This post is a continuing conversation with Richard Cook, President and COO of Johnson Supply, George Giudici, President and Andy Weith, Acting CIO of Crescent Parts & Equipment, and MITS’ President Gary Owen on the strategies behind deploying MITS business intelligence in the HVACR industry. (Part 1 of 3)
Gary: Thanks for taking time to speak with me today. Can you give us some background on your businesses?
George: Crescent Parts & Equipment is a family-owned 71 year old business with about 110 employees focused on HVACR. We have 15 locations in the eastern and southern parts of Missouri and the southern third of Illinois.
Richard: Johnson Supply is a 63-year-old, privately-held ESOP company. We have 24 locations throughout Texas and Louisiana and about 250 employees–we’re not as efficient as George–and we are also 100% focused on HVACR.
Gary: Andy, how long has Crescent Parts been using MITS?
Andy: We’re coming into year three now. The solution we were using before MITS was not meeting our needs. It was too difficult for our staff to use so our small IT staff spent a lot of time building and changing reports. End users couldn’t really tweak anything—even the simplest item on the reports they had been given.
To supplement our lack of IT staff, some of the executive and management team would build their own reports. Nothing good can come of non-IT people building sources and joining tables, without the proper knowledge and experience of the database.
The fear alone of the errors that could be made told us we needed a solution where that part of it was taken out of the process. MITS does that for us. All the data is prebuilt ahead of time, so the end users are using a tool that we know is accurate. For them to go in and add a piece of data that’s missing, or re-sort or filter the data is very user-friendly. Nearly anyone in the company can do it.
Gary: Richard, what was your challenge before MITS?
Richard: Our ERP system captures a lot of data. It just isn’t very good at aligning that data with industry best practices. It’s been pretty useful for us to have the data pop out of MITS in a format that makes it easy to look at our KPIs and quickly make assessments, judgments, and changes if we need to.
Gary: It is interesting that Crescent has also been running the company from a data-driven mindset–at least at the executive level. Is that something that has changed as you’ve adopted MITS?
Andy: Yes. I think George put it best when he said that the way that he uses MITS most often is looking to answer question A, and by the time he gets done looking into it, he’s also found answers to questions B, C, and D that he didn’t even know he should be asking. The speed at which you can move through the data and drill down, up, in, out, whatever you need to do, that gives you the flexibility to go into that data a lot deeper.
In the past, a lot of our users would look at a report or spreadsheet and think “oh, that’s nice, sales are up, sales are down, fantastic” and then they would close the document and be done.
Now that we have something interactive that makes it easier to dig deeper: “What’s going on with this? It looks weird. Let me drill into it and find out if what is going on with this account or with this product, or is there something much bigger going on here where this whole thing is in a tailspin because of X, Y, or Z?”
Gary: Did you have a big plan up front and implement it, or has it been a more organic process as you got the product and started working with it?
Andy: Our initial approach was to go in with big plans. We realized after a number of months of struggling with adoption and not really having a specific direction or any success that this wasn’t the right approach for Crescent. Trying to wrap our arms around everything really left us standing still, and we had to revisit the whole implementation process from the training and user adoption side a few months into it. We needed to start asking some specific questions, retrain the employees, bring them in and do training in a workshop format so that the users were on their tablets or their laptops, looking at their customers, accounts, products, and warehouses.
We needed to ask them specific questions that they could then use MITS to answer. “Who are your top ten customers by growth under this dollar value? What are we looking for in this data? What does it tell you?” That really got people starting to think about why they would want to go deeper into the data rather than just looking at a snapshot, closing the spreadsheet, and moving on with their day.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the conversation, or listen to the complete webcast on reporting and analytics in the HVACR industry.