Our partnership with ally consulting is turning one! On this occasion, we decided to interview ally’s founder and CEO, Paolo Aversa, and talk about digital transformation projects and the future of our collaboration, focusing in particular on how to create and deploy data supply chains.
Eleonora: Hello Paolo, thanks for taking part in this interview. As an icebreaker, can you tell our readers who you are, your background, and how ally consulting was born?
Paolo: My name is Paolo Aversa, and I have a degree in mechanical engineering; however, I have always worked in the field of management software.
I approached this world during my first post-graduate job, being responsible for implementing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) management systems in a big multinational company in the manufacturing sector.
I had the opportunity to travel, to deal with different cultures and working environments, and - of course - to study ERP applications. These experiences and the desire to create a personal business project led me, in 2019, to set up my consulting company, ally consulting.
As for our country, Italy, do you think we are on the right track in terms of digitization of manufacturing enterprises?
Unfortunately, maybe due to cultural reasons, Italy never seems to be “where it should be.” Let me explain this better. Technology keeps moving and growing, and it often evolves at an incredible pace. For this reason, the adoption of new technologies and, in general, of any kind of innovation, requires speed, a personal and collective effort, and a great spirit of adaptation. In other words, it requires us to evolve at the same pace as the technology itself evolves; however, our mindsets are not always ready and able to be that fast.
Our Italian culture makes us somehow resistant to change and unready to fully embrace it. We often tend to be conservative and unwilling to standardize processes or rely on new industry best practices; we also tend to judge a technology investment only by its costs, without weighing the benefits and the returns it is capable of releasing over time.
Luckily, things are changing. The technology gap between Italy and other countries is narrowing down; cloud systems, for example, are now widely adopted, and the approach to data-driven management is more and more recognized.
This is also happening thanks to a set of financial incentives and tax benefits, including the PNRR (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) as well as local grants, which are valuable opportunities to access digital transformation projects, especially for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs, which are the backbone of our country.
Do you think the pandemic has been a brake or an accelerator to digital transformation?
I would say that the pandemic has positively contributed to the adoption of new technologies by companies of any size. After the health crisis, I guess many entrepreneurs just felt a strong desire for evolution, and they tried not only to recover but also to redeem that “lost” time by taking advantage of technology.
How does ally consulting structure a digital transformation project?
Let me make a general premise: the application of an ERP system always leads to a clear and tangible output, that is the collection and access of company information through simple and intuitive dashboards.
That said, ally consulting and U-Hopper share a common belief: we have always been firm believers, as you are, that for a company to effectively introduce new solutions, we first need to have its team members, from the leadership to all employees, ready to embrace innovation.
For this reason, our first approach is to make sure that everyone involved in the project fully understands the value of an ERP solution. To do this, we don’t focus that much on explaining the tangible output, but the outcome of an ERP system - that is, the ability to better manage every process and to support the people who own said process.
All projects and adoption paths are different, as the clients are - it depends on different factors! However, what I just described is the first approach we take with any kind of client; it is the building block on which we develop our digital transformation projects.
What do you answer when a customer asks if technology will be able to replace human capital? This may be a question you have answered dozens of times already, but we always find it relevant.
I confirm that sometimes clients ask me this question. However, our purpose in ally is to bust this false and unfounded myth: a management system is not made to replace people, but rather to re-organize and better support their work.
The relationship between humans and technology is a collaborative and linear one, in which the former is responsible for the latter. We, humans, are the ones who own the technology, the ones who drive it and give it the right direction; technology only does what we ask it to do, with the unique goal of helping us better plan an activity, restructure a process, and achieve better results.
We can say that technology enables people to make more informed decisions, to evolve, and to acquire more responsibility. Such a situation happens, for example, when a line worker becomes the controller of his activities through the ability to interpret real-time information.
What other issues generally arise when a company starts its digital transformation journey, and how do you tackle them?
One common issue refers to the cost of the investment, which is often considered as “yet another expense” the entrepreneur has to deal with. Again, it is of utmost importance to be aligned, have the right mindset, and, on our part, help the entrepreneur visualize the outcome, emphasizing the future value of the project and not just its cost.
Can you give us an example?
Determining the ROI (Return On Investment) of an ERP system is quite difficult because there are many variables to be considered.
However, let’s take the following case study, the one we are developing with U-Hopper: the optimization of warehouse safety stocks. For the sake of clarity, “safety stock” is a number that indicates the minimum level of stock material that must always be present in a warehouse.
What we try to do is to convert this number into a perceived value: if that number gets too low and the warehouse runs out of stock, delays can occur and a consequent, potential loss of revenue could follow. Similarly, if the stock level is too high, it may negatively affect the end-of-year financial statement.
Yet, another example: if the cost of material increases and we have not considered market price fluctuations, we will be faced with sudden, high expenses to maintain the appropriate level of stock.
Is it possible to avoid shortages or situations with excessive tied-up capital? Can price increases be timely forecasted? The answer is “Yes, thanks to technology,” which can suggest when it is time to purchase and stockpile to ensure a lower, more competitive price or, vice versa when to avoid doing so.
Thank you for mentioning U-Hopper in the example, this brings me to switch to our collaboration, whose common denominator is data. Could you explain in your own words the vision behind our partnership?
The partnership with U-Hopper is essential for us; our vision is to build an integrated and complete “data supply chain”.
The chain starts with ally consulting, which supports the collection and management of data through the implementation of ERP applications; it then follows up with U-Hopper, which brings such data to the next level through its analysis and the application of AI-based models.
The idea is that data goes through this supply chain, making it available and valuable while empowering people to work smarter and more consciously.
How was the partnership born?
I have always admired Diego and Daniele for their vision and innovative spirit; when we crossed paths, we simply realized we were on the same wavelength, and immediately understood that a partnership could have been beneficial for both sides.
On the one hand, ally can open up new opportunities for U-Hopper in the manufacturing world; on the other hand, U-Hopper can support ally in creating new scalable solutions. From our customers’ point of view, this partnership means exploiting and lengthening the digital transformation journey started with ally, toward the exploration of new Artificial Intelligence applications.
We aim to combine both parties’ strengths - ally’s consulting experience and U-Hopper’s technical expertise - to create new value and break any mathematical rules: our collaboration makes 1 + 1 equals 3!
Our partnership focuses on three main areas: predictive maintenance, warehouse optimization, and advanced sales analytics. How do you imagine this collaboration will evolve over the next few years?
We received positive feedback from the market in these areas, and we are already working on new ones, although not strictly related to the manufacturing sector; for example, human resources and marketing.
I believe the idea of building a “data supply chain” is a winning one, and I am happy about this collaboration; I am sure new interesting projects and opportunities will soon open up!