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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 Infor’s Andy Berry, vice president and general manager of Infor's global distribution business unit. In this blog, I feature DDI System.
DDI System is a small software company in the distribution software landscape, with Oracle and SAP among the largest overall and Epicor and Infor among the largest in the distribution space. Yet they are showing up more and more in our software selection studies.
Adam Waller and Barbara Jagoe are the key executives. They are focused on service and delivery for a reasonable price. I think they have also been smart in their vertical market strategy. DDI started out supporting distributors in the Northeast. I guess that is because Waller came from a family of distributors in the Northeast.
A few years back, they found an opportunity when users of a certain package in the sanitary supply market became disenchanted with what they saw (rightly or wrongly) as a lack of attention to their needs by a new owner. DDI stepped into the breach and built a reputation for taking care of vertical market users. This became a major focus and fueled growth.
Just as the high volume of new customers began leveling off, a new opportunity presented itself. Johnstone Supply, an HVAC distributor cooperative decided software was not part of their core expertise. It was time to make a strategic decision for its Data Services DSPro software division.
Waller and Jagoe jumped in. They studied the existing software, the user base and the employees that supported development and the users. With that background, they and the cooperative were able to make a great deal. DDI took over the staff, office, support and coding, and became the face of the product to the user base.
In return, they promised to add specific functionality to their Inform package and provide a simple, easy and affordable path to the standard DDI software. Suddenly they are a major player in a new vertical. DDI gained a west coast office, which will support the old cooperative system as well as the standard DDI package. The company acquired new staff to help with expansion and, if the past is any indication, they will have a new group of happy users to take them to the next level of growth.
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.