Fascinating technology

2022 CTO of the Year: Mike Knapick, SanMar

A Southern California transplant who stays true to his roots in the Golden State by coaching high school volleyball, Mike Knapick found success at SanMar (asi/84863). Since joining the Issaquah, WA-based Top 40 provider as chief information officer in 2014 (after stints at Expedia, Accenture and other organizations), Knapick has led his team of more than 100 people in a number of high profile upgrades – replacing SanMar’s warehouse management system, e-commerce platform and enterprise resource management (ERP) software.

Mike Knapick, Chief Information Officer of SanMar

Knapick combines the precision and problem-solving skills of a skilled mathematician (he has a master’s degree in math and originally aspired to be a college professor) with the practicality of a business professional. “Mike is one of the smartest people I know in the industry and does amazing things at SanMar,” says Power 50 member Jon Norris, Chief Operating Officer of Top 40. United States (asi/89320) and Advisor Technical Director of the Year 2019.

Replacing ERP systems is notoriously difficult, and for Knapick and his team, updating SanMar’s decades-old in-house ERP platform to Microsoft Dynamics 365 was certainly one of the biggest challenges. they were confronted. President and CEO Jeremy Lott noted at last year’s ASI Digital Expo that this was a three-year implementation of a two-year project and that it cost double what it was supposed to cost. The extra time was necessary because one of the biggest problems, according to Knapick, was figuring out which aspects of a packaged solution shouldn’t come out of the box and which needed to be changed to “enable you to do your job the way you want to.” want”.

The other challenge was timing. SanMar commissioned its new ERP in May 2020. Typically, with such a massive deployment on deck, everyone camped out at the office, taking turns napping in one of the 100 sleeping bags provided by the company. But the pandemic has made that plan impossible. “We had all this equipment ready in the office for people to come in, and then everyone gets sent home and starts working remotely,” Knapick recalled. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘What are we going to do? “”

SanMar decided to manage the transition remotely. The old ERP was shut down on a Friday morning, and for the next 72 hours the IT team worked hard to have the new system up and running by Monday. “We really had to take a big leap in the end and believe that our tests did what they were supposed to do and that our training of our users was correct,” Knapick says. “It was a very, very long weekend.”

In his spare time, Knapick coaches high school volleyball.

In his spare time, Knapick coaches high school volleyball.

There were, of course, wrinkles to iron out after such a massive deployment. SanMar experienced credit card processing issues as well as problems calculating state tax on departure, Lott says. Despite the issues, SanMar was able to fulfill all orders placed that day, even though some customers were not billed for said order. “It wasn’t really smooth,” Knapick says. “There were a lot of people scrambling when things weren’t working out exactly the way we thought they would. I had a lot of people on the team who got creative with how to make things work.

Not everything will work perfectly, especially with technology, but hard work has led to a significant result. Knapick adds, “I would say it was a success in that we were able to take thousands of orders and ship them on day one.”

And that, according to Knapick, is the true role of technology at SanMar: “Once you give us that order, we have a responsibility to get it to you as quickly as possible. … It’s not about deploying the coolest thing. It’s about identifying what is the business challenge we face and if there is a way to leverage technology to improve it. »