Q&A with Eric Newell
We recently had a Q & A session with Eric Newell, the President of Stoneridge Software. Here's the full Q&A which includes more information on Eric's background:
Why did you start Stoneridge Software?
This business allows me to combine two of my biggest passions - I've always wanted to start my own business and I love the challenge of taking complex business issues and figuring out ways to streamline them with technology. I could tell a few years into my career working with Dynamics that eventually I'd like to make the move into the partner space as I like to build relationships with customers and help them solve their business problems, and as a partner you get to focus on that work.
Over the past few years working with Dynamics AX, I found that there was a real gap in the expectations of customers versus what was being delivered in the market. So with my background in managing projects and some help from my very knowledgeable friends, I knew that we could be an excellent alternative for customers looking for the whole package in a Microsoft partner.
From a business side, I am one of those people who likes to have my hands in everything, so I enjoy the opportunity to learn about health care programs, do the accounting for the business, develop readiness programs and build websites. I enjoy the variety that comes with being involved in all aspects of the business.
What makes Stoneridge Software different than other partners?
Dynamics AX is such a broad-ranging complicated product to implement that it takes a special kind of person who has a deep passion for learning to be successful with AX. When looking for the right partners in this business, I wanted to work with people with extensive experience in Dynamics AX and a strong passion for continuing to learn and get better. I feel like the team we've put together has the best combination of product knowledge, passion for learning and connections within Microsoft and the Dynamics ecosphere.
We want to have successful implementations more than anything. We're not going to try to sell some particular ISV product with every deal; we want to work within the framework of what works best for the company. When we work with companies our goal is to improve the team's knowledge so they can become self-sufficient and not be beholden to us for any future changes they want to make to the system.
Why did you decide to leave Microsoft?
I learned a tremendous amount at Microsoft and it's amazing to have the best and brightest in so many different technologies areas all assembled in one place. I loved my team that I had built over the past few years, but I was spending more time talking about internal policies over which I had little control rather than focusing on what was best for my customers. I realized the time was ripe for me to pursue my dream of starting a business, so I made the jump and have no regrets about following my dream.
Tell me a little about your career at Microsoft
I started with Great Plains Software in 1999 as a support engineer for the Dynamics GP product and when we got acquired by Microsoft in 2001 I had started to transition into a leadership role around Support Operations. From there I led the global rollout of support tools as we integrated the Solomon and Navision teams into the Great Plains tools and then shifted over to the Microsoft systems from there. In 2004, I left the internally-focused system world to get back to talking to customers as a Technical Services Account Manager on the Premier team for Dynamics GP and then Dynamics CRM. I met many customers during that time and enjoyed the opportunity to help them with their implementations - I even got to do the first Health Check on Dynamics CRM. In 2008, I got the itch to go back into people leadership, so I became the Premier Field Engineering Manager for Dynamics where I spent the last 3 years focused on Dynamics AX. On that team, I built the group from 4 to 15 people and grew the business an average of 60% per year as the market for Dynamics AX expertise grew. In this role, I became more and more intrigued by the problems happening in Project Management at many customer sites, so I really dove into learning about how best to manage projects and set proper expectations on these big ERP projects.
Why did you end up diving into Project Management more?
In Premier Field Engineering, we were frequently brought into situations where projects were falling apart. I really started to learn the importance of Project Management as most projects got off track due to the lack of a project plan and of coordination of resources. Having worked on various customer and internal projects in my 13 years at Microsoft, I have seen all varieties of successful and not-successful project managers and project plans. I started to get more involved with AX project leaders talking about how they ran projects and read more and more about Sure Step to the point where I passed my Sure Step implementation test. I soon began teaching the Implementation methodology to the AX Academy (Fast TrAX) consultants where my session was rated the top session in the 4 week training. I began doing more speaking on the topic at Executive Briefing Center presentations and User Group events as well. I am excited to say that I'll be speaking at Convergence this year - my presentation is called 50 Tips in 50 Minutes for Better Project Management on Dynamics Implementations.
What are some of your hobbies?
My favorite thing to do is spend time with family - I have two girls who are 8 and 6, so whatever I can do with them I enjoy. I am into music - I play guitar and sing in a part-time group (Stoneridge Road) and I like to be involved in the community, so I coach the K-2 basketball program (79 kids this year) and chair the Economic Development Authority to help attract new residents and businesses to town.
Where did you attend college?
I went to college at a smaller college that's part of the University of Minnesota system - the University of Minnesota at Morris. I majored in Management, French (oui, je parle francais) and Economics and served as the Student Body President for my junior and senior years.