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Over the years, I have had the opportunity to sit down and talk one-on-one with top executives of the major ERP software vendors in wholesale distribution. In this blog, I will occasionally share the lessons and inputs from these conversations. In my last blog I featured Epicor’s Donna Troy. In this blog, I feature Infor’s Andy Berry, vice president and general manager of Infor's global distribution business unit.
About four years ago, Infor distribution software product development was limited, the sales force was anemic, and we were not seeing them as finalists in many software selection studies. Then they hired Andy Berry as vice president and general manager of Infor’s global distribution business unit and gave him a mandate to turn it around.
That he did. And he did it with a very simple formula. He focused on knowing the customers and supporting their needs. It is so simple and elegant.
Berry spent most of the first year on the road. He visited large and small customers in every micro vertical. He wanted everyone to know there was a new guy in town, and he was listening. Berry came back from his trips armed with information and input – and not all of it was complimentary.
He got the support and development staffs focused on fixing things first. Then they started on the future. Berry held focus groups with his biggest customers divided by vertical market. He brought in an outside facilitator so the focus groups would not turn into a sales pitch or just an apology for problems.
The feedback was not always fun to hear, but at each session, his team took the input from the first full day and met into the evening. By the next morning, they were ready to commit to delivering specific fixes or necessary functions with a date certain. When the promised work started to show up on schedule, a change in attitude started to happen.
According to Berry, Infor’s distribution division experienced 120 percent license growth from the close of its fiscal 2010 to mid-2013. Infor’s internal user satisfaction ratings are way up, and the user base appears motivated. Can he keep up this pace? We will be watching closely.
Steve Epner is principal in the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting firm based in St. Louis. He has been advising distributors for over 30 years. Epner also teaches Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Graduate School of Business at Saint Louis University.
Epner is the author of Simplify Everything: Get Your Team from Do-Do to Done-Done with One Surefire Process, available from MDM.