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Episode 5

Roy Thomas is the senior director of digital transformation at Aptean. Roy helps to guide the digital transformation process for clients and works closely with customers in many different industries to ensure they’re getting the most out of their solution. Through his years of experience in all things ERP, Roy has a powerful industry knowledge toolkit with a consultative edge.

He joined “Ready for What’s Next, Now” co-hosts Chris Harris and John McCurdy for the episode, “ERPods: How Long Does It Take to Get Meaningful Data Insights from a New ERP System?"


Chris Harris: Hello again, everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of “Ready for What's Next Now: An Aptean Podcast.” I'm one of your co-hosts, Chris Harris, and I'm joined here as always by that other voice you know and love, John McCurdy.

John McCurdy: Hi, folks. We've got a great one for you this week. It's our pleasure to welcome on to the program Roy Thomas, Senior Director of Digital Transformation, to answer the question, "how long does it take to get meaningful data insights from your ERP?"

CH: Hey, Roy. How are you doing today?

Roy Thomas: I'm good, Chris. How are you?

CH: Fantastic. So, Roy, really, we do appreciate you being here with us today, and we're very much looking forward to everything you have to tell us about data.

JM: Roy, let's talk a little about your role as Senior Director of Digital Transformation. We definitely want to dive in on data and insights, but first, can you tell us a little bit more about your position and how you work with clients to help them fully leverage their data?

RT: Sure, thanks, John. I’ve been in the food space for over 20 years now and have been involved in a lot of things—sales, account management, implementation, solutions consulting—and then I ran a business org for about five years. Data has been critical in those 20 years, and when we look at data, we really start to think about what's useful data and what's what I call “rows and columns,” stuff that's just stuck in black and white.

I have a team that really are the subject matter experts in ERP. So they come in and they look at your org. They interpret the business pains that you have today and really show how our solutions can redesign, remap and improve everything from what I call “truck in” to “truck out.”

CH: Fantastic. So Roy, I think this is great. You know, once you have your hands on the data, I think it's amazing all the things you can do with it. But maybe you can tell us a little bit about what it is you do with the data. Now that you've got it in your hands, what's the next step?

RT: Yeah, it's a great question, Chris. I think data is an interesting one, right? Everyone goes on about they need more data, right? My view of this is there's really three levels to it. One is tactical. I mentioned this already in terms of kind of rows and columns—you know, is the business doing what it should do in terms of “did I pay all my vendors?” and “did all my customers pay me?”

Then you move on to the next level, what I call strategic. Strategic is where we're literally looking at performance—in terms of, “are we performing against where we think we should?” So this could be customer service, could be labor, could be our products that we make.

And the third level is insights, and that's really the main theme of this. I call insights the “what didn't we know about,” right? It's the things that can tell us [something]. In the old world, it's about, "I wish I knew that." You know, “Gosh, if only I knew that, I would have been able to make much better decisions.” That's really where insights comes in.

In the context of ERP, clearly, there are lots of insights to be had across these function areas, whether it's sales, finance, planning, logistics, quality, production, WMS. You know, there are lots of insights to be had and hopefully, we get to uncover how to tap into those insights.

JM: Looking for data insights, what are the best tools within the ERP to really get there? What functions and features should clients be looking at in order to get that real rich information?

RT: Yeah, John, we come across this all the time, where we ask the question, "Do you have data? Do you have reports? Do you have insights?" And sometimes, we see a pool of Excel spreadsheets. We'll even see disparate reporting systems. Unfortunately, these don't really provide insights because it doesn't give you that holistic view across the entire organization.

So if you look at ERP, for example, it really does give you one view—your system of record—across the entire organization. So if I think about those critical functions like finance, or sales, or production, I could say, "You know what? What's my insights into my cost of R&D? How do I know that of those eight versions I made for my customer in my R&D lab, version number six is the best in terms of margin and availability of raw materials?" It really gives me that insight.

Margin analysis is a great example. This question gets asked a lot. A great example would be to look at margin by customer or by product. That gives you insight into what are those items that really, really help us become a better-performing organization.

And then finally, there’s production performance, right? A lot of our food customers out there, a lot of our ERP customers out there, they're concerned about once they start making products, does the run length affect their efficiency? How are they doing on quality and compliance? Does the night shift perform worse than the morning shift? How is it that being reported? How do I get insights into some of those critical questions?

So that's really where we find a lot of the power of insights. And as we unwrap this topic, I'll share a couple of ideas in terms of how we've approached that and been very successful.

JM: Now, I know that BI—business intelligence—plays a big role here, and I didn't want that to get overlooked. Let's talk a little bit about where BI fits in the ERP tool set, with all of the features that it offers, and what it uniquely brings to the table.

RT: That's a great question. BI is a topic that's been around for, gosh, over 20 years now. In fact, if I go back eight, nine years, from some personal experience, for a lot of what we needed in BI, you needed a system architect, right? You needed someone who was technical, someone who understood coding to be able to put these reports, insights or views together.

In today's world, what we're seeing is the concept of self-serve. So we talk about insights—well, self-serve views and reports really give us that perspective of what you need to look at. And if you have a template or a canvas, you can create these templates yourself.

A great example is Aptean Food and Beverage ERP. It comes with over 300 standard views right out of the box. What does that mean? It means that when you go live, you can have access to these views. Because it's self-serve, you can actually manipulate and drag and drop these views to get you those insights that you do need.

And let me stress even further that self-serve really has been a game-changer. In today's world, we can walk into an organization, and even at the C-suite level, they need something that's easy to understand, easy to use. And self-serve in the context of BI becomes really, really successful at that level.

CH: This is fascinating stuff, Roy. I'll tell you, as I think more and more about this, the tools that you're mentioning are very impactful and can help businesses take it to the next level. Trying to tie this back to our main topic now, when you make an investment like this, many of the clients that work with these tools want to know, "How long until I see a return on the investment?" So, in your estimation, how long does it take before we see those insights come to fruition and we can take action on them and really start to see that return on investment in these tools?

RT: Yeah, what we're seeing here is because the tools—especially BI with the 300-plus views—is self-serve and ready out of the box, you really have access to that information day one. You have access to those insights which typically would take you about six months to a year in the old world of, you know, eight to 10 years ago. Today, it's available day one.

JM: Awesome. Great to hear. Well, I think that's a great spot to wrap us up. Thank you again, Roy, for joining us today, and thank you, listeners, for tuning in. Until next week, this has been “Ready for What's Next Now,” and we'll chat soon.

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