Meet Gary Kirk
With a 26-year career behind him working on business processes and smart software solutions, our NetSuite Project Manager Gary, was fascinating to talk to. He explains how he journeyed through in-house roles to land at BrightBridge five years ago, as well as what his role here entails – really insightful for any prospective customers as well as people considering a software project management career.
If you missed our previous job focus blog posts with team members, catch up with them here:
Senior ERP Consultant, Keith
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Solution Architect, Dylan
NetSuite Technical Consultant, Sam
Now it’s over to Gary…
How has your career brought you to where you are today?
Much of my career experience is from in-house positions, where I’d be analysing challenges, mapping out desired business processes and engaging with companies like BrightBridge to meet our needs. When I was young, I used to say that I wanted to be a businessman… but I don’t think I had any idea what that really meant apart from I’d definitely get to wear a tie! As I got older, I considered accountancy because I was good at maths, but it was subjects like business studies and economics in GCSE’s and A-levels that led me to a Systems Modelling degree in Sheffield. It was a very interesting hybrid course that mixed broad business skills with statistics, analysis and modelling and it was a sandwich course too, which led to a 15-month placement working as an analyst within the Quality, Performance and Improvement department at Britannia Building Society.
This opened my eyes to the world of planning business processes and when I finished university a year later, I was offered a job as a Business Technician with Walkers Snack Foods (Pepsico). I was soon seconded to the head office to work on the design and implementation of a new scheduling system which was a great insight to the whole manufacturing and supply chain process. A little further down the line I moved to work for a global clothing manufacturer initially as a System Analyst. The business was a primary supplier to Marks and Spencer and was beginning a large transition from UK manufacturing to overseas manufacture and sourcing, meaning a lot of process and system changes.
After progressing to Group Project Manager at the same company following a management buyout, I was tasked with a project to consolidate the disparate ERP systems and other manufacturing specific software over five different divisions into Sage 500/1000 ERP. This was my first introduction to working with Ciber who were our Sage partner. I managed a team delivering projects over the next few years, travelling to factories in places like India, Mauritius, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, continually optimising systems and processes with Sage at the core of financial and stock control. In 2017 when the business was being restructured and sold to new overseas owners, I knew it was time for a change. Ciber had also dissolved in the UK and many of the staff I had worked with previously were at the newly formed BrightBridge, so I reached out to see if they knew of any roles available with any of their Sage customers. You can probably guess what happened next… yes, they offered me a job and before I knew it, I was managing both Sage and NetSuite projects!
So, tell us what is involved in your Project Manager role?
Typically, I initially get involved in the pre-sales process where I work with the sales team to understand what the prospective customer does, their key business processes and what they want to achieve so we can assess the size of the project and the resource needed to deliver it. I help produce an estimate, covering all stages of the project, then we then hopefully win the contract and move into the delivery. This usually follows a structured path with phases of analysis, design, system build and then enabling the customer through training and supporting go live. My role is essentially about aligning tasks and resources to move through these phases, whilst keeping a close eye on budget and scope! Often there is a project manager on the customer’s side – like my previous roles – and I liaise with them continually.
I can be typically managing up to three large implementation projects at one time as well as three or four smaller NetSuite optimisation projects. Currently I’m managing a large project for iconic interior design brand The Conran Shop, which not only comprises multiples subsidiaries and locations, website integrations and new points of sale system, but we’re also working to aggressive timescales. Two other projects of mine have just moved out of hyper-care and into support – authentic and throwback sports jersey brand Mitchell & Ness and organic children’s clothes brand Frugi – and I’ve just started managing Plentific’s NetSuite project. They offer a powerful marketplace SaaS platform that empowers landlords and property managers in the UK, US and Germany to manage their own repair and maintenance contractor supply chain.
What qualities does a NetSuite Project Manager need?
Baseline skills that you need are being organised and methodical – there’s a lot to keep track of! Having a broad knowledge of business, different sectors and being process savvy also helps when you’re trying to understand a challenge, and my industry experience prior to BrightBridge gave me lots of that. It’s essential to be a good communicator at all levels because my job isn’t just about creating Gantt charts. In one day, I may have to speak to the CEO of a company as well as end users, and potentially anyone/everyone in between! Internal communication is also important between our own project team made up of consultants and developers, and keeping management aware of project progress and inevitable challenges that arise!
I don’t have to know every inch of NetSuite, but the more technical knowledge a PM has the more advantageous it is – you can better understand how the whole system hangs together. I’d also say you must love a challenge and be prepared to get your teeth stuck in at times, as well as having trust in the people around you. Project management isn’t about micro-managing everyone. I honestly have a fantastic team around me, and I’d recommend BrightBridge to any consultants or project managers who want to work on great NetSuite or Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects.
If you’re interested in working for us, why not check out our careers page where you’ll find our current vacancies. And if you want Gary or one of our other fantastic project managers to get under the skin of your business, contact us for an initial chat about your business needs.