Past, Present, Future concept. Driving on an empty road in the mountains to the Future passing Present and leaving behind the Past.

The world as a whole has, in the natural course of things, changed a great deal over the past 30 years. And while those changes are not all related to technological advancements, many of them are. Thirty years ago, who would have imagined innovations such as smartphones, virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, and assistants such as Alexa, self-driving, and self-parking cars? Similarly, who would have imagined the demise of everyday products such as vinyl records?

I am Brian Iinuma, one of the founding partners of Strategic Systems Group (SSG) in 1991 and the current president of the company in 2021. In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, the year 2021 was ushered in with a lot less fanfare than a new year usually generates. But here at SSG, it marked a significant milestone: 30 years of implementing business management software for our clients, software that has changed so much that its 2021 iteration bears almost no resemblance to its 1991 version.

Marking our 30th anniversary seemed like the perfect time for reflection. So, I sat down with my colleague, David Cervelli, managing partner here at SSG, and we pondered the world as it was then and the world as it is now. And sort of like a time capsule buried in the foundation of a building, we decided to record our thoughts for posterity. Below is a transcript of our conversation.

ERP Past, Present, Future (Part 1): What it was, what it is, what it may be

Brian: The intent of our discussion today is to look back at 30 years of being in business, and maybe talk a little bit about how we got here, and maybe talk a little bit about what is coming as well. Maybe it is just as simple as: what did we learn along the way, what we want people to know, maybe about us or business in general. It could be that simple. Or we can kind of go back and look at the questions that we identified about how things have changed since 1991.

David: I think it is a good place to start. Doing this for 30 years… It is funny because it made me think of a famous guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore who played back in 1968 in a band called Deep Purple. Some of you reading this might remember him. Anyway, he was being interviewed one time and they asked him, “How did you get that good?” And he answered, “I have been doing it for 30 years. Anybody doing something for 30 years is going to get good. I was not that good in the first 10, then I got better.” And he continued, “The last 10, I have been really good. But just watch the next 10.!

I think there is no way around experience. At a certain point, you just start seeing things quicker. You see something and you are like, “Okay, I have heard this music before. I know this dance. I know this problem may occur in this situation.” It may be a different type of problem, but it may also be the same problem or a minor variation on that same problem.

So, Brian, I would say that since we have been implementing ERP for 30 years, we are pretty darn good at it. And it can only get better from here on out.

Businesses change. Businesses in the 21st century are different than they were in 1991. But at the same time, they are the same. They are still creating a product or a service. They are still selling it. They are still capturing it. At the end of the day, it is different, but it is not. That is experience — you can see what is and say, okay, I have seen this before. I have seen multiple combinations and I have seen how it succeeds. I know exactly what to do in these situations.

Brian: You are so right! I recently had an email exchange with someone, a new MANMAN client, about what was happening with his system. I was recounting my experience on an HP 3000 system running FORTRAN. And I was telling him that sure, things have changed dramatically since then. But I do not need to replicate anything as it was back then. Because I know exactly how to handle it in the here and now.

Sometimes, I have conversations with young people, too. Some of them may be in their late 20s, early 30s. I could not recount how things were for me back in my late 20s, early 30s. Because that would not necessarily have been relevant for them. But I do tell them that I founded SSG when I was 34. And I say to them, if you are 34 today launching a business, the possibilities are endless. For me at age 34, there were some interesting possibilities but not nearly as many options as we have today. If you were to launch a business today at age 34, you might choose from some really interesting stuff.

David, when you were age 34, what were you doing?

David: Thirty-four? I was at SSG! I am trying to think what year that was. Okay, so that was 20 years ago. And yes, I was at SSG! You and I, Brian, we were implementing MK and Baan. Even back then, most of it was remote development. Most of it was developed in SQL, Oracle, and the Baan toolkit. We were doing a lot of program specs, custom development, and support for those customizations. Back then, ERP systems were incredibly good at their core, but they were not really feature-rich. So, a lot of our business back then was just putting together customizations to fit in a company’s niche and unique needs. ERP systems now are much more configurable.

Brian: You are so right.

David: All of that custom code also made it much more complex.

Brian: Yeah. I totally agree.

David: Used to be you just slapped something in place and that is what the client got. The expectations were lower. In that sense, it was almost a lot easier.

Brian: That is true, too. One of the things I remember about MANMAN or FORTRAN is that there was a lot of code. There was a need for unbelievably detailed software development and for some of it you also had to work in COBOL. It was detailed line-by-line programming. So, the toolkit that you mentioned, the Baan toolkit, was actually a significant step forward. With the toolkit it was a lot easier to put screens together, menus together, reports together. You had to write some code to get the thing to drop the right data and then provide that data in the right format. But it was actually significantly better. To your point David, perhaps today there are still situations that require custom code and options for doing that. But as a rule, there is not much code to change. Is that fair?

David: Yes, that is a fair conclusion. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (BC) gives you the ability to drop fields onto a table on a form and it takes care of all the code behind that. It is much nicer. With AL, you are not worrying about how you are connecting, about all those connection strings that you needed. You are just writing simple code. When you get more complex, you are still writing queries, but it is relatively simple stuff. It is much easier. It is much more streamlined.

Stay tuned for more…

We have ended Part 1 of our conversation about ERP Past, Present, Future on a positive note. Watch the SSG blog for the next installment, coming soon.

Meanwhile, here is how to contact David Cervelli and Brian Iinuma at Strategic Systems Group (SSG). Just call (310) 539-4645 or use our contact form.

Meet David and Brian

David Cervelli, Managing Partner at Strategic Systems Group is primarily responsible for the delivery of services to SSG’s clients. David’s experience in Information Technology and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) spans more than 30 years. Primarily focused on Infor and Microsoft Dynamics applications, David had the opportunity to assist in both large and small companies, in various roles, to successfully deliver solutions and enhance clients’ business processes.

Brian Iinuma, President at Strategic Systems Group. Brian Iinuma has over 30 years IT experience in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), payment processing, and direct marketing. He is the President and co-founder of Strategic Systems Group, Inc. (SSG), a provider of IT services to manufacturing and wholesale distribution companies. SSG’s core competence is the implementation and support of ERP applications including Infor LN and Microsoft Dynamics.  Mr. Iinuma serves on the board of directors of the Southern California chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners and co-hosts the True Stories in Tech podcast. Mr. Iinuma is a #1 bestselling author and holds B.S. and MBA degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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