I've pressed the issue: extracting cloud ERP benefits isn't a given - nor does it stop at go live. But I maintain that modern ERP is relevant in a customer-first world.
Does that change in down times? Absolutely not - but I need proof points. With the 2023 Acumatica Summit set to kick off in just a few days, I got some of those proof points - and a terrific story - from the Key Code Media team (you can see one of their professional AV installations in the feature image).
What kinds of cloud ERP benefits get my attention? No, not just moving off legacy systems, or getting cloud software access. Don't get me wrong, those things are important. During the pandemic, remote access to Acumatica cloud ERP was a lifesaver for Key Code Media (not only that - they kept growing).
But I'm looking for more - and Key Code Media has it. How about: making acquisitions much more viable (they can get acquisitions up and running on Acumatica in as little as two weeks). Or: deep integration between Acumatica and Microsoft collaboration tools, from Office 365 to Teams? Or: extracting vendor forecasts and sales analysis on the fly? Now we're talking.
Cloud ERP transitions: managing risk and opportunity
But how did Key Code Media get there? It starts with the decision to move to cloud ERP, pre-pandemic. As Mike Cavanagh, President and Owner at Key Code Media told me, their current legacy ERP system was inhibiting their growth:
We've been expanding with multiple offices... With the remote employees, we found that they just didn't have a great experience logging into a server through a remote application; they couldn't see the full screen, you know - just little stuff.
On a larger level, it wasn't CPU-driven. Because of the amount of parts and components and suppliers we have, and workflows that we need, we outgrew the capacity... We'd been on this platform for close to 18 years. With transition, there's both risk and opportunity.
One way to reduce that risk? A thorough software evaluation. Cavanagh and team narrowed it to four. There were pros and cons to weigh out - different folks inside Key Code Media had different preferences. But, as Cavanagh explained, the other finalist had a per seat licensing model. By contrast, Acumatica's consumption-based pricing stood out:
Acumatica, had, from my perspective, more of a true cloud-based model, where you're charged on actual usage. So if you have a light user, you're not paying the same as a heavy user. Instead, you're paying literally for your compute - and able to leverage it that way. There were other reasons we chose Acumatica, but that was a very big one.
What else gave Acumatica the edge?
It just seemed like Acumatica was more of an open system, allowing us to be able to make our own reporting and self-service a lot of our needs, as compared to having to go to a consultant every quarter to have new updates done within the system.
As Key Code Media narrowed in on Acumatica, Cavanagh got a call from another finalist:
An executive VP worldwide called and said, 'I can't believe we didn't get you guys to invest in us, why?' And I said to him, 'What is the fundamental person within an organization that is responsible for the ERP being successful, and providing the appropriate data?' 'The CFO.' I said, 'Ask your sales rep, how much time you spent with mine?'
An ERP platform should be a foundation for growth
Now there's a tough love sales tip! And speaking of CFOs, Key Code Media's CFO, Ka Man Chan, is definitely an Acumatica convert now - she's one of fifty Acumatica MVPs. Chan chimed in on how Acumatica's licensing has supported Key Code Media's growth - and corporate acquisitions.
The pricing model really helped us to scale our business. After we went live on Acumatica, we've acquired three companies - we expanded our workforce. Year over year, even with the expansion of our business, with the headcount, [our cost is up] about 10%, with the amount of usage we use. If we are looking at the other Acumatica competitor, we would have to pay three or four times as much, because they charge on a per seat basis.
Cavanagh says the finance visibility (and project-based granularity) is another welcome change:
We have the entire organization leverage Acumatica as a platform to be more effective, communicating with our clients and being aware of what's going on. We've even created basic workflows, where we will set up freelance contractors that are maybe wiring integration. They have it on their phone; they're able to check in/check out during the day at the location; tag to the project. So we're getting much clearer viewability and understanding of our costs expended into those projects, and have that flexibility to monitor where we stand, where we are on a P&L level on that individual project.
Key Code Media went live on Acumatica January 1, 2019 - in retrospect, just in the nick of time. When the pandemic hit, remote operations were feasible. Cavanagh:
Lo and behold, the third week of March hits, where everyone's sent home because of the COVID pandemic. That literally allowed us to say to every employee, 'Take your computer; take your monitor; take a cable - go home, set up somewhere and start working tomorrow.
Acumatica was the thread that just enabled us to become completely hybrid. Very few people were even in the offices, and it didn't have an aspect of slowing down our organization. In fact, we're able to grow more people in more locations, to be at different price points within the United States, to contribute to our administrative side or finance side and really leverage the company.
I've said to vendors of mine, 'I don't believe, if we didn't have Acumatica, we would have made it through the pandemic... And not just make it through the pandemic; Acumatica allowed us to scale and grow efficiently where it made sense.
Now Cavanagh is in my wheelhouse. Yes, cloud ERP is invaluable for hybrid work, and it usually checks the "operational efficiency" box - but tell us about how it helps your business grow and adapt? Cavanagh explains:
Because we had timely reporting of financial information, we could really make intelligent decisions on the spot about additional acquisitions, managing supply chain, getting more people up and running on the system without having to pay $150 per additional licensee for maybe a low touch user. Everybody has dashboards that we've created, allowing them to see the key KPI issues that really make a difference in their job day to day.
Key Code Media put that acquisitions part to the test: since going live on Acumatica, they've acquired two companies, including Advanced Broadcast Solutions in May 2019 (a third acquired company was brought onto Acumatica when Key Code Media originally went live). Typically, acquisitions bring immediate technical challenges - and sometimes technical debt, when acquired companies are mired in old software. As Cavanagh says, that's not the case here:
The first acquisition; we stayed on their legacy service solution for three months. Then in the new year, we onboarded them when we went live on Acumatica. Then the second acquisition happened in May of 2019, and we immediately onboarded them onto our system. And we just made an acquisition last week, which we've also just onboarded them.
Everyone, in about two weeks. They are all on board.
The wrap - into workflow automation and AI
Key Code Media has more Acumatica-related wins than I have room for here. Chan sums it up:
We really empower each of our employees to be power users of Acumatica.
That includes role-specific dashboards, whether it's sales account managers, or shipping teams - including the KPIs that matter to them. That goes for the CEO as well, who can see the overall business, from AR to AP - or review holiday sales performance. But getting from user to super-user isn't necessarily easy. Here, Chan credits Acumatica Open University, which is free for Acumatica customers:
The training University from Acumatica - it's really amazing. Anywhere you can assess what you need to know.
A key component to extracting more value from ERP is the ability for users to automate their own workflows - and perhaps see the impact of AI on those processes as well. Chan is knee deep in this now:
We're really moving everyone up in the next level - not just doing data entry. Acumatica's AI is amazing; it's really helped us grow our business the last few years. We did a lot of this in the last year, and we will have a lot of initiatives in the future using the AI technology.
For example? Chan is in the process of realizing a dream: full AP automation.
Years before AI became the trend, I was already looking at this... Send me the invoice; open the mail; put it in AP entry? No - I want it to be in my system right away: PO matching, OCR scanning technology, I want to capture it all in the scan, and simplify this with machine learning.
Chan's team already has AP recognition with Acumatica in place. She recently met with Acumatica about the rest of her goal: two-way PO matching - full functionality for AP automation: "It's blowing my mind - it was my dream come true," she says.
How about implementation tips for other customers? First, says Cavanagh, do the project in stages - start with the accounting, get that solidified, then expand further into the organization. But his final advice gets to the heart of it. Change your thinking about ERP's organizational value:
Think outside the box with from your traditional ERP. Instead, think about 'What could you do if the entire enterprise used Acumatica as a foundation?' And how can that be built for every single individual within the organization to be more effective?
That sets up my agenda for the upcoming Acumatica Summit: let's see how organizations are adapting to the circumstances they now face - and if a different approach to ERP is helping them.