Jenny Peng, chief technology officer at Aptean, is responsible for leading Aptean’s product and technology organization spanning product development, product management and information technology, amongst many other areas. As a recent recipient of the Top 25 CTO’s of 2022, Peng is recognized as a leader in enterprise software and cloud computing.
She joined “Ready for What’s Next, Now” co-hosts Chris Harris and John McCurdy for the episode “Today’s Tech Climate: The Challenges of Siloed Business Systems & the Case for a Cohesive Tech Stack”.
John McCurdy: Hello again everyone, and welcome to another episode of Ready for What's Next, Now, an Aptean podcast. I'm one of your hosts, John McCurdy, and I'm joined as always by my partner in crime.
Chris Harris: Which would be me, Chris Harris. This week, we're thrilled to be talking to a very special guest, Jenny Peng, Aptean’s Chief Technology Officer. She's here to talk about the problems that arise when a business's systems operate in informational siloes and lack overall cohesion. Jenny, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
Jenny Peng: Hello, Chris and John! I’m very excited to be here. I think we've got a great topic to discuss and some key points to convey about the importance of a full suite of integrated solutions.
JM: Agreed. Before we jump in, though, let's give our listeners a brief bit of background information so they can understand your expertise, Jenny.
JP: Sure. As Aptean CTO, I touch many areas of our business, from product strategy, research and development to information technology. I focus a lot on the quality and usability of our solution and, more importantly, the data that our clients have access to through our solutions. I was also honored to be named among the top 25 CTOs of 2022 by the Software Report recently.
CH: That's an incredible honor, Jenny. Absolutely amazing, and really, it's recognition that's so well-deserved. Now let's get to our first question. Before we talk about the issues that stem from a complicated and disorganized tech stack, let's take a step back—how do businesses find themselves in these situations in the first place?
JP: There are a few different paths that an organization might take that would put them in such a position, but the most common is probably that they lacked a clear digital transformation roadmap to begin with. It is crucial for companies that are looking to undertake a modernization initiative of this sort to have a solid plan before they start purchasing and deploying new systems.
The issue is that when a business implements various software solutions over time from a variety of providers—or worse yet, try to build proprietary in-house tools or operate on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and paper-based written records—they usually end up with data siloes.
That, in turn, leads to multiple versions of the truth, because the systems aren't integrated with one another and there's no sharing of information between them. A figure could be completely different in one platform compared to another based on whether proper communication occurred.
JM: Got it, that makes sense. So with these information siloes, what detrimental impacts can they have? How do they end up coming back to bite businesses that encounter them?
JP: That's a great set of questions. When various decision-makers within organizations are acting on conflicting set of data, They may come to different conclusions that result in issues down the road. It can end up affecting every part of the business, from purchasing of raw materials to production and order fulfillment.
There's also much less opportunity for collaboration between teams within the company in these situations. There are big wins to be had when all areas of the operations are moving together in lockstep and playing from the same playbook. You miss out on that when each department is working in their own little world.
Then, of course, there's the obvious things—orders not getting picked and shipped on time, deliveries of materials being delayed, financials not lining up at the end of the day, inspections missed…the list goes on. All kinds of issues can arise when you don't have everyone on the same page.
CH: Yes, and these are all things that we see drag businesses down every day, for sure. Jenny, maybe before we discuss how to create a more cohesive suite of systems, I think it's a good idea for us to touch on the subject of customizations. I know when I talk to software developers, they hear the word “customization” and they cringe. So tell us a bit about customizations, custom integrations and the problems that they bring with them.
JP: That's a great topic to dive into there, Chris. You're right, many companies decide to work around the fact that they are operating on disparate platforms by applying customizations and custom integrations, but they're almost always costly and very far from ideal.
One reason for that is they're very difficult to preserve when the software needs to be updated, you can end up going to a lot of trouble to get your systems to play nice with each other only to find out that in a few months’ time you are facing the same issues that you had before.
What's more, the data conversions that have to occur for some of these custom integrations can take time and are prone to errors. When you consider the alternative—an organized and purposefully selected technology stack—we're really talking about night and day in terms of the difference.
JM: Glad you brought that up, Jenny, because that brings us to the next question we have for you. What is the optimal way to go about setting up your digital transformation foundation?
JP: As we alluded to before, every business is different and will need different solutions, but by conducting a thorough research process before you purchase any software, an organization can find a best fit that works for the nature of their operations.
It's important that your vendor isn't just a sales person ready to hand you a product in exchange for your money. They need to be a partner to you providing guidance and support throughout the journey and helping you to apply best practices each step of the way. Ideally, you can find a single solution provider that offers all of the systems you need and have developed them to integrate seamlessly with one another.
That's what we've built here at Aptean. A complete suite of purpose-built platforms, tailored to the industries we serve, and streamlined integrations between them to ensure that every aspect of the business is in sync.
CH: I'm so glad that you made the comment about this concept of “customers” versus “partners,” Jenny, because I think that's what we're really looking for here. We don't want customers, we want partners. We want to work directly with the people that are trying to take their business to the next level.
But before we talk more about Aptean solutions and ecosystem, I want to ask about the additional benefits of the sort of comprehensive, connected set of systems we're talking about here. What can you share, Jenny?
JP: Yes, let’s talk about that a little bit. First, there's the fact that when a suite of systems that all share a single source of truth, you eliminate the need to enter the same data multiple times. That makes your operations are more efficient and helps you to reduce any human errors that might occur doing inputs.
You can also look at it from the financial perspective. For example, maintaining a healthy bottom line is a critical goal for any company, making a cohesive array of systems that can help you to ensure that your numbers are accurate super important. Analytic features that the solutions provide also give you actionable insights so that you can see where you're losing money and where your big wins are.
Then, there's the administrative perspective. Staying organized as a company, getting all of the safety, compliance and cleaning procedures scheduled and completed on time, tracking performance in real time with automated data collection, the list of benefits just goes on and on. This is the kind of setup that drives consistently excellent performance and results and lets you to really achieve long-term stability.
JM: Right on. For our final point, Jenny, I just wanted to have you share what you believe to be some of the unique strengths of Aptean solution suite.
JP: Would love to. We've definitely got the experience—decades of collective knowledge, in-depth understanding of our target industries and superior technical know-how. We’ve built a complete suite of features because we know the unique challenges that specialized manufacturing and distribution businesses face. We also promote flexibility, with many of our platforms being offered on SaaS model.
We know that the markets we cater to are moving very fast and disruptions are becoming more and more common. So we want our clients to have the mobile accessibility, service reliability and cybersecurity they need to be successful.
Finally, there is the cohesive nature of our Aptean ecosystem that we've discussed. Any organization looking to accelerate their digital transformation and future-proof their operations with a comprehensive, fully integrated technology stack would be well served in choosing us as their technology partner.
CH: Fantastic, Jenny. Well folks, that's all the time we have for you today. On behalf of myself and my co-host, I'd like to thank you for your time and insight, Jenny, and thank you, listeners, for tuning in. Come back next week for more compelling content on Ready for What's Next, Now.
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