a file a financial nails analyst and then myself too, if it's in that sweet, and we meet with the prospect and we, like a two hour phone call, kind of dig deep in the financials. We go through their cycles, you know the revenue cycle, their payable cycle, inventory, payroll. We really kind of I mean we can't go super deep into it, yeah. Yeah, deep enough to kind of know, ok, where do, where there are some significant issues, where can we help the most, where is it at? And then we go through the financials with them And we walk through the balance sheet, we walk through the PNL, kind of get a good idea as to what the scope of our services would be Again, being recurring, but keeping in control or ship. And then we put together a proposal. It's reviewed internally and then we present it to the client and we really walk through. So our proposals are very detailed in terms of in each section Client does this, we do this, client does this. And so we make sure. Again, the effort of transparency and communication, it's really clear. And then if a client chooses to, a prospect chooses to work with us, they sign the proposal And we usually give them a couple options, a budgeting forecast included or not. But then they start, they sign up and our implementation team, which I'm a member of. Yeah the first group they work with and we get them on boarded. We discuss all of their processes that affect accounting. And we get everything documented, then we turn them over to our client services team.

Speaker 1: 31:49

Awesome.

Speaker 2: 31:50

Yeah, it's pretty involved, but it's it's very successful. We've had a lot of prospects, whether they've chose to go with us or they have said that this process was very informative for them and very enlightening, and that they really understand how much effort we put in.

Speaker 1: 32:05

Yeah, and I think, like you mentioned I mentioned before great questions. You know, as a great consultant, ask great questions and make you think about that. So, like when you guys do your proposals, i'm like do they have the opportunity to like, ok, well, hey, we want to retain, we still want to do this, but you guys do that. Do you guys like mix that up, or how does that go? We do, we can.

Speaker 2: 32:25

Absolutely One of the areas. Most is like things that touch HR, like payroll. Sometimes clients will say you know what? we have hourly staff. We want to keep payroll. A lot of times That makes sense.

Speaker 1: 32:35

They want to be able to approve time. Yeah.

Speaker 2: 32:38

And so we can carve that out. What? we try to do is keep as, because we are full charge. So we don't want to be where they have somebody internally who's doing everything and we're just reviewing.

Speaker 1: 32:49

Yeah, that's hard, that's a hard place to put us in. Yeah, that's what we're designing.

Speaker 2: 32:54

It's not your fit.

Speaker 1: 32:55

Yeah, yeah, that makes that totally makes sense, so OK. So so, if anybody is interested, what's the best way to get hold of you guys?

Speaker 2: 33:02

Honestly, our website is probably the best way. It's just accounting departmentcom And there's contact us on the top, or there's a little thought bubble, you know, on the bottom Chat bubble.

Speaker 1: 33:12

Yeah, on there. Yeah, well, cool. Well, and also from from the GVO side. If anybody wants to get ahold of us, you know we're govirtualofficecom. Also, we have a boost your ERP LinkedIn group, where this and other things will be posted. But well, jenny, thank you very much. As always, we always thoroughly enjoy working with you guys and also the conversation, so so thank you very much and being a part And everybody. I hope you have a great day. Thank you, talk to you later, bye, bye.

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