Talk-Commerce Roman Kuzub

Life Goes on While Working in a War Zone with Roman Kuzub

What is your perception of life in a war zone? Most of us can’t imagine what it is like to work in conditions where air raid sirens are normal. We’ve interviewed Roman Kuzub with Default Value agency on his team, their work, and life in a warzone.

What you will learn

  • Roman Kuzub is the CEO of Default Value, located in Ukraine. He is passionate about making things work easier and saving people time for something.
  • Roman: I wanted to mention the team because I was surprised by their behavior. We have 80 people in our company. I considered moving the company somewhere safe, but only 5% of employees decided to do so.
  • Roman: The whole team decided to stay in Cherkasy and started working remotely when we didn’t have enough experience with this. They did a great job and saved the workload, so I wanted to mention it.
  • Roman says that his team has come together and that the war has become normal for them. However, he took several rides to Kyiv. 
  • Roman: We stay here because we have relatives, we have families, and we want to be closer to them because each day can bring anything, actually. But we don’t feel it’s a huge problem with our physical situation. It’s more about our mental state. It’s a difficult thing. Because it’s been a year of war, and you always expect a rocket in your city. It drives you crazy a bit.
  • Roman: I’m proud of my clients because nobody ran from us or moved the project outside Ukraine. And actually, I got spammed with different proposals to help the army or move the company to Germany. 
  • Brent: Europe and the US have been united in supporting Ukraine and helping you as a country and you as people. What was your sort of leadership journey? Did you have any struggles coping with anything in particular? And I think you’ll come out stronger at the end of this. 
  • Roman: I almost don’t remember March of 2022, but I know I filmed 10 to 12 videos for my team and customers that month, ensuring they know what is happening, where we are, and what we are doing. 
  • Roman: I struggled to gather the team because they were spread in different places, but that’s my job. For me personally, the challenge is always about being positive when you see that everything is not that bright. 
  • Roman: It was extra hard at least the first half of the year, but hopefully, family helped, the team, my closest teammates helped me to do this, and we are still functioning. We currently work at our office, but most of the team works remotely.
  • Roman: It started before the invasion because we had the COVID-19 experience. But now we ask people if we should move to a fully remote company type. More than 90% of employees said they’re waiting for the end of the war to return to the office because they lack personal communication and struggle to work just from home.
  • Brent: I wanted to ask why Ukraine is so strong regarding Magento and e-commerce.
  • Roman: The roots of Magento are here in Ukraine and in Belarus, as far as I remember. We have guys who were working in a core team development, the Magento 1, for about 15 years, and they are still here. They know the DNA of the system.
  • Roman: The second part is more about the attitude to work and being honest with the clients. You should trust your partner to do your project. When you work with agencies from other countries, and they don’t deliver the project. And when you come to Ukraine to work with the agency that does while being bombed, you understand these guys are serious. And that’s about the commitments. 
  • Roman: That’s about something how work should be done, and here we have those attitudes. We can work with businesses in Europe and USA because when we are talking about something, we are serious about it. 
  • Brent: Tell us about Default Value.
  • Roman: We do end-to-end development and help businesses grow not only by delivering the projects.
  • Roman: Our company is built by two really cool developers. We are a family-type company, we communicate freely, and there’s no such huge hierarchy here or very tough processes or something like that. 
  • Roman: What sold this company to me is a totally honest approach towards customers and employees. We communicate clearly. Even when we are fucked up, sorry, we come and say, “We’re fucked up and need to solve this.” That’s the DNA of the company. That’s something that really makes us stand out. And it makes it difficult for me to find managers who can maintain such an approach.
  • Brent: Roman, what are your plans when the war is over? Will you have a big celebration? Can you see that day?
  • Roman: I can see that day. I want to build an international company and visit different places. 
  • Roman: I want to stay here, and I definitely want to help my country to succeed. I understand that most people watching this podcast are not from Ukraine, so please push your politicians to support Ukraine, and don’t get tired because the war is not over and is not even close to the end.
magento-association Marta Molinska

Helping Ukraine with Marta Molinska

We talk with Marta Molinska (@molme) about how she has helped hundreds of Ukrainian refugees as they crossed the border during the war. We talk a little about the Magento Association and how Marta is helping with events and the community. Ukraine can still use your help!

Marta runs a sky diving business in Poland and is passionate about the Magento Community.


Brent: Welcome to this special episode of the Magento association. Talk Commerce collaboration to bring out more about the Magento association and what we’re doing to help the Magento community today. I have Marta Molinska Marta, please introduce yourself. Tell us what you do on a day to day basis.

Brent: And one of your passions in. 

Marta: That’s a very nice way of introducing myself when it comes to passion because what I do on a daily basis is my passion. So I run a drop zone. So we are jumping out of planes and my personal role on the drop zone is to teach people how to And my side job is actually involved in Magento and Magento association as well.

Marta: I’ve been organizing Meet Magento Poland for 9 years straight and now I’m more involved in Magento association and in helping with communication with some consulting and I guess that I try to be a kind of maybe not community manager because it’s for me, the community is not something that you can manage.

Marta: It’s something that you can join and be part of it. And I guess that I want to be a part of it. 

Brent: Thank you so much. And so today we’re gonna talk a little bit about Ukraine and how people can help Ukraine and maybe how both the Magento community and the Magento association can participate in helping Ukraine.

Brent: So sure. Give us a little bit of background on, on what you’ve been doing so far. 

Marta: It’s it’s already a few months since the war broke. But the first weeks were obviously the most intense a couple of days after this shocking news when when Russia attacked Ukraine we in Poland, we were devastated.

Marta: And as I said, we were just in shock, but after a few days and when the migration crisis took place on the border we saw a horrible, horrible videos and pictures from from the border. We could see that the huge crisis is coming. And I guess that the whole nation was thinking just the same, but I need to step in.

Marta: I need to do something and people just open their houses, they open their their homes and they really welcomed total strangers. Of course, if someone that, needs help you’re open to share some of your personal space, but it I think that it never happened. At this scale, it was hundreds of, and thousands of people who welcomed Ukrainians in their homes.

Marta: But I saw that it’s not enough. And since I don’t have much space in my house but I do have a lot of spaces at the airfield as my drop zone, especially in the winter time when we are not operating. We decided quickly to share every inch of space that we had and we recreated every office and the room that we had to the refugee center.

Marta: And yes, as mentioned before the first week was we’re very busy and we had hundreds of people not at the same time though. We had a rotation. So families were coming in they stayed for a few days or weeks depending on what their next plan was. And then when they left new families were coming in.

Marta: Yeah, a rotation system. And then after each family left one by one we continued to help in their settling in process. Like with finding a job or doing some paperwork with school or providing some basic supplies for the new start you can just imagine people.

Marta: coming to to Poland with all their belongings, not in the suitcase, not in even, a backpack. It were just a plastic bags like from Walmart, and they were occurring at for 2000 kilometers. It’s I don’t know, 3000 miles. Yeah, that, that was something that was obviously the most intense time of my life.

Marta: That’s for sure. And the most rewarding as well. And from this point I also wanted to thank a lot some Magento community members that stepped up really quick and helped me to continue the work because on the very beginning, it was quite easy to gather funds for running the shelter.

Marta: But since it’s not my daily job to run this kind of places I had no competencies to do this. And also not much resources. First of all Karen Baker, she was the first to help me out with covering some basic costs that we had on the beginning. And also Hyva especially Vinai and Willem.

Marta: I was touch with them from the very start and 10% of their income for two months was dedicated to the shelter that I was running. And also a lot of other people coordinated to my PayPal account. It really helped. It was not in vain. It never occurred to me that I had so many friends who wanted to help.

Marta: I really appreciate it. And you can be really proud of yourself. You help? A lot of people, we had 426 people in total at the shelter and yeah, including 270 kids. So thank you very much. 

Brent: Is the shelter still going or there was no need her things.

Brent: Okay. Yes. So things are start. I don’t wanna say normal, but 

Marta: they’re, it is still far from normal. We didn’t have to keep the shelter up and running after end of May. So we had it for three months. But I have to admit that it felt like it was three years really. But yeah, after three months it was no longer needed because.

Marta: The waves of refugees started to fade out and people found their more permanent places to stay. So that was one reason. And second reason is, was that we needed to start our operations. So we needed the spaces for our usual business as well. But on the other hand, we we still have a couple of processes that are

Marta: open and they’re constant. Together with my dad I’m not, I don’t think that he’s ever going to listen to this, but still I’m really proud of him because he’s keeping up an amazing work for the past weeks. He was able to gather funds for four ambulances. And now he just got an amazing support again from Magento community from fi and Tomic KKA.

Marta: Many of you might know them from Devant company. They were really helpful and they were so kind to donate money for two ambulances, which are going to Ukraine in a couple of days 

Brent: I saw some stories about ambulances that were coming into Ukraine and then volunteers that were going to the front line to help evacuate people, especially older.

Brent: I think a lot of elderly people that are stuck in that area are finding it very hard to leave or just even evacuate or at the time, especially, it was very difficult for them to move across that area. Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, I applaud you. And I thank you so much for all your hard work.

Brent: That is so great. 

Marta: It’s something that we are neighbors. We can’t really, leave our brother nation. When they’re at war, we just need to step up. 

Brent: That’s good. Switching gears into the Magento association. I think, I think that as you’ve helped with the Ukrainian crisis, you’ve also always helped with Magento and Meet Magento, and now Magento association.

Brent: Do you wanna talk a little bit about what you’re doing for the Magento association 

Marta: now? Of course I’m happy. For we started our cooperation on the beginning of the year. It was just, it was short before the war started. So the beginning of the cooperation was a bit hectic.

Marta: I shifted my focus on on the shelter, but now we are obviously back on track and I’m pretty much involved in events. I guess this is my domain and I helped in organizing MA connect this year and also in previous year as well. We have two additions. And one addition in 2020 when the pandemic started and one in 2021 and 20 22 now.

Marta: So yeah, I was pretty much involved in, and I hope that we’ll be back in within next month with some good news about new events. 

Brent: I saw that Adobe is going to have their summit in Las Vegas in March of 2023. So hopefully we can come up with a Magento association event that piggybacks on the Adobe summit and have a little bit more Magento representation at the event.

Brent: I would love. Yeah, as I remember too, there’s a down payment at somewhere in Las Vegas, still. , that they used. That’s true. There was a 2020 event that was planned. I’m sitting on the Magento. Membership committee and I am always looking for ways that we can entice people to join

Brent: the Magento association. I just interviewed Vijay Golani from India on some of his ideas on how we can get people to join. Do you have any thoughts on encouraging people to join the Magento association and the reasons why they 

Marta: would obviously the first reason. To be more present in the community and to, for example, to be able to vote when you have the voting, you can say that you have the real influence on what’s going on within Magento association. But obviously there are also other ways You only want to get involved in in the Magento community you can reach out to Magento association and there are a lot of committees that work on a regular basis.

Marta: So it’s it’s very easy to to join or to suggest some ideas, but you are asking how we could encourage people to join. I am a fan of asking the community directly what they want, because we can think that we know, but maybe we don’t, maybe we just assume that something and if we start with wrong assumptions that we would go wrong direction.

Marta: So if we ask the community what the community really wants, then we can address the needs that really exist. 

Brent: I think you’ve been involved in the Magento community for a long time. You’ve been involved in meet Magento, Poland in the past. What is it that drives you to want to be in a in the community and organize events? You’ve done so much for the community. What is it that lies within you that makes you want to do that?

Marta: I wish I knew I don’t know. It’s I’m a very community person. And the same as in my skydiving community, we have we have a lot of connections and this is something that I really like about the Magento ecosystem. It’s not the only business, like there are a lot of different initiatives, different backgrounds, different companies.

Marta: Everyone has the same goal. Obviously we are in a business it’s it’s our way to make a living. But still it’s something more than that. Maybe that’s why I still stick with the Magento community because it’s still alive. It’s still there. I know it sounds like a cliche, but still it’s about the people.

Marta: And I like so much being around Magento folks that I can’t really describe this and maybe that’s why I stick to events, because where to meet Magento people just on the events. Yeah. That’s why we missed in person events so 

Brent: much. . Yeah I agree. There’s some sort of magic there. I don’t know.

Brent: I haven’t been in, I’ve been involved in other communities, but it hasn’t been as magical as this and maybe there’s definitely a people aspect to it. I always enjoy, I enjoy going to meet Megento Poland, meet Megento Germany, nether. All those different places and traveling and meeting all those people.

Brent: And it isn’t the event so much, it is the people. And then when you start to get to know those people and enjoy their company and having some time with them, I think that’s the important part. Do you think there’s another community that can match the vibrance of the Magento community? Do you think it’s unique in any way or is there anything that’s this magic Elixer 

Marta: I don’t know if there are any other communities which might be similar to Magento.

Marta: It has an orange vibe, and I guess this is a really unique group of people coming in and coming out also because it’s a living organism. It’s not like a solid rock, I guess That’s exactly why it is unique. It shapes our real from day one to now and to the future.

Brent: Yeah. I think part of the uniqueness too, it was born from the founders of Magento Roy and Yoav and then Bob Schwartz and even Mark Lavell really embraced the community. I saw that, when eBay did their, when they were there, there was a kind of a drop off and. when when Mark Lavell started again, he really embraced it.

Brent: And I think that’s part of it is that the, whatever the brand is that’s around the community. If there is a brand, there has to be buyin from all parties, I think is part of it. And now I think Magento’s finding its place in the world with Mage-OS and the Magento Association.

Brent: I think it’s starting to find its feet again. 

Marta: I really hope that Magento association is is going to play a major role in shaping this Magento reality. And I know that it is not always been perceived as an important player, but now when the changes are being applied, the changes that are

Marta: really going to reshape the Magento association and with the more open attitude to, towards the community. I really think that we are going to make some difference. 

Brent: Yeah. I can say that from the membership side, from the event side, there’s a lot of very exciting things happening and I’m seeing a lot more transparency, especially from the Magento association.

Brent: So we’re seeing more about what’s happening internally and we’re seeing more news from each of the community meetings and it’s an exciting time and I’m very excited for what you’re doing in events and I you’ve joined our membership committee as well. And and had some very good insight for us.

Brent: Thank you. Marta as we finish out, I give everybody an opportunity to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like to plug today. What would you like to plug. 

Marta: I think we can, we started with with Ukraine and to be honest, I would like to end our episode also with a personal request for, to each of you.

Marta: If you can find a way to help Ukraine, everyone wanted to help on the very beginning and was eager. Either send money or supplies or to help in any other way, like offering jobs and so on. But after some weeks this general willingness to help faded a little bit and the war didn’t fight that much.

Marta: Didn’t fight at all, actually. So Ukraine still needs a lot of help. So each of us can really make a difference. I can say from my heart that every single act of kindness or any single act of help is changing someone s life. So I would really like to each of you to find a way to.

Marta: Ukraine in any way you can 

Brent: thank you. Yeah it does. It starts with one person. I before this, I was talking to Dmitri from Swiss labs, Swiss up labs, and he also had a very good recommendation for a paramedic service. We will put any recommendations in our show notes today and make those links available to everyone.

Brent: Marta, what is your next event coming up? What is your next big thing you’re gonna be doing? 

Marta: We’ll, I hope it’s going to be either ma connect. So our online event, or maybe a Magento association in person event, we’re still figuring out the details, but I really hope this is it.

Brent: Yeah, me too. Marta, it’s been so great talking to you. Thank you for the time. Thank you for a wonderful evening. Thank 

Marta: you. Bye bye. Bye.

Talk-Commerce Michiel Schipperus

Real-time B2B Commerce with Michiel Schipperus

B2B commerce is complex, and getting real-time data from your ERP is important. We interview Michiel Schipperus (@Schipperus) with Sana Commerce. We learn how Sana ties directly to your SAP or Microsoft Dynamics ERP. He explains how he is helping companies worldwide achieve e-commerce success. Michiel has been working with B2B eCommerce for the last 20 years and leads a company of over 500 fantastic people worldwide, all with unique talents. You can hear Michiel’s passion for his business and employees.

Big News: This episode was recorded before the Gartner Magic Quadrant report came out. Sana Commerce was named as a Niche Player in the latest report. See here


Brent: welcome to this episode of talk commerce. Today. I have Michael Schipperus. He is the CEO of Sana commerce. Miguel, go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us what you do in your day-to-day life and maybe one of your passions. 

Michael: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Brent, for having me. So my name is Miguel.

Brent: Welcome to this episode of talk commerce today, I have Michael Schipperus. He is the CEO of Sana commerce. Mic Miguel, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Brent: Tell us one of your passions in life and what you do on a day-to-day basis. 

Michael: Yeah, Brent thanks for having me. Yeah, one of my passion. I just recently started to pick up adult tennis. You know what I mean is, you know what it is. Yeah. It’s becoming pretty popular. It’s coming from Spain, but it’s something that I really enjoyed doing recently. Although not yet really good at it, but starting to grow as a passion.

Brent: That’s great. And so your day-to-day role, you’re the CEO of Sana commerce. Tell us a little bit about it. 

Michael: Yeah. So we are in the B2B eCommerce space now for 14, almost 15 years. So I would say we’re pretty early on discovering the need for B2B companies to have something different when it comes to eCommerce.

Michael: We started around 2007 and today we’re over 500 people teams around the world and our. Business passion is to help B2B companies go online. And before that I was running an e-commerce agency and we were helping a lot of retailers sell online, but around 2007, we got more in touch with wholesale distribution, manufacturing companies.

Michael: And at that point we were helping them. We try to help them with the same eCommerce solutions that we helped that we use for retailers. But first 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 projects filled. And we didn’t know why, because we were always successful with with commerce. But then we figured out that B2B.

Michael: Companies actually need something else. That’s what we have been doing for over 14 years now. It has been very exciting to see all these B2B companies really grow and really catch up to all these retailers that are already for many years, doing such a fantastic job on the web. 

Brent: I’ve also been in the eCommerce space since 2009, something like that with Magento, mainly, but now with other platforms.

Brent: And definitely B2B clients have taken a long time to adopt the eCommerce model in their business. Maybe tell us some of the differences that you’ve found between the retail direct to consumer and B2. 

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. And I think the reason why that is, I always felt like these B2C companies really got a lot of pressure from their customers.

Michael: They said, if you don’t have a web store or a good, nice looking web store, then I’ll go somewhere else. And I think in B2B that’s a little bit different, right? A lot of these business customers they really depend on their supplier, so it’s not easy for them to switch. And therefore, I think they have been more.

Michael: Patient, I think that is with B2B companies that are not as fast to adopt eCommerce solutions and yeah, talking about the differences. I, there are a lot, it’s very different. And I think a lot of people are overlooking that or under how do you say that? How you say that they’re 

Brent: looking they’re looking for teachers that aren’t on the platform.

Brent: No, 

Michael: I’m just saying that a lot of People don’t understand how complex B2B is. They look at BBC, they look at B2B and say, Hey, it’s pretty similar because it’s in the end of the day, it’s a transaction. And I think that’s oversimplified because for B2B companies, the transaction is a lot more complex than for B2C companies.

Michael: And and I’ll give you an example. If you or me, we go to Amazon, we buy a book it’s very straightforward. We get, probably get the same price. It’s a product that’s probably available in stock. We pay directly with credit card. It’s, it’s done with BWE that’s different, right?

Michael: Probably as a BWE buyer. I have. Prenegotiated prices. I buy big volumes of products. I get tier discounts. I get volume discounts at the end of the year. Maybe I get, refunds or something based on how many products I order, how much I spent. You can have very complex VAT calculations.

Michael: My order might even trigger a production order where it’s made to order I can have my own customized products that I’m buying. So what I’m trying to say is that the B2B transactions are way more complex than B2C. And I think a lot of people didn’t really understand it.

Michael: Even some B2B companies didn’t understand themselves actually how complex B2B buying and B2B selling was especially if you want to do it. Does that make 

Brent: sense? Yeah. I think the platforms too were slow to adopt. I don’t think Shopify has a viable B2B solution still. And some of the other platforms have taken only in a number of years have they started adopting some of those B2B practices?

Brent: So I think you’re right. There is a gap between what is needed in that market and what is provided in the market. Yeah. Where does your platform fit in from a a size level? Is it geared towards enterprise clients or is it geared for the entire spectrum? Yeah, it’s geared 

Michael: for the entire spectrum.

Michael: So we serve really small companies, but also, multi billion dollar companies. Yeah, we we serve both around the world actually quite well. And that’s, I think because of our focus, we have always been focused on the B2B. Business case. And I think that makes all the difference that typically, if you look at all the bigger eCommerce platforms they grew up, serving retailers, B2C business cases.

Michael: And later on, they said, oh, we see the opportunity with B2B. They added B2B features, if you start building your product with a certain use case in mind, it’s not as easy to pivot, I think, especially cause, given the the, my point earlier that B2B and BDC are so different because the transactions are different, but also the relationships are very different.

Michael: I think the relationship that you may have with Amazon is very different. What a B2B buyer will have with their supplier that he might buy from. On a weekly biweekly basis. And they might even know the names of the people that work there in vice versa. And they have built up a relationship over many years, and throughout these years they have made all sorts of agreements.

Michael: And like I said on, tailor made pro products at such. So there’s in B2B so much more complexity and such a different relationship. That it’s I think also looking at eCommerce, it’s hard for a B2C platform to pivot and be very good at B2B as well. 

Brent: Tell us a little bit more about Sana commerce.

Brent: Is it’s a SaaS platform clients are connecting via APIs. Yeah, 

Michael: absolutely. The key difference With Sana commerce compared to almost all other e-commerce platforms in the world is that we, with our APIs, we go directly to the ERP system to the database of the ERP system. So instead of going through an interface where you will.

Michael: Basically synchronize some information from the ERP system to the eCommerce solution, vice versa. We go directly into the ERP system. That’s what we call ERP integration. Although I think a lot of companies that do these interfaces will call it European integration, but And in this way, we have two major benefits.

Michael: One is that we can get all the information from the E R P system and not just the information that goes through the interface. And second is we always know that the information is accurate, becomes because it’s coming straight to from the source. 

Brent: It’s an approach as a if you’re writing your own software and you have the ability to do that from the code level that, that gives you the advantage as a merchant to have that more, I guess we’ll call it a more close integration.

Brent: And you also don’t depend on a third party being up in case somebody went down. I can remember a time where we had a very high volume client and they had an interface that we were gonna go to and they, and I said, our, we’re. Tens and tens of thousands of orders. And they said, no, we’re our system

Brent: won’t go down. And sure enough, their system went down because of the interfa the middleware. And just from a technical standpoint to, to let the listeners know that this not a you’re, what you’re saying is it’s a direct integration. Let’s say one road leads directly to the other where the typical, the new typical setup for a SaaS integration is a hub and spoke where you’re going to a central place.

Brent: And then it’s connecting again to the final destination. So you have a sort of a pass through and you’re now also dependent on that pass through. Yeah. So maybe tell us a little bit more about that and how that helps maybe in speed and reliability. 

Michael: yeah. Yeah. Good point. And to give you an example, if you’re in, you’re using a Sana commerce web store and you’re putting products in your basket. Then in real time, the E R P system is calculating the basket, not the eCommerce solution. So all the business rules, the discount rules, whether or not the product is available. The V a T rules are all being directly calculated in the ERP system.

Michael: And the eCommerce platform is just showing the output of that. so that’s very different. So it’s not. It’s where normally an eCommerce system would do all the calculation process, the order, and then send it to the ERP system where it’s being processed. Once again with us, if you with the Sana web store, if you put, process order directly, it’s being processed in the ERP system.

Michael: So you kinda have no issues afterwards where you’re saying, Hey, this you put in the order, but we. Accepted for some reason or they’re, rounding errors, those kind of things that you typically have when you connect in ERP system to eCommerce solution. And for B2C, that’s not that relevant for B2B that’s super relevant because you’ve got all these, complexity around this order.

Michael: And that’s the nice thing about E R P systems is that they’re very good at handling this complexity when it comes to, pricing or availability of product. So yes, it’s also has to do with what you mentioned, reliability. You want your. Online customer or as a B2B company, you want your online customer to know that they can rely on the information that they see on the web store.

Michael: And with Sana Commerce, there’s no chance that the, that information is not accurate because it’s coming straight from the source. 

Brent: I know there has been traditional struggles from the B2B side when adopting eCommerce besides the age of a lot of B2B owners. yeah. What are some, the other struggles for adoption of B2B?

Brent: In, in the, in trying to get online and sell stuff. 

Michael: I think the biggest struggle is that companies that finally say, okay, we want to invest in, in online that they they do. Directly get the concept of E R P integration. So they can set up an e-commerce solution connected to the ERP system, but not have the reliability that their customers are expecting from them, because then normally their customers would call and they would have somebody on the phone.

Michael: This person is looking at the E R P system and has all the information on. Customer in front of them. So can speak about it and say, Hey, what did you order last week? Last month, last year, two years ago. Oh, you ordered this. Oh, I need to have a spare part for that. And the person on the phone is, has all that direct access has all the information can really support this online customer in whatever he or she wants to buy.

Michael: Now. So if you go online, this customer wants to have all the information available as well in the same way, but if you don’t have that direct integration, you only have a subset of the information. So you might only have the orders that are, that you place through the web store. You will not have all the orders from five years ago that are only near your ERP system.

Michael: If you don’t have that. Close integration as you call it. So what happens? As online customer, you go to the web store, you don’t see that previous order data for instance, or are the information that you would like to have and what do you do? You pick up the phone again and you say, oh, don’t wanna work with web store anymore because it doesn’t have that information.

Michael: It’s not as complete as the person I get on the phone in terms of the information that that I get provided with. And it’s not as accurate or reliable as it should be. And that’s then you see what happens. Then they pick up the phone again, then they will not adopt the web store.

Michael: And then, we speak to the company says, yeah, e-commerce doesn’t work for us. Our customers don’t like it and it’s not true. I think there are very few people these days that prefer to pick up the phone over doing self-service on the internet. However, If you want to do self-service on the internet, you want to know that the, that you can trust the information that is there and that you have all the information that you need.

Michael: Otherwise it will not work. So I think that’s the biggest struggle for companies. If they. , they don’t start with the right setup in place that they will, their customers will not fully embrace it. And they will conclude that eCommerce is not working for them. And we heard that time and time again.

Michael: So I think that’s really a big deal. And I understand because a lot of companies, of course, if you, if I would be also this vision manufacturing company and I want. Buy an eCommerce solution, probably I’ll go online. I’ll Google eCommerce solutions. I’ll see Magento and Shopify and all the big players and say, oh, probably these solutions are great.

Michael: So I need to have one of those. But I think they have to look one, two more steps deeper and see, what’s the nature of my business. What is my core infrastructure that I have in place typically for these companies, it’s the ERP system. And then start thinking from there and say, okay, how do I take that information that I have there and take it to the web.

Brent: Yeah, no, that’s the great points. And I think a lot of I’ll pick on Shopify a little bit, a lot of, and they have such a huge marketing budget that CEOs of companies typically say, oh, they’re selling online. Let’s just set up a Shopify store, not realizing a that there’s gonna be a ton of things that they need.

Brent: And we could go into a feature list that B2B has that, that a typical D2C doesn’t have, and then B that they’re going to run into all kinds of fees and performance issues and all the things that aren’t typical in your. D2C store and you’re direct to consumer store where are more typical in a B2B store?

Brent: I’ll name one of ’em. I know that we talked about reordering or the volume of an order in your typical B2B shopping cart. You could have a thousand line items in it. Where in your typical D2C you’re gonna. 10 at the most or something like that your shopping card has to be robust to handle that maybe speak to some of those constraints that people encounter when trying to adopt a, B or D2C store in a B2B environment.

Michael: Yeah I like the example of reorder, right? Like I said, you might have placed an order a couple weeks or months, or even years ago. And you want to reorder that then, and you want to do that through your online web store. You need to be able to access that previous order through the web store.

Michael: And what I love about the European integration, it’s also that, okay, you placed the order or you want to place it reorder. You can also look it up. Call with a sales rep, ask them to adjust the order. And in real time, you can see on your screen that the order is being chased because changed because it goes directly to the ERP system to check that information and you can on the fly approve the order for instance.

Michael: So you have this because you’re all looking at the same information with this closed ERP integration. You can really collaborate in such a way that is pretty unique, I would say. And there, there are many more examples where if you have that philosophy and that approach of close ERP integration, as you call it earlier that for B2B customers, that it, that are so many more benefits and they will also lead to higher adoption.

Michael: So it’s not just, I think, in the features, it’s really also from my perspective in the fundamental. Set up of your business and your eCommerce environment. 

Brent: Yeah. And I think you’ve, I think that E R P integration too is important. If you think about some, a lot of B2B customers or a lot of B2B merchants might have a million SKUs and most retail eCommerce platforms are not gonna be able to handle that volume or even manage that volume.

Brent: So I guess it sounds like what you’re saying is through that really close knit, E R P integration, it’s much easier to manage all those SKUs when you’re using your platform. Yeah. 

Michael: And of course they’re also, downsides, right? Your information in your ERP. Needs to be clean, right?

Michael: If you make a big mess of your ERP system and then you open it up to your customers, then they can see the mess. That’s not how it should be. So you need to have your ERP system and your data and your ERP system in order. But once you have that, it’s fantastic that you can just make it available to your online customer.

Michael: And it’s all almost like they’re working in your ERP system, but then in a much more user inter friendly user interface. And then also of course only seeing the inform. That is relevant and and accessible to them. 

Brent: Maybe talk a little bit about configurability. I know that some SaaS platforms have the downside of only being configurable to what.

Brent: The other thousands of people are doing on it. How do you manage configurability within your platform? 

Michael: Yeah. Good question. And it’s a hot topic indeed. But what we typically do is we just like we leverage the E R P system for all the. Complexities around pricing and availability of product.

Michael: And a lot of other things, we also leverage the functionality of CPQ tooling, for instance. So we integrate with that tooling to do the complexity of, to handle the complexity of config product configuration if it becomes really complex and then we take the output of that and we say, okay, now you can process that order in your shopping basket, but we just provide the visual interface, whereas all the.

Michael: Complexity is being done by third party tools. 

Brent: And what about language and tax? I know that certainly it’s harder for Europeans sometimes to come to the US and vice versa US go to because the way tax is done here is completely different. In a wholesale market in the US, nobody would ever pay tax in.

Brent: I know in Europe with that, you would typical. Charge on that tax and get a credit. Yeah. Maybe talk to some of those complexities around tax 

Michael: and yeah, for us we love complexity. And why is that? Because typically this complexity for business has already been solved. And then we just leverage what they have used to create to manage that complexity.

Michael: So for instance, with taxes Typically, I think a lot of our customers in the us use Avalara for calculating taxes. And then we just use, the output of that to show it in a web store. Either it’s in the ERP system or it’s, third party integrations like Avalara. So in a sense, Sana Commerce is a pretty straightforward solution because we don’t create a lot of extra complexity.

Michael: Leverage the complexity that customers already have in place. So I love to speak with prospects that have a very complex business maybe because they work with best before dates and all the complexity that comes with that. We don’t care. We, they already have systems in place that manage that complexity.

Michael: And we’ll just take the output of those, processes. And we’ll just show them in the web show, show those in the web store. So we tend to keep it simple because we don’t have to recreate any of that complexity that the customer already has. 

Brent: and just a little bit about complexity and workflows.

Brent: You mentioned a couple times that you’re taking a lot of this from the E R P and ERP may have specific workflows on say, who’s gonna approve something. Are you adopting all those workflows into the eCommerce system as well for if a buyer has to get an approval from another member of their team or even teams working together and then pooling.

Brent: Orders maybe speak to that. Yeah. Good 

Michael: example. That’s indeed functionality that we have within Sana. So within Sana, you can set up these business rules who can order what, and who has, which authorities. So this functionality that we provide, however, if Business has already set that up in their ERP system.

Michael: We can also leverage that we, so we got a bit of both the same with product enrichment. If a customer manages that from the ERP system, or they have a PIM system in place where they manages, their product catalog, then they can use that. That’s fine. If they don’t, we also offer functionality in Sana commerce to manage product enrichment.

Michael: So we can go basically go both. 

Brent: We touched on the idea of the amount of SKU. Is there a sort of upper limit that you would wanna attempt to do, or is it open to SKU count and open to categories and things like that. Yeah, 

Michael: no, there’s not directly a limit.

Michael: I I don’t know if there will be at some point in it there’s always a limit. But we typically do stick to limit. Of course, if there. More SKUs. We always need to do a bit more work, bit more testing some tweaking and tuning on the caching side. And of course we the company need, need to be able with their ERP system to manage certain volumes.

Michael: Because if we process an order, like I said, it gets directly processed into the, your ERP system typically. It’s also good to stress test the ERP system on the amount of transactions that it can process within a certain time window. Typically, in our experience in B2B, you don’t have these in our experience, at least the type of customers that we have these crazy what is it?

Michael: What is black Friday events you have less of that in B2B. So typically these spikes are a little bit less there compared to B2C. 

Brent: I said earlier that maybe the larger comp the more performance issues would be around SKU count and even SKU count in the cart rather.

Brent: Getting slammed with thousands of orders all at once. Yeah, no 

Michael: yeah. It’s a good point. Yeah, no. And in terms of SKUs I, there, yeah, like I said, there’s always, if there are large SKUs with lots of attributes and complex search, of course you need to do extra work. But we I think we have yet to encounter our limitations there.

Brent: It’s just talking about attributes and limitations. One problem that I’ve seen in the magenta world is the ability to create as many attributes as you want, and to create as many VAR attributes or text based attributes as you want. And in the I think in the SKU management world, There should be some restrictions on that.

Brent: Like the advantage of some SaaS platforms is that you don’t give the users so many choices and because of that, it helps them to manage their store better. Yeah. How do you deal with somebody that wants to set up hundreds of attributes and may decide? I want to have 200 attributes that are all text based.

Brent: Yeah. 

Michael: Yet for every. New customer. We provide what we call handholding services. So we will guide them through the process of setting up their web store. So this consultancy involved. And once we see that are, not making. When they are planning to make decisions that will be unfavorable for the performance of the website, of course we’ll advise and we’ll talk to them and make sure that they will not create too many attributes that will, limit their search performance for instance, or there navigation performance.

Michael: Typically that’s how we do it. So it’s more in person guidance and consultancy around. 

Brent: Some of the buzz words out on the market today are around headless and API first. How are you positioned in that? 

Michael: Yeah, I think just like any other platform we say, okay, we’re headless and that’s true.

Michael: We can function with, without our Sana Head, so to speak that being said, it’s not something that among our client base is, the highest ranking topic on their agenda, so to speak. So I know there’s a lot of talk about it in the industry. Sometimes we discuss it with customers or prospects, but it’s not something that we are fully focused on because it’s, not the main topic for us at the moment.

Brent: And do you find, this is just a general comment that a lot. B2B clients just want to try to keep it somewhat simple. So having more of a monolith deployment of the application is sometimes easier than building it out into multiple microservices on PWA front end or something like that. 

Michael: Yeah I can definitely relate to what you said that, more I, that’s also what we recognize more and more B2B companies want to keep it simple.

Michael: I think in general, more companies, when it comes to software and it solutions say, Hey, we had this experience in the past where we had a lot of complexity, a lot of customizations, and now we want to have it much more simple. And that’s definitely something you can relate to. Like I said, we have the advantage that we don’t have to rebuild the complexity that they already have in the ERP system or potentially in other systems that we can leverage that what they already have.

Michael: And with that, we can keep things much more simple for them and much smaller applications. Yeah, I can definitely relate to that. Everybody wants some level of flexibility, of course. But I think in the flexibility that was A lot of people are speaking about with microservices, et cetera.

Michael: I think it’s for some companies, it’s great if they have large it teams that are managing all this complexity, but I see it more and more, at least among our customers and prospect that they say, okay, we prefer to keep it simple. We get so many other applications in a landscape to manage. If we can do something more simple in eCommerce that they’re really happy with that.

Michael: Does that make sense? Do you see that as well? Yeah, and 

Brent: I don’t wanna say it’s simple. It’s just it, maybe it’s it. It’s making the journey easier for both it and thus the customer, because you’re not adding a bunch of subsystems that your main systems is dependent in all these subsystems.

Brent: And I know we did. In a sense, a Valera is a is a microservice, but it’s also a microservice that’s maintained by somebody else. So I think some of those complexities happen when your team has to maintain all. Sub microservices and a lot of the API only solutions for eCommerce nowadays require you to build out microservices to get any additional functionality.

Michael: And that comes with a lot of complex or a lot of flexibility, but it also comes at a price, I think. And you need really large teams, I would say to manage that. 

Brent: Tell us a little bit about your team, about the Senate team.

Brent: You’re where you’re based in Netherlands. Tell us a little bit about the company. 

Michael: Yeah, sure. So we, like I said, we started 14 years ago and we have certainly back then we had this niche approach. We said we’re only going to work for B2B companies because there we saw a real need and we built our product only for companies that either run on Microsoft dynamics, E R P.

Michael: or an SAP ERP system. So with that, we are, very focused and like I said, a niche player, but then we said, okay, If we’re going to take this focus, we need to be a global player, right? Because otherwise our addressable market is too small in, in Netherlands or even in Europe. So our headquarters is here in the Netherlands.

Michael: We have another headquarters in New York. We have another office in Columbia and Meine we have offices in Germany in the UK in Dubai and. So we try to serve this customer that is B2B and running our Microsoft dynamics or SAP around the world. And then we got our development centers in Sri Lanka in Ukraine and also team in Meladinine in Columbia.

Michael: So we’re pretty spread out. We’re like I said, with around. 500 people. We want to be close to our customers and our partners. We work a lot with the E R P vendors because they of course, speak with the customers and prospects also about eCommerce and then bring us in. Yeah, so that’s basically how we’re currently organized.

Brent: And what about your roadmap for other E R P platforms like NetSuite. 

Michael: Currently it’s not on our roadmap. We’re discussing it. We’re thinking about if it’s not directly on our roadmap, that’s because we want to be the very best at what we do. So we constantly challenge ourself.

Michael: Is this the right time to also look at NetSuite? And we say we can be again a little bit better with our product for Microsoft dynamics and SAP. And we got now about 1500 customers. There are we estimate around a hundred thousand customers companies around the world that have SAP or Microsoft dynamics and are in B2B.

Michael: So we still there’s, so much growth potential there that we said, okay, we first want to be better at that before we go into NetSuite 

Brent: and from a it side, what sort of technical knowledge does a a merchant need to have to run your system. 

Michael: Not much, I would say it’s a visual design, so you can create your web store as you want.

Michael: Of course you need to involve some of the it people in the company to, get the APIs up and running. But like I said, we have these handholding services. So we really, we have done this already more than a thousand times, so we can really guide customers in what they have to do.

Michael: And there are small things that they need to do. But in general, it’s not a lot of technical knowledge, I would say. 

Brent: And I SAP has a front end solution. Do you compete a little bit with the SAP’s front end 

Michael: solution? Yeah. In a sense we do it goes a little bit back to what I said earlier that solution, I believe, has been built in a very different setup to serve, I think in the beginning, mostly retail customers.

Michael: So it’s a very different solution, more standalone. Sounds strange. Because, but it has been an acquisition from SAP, so more standalone and it can be connected to the SAP system. Whereas when we build our solution for SAP, We went, a lot more into the ERP system itself into the SAP system itself.

Michael: And that allowed us to build this really deep integration. So yes, we compete, but typically if we speak to a prospect and we show how we work and what our philosophy and our approach is, they see that it’s a very different approach in a very different way to to to basically solve their eCommerce needs.

Brent: Great. Yeah. Michael, thank you for being here today. As we close out the episode I always give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like, what would you like to promote or plug today? 

Michael: Yeah, I think, I just briefly mentioned that we got a team in Ukraine, so 130 of our 500 plus people are in Ukraine.

Michael: And as we all know, they’re in a pretty tough spot at the moment. Everybody listening, please support any way you can either financially or through, social media, let yourself be heard. I think it means a lot. And I think together, this as a world, basically, I would say we, we need to do anything we can to support people because it’s it’s really tough.

Michael: What’s going on there. Thanks for the opportunity. 

Brent: Yeah. And I’ll just comment on that as well. That the the world needs to stand up and talk about this and the more misinformation that comes out of Russia, the more misinformation that’s put out there. And I think the more we all stand up against that is gonna be better.

Brent: And I think thank you for that. 

Michael: Yeah, I agree. I think one of the risk is that it faded away. And I think we need to continuously even if it takes for month, we need to continue to focus on it and make sure that we don’t, that it doesn’t, that we don’t forget about it.

Michael: If 

Brent: yeah. And I think, especially from a technical standpoint it touches so many communities Magento and BigCommerce and Sana yeah, definitely. Thank you for that thank you for again for being here, Michael is the CEO of Sana commerce, a B2B tightly E R P knit b2B commerce platform. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you, Brent.

Talk Commerce Jisse Reitsma

Ukraine and the Magento Community with Jisse Reitsma

Magento was born in Ukraine and the health and safety of our Ukrainian sisters and brothers are top of mind. Jisse Reitsma and Brent talk over a little history of where Magento came from and the strong Ukrainian community that has helped to make it a world-class e-commerce platform. We dive into Shopware and its advantages in today’s market and close out with a little Magento Association talk. PWA to come next time

You can hear more about Meet Magento here