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The Connected Enterprise

PODCAST

Automatic for the Businesses: Boyum IT on the Role of Process Automation, and Integrations in a Data-Driven World

Posted by Vision33 on Aug 5, 2020 12:00:00 PM

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Full Transcript

Carl Lewis:

Welcome to the Connected Enterprise Podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Mikael Boyum of the Boyum IT Group. Mikael and his company create fantastic products used by 75% of the SAP Business One users I know. Working with him and his company for a decade has been exciting. Mikael, welcome to the podcast.

Mikael Boyum:

Thank you very much, Carl. I'm excited to be here.

Carl Lewis:

Tell us about yourself, your work, and Boyum.

Mikael Boyum:

I started in 1997. I was a student, starting as a software engineer, and I was really into software and helping Denmark companies have state-of-the-art IT systems. I was selling hardware, websites, etc. – anything IT. Later, I sold Navision ERP systems, which got me on the track of SAP Business One. I fell in love with Business One because it had the SDK tool to develop add-ons. You couldn’t change the call in Business One, but you could create a nice add-on. Navision, a customer in Denmark, had much more functionality than we had in Business One, especially for automating processes.

Mikael Boyum:

We developed the usability package on top of SAP Business One to help partners implement and automate processes with one toolbox. That's how we got Boyum going. In 2003, we were a small company in Denmark with only three or four people. Today, we have over 150 people in eight countries with thousands of customers and close to 200,000 daily users of our software. It's been an exciting journey.

Carl Lewis:

Absolutely. Mikael, you mentioned something I love to talk about: automation. What automation trends around optimization are you hearing about? What are you and your teammates at Boyum discussing? Anything exciting?

Mikael Boyum:

We're trying to inspire companies to achieve sustainable growth and a competitive advantage. We believe they need the most reliable supplier of hybrid supply chain management solutions that solve real business problems for small and midsized businesses (SMBs). We discuss how to combine this new world – the cloud – with the products customers already have and are excited about. We’re living in a hybrid world where we must combine new cloud, new functionality, and new add-ons with our existing products. We do it using technologies like the service layer in Business One or by putting together loosely coupled add-ons – like Vision33 is doing with Saltbox. That’s the technology we’re trying to help customers get the best out of.

Carl Lewis:

We came from a time when everything was about the ERP system. Where one ERP system will have all the tools I need. We discovered that’s not true, right?

Mikael Boyum:

Right. But it was what we wanted to sell at the time.

Carl Lewis:

Yes. But you're right – the cloud came along and added new user-friendly applications everyone has on their phones. Integrating with that almost takes us back to when we called it ‘best of breed.’ Now we have separate applications we're knitting together to make a real business solution and automating communications between them all.

Carl Lewis:

What are the biggest challenges when you try to take these technologies, tie them together, and automate them?

Mikael Boyum:

It's the complexity where you have to combine things through the service layer or all the available integration hubs, because you might have to work with three or five or ten to integrate all the small errands. There's a new market evolving, and some service companies will try to monetize it when these complex integration hubs work seamlessly. If not, somebody will sit in a company and say, "My CRM system isn’t working," or "I can’t send my invoice because you’re using ten systems."

Mikael Boyum:

I see an extremely complex future. It will be nice, though, because everything will be easy to implement and install – you’ll put in your username and be up and running. For example, you’re a sportsman. You take a bike ride with a Garmin on your bike, and when you get home, it will upload your data to the cloud right away. But if your Strava app isn’t connected, you won't see your data. Finding the arrows in this complex integration hub network is complex, and that's the biggest challenge.

Carl Lewis:

Yes, because it's not just one-way, everything-has-to-integrate-with-my-ERP. Those other solutions may also need to integrate. And many people can’t see that in their mind's eye, but if you drew what we used to call a network diagram, you’d see it gets very complex, very fast.

Mikael Boyum:

Exactly. I'm following a company called Moon Sky. Their app analyzes this whole network. It's interesting because they can say, “This SQL server is down. This application server is down” – even though they’re not running on the same service. It could run in Asia; it could run in Amazon. It’s a complex world we live in, and it will get more complex.

Carl Lewis:

Do you see anything else on the horizon regarding technologies people are working on?

Mikael Boyum:

More AI dashboards to give users more intelligent information. Imagine that the system is telling you what to do before you know what you should have done. That’s a trend we see. We’ll be much more data- driven. A few years ago, SAP talked about big data, and nobody understood it – should we throw a lot of data into some databases, and that's it? Basically, yes. But now we have so much data that when we work with different partners in the world, we can help them if they need to be better in support, sales, etc. All this information in some AI is one trend I'm following.

Carl Lewis:

Interesting. Your channel can be more efficient and effective because of all the data you have about your partners. But now about other things that have changed in business, Mikael. For me, one of the biggest things is communication and how we do it. I remember fax machines and suitcase phones. I had to have a pager, a phone, and some other devices. I was fortunate the day they all came together into an iPhone, so I didn't have to carry three devices anymore! What's been affecting communication in your personal and professional lives?

Mikael Boyum:

There are two communication streams. There's internal communication, where we started using more Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc. and started moving away from emails. That requires a lot more from users – before, you received an email where there was an accident, and you had to do something. Now, you have to follow a channel, stay alert, read what others are writing, respond. That's a change for internal communication.

Mikael Boyum:

Externally, we still use email and send out newsletters. But social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook are getting more important. For example, on Instagram, to attract and retain attention in the market, we post pictures about our culture, which we call ‘Energy for Life.’ So, if you see #energyforlife, it's probably about Boyum IT and our working culture – how to have a nice work-life balance, stay fit, go for a run or walk, take a bike ride. It’s changing.

Carl Lewis:

Yeah, I know. Bicycle riding seems to be a part of the Boyum enterprise.

Mikael Boyum:

That’s true. In our culture, we have this nice drawing – the Boyum IT coat of arms – and in the upper right corner are our four values: family, social, fit, and excellent. Below that, there's a group of people on their bikes, riding as a team. The leader is climbing a mountain, but it’s like riding in the Tour de France – for the captain to have any chance of winning, he needs a strong team behind him, protecting him so he can get to the top first.

Mikael Boyum:

And that’s what we do at Boyum. Everything is teamwork. All teams must work together to make sure we’re successful. It's been 23 years of revenue growth, and every year there's a new steep budget we must climb to succeed. We’re like that coat of arms, and the sky’s the limit. We dream big dreams, just like you do in the US.

Carl Lewis:

Absolutely. One thing you and I do in our industry is engage with customers and put together a collection of products they’ll deploy to grow their businesses. We work with them as third parties they hired to consult on how to do it – or we do the work for them. What are the biggest challenges in this business model? We want to come in as trusted advisors and help these businesses, but as you know, sometimes it doesn't go that well.

Mikael Boyum:

I think it’s because people fear new technology. People are afraid to make changes because when they see how smart software is getting and how much we can automate, they think, "Uh-oh, some jobs will disappear, and I might not have the same role after implementing a new system." It's really the willingness of people to change. If they’re willing to change, there's still a good job for them in the same company – just maybe not with the same tasks they had before.

Mikael Boyum:

So if they’re not ready to take on the journey of learning all the time, it's hard to implement a system that has the parts we just talked about, is very efficient, and gives you the answers just before you should have them. That’s a challenge for some people. Other people are into it and want to learn new stuff all the time. So, for them, it's not a problem. But willingness to change is hard.

Carl Lewis:

Yep, absolutely. It used to be that people would go to work and do the same job day in, day out throughout their careers, and then retire. Now people may have 10+ jobs in their career. Modern life requires adaptability in ways I don't think it ever has before. And there's no end in sight.

Mikael Boyum:

I agree.

Carl Lewis:

Mikael, are there parts of the business Boyum has automated?

Mikael Boyum:

Yes. With only 150 employees, we’re a small company – but because we have almost 200,000 daily users, we’re a global player. We’ve automated a lot around our partner success unit, where our partners log into a portal and can help themselves with whatever they need from Boyum. I could dive deep into talking about how we developed our internal portal for the partners and how much automation it has, but it would be another podcast. I could speak for two hours about what we’ve done and how we thought about it. But we always considered our portal to be a self-helping thing where you log in and do anything you want with our software: get support, learning, and so on.

Carl Lewis:

I think you were one of the first companies I ever saw that managed license keys simply by logging into the portal, which made it so much easier than saying, "I need a new license, send me the check." Then I email a license. Then you have to import the license. It’s a much friendlier way of servicing the customer. And you're right, you've automated a big part of that process, which is great. I can't imagine what it would be like to manage your hundreds of thousands of users manually.

Mikael Boyum:

Exactly. We were thinking about how to manage all that volume, which triggered us to move ahead and be front runners.

Carl Lewis:

Yeah – you don't have to use personnel, staff, and resources when you automate a system. They can do other things. Mikael, as you work with your partners, do you track how often they use the portal and things like that?

Mikael Boyum:

Yes, we do. We just started sharing all the knowledge we have about our partners with our partners. I recently had a call with your company; we went through the data hub – we call it our partner report – to show them how many certified people we have, how many references you gave us, how we can work closer together, and what you need from us. If we look at our centric support, we can see if we have tickets we didn’t answer well, what we should have done differently, etc. A lot of information helps us have a closer work life and be a better supplier.

Carl Lewis:

It’s interesting that you can sit down with a partner and go through the data journey you've had with them for years and discuss ways to improve based on the data. That's powerful.

Mikael Boyum:

It's important to say it's powerful for both parties. It's not a report to point fingers at Boyum or point fingers at Vision; it's a collaboration tool we use to focus on all this big data and drive the right direction together.

Carl Lewis:

That's one of the things people are learning how to do: how to use so much data. Like you said, you don't want to weaponize it.

Mikael Boyum:

No.

Carl Lewis:

You want to make it a collaborative experience.

Mikael Boyum:

Yes, exactly.

Carl Lewis:

Mikael, today has been great. I know we're hours apart with you in Denmark and me in the United States, but I appreciate you joining me. I hope the shenanigans are over soon so we can see each other in person again.

Mikael Boyum:

Thank you very much, Carl. And yes, I look forward to seeing you in the real world again.

Carl Lewis:

And until next time – everyone, stay connected.

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