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Transcripts from select JonERP.com podcasts are posted on this page. We do not transcribe all of the podcasts our our site, but all the transcripts we do have available will be posted here. For text "overview briefs" of all the podcasts available on JonERP.com, check out our podcast descriptions blog.
Jon Reed Interviews Dan Lubin: Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
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Reed: That makes sense. Another thing that you mentioned at SAPPHIRE that I thought was interesting was you talked about how many functional consultants had too narrow a skill set for what your team was looking for. Can you explain what went into that remark?

Lubin: Yeah. The analogy I used - and it's a little hokey - is that pipes don't leak. It's the joints that leak in plumbing. And I think in the SAP landscape, or in any ERP, the challenge is that each module or area of SAP is so functional and so big that it's a career path. If you're an expert in human resources, for example, you may be the best human resources person in the world, but you may not understand the interactions with finance or workflow. 

And, similarly throughout the system, you might have an expert in materials who doesn't really know what happens when someone tries to build something with those materials on the manufacturing floor. The challenge that you have, working with an integrated system, is managing the interactions between the different functional areas that work inside of the business cycle.

So it's not production; it's not materials. It's not those things. It's plan to procure. It's procure to pay. It's within those cycles where you have multiple disciplines involved. We had the same issue from a business standpoint as well. The folks in our customer service area don't know everything that happens in the materials area, even though the customer service folks are selling those materials. They don't know all about materials and logistics and whatnot.  The challenge you have in the consulting world is finding and managing that gray area between those disciplines to ensure that you get a cohesive business process articulated into the software.

Reed: That's really good feedback. We often advise consultants to make sure they have a narrow enough focus where they can achieve some mastery. But, I think sometimes we lose the message that if we don't understand how that area of mastery ties into other aspects of SAP, they're not going to bring the kind of value that a lot of customers are expecting right now.

Lubin: Yeah. We have a million analogies, Jon. But we made a change in one area to our work orders and our production floor to make life easier on our operators, which was a terrific change to make. It made sense on the floor, not realizing that that would kick off spurious planned purchase orders to our purchasing group, by the bushel. A great change in manufacturing became a clean-up effort in the procurement organization.

Again, everybody made the right decisions; it's just a matter of no one can know the whole system. The level of collaboration around what you do with the system has to go up markedly compared to what you might have done before in a less integrated environment.

Reed: As part of your staffing model, did you look at bringing in full-time employees that had SAP backgrounds to contribute?

Lubin: Absolutley. And we have done that. We've brought in one very senior reporting analyst who helps us with some of the programming around some of the reports and forms and labels and so on that we need.  Over the course of the next year, I think that we will look to bring on a couple of additional resources to make sure that we're leveraging things like business intelligence to - as I've kind of put it to my team - address those issues that are big enough to be addressed, but too small to be packaged and outsourced comfortably or cost-efficiently. 

Will we ever have a 20-person SAP team? No. We have one dedicated person now. Will we grow that to 2 or 3 as we bring our operations in Europe online? Yeah, we probably will. But that's really more to do with the natural growth of our utilization of SAP and the growth of the business, not so much the need to add a lot of head count to support SAP.

Reed: Now, we know you definitely achieved some benefits through your SAP implementation, including all the compliance aspects you're able to fulfill. But your users did go through a lot during the implementation, and how do they feel about their daily jobs using SAP and such? Are they onboard with what's happening, or do they kind of ever tell you, "Hey, I wish it was the way it was before SAP came along"?

Lubin: It's a great question. Do we have people - and I'll make the joke, even though this is a podcast - do I have anybody with an SAP tattoo? Probably not.  At the same time, we did introduce a lot of change to the business, and we had the benefit of a set of legacy systems that no one liked. So in a world of, "There's nowhere to go but up," SAP was definitely a step up.

In terms of how people feel today, whether they'd go back: no, they wouldn't go back. In terms of the frustrations, where they exist; one, I think they exist in any environment in any company; but two, as we brought our business processes into SAP, we brought a level of rigidity to those processes that people, I don't think, necessarily anticipated in every area. The way I explain it internally is, "Where process and practice didn't meet, people have felt more pain."  It's a good thing because we've taken variability out of the execution of processes, which means that we're executing consistently.

But, at the same time, that can be interpreted negatively to mean that we've reduced our flexibility.  I think that's an area where people continue to get more and more comfortable. But we've seen, as you mentioned, tremendous benefits in terms of the visibility to data; the visibility into our web; into our supply chain; the 90+ percent improvement we've had in terms of our travel and expense reimbursement process, which has been a particular benefit for our field clinical and sales people.

And we're going to see even bigger benefits once we bring our operations in Europe online, and bring our global consolidations into SAP, which is going to be a huge leap forward for us, a project we kicked off just two weeks ago.

Reed: You were very clear at SAPPHIRE that your staff did struggle a little bit with burnout during the implementation cycle, and I admire that you said that because when we talk about the human side of the SAP implementations we often think about people almost fulfilling these robot-like functions on the implementation team. How did you deal with situations where you thought your team was a little spent and you were trying to tell them, "Hey, just 20 more yards to go, we're almost there." How did you get through those times?

Lubin: You have to put a lot of effort into the human side of the implementation. The fact is - and everyone knows it - that the clock is ticking. The dollars are being spent, in terms of consulting and distraction from our daily jobs. The only salvation is to take the system live, to get to the finish line, which is really just another starting line.

We spent a lot of time over-communicating. We bought a lot of lunches. You spend a lot of time trying to communicate with folks one-on-one. You do everything that you can - just like you would in any project, whether it's ERP, or you're building a house - making sure that people understand: one, that they're appreciated; two, that their efforts are important and valuable; and three, that everyone is working towards a goal.

And what you have to do is continue to raise the visibility of that goal. The further into the project, the more people started to get that level of exhaustion, and it's just something that you have to manage. And, again, you manage it through communication. You manage it through lending a kind ear. And you manage it through highlighting people's successes, giving them an extra hand when they need it, and ultimately rewarding them for their successes as we get the project completed.


 

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