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The Attivo Blog

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Usability, Mobility are Keys to ERP Success

 
05-14-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
 
Usability, Mobility are Keys to ERP Success

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is supposed to make life easier for those who plan products, purchase materials, control inventories, or perform any number of business functions. With a great ERP solution, a company should be able to improve the flow of data throughout the organization, permitting smart, informed decisions and actions.

Unfortunately, user-friendliness hasn't traditionally been one of the strong points of ERP systems in the past. But ERP providers are coming around to the importance of usability, because if people can't figure out how to use an ERP system, they can't derive maximum benefit from it. Here are 3 reasons why usability must be a priority with ERP software.

Consumerization Has Raised User Expectations of Technology

The so-called consumerization of technology has raised expectations. People are used to having their devices with them and having apps that simply work without a steep learning curve. When people are used to downloading apps and immediately using them, they have far less patience for complex user interfaces that aren't intuitive, and can quickly grow frustrated when faced with an app they can't derive value from right away. Even people who cut their teeth on legacy apps that were complex and hard to learn expect today's apps to deliver functionality and deliver it quickly.

Users Want Anytime, Anywhere Access to Vital Information

Along with increased expectations about ease of interaction with apps, end-users expect their apps to go with them wherever they go. The pace of business has accelerated, and many businesses that were once local now have multiple locations. ERP software has to allow for flexibility of deployment, which is often accomplished through the cloud. Decision makers want to have access to relevant information anywhere, any time, and on any device so they can operate with maximum efficiency and maintain a competitive advantage. Cloud hosted ERP systems that deliver great usability are the ones that provide this.

Great Functionality Prevents Reversion to Manual Processes and Workarounds

When an ERP system interface is too complex or poorly designed, users are not only resistant to learning it, they're more likely to reject it outright and revert to manual processes or workarounds. Before committing to an ERP solution, companies should ask vendors several important questions to avoid this problem.

• How easy is the system to navigate via user interface?
• Is it easy to execute business processes using the system?
• Can end-users perform their job functions empowered, rather than hindered by the software?
• Will this software allow us to run operations more efficiently and effectively?

The user experience is critically important to the success of your ERP system rollout. People are used to apps that "just work," and they're less likely to be patient with systems that have complicated or confusing usability. Not only should an ERP solution be easy to master and navigate, it should offer mobility for anytime, anywhere access to critical information. When an ERP solution focuses on usability, it enables a greater, faster return on investment, and helps a business become more effective, efficient, and productive.

If you would like to know more about how outstanding ERP software can help your business run more effectively and efficiently, call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


 
 

PCCharge Being Sunsetted: What This Means for Exact Users

 
05-01-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
 
PCCharge Being Sunsetted: What This Means for Exact Users

In early April, Verifone announced that it will be phasing out support of their credit card processing solution, PCCharge. This will have widespread ramifications for Exact software users for a number of reasons.  For customers looking to process credit cards in Macola, while staying PCI compliant, Ebiz Charge is now one of their only options.

To say that the phase out of PCCharge is going to be abrupt is an understatement. Verifone made the announcement on April 6th, and stopped taking new orders on May 1st. After May 7th, no new orders will be shipped.  Current customers will still be able to add licenses or add services to their accounts, but that is on a countdown clock as well. Current customers will only be able to add services to their accounts up until September 25th, and Verifone will stop all support of the PCCharge software on October 1st.


PCI Compliance

So what does this mean exactly for current PCCharge users?  First and foremost, they will NOT be PCI compliant. The PCCharge software will have to be hosted on their own in-house servers, meaning all customer financial data will be stored on internal hardware. This leaves users extremely vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and liable for any financial damages done due to data theft. Short of upgrading internal physical and virtual security systems to data center levels, it will be impossible for anyone using PCCharge to stay PCI compliant. In addition to being liable for any theft of financial data, users can (and most likely will) be subject to fines from the major credit card companies if they remain out of compliance.

Compounding this issue is the fact that the next generation payment solution being developed by Verifone won't be compatible with Macola Progression, which comprises a large percentage of the Exact community. 

Functionality and Support

Just because the software is sunsetting doesn’t mean that it will suddenly stop working on October 1st.  To put this in perspective, Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP quite some time ago, but a staggering number of people still use machines running that operating system. What sun-setting means is that all technical support, updates and patches will go away. Any user still tied to PCCharge this fall will essentially need to cross their fingers and hope that the software never has any bugs or issues. If the software does go down, so will the ability to process credit cards, which could ultimately cost users business while they transition to another option.

Ebiz Charge

This announcement leaves Ebiz Charge as the only credit card processing solution on the market that will integrate directly with Macola Progression, Macola ES and Exact Macola 10 that is also 100% PCI compliant.

For more information on Ebiz Charge and how it integrates with your Macola software you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 orcontact us here.  


 
 

Be Prepared for All 3 Phases to Maximize ERP Return

 
03-25-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
 
Be Prepared for All 3 Phases to Maximize ERP Return

Elite athletes follow a very regimented routine in order to maximize their physical abilities at critical times.  There is countless pre-game preparation that goes on behind the scenes.  There is a need to stay hydrated and maintain mental focus during a game. After a game, there is a specific recovery process that starts almost immediately after the final whistle to begin the rejuvenation process so the athlete can do it all over again.

There are many aspects in business that can be optimized if businesses took a similar approach. An ERP implementation is no different. Businesses need a set game plan in place that will determine their approach pre-implementation, how they maintain their system after go live, and what to do if a system goes down in order to recover as quickly as possible.

Pre-Implementation

Before any ERP implementation takes place, a company should conduct a business process assessment (BPA). Whether it is done internally or using an ERP consultant, a BPA helps identify what areas of the business are humming along as well as areas of inefficiency that can be improved.  It helps you to understand how end users are currently doing their jobs.  This information not only allows decision makers to select a software system that can correct their issues, but also allows them to choose an ERP package that is minimally disruptive to end users.  This provides a clear game plan of what will be done during implementation and after go-live, to help ensure ROI is achieved.

Once You’ve Gone Live

Having that game plan in place is a good start, but the work doesn’t end there. It is important to monitor Your ERP system to make sure that it is operating at peak levels. Through a managed services partner, or with your own IT team, develop processes designed to test server functionality, data health checks, firewall security and other things. Identifying issues before the red lights and sirens start going off can help keep things running smoothly and avoid costly breakdowns in business processes.

Recovery

As much as you game plan and monitor your system for ERP success, unforeseen events can still take your systems offline. Natural disasters, fires and even mass power outages can cripple a business for days at a time, costing thousands of dollars. Having a disaster recovery plan in place that can get your systems up and running within hours of a natural disaster can save a business tens of thousands of dollars in lost data and productivity. These recovery plans are typically cloud based and can have a replica of your entire system online within hours of a disaster.

Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, once said “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” ERP projects take a significant investment of time, money and resources to be successful.  Understand that achieving ROI on your software investment is an ongoing endeavor will help your projects be successful.  For more information about business process assessments and maintaining a healthy ERP system you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or download this free whitepaper.


 
 

It Might be Time to Upgrade Your Legacy ERP System

 
03-18-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
 
It Might be Time to Upgrade Your Legacy ERP System

Studies have shown that the average amount of time between major ERP projects for most companies is approximately every 5 years.  For some companies though, that timeline gets stretched out much, much further. It’s easy to get comfortable with something that is familiar. Heck, I still have several t-shirts that are pushing 20-years-old.

When it comes to technology, old and comfortable tend to be synonymous with inefficient and costly. ERP projects aren’t small scope.  They require a lot of pre-planning, careful decision making and realistic budgeting of resources – both time and money. Abusiness process assessment (BPA) can help identify whether or not your legacy system is holding you back from achieving greater profitability and provide you with a great cost benefit analysis of an ERP upgrade. If that BPA uncovers any of the following, it might be time to look into a new system.

Push vs. Pull

Several older ERP systems use what is known as push production scheduling.  Essentially, the system determines what raw materials are on hand, what capacity is available and pushes jobs through the queue based on those parameters.  If all of the materials, labor and machinery are available to complete a job, that job is started.  This inevitably leads to finished good sitting in a warehouse, increased overhead and little wiggle room to adjust shop floor production to match shifts in customer needs.

Modern systems like Exact Macola 10 or Sage 100 are able to focus on pull production scheduling, which works back to front. It analyzes a purchase order, identifies when an order is due, calculates how long a job takes, and defers production until the last possible moment, “pulling” jobs through the queue as needed. Not only does this reduce stock counts, but it keeps the shop floor agile, allowing to change production schedules on the fly with greater ease.

Accounting For vs. Eliminating

When you first set up your legacy ERP system, you might have done so as a way to control internal costs. Long term manufacturing processes were designed to help offset costs of inventory and other overhead. Raw materials purchasing was set up in order to eliminate variations in cost.  All of these are designed with an internal focus.

Modern ERP systems can take an external look at your manufacturing process and identify what is known as value stream mapping. This helps you identify which processes are adding value to your product from a customer perspective and eliminate processes that aren’t adding value. Just in time processes is also a more external way of looking at things like inventory management, which are common in newer ERP systems.

When it comes to old and comfortable, stick to the recliner in your living room at home.  In business, sticking with old technology because it is familiar to you often times has a negative impact on the bottom line. For more information on business process assessments or ERP software you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


 
 

Configurable Workspaces – An ERP Game Changer

 
03-10-2015  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
 
Configurable Workspaces – An ERP Game Changer

The goal of ERP software is to make day to day business processes more lean, allowing for greater productivity and efficiency across an organization. So long as the software selection process is done in earnest, ample time is given for training and user adoption is high, every ERP system out there is capable of accomplishing this basic goal.

When it comes to Exact Macola 10, the software digs beyond the macro philosophy of “kaizen” (continuous improvement) and opens up the micro level of improved efficiency at the user level.  The introduction of configurable workspaces allows each individual within an organization to experience the software in a unique way, leading to a number of positive consequences.

What is a Configurable Workspace?

Everyone knows who Nike is.  Chances are, you either currently own a pair of their athletic shoes, or you have in the past. Many of their shoes are named after famous athletes, most notably, the Air Jordans. People can go into a shoe store and purchase a pair.  They are built specifically for basketball, have some features that may vary from other basketball shoes, and they serve a designated purpose. Translate this concept to ERP software, and you have a dashboard. Dashboards can be customized to a certain degree, but at the end of the day, there is nothing truly unique or user specific about them.

What most people don’t know is that in Portland, OR, in the depths of Nike headquarters, is a machine that can take a full 3D scan of an athlete’s foot. From that scan, designers can mold the inside of a shoe to provide a completely custom fit for that specific athlete. The shoes that the average person buys off the shelf might look like the same shoes Michael Jordan wore, but on the inside, they are completely different shoes.

This is like a configurable workspace. The outer skin might look familiar, but inside, everything can be customized to fit the specific needs of each individual user.

Why Does This Matter?

Most companies are great at accumulating data. Fewer manage to translate that data into actionable information. Even fewer can take that data and use it to make real time decisions. The problem is that while most ERP systems are capable of turning data into information, accessing that information can be difficult. Special reports might need to be run, and the way that someone in accounting interacts with specific information might be different that how someone in purchasing looks at the exact same information. And each person might need to go into different modules than their regular dashboard to access the information.  All the information that they need might be on two or three different reports, which means an addition report needs to be done to combine all of the relevant information onto one report before they can make a decision.

Configurable workspaces eliminates all of that. Exact Macola 10 has a number of template workspaces based on different departmental functions that can be customized, or a workspace can be built from scratch.  Special reports can be written and attached to the workspace for one click access.  Reports can be drilled into from a home screen.  Menus can be completely customized to provide the user with quick access to everything that they need in order to make their jobs easier. Immediate visual access to all relevant information and data takes the idea of “kaizen” away from an organizational mantra and delivers it at the individual user level.

For more information on configurable workspaces and how they might impact your business call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or you can contact us here.


 
 
 
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Attivo's Blog.Tips and Tricks for Increasing Productivity

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.