Sep 18 2015
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.READ MORE
Sep 17 2015
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.READ MORE
Sep 16 2015
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.READ MORE
Sep 10 2015
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.READ MORE
Sep 09 2015
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Aug 27 2015
Have you heard of Corporate Social Responsibility?
Abbreviated as CSR, corporate
social responsibility is a business model that has been adopted by numerous
organizations and enterprises over the past few decades. It is a form of self-regulation,
and is based on the premise that if companies do the right and responsible
thing by the public and the environment, then the public will support that
responsible business model and reward the company by patronizing it. In short,
responsible actions should equal profits.
For this reason and others, many organizations are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment by saving valuable and precious resources and engaging in other environmentally responsible practices. Did you know that ERP software can be an important part of CSR and going green? Here are just a few ways that every business can reduce their environmental impact just by investing in ERP software.
Paper consumption impacts the environment in multiple ways. Between deforestation and fuel costs to process and transport paper, paper usage is one of the biggest ways a company can impact the environment. While ERP software is not a "paperless office" solution, there are numerous ways that ERP helps reduce the amount of paper consumed by the workplace. This helps the environment, but it also helps your bottom line, because all that paper costs money! ERP digitizes many of the regular processes that generally consume paper, such as generating reports, creating tickets, etc. EDI can automate sales and purchase orders. Even invoicing can all be automated through your ERP system. When these things are done electronically by the ERP software, the entire workplace uses less paper, saving money and saving the planet.
In manufacturing facilities, ERP helps identify areas where processes can be shortened or improved. ERP can also analyze machine use, waste, bottlenecks that slow production or contribute to inefficiencies, and even identify safety issues. With this information, manufacturers can refine their operations to improve productivity while eliminating waste. They can then make the same goods using less power, less water, and producing less contamination and waste. It's an all-around win for the manufacturer, consumer, and the environment.
Just as ERP software can improve processes in manufacturing, it can also track
trends to maximize resources and eliminate waste in the warehouse setting. A
good warehouse management system (WMS) can find ways to maximize inventory to
reduce the amount of product that goes bad on the shelf, while assuring that
there is always enough product on hand to fulfill orders.
ERP software can also help maximize the use of space, so that warehouses can store more inventory in smaller warehouses, lessening the amount of power and other resources it takes to run the facility. ERP software can also identify more efficient ways to stock the facility and fulfill orders, lessening the resources used to run equipment, such as pallet jacks or forklifts. This saves power while reducing waste and lessening the pollution produced by warehouses.
For more information on how ERP software can help reduce your company’s environmental impact you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.
Aug 21 2015
You're sold on ERP. You know it can help control costs,
improve efficiency and customer satisfaction, while giving you the power to
generate reports quicker and improve visibility across the organization. You
want to leverage ERP to its fullest, so that means lots of customization,
Well, to a point. Over-customization is the number one reason why ERP implementations go over budget, lead to disappointment, and sometimes even get scrapped before yielding a single benefit to the organization. Make yourERP implementation a success (that stays in budget and is ready on time) with these wise strategies.
ERP software isn't a one size fits all. There is a wide variety of solutions on the market, ranging in forms and features. By selecting an ERP that is already close to what you need, you can significantly reduce the amount of customization necessary. For example, do other businesses in your industry have success with this solution? Do companies of your size use this software? The team working on the selection process needs to be filled with representatives for all your stakeholders, including departments outside of finance and accounting.
While you are doing your business process assessment you need to determine your 'Must Have' and 'Would Like' features, along with 'Probably Not' and 'Definitely Not' features. Not only will this help guide the selection team, it will also keep the customization process in check. It is easier than you think to add millions of lines of custom code, along with way more time, money, labor, and other resources to the project. If you cannot express a real value for adding a feature, don't bother with customizing it. Get a product as close as possible to what you need, determine what customization will produce a measurable ROI, and stop when it's finished.
Before the ERP selection and implementation process even begin, set
a realistic budget. Budgeting the project too closely with little or no
room for error is just a way of setting your team up for failure. Give them
some wiggle room. The funds can always be redirected if the project comes in
under the allotted budget, but it's terribly hard to add more when the annual
budgets are already in place.
Whether you are looking to implement your first ERP system or are looking to upgrade from an older legacy system, there are a lot of questions to ask and steps to take in order to get the most bang for your buck. If you have questions about the software selection process or are looking for help with implementation you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.
Aug 20 2015
Not too long ago, warehouse management software was
something only the largest, most profitable warehouses invested in. Large
grocery chains, department stores, and catalog order fulfillment centers had
automation, while the smaller warehouses winged it with paper forms, a couple
of forklifts and some dedicated workers.
That's all changed. Now, warehouse management software and automation are as important to staying competitive as is choosing the right real estate and employing experienced managers. Here's how warehouse management software can make your warehouse more efficient and more competitive.
1. Reducing Lag Time Associated with Paper Processes
Paper forms are easy to mess up. Sometimes, these forms are also hard to read, subject to ruin with the slightest coffee spill, and susceptible to easy destruction via a careless flick of a cigarette. Automating and digitizing the paperwork it takes to run your warehouse safeguards your orders, inventory forms, and other important paperwork from these potential disasters and more. Best of all, you can back the data up regularly with just a click.
2. Eliminating Human Errors
Human workers can easily transpose or neglect to enter all of the digits off of a barcode. They misread, misspell, forget, skip lines, and make other very normal human mistakes. While this is totally understandable, it's also bad for business. It leads to waste, incorrect orders, and dissatisfied customers. Warehouse management software can eliminate all of this with systems of checks and balances to keep records accurate and up to date.
3. Instilling Better Visibility into Processes
Can your managers see what your workers are up to? Can your executives see where profits are coming and where expenses are going? Do you understand where the bumps are in your supply chain or what's putting a snag in inventory control? Warehouse management software gives you greater visibility into processes, making the workflow transparent and much easier to manage.
4. Identifying and Eliminating Bottlenecks in the Processes
What are the areas that are causing holdups in your operations? Perhaps it's the layout of the warehouse, or staffing and scheduling issues, or even the order picking process. Whatever the bottlenecks are, warehouse management software can show you where the problems are so that you can streamline processes and increase productivity and efficiency.
5. Identifying and Eliminating Waste in the Processes
Are you running a first in first out (FIFO) system? Can you account for seasonal shifts in demand? Is your production floor synced with your inventory levels? A warehouse management system can help you maximize shelf space based on sales trends, and make sure that older product leaves the warehouse first in order to reduce waste. A fully integrated system can help create more efficient job scheduling as well.
6. Increasing the Accuracy of Order Fulfillment (and Other Processes)
Have human mistakes led to incomplete or incorrect order fulfillment? How much does this cost your warehouse annually? Warehouse management software automates and digitizes processes to eliminate human errors in the picking process and cut the expense of incorrect orders, which in turn leads to greater levels of customer satisfaction.
7. Collecting and Analyzing More Metrics Than You Dreamed Possible
As you can see from this list, the software gives you a means to collect and analyze data about your warehouse operations that were never possible before. There are no limits to the ways you can use these metrics to improve efficiency, cut costs, streamline operations, and improve customer satisfaction at your warehouse.
For more information on how to implement warehouse management software in your business you can download this free ROI Calculator or call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486.
Aug 19 2015
It’s no secret that ecommerce sales have been continuously been trending upwards for several years now, and there is no sign of those numbers plateauing any time soon. Most people associate mega-retailers like Amazon and Alibaba with ecommerce, which is the traditional B2C model that focuses more on retail. But what many people don’t realize is that B2B ecommerce figures are skyrocketing as well.
According to a recent study done by Frost & Sullivan, B2B ecommerce transactions are expected to eclipse $12 trillion dollars worldwide by 2020. That is up from $5.5 trillion in 2012. While those numbers do include EDI transactions, “traditional” ecommerce transactions are still in the billions of dollars. When you think about it, it’s only natural that suppliers and vendors are starting to shift their mentality towards online buying platforms. Once they punch out at the end of the day, your customers are every day consumers, acclimated to ecommerce transactions and the use of mobile technology to make their lives easier. They carry those expectations into their business worlds, and if you aren't providing them with a great user experience, you run the risk of losing them to a competitor.
That same study by Frost & Sullivan found that B2B customers are relying more and more on the internet to drive their purchasing behavior. According to their survey, 89% of B2B buyers are using the internet to do research, and are conducting an average of 12 searches before engaging a company. Even more telling, 57% of the buying process is already done before a B2B consumer engages your sales team. Having a website that is set up to make it easy for buyers to find what they are looking for, give visibility into availability of items and guide them through your sales pipeline will increase your sales. A B2B ecommerce consumer is 3x more likely to convert into a sale when compared to someone in a traditional sales process.
In addition to making the sales process easier for your customer, an ecommerce platform makes your business more efficient on the back end. Integrated solutions like BirdDog for Macola close all of the loops in your sales process. Inventory is automatically updated when orders are placed, providing visibility to your purchasing manager. Transactions are conducted online, typically by credit card, meaning accounts receivable isn’t having to chase down invoices and cash flow is far more liquid.
An online order platform isn’t going to replace the traditional sales model. After all, B2B ecommerce transactions only account for about 10% of all B2B transactions worldwide. But the numbers show that the B2B mentality is mirroring the trends of the B2C market. For more information on whether or not an ecommerce platform is right for your business you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.
Aug 13 2015
Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor or in the service industry, if your business is run from multiple sites standardizing your ERP system can be a major challenge. If you are undergoing your first ERP implementation, the idea of trying to coordinate across multiple sites can be so daunting that you put off the project completely. But there are ways to reduce the stress involved and get a system up and running that is uniform across all locations and makes data analysis far more transparent.
A cloud hosted ERP solution might be the easiest way to pull off a uniform implementation. You can purchase your software licenses and host the software in one centralized location. All customizations are uniform because there is only one software platform being used, and there is a single point of system access for all users. All data from all sites are entered into the same system, making company-wide reporting far more accurate and providing a very clear picture of how the business is operating. Over the long haul, this would be the most cost-effective way as IT infrastructure and maintenance costs for multiple locations would be greatly reduced if not eliminated altogether.
There is a possibility that having a single system for
multiple locations isn’t entirely practical.
Perhaps one location needs specific customizations that aren’t needed at
another location. The only way to understand this is to do a comprehensive
business process assessment at each location.
Figure out which processes can be uniform across all sites and which
processes might need to be customized depending on location. From there, you
need to prioritize your sites. The most
critical sites need to be implemented first, followed by the next important and
so on. Trying to implement everything all at once would leave too many opportunities
for a weak link in the chain to go unnoticed through and create problems down
the road. Be sure to document your
implementations and have a checklist. A
well thought out project plan is critical to achieving desired ROI. That is exponentially truer when trying to synchronize
an implementation across multiple locations over an extended period of time.
ERP implementations aren’t easy. Trying to sync an implementation over multiple sites is that much more difficult. If your business currents operates in multiple locations and you are looking for more information on how to synch those sites under one system you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 orcontact us here.
Aug 11 2015
There are numerous tools out there to streamline business
processes, collect data, and improve customer service. CRM software is
generally the property of the sales and marketing departments. It records
and manages customer information in a standardized format and stores it in
a centralized location. CRM makes it easy to share information between the
sales and marketing departments and upper management. CRM also helps these
departments better work together and improve the customer experience.
ERP, on the other hand, is usually relegated to accounting and operations departments. This software tracks and manages inventory, schedules jobs and manages the general ledger. ERP improves business processes, betters the workflow, and delivers integration of operational data.
Have you ever stopped to consider how integrating CRM with ERP could improve the functionality of both software solutions? As it turns out, software vendors like Exact Software think these integrations are so powerful that they have included Synergy CRM as a component of their newest ERP offering, Exact Macola 10. The thinking being that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.
At best, CRM and ERP each benefit just a couple of departments. However, the data and insight that these products deliver when integrated can benefit the entire organization. Every department -- including sales, marketing, accounting, finance, operations/production, research and development, and others -- can contribute data and derive insight from the data.
The most valuable commodity a modern company has is not its properties or assets or even its brand name. It's data. Data is powerful when it is standardized and consolidated. Many organizations keep data in silos -- isolated. However, when it is normalized and combined, it delivers far more powerful insight and value than it could when separated. Your organization can get deeper insight, better visibility into customers, and a clearer picture of internal operations. This shows where there is room for improvement, where the bottlenecks are, and where to eliminate waste.
What do your customers need? What is their history with the organization in
terms of orders, customer service, technical support, and payments? Is their
account in good standing? What might they need next week, or next month, or
even next year? By combining the data from your CRM and ERP software, you can
know your customers individually and personally for a more complete customer
experience at every touchpoint.
To learn more about the benefits of integrating your CRM and ERP solutions you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.