As the senior vice president of sales for the North America region at Aptean, Sean Nappo’s chief responsibility is creating fruitful partnerships and supporting the goals of various stakeholders while leading the sales team. With over a decade of experience selling IoT, ERP, CRM, PLM, SaaS and cloud solutions, Sean brings a unique perspective into technical solution capabilities, process improvement, and business strategy.
He joined “Ready for What’s Next, Now” host John McCurdy for the episode “Today’s Tech Climate: Trend or Reality, the Insight on Digital Transformation”.
John McCurdy: Hello again everyone and welcome once again to “Ready for What’s Next, Now: An Aptean Podcast.” I’m your host for the week, John McCurdy, and I’m thrilled to be joined today by Sean Nappo, our Senior Vice President of Sales of the North America region to talk about today’s tech climate and give us insight on whether digital transformation is just a trend, or a reality that’s here to stay. Sean, thanks for being here, and welcome to the show.
Sean Nappo: Hey—thanks, John, for having me. Good to be here, man.
JM: Absolutely. So let's jump into this. One of the things that we want to tackle right off the bat is we want to define digital transformation for everyone. Can you kind of give us an idea, in layman's terms?
SN: Yeah. Sure. So, when I take a look at it, there's a number of definitions that people can use for digital transformation. I ultimately try to take a look at it from a customer's perspective—you know, who we're specifically selling to in our space and what it means to them. We work with a lot of small- to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) that have a lot of passion, sweat, equity that they put into the business, and many times it's family-owned. So you know you need to be able to connect with them and understand their business. And that's where I come with the digital transformation.
But ultimately, the way I look at it, it's a company that is looking to drive—to meet specific objectives or initiatives that they're looking to accomplish as they grow. And as they grow, as the economy and world shifts and changes, they know they need to change as well to support their business and remain competitive. So ultimately, it's looking at their business, their processes, what they're doing and what they have to continue to do to remain competitive and be successful.
JM: Gotcha. So I think one of the other questions that we definitely want to touch on here is the “why” behind digital transformation—some of the results and improvements in processes that businesses can expect with digital transformation. So can you speak a little bit to the reason behind digital transformation and what makes it so imperative these days?
SN: Well I think you can take a look at data, right? Manufacturing organizations in advanced stages of transformation recorded average year over year revenue growth of 8.9% in 2021. And if you look at just customers that are moving to the cloud—which is a big step of digital transformation—when you look at quality, for example, [you see] 93.4% versus 81.8% show improvement if they're in the cloud versus not in the cloud, right?
Supply chain, which is huge right now—almost a 20% improvement if customers are in the cloud versus not in the cloud. In analytics and BI—which every single executive I talk to is trying to understand so they know what they need to do to improve their business and be more proactive instead of reactive—there's a 15% improvement when they're in the cloud versus being on premise, which again is a huge part of digital transformation.
So those are the major reasons why businesses are looking at why they need to transform what they're doing today, and why what might have worked five years ago was fine for the size of their business and what they were doing, but now they have to grow to remain competitive.
JM: Absolutely. The times change, and hey, those numbers speak for themselves. That’s a significant improvement from digital transformation.
JM: So one of the things that we definitely want to do is try to dispel some of the myths, some of the misconceptions, that come with digital transformation. I think a lot of people hear it and think of it as a buzzword, as something that is going to pass with time, but the reality is actually far from that. So let's dive into this list of misconceptions starting with our first, this idea that all technological changes are expensive and that digital transformation is just a fad and a budget drainer. What would you have to say there?
SN: I can see where customers are coming from and why it can seem like that. I mean, I kind of sometimes equate it to remodeling a home, right? It's a huge undertaking. You're taking on this house that maybe has had tons of customizations to it, that might have been great 10 years ago, but now you're moving in with your family and you want it to be more secure—you want it the way you want it.
So it can sound costly and time consuming. But at the end of the day, the house is going to be better for you and your family. It's going to be more secure, [and] you're going to be able to get what you want. You’re going to be able to do things better in your day-to-day. So when you look at it, it's tough for customers because there's never a good time—you're always busy. But the point is, the longer you hold off, other companies that you're competing against are doing it and you're not going to be able to remain competitive.
That is the biggest thing, how do you remain competitive? How do you stay ahead of the game so that when things like COVID happen, or when there's things like supply chain issues, you’re ahead and you have the technology to make you successful at the end of the day? So, you know, if you do it now versus a year from now, you're going to be in a much better spot.
JM: You're making an investment into your business.
JM: Gotcha. Let's look at this second one, this idea that digital transformation is only for giant enterprises, that it's not for smaller, medium-size businesses. What do you think about that?
SN: I mean, I think it’s for every customer—everybody's looking to modernize, and everybody's looking to move to that next level. I don't think I've met a business owner that's just happy where they're at today and doesn't want to grow in revenue or beat the other guy. So I think overall, it doesn't matter how large you are. You always can get better.
An athlete can be great, right? The Tiger Woods of the world and the Wayne Gretzkys, they all have different trainers that continue to get them better and better and better. And I think the most successful companies are ones that are looking to do that. It doesn't matter whether you're a $1 million company or a $5 billion company. You're always looking to try to improve your processes so that you can be the best in your business.
JM: Got it, makes a lot of sense. So our third one here is about technology and it replacing your people. I think a lot of folks have this fear that their employees will end up leaving when their jobs are taken by automation or automated processes that come with digital transformation. How is that a myth?
SN: I think there's a couple ways to look at it. One, I talk to executives quite a bit, and they all want to grow, right? I talked to a company not too long ago, [and they] said, "We want to grow by $25 million this year." And I said, "Well, how did you come up with that?" And the CEO said, "Well, it's our 25th anniversary, and so it sounded like a good ring to it."
But he also said, "But I also can't add, 25% more labor. So we have to make do with what we have in regards to people.” I think the way you've got to look at it is you're not replacing people—you're not you're not letting them go. You're putting them on more strategic initiatives.
So I look at it as a pyramid, where if you think about the bottom, that’s the larger piece, right? And when you look at the pyramid right now, the larger piece is system management, the middle piece is support, and then the top, smaller piece is strategic initiatives. What we want to do is rotate that, right? So that when you're moving to the cloud, when you're getting rid of all the disparate systems that you're having to manage today, you're focused on the strategic initiatives of the company and not focused on keeping the lights on and running a data center or managing multiple disparate systems with multiple integrations.
Those are the issues that people are running into. You want the smart folks that you have to work on the strategic things that are going to help your bottom line. And that's what we want to do. We don't want to replace anybody. We want help them, enable them to do the things that the company really has to do to meet their objectives.
JM: Absolutely. You free up the time so that they can have a more impactful role at the business and can work on stuff that they are trained to do and that they are particularly proficient at.
So our last one here on this list is this idea that there's no need to embrace digital transformation right now, that it has come and it's going to go—it's just a trend or a passing fad. What do you think about that?
SN: Again, and this kind of goes back to my answer before—you're going to consistently want to get better. There's great new technologies that are coming out all the time. You know, one thing that I think we have that differentiates us is that we want to partner with companies that are thinking ahead to determine where do they need to go next. [Those companies] that are investing in themselves.
We’ve done a good job with acquisitions and with building new solutions to help our customers move away from these multiple disparate systems that maybe were fine at one point five or 10 years ago, but now they're getting to the point where they need fully integrated solutions. They need solutions that are going to help get rid of the manual process that they have in place today.
So I think, again, it's kind of one of those things—just like a sport—whether it's five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, there's always going to be better technology. There's always going to be more competition. You're always going to want to stay ahead of the game. And for the folks that adopt that mindset, they will.
JM: Absolutely. It's about keeping pace with the market and getting everything that you can out of your business, I think.
SN: Yes, that and strategically partnering with partners that you're working with. It's not finding vendors for point-to-point solutions. You're looking for a partner that is going to invest and help, especially in the vertically specific world that you're living in. Someone that knows, eats, sleeps and breathes what you’re selling today.
JM: And to that point, let's talk about what those first steps would be as you're moving past those disparate systems, as you are looking for a partner. What sets apart a solutions provider and how do you start that exploration process?
SN: A big thing that we drive here at Aptean is, we like to go in and understand the business. One of the worst things you can do is take bad processes and put them in good technology. Folks that have been doing something for such a long time, they like the way they do it. It may not be the most efficient, but that's what they know, and that's what they're used to. And learning something new is very difficult. Nobody likes change.
But what we're able to do, because we're vertically focused in the ERPs that we sell, and we work with a multitude of customers that are in the same industry as you. We have folks that have come from the same industry that sat in their shoes and were working in those types of roles. So they can really drive to understand what your process looks like today, where you want to go and what your initiatives are as a company. And we ask, how can we match these processes to meet where you're looking to go?
So we can actually push back a little bit on something that you're doing today to say, “have you thought about doing it like this so that you can drive towards the right process before just putting an old way into a shiny new system?” Again, it helps to have those industry experts [on our side], not just a product, when working with a vendor or partner.
JM: Absolutely. Aptean can give you that guidance on those best practices and help align your company to drive those better results that you're looking for at the end of the day.
JM: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Sean. That's a pretty good place to wrap up this episode. Anyway, thank you again, listeners, for tuning in, and join us next week for our next episode.
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