The Long and Winding ERP Road
It has been a three-decades-long journey for DSD Business Systems, who celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. In 1984, selling ERP software was easy – all you had to do was show up. The typical prospect was a company doing their books manually or on Lotus 1-2-3 and they were thrilled if your software could actually print financial statements.
In the intervening years, we have had to react to and embrace the Internet, SQL, networks, social media, cloud software, globalization, mobile devices, and incredible leaps in processing technology. But none of those factors compares to advances in user sophistication, which has been the driving force behind the evolution of ERP resellers. Resellers can no longer be passive in waiting for change and reacting to it. ERP resellers must recognize the next disruptive technology before it runs them over. We must be proactive, because if we’re not, our clients and prospects will be.
So, let’s talk about the skills and mindset that resellers must have already acquired in order to be relevant in 2014 and beyond.
Technology Driven ERP
That’s still true, of course, but to a huge extent, the ERP industry is now technology-driven. Computing power and its centralization has changed everything. Thirty years ago, ACCPAC or MAS90 could tell you which of your inventory items were most profitable, it could assist your controller in completing their quarterly sales tax returns, and it could assist your inside sales staff when they took orders from your outside salespeople. Long ago, ERP software features were driven by the accounting profession. It was driven by what was considered to be GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and by what the auditors needed to certify that a company’s financials were sound.
Thirty years later, Sage 100 ERP or 300 ERP (the new names for MAS90 and ACCPAC) can use the massive computing power of the Internet (via Sage Inventory Advisor) to tell you that in June, you’d better have double the quantity on hand of your most popular item because demand spikes at that time. In 2014, quarterly sales tax returns are submitted automatically by AvaTax. Salespeople on the road perform lookups and place orders at the customer’s office. It’s a new world, and if you haven’t embraced it, be assured that your competitors have.
The Tail Wagged the Dog
In 1984, ERP systems were provided “as is” and they weren’t going to change to meet anybody’s needs. Clients picked an ERP package that most closely met their needs, and changed their internal processes and reporting to match the ERP software.
In the 21st century, it’s all about business processes, and a company’s “special sauce”. Those are the processes and standards that differentiate them from the rest of the pack. Customers and prospects should expect their reseller to have the capability to thoroughly understand and document their most closely held business processes. A successful reseller matches those processes with one of the ERP packages they support, and they are able to fill in the gaps via a software configurator, a built-in customizer, script programming, off-the-shelf add-on modules, or (as a last resort) by customizing the ERP software’s programs.
The 21st Century ERP Reseller
So, what do resellers look like in the 21st century?
- Resellers must embrace or welcome change and new technologies. It’s inevitable, and it’s what differentiates the best resellers. But with that comes the great responsibility of knowing which technologies are mature enough and which are too risky. We can’t and shouldn’t be experts in every area, but we should be knowledgeable enough to help our clients with cloud evaluations, mobile technology, data intelligence, complex warehouse management, new ISO standards for multi-national division consolidations, etc.
- We must be dedicated to discovering and learning about all our customers’ business processes. We must be familiar enough with their industry to be able to recommend improvements, when we spot a weakness.
- Once we’ve learned about our customer’s business processes, we must have the resources to be able to perfectly tailor a publisher’s ERP system to handle them. We must be able to modify the software if need be, and more important, we must thoroughly understand all of the software’s advanced features, functionality and configurations, in order to avoid costly modifications if they can be handled in a less expensive yet effective way.
- We must care more about our customer’s long-term success than we care about our own short-term profitability. In a perfect world, both of those concepts exist in harmony. But when there’s a problem, we have to pull out all the stops in order to get it corrected quickly, no matter how much it costs us.
If you have the talent and tenacity to be able to do all of this, you too may have a multi-decade career in this profession. It takes a ton of hard work, dedication and passion, but being a reseller is worth it, simply to know you were a material part of a clients’ success.