Demand Solutions Group
February 4, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
As a Leading Provider in the NetSuite World offering Cloud Based Business Solutions to Large Enterprises, Demand Solutions Group is helping customers Improve Business Efficiency, Enhance Processes, Accelerate Growth and Capitalize on New Opportunities
About Demand Solutions Group:
DSG was founded in 2005 and was built from the ground up to provide Cloud based business solutions leveraging applications such as NetSuite and Salesforce.com. Over the last several years, DSG has witnessed the massive time and cost savings and gains in productivity and agility that SaaS applications and the Cloud model have made possible. With the Cloud model being the de facto standard by which companies of all sizes implement new business solutions, DSG is pleased to be acknowledged by SaaS vendors and Cloud media and analysts such as IDC and CRN, as one of the solution providers that "get" the Cloud and can put it to work for your business.
Today, clients seek out
DSG to help them improve business efficiency, enhance processes, accelerate
growth, and capitalize on new opportunities. DSG tailors industry-leading,
Cloud software applications to deliver value from the first day of
installation. And then, continuously optimizes clients' solutions through a
subscription-based support service to ensure that users become fully
productive, that applications continuously deliver the highest levels of
business support, and that the solution stays align with changing business
Todd has more than 30 years of business application solution strategy and planning experience in the areas of sales, marketing, support, customer service and engineering. For the last 8 years Todd has focused exclusively on the implementation and support of Cloud Based business solutions with specific emphasis on NetSuite and Salesforce.com. Todd previously served as vice president of services at Encover, a market leader in helping manufacturers and their channel partners manage, market and sell service contracts. Before that, he helped to found and lead several entrepreneurial ventures, including The QuickSilver Group, Zamba Solutions, Plexus Technologies and Movana. He also held a variety of positions at Apple Computer, Canteen Corporation and Professional Computer Resources. Todd has a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from the University of Illinois with a "mini" MBA from Stanford University and AMA.
Los Gatos, CA 95032
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – February 4, 2013
Mr. Fitzwater: We are a business solutions provider for ERP manufacturing and financial solutions. We provide those solutions via the cloud, so all of the solutions we represent and work with are cloud based. I emphasis ‘business solutions provider’ because what we really focus on is the entire business solution. We do not just focus on selling a piece of software and configuring and implementing it; we focus on the entire business solution which include processes, policies to support those processes and of course includes technology and getting it implemented. As we like to say, we accelerate your business performance through the leverage of cloud based technology.
CEOCFO: Do most of your potential customers realize the difference or do they need to be educated on how you might be different from most other providers?
Mr. Fitzwater: The answer is yes, we do have to do some education; they do have to understand what makes us unique versus what makes other providers unique and what makes our solutions that we represent unique from other solutions. Many times, they have to be educated on the cloud even though cloud is a pretty well understood term these days. It is still not entirely clear what the definition of cloud is and how some cloud solutions are different from other so-called cloud solutions.
CEOCFO: Is there a typical type of business or range of businesses that you target?
Mr. Fitzwater: Most of our work is with organizations that are about $20 million up to about $250 million with some organizations smaller and some larger than that. It is typically in the high-tech manufacturing and software space. We also do work in the services space and consumer goods. Those are our main market segments.
CEOCFO: Would you give us a case study? When someone comes to you, how do you help?
Mr. Fitzwater: A typical use case for us is that someone comes to us, they are using Quick Books and their business is not scaling. They are using other tertiary solutions to Quick Books that are supporting it whether that is Excel or some other small CRM package, a small sales force automation package, support package or an HR solution. They have this cobbled together an environment of various solutions and their organization is just not running efficiently, they are just not able to get their work done. They are spending way too much time getting a transaction processed in their environment. Worst of all, they cannot get a handle on how their business is performing because they cannot in a timely way get visibility to the data they need to help them make decisions or to help them clearly understand and see what is going on with their business. What we will do is come in and understand what their business is. We will understand how they are currently performing their business and where they are trying to get to. Then leveraging our experience set in their industry, we will provide them with advice on how they can better streamline their business, how they can better execute and get access to the data they need. That very often may include a solution that we sell or may not. We, for the most part, work with NetSuite and Salesforce.com. We might recommend a NetSuite solution that would allow them to be able to transact their business, be able to sell their business, be able to more efficiently report on their information and produce financials, etcetera. We are leveraging our years of experience in the industry to provide them coaching on how to streamline their business, how to implement the solution and get it in place to run more efficiently. Once we make that recommendation to them on how they can streamline and the solution that they can use to streamline, then we go about executing against that solution, executing on implementing that solution and that includes what we think is a rather unique methodology. It is an Agile based methodology and that approach allows us to implement the solution quickly, allows it to get into production and then allows us to incrementally improve the solution based on their actual usage and production. There are many methodologies out there for implementing business applications. The one that we have chosen to use and the one that we have developed over many years of experience is based on the fact that the way that you use the system in a production setting is very often different from the way that you theoretically thought you were going to use that solution. We will apply our agile methodology; we will implement them very quickly meaning an eight or twelve week timeframe and get them live. As I said, we will incrementally improve it over the next couple of months using our methodology. Once we have that system up and running and it seems to be working well, then there are always ongoing activities that customers want to engage on. Whether that is an additional set of functionality they want to implement, or an additional business area they want to impact or their business is changing or new products are being released or new programs are being conducted. What we do is establish a long term relationship with all of our customers so they can economically continue to do those additional activities and gain additional efficiencies with the solution. Having an organization that they can talk to on a regular basis that will give them answers to questions about how they are using their applications, how they can be more efficient. If they are stuck or if they have forgotten how to do things, have an organization to help them as a reference point or as an educational mechanism, to make sure they are always using the application as efficiently as possible.
CEOCFO: What do you look for in your personnel to ensure they have the people skills necessary?
Mr. Fitzwater: The first thing we look for is a broad length of time in the industry. If you look at our organization while we are a small organization, most will call us a boutique organization, a boutique consulting firm, all of our consultants have twenty plus years of experience that they can bring to bear in high-tech manufacturing and high-tech services. After that, we are looking for individuals that have an understanding of business applications and technology and understanding of systems but also an understanding of how businesses work and how to apply technology to help businesses be efficient. You are looking for a combination of skill sets around knowledge of the business and knowledge of business applications. Then we are looking for someone who can provide meaningful input, people who can provide coaching to our customers and give them direct and honest feedback. What we like to say is we are not always going to tell you what want to hear but we will tell you what you do not want to hear. We are going to let you know how we think you can best run the organization and how you can best be efficient. Sometimes those are hard messages to deliver but you have to have people who have the ability to be able to do that in a very straightforward approach.
CEOCFO: You are in a category where there are many players, but manufacturing has been slower to adapt to cloud. What is the competitive landscape in your industry and how do you bring these people onboard who have been not so high-tech?
Mr. Fitzwater: I think you are correct in that the manufacturing space has been slow to adopt cloud based technology, slower than the financial organizations and I think that if you look at it closely, we are still dealing with the reluctance of the financial organization rather than the manufacturing organizations to use cloud technology. The warehouse managers, the inventory management people, those folks are ok with cloud technology and the sales manager and marketing manager are OK. It is really the CFO that most recently has been reluctant to adopt cloud technology and that is changing now. You are seeing many more CFOs, controllers, be comfortable with the cloud and now we are being invited to the table versus having to ask to get to the table. As a result, I think that is having an impact on the manufacturing side of the house but I think they are not there yet. I guess the way I would change your question is we are still dealing with the CFOs getting comfortable with cloud based technology and solutions, and I think we have not started working on the manufacturing people. They are coming along with the CFO but I think we are more addressing the financial folks. On the manufacturing side, there are fewer solutions in the cloud than in the financial side, inventory management and warehouse management. I do not see us yet making huge inroads in the manufacturing sector, I think solutions are developing in the space. Solutions like NetSuite are developing in that space. In general, solutions in the cloud are appealing to the finance folks for many reasons. First of all you are pushing the total cost of ownership. If you look at the total cost of running a solution in the cloud versus a solution on premise or in your own datacenter, the numbers are significant; it is almost double running it in your own datacenter versus running it in the cloud so there is a cost savings that you can speak to. Beyond cost savings, there is a whole set of other strategic reasons why folks are looking at the cloud. For many it is about no longer focusing on owning, running and being their own IT shop. Your core competency as an organization is your product, developing and selling your product and to have to have a core competency in IT and the overhead of running an IT organization or datacenter or having to be knowledgeable about how to make all those things work, really goes out the window. You are seeing other things outsourced; you are seeing CFOs and others look at the cloud as a way to strategically get out of the business of IT. What I really want to worry about at the end of the day is whether or not I can run my business efficiently and I do not want to have to do all this infrastructure stuff, it is not my core competency, I am producing a product. I think that is how we appeal to them. You may have been asking how DSG appeals to these folks that are looking at us against other folks. The way that we sell DSG and the way that folks look at DSG is our depth of experience, our knowledge of business practices, our knowledge of their industries and being able to provide them with that knowledge and that coaching. We have a depth that others do not have in this space. We also have a very unique approach, I told you about our methodology and our approach to implementations. I think they value that. I think they also value the fact DSG as an organization has an approach and style that is honest,direct and open when interacting with our customers. We will tell them what we think is useful, valid to invest in, what is not a good thing to invest in. It is not about maximizing the amount of services we can sell to them, it is not about maximizing how many licenses we can sell to them. It is about providing them the solution that fits for their time, their current scale and size and making sure they are maximizing the value of the money they are spending and from that establishing a long term relationship. Lastly, what we do that is rather unique is we have a model that allows customers to create a relationship with us on a long term basis that provides some very economical consulting services to allow them to continue to be efficient with their solution and rev their solution, update it and have a go-to organization to provide all of those capabilities for them. That is the way we differentiate.
CEOCFO: When you talk to people about your service, does it concern them that it could be time consuming?
Mr. Fitzwater: The reality is that if you are going to implement an ERP, if you are going to implement a financial solution and you want to do it right and efficiently, you are going to need that coaching.. Every single solution that we implement has some unique set of characteristics and some unique configurations or customizations. All of that requires coaching and advice on the best way to go about doing that. Having said all of that to implement a brand new ERP solution in 12 weeks vs 12 months is incredibly efficient. That timeframe would have been un heard of 5 years ago. Now it is a reality. Solutions today do not implement themselves; it just does not work that way. If you want a solution that will implement itself then you implement QuickBooks and I make that statement on purpose, because QuickBooks is obviously not a very scalable solution, it has a limited viability but it is an out-of-the-box solution. The reality is that nobody implements out-of-the-box, it just does not occur. In order to do that, you have to have some advice to make sure you are implementing and making changes that make sense, not changes just because you can make them.
CEOCFO: You have thirty-plus years experience in the industry; what have you learned over that time that has been most helpful for you at DSG?
Mr. Fitzwater: When you are a consulting organization, I think there are a few things that you have to keep close at heart, customer satisfaction is the most critical thing you can provide. You have to be able to deliver a quality solution; you have to be able to impress your customers with the quality of what you are delivering, the quality of your advice. Along with that, the corollary would be that people will forget a missed date but they will never forget a low quality solution. Quality has to be king. The second thing is that you should never pull a punch, meaning I emphasize the fact that as an organization we provide very open, honest, direct feedback and that is critical to being a consultant. You cannot shy away from telling the customer the tough message, you cannot shy away from telling them that the emperor does not have any clothes, you have to tell them that they are naked. That is not always easy but it is always appreciated. I can remember early in my career in the consulting business, having an interaction with a CFO. I was dancing around an issue with him, I finally told him the issue, he asked me how long I had known this, and I told him I knew for months. He asked me why I did not tell him and I told him I did not want to get somebody in trouble. He told me that he hired me to give him advice and he paid me the rates he was paying because he wanted me to tell him what he did not want to hear. That was twenty years ago and I never forgot that. It is the advice I give all of our consultants. I tell the consultants that we have to tell them the tough message.
CEOCFO: How is business these days?
Mr. Fitzwater: It is great! You may not hear that much but right now NetSuite is a very hot product. DSG is a significant player in the NetSuite world. We are the number one solution provider in terms of licenses under management. Business is good. The economy from our perspective is starting to pick up, people are investing money in business solutions and investing money in business applications and looking for a good consultant to help them do that and they seem to like our message, approach and style. We are scaling as quickly as we can and I have no complaints.
CEOCFO: Why should the business and investment community pay attention to Demand Solutions Group?
You need to pay attention because we are one of the leading providers in the
NetSuite world. We are in an industry that is growing and an industry that
has the attention of many people in terms of cloud and cloud-based
technology and in terms of NetSuite, which is the leading ERP/CRM full-suite
solution in the cloud today. We are a significant player there. I think we
do damn good work!
“We are a business solutions provider for ERP manufacturing and financial solutions. We provide those solutions via the cloud, so all of the solutions we represent and work with are cloud based. I emphasis ‘business solutions provider’ because what we really focus on is the entire business solution. We do not just focus on selling a piece of software and configuring and implementing it; we focus on the entire business solution which include processes, policies to support those processes and of course includes technology and getting it implemented. As we like to say, we accelerate your business performance through the leverage of cloud based technology”. - Todd Fitzwater
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