3/14/2011-Marshall working on major software upgrade

New system will allow distributor to provide data to help dealers make purchasing decisions
Marshall Distributing wants to improve the dealer experience, and to do it, officials say they need a better engine behind the software that runs the company.
For that reason, the company is currently working on an overhaul of that software, known as the Enterprise resource planning, or ERP, system.
The decision to upgrade came in response to a survey of 1,400 dealers conducted last year.
Dealers — especially those not working with a DMS or website provider — are increasingly asking Marshall for data to help make purchasing decisions or feed their online stores. That data could include inventory information, purchase history or any number of customized requests.
“Our system now has served the company very, very well,” said Joe Mooney, Marshall’s COO. “We wouldn’t have grown to where we are without it. But it’s based on older programming that doesn’t have the flexibility for mining data that we would like.”
The ERP integrates data from across the entire organization, including finance departments, warehouses, inventory systems and more. Right now, to share that data with a dealer is a manual process that is time consuming for both Marshall and the dealer, Mooney says. Not only that, it’s exported in a comma-delimited format that isn’t user friendly.
The new system will allow Marshall to provide that type of data more quickly and efficiently in multiple formats, with little effort for the distributor or their dealers. It also will allow Marshall to send information customized to the dealer’s needs, for example motorcycle- or snowmobile-only data.
Despite the big modifications under the hood, Marshall’s ordering process will be unchanged, apart from some cosmetic differences. Mooney says that is designed to make the switch as seamless as possible for dealers.
The software’s launch window is scheduled for this summer, but the date is not set in stone. For two weeks this summer, the company will run the old and new systems simultaneously and analyze the data to ensure everything is ready.
“We won’t throw the switch until we’re 101 percent sure,” said Mooney. “There will be no service interruption.”
The software is being developed by Vormittag Associates of New York, known as VAI, which has developed this type of software for other large distributors in the past.
Over the next two-three years, Mooney says the upgrade represents more than a $500,000 investment. However, he believes the cost will be worth it.
“We decided it was the right thing to do for the company right now because the dealers are asking for it,” Mooney said. PSB

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