Does an industry solution make sense? Interview with Business Central expert Sonja Klimke
How useful is an industry solution? Which challenges do companies face when implementing a new ERP system? And what role does the human factor play in the successful realization of ERP projects? These are some of the topics we talked about with Sonja Klimke, founder and CEO of SPOTS-BSS and expert for the ERP solution Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, formerly Navision.
Like Mouse TV for grown-ups
You are the CEO of SPOTS-BSS. What exactly does your company offer?
SPOTS-BSS offers different services, including workshops on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central or Navision. Moreover, I support Business Central or Navision customers who need additional assistance. The third sector, which has grown a lot since its beginnings, consists of the books I write about the software. I also publish the SPOTSI Schlau magazine. In addition, I initiated the social project SPOTS-BSS for schools where I inform kids and teenagers about topics like for example cyber mobbing.
That’s a broad spectrum. Which challenges do the participants of your workshops face?
Obviously, it makes a difference whether I deal with users or partners. Customers who have just implemented the software are very focused on their processes. In this case, the biggest challenge is to establish the connection between the daily business and the software. The question is thus how the processes can be represented by the software.
In addition, some users are very insecure because they are afraid of losing their job. Of course, that’s something I have to take into account when I give workshops. I can’t just show the software and say “That’s how it’s done from now on”, but I need a lot of empathy for the users. I have to sense what they are afraid of. If it comes to the worst, a user who is insecure and refuses the software, can cause the entire project to fail.
Are there some topics that always cause an Aha! moment?
Absolutely. When I show users how the new software versions work, I often get the reaction: “I didn’t even know that was possible”. If I ask why, they normally either didn’t have the time to try it or they were too afraid to ask. They thus came up with their own constructs and don’t know the easier solutions.
On the other hand, I also experience Aha! moments. When I visit customers, I always ask for a guided tour. It makes a big difference to really know how the company works. In addition, it’s interesting to see what’s produced here in Europe. It feels like an episode of Mouse TV for grown-ups (editor’s note: that’s a popular educational kids’ TV show in Germany), live and in color. It’s exciting to see what’s out there, how our users deal with it and how the processes are represented using Business Central or Navision.
Sonja Klimke at the DYNAFair 2019.
Industry-specific solutions take into account the specific challenges
Business Central brings us to the next question. How do companies benefit from a modern ERP system? What advantages does it have?
Nowadays, an ERP system is indispensable. It controls all business processes. Moreover, ERP systems are an important condition if companies want to be prepared for the future. Today, everything has to happen very fast. For example, retailers and wholesalers have to make sure that everything in the warehouse works smoothly and that goods can be delivered immediately. In addition, ERP solutions allow companies to always keep track of their data and to analyze how well they are doing. However, this requires companies to maintain their data. No hands, no cookies.
There are cross-industry and industry-specific solutions on the market. What exactly do these two options mean?
Cross-industry would mean, for example, that you use the standard solution of Business Central for the trading sector with only a few adjustments being made. Everyone in the trading sector could use this solution. Industry-specific solutions, on the contrary, take into account the specific challenges of the different subsectors. These characteristics could not be represented by the standard.
That’s why industry-specific solutions are still so important. You can’t compare someone who deals with fruits and vegetables to someone who sells spare parts. That’s a completely different market with completely different requirements. In Germany, there is a solution for every industry branch, be it suppliers or plant engineering and construction. The Microsoft partners have specialized many years ago, like for example agiles with its industry-specific solutions agilesFood and agilesTrade for food producers and distributors as well as consumer goods retailers.
It’s very important to get the employees on board
Which type of solution would you recommend and why?
I would definitely recommend an industry solution. When I’m being asked for recommendations, I always look at what exactly the company does. I prefer to pair companies with a partner who really understands the challenges of the industry and knows the pain points.
For example, software developers need to understand what a customer in the food industry means when he asks for an extension in relation to batches or expiration dates. That’s only possible if the software provider has specialized in the sector. Consultants, too, should not be taken by complete surprise when a customer uses technical terms typical for the industry. That’s why a partner offering an industry-specific solution is so important. It’s the only way to make sure that the solution has been developed with focus on and for the needs of the own industry.
In your experience, what’s important when implementing a new ERP solution?
On the side of the users, it’s important that there is an in-house point of contact. In addition, it’s very important to get the employees on board and not to decide over their heads. Companies should inform their employees why a new solution is necessary. The worst thing that can happen in such a project is that the employees develop the fear of losing their job due to the new ERP system. Scared users can cause the project to fail.
Another important point is the willingness to rethink processes. The worst sentence in this context is: “We’ve been doing this for 20 years”. Here, too, it is essential to take the employees by the hand, to ask them for their ideas and to listen to them. When everyone says “Yes, this could really work better”, you can take the next step. By the way, I wrote a book about the reason why ERP projects fail. It’s called “The forgotten factor: people”.
The solutions are well prepared for the future
The dynamics of technological progress is exponential. What do you think: which new requirements will ERP solutions have to meet in the future?
In my opinion, it’s mainly about strengthening the product as such. That’s something the partners I know all do through their industry solutions. At the end of the day, the solutions are already well prepared for the future. We are able to manage everything via the web. This just needs to be completed. The support through Artificial Intelligence, for example in procurement planning, will increase in the future.
However, I believe that companies still need a partner at their side. A comparable example from my own experience: I looked at new cars last week and was completely overwhelmed by the digital cockpits. I needed someone to explain everything to me. Of course, you can update your ERP solution on your own. However, if no one tells you what is important for you, you can easily feel overwhelmed.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Microsoft Dynamics 365 supports the customers optimally. We assist them with the specific challenges of their industry. Our users are on the safe side if they stick to the partners and their solutions.
Thank you, Sonja Klimke, for this interesting interview. We wish you and SPOTS-BSS all the best for the future!
Bella Diekmann works for the editorial office of agiles. She studied Spanish and French and has a PhD in linguistics. Besides her passion for languages, she is very interested in current IT topics. Blogging for agiles allows her to combine her love of writing with her interest in computer science and informatics.