Here it is! The full interview from Kerridge Commercial Systems’ UK Managing Director, James Mitchell, on how the past year has treated MAM Software.
Q: Please briefly sum up how business has been since we last spoke.
James Mitchell (JM): Over the past year, MAM Software has gone from being a standalone software business to becoming part of the Kerridge Commercial Systems group. This was signalled by the rebrand of MAM Software in October 2020; it was a big milestone for us to get the look and feel of MAM products and services in line with the rest of the group.
Organisationally, the businesses in the UK and North America are now completely aligned – the leadership and operational teams are as one for the KCS group in those markets, irrespective of product line. Having said that, MAM Software still maintains a very strong identity in the UK and Ireland, with its own sales and implementation teams responsible for Autocat, Autopart and Autowork Online.
The crossover of products that we hoped would bring benefits to both organisations has happened, or is now underway. A number of ecommerce solutions that came out of the MAM Software portfolio have become standard across the KCS group and are integrated with a wider range of ERP software, not just Autopart.
We’ve also leveraged some of the relationships that were nurtured by MAM, including Paymentsense for card payment integration, and Phocas for business intelligence. These are now benefitting customers across the whole KCS group.
From a technical perspective, MAM customers are benefitting from the K-Cloud and greater provision of data centre capacity.
Q: Obviously, most of 2020 was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. How exactly did the company respond to the difficulties that it presented?
JM: Like many businesses, we’ve had to adapt to the changing circumstances. We have given colleagues the opportunity to work from home. Fortunately, we’d introduced Microsoft Teams to the organisation a few months before the pandemic – it’s now used widely across the business and has enabled us to communicate and trade much more effectively.
Once we were able to open our offices, we did so in a COVID-secure way, with protocols, rota systems and reduced capacity. Our offices remain open for anyone who needs to work from them to fulfil their job role, or who wants to for social or personal reasons.
From an organisational point of view, 2020 was a very transformational time in terms of getting product to market. We probably released more products over a six-month period than ever before.
This was just a factor of adapting to the new way of working. We had the opportunity to collaborate a lot quicker through Teams than we would have done face-to-face, which resulted in us getting products to market faster.
Ultimately, we have worked hard to ensure our business remains viable in the long term. Our customers won’t benefit if we cannot offer excellent support and strong value propositions for years to come.
Q: Are you now seeing things returning to normality, or is the company still experiencing significant difficulties?
JM: We have had to adopt a different way of working. We’re still producing products and solutions, supporting our customers and laying out strong product roadmaps; in many cases, this has involved reorganising parts of the business to make us more efficient in how we work.
For example, our Professional Services Group went from delivering training and consultancy on-site to remotely, meaning we probably accelerated three years’ worth of transition into a six-month period. This has delivered various benefits to our customers and consultants alike – we can deliver sessions in smaller chunks and fit several customers into a shorter space of time, which has accelerated our speed of response. The environmental benefits cannot be understated either. It’s a much more sustainable way of delivering training, as our consultants aren’t driving from home to the customers’ sites.
Our products and services have enabled automotive aftermarket businesses to respond well to recent challenges. Take Paymentsense as an example. Integrated card payment technology is becoming more of a requirement in a COVID-secure world, where less touching on a payment device by point of sale staff and customers is desirable. Passing the POS system transaction total to the card device automatically, and customers tapping the device with a contactless card, reduces the physical touch. We’ve given customers the opportunity to facilitate this through integration with their Autopart software.
I don’t think that work practices will return to pre-COVID ways, as what is developing as the ‘new norm’ is more efficient, sustainable and ecologically sound.
Q: Last year, you mentioned that, as far as MAM Software was concerned in the light of its acquisition by KCS, things were “business as usual”. Is this still the case?
JM: It’s absolutely business as usual. MAM is maintaining its brand but it is an integrated part of the KCS group as automotive business and software experts.
We’re acting as a single company, but with different products in different industry verticals. In many respects, we’re operating in a similar way to motor factors, which use the same systems and processes irrespective of which part they are supplying. It’s the same for us.
Q: Has KCS managed to invest in MAM Software’s existing products, as was mentioned a year ago? Similarly, has the company managed to implement some of its tools from its existing platforms into MAM’s Autopart platform?
JM: We have launched a number of e-apps that benefit MAM customers, including ePOD, our electronic proof of delivery application. It enables motor factors to manage every aspect of their delivery cycle remotely, so they can be sure they are delivering the right parts to the right customers, at the right time.
Another app that we’re making available to Autopart users is ePick, which improves the efficiency of in-branch pick task processing. The app guides the user to each bin location in turn, making it easier for factors to locate parts and spend less time in the warehouse.
Q: 2020 has no doubt been difficult, but has there been any progress on the plans to “grow and support a wider motor factor customer base”? If not, presumably due to the pandemic, is this still the plan going into 2021?
JM: MAM’s motor factor business continues to grow alongside the rest of the group. We offer a strong value proposition in terms of the ecosystem that exists between parts, catalogue and supply chain, which we continue to invest in.
We’ve seen a pent-up demand for our services in light of the MOT extension introduced earlier in the pandemic. VRM lookups have been at an all-time high since September/October 2020, and we’ve also witnessed an increase in our customers opening up new branches to deal with demand.
In our experience, times of uncertainty and recession are always good for the used car market and parts factors; people want to save money and therefore turn to the aftermarket. They also want to look after their cars for longer, so therefore a lot of our factor customers are experiencing significant demand and are expanding.
Q: Is there anything new planned for aftermarket businesses to get excited about?
JM: The exciting part of our business is the ecosystem that the balance between Autocat, Autoprt and Autowork Online creates – t =his is a very strong and controlled value proposition for our customers.
Demand for the aftermarket is increasing, so as businesses grow, the need for controls and control over IT processes and systems becomes more relevant.
In difficult trading conditions, factors need to make sure they are not losing stock and giving away parts that are more heavily discounted than necessary. Having the good ERP processes that Autopart provides is enabling businesses to maintain their strength.
In terms of exciting products, we’ve seen data centres stabilise in the last year, which has resulted in outstanding system availability. We’re also introducing an online Autocat solution in the near future, enabling parts lookups from any device, anytime, anywhere.
More products are also in the pipeline to bring extra value to our automotive customer base. There are plenty of exciting times ahead!