The Attivo Blog

Jun 30 2015

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.


Jun 29 2015

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.


Jun 25 2015

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.


Jun 22 2015

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.


Jun 18 2015

ERP Software Helps the Organization Move Past the "Status Quo"

We once had a potential customer contact us looking for awarehouse management solution.  When we went to visit them, we asked about their current system and why they felt they needed to make a change.  That’s when they pointed to an endless sea of sticky notes posted all over the warehouse. As unbelievable as that may sound, there are a shocking number of companies that handle their business this way.  Whether it be sticky notes, one guy with a notepad, or the controller that keeps everything in spreadsheets, companies tend to rely on outdated and unreliable processes for no reason other than the fact that they’ve always done things that way.

This is a time of tremendous innovation and technological advancement. It is also a time of caution for organizations with fresh memories of the recent economic recession and its lingering after effects. Most organizations are undergoing a variety of changes: integrating mobile and cloud technologies into the corporate environment, providing better customer experiences to remain competitive, and automating their processes -- just to name a few.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software is a powerful tool for getting people to understand the need for change, embrace the goals that change can help you meet, and taking the necessary steps to enact the changes.

ERP Software Helps the Organization Plan for the Future

Once workers have the tools needed to understand change and make the transition easier, your organization can step out away from legacy processes and begin to move toward the future. Implementing a new system won’t flip a magic switch though. It is important to make sure you are engaging your employees in the process from beginning to end in order to assure companywide buy-in.  But once a new system as successfully put down roots, ERP software can:

  • Allows you to identify and leverage the people within the organization that can help departments move toward the future.
  • Helps communicate across the organization, identify the needs for training, and put training programs in place.
  • Helps standardize business practices across the organization so that everyone understands the goals and is working actively towards those goals.
  • Helps the business establish the appropriate measures of performance and assure that performance goals are met.

As powerful as ERP software is, migrating to this new structure can be difficult without the right guidance. If you have any questions about how to choose the right ERP system for your business you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or download this free whitepaper.  


Jun 17 2015

Automating Workflows in Exact Macola 10

The entire point of an ERP implementation is to streamline your business process, eliminate inefficiencies and ultimately save your company money. Software packages like Exact Macola 10 (EM10) are jam packed with dozens of tools and modules that can impact virtually every aspect of your business. Today though, we are going to focus on workflow automation by focusing on one very specific example. While we are going to focus on the order entry process and the chain reaction of events that follows, EM10 can be customized to manage workflows throughout an organization.

Scheduled Orders

Let’s say that you have a customer that orders on a regular schedule.  The customer will typically place the order ten days in advance of the expected arrival date. Since you’ve set up an automated alert, your sales person will get an email if the customer fails to place an order within that window.  This can trigger your sales person to follow up with that customer to engage in a sales process. Once your sales person closes the sale and places the order a number of triggers are pulled that impact multiple departments.

Workflow Automation for Customer Service

The instant that order is placed the customer will receive an email acknowledgement and the sales order and any other pertinent documents will be attached to that customer’s account card. Should the customer have any questions about an order or need to make changes, your sales rep or customer service rep can immediately find documents like contracts, sales orders and invoices in one place to quickly service the customer.

 Workflow Automation for Inventory Control

The customer’s order has been entered into the system, but do you even have the materials on hand to fill the order? Again, automated workflows can be set to trigger as a result of this event. The system can automatically check inventory levels, allowing you to instantly inform customers of any delays.  In addition, if inventory levels fall below pre-set minimums as a result of the new order, alerts can be sent to purchasing to replenish that inventory.

Workflow Automation for Accounting

You can also automate several accounting functions.  Depending on the terms you have with your customer, invoices can be auto-generated to be sent out at appropriate times. Document management will attach a copy of those invoices to the customer’s account card.  You can even set up alerts to notify you of past due invoices and send automated emails to those delinquent customers. Alerts of delinquent accounts can even be sent to sales reps so they can follow up with their customers to collect or flag future orders if deemed necessary.

The interconnectedness of modern businesses practically mandates some sort of automated workflow in order to keep everyone in the look and processes moving forward in an efficient manner.  To find out more about how Exact Macola 10 can help you manage your processes call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 orcontact us here.


Jun 12 2015

Why Your ERP Software Isn't Achieving its Desired ROI

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software offers numerous benefits. The right ERP software can lower operational costs, improve the supply chain, generate an impressive variety of helpful reports, improve the quality of your company's data, assure you're in compliance with industry regulations, and reduce the complexity of your operations.

If you’re not reaping these sorts of benefits from your ERP implementation, there are a few possible problems.

Are You Unsure How to Use the System? 

When the vendor demonstrated the product at your company, it sang! It generated all kinds of useful reports, made communication and collaboration a breeze, and looked so efficient. But once the software was in place, nobody was ever able to get it to do all that stuff. 

These products are extremely powerful and can also be complex to use, especially if the end users in your company have no prior ERP expertise. Think about the first time you played around with Photoshop or another advanced piece of software that has lots of bells and whistles. It took a while to figure out what it was capable of and how to do it. ERP software is this way, too. With good training, you can make it zip and whirl just like the sales rep did when you first saw the software. 

Are You Able to Go Beyond Daily Functions With Your System? 

Some companies report that their workers are able to do the normal daily operations with the ERP software, but that they can't get beyond that to delve into higher-level functions, such as utilizing the CRM features or generating certain reports. ERP software has lots of capabilities, such as managing organizational change and helping the company stay within budget. A business process assessment can help you customize your software in order to get the most bang for your buck and turn your software into a living and breathing part of your organization rather than just another tool in the tool belt.

Getting Your System Aligned With Your Business 

Until you truly understand the specific needs of each and every department in your company, and how the end users interact with your current software, you won’t be able to set up a new system that maximizes its potential.  Whether you hire an outside consulting firm to do business process assessment or you conduct an internal audit yourself, this is a vital step towards realizing the full potential of an ERP project. In some cases, you may not even need to invest in new software.  It might be as simple as just re-training on certain modules to improve employee performance.  And should you determine that a new software package is necessary, doing an assessment up front will help you find a software package that best fits your unique needs.

For more information on how to audit your business processes you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here


Jun 11 2015

How to Purge Data From Macola 10 Without Losing it Forever

Flip through the channel guide on your cable television and on any given night you can find some sort of makeover show on television.  Whether it be a home makeover, weight loss challenge or car restoration show, there seems to be a societal obsession with getting lean and mean in every single aspect of their lives.

The entire purpose of an ERP implementation project is to help an organizations trim some of the waste and excess from their day to day business processes.  But as the years go by, that system acquires mountains of data that are stored on the server and bog down processing and can slow functions like report execution, invoice posting and GL subsidiary ledger posting down to a crawl.

For many companies, this data can be vital for compliance purposes and historical reporting.  But if the critical data collected by your ERP system is also what is causing your system to run inefficiently, it becomes a self-defeating albatross around your proverbial neck.

Converting Fat into Muscle

For users of Exact Macola 10 (EM10) a solution to this problem already exists. Pulse Utlities has a data retention tool that allows you to archive all of your historical data in a separate database, thus allowing you to purge your system.  In essence, you are moving your historical data into a storage facility to eliminate the clutter in your day-to-day database. The utility is rules driven, meaning the user can customize the parameters do define what data is to be archived and what data is to be retained in the main database. The archived database is fully integrated with your EM10 database, meaning you can still call upon all historical data when needed, but run your regular processes in a more time efficient manner.

Designed for Ongoing Use

Once you have determined the parameters under which the utility will operate, it will automatically archive data that fits those criteria. For some companies, this can mean as much as 50-60% of their database being archived. While Macola has a native tool that can allow you to purge data, that process can take several hours, needs to be done manually, and can only be done when nobody is on the system. Pulse Utilities can manage all of this work in about an hour, without the need for manual data removal.

ERP software is designed to make an organization more efficient. But when that software is the cause of slower production and processing, it becomes a serious problem. Pulse Utilities will keep your EM10 system running efficiently while preserving vital historical data.

For more information on how to maximize  the productivity of your Exact Macola software call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Jun 05 2015

3 Reason Why The ERP Industry is Booming

The ERP software market is expected to reach $42 billion by the year 2020, according to an Allied Market Research entitled, "Global ERP Software Market - Size, Industry Analysis, Trends, Opportunities, Growth and Forecast, 2013-2020." What's driving this growth? Why such a sudden surge in adoption and deployment of ERP software?

Much of the growth is expected in the small- to mid-size business sector. SMBs need an affordable, effective way to stay competitive, while larger enterprises need to streamline operations for greater efficiency. On premise ERP software will still account for about 57 percent of ERP software use, but cloud hosted ERP will account for the greatest growth.

What are the factors driving this mass adoption and implementation of ERP across the globe?

Doing Business in a (Sort of) Post-Recession World

Most businesses around the world are still smarting from the recent global recession. As a result, organizations are emerging with a dedication to doing business leaner and meaner. Doing more with less and making the most out of their resources will assure that businesses can remain competitive through the bumps and lumps that are sure to come as the economy continues to grow and stabilize.

ERP offers businesses the ability to streamline operations, improve business decision-making processes, and plan better for the future. After braving the storms of a near-depression economic climate, these features of ERP software are immensely attractive.

Doing Business at the Speed of Life

Advanced analytics is the name of the game, but the need for real-time business intelligence means that all that analysis can't take lots of time. Executives expect to have the data available to make important business decisions in hours, not the days or weeks of yesteryear. Customers too are spoiled by data streaming and cloud innovations, meaning they expect decisions to be made on their behalf in minutes, not hours or days. With robust ERP software, the data and analytics can produce insights for decision making in real-time or near-real-time.

Doing Business Anytime, Anywhere

The cloud also makes it possible to do all of this analysis via mobile devices. No longer are sales teams and executives sitting at a desktop PC, they are most often on the road, working from home, or at a client's office working on a smartphone or tablet. With cloud ERP software, these workers can get the same real-time analytics for solid and sound decision making wherever they are, whenever they need to be working.

For more information on whether or not ERP software is a good fit for your business you can call the Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or download this free whitepaper


Jun 04 2015

4 Ways ERP Can Help Your Customer Service

ERP systems are often an investment in streamlining the company's operations, and it is very effective at doing so. But did you know that this same system can also improve your company's ability to improve customer service? Naturally, better operations leads to better customer satisfaction - even if the customers can't actually see behind the scenes. But a well-implemented ERP solution can directly affect how customers perceive the company as they deal with and interact with the employees. Here's how.

ERP Software Allows You to Keep Prices Competitive

There is a lot of potential for waste along the supply chain and during production. Are you procuring your materials at the best possible price? Are your production techniques as efficient as they could be? Are you taking advantage of the lowest shipping rates? All of these supply chain issues play into how competitively you can price your products, and price is a huge factor in how satisfied your customers are going to be. If you can manage to keep prices level or drop prices when everyone else is raising theirs, you'll be in a solid position, not only to retain your current customer base, but to pick up some customers that stray from pricy competitors.

ERP Software Produces Better Management, Which Translates into Better Customer Service

When the proverbial right hand has no idea what the left is up to, customers and their issues tend to fall through the cracks. With ERP software, you can collect and analyze pertinent data to deliver meaningful insight into better management practices. Customers notice well managed companies. They're impressed, and they want to come back for more. When customers call a company and its clear the service rep has no idea what's going on or why, customers become frustrated, and often find someone else to do business with.

ERP Software Makes Workers More Efficient at Handling Issues

The ability to track products, document known issues, and isolate incidents makes it a cinch to give the customer an answer -- and a solution! -- when problems do arise. But with a fully integrated ERP and CRM system, you can track the issue and come up with a satisfactory solution so that your customer is impressed, not alienated.

ERP Software Improves Inventory Control, So Customers Can Always Depend on You

Without an inventory tracking and management system, lots of things can go wrong that result in dissatisfied customers. Customers get upset if you're sold out of their favorite item. They also get disgruntled if the product they receive is outdated. If you overstock, you might have to sell items at steeply discounted prices or even at a loss. ERP systems include inventory tracking and management solutions so that your customers always get fresh products and can always depend on you having their favorites.

For more information on how ERP software can streamline more than just the shop floor you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.  


Jun 02 2015

3 Common Hurdles That Will Trip up an ERP Implementation

Here at the Attivo blog, we’ve often said that there is no such thing as an out of the box ERP implementation. Anyone who tells you otherwise probably has a bag of magic beans they’d like to sell you too. While modern ERP systems have gotten more intuitive and user friendly, most business have unique needs and processes that require at least some level of software customization.

Keeping a major ERP implementation project on budget and on schedule can be challenging. But with a business process assessment and an awareness of some of the hurdles that you will inevitably encounter, it becomes much easier to keep a project on track. Below are some of the biggest obstacles that a company might face with embarking on a major ERP project.

Understanding Your Current Infrastructure

The saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link can be applied to your in-house infrastructure. Just like a really great website isn’t going to perform as well on a computer with an outdated processor, the latest and greatest ERP software simply isn’t going to perform on outdated servers and hardware.

Even if you are looking into a cloud hosted ERP solution, it is important to understand the infrastructure of your hosting partner to ensure it is compatible with modern ERP requirements.  It is also important to analyze the speed and capacity capabilities of your internet connection and router to ensure you are maximizing the capabilities of your cloud solution.

Failure to analyze your infrastructure will lead your ERP project to sputter out of the gate and struggle to pick up any momentum.

Are Current Utility Systems Compatible?

The utility systems that you use to do the dirty work around the office could also be the software that is causing multiple glitches with your ERP software. Does your payroll software integrate with a new ERP system? Is your current payroll software made redundant by your new ERP system? Perhaps you are still running dot matrix printer (yes, people still do).  How much time will it take to integrate older systems with newer technology?

These are the types of questions that need to be asked before an implementation project ever kicks off. Failure to do so ahead of time will inevitably lead to bugs and issues arising down the road that will require additional service hours being paid out to your support partner to find and fix issues.  Not only does this stretch out the timeline required to be 100% up and running, but it also adds to the cost of your implementation.

Failure to Properly Train Staff Ahead of Time

Too many organizations try to cut corners when it comes to training.  They might train a few high level employees and then entrust those few with the job of passing their knowledge down to the end users. A degradation of information is unavoidable in this situation, with ultimately leads to the system not being utilized properly, or worse yet, a failure to fully adopt new systems by your employees. Invest in proper training up front, and you will save money in the long run.     

For more information on how to plan for your next ERP project you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.