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A User Centric WorkWise Customer Conference

Written By: Olin Thompson
Published On: June 5 2003

The Company

WorkWise (www.workwiseinc.com) has provided enterprise-wide solutions for make-to-order, engineer-to-order, repetitive, make-to-stock and mixed-mode manufacturers for over 20 years. Their product, WorkWise TCM (Time Critical Manufacturing) is installed in over 500 companies worldwide. With a staff that averages 10 years TCM product experience the company provides extensive consulting and support services including implementation, process re-engineering, enhancements and ongoing support services.

We spent some time with the two top guys at WorkWise, Michael Dunham, Chairman and Wayne Wedell, President. They discussed their business model in detail and we were pleased to see how well these execs understand their business, the business model and their dedication to the users.

Dunham has experience as the CEO of a public software company in the 1990s and pointed out the advantages of being a private company and running a company dedicated to existing customers not to the on-going search for new accounts. "Our business objectives and those of our customers are very much in alignment. For example, we drive our development strictly off what our existing customers need. The history of public, new account driven companies has been driving development by responding to the competition or stretching for new markets to chase after even more new accounts."

Wedell has been involved with the TCM product for years starting as an implementation consultant and moving up within the organization in consulting and support management roles. The fact that Wedell has a consulting and support background as compared to the typical sales and marketing background of most software company executives tells us that this business is different. Wedell pointed out, "We are not investing in the sales and marketing required for a new account objective. That yields a significant impact on our P&L, allowing us to invest in efforts that are more closely aligned with what our customers need."

The Conference

The conference theme was "Taking Care of Business" and WorkWise defined their business as a "Strategic focus on the TCM customer base". In keeping with their focus on the customer base, management noted that they would pursue select, "opportunistic" new sales defined as opportunities with companies that approach WorkWise, normally through the introduction by an existing customer. In the last year, WorkWise added four new customers with this limited approach.

Approximately 300 users attended the conference, held in Milwaukee WI. The two-day event included keynote speakers, breakout sessions, a solution center and post conference training. Also present were application partners offering products and services to extend or enhance TCM.

Content

Key announcements included support for existing customers plus application and technical enhancements. The company announced continued support for all Y2K enabled versions of TCM on all current platforms (Windows, Open VMS and Unix). Although not announced at the conference, customers discussed WorkWise's array of offerings geared to existing users included refreshes and upgrades, modifications, application and technical consulting and a variety of training, including refresher, courses.

Application enhancements include Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) directions plus increased Access to TCM Data via Report Writing and Business Intelligence tools. WorkWise is also enabling Partner Products through TCM Data Import & Export plus Connectivity to the Internet. Applications announced for eCommerce included TCM eSales and TCM eFrontOffice.

TCM eSales is built on a business-to-business model allowing orders to be placed via the web and accepted into TCM. These orders are then imported into TCM Customer Order Processing to create the order and once accepted, an order confirmation is e-mailed to the buyer. Your customers and Sales Representatives, if authorized, can check order status and inventory information. TCM eFrontOffice includes a series of centers for employees, customers (both B2B and B2C) and partners. Of special interest to mid-size companies is the a web presence application which provides a Company Home Page, Product Line Home Page, Site map, Dealer Locator, Customer Contact Page and Product Information Pages Technical announcements included new releases on current platforms (Windows, Open VMS & Unix) plus adding Linix in the near future. The company also endorsed Open Source. However, currently nearly 60% of all TCM implementations are on Windows and the company expects that number to grow.

Education was a key theme of the conference with extensive sessions aimed at introducing existing and new products to the attendees plus educating them on their uses, technical issues, etc. Directly following the conference, the company offered half-day classes on popular topics.

Recommendations

Customers Existing TCM users should be encouraged by the WorkWise announcements and business model. WorkWise's willingness to drive their direction based upon the needs of their customer base means that users should communicate their needs to the company. Since the long-term value of the relationship to both parties rests on the retention of a sizable user base, customers are urged to stay involved to ensure that the relationship yields value for themselves and other users. Success in numbers should not be forgotten.

WorkWise The Company is progressive with a business model dedicated to serving the customer base rather than the search for new accounts. Is this a business model that will work? The ERP industry has little experience with companies that have a "love the customer" approach to the business. Further, companies that have tried this approach before have not all had success.

So far, WorkWise has achieved consistent profitability since their inception in 2001. This business model, by definition, has a tightly defined and limited market (for WorkWise, the existing TCM users) and that gives them both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is they can focus on exactly what the customer base wants and needs. The disadvantage is their "Love the Customer" business model for the software industry is new and they must prove the long-term viability of this model.

WorkWise needs to understand and evolve the business model to ensure long-term profitability. A key to long-term success is continual communication with the customers at all levels of the organization (both the customer and WorkWise organizations) and WorkWise needs to focus on building and maintaining the lines of communications.

The Industry - We expect to see many software companies evolve into this business model. Companies using the business model or considering it should evaluate WorkWise for lessons learned.

About the Author

Olin Thompson is a principal of Process ERP Partners. He has over 25 years experience as an executive in the software industry. Olin has been called "the Father of Process ERP." He is a frequent author and an award-winning speaker on topics of gaining value from ERP, SCP, e-commerce and the impact of technology on industry. He can be reached at Olin@ProcessERP.com.

 
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