Maximize Your Resources by Consolidating Your Tech Stack

Episode 70

February 11, 2020

With a small centralized marketing team tasked with digital transformation, step one for Jon Sujecki, Director of eCommerce and Digital Marketing at Enerpac, was to evaluate the company’s websites. On The Kula Ring, Jon discusses with Jeff and Carman the challenges and benefits of consolidating their tech stack, including sacrificing flexibility to be able to do more for less.

Maximize Your Resources by Consolidating Your Tech Stack Transcript:

Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.

Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners, a digital marketing agency made for manufacturers. I’m your co-host, Jeff White, and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing sir?

Carman Pirie: I’m doing well, sir. And thank you for asking.

Jeff White: Yeah.

Carman Pirie: I appreciate the concern.

Jeff White: I am concerned. I am concerned. So looking forward to our guest today on the show. Been doing some interesting things in terms of progressing the tech stack and the web development and moving into the eCommerce within their manufacturing organization. I think it’s just fascinating kind of what they’ve been up to and where our guest has been able to help take it.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, I’m excited for today’s chat. Let’s get on with it.

Jeff White: All right, so joining us today is Jon Sujecki. He’s the global digital marketing manager at Enerpac. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Jon.

Jon Sujecki: Thank you. Thank you. Glad to be here.

Carman Pirie: Jon, look it’s fabulous to be chatting with you. And I wonder if we could start with just maybe introducing our listeners to Enerpac and a bit of your history with the firm?

Jon Sujecki: Sure, sure. Yeah. So I’ve been with Enerpac for a little bit over eight years. Started in a kind of an internet marketing role, kind of a new role that they just started and it was kind of an approach to how do we make use of this thing called “the internet” and how do we get our products up on it. That kind of approach. I work for a very diverse industrial company. We sell tools that would be not, so to speak, in a commercial or maybe in a light industrial application. So things such as hydraulic cylinders that are rated for 10,000 PSI. So where you’ll find these things are many times under a bridge that’s lifting up a bridge deck or maybe a hydraulic torque wrench that could be torquing a nut to a very specific pressure. So the applications which these tools get used in are very industrial. So this company itself they’re not, so to speak, technology adopters at a rapid pace. So that’s kind of what I got brought in to do, is how do we start understanding the different landscapes and things that are out there and my career has kind of grown as we’ve had some good wins and good some successes.

Carman Pirie: So you’ve really been kind of leading this effort for a while. So I guess where did you start? And then perhaps we’ll evolve from there as to kind of how it’s progressed, but what was your starting point as you kind of began to unravel this?

Jon Sujecki: Yeah, I guess the starting point is just getting a feel for the landscape. Someone kind of gave me a quip when I started that went along the lines of, if you joined GE, you get an understanding of what you got to do in your role within the first two to three months. You start understanding how things go. And in our company, it might take a little bit longer just for the products are sold globally. You got to understand all the global players who are involved and the stakeholders from that end, as well as you know, they’re very technical products. So it takes a little bit longer to get familiar with what do the products do, who uses them, where are they used. And then just understanding the strategy a little bit about what are the business outcomes people are trying to take.

Once you kind of start understanding where the direction the business is going, you start getting some ideas in terms of how to collaborate with the right people, gather some good feedback for the voice of the customer really, your voice of the business, understanding what people are looking to accomplish and achieve. And then from there, you can kind of start understanding where technology might fit in. And that’s kind of where I fit in. And obviously the first point that I started in was in the webspace. So it’s taking surveillance of where are we at with all of our landscape of all of our different websites. And when you work for an industrial diversified industrial company, in many cases, a lot of the websites that we had come through acquisition and lots of technology that we had in place came through acquisition.

So you end up looking at what does your overall landscape looks like and you have websites that may be built custom, just straight, pure custom code to PHP or maybe on an open-source CMS like Drupal or even WordPress. And so you start looking at a diverse landscape and then you start understanding how would you manage this? How would you build great content or even build structured content if you have to kind of manage things across different technologies or even different frameworks for how things are built up? So you start kind of getting some ideas of how you do things differently. And that’s kind of led us down to some of the decisions around technology and just approaches to content and collaboration that we’ve kind of been on over the last these five, eight years at least.

Carman Pirie: So a core part of that has been a simplification or consolidation of the tech stack really, and kind of getting into something that you felt you could kind of live into more versus I guess spend more time creating and less time managing or am I putting too many words in your mouth?

Jon Sujecki: No. Yeah, I mean that’s precisely it. I mean if you think about it, it’s hard to build a set of skills for or a team with a set of skills to manage a diverse set of technologies. So you first kind of had to look at, yeah, you’re absolutely right, how do you consolidate, simplify things, make it easier. When I started we had a custom German site, a custom French site, you know, an Enerpac dot fr top-level country domain for multiple countries. Some of them still are in place today, not all of them, but we’ve consolidated a lot of our web presence just for the Enerpac brand. And then we also have some brands that are within the Enerpac family that we’ve put on a journey of consolidating them within the same platform.

So we recently, maybe about two years ago, started migrating all of our websites onto a platform that was a cloud-hosted Oracle application called Oracle Commerce Cloud. And that really helped us both consolidate just our peer marketing sites, as well as getting to consolidating our eCommerce sites because not only did we have marketing sites that are on custom applications or across different technology stacks, but we also had eCommerce sites that were on different technology stacks. So consolidating really helps you kind of build a stronger team with a certain set of skills that you can go farther with and really make the most out of what you’re trying to accomplish in terms of getting your business outcomes done and what the different stakeholders in your company are trying to accomplish.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, and the training benefits and consolidation of skill set seems to make total sense to me.

Jeff White: Yeah.

Carman Pirie: I just I guess before we say it’s all positive, I wonder, do you feel like you’ve given anything up in that transition or? And I don’t know what that might be, but-

Jeff White: From open source to enterprise you mean?

Carman Pirie: Yeah or is there a level of agility or experimentation that can be more nurtured in one versus the other?

Jon Sujecki: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can tell you right now we’ve been going through a web store eCommerce transition that’s… We have a web store that’s specifically set up for just our distribution partners. So it’s behind a login gateway where they’re able to go and see pricing availability, what lead times are, what their discount structures are for every item. Obviously they can check out, get delivery information, so on and so forth. That was all built on the custom application. So you have complete access to the backend of all the code. And one of the limitations we quickly figured out was when you’re moving to a cloud-hosted application, you don’t really have full access to the code. So you’re pretty limited to what configuration and rules and logic they have set up.

And fortunately, we did a good amount of diligence before we went into working the Oracle Commerce Cloud application to understanding what are our rules for B2B set up, what is our plan of attack for how we were going to handle various price lists, various customers on different price lists, how are we going to understand, discounting promotions, how would we handle these all in an environment that is fairly locked down. And when you start kind of writing out all of your rules of what you need or your requirements really that you need your site to do, you have to crosscheck all that too. Is it really there? Yeah, maybe in a sales meeting it’s there, but let’s actually dig into and actually really see what is all the granularity that’s available there. And fortunately, we’ve had some advancements in the application over the past, you know, two years it’s been that we’ve been on it.

So it’s kind of helped us get along the way about 80% of where we really want to be. But it’s also helped us in the sense of just overall time that we’d spend managing or doing break fixes on other sites. We’re now probably spending our time learning how to configure one application and that knowledge becomes reusable for every single time we need to deploy something else. So you build something once and you can, everything’s widgetized. So if you build, you know, a set of code for, you know, let’s say a distributor search, you can then reapply that same code set to every single site that you build. So if our company still remains acquisitive, and we buy more brands or more tool companies and those tool companies remained independent from a branding perspective and we need to build a spin up a distributor search, that code is already done. We have that widget, we have that functionality. We’re able to deploy and deliver that within a day versus weeks if we had to build that on a custom application or rebuild it all again. So that’s kind of where you get speed, but you also lose some things and just learning the technology itself.

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I really appreciate you just giving us a lens of kind of legality and kind of the seat of the pants impression if you will, about living through that. Because I think sometimes people talk about it as though it’s a black and white argument and we’ve heard arguments on both sides of the coin.

Jeff White: We’ve been in that sales meeting.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, of course. And you know, the fact is, it’s about making a wise trade-off and there’s a compromise that’s happening here. And you’ve made the decision that it’s for a good reason and I guess the ends justify the means as it were. And I just think that many marketers I think to try to oversimplify it and what not and the fact is that it’s just the reality is messier than that.

Jeff White: I think so. And, and the other thing too, I mean, but the scale of the platform that you’re dealing with, Jon, I mean, over 5,000 products, with 200,000 different specifications and six languages. You really do kind of need the support, I guess, of perhaps an organization the scale of Oracle to be able to have the ability to quickly spin up and maintain those levels of a site that is simply a little bit more difficult to do if it’s open-source or custom code the whole way.

Jon Sujecki: Yeah. I mean that is something I’ve kind of been thinking through is the nature of when you’re able to do that, you kind of… It goes back to the trade-offs decision. You lose some flexibility, but can you give that up for just having a smaller team? Because the nature of what you’re going to be given when you work for a company such as my own, it’s not looking to be on the bleeding edge of technology and looking to squeeze, always look to do more with less. So when you know that you’re going to have a small centralized team, you’re going to be asked to do a lot, but you’re maybe not going to have the full suite of resources that a consumer type brand might be pouring into when they’re thinking we’re doing full-blown digital transformation.

So when you know that you’re behind the curve of companies who are going full-blown digital transformation and they’re probably putting a good amount of resources into rethinking all their business processes and you’re working for a manufacturing company that is maybe a couple of years behind thinking that way, you know you still need to deliver something that looks and feels and is maintained to a level that they see on a consumer level, just their interactions with maybe like an Amazon or anyone of those large eCommerce or web presence that they’re expecting you to be able to deliver something like that. And something that’s enterprise gets you a good amount of the way there. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely had very significant reservations in going enterprise and just saying, well, you know, we could probably just do something with them, something more open source and that would help.

But just knowing that you’re going to have a resource constraint and you’re going to be asked to do a lot with a smaller team, you go, okay, how do I get the most out of what I have? Let’s get us 75% of the way there, learn one technology stack really well, how to manipulate it, configure it, and then that will get us to accomplishing more business objectives pretty well or well enough that you’re delivering, I think something that’s actually satisfying the business than something that they’re asking why aren’t we there yet. How come this isn’t complete? What you might be working with if you’re starting at a larger starting point. You’re starting a little behind the game with something that isn’t fully enterprise. You’re still managing a server or you’re taking backups or you’re actually filling out with disaster recovery plan and you’re using a cloud application.

It takes some of the things off your plate that you have to do and you can focus more or less just on the business outcomes because they’re kind of pushing the updates out to you. So you’re getting the new releases. You’re able to take what are the new updates or features and functionality that they’re kind of helping take them off your hand to build up. You’re figuring out how to manipulate them and use them for what you want to do. Is it perfect for what you want it to? Not all the time, but at least it gets you most of the way there so you can kind of be pretty happy with what you’re getting.

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Jeff White: I think one of the really good examples of it kind of helping to push you along too, and you alluded to this a little bit earlier in the conversation, was just the ability to quickly reuse and repurpose code. I know that you mentioned you were able to spin up a new site for one of them—was it an acquisition I believe? Utilizing the same code from the Enerpac site in only three months and I mean that’s, you know for a scale of enterprise that we’re talking about, it’s a really quick turnaround. Can you tell us a little bit about that process and what you’re able to do there?

Jon Sujecki: Yeah, sure. I think this kind of more or less speaks to the technology and just understanding it fairly well. But yeah, more or less than building a second site really the three months didn’t have a whole lot to do with our ability to actually build the page layouts, the widget code, and restyle things. I would say that exercise maybe took one month or maybe eight weeks, if that. Really it came down to just organizing product data. That was probably the larger ask. You have 1500 products that we needed to get loaded into the site and they probably had somewhere around, I don’t know, 50 to 80,000 specs across those 1000 products. And you’re kind of also collecting and mapping images, not only just pictures of the product, but also dimensional drawings, line art, manuals, repair sheets, CAD files, and you’re mapping all of that up back to all your product data. Your data organization effort is maybe half the exercise, but the actual site build itself, the development is, there’s a lot of most mostly like a lift and shift-type effort of you’re cloning layouts and restyling them.

And so you’re mostly doing CSS work in terms of how you’re building up a second site. So it really was kind of neat to watch that you’re not starting from scratch. A lot of it’s reusability and tweaking the overall look and feel to match another brand’s brand identity.

Carman Pirie: Do you have that front end talent, CSS talent in-house?

Jon Sujecki: Yeah. And that’s been part of our approach long-term. When I started, everything was outsourced and that came with headaches and that came with costs. So one of those things that we, at least I champion heavily, in the beginning, is, you know, we can continue to do this at an exercise of putting together business proposals, projects and then getting authorization to make these enhancements, whether they’re large overall sweeping, upgrades the sites that could be large to small expenditures or we could build a team and we could do it ourselves. And building our team and doing it ourselves, we control destiny. We’re able to be a lot quicker, a lot more responsive and actually add a lot more value in terms of what we’re trying to do to accomplish what the business is seeking to do. So yeah, I would say we built a team. We have a team of about five people or four people right now, five shortly. But you know the team is able to spend a lot of its time just doing front end development. And we have some partners that we work with inside of our organization, do some of the back end development. And that is helping with our whole eCommerce experience as we were getting to just the whole integrations between payment gateways, pricing between our ERP system and our eCommerce platform.

Carman Pirie: You mentioned earlier too around the data organization is like half the battle of this and is that ever… I mean, if there’s data organization and content creation, they’d be the two most under-scoped-

Jeff White: Both client-side and agency side.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I just think that that’s where people often miss the mark and they don’t really appreciate how long that’s going to take. Did you introduce a PIM at that time or anything of that nature to assist with that?

Jon Sujecki: Yeah, I mean, oddly enough, that was my first major initiative that I championed. It was a PIM initiative. Unfortunately, we could not come to alignment on the technology. So between the IT organization, the marketing organization, I sit within marketing, I was definitely looking for more product management or marketing friendly PIM applications, whereas our IT organization was looking for more of alignment around technology vendors. So they’re definitively looking at let’s just keep things with a single technology provider. And so we couldn’t really get alignment on which technology to use. So we kind of forewent that implementation and unfortunately the business still has its deliverables as whether you’re able to set up the infrastructure to kind of deliver these things in the time that is looking to. So we unfortunately started, we had a good methodology in place to understand how to get PIM implemented.

So as long as we are working on the business case, I was still head down in terms of understanding how do we do classification and taxonomy and where’s data originating from, how do we build this into a good structure. And then thinking about the web in mind and thinking about faceting and filtering and just cataloging, merchandising. So a lot of those things were like in the back of my head while I was working on how we will approach PIM. So when we forewent it, we weren’t too far behind in saying are we ready to implement a web platform that is basically building a large product table in the background. So although we didn’t implement the PIM, we had some of that groundwork done that was all in preparation for implementing a PIM that helped us kind of go okay we’re not doing PIM.

Our web platform does have the whole notion of product types, attribution assigned back to product types. We had some of the groundwork done to loading a lot of our product data directly into our eCommerce platform. And I think that’ll help us as of this upcoming fiscal year, we’re back on the trail for implementing a PIM because we have future things that we needed to do that are additional benefits to doing it that we’ve kind of overlooked, but are back in the driver’s seat and getting that done. So that’ll be something we’ll be doing, but just didn’t do it before we did our eCommerce right now.

Carman Pirie: I appreciate that. I mean, is that kind of like you had the benefit of PIM thinking as a result of thinking it through and you were at least able to implement with the existing toolset in a way that is perhaps more structured and useful. I appreciate the insight into that decision-making process and I think everybody acknowledges that it can get messy. You know, IT and marketing don’t always agree. I just like the candor around that.

Jeff White: Yeah, no, I think that’s really great. I want to kind of use that as a bit of a jumping-off point for another line of questions. And really it’s more around… I mean obviously it’s very difficult to gather the content for product data and then kind of locate where all of that is going to come from, especially when you’re pulling content globally in multiple languages from multiple countries. You know, for the initial redevelopment of how did you go about kind of working with your stakeholders to get that content ready for the new site?

Jon Sujecki: Sure. Yeah. That was a challenge. I would definitely say it was a challenge. It was probably one of those educational things where it took a lot of, some people call them like workshop sessions or roadshows, but one of the things that the tool is escaping me, but we used basically a tool that helped visualize what the site was going to look like. So I help people think through the idea. For me, one of the critical things was faceting and making sure faceting was working in a manner that met how our end users were thinking and as well as product cataloging in terms of how our end users would be thinking or searching for product. So we used a tool to help make a lot of wireframes and visual comps. Because I know sometimes in my head I can see what the site’s going to look like and how it can be organized or I can build out like a quick table and say okay this is what it’s going to look like, but until it really looks really visual and actually like a web page, some people might not give you the full feedback or it might be incomplete analysis on what you’re proposing or trying to pull information out of them.

Because we do have a lot of diverse product lines and we have product managers who sit all over the world and sometimes they can manage products that are very similar or even overlapping. You know, we have two different product management groups that kind of make tools that provide torque outputs. So again different variants of torque wrenches with manual torque wrenches or multipliers or pneumatic or electric or hydraulic driven. So those groups sometimes don’t always align with what they’re thinking. But at the end of the day, the end-user needs one common set of how they’re going to filter. And once you start visually showing people, that kind of helps. So that kind of helped drive the collaborative approach and the collaboration approach.

And then also Excel is pretty smart at just setting filters on the top of column headings. So as long as you can kind of show them a visual and say, “Look guys, a lot of this fastening’s going to happen this way, that’s going to happen.” And then I would say the dirty secret to all of it, sadly enough is it’s interns. I mean I definitely had interns working. I had two interns working for me for a summer and you know, I definitely got them some beers from time to time just to thank them for all their hard efforts and dizzying days of looking cross-eyed after they’ve been looking at a spreadsheet for a while. So there was a good element of that. And I also, I think we used some tricks in Adobe to export some tables from either catalog pages or other print assets, which kind of gave a headstart on some of the tabling exercises of harmonizing data, understanding faceting filtering.

And then the media was always a constant go-get in terms of collecting just product hero images to application images to drawings. That was just an exercise that we started, I don’t know, nine months before we attempted to even launch the site. And we started even collecting media and understanding, okay, whereas break it down by category, break it down by a series within a product category and let’s just focus on small bits at a time. So it’s a large apple to eat and you’re not going to eat it all in one bite. So you start planning and you’re breaking into small bites that you can do, small piece after piece after piece and you just hope your structure and the way you’re organizing your data, that taxonomy doesn’t change otherwise. Okay. You’re taking a step back and reevaluating how you set things up.

Jeff White: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Were you able to kind of document a process after that has helped you in site build sits?

Jon Sujecki: Yeah, for sure. I think fortunately we nailed the largest portion of our catalog. So in terms of our overall product catalog, I think we nailed the largest portion with the Enerpac side. So everything else seemed like easier efforts since then. So ever since then, we’ve acquired two companies, actually three companies since then. Two of the three we’ve onboarded into kind of our eCommerce platform or you know our web platform. We’ve onboarded all their product data into that. Yeah, I have defined some level or process in terms of thinking through cataloging first, where do we want to categorize things and then thinking through just product data organizing the products just by a single type, and then, okay, what, how do we do an attribution to all these types of products. Fortunately, we’re kind of in a highly specified type of environment in terms of where our customers are. You don’t buy a portable machining tool without knowing a whole lot about it.

So, fortunately, we are a spec-heavy type company. So you do spend a lot of your time evaluating specs and dimensions and making sure as you start going across product types, no new attributes are invented, that every attribute is the same thing. And then I think once you start showing people large sets of data and start having them review, you start pulling things out of the woodwork and saying, okay, yeah, well these two things are synonyms. Sometimes you just call it a little bit differently when we’re doing things in SubC environments and you’re like, okay, I understand that, but let’s keep the attribution the same. So that way, faceting doesn’t break or filtering doesn’t break. But in certain situations, we figured out how to do exceptions to the rule and we figured out you can set up new page layouts and that for these page layouts you can show these properties and for these page layouts you show these properties. So we’re able to work around it in some of the cases where unfortunately the exceptions became the rule.

Jeff White: I mean that is so often the case where you’ve got, this is a basic example, but you know, nine different terms for the same color of brown.

Jon Sujecki: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Jeff White: Or something like that, different spellings or what have you and it just ends up making it so difficult to create a consistent taxonomy across the entire breadth of product data. So I applaud your interns, I’m sure that was a heck of a nine-month period, for sure. But yeah, that’s a big, big, big undertaking.

Jon Sujecki: Yeah. And that was the real challenge here. Just when you have product managers who don’t look across their lines, you are then the de facto global product manager to some extent of defining the rules of how things happen across product lines. So you set the standards that if you go from one category to the next category that it still operates the same way. So you end up getting a litany or maybe a rapid-fire list of emails throughout a day from a set of two poor college kids who are trying to understand the difference between operating pressure or advanced output at 5,000 PSI. Is that the difference between 350 bar? Yes. That means the exact same thing. It’s just you’re converting PSI to bar. Okay, so you ended up spending a lot of your time just doing a lot of translating for people who are not familiar with your product line into having them understand your product line a little bit.

Carman Pirie: I really appreciate you taking us through this today. I mean, I think it’s been a great insight into the decision-making process that you’ve employed as you’ve kind of gone through and are guiding the digital transformation at Enerpac and it’s been a real benefit to our listeners. Thanks so much.

Jon Sujecki: Yeah, absolutely. It was great being here.

Carman Pirie: All the best.

Jeff White: Thanks a lot.

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Jon Sujecki

Director of eCommerce and Digital Marketing

The Kula Ring is a podcast for manufacturing marketers who care about evolving their strategy to gain a competitive edge.

Listen to conversations with North America’s top manufacturing marketing executives and get actionable advice for success in a rapidly transforming industry.

About Kula

Kula Partners is an agency that specializes in maximizing revenue potential for B2B manufacturers.

Our clients sell within complex, technical environments and we help them take a more targeted, account-focused approach to drive revenue growth within niche markets.


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