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The Attivo Blog

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Evolving ERP Means New Security Threats to Consider

07-24-2014  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
Evolving ERP Means New Security Threats to Consider

We have blogged in the past about how ERP is evolving at breakneck speeds.  What was once an industry that stayed relatively unchanged for several years has been forced to keep up with the rapid expansion of technology. The development of mobile apps for ERP systems, cloud hosted ERP and even social collaboration are all important innovations that can improve productivity within an organization.  But they also present a new set of challenges as well.

How Secure is Your Cloud?

Cloud hosted ERP has been trending upward for the past couple of years. As a general rule, the security measures in place at a data center are going to far exceed anything you could replicate in an on-premise environment. That said, it isnít something to just take for granted. Make sure you ask questions like:

  • What sort of firewall and antivirus software are they running?
  • How often is it updated?
  • At what point in the data stream does their security stop and yours take over?
  • What are the physical security measures in place at their data center?
  • Do they have secondary/redundant facilities in place?

What Does Mobility Mean for Security?

Not only is the cloud making it easier for people to access their software applications from any internet connected device, but mobile apps themselves are bringing ERP software to tablets and smartphones. This is great for productivity, but can present issues. An organization must have strict policies in place with regards to mobile use. 

  • Are you going to allow employees to use their own devices?
  • If so, will you limit what they are and arenít allowed to access from their devices?
  • Is your IT department equipped to manage security protocols across multiple mobile platforms?
  • Will you provide smartphones and tablets for your employees to better manage security risks?

Interconnectivity Provides More Room for Security Breaches

As ERP software has gotten more and more robust, it has integrated more and more departments under one silo of information. But that doesnít mean that your sales team needs to be able to examine the accounts receivable ledger. The more access that people have to different areas of the business the greater the risk is for human error or even theft. With the advancement of ERP systems, their admin functionality and user permissions features have gotten more advanced as well.  But you need to use them. Before starting an ERP implementation, again, it is important to ask questions.

  • How granular are user permissions in a system? For example, can I give someone access to accounts receivable but not accounts payable, or do I have to give them access to the entire accounting module?
  • Does everyone have access to the information that they need?
  • Can I track who is accessing what data? (i.e. a digital audit trail)
  • Do workflow processes require manager approval before moving to the next stage?

Understanding your risks and vulnerabilities will help you mitigate a lot of potential damage.  While it is impossible to eliminate risk all together, asking the right questions goes a long way towards protecting your business. For more information on how to overcome ERP security risks call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486.  


Prepping Your Data for an ERP Implementation

07-18-2014  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
Prepping Your Data for an ERP Implementation

Whether you are simply updating your ERP software to the most recent version or you are migrating to a completely different system, there are plenty of speed bumps that can keep an ERP implementation from going smoothly. One particular area that can lead to a number of hiccups is data conversion. But there are steps that you can take to mitigate data conversion errors and prevent those speed bumps from turning into brick walls.

Purge Your Old Data

You know that old part you stopped selling in 1989? You donít need to transfer that information over when you migrate to a new system. Same goes for your old supplier that retired and moved to Florida or a customer that went out of business. Old data that you donít even use is just clutter.  And the more clutter you have the more chances there are that something is going to go wrong when you try and convert your data to a new system.  Not only that, keeping old data slows down your system and hurts performance. There are utilities that integrate with various ERP systems to help manage data purging.  Just as an example, Pulse is a great tool for Exact Macola users.

Test, Retest and then Double Check

 It is important to remember that an ERP system is a fully integrated business ecosystem. A change made in your manufacturing data is likely going to have an impact on your purchasing, inventory and accounting departments as well. As a result, testing shouldnít be done in a vacuum. Your data conversion could be going off without a hitch in accounting, but there is an issue in inventory management. You fix the issue in inventory management, but you fail to go back and retest processes in all of the other departments. This can cause problems down the road and end up costing you more money than if you just did your due diligence up front.

All of this testing can be a disruption to day to day functions and can cause an elongated implementation timetable.  A good way to avoid this is through a cloud hosted ERP solution. Test environments can be set up within the cloud, allowing your hosting and implementation partner to create your new system and test data while you are still working on your old system. Once everything is approved and ready to go in the test system, it makes your actual conversion run much more smoothly and quickly.

There is a lot that goes into a successful implementation.  Your ERP partner should be able to go over a step by step outline of what needs to be done and help you understand what you need to be doing to ensure a successful project. For more information on how to set yourself up for a successful ERP project you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486.


Should Mid-Market Companies Invest in ERP Software?

07-14-2014  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
Should Mid-Market Companies Invest in ERP Software?

The Aberdeen Group recently completed a survey of mid-market businesses.  The survey separated companies into two groups ó those who have ERP systems and those that donít.  Of the companies that donít have ERP software implemented, 89% said that they have little to no ability to track their business processes, 86% said that they suffer from inaccurate data, and 78% said that often find redundant data.

Numbers like those indicate that many medium sized businesses are losing money and are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage in their respective industries. Today, we want to take a deeper dive into why organizations without ERP seem to all be enduring the same issues.

Business Process Tracking, or Lack Thereof

Smaller businesses that have a number of employees wearing multiple hats tend to have a lot of cross communication for the simple fact that roles overlap so much. As a business grows, however, businesses hire people to fill specialized roles within the company. For companies running disparate systems to manage the different departments, communication and data sharing becomes more and more difficult. Your purchasing manager might be unaware of a big order your sales team just closed. Raw materials or components needed to complete the job arenít ordered. The manufacturing floor has already allocated resources to other jobs and all of a sudden customer service is getting angry calls from customers about a shipment that was delayed or never delivered.

This sort of snowball effect is extremely common as businesses grow and departments start to function independently from one another. Processes begin to run as separate systems making it much harder to keep a pulse of the system as a whole.

Data Inaccuracy Will Cost You Money

Have you ever heard the phrase ďIím only human?Ē Of course you have, because there is a ring of truth to it.  As hard as we double and triple check things, humans make mistakes.  The more data entry required by your business processes, the more opportunity there is for mistakes to be made.  When an order is placed, that could trigger data entry from your accounting department, warehouse manager, purchasing, manufacturing floor, your sales team and even your customer service department. Thatís six different opportunities for a data entry error to happen.  Just one mistake anywhere in the chain can cost thousands of dollars if the errors arenít caught.

The Problem with Redundant Data

Even when there are no data entry errors it is costing you money if you donít have an integrated system. It takes time to key in all pertinent information.  And when the same data needs to be entered 6 or 7 different times into 6 or 7 different systems, it costs money for each employee that has to take time to manage their specific system. Eventually you get managers that are too busy processing paperwork and monitoring spreadsheets to actually work on revenue generating projects. Excessive data entry can also make it difficult to identify new KPIs and gather that information.

ERP software can help mitigate these cost driven inefficiencies. That doesnít mean that you should run out and buy the first ERP system you can find. Do your research, conduct a business process assessment to identify your needs and choose the ERP system that best fits your organization.ERP implementations are an expensive and time consuming endeavor.  However, if youíve done your homework and identify enough inefficiency with your current processes, they can pay off in the long run.

For more information on how to choose an ERP system you can download this free whitepaper or call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486.  


How CRM Software Can Boost Sales and Marketing

07-03-2014  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
How CRM Software Can Boost Sales and Marketing

Weíve talked at great length about where CRM implementations go wrong, how to ensure user buy-in of  new system and various features and benefits that a CRM system should have. When push comes to shove, if used properly, CRM software can help a small business grow to a midmarket business, and should be able to grow and evolve with you.

Two of the areas that your business can be dramatically impacted by an intelligent use of CRM software is your sales and marketing departments. Although the two are often lumped together, they are most certainly separate entities that will use your CRM in different ways.

Boosting Sales with CRM

Similar to marketing, your sales team can use CRM to find out product interest, identify where in the sales pipeline a prospect is or what a customer has purchased in the past. Documents like contracts and past invoices can be attached to an account card for quick access.  Letís say a customer calls in to inquire about a placing a reorder. Your salesperson can instantly see what model they specifically purchased before, but their terms are for payment, any discounts they may have received in the past, and put together an estimate all with a few mouse clicks.

Alerts can also be set up to help your sales team stay on top of their pipeline. Follow up calls can be scheduled in the CRM, populating their calendars. Alerts can be sent out to follow up with existing customers based on that customerís past buying patterns. Sales can even cross collaborate with marketing to send out an alert when a new e-mail campaign has been launched, allowing them to instantly follow up an e-mail with a phone call.

How Your CRM can Facilitate Marketing

You should have a set of procedures and processes for how every lead, prospect and customer is entered into your CRM system. Collecting data such as addresses, phone numbers, contact names and e-mails should be a given. Your CRM system can also track information like products or services that a contact is currently using as well as any other products or services that they have expressed an interest in.

Armed with this information, your marketing team can build extremely specific reports that can be targeted to specific campaigns. Perhaps your business is running a special on a certain product that you sell. Your marketing team can pull a report that targets anyone who has used that product in the past or has expressed an interest. From that report, they can craft e-mail campaigns or schedule marketing calls. Letís say you have a booth at an upcoming trade show or your CEO is going to be a featured speaker at an event. Again, your marketing team can use the data in your CRM to send invites to customers and leads in the specific area where you are going to be.

There are so many ways that your CRM system can be used throughout an organization. This blog really just scratches the surface of what a well utilized CRM system is capable of doing for your business. For more information, you can download this free whitepaper or call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486. 


3 Benefits to Implementing a Visual Warehouse

07-02-2014  |  By: The Attivo Group, Inc. |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
3 Benefits to Implementing a Visual Warehouse

If you are in the manufacturing business, whether you like it or not, you are also most likely in the warehouse and distribution business.  Whether you are storing finished product available for sale or you are storing raw materials needed to complete orders, you are keeping an inventory. There are several ways that an inefficient warehouse can cost you money.  However, using warehouse management software to implement a visual warehouse can help plug those leaks and improve your cash flow.

Maximize Your Shelf Space

One of the biggest ways that a warehouse can leak money is when inventory sits on the shelf. If product isnít moving it is costing you money to store it. In the case of goods that degrade over time or have an expiration date, having an item sitting on the shelf too long can mean entire batches of product needing to be trashed, costing you thousands of dollars.

An inventory management system that is tied into your ERP system can give you real time data. Key performance metrics can be implemented to predict sales patterns. A visual warehouse will give you a real time look at inventory levels, alerting you when numbers hit certain benchmarks, triggering a new manufacturing job to begin. Production can be set to coincide with any anticipated seasonal shifts in business, ensuring that product will always be available, without that product sitting on shelves for months at a time.

Save Time and Avoid Human Error

Another way that an integrated warehouse management system can help save you money is by digitally tracking all inventory. Physical inventory counts are not only extremely time consuming, but they are also inaccurate. Imagine the amount of man hours required to accomplish a full inventory count. Then take into consideration that any human errors could lead to secondary mistakes like starting a new manufacturing job that isnít needed or not being able to fill a customer order. Small mistakes can snowball quickly.

Barcode scanners can be used to digitally track all inventory from the time it enters your receiving dock to the point it leaves your warehouse as part of a customerís order. This information is automatically uploaded into your ERP system, allowing for companywide visibility. Not only does this help improve customer service, but it also creates an audit trail that makes it easier to identify theft and missing product.

Improve Customer Service

There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than to be promised a delivery date only to be informed after the fact that their product is delayed due to a backorder. In order to satisfy the customer, you might need to offer a discount, substitute a more expensive product or in some cases, you might lose the order all together, as well as any future business. Another customer service issue that could arise from an inefficient warehouse is wrong items being shipped to customers. Again, this could cost you that customerís business, but you might have to issue refunds and pay for return shipping, on top of the cost of restocking items in your warehouse.

Real time inventory data allows your sales team to accurately quote orders and promise realistic delivery dates based on available inventory. You can even have your inventory levels integrated directly with your e-commerce website, which can inform customers of low inventory or backordered items directly. Barcode scanners can be implemented to guarantee accuracy of order picking, greatly reducing the risk of wrong items being shipped. All of these improve customer relations and help improve cash flow for your business.

For more information on how to implement a visual warehouse you can download this on-demand webinar or call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486.

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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.