By Neal Bellamy, IT Director at Kenton Brothers
Here at Kenton Brothers, we’re investing in our systems to help support our customers, both internal and external, in a way that can make us faster to respond, with better information and with more organization than we’ve ever have had before. We’ve done this before, at least four times that I know of… the latest in 2015. At that time, we decided we could no longer have multiple areas for information and that all data had to live in one database. While that system worked from 2015 until now, we’re outgrowing its capabilities. Two years ago we set out on a quest to find out what the next system would look like.
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning
ERP is applicable to almost any kind of business from manufacturing to service companies to franchises. Furthermore, there are hundreds of software packages that claim to be an ERP. In some sense, they are. But their capabilities can be vastly different.
There are software packages that you can buy off the shelf and implement yourself for $40/month. And there is software that you can implement for several thousand dollars per year.
2nd Step – Evaluating Software
This brings us to our second step (Yes, I skipped the first step, hold please…) We evaluated lots of software packages, some were industry specific to physical security, some were generic and could be modified, some were specific to industries that were related to ours. That’s when we learned what the first step should have been.
1st Step – Know Your Business
Gina says, “Without a destination, any road will get you there.” In this case, if you don’t know what you want, any ERP will fit. Which is where we got stuck the first time around. There were lots of options for an ERP that might work. We really hadn’t thought about the areas that were going well, the areas that could be improved, and the areas that needed vast improvement.
We really had to step back and look at the business and decide what was most important to us. And we should have gone through this process before we started looking at software… but lessons learned. I wish that we had found some silver bullet software for our business, but what we found is some are better than others in different areas. Some give and take is required.
KB breaks the traditional mold. Sure, we’re a service company. We come out and fix things if they need to be fixed. We’re also an installation company. When something is old and needs to be replaced, or you have a new need, we do that too. But, if you just want the parts and can install it yourself, we do that as well. Finally, if you’re not sure what you need and just want experts to lead you through the entire process, that’s our bread and butter.
I’ll spare you all the details, but this ERP project was not going to be easy.
Once we determined what success would look like, it quickly narrowed the field of possibilities. We learned that industry specific was not going to work for us. There is no industry specific software that exists for KB.
We looked at two competing software platforms that were flexible, future proof and could be customized to KB. That’s when we realized we were going to need an expert.
3rd Step – Find an expert that you can trust.
Meridian Business worked with us early on. They talked with us about the capabilities of NetSuite, long before we decided that NetSuite was a good option. They engaged with us to learn about our business and researched solutions for our needs. Even though we looked at other solutions, we ultimately came back to Meridian Business because they know our business better than anyone else. They dedicated a lot of time and energy understanding our needs and desires.
We started our implementation with Meridian Business in November of 2020. We will go live on January 3rd, 2022. That’s more than a year of meetings, planning, and discussion. It seemed like a long time at first, but now we are 70% of the way complete it seems right on. If we could all stop business tomorrow, pluck the most knowledgeable, most valued people out of the business and sit down for 3-4 months straight, sure we could accomplish the same goal. But business can’t stop. There are customers to serve and people that need paychecks, so we must, as David says, “Paint the train while it’s moving.”
4th Step – Take the time for extensive testing.
Over the last 9 months, I’ve been able to engage the right people in the business to help make the right decisions. We’re not making snap decisions that are obsolete before we go live. It’s important to actively engage business leaders so they’re not overwhelmed by the coming changes.
Something I thought was odd, was the amount of time dedicated to testing. Surely if everyone knew the requirements (Step 1), testing should not take long. Boy, I was wrong.
There are two issues with requirements:
1. They are never really expressed with exact detail.
2. They are never really understood with exact detail.
Testing takes care of both issues. We have experts working through examples of our typical scenarios to determine where something isn’t right. What we’re finding is that we didn’t understand our own requirements as well as we thought we did. The result? Neither did any of the partners.
Our integration involves five different companies trying to merge their own software and ideas into our final solution. This is no small feat. Testing will take us more than two months. If I could only give you one word of advice, it would be Plan for Testing. (And don’t cheat the timeline.)
5th Step – User Training
Testing should be over soon and we’ll start user testing and training. I am sure we will find additional tweaks that we need to make to the system, but I am confident that the early groundwork we did asking lots of questions and testing our workflows will minimize the amount of work we will have to do in this step. (Famous last words, right?)
With all of the preparation, testing, and training, I know KB will be ready to provide better support to all of our customers and have a platform to lead us into the next stage of our growth. If you’re a customer or partner of Kenton Brothers, I would love to get your feedback as you begin interacting with us through our NetSuite software in January 2022. At KB, we always strive for continuous improvement which doesn’t happen without feedback. So thank you in advance… and here’s to a new and improved KB!
If you have any additional questions about our NetSuite implementation, leave a comment or give us a call!