The Attivo Blog

Oct 08 2015

Crystal Reports vs. SSRS: Where is the Industry Headed?

If you are running an ERP software system, odds are that you have used Crystal Reports to some degree or another.  While ERP software is phenomenal at aggregating data, just about any ERP user would tell you that the reporting functionality of their system leaves something to be desired.  That’s where Crystal stepped in, offering users the ability to create custom reports that pulled information out of their database and gave them a real-time look at what was actually happening in their business.

Recently, however, the ERP industry has started to experience a gradual shift away from Crystal Reports into SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) reports. We are going to take a deeper dive into why this transitioning is happening.


Oct 07 2015

Putting the "C" back in CRM

When CRM software was new, all the buzz in the office was about how great it was going to be to get all that neat data, create accurate customer profiles, and blow them away with stellar customer service. Over time, the enthusiasm waned a bit. The data was used more for operational intelligence or to be passed to C-level executives who wanted to know how sales were going.

What happened to the customer? Where is all that excellent customer service the CRM software was supposed to generate? The problem is not likely the CRM software, it might be the company's focus or a lack of proper training on using the software, or even a bad software setup. How can your organization put the "C" back in "CRM"?


Oct 01 2015

Understanding the Importance of Lot Control

If you are a small to mid-sized manufacturer or distributor, having lot control systems in place can sometimes be the difference between staying in business and shutting your doors. Even in not so extreme scenarios, having a good inventory management system in place can save you several thousand dollars per year. Understanding how lot control can help you manage your supply chain, both upstream and downstream can help you make a determination whether or not warehouse management software is right for you.


Sep 30 2015

3 Factors to Consider When Choosing Distribution ERP

Before a distribution company even begins down the road of a major ERP implementation they need to first go through a lengthy software selection process.  These days there are dozens of different software packages that all promise the same things, but often times fail to deliver.  What are some of the main factors that a distribution company should look at before making a decision?


Sep 25 2015

3 Ways CRM Can Help Your Organization Get Lean

Like most automation and workflow software, CRM had long been mostly the property of the large enterprise. With the advent of tier 2 level solutions that offer a lot of the same functionality as larger CRM systems without the Fortune 500 price tag, these products have gained popularity within the small- to mid-size businesses. What are these organizations looking to gain from CRM? Here's the scoop.


Sep 23 2015

Understanding the Importance of an ERP Disaster Recovery Plan

The worst case scenario has happened.  Your systems are down.  Whether you are implementing an on-premise solution or have a cloud hosted ERP solution, identifying how much data has been lost and getting your systems up and running as quickly as possible can save you tens of thousands of dollars.  In order to do this it is important to take a proactive approach to having a disaster recovery plan.  And no, screaming into the phone with a mixture of tears and anger at your IT department isn’t a disaster recovery plan.


Sep 18 2015

Choosing the Right Hosting Partner: 3 Vital Questions

Cloud computing can be a difficult landscape to navigate. You first have to know the differences between SaaS vs. hosted vs. on-premise. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to all three set-ups, but we’re not going to get into that in this blog.  This blog is for individuals who have chosen to go with a cloud hosted ERP solution. In a nutshell, this is a hybrid model that combines the purchase of a traditional software license and accompanying applications and hosting it in a cloud environment rather than on your own IT infrastructure. But not all hosting partners are created equally.  Here are a few things to consider when choosing who will host your ERP software.


Sep 17 2015

3 Ways WMS Helps Improve Profits

Once upon a time we were talking with a potential client who was a manufacturer servicing the aerospace industry.  We were talking to them about some of their biggest challenges and were walking them through a business process assessment to try and help them identify some of the revenue vacuums in their current operations. When we got to the topic inventory, the entire tone changed.  Sensing that the stress level had just been turned up to 11, we started asking them about their current inventory management system. That’s when the president got up, walked us over to warehouse and showed us a literal sea of sticky notes attached to bins.  An open window and a strong gust of wind would have set their operations back 3 days.

Inventory management software is an integral piece for any small or mid-sized business looking to reduce waste and maximize profits.  Here are 3 ways WMS software can help.


Sep 16 2015

3 Ways CRM Isn't Just for Sales & Marketing

More and more small to mid-sized companies are turning to CRM software to help them manage their day to day operations. Often seen strictly as a sales and marketing tool, CRM packages like Exact Synergy offer enterprise level functionality without a Fortune 500 price tag.  Here are just a few ways that CRM can extend beyond your sales and marketing team in order to improve productivity and cut down on human error. 


Sep 10 2015

What is a Virtual Private Cloud?

Part of the confusing world of cloud computing is understanding terms like 'public cloud,' 'private cloud,' and 'hybrid cloud.' One such term is the 'virtual private cloud.' Exactly what is it, and how does it differ from the public cloud or the private cloud? Here is your guide to the virtual private cloud and its practical applications for your business.


Sep 09 2015

3 Reasons Why Excel Isn't an ERP System

Those old enough to remember the embryonic stages of the spreadsheet hold less than fond memories of Lotus 1-2-3 and its predecessor, VisiCalc. The kindest way to explain these dinosaurs is difficult, cumbersome, and irritating, and that was only when it wasn't infuriating and confounding. This made the 1995 birth of Excel a wonderful experience for all. Things that once required multiple steps and a robust memory for detail could now be done in a click or two. The business world was revolutionized, and Microsoft Excel quickly sealed its place as the number one accounting, finance, and data collection and analysis software around. Period. This lasted for decades.

Now, however, data has grown up. Even small businesses are charged with collecting, storing, and analyzing huge reservoirs of information. For the enterprise, petabytes are no longer adequate for describing how much data they must manage. Many are now expressing their data in terms of exabytes. Though well designed, well executed, and well accepted, Excel simply isn't up to the task of managing these volumes of data. Businesses need something more.

Enter ERP. ERP has roots in the Inventory Management systems that were popularized by manufacturing facilities in the 1960's. It evolved into Material Requirement Planning, Manufacturing Requirements Planning, and eventually ERP as the decades ticked by. Now, ERP can take over the jobs normally delegated to Excel, only it can handle far more data, provide more powerful analysis and insight, serve more parts of the organization, and even help eliminate the human error that has plagued Excel reporting and analysis from the beginning.

Here are the reasons you need to know why ERP is a better solution for today's business than Excel.


Sep 04 2015

4 Ways to Mitigate Risk with ERP Software

When it comes to running a small to mid-sized business there are a number of reasons why an owner or president might lose sleep at night. There are countless scenarios that could occur that could do severe damage to a company, or in a worst case scenario, force a business to shut its doors for good.

Those risks come from all directions too. Internal threats, government oversight and even Mother Nature can all conspire to cause irreparable harm to an SMB.  While it is impossible to completely eliminate all risk (wouldn’t that be nice though), ERP software can go a long ways towards mitigating those threats and offer at least a little peace of mind.

Who Can Access What Information?

Regardless of what type of industry you are in, there are a number of people within your organization that need access to your data.  But not everyone needs access to all of your data. One of the advantages of an ERP system like Exact Macola 10 is that you can get really granular with who has access to what. Rather than putting people into roles (i.e. accounting) where everyone has access to all of the modules within that role, an advanced ERP system can not only assign someone an accounting role, but then can also pick and choose exactly what modules that user has access to. This allows as many users as necessary to have access to the data they need, without having to give them access to everything else as well.

Reduce Your Exposure to Fraud and Embezzlement

Various financial groups estimate that US companies lose approximately 7% of their revenues to fraud every year. A lot of that fraud is coming from internal sources. Your ERP software can keep track of user activity, creating an audit trail.  This, coupled with limiting data access, makes it much more difficult for internal sources to steal or embezzle. And in the event of internal theft, it is much easier to trace the source.

Keep Uncle Sam at Bay

There are a number of industries that are highly regulated by various government agencies. Inventory management software that uses lot control can minimize losses in the event of a government recall. Sales tax collection software like Avalara can keep state auditors from levying heavy fines for uncollected sales taxes.  And the automatic processes and auditing capabilities of modern ERP software can really expedite the ISO certification and industry compliance process.

Protect Yourself against Mother Nature

Hurricanes like Super Storm Sandy, earthquakes on the California coast and tornados in the Midwest are all devastating to business. With more and more companies shifting to a cloud hosted ERP option, data backup and redundancy is often included in those costs.  While you can’t prevent a natural disaster, ERP systems can ensure that your data is preserved no matter what happens.

Risk is an inevitable part of operating a business. No matter what processes and procedures you put in place, there will always be an element of risk from multiple sources. For more information on how an ERP system can help reduce your exposure contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486.


Sep 02 2015

Struggling with Compliance? Consider These 5 Steps

Compliance has complicated workflow for decades, but the new era of online-everything has brought an entirely new set of compliance regulations, governance, legislation, and industry oversight. Additionally, large customers that are constantly under scrutiny from every angle (the trade commission, environmental groups, civil liberties groups, and more) can demand even more than what the industry's governing body and/or the government requires in terms of compliance.

If you're struggling, it's no wonder. In many industries, the compliance regulations change more frequently than the direction of the wind. Here are a few relatively simple steps to help you get back on top of compliance issues.

Evaluate Each Step of Your Processes With Regards to Regulations

Begin with someone who is an expert at the compliance regulations your business is subject to. This might be a member of your legal team or an outside consultant. Have them walk through each step of your internal processes and evaluate those steps according to the regulations you are subject to. Don't forget to check the side steps, too, such as detours a product takes if there are quality issues.

Use ERP to Manage a Checklist of Issues to Watch

Once your processes are adjusted to meet current regulations, your ERP software can be customized to work through a checklist of issues to watch out for. The system can be set to alert a qualified worker if the criteria of the compliance regulations aren't met. These workflows can also be used to set up an audit trail to be shown to an inspector or regulator should they ever stop in to check if your processes are compliant.

Use ERP to Set User Permissions to Ensure Processes are Completed by Those With the Right Qualifications

ERP software can also be programmed to recognize the qualifications and/or certifications of a given employee in order to assure that only qualified workers complete or approve a particular item in process. This covers your business in situations where a certain certification is required to do a certain task, sign off on a particular issue, or check to see that regulations were followed during a process.

Use a WMS to Track Lot and Serial Numbers

When products are audited, inspected, recalled, etc., it is critical to know when those items were manufactured, who was working at the time, exactly what procedures were followed, which ingredients were or were not used, etc. Manufacturers of food products, pharmaceuticals, children's products, etc. are well served by WMS (warehouse management software) to track these issues to stay within compliance and to address any quality problems or recall situations.

Stay on Top of Data Security

Increasingly, regulations don't just focus on your products and processes, but on the data you keep. If you are in possession of consumer data, medical data, or other controlled or sensitive data, you will be subject to a growing body of data governance policies and laws. When selecting, implementing, and managing ERP, WMS, CRM, and other data collection and management software applications, always be sure that you are following the strictest possible interpretation of data governance regulations.

For help determining which software solutions will best help your organization adhere to compliance regulations you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Aug 31 2015

What is Tokenization? Taking Payment Security to the Next Level

The need for manufacturers and distributors to be able to process credit cards is growing each and every year.  More than ever companies are moving towards digital payment methods and ecommerce to do business.  But with the need to process credit cards come the need to be PCI compliant. Having a fully PCI compliant payment gateway will protect your customers from data theft and protect you from liability.

What is PCI Compliance?

PCI stands for Payment Card Industry. The payment card industry (i.e. Visa and MasterCard) have set forth a number of safety standards that all merchants who process credit cards must follow. It includes minimum standards of anti-virus and firewall protection as well as regulations on how customer financial data is stored. Failure to meet these standards can result in fines and companies can even lose the ability to process credit cards at all.  As data thieves become more sophisticated, PCI compliance standards are getting stricter. As a result, it is getting more and more difficult for small to mid-sized businesses to stay compliant.

Not all PCI Compliant Gateways are Created Equally

There are hundreds of payment gateways out there that claim to be PCI compliant.  And for the most part they are. Very few of them can integrate directly with your ERP system and even if they can be integrated, they don’t eliminate all risk.  Many PCI compliant gateways are still storing your customer’s sensitive financial data. They are just storing it on their servers instead of yours.  So while liability is shifted off of your shoulders, your customers are still vulnerable to data theft. Do you really think your customers are going to care if it was your servers or your processing partner’s servers that were hacked? They’ll still take their business elsewhere.

Why Tokenization is Different

The reason why tokenization offers next level security is because it complete eliminates the storage of any financial data anywhere. When you enter a customer’s credit card into your ERP system, a code is associated with that card.  That code is also known as a token.  Whenever that customer needs to make a payment, the token is what is passed between your ERP system and the payment gateway, meaning that the only information that a data thief can take is a bunch of random numbers and letters. It is only a matter of time before PCI compliance is going to require tokenization in a payment gateway. Now is the time to get ahead of the curve.

With the number of merchant services companies out there it is easy to just assume that they are all the same in one way, shape or form. If you need help navigating a crowded marketplace or if you have any questions about PCI compliance you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Aug 28 2015

Understanding Maintenance Costs of Your Current ERP System is Vital

If you ever watch low brow college comedies, one relatively consistent theme is the long since graduated fraternity brother who still hangs around the frat house looking to relive his “glory” days. These characters are always out of shape and out of date, and while they know all the secret handshakes and codes, its borderline painful to watch them try to fit in with the new, young, hip crowd.

For small to midsized manufacturers running legacy or custom ERP software, their day to day operations are being run by out of date and out of shape systems that weren’t built to manage the pace of today’s business world.  Sound familiar?

The problem is that updating or upgrading those systems comes with a tremendous financial commitment – a commitment that most organizations aren’t willing to make. But when you peel back the onion, sometimes the ROI of a new ERP implementation can be accelerated by eliminating the cost of maintaining a legacy system.

Maintaining a Custom ERP System

There are plenty of organizations out there that have a custom ERP system that was built from scratch. The problems with these types of systems is that when there are any technical issues with the software, or additions need to be made to functionality, the only people who know how to fix those issues are the people who built it in the first place. Internal IT departments are tasked with maintaining the system, and as your business needs change, often times that means that the code needs to be rewritten entirely. The cost of tying up resources in maintaining a custom system coupled with lost productivity and lost growth opportunities due to the restrictive nature of a custom system can add up very quickly. Worse still, what if the individual(s) who created your custom system retire or leave your company? Who will maintain your system then? Worse yet, what happens if the system breaks and you need to transition to a new ERP system? That can add tens of thousands of dollars to your implementation costs.

The Cost of Sticking With a Legacy ERP System

ERP software vendors are constant upgrading their product offerings and coming out with new and improved software packages. But these companies also need to make sure that they aren’t spreading themselves too thin, and as a result older software packages are often times sent to that ERP pasture in the sky. And once a package has been sunsetted, getting support for that software is scarcer. And when a resource becomes scarce, it becomes more expensive. Furthermore, as technology continues to advance, your software very quickly becomes incompatible with newer technology, forcing you to leave your IT infrastructure badly outdated. Again, this results in lost revenue and growth opportunities as technology passes you by.

There are clearly a lot of costs involved when choosing a new ERP system. From software license costs, to implementation to training, it is a major financial commitment. But in order to make a completely informed decision, understanding the costs associated with not upgrading is important as well.

For more information you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.