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Carl Lewis: Welcome to the Connected Enterprise Podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Mike Stramaglio. Welcome, Mike. Please tell us about yourself, what you're doing these days, and how you got there.

Mike Stramaglio: It's a pleasure to be here, Carl. I've been in this business for about 47 years. I started in the copy machine channel when copy machines were sold as a solution.

I spent 19 years at Minolta, five years at Ricoh, and five years as the international president and COO of Hitachi Koki. Then I started a development company called MWA Intelligence, which moved me into software and the ERP world with a product called FORZA, an ERP for the imaging industry.

And now I run Stramaglio Consulting. It’s fun because I can take the skills and knowledge from 47 years to help people grow.

Carl Lewis: Mike, every industry is talking about AI, IOT, machine learning, etc. What do you hear people discussing? And how has the pandemic affected their thoughts about technology?

Mike Stramaglio: My experience is in channel distribution and channel marketing/product development. That gives me insight into two parts of a serious role: building products for clients to use and building products for clients to resell – a nice panoramic before a pandemic. The pandemic caused an acceleration of the things we ignored to bring those products quickly.

There are several things I see with the pandemic. Many businesses we work with either postponed investments or thought they had more time to research investments. And they depended on traditional marketing, product development, and business.

They didn’t dive into their processes or what needed to be done to adopt those technologies. People were accustomed to assuming an iPhone would work with any application. They also got lazy because they thought they had more time to protect their margins and usage.

Then, boom – Walmart, Amazon, software and ecommerce portals, and distribution came along. Often, the end-user client wasn’t prepared to move quickly or efficiently, either remotely by cybersecurity requirements, VM-Care, or other tools. You also had a generational change – baby boomers, millennials, Gen Xers – and everything collided with the influences of business demands, COVID, or the industry need to adapt quickly.

Now, people have ramped up their ability to learn. They're learning the thousand definitions of AI and business enterprise management tools. That’s the next big thing that will happen in our business.

Carl Lewis: Interesting. I refer to that as the mad scramble. It's, "We've awoken from our slumber, and now we're in a hurry."

Mike Stramaglio: I like that.

Carl Lewis: As people are scrambling to catch up and deal with today’s world, what are the biggest challenges businesses face when deploying and using these technologies?

Mike Stramaglio: Things will either be collaborative or conflicted – collaborative because everyone in the new management suite understands there’s a different look and feel they must learn and teach.

There are several new tools people are learning about and adopting. Tools for measuring metrics, emotions, or senses. How do you measure how people feel? Which skills they have. Are they ready to buy into a pattern or use products in a pattern? These products aren’t new, but they've been accelerated. Adoption will happen quickly.

The challenge is the generational change. The pandemic is forcing the top of the chain – the people demanding new processes and products. It will drive out resistant people. The business loyalty band will be stretched to the max, and it will snap.

Mike Stramaglio: If people don’t move up, they’ll be moved out, because the business environment doesn't allow for stagnation.

Carl Lewis: Margins are too thin these days to hold onto somebody who can't move forward.

Mike Stramaglio: Exactly. One benefit of COVID-19 is that people are accustomed to using apps. They're looking for easier ways to live through a pandemic. And for apps and other technologies that position them to lead their businesses or sell products. So, people are accustomed to adapting quickly in an environment that doesn’t allow them to do what they would consider normal.

Carl Lewis: Yes. It's easier to adapt to change when there's no choice.

Mike Stramaglio: Exactly.

Carl Lewis: You either get on the bus, or you get left behind. I think there's a generational shift in that regard – younger people adapt faster. The older I get, the less I like change. I'm still doing it because it's part of my DNA, but I feel it slowing down. What’s the next big thing from a technology perspective?

Mike Stramaglio: An expansion of what already is. There are many things on the table regarding artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive maintenance, and the ability to serve yourself, clients, and business smoothly and quickly. All of that revolves around these systems.

People talk about the new artificial intelligence software or gadget. I see those as the next thing regarding senses. Senses will play a significant role in how we use artificial intelligence and buying patterns. How do you feel? What does Mike Stramaglio look for in applications? When I go online, there's a data bank, and people say, "Mike's online. Show him the next 10 things his history says he’ll look for." The emotional part of that buying pattern will come quickly because the data is there. Data manipulation, algorithms, and emotional senses will be there.

The other thing is the machine learning piece. In the old days, we got out of a rental car, and somebody had a handheld device with all our information, and off we went. That's going to change. That's a profound change in how we've done business during the last 10 years. What’s next? One, where the car will be. There will be multiple cars, and you’ll go right into the city to pick one up without having to go through the car rental counter. Whether it's autonomous driving or other things we're accustomed to hearing about, I see it becoming real.

Carl Lewis: Yes. Using it as an everyday lifestyle versus just demonstrating it at conferences. I agree. That's fun. We adapt to those changes easily. Like, my refrigerator has more automation than my mother's did.

Mike Stramaglio: Great example. In the old days – like six months ago – you had a smart house and a smart office, and now you just have smart.

Carl Lewis: Yeah – because home and the office are the same these days! During your career, I’m sure you've seen many changes in communication. How has business communication changed in your 47-year career? What do you use now that you didn’t use in the past?

Mike Stramaglio: I’ve enjoyed watching my life go from Evelyn Woods shorthand to voice texting. Having instantaneous communication not just to communicate but to influence change, seek new clients, and have learning experiences. I remember rotary phones, going to my first room device, pagers, getting my first mobile phone. The world is an extraordinary opportunity to do things you never thought you could, even as recently as 10 years ago.

If I’d started Stramaglio Consulting 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have clients in the UK or Germany. Now, it’s pushing a button, LinkedIn, Twitter, text messaging, etc. Which apps can define your client base? Which help you communicate fast? It's an extraordinary time to be in business. I feel sorry for young people who don’t have the same appreciation of using Wite-Out and a typewriter. Here I am, 47 years in business, and there’s an extraordinary array of products and services.

Carl Lewis: It's amazing to see the changes.

Mike Stramaglio: It’s incredible. You can learn from anywhere, anytime, from anybody. The knowledge you can collect and utilize quickly is beyond the pale. And it will only get better.

Carl Lewis: Definitely. I'm a car guy. I used to use books to learn how to do stuff. Now, I use YouTube. When I took something apart, I took pictures. Now, I just rewatch the video. Home repairs, too. There are so many more DIYers because of access to information.

Mike, you created your own company and FORZA. What was the most difficult part? When a company works with a third-party consultant to implement new technology, what challenges are in that relationship?

Mike Stramaglio: Number one, you don't know what you don't know, which is dangerous for anyone developing something. It's the knowledge transfer. How do you accumulate good client-based information that’s appropriate for what you're actually building versus your dream of it?

You must bring a dream to reality, which often means using people without tribal knowledge. Maybe they’re experts in SAP Business One but don’t know how to sell an ERP into a vertical market. You have to characterize, organize, profile, and prioritize the product’s benefits. It will always come out of cash, contracts, and GL. Then making sure the GUI is intuitive for the contractor and client.

The client knows what they want, or believes they do, but the contractor doesn't necessarily know if that’s correct. So, you must tighten up the time cycles of bringing in software that intuitively manages actions and end-user clients. I use software called Chassis. It’s a phenomenal product to help you communicate what to build.

But it's always about people, not queries or adding products. It's about expectations. And when you use a third party, the expectation of being aligned with the end-user developer and delivery arm is challenging. Training is critical, but knowledge transfer is the biggest thing.

Carl Lewis: Absolutely. In my career, I’ve focused on being a people expert versus an ERP expert.

Mike Stramaglio: Exactly.

Carl Lewis: There’s always someone who wants to work in a closet with the information you could transfer to them. I don’t like that part. I like working with people; it’s more exciting.

Mike Stramaglio: I agree. I also dislike when someone in the closet holds all the knowledge. And you must be careful with it. You can’t have on-the-job training with a client. You're bringing additional software and/or tools, but you need in-depth knowledge of what they're doing because there are many packages to add. And no tool can be everything to everybody. Whether it's tax software you need for international, local, or state taxes or query reporting, you need those additional tools. But it’s critical to understand which tool will benefit you and how to apply it quickly.

Carl Lewis: Absolutely. What's truly necessary and what people want can be two very different things. We saw people invest in many things that returned little value in the end. That's always a struggle with automation. They read about it in an industry magazine and think they need it, but don’t consider if it will be helpful or add value.

Mike Stramaglio: If I can add one thing, Carl.

Carl Lewis: Yes.

Mike Stramaglio: Look at Vision33. You’ve been doing this a long time. You have multiple clients, vertical markets, and adjacent markets. One thing I see coming is cybersecurity. And if people don't comply, the ERP becomes the centerpiece of blame and/or opportunity. Educating users and C-level people and preventing ransomware or other cybersecurity attacks is an essential part of success when you do what we do. Because what if you have a lazy or less-than-skilled person on the system?

Carl Lewis: One thing I saw with small businesses that use an abundance of family members is that there always seems to be a family member who’s not qualified in a critical role. And when that lack of attention to detail is a family member, the software is always to blame.

Mike Stramaglio: Always.

Carl Lewis: How should businesses that work with technology track the effectiveness of new projects?

Mike Stramaglio: One, monitor their people. The executive team must inform project managers and implementation people that they’ll be monitored/managed. And we – the third parties who provide the implementation tools – need software that says, "These 10 people do identical multitasking jobs. We'll measure the keyboard activity for each task, whether it’s sales, CRM, service, or contract, and determine who performs more efficiently."

You’ll find a pattern that shows where they’re weak. The point isn’t to scare or fire people. It’s to say, “You’re better in the CRM than in contracts and GL. Here’s why.” Then you offer training to address that situation. There are tools for that.

Carl Lewis: There’s that capability, definitely. What does the future look like for Stramaglio Consulting?

Mike Stramaglio: It's funny. You’ve asked why a guy my age would start a business in the middle of a pandemic. And asked your guest last week the same, but about young people. What's the common denominator?

For me, it's about staying young, learning, and staying robust in my thoughts and actions. I take the skills I’ve learned in 47 years and help people. I can stay active, keep my head in the game, and make a few dollars. And more importantly, help people succeed and avoid the mistakes I made in my career.

I think there’s common ground with young people coming into the business. Contributing. Doing what you love. Inspiring others – and yourself – to be better. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.

Carl Lewis: Well, Mike, knowing you, I'm sure there will be fun along the way. Thank you for joining us. And everyone out there – please stay connected.