DDI System doesn’t approach ERP software from an abstract perspective – it was founded with a strong understanding of the day-to-day ins and outs of the distribution world. That understanding is key to the success of the company’s Inform ERP platform. President Adam Waller is the source of much of
that understanding, having learned distribution while working for his grandfather’s distribution company, which continues to serve the plumbing and HVAC market to this day.
Waller started writing software for the company in the 1980s, and in 1994 he founded DDI System to provide distributors with effective ERP software solutions.
Today, DDI System’s Inform ERP distribution software platform is used by more than 750 distributors in markets such as electrical and lighting, PHCP and HVAC, jansan, paper and packaging, and industrial and safety products. In 2014, DDI System acquired the software division of leading HVAC distributor and customer Johnstone Supply, which gave DDI System the capability to enhance its Inform ERP platform to become more sophisticated and capable of serving larger, multi-location HVAC distributors.
According to Waller, the nature of the ERP software market is changing, with cloud-based solutions becoming more prominent and traditional, locally-hosted software tapering off in terms of popularity. DDI System is adapting to this and other changes in the marketplace, and Waller says the strength of Inform ERP is a strong foundation from which it can continue to build greater success in the future.
Waller’s hands-on expertise in the distribution sector gives DDI System a significant advantage when it comes to evolving and enhancing its Inform ERP software, but this is far from the only way in which the company and its products distinguish themselves from the competition. For example, Waller points to the company’s ability to incorporate customer relationship management (CRM) features. Waller says the integration of CRM into Inform ERP is virtually seamless, providing DDI System’s customers with a solution that not only manages the day-to-day details of their supply chains, but also helps them maintain stronger relationships with the customers and suppliers they reach every day.
“Our customers don’t really know that they’re using CRM,” Waller says. “They do a daily operation like a price quote or a purchase order and they add that to their calendar.”
Once that information is entered into Inform, it uses CRM features to steer the company’s daily workflow and guide it towards more efficient and effective operations focusing on their customers’ specific needs. Waller says this helps create stronger connections between distributors and their own customers. “We are teaching our users to focus on the people they sell to; they’re not just companies,” he says.
One of the most recent challenges for DDI System, based on the ever-shifting ERP marketplace, is the question of how to best integrate e-commerce into an ERP solution. Waller says the market continues to look for an ERP system that incorporates a strong e-commerce component to help distributors stay out in front of their customers in an increasingly digital world. Although having that e-commerce component is important, Waller says distributors have to be careful not to chase the idea that they can be all things to all customers. “You can’t be a better Amazon, so you have to be a better supply house,” he says.
Many ERP solution providers are trying to incorporate everything e-commerce into their platforms by developing their own e-commerce solution, but Waller says DDI System sees a better way. “Our approach to that challenge is, instead of trying to build the most comprehensive e-commerce platform out there and build the best ERP platform out there, we deliver a substantial e-commerce option that uses Inform’s data and generates an online customer portal. But we also easily integrate with all of those leading online sales channels through our Inform SellerBridge,” he says.
By adapting its software to accommodate multiple e-commerce options, Waller says, DDI System provides distributors with as much flexibility as possible. That, in turn, allows them to better serve their customers without forcing them to lock themselves into a proprietary or exclusive e-commerce platform.
Into the Clouds
In the future, Waller says he anticipates cloud computing to become a much larger part of what DDI System provides for its customers, given how popular it has become for ERP platforms. As software is hosted on the cloud, it removes the need for distributors to host it on their own servers onsite, which reduces costs.
The combination of more browser-based cloud solutions and the company’s continuing efforts to refine and evolve its ERP platform to meet the needs of its distributor customers, provides DDI System with a foundation for continued success in the future, Waller says.