Customer Q&A: SRS Distribution
This week we sat down with Patrick Garcia, Vice President of Innovation and Technology Adoption at SRS Distribution, to understand how a 10-person IT team makes time for massive innovation at a high growth company. Read on to learn why ruthless commitment to people, process, and technology is the best approach to real digital transformation.
Q: Tell us a little about SRS Distribution. What makes you different from other building material distributors?
SRS Distribution is one of the largest roofing distributors in the United States, consisting of a family of independent distributors with one common purpose: to serve the professional roofing contractor. SRS Distribution attracts highly motivated and engaged individuals. Our culture is driven by a front-line focused, entrepreneurial mindset that is reinforced by our high level of employee ownership.
SRS grows both through acquisitions and by organically adding new locations, recently reaching 281 branches across 43 states and even entering the landscape supply industry. What really differentiates SRS from other building material distributors is our commitment to helping our customers grow their business, which drives our investment in technology innovation. Our technology stack is built for scale, with a building distribution specific multi-tenant ERP, a hosted data warehouse, and a plethora of cloud applications. When we acquire companies, we incorporate them into our enterprise systems very quickly. The day after the acquisition, they’re already on our ERP and in our data warehouse, benefiting from our technology capabilities immediately.
Q: It sounds like scalability is really important to you. Since you are a small team dealing with constant change, how do you prioritize your work to drive the most impact for the business?
Our approach to working in a scalable, efficient way is twofold: we have close alignment between business objectives and IT strategy, and we focus on API-led project development. As the Vice President of Innovation and Technology Adoption, I oversee digital transformation initiatives from the IT side. About a year ago, the company created a new role called “Director of Operations Innovation,” bringing over Pete Bachman from the field side of the business to more closely align employee and customer needs with IT initiatives. I’ve found that sometimes when you’re in purely enterprise architecture mode, you can stay in the theoretical and never make it to execution. With our increased focus on solving business problems, we’ve been able to identify clear priorities and focus on execution and iteration.
Additionally, we’ve brought on MuleSoft to facilitate a modular, standardized approach to project development. We spent our first 3 months with MuleSoft building a foundation for speed and agility. We identified all the APIs we needed to fully digitize the distribution process, then prioritized them by which APIs would provide the most value to the business (ex. pricing, order history, invoices, and delivery tracking). Our first project built on this foundation of reusable APIs was our mobile app Roof Hub, a one-stop shop for customers to track deliveries in real-time, view order details and jobsite photos, access invoices and more. The mobile app took 6 months to develop, and our team is currently reusing the same APIs to develop a web version that will launch in November, speeding up delivery time by 2x.
Q: How are you maximizing the value of MuleSoft’s API-led approach to integration?
Once we had a foundation of reusable APIs in place, we realized that we could fully digitize the material ordering process by integrating with the contractor CRM applications that our customers were already using. Previously, a contractor would email one of our branches to place an order, then we would manually enter the request, and our branches would constantly be fielding calls asking for delivery updates. To digitize the material ordering process, we identified the top two contractor CRM platforms and shared a set of APIs around our product catalog, authenticator and customer database. This way, contractors could place material orders directly into our ERP through their CRM applications, streamlining the order and delivery process.
Because this first phase was so successful, we’ve continued to expose more capabilities to these CRM platform partners. For example, we’ve developed a business event API that distributors can subscribe to in order to receive a notification when a delivery has been completed. The delivery completion notification triggers other API calls which allow them to download proof of delivery and invoice PDFs. We’re pumping out approximately half a million API calls per week now. Our primary focus with MuleSoft at the moment is to convince more and more partners to develop on top of our APIs to make the distribution process even more efficient.
Since we’ve developed such a robust ecosystem for innovation, we’ve found that our technology partners and contractors are now looking to us to push out new products or capabilities to the market. This is what’s happening with some of the new features on our platform. They’ll reach out to us first because they know that we can develop it the fastest. We’ve only just begun to understand the power of the API economy and its potential for unprecedented value creation.