Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Yes We Can System

Diamond Nexus Yes We Can Team
The Yes We Can System Team! Printer is in the shot because the new ERP will reduce our internal printing needs by 70%. If the system launches well, the DN Pyrotechnic Team are going to blow it up in our parking lot on Friday.
I spend most of my time focused on DN marketing and external things. It's great when I get to celebrate some important news from the "back-office" part of our business.

For the last two years or so we have been searching for, and now implementing, a new ERP system. An ERP system, for those who are interested in these arcane things, is a centralized software system that helps manage and control the entire enterprise. ERP Stands for “Enterprise Resource Planning.”

Diamond Nexus is a fairly complex organization. Since we are very vertically integrated - we do our own manufacturing, marketing, sourcing and fulfillment, and pretty much everything else - the system we needed was also very complex because it would have to control, organize and integrate all of these different activities and functions in one platform.

When we started the company, we did everything on spreadsheets. When customers placed orders it was entered into a spreadsheet, and as it moved along through the process we manually changed the color of the line on the spreadsheet. As you can imagine, it was a mess. If someone forgot to change a color, or two people were messing around in the spreadsheet at the same time, disaster could unfold and we often lost orders and had to go to extraordinary (and expensive) means to take care of a customer.

In our second year, 2006, we moved into our current system which essentially was a Software-based way to manage customer orders. As the company grew and we added more departments and functions, we customized the system, hacked the hell out of it, made it do things it was never intended to do, and so on. We brought in other systems, accounting, shipping, etc. But, none of these systems talked to each other easily, and there were boatloads of manual reentering of information. As always happens, as complexity was added more and more spreadsheets were again built to support the system and accommodate that complexity. 

Two years ago we made it a priority to replace this system with a new, updated and (hopefully) much more efficient one.

I think one thing that defines us as a company is that we don't like to be told what to do and we don't like to take the common path. After a solid year of looking at off-the-shelf systems, that required us to change our business, our level of service to our customers, and most of our processes to fit their design, we said "screw it let's roll our own".

Our IT team and our business process team got together and came up with a plan: we would take four different systems, Magento, which runs the backend of our website, Fishbowl, a powerful inventory and manufacturing management system, QuickBooks Enterprise, a midsize accounting system, and UPS World Ship, and again, sort of hack them, make them do things they weren't intended to do, and meld them all together in a system that allows us to do exactly what we want, how want: The "Yes We Can" Platform. 
Nervous developers meeting. 

It's "yes we can" because that should pretty much be the answer to anything we want the system to do. 

Because we built it, we're not pigeonholed into a slot like we would be with off-the-shelf software. We don’t need to argue with a third party vendor to make changes in the system. We don’t have to work off of one-size-fits-most “templates”.

Need to completely change how things flow through manufacturing? 

Yes we can. 

Need to give our customers much greater ability to see the status of their orders and self serve answers to questions? 

Yes we can. 

Want to allow our customers to benefit from a loyalty program that gives them points for activities like introducing a Diamond Nexus engagement ring to a new customer? And want to let them use those points in any channel, website, call center, retail stores? All in real time? 

Yes we can. 

Are we going to be able to seamlessly sell, make, and deliver a better product to our customers, faster and with better accuracy? 

Yes we can and hell yes we will. (Unlike certain similar sounding political promises)

Last minute additions of inventory to the system.
The countdown is on and the system launches Thursday. Lots of last minute work going on. Lots of nervous looking IT guys. Our meeting rooms have been full all day training all of our Customer-facing staff. I see groups gathered in hallways and offices figuring out how to transition the hundreds of orders in the system over, dealing with all of the inevitable bugs that are happening and will happen and God knows what else.

I'm incredibly proud of our team that's built this and put it together. When we defined the goals for this system and started the process almost 2 years ago I remember telling everyone a statistic I had read: "70% of all ERP implementations fail" and I asked them if we were good enough to not be part of that statistic.

In about 48 hours we'll have the answer to that.

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