TUG Connects Sessions Drive Sound Business Strategy for 2018

WarmSunriseStackedLogo1250x379It’s the time of year when TUG members dust off their strategic plans and look ahead to the smart, sound business decisions that will make 2018 a breakout year.

And whether those plans involve upgrading your on-premises ERP, planning your company’s transition to CloudSuite Distribution, or upgrading your tech stack, TUG Connects 2018 is where you’ll find the business and technology insights to make the year a success.

“Whatever stage you’re at in your IT upgrade, there’s no better place to learn about the latest technology offerings from Infor and its channel partners, or to gain valuable front-line insights from your TUG colleagues,” notes TUG Chairman Don Green, Director of Business Operations at Choctaw-Kaul Distribution.

“TUG Connects is also your opportunity to keep up with the trends that are shaping and reshaping the business of distribution,” with an Executive Summit lineup that emphasizes issues like e-commerce and human capital management that have emerged as key strategic priorities.

Green says that the conversation on e-commerce boils down to some fundamental business questions. “TUG members are thinking carefully about the place of bricks-and-mortar sales in the e-commerce era, deciding which investments to make to stay ahead of a fast-moving technology revolution,” he writes in his monthly communiqué to TUG members. On human resources, Executive Summit panelists and participants will go deep on the shifts in policies, legislation, and expectations that are bringing big changes to established enterprises.

“TUG Connects will also push beyond the technology, to look at the basic communication, negotiation, and execution skills that matter to a successful distribution company,” Green adds. Internal relationships are just as important as external ones, and “TUG Connects will give you a roadmap for keeping your internal resources aligned with your technology strategy.”

It adds up to a compelling set of arguments to sign up for this year’s conference—and to encourage at least one other member of your team to join you. As Green points out, “friends don’t let friends not attend TUG Connects”.

The Best Way to Attend TUG Connects: ‘Travel as a Pack’

tug2015-666A long-time TUG Connects! participant and Special Interest Group leader has some important advice for anyone who’s planning a major ERP upgrade:

The best way to attend TheUserGroup.org’s annual conference is to travel as a pack.

Judi Jardine, who’s leading the SX.e upgrade at St. Louis-based Huttig Building Products, won’t just be attending TUG Connects! 2017 by herself. She’s bringing her SX.e Upgrade Core Team Leaders, including order entry, operations, purchasing, production, and finance, some of them “people who’ve never been to a conference of any kind,” she says. “They’ve never had exposure to a bunch of SX.e users. They’ll be able to just sit around, talk about it, and see that people use the software differently. That’ll be fascinating for them, and it will help them see how they can step outside the box they’re in.”

So when you see a cluster of people from the same company making their way through the halls of the Marriott Orlando World Center February 22-25, you’ll want to remember Jardine’s words:

“We’ll be there, and we’ll be traveling as a pack, I’m sure.”

TUG: It’s (Still) About User-to-User Connections

The value Jardine attaches to a TUG conference hearkens back to the days when the annual gathering was titled U2U: User to User. While the organized sessions at TUG Connects! deliver as much information and insight as anyone could possibly take away in 40 to 60 minutes, she says she attends for the hallway conversations and networking opportunities.

“It’s having lunch with someone who’s in a similar business situation, who’s passionate about how you write cheques in SX.e, and they’re there,” she says. “It’s building those relationships and making up a list of people who want to talk to you, so you can feel comfortable putting things out on the forum and following up with your new contacts after you get home.”

That networking will be particularly important for members of the Huttig team who may not have seen process changes in a decade or more. Huttig relies heavily on the RBC module, and as that was never moved into the GUI version of SX.e, Huttig has never moved to GUI. The company is on a current release of SX.e, but remains on the CHUI interface.

“We haven’t seen many new features or functionality since 2004. We haven’t changed the way we do things in most areas since then, because our CHUI version hasn’t changed,” she says. So “the networking, just having the people they can ask questions of,” will deliver fantastic value back to the entire team.

Upgrading SX.e: It Takes a Village

Jardine is satisfied that SX.e is the ERP her company needs. But to get through an upgrade of this magnitude, it takes a village—or at least a knowledgeable, supportive community of people with similar business interests and software experience.

“SX.e is a good product for distributors,” Jardine says. “We’ve looked around, and it’s the best one out there.”

But the ERP as a whole hasn’t stopped evolving. “There’s all kinds of new functionality that has been released over the past 10-plus years in GUI that we have never seen. In addition to the WebUI upgrade, my team will be evaluating all of the features and functionality that has been previously released in GUI to see if it should be part of Huttig’s processes and procedures. It’s like putting in a whole new ERP system. We really are starting with a blank slate, and we aren’t opposed to changing any of the processes we have in place today.”

Jardine says the company has just started a transition that is expected to run through the fourth quarter of 2018. Which means the timing of TUG Connects! 2017 couldn’t be better for her purposes.

“I have our initial WebUI training scheduled for a week in January and a week in February, then a week later, we come to TUG,” she says. “So it will be perfect for the team to see what they’ve just learned in action.”

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Jardine and her team while you’re travelling the halls with your own pack!

Register today for TUG Connects! 2017, February 22-25, 2017 in Orlando, Florida.

TUG veterans and first time participants both find solutions at TUG Connects.

Nem_160214_084851The rave reviews keep pouring in for TUG Connects 2016, with participants talking about the knowledge they took away from conference sessions and the tips and advice they picked up from their colleagues and peers.

From first-time participants to TUG veterans, we keep hearing how much value participants received from the conference—and how certain they are that they’ll be back next year.

Jumping In With Both Feet

Logan Smith of Alaska Industrial Hardware first heard of TheUserGroup.org a couple of months before the conference. “That first day, I probably read hours’ worth of TUG posts,” he says. “I saw issues we didn’t even know were issues until then, so we were sold.”

The company initially decided to register two staff members for TUG Connects. “Then we started putting checkmarks to every class we wanted to go to, and realized there were more classes than there were enough of us to attend. By the end, we had four full-time employees there for the entire conference,” and “none of us were prepared for how much we learned in those four days.”

Solutions That Work

Before the conference, Smith was looking for a solution to a problem with substitute items coming in from vendors. A simple process in Alaska Industrial’s legacy ERP system seemed to require manual entry in SX.e—until Smith and his team began talking to their colleagues at TUG.

“The first day there, we met someone from another IT department who had the same issue,” Smith recalls. “Not only did he offer to help. He showed us the solution he’d come up with. That was our first impression—two hours into TUG, we had met a group of users who all had the same issue, and one person who was able to share his solution with everyone.”

Another discussion brought an unexpected solution for stock orders in a distribution center running under TWL. Smith says a simple process change will save his company five to 10 minutes per order on a volume of 300 orders per day.

“We were wasting hours of staff time just trying to get orders shipped,” instead of using the counter sales system that already worked well for AIH’s eight retail outlets. “We didn’t know our process was broken,” he says. “We would have just continued on the way it was.”

21 Years of Content and Networking

For Jeff Focke of Shealy Electrical Wholesalers, it’s no news that TUG Connects! is the place to be to get the most out of his distribution software. He’s been attending the conference for 21 years and has no plans to stop.

“What keeps me coming back is the excellent content, and the networking with my fellow users and peers that I’ve worked with over the years,” he says.

Someone recently asked Focke what he gets out of the conference when he’s a regular presenter each year. “I answered by quoting Confucius,” he recalls. “’Only the wisest men and the stupidest men have nothing to learn.’ I always have something to learn and people to share ideas with, to hear about things we may not have considered. It’s just a first-rate forum.”

‘The Business is Always Changing’

TUG Connects! 2016 focused on the transition to the Web UI, but Focke says every year’s conference features state-of-the-art content on the latest industry issues.

“The distribution business model is nothing new, but the business is always changing and evolving,” he says. “So there’s always something new to do, a new way to do it, a new feature set. It’s always something we haven’t thought about before, something new on the horizon that’s going to challenge us and push the limits of what we know, or of what we think we know.”