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The Attivo Blog

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When It Comes to Disaster Planning, Proactive Trumps Reactive

07-01-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
When It Comes to Disaster Planning, Proactive Trumps Reactive

A couple of weeks ago, a major storm blew through the Philadelphia area. In some cases, homeowners and businesses were without power for several days. Imagine your business being shut down for 3 or 4 days and how much that would cost you. Being proactive and having a disaster recovery plan in place before disaster strikes can save you tens of thousands of dollars preventing data loss, productivity loss and maintaining customer satisfaction.

It doesn’t matter if you are running cloud hosted ERP or if you are operating on an on-premise system, you can still plan for the worst and protect your business.

Not All Disasters Are Natural

There is no doubt that Mother Nature inflicts billions of dollars in damage to US businesses every single year.  While those stories are the ones that grab the headlines, businesses all over the country are vulnerable to damage and loss of data on a daily basis.  Cybercrime is on the rise, as hackers can wreak havoc and hold data for ransom. Servers crash and burn out all the time. Fires or faulty wiring can set off sprinkler systems, destroying internal infrastructure. A car accident down the street from your office building can take out a transformer and leave your business without power for a day or two.  Having a plan in place to keep your business up and running in the event you fall victim to a disaster (man-made or natural) is extremely important.

How Does it Work?

A cloud based disaster recovery plan will duplicate your on-premise set up — software applications and all — and set them up in the cloud.  At regular intervals, a complete backup of your data is taken and copied to the duplicate system.  In the event of a disaster, the cloud system is “turned on” and you can continue to run your business starting from the most recent copy of your data. If you have your data copied every hour on the hour, and your server implodes at 1:01 pm, you only lose 1 minute worth of data. If it goes down at 1:59, you lose 59 minutes worth. This is known as the Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

Your backup system can typically be up and running in a matter of hours, and can be accessed like any cloud system.  All you need is an internet connection and a login, meaning employees can continue to work from their workstations in the office, or can even work remotely if necessary.

There is no worse feeling as a business owner than having your operations crippled by server malfunction or data loss. If you have any questions about disaster recovery you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


7 Things to Know Before Implementing ERP

06-30-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
7 Things to Know Before Implementing ERP

Are you ready to start enjoying all of the benefits ERP has to offer? In order to see the cost savings, increase in productivity, and improvements in efficiency that you had in mind when you invested in ERP, you have to know a few things before you get started implementing the software.

1. ERP is for the Whole Organization

ERP is most effective when it is adopted organization wide. Human resources, production, finance, procurement, the C-suite -- all of these departments have something both to gain from and to contribute to your ERP success. Make sure your business process assessment includes everyone from the beginning.

2. It Takes Time and Effort to Implement ERP

A good rule of thumb is to divide the cost of the ERP by 100 to calculate the man hours it will take to navigate an ERP implemented, configured, tested, and running smoothly. That means that for a $20,000 system, you can plan on spending about 200 working hours, which is about five weeks, getting set up and ready to roll out the ERP fully.

3. Know What Features are Included (and How to Use Those Features)

One common problem is that businesses don't actually take the time to learn everything the ERP is capable of. In turn, employees aren't trained on it, and it goes unused. Before the implementation process begins, you should have a clear understanding of exactly what the new system can offer and what the new automated and streamlined processes should look like.

4. Legacy Systems Need to Be Retired Upon Implementing the ERP

If you hang on to old systems, these end up hanging like a wart onto the new ERP, making both less functional and efficient than either would be by itself. Give priority to retiring legacy systems and migrating fully into the ERP.

5. It is Essential That the Data in the ERP is Accurate

Data cleansing is an important part of ERP implementation that doesn't get a lot of mentions in the blogs. Bad data can ruin the efficiency and potential of your ERP, so make sure it's right before migrating it to the new system.

6. Regular Maintenance is Key to a Successful ERP

Most ERP solutions include regular maintenance. Don't skip it. Regular maintenance assures that the system is up to date, contains complete and accurate data, and doesn't have any glitches or errors that could derail your plans or stifle your operations.

7. A Couple of User Tests Doesn't Constitute Adequate Load Testing

Lastly, don't invite a couple of workers in on a Sunday afternoon for testing, planning to roll the ERP out on a full scale Monday morning. The system needs load testing to see if it's set up right and ready to handle all your workers and workload. Plan testing to mimic real world situations so that you don't discover an error or omission in implementation when production work and customer service is depending on it.

Not sure if your ERP is set up properly, or need some assistance making sure your implementation goes as beautifully as you hope? Call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


3 Ways to Automate Your Supply Chain Processes

06-29-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
3 Ways to Automate Your Supply Chain Processes

Whether it be upstream or downstream, proper supply chain management can help to reduce overhead, eliminate human error and improve customer service.  Supply chain management software can help to automate a number of processes in order to achieve these end goals. Understanding how to properly integrate this software with your ERP system, and undergoing the necessary training to get the most out of your software is paramount to hitting ROI goals.  Here are just a few ways that you can automate processes to improve profits.

Purchase Orders

One of the most important aspects of inventory control is maintaining a perfect level of raw materials on hand.  You don’t want an over-abundance of product sitting on warehouse shelves eating up overhead costs.  At the same time, you don’t want to be running out of materials, slowing down production and delaying customer deliveries. Automating the ordering processes is one of the first things that should be done when implementing a supply chain management system. Optimum inventory levels can be calibrated against historical data and can even be adjusted for seasonal demand. Alerts can be sent when inventory hits certain thresholds, triggering a new PO and a series of follow up alerts to make sure that there are no hiccups along the supply chain.

Supplier Shortages

One of your salespeople closes a large order.  Upon receiving that order, your software automatically checks inventory levels and alerts your purchasing department to order the necessary materials.  Unfortunately, your supplier isn’t going to be able to deliver the material with enough lead time to complete the order in the time frame promised to your customer. Based on the delivery date offered by your supplier a number of potential solutions can be set up. An alert can be sent to the purchasing department triggering them to search for an alternate supplier. The sales staff can get an alert, prompting them to call the customer to see if delivery can be pushed out or the order changed. Even your shop floor can get an alert telling them to delay production, allowing them to shift resources to other orders, allowing them to maximize the productivity of the job floor.

Managing the Job Floor

Intertwining your inventory systems with your job scheduling is extremely important in order to maximize efficiency.  But every now and then, the folks on the job floor might try to push on job to the front of the queue are make adjustments on the fly. While sometimes this is important in order to complete rush jobs or account for unexpected changes, it can also wreak havoc on inventory levels and purchasing. A workflow can be put into place that sends an automated alert to production and materials managers whenever a change like this is requested.  Without their approval of a schedule change, the software won’t allow the materials to be ordered or the time to be counted against the job.

These are just a few of the ways that supply chain management software can help automate processes and make things more efficient.  For more information on how to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in your chain you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Customizable Workspaces Key to Shop Floor Success

06-25-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
Customizable Workspaces Key to Shop Floor Success

When it comes to manufacturers, the shop floor really is the central hub of all operations.  An efficient and well-oiled shop floor generally means success across all aspects of a business. Customers are happy receiving quality orders in a timely fashion. Waste is reduced, leading to better cash flow and profits. Inventory levels are easier to manage and more predictable.

When manufacturers are looking to implement ERP, it is vital to understand how the users on the shop floor will interact with the software. A business process assessment is a good starting point to understanding old processes and diagnosing the needs of your shop floor employees. Once that information has been collected, finding a software package that can deliver is the next challenge.

Customizable Workspaces Improve User Buy-In

The shop floor is where a manufacturer’s most sophisticated equipment resides. It is where your product is assembled and quality is tested and maintained.  It is where government compliance is assured.  It is also where a vast majority of ERP data is collected and recorded. The employees who run the shop floor shouldn’t be slowed down by a clunky ERP system that is hard to use.  These aren’t desk jockeys inclined to navigate a software system or do copious amounts of data entry.  

Customizable workspaces, like the ones found in Exact Macola 10 (EM10), can help expedite those necessary processes. Shop floor users can log into a customized dashboard that has all of the tools necessary to complete their tasks on one screen. Project workflows and shop floor schedules can be accessed on one screen and drilled into with a few easy clicks.  Processes like inventory updates can be automated to coincide with the start and completion of jobs.

By granted the necessary user permissions with your software and setting up shop floor users with a customized workspace, it is far more likely that vital data will be recorded properly and your investment will pay dividends.

Understanding the needs of the end user is key to any sort of ERP success. Considering the importance that the shop floor has to the overall success of a manufacturer, their needs and opinions should be addressed before a software selection process has even begun. The customizable workspaces found in EM10 can go a long way towards ensuring the accuracy of the information your ERP system provides.

For more information about Exact Macola 10 and customizable workspaces you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


What is Cloud Hosting TCO and How to Calculate It

06-22-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
What is Cloud Hosting TCO and How to Calculate It

Your servers are on their last legs and as an IT manager it is time for you to make a difficult decision.  Should you upgrade your servers and continue to house your ERP software and other applications on premise or should you transition your system in a cloud hosted environment?

The rising popularity and reliability of cloud hosted ERP makes it an attractive option, but understanding the total cost of ownership of both on premise, cloud hosted and SaaS models is vital to making the most cost effective decision.

The Hidden Costs of On Premise Servers

Some IT managers look at their monthly budget and see hosting as an added expense.  But there are several ‘hidden’ expenses that go into an on premise solution that must be calculated and factored into the cost saving that a cloud hosted solution might provide. The most obvious expense is infrastructure costs.  You will need to replace your servers approximately every 5 years.  You will also need to pay someone to maintain those servers. Server software updates, anti-virus upgrades and firewall protection are also costs associated with an on premise solution. Electricity is another factor that is often overlooked. How much is it costing your company to run your servers and keep them cool? Keeping a reliable back-up system on site is another expense that needs to be calculated into the TCO of an on premise solution.

Additional Expenses to Consider with Cloud Hosted ERP

If you should decide to move into a hosted environment there will be some obvious cost savings.  You will no longer need to purchase or maintain your own infrastructure.  Things like anti-virus and firewall protection are built into your monthly costs, as is server software updates. Data backup is another item that can be negotiated into your monthly costs.  But moving into a hosted solution isn’t a simple matter of flipping a switch.  You still may need to take a look at internal systems that could add some upfront and ongoing costs. The most important thing to consider is your internet connection. Cloud performance is largely dependent on the speed and consistency of your internal network. Make sure that your current systems are sufficient to maximize the cloud’s performance.  If an upgrade to your system is required, calculate that into the TCO of a hosted solution.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of SaaS

If you are moving into your first ERP solution, SaaS could be a great starting point. There are no software licenses to buy, so initial cost of entry is going to be much lower than a tradition on premise or hosted solution.  That said, properly estimating how long you will be on a given system can help you calculate long term expenses. Depending on your monthly subscription fees, by year 4 or 5, your total subscription costs might run past the up-front costs of a tradition software license. If you are thinking about switching from your current ERP software into a SaaS model, it is also important to calculate training costs on new software into your TCO.  It is also important to assume a certain level of user rejection of a new system, and maintain ongoing training programs to minimize the financial impact of workarounds.

There is a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to migrate to cloud ERP or remain on premise. An ERP consultant can help you through the process. To learn more about cloud hosting for ERP you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or download this free whitepaper.

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The Attivo Group will get your system implemented - on time and within budget. Realize increased efficiencies, lower costs and improve profits. As trusted advisors for distributors, manufacturers and service providers, we will help you improve and automate your business processes.