Programme centred on customer engagement, training and product developments
The 2014 Kerridge Commercial Systems customer conference, which was held recently in Daventry, introduced delegates to the company’s product roadmap for the coming year. The wide-ranging programme also covered many recent developments and highlighted how Kerridge CS is expanding its resource and service capabilities to meet changing customer demands.
Ian Bendelow, CEO, said, “Our annual conference showcases how we are striving to progress our product and service capabilities. Equally it’s about spending quality time with our customers, exchanging views and generating ideas. But perhaps the event’s most valuable purpose is to remind us about the importance of understanding and responding to our customers’ requirements and new technologies. We were also delighted that once again, a number of our solution partners were able to attend and demonstrate their latest offerings.”
The bigger economic picture
In welcoming Tanya Beckett as conference guest speaker, Sales and Marketing Director, Duncan Smillie, commented, that although the past few years have been particularly challenging on the economic front, the situation now is much more encouraging. “We invited Tanya to the conference to talk about how the recession and financial crisis came about. More importantly we also asked her to give her impression of where things are now headed.” Covering interest rates, inflation, bond investments and trade patterns, Tanya’s clear and well-informed presentation reminded delegates about the bigger economic picture, with anecdotal references in a session that was both enjoyable and thought provoking.
New developments, enhancements and cloud solutions
Conference delegates, representing many distributive trades, manufacturing and service sectors, were introduced to system developments and enhancements across the Kerridge CS product groups. Presentations covered the latest equipment hire, field service, delivery management and centralised purchasing applications. K8’s capability to support pan-European trading also featured. Martin Turbitt, Chief Technical Officer, provided a comprehensive review of the company’s cloud solutions and introduced the cost saving, technical and operational benefits. He also talked about how Kerridge CS cloud systems could be deployed very quickly and introduced the basic Silver, mid-range Gold and the all –encompassing Platinum service packages. “There are compelling reasons why cloud solutions are proving increasingly popular. With access to 24/7 proactive infrastructure monitoring and system management, customers who choose this route really can spend much more time running their business. “
Users tell their stories
Customer experiences are always a popular part of the conference programme and this year was no exception. In a number of focussed break-out sessions, KPIs reporting, workplace and dashboard tools were presented from first-hand user perspectives. Delegates from the manufacturing sectors also heard about how shop floor data capture and product configurator tools are proving particularly beneficial. Ecommerce integration for online trading is gaining presence in many sectors and a customer experience, that was covered last year, was brought up to date. A customer’s recent experience of implementing the latest K8 release was explained in clear, ‘as it happened’ style and complemented by an overview of METIS, the Kerridge CS Prince2-based upgrade project management process.
Training and learning counts
User training is unquestionably a major factor in maximising operational benefits of any business. Not just in terms of the pre- and post go-live stages, but also through maintaining an ongoing commitment to training and learning is equally imperative. Trained employees move on, knowledge transfer is easily diluted; new people join and so on. Alan Cross, Kerridge CS Chief Operating Officer, said, “We believe it’s more important than ever for us to help our customers maintain a high standard of system skills and knowledge. Training and learning not only improves productivity and morale, but also demonstrates commitment, encourages new ideas and process reviews.” Along with an expansion in the company’s team of training consultants, Kerridge CS now offers a broader mix of training provisions. Alongside traditional classroom courses, there are more video-based training tools - which are becoming more sophisticated, and an expanded range of short, bite-sized online courses. ”We will work with each customer, establish the most appropriate programme for their business and if needed, can offer specially tailored courses for a particular application.” Alan also told delegates that the company is investing heavily in internal training for its consultants. “Every consultant attends our K8 ‘Boot Camp’.”
Closer engagement – New Customer Advisory Board
Mike Beech, Product Marketing Director, set the scene to expand customer engagement channels and emphasised the importance of more participation and closer working relationships. ”It’s essential that we grow our understanding of the business issues that our customers are facing. By asking for more feedback, listening more and inviting ideas much more openly, we can take our product development programme to a new level. We want to know about our customers’ real concerns. What’s difficult or too complicated, be it in using the software or off-system processes? How can we make things easier? To make this happen, we are looking to augment the role played by our user groups and are in the process of setting up a Customer Advisory Board. Together with more sector and market research, this combination will help drive our engagement processes and support future phases of product development. I would be delighted to hear from any customer who would like to know more about joining the Customer Advisory Board.”
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Progressive roadmap and future developments.
Wrapping up the main conference’s main session, R&D Director, David Liddle, took delegates through many of the current K8 developments, explaining the benefits and functionality available now and in forthcoming coming releases. He demonstrated the latest Oracle search tools which use ‘fuzzy’, ‘soundex’ and ‘stem’ capabilities and also presented K8’s new integrated ‘High Charts’ presentation format. Returning to cloud technology, the company continues to make progress in delivering K8 via mobile devices. “Meeting our customers changing expectations, the latest release of K8 is available via web browser, with greater device and operating system independence. Using K8, via any smartphone or tablet, be it out on the road, in showrooms or warehouses, is becoming an essential capability that will make a big difference to how our customers use their system,” said David.
Finally, delegates heard about how Kerridge CS is addressing the growth of the 24/7 market place, specifically the new buying and selling channels. “For one thing, it’s becoming much less acceptable for user access to be interrupted by ‘after hours’, stand-alone processes and data file updates. We are working on a ‘zero blackout window’ for K8 and although this will be technically challenging to achieve, it will give our customers a true 24/7 trading capability. Couple those developments with K8 online trading portal integration - Amazon and eBay, add social media to the mix and it’s clear that we are in a tremendously exciting phase of business IT and process evolution,” said David.
Continuing our partnerships…
Summing up, Ian Bendelow said, “It was great to spend time with our customers and I very much hope that the conference programme helped to stimulate some thoughts and ideas. In the coming 12 months, it would be great to see our customer engagement processes develop – particularly through the Customer Advisory Board. With the new training initiatives, we will be doing all we can to help our customers to expand their system skills and knowledge. And lastly, we will continue to support every customer, work with them in solving business issues and keep our substantial R&D programme moving forwards.”