Growing for the Gold
At Amarr, part of the process is the IT department's attitude. Crawford leads an experienced team of IT professionals, split between the headquarters and the company's largest manufacturing facility. "We are an extension of the business," he says. "We can't just be programming or technical experts. We have to be a partner to the people on the shop floor and an extension to the accounting staff." That philosophy improves buy-in with everyone in the company, garnering benefits from the system sooner.
Operating and Upgrading
In addition to starting with a basic system, Smith is careful to add increased functionality when it could boost Spyder's growth—and not a moment before. For example, he says, Spyder could turn on advanced pricing features, but the basic pricing works well enough right now. Should more power be needed in the future, though, he can add it by turning on the module rather than reconfiguring the system, customizing it, or buying a new platform.
When the investment decision was made, Smith was Spyder's sole IT employee. "I did everything from fixing printer problems to writing code," he says. He now leads a team of seven people in Boulder and one in Spyder's Switzerland office. Other departments at Spyder have grown as well, and the company recently opened an office in Bangkok. That's why another feature of the IT system that Smith values is the ability to add new users to the system quickly, because a growing company adds new employees constantly. "I could give you access to the information system in 10 minutes," he says. The system's language capabilities have also been welcome at a multinational corporation with just 125 people on staff.
"We have to go through a justification up front on every major project," Amarr's Crawford says. "But there are some projects where the return on investment isn't obvious, but we do them anyway because it's part of doing business and positioning our company." For example, Amarr's management has noticed that they are now dealing directly with homeowners who view the garage door as a retail item where aesthetics matter, rather than with contractors who may have other needs. To reach homeowners and architects, Amarr has invested heavily in its Web site. Visitors can create custom configurations of different door styles, window styles, and colors to help them with their purchase decision. "Selling garage doors over the internet is a new concept, but it's the way things appear to be moving," Crawford says. The ROI may not show up for years, but those are years in which the company will reap a competitive advantage.