The Attivo Blog

Apr 19 2009

Time for Spring Cleaning at Your Company?

I love my GMC Yukon XL. Easy to drive, roomy, the dog loves it, and pound for pound, not bad on fuel mileage either. I also love my '57 Chevrolet Bel Air - and I hope I can get it put back together some day. Check it out... Len's 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air I'd love to own one of those new 2010 Chevrolet Camaros...might help extend my midlife crisis. And the Cadillac CTS - what a great car! But don't ask me to buy a Chevrolet Cobalt. Not going to happen. If I need a small car (and I do), I will probably buy a Honda Accord or Civic.  Honda really knows how to build a great small car.  They last forever, and rarely break.  Nothing against people who have purchased a Chevrolet Cobalt - but it just isn't the first small car that I would consider buying.  I just know that Honda builds a high quality, fuel efficient small car. What does this have to do with Productivity?  A lot.  I think it is very important to do what you are very good at, and keep getting better at it.  Forget the rest.  Why are we forcing GM to build small, fuel efficient cars?  Can't we let them build the big cars and trucks, and leave the smaller cars to the experienced like Honda, or the new upcomers like Tata Motors in China?  GM actually makes money selling those big cars and trucks, and loses money on the small ones. Consider that we are a global market, and that so much of the components and technology is made right here in the USA anyway.  What I'm suggesting does not mean our auto industry will shrink any.  It just means that Toyota or Tata or Honda might sell more units than GM, since they are making cars for the masses.  But GM can own a very big share of the truck and luxury vehicles market - where they actually know how to make money. So, what is it that your company is really good at?  Got any losers you need to unload?  This is a great time to do just that - a little spring cleaning will improve your bottom line.

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Apr 09 2009

QuickBooks for Manufacturing?

QuickBooks doesn't do manufacturing, does it? Well, kind of. It does have a basic bill of materials, which will consume components and create a parent item. But that's where it stops. Intuit QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier or QuickBooks Enterprise Suite have never been known as robust manufacturing solutions. Manufacturing Systems Designed to Work with QuickBooks First, I should tell you that our company, The Attivo Group, is an Intuit Solution Provider, and that we sell and support QuickBooks Enterprise Suite.  We also sell and support several tier 2 ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems such as Microsoft Dynamics GP and Exact Macola.  These are wonderfully capable systems, but may be more expensive or overly complex for the smaller, $1-10 million manufacturer. The reason I wanted to point this out is to help small manufacturers understand that they should implement good planning and control systems, but they shouldn't overspend to achieve the goal. Fortunately, there are several great software applications that are designed to work with QuickBooks to support manufacturing needs.   Here's the great part - you don't have to disturb your accounting department to implement them!  There might be some small process changes to deal with, but no major overhaul of your entire business.  This is like remodeling the house without ripping out the kitchen or either of the bathrooms. The key is understanding those requirements, and choosing the right solution.  Although it might seem like there are a lot of software choices, the choices are narrowed when specific requirements are considered.  First, narrow the field with basic choices, by identifying the type of manufacturing support that you need, such as:                     -  Make to order                     -  Configure to order                     -  Make to stock                     -  Process Manufacturing, etc. Then, consider unique requirements such as compliance needs, serial or lot traceability, project management needs, labor tracking, outside processing or other needs.  Each application provides a different set of functions, and in some cases are designed to support particular types of industries.  So get some help on determining your needs before you start looking - or you will be looking for a while, since there are over 100 options out there.  Some of the more widely used applications are (click on them for more information):

Check out the Intuit Marketplace, and see for yourself.  There is a lot of good software out there to manage your operations.  Our experience is that most of the $1-10 million manufacturers are using QuickBooks for accounting, and Excel for everything else, as tedious as that is.  Even though Microsoft Excel is a great application, it's time to put in an easy to use system that can really save your company time and money.  And you don't have to throw QuickBooks out to do it!

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Apr 01 2009

Business Consulting and Software Sales in an Awful Economy - How We Have Adapted

What the economic melt down has meant to business consulting and software sales

The majority of our clients have been predominantly smaller mid-market sized companies, typically privately owned, with revenues in the $5-100 million range.  They have been absolutely frozen in place since about October of 2008.  Unable to make any decision whatsoever, they have stopped all spending on marketing, certifications, automation or any kind of improvement initiatives of any kind for their business.  Six months have now passed.  Still no signs of life.  You can probably guess what happened to the business software projects that we were supposed to work on with them.  Forget new system implementations.  The few projects on the street have had so many vultures flying around them that they are hardly worth chasing.  Not a very healthy situation at all. We've made a few very important shifts in our business model that have really helped a lot.  Here's a few:
1) Became an Intuit Solution Provider, offering the higher-end version of the popular QuickBooks software, QuickBooks Enterprise Suite.  This expanded our market dramatically.
2) Became a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, opening up access to 4,000,000 users of QuickBooks to help them with their software and provide unique software solutions to solve their business needs and integrate with their QuickBooks system.
3) Became a Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) and Microsoft CRM reseller.  Microsoft is very quickly becoming the 600 pound gorilla in the business software applications market.  Prospects have indicated that they perceive Microsoft as a very high-quality provider of business systems.  Marketing works.  Remember IBM in the 1980's?? 4) Exanded our product offerings - we now work with over 60 different business management software applications.  Check out our home page - after 16 years in business, we've accumulated a lot of partners! 5) Began focusing on service industries, rather that just manufacturing and wholesale distribution. 6) Began providing mid-market ERP solutions that integrate with QuickBooks.  In this way, a company can get the controls and functionality that they need where it counts, but maintain the simplicity and low cost of their QuickBooks Accouning system.
But here's the key - smaller, bite-sized projects.  Instead of $50-150,000 projects, we're working on $5-25,000 projects.  And they are coming from the $1-10 million revenue sized companies.  Not the mid market.  (Still no signs of life there - they still have their hands in their pockets holding onto their wallets). Service industries have less complex system requirements than manufacturers, but they have needs nonetheless.  We are working on some very interesting projects with service companies, and have gained instant entry into the market with the addition of Will Breiholz as our new Vice President of Business Development.   Will is a 12 year veteran of the Intuit Marketplace, and brought along plenty of knowledge and contacts with him. Will most recently served as General Manager for BQE Software, the developer of the popular BillQuick Software.  BillQuick is a professional services time and billing system, that is used by architects, engineers, attorneys and others that need to track their time and bill customers against projects or contracts.  We're implementing tier-two sized ERP offerings such as Exact MAX, Exact JobBOSS, MYSis and Fishbowl that are designed to integrate with QuickBooks for the accounting needs.  This saves clients a significant amount of money, since most can get away with basic accounting, but still need the functionality of bigger systems for their operations management.  This makes a lot of business sense to me.   Not only that, Eunice, the 40-year veteran bookkeeper, does not have to give up her QuickBooks system and learn a new system (which would have killed the deal, by the way).   I don't want to go too far out on a limb with this, but I see this as a real growth market for us. I welcome any and all comments on how you have changed your business in these tumultuous times - we could all use some good hints on how to stay alive!

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Mar 25 2009

"Don't start vast projects...with half-vast commitment!"

As a compliance consultant, I obviously believe that I provide truly unique and special value to my clients and prospects deciding to pursue ISO 9001 certification.  But one major advantage that I have, even over a very experienced and knowledgeable Quality Manager that's trying to go it alone from within his/her own company; is the commitment that top management has made to do what their consultant tells them. After all, "they're paying the big bucks", so usually the President or CEO has told everyone, "you WILL attend the training, you WILL meet your project deadlines, and we WILL get certified!" A compliant quality management system (QMS) is not rocket science, however; it is definitely a series of best practices and disciplines that often involves a [corporate] culture change. People that tend to resist change, either by their nature or because of the sheer habit of "we've always done it this way!" require the extra incentive or motivation that a top-down commitment fosters. So, if you're a company leader, don't "mail it in". You may have delegated the Quality Manager to be the Management Representative to develop your QMS, but your overt commitment and high expectations are imperative to your company's successful certification. A Personal Anecdote: After achieving ISO 9001 certification from within a company as Director of Quality and using the help of a consultant, I then left that company and joined the same consultant group and successfully prepared numerous clients to become certified, mostly in the Detroit area. Although the work was very rewarding, the excessive travel forced my decision to accept a full time position as the head of quality in a unionized manufacturing environment. The President himself did not support the effort to become truly compliant, yet he did want the ISO 9001 certificate. The short of it is that we never did get certified in the 18 months I was there. After deciding to leave that organization, I have since been involved again (very successfully) in preparing companies for ISO 9001 and AS 9100 certification, usually in under six months. Claude Cormane - "ISOMan"

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Mar 23 2009

Microsoft Convergence 2009 Conference

Microsoft Convergence 2009 Conference - A Great Show! As a Microsoft Dynamics Partner, I recently traveled to New Orleans to participate in the annual Microsoft Convergence Conference.  It was well attended, with approximately 8,000-10,00 participants, which is pretty good for any such conference with all of the travel restrictions that companies have imposed in this dismal period for our economy.  Our blogging coach, Ron Ploof, (check him out at RonAmok.com) suggested I purchase one of those ultra-portable Flip Video cameras for use in creating video for the blog, so now you can check out the lunchroom scene of 10,000 attendees.
Many of you who know me as a "glass half full" kind of person, and I'm always looking for good news to pass on.  I was pleasantly surprised at this conference. The mood was very upbeat with everyone that I spoke with.  Not knowing much about the economy in that part of the country, I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that New Orleans and most of Louisiana is in pretty good economic shape, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.   Newscasts actually discussed how the state will hopefully dodge the bullet of recession for the most part.  I hope that is the case - Louisiana has surely seen enough trouble in recent years. I also had the opportunity to take a walking tour of the French Quarter one evening. While most of the area is quite charming, with great food and music, I would have enjoyed Bourbon Street a lot more when I was 22 years old.  The street is blocked off to traffic at night so people can freely walk around with a cocktail to visit the various bars and attractions - quite a party atmosphere.  Here's a good example of the Bourbon Street scene.
 
 Back to the conference.  Convergence is largely a user conference, although there were partner-only sessions a day earlier.  This is not the IT-focused conference where operating systems and development platforms are showcased.   Convergence is all about business applications - Dynamics GP (Great Plains), Dynamics AX (Axapta), NAV (Navision), SL (Solomon) and Microsoft CRM, as well as Sharepoint Services, Excel reporting, etc.  Lots of good product sessions, talking about new features and product roadmaps.  There was also a great learning lab, where you could speak with product specialists, and try out products 

Microsoft Convergence 2009 Learning Lab from Len Reo on Vimeo. I attended mostly Dynamics GP and CRM sessions.  There will be a service pack release for Dynamics GP Version 10 around mid-year, that dramatically improves the integration to CRM 4.0, which will certainly be welcomed.  Extender is also improved considerably, allowing addition of extensive additional data capture to fit unique requirments, in order entry, for example.  We were also given a glimpse of what's coming in Version 11 and beyond.  There is definitely no shortage of planned R & D investment in any of the Dynamics products, and there is no plan to consolidate their product offerings into one common platform or any such dramatic change. The trade show was huge - with approximately 200 third party vendors participating.  I knew lots of them already, since many of them support the Exact Software Macola products as well as the Intuit QuickBooks products.  You can solve ANY business problem with a Microsoft solution, I am convinced.  I was very impressed with the level of solutions available.  A good example is Data Masons Vantage Point EDI, whose product we work with for Dynamics customers as well as Exact Software and Intuit QuickBooks Enterprise Suite.  Here's Glenn McPeak, developer and General Manager of Data Masons at the show.   Glenn McPeak-Vantage Point EDI Software Attending this show was definitely time well spent, and if you are a Microsoft Dynamics user of any kind, I would highly recommend attending this event next year.

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Feb 18 2009

ISO Certification - Registrar's Survey Results

I found some interesting statistics that support my earlier post "ISO 9001 - Compliance, or just smart business..?" The main point I made was that although the top reasons for getting certified is typically the "arm-twisting" directly from customers or from corporate mandates responding to industry pressure, the seemingly unexpected result is that increased efficiency and improved financial performance ranked as high as third in the list of benefits cited in surveys from the International Association of Accredited Registrars (The organizations that would come out to audit & certify you) [caption id="attachment_205" align="aligncenter" width="615" caption="First Chart Reflects Top Reasons for Certification"]1st Chart Reflects Top Reasons for Certification[/caption] This next chart summarizes the top benefits actually cited after getting certified...It's kinda like the doctor making you join a gym for your health, but the unexpected benefit is that you look better, feel better and perform better in other aspects of your life.

This Chart Reflects Top Benefits Cited After Certification
This Chart Reflects Top Benefits Cited After Certification
Claude Cormane - "ISOMan"

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Feb 16 2009

Everyone Can Benefit From Event Manager - Tips 2 thru 7

Improve Your Cash Flow Why not send out an automatic email message (or fax) to all customers, or just specific customers, regarding their balance due to be paid one week prior to the due date?  Include a request to "Please verify that these invoices are in your system and scheduled to be paid" message requesting that they contact you if there are any discrepancies. Event Manager can automate sending these messages, whether there's only one to send, or several thousands.  This is guaranteed to improve your cash flow. Insure Timely Delivery of Purchase Orders The requested ship dates on your purchase orders support your schedule and your commitments to customers. To help insure that all of your vendors are keeping their commitments, have Event Manager send them a notice a week in advance regarding the expected shipments. Include a request to "Please notify us immediately if you anticipate any problems meeting the ship date".  Also, have Event Manager watch for late shipments, and send an email notification to the vendor (copy to you, in this case) regarding the late shipment, requesting immediate status update.  This should save your Purchasing Manager a lot of phone calls (which might never get done to start with). These tools will send the message to your vendor that on-time delivery is very important to you, and their performance will improve.  Automate Sending Order Acknowledgements Whenever a new customer order is entered, or an order is changed, you should be sending an order acknowledgement to your customer.  This will save time, confusion and a lot of cost over the long haul if your customer has a chance to verify their order and notify you if there are any errors. Have Event Manager send these via email or fax immediately upon entering or changing an order.  Let this be the default, and if you need to, you can use a checkbox on the order to not send one when it is not necessary.  Notify Prospects of Expiring Quotes You spent a lot of time creating the quote for them, but they have not responded yet.  A simple call to action might do the trick to get a response.  "Your quote number 123 for Item xyz is scheduled to expire in 5 days - can we place the order for you?"  That might be a little bold for you, but something to get a response is the key here.  You should find out if they are not going to place the order, and what the reason was for not placing the order with you.  This could be helpful information for future quoting. Let Event Manager do this work for you.  Insure Sales Follow Up There is nothing more detrimental to a sale process than lack of timely follow up.  Use Event Manager to notify you when leads are not being followed up within 24 hours, or quotes have been given without a follow up phone call in 3 days, or (insert your pet peeve here).  Let Event Manager be the watchdog on these activities, and stop letting opportunities slip through the cracks.  Avoid Stockouts If you are a retail outlet, distributor or manufacturer, you probably use many different types of tools and strategies for managing procurement and planning to insure you have the right stuff at the right time.  But supply and demand doesn't always behave the way that you predict.  Event Manager can watch for these conditions, such as an unusually large order for an item.  Ordinarily, this may cause a stock out of the item until the normal procurement cycle replenishes it, causing some lost sales.  This could be caught as soon as the large order was placed, by anticipating normal demand through the replenishment cycle, and suggesting that an incremental order be placed immediately. There's a lot more suggestions where this one came from...  A Very Long List of Possible Uses The possibilities are endless.  We work with a few of these Event Management/Business Activity Management solutions. Check them out here, along with some other suggested uses.  These are extremely affordable applications, with very high return on investment.  They are designed to work with any ODBC compliant database, which includes pretty much every accounting, ERP, and business management system out there today.  Event Management software can do an incredible amount of work, safeguarding assets, improving throughput, lowering costs, and serving the needs of virtually every business objective.  In these times, we all need to be paying close attention to business - so...let's sit down and see how you can benefit ASAP!

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Feb 12 2009

ISO 9001 Certification – Compliance, or just smart business? Your choice.

Did you, or are you getting ISO 9001 certified because of the proverbial "gun-to-the-head" by your customers..? …Or, did you decide that certification would actually provide benefits in not only the area of quality, but also operational performance and business objectives? There is no question that it costs money for companies to prepare for and maintain ISO 9001 certification. It’s also arguable that many companies would not have opted to do so if they weren't forced to by specific customers or from competitive industry pressures. I’ve worked with a few clients that simply wanted the ISO certificate and the shortest route to obtain it. They would have just bought the certificate if they could have! I have also been fortunate to work with clients that opted to become certified as a way to implement an enterprise-wide, concerted effort to benchmark practices and make improvements where needed as a business improvement objective, where certification was simply icing on the cake. Case in point, my experience with All-New Stamping, Inc. of El Monte, California.  All-New completed the AS 9100 certification to support it's growing aerospace business.  Nick Kopinga, the company President, felt that even with close to forty years in business, the process of becoming certified would force them to properly document the things they were already doing well. Additionally, though, he knew it would also highlight new areas of opportunity to update and improve both their business systems and their management practices. And that’s exactly what they experienced. In particular, the ISO mandate for regular management review of the quality system, and the requirement to achieve continuous measurable improvement was widened in scope to include additional business objectives. Can there ever be any reason to separate quality from any other business objectives anyway? The objectives they monitored only intuitively before, such as on-time delivery, plant efficiencies, supplier quality, product conformance, etc. now have objective trend charts that are used as their dashboard to drive the organization’s priorities for action and improvement. Most importantly, it conveys the metrics in a very visual way to the entire organization, which has given everyone a continuous improvement mindset. What started out to achieve an objective (ISO Certification) has continued to provide true return on investment at All-New Stamping. Check out this case study about All-New Stamping - and call Nick Kopinga if you'd like to hear it straight from the top.

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Feb 10 2009

Use Free "Yes/No" Fields to trigger emails with Event Manager

If you are using Exact Synergy, have you ever wanted to have Exact Event manager send an email when a particular workflow task or request is completed, but only in certain situations? Exact Event Manager triggers on certain criteria are a great way to do this, but if the keyed data isn't exactly what you want, the email may not be initiated. If you instead use a Free Yes/No Field (checkbox field) however, you can limit the trigger to two criteria: "send" or "don't send".  This means your trigger may look like this:

WHERE  dbo.Absences.FreeBoolField_05  =  1 AND dbo.Absences.Type  IN  ( 102 , 200 )
The value of "1" indicates that the box is in a checked state.  The second line adds additional conditions to the trigger: in this case, the request is one of 2 specific types. Once you complete the rest of the EVENT, you can have the email send off to a particular recipient when the box is checked.  But what if you want to trigger the same email multiple times from the same request? I was able to solve this problem by adding a little SQL update script to the end of my EVENT. In addition to sending an email when the event is triggered by the above script, my event also runs the following:
update Absences set FreeBoolField_05=0 where HID={HID} and FreeBoolField_05=1
What does this do? Well, it simply resets the checkbox from a checked state, to an unchecked state! And the "where" clause defines the specific job that JUST triggered.  The only thing that remains to be done is to allow the job to run multiple times. This is accomplished under the Description Tab of the Event under the checkbox "Repeat notification for triggered items."  If that box were left unchecked, the email would never send again, even if you had checked the box again. That's it!

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Feb 10 2009

Significantly Improved Security with QuickBooks Enterprise Suite 9.0

With the Advanced User Permissions in QuickBooks Enterprise Suite Version 9.0,  you can control your employee’s access to only the information and activities they need to do their jobs, without exposing your data to accidental or intentional misuse.  QBES 9.0 allows you to configure access control over 115 individual reports, bank accounts, lists and activities.   The system comes with 13 Predefined User Roles to make new user set-up fast and easy. Each predefined role template comes with a complete set of permissions designed for that role. You can copy and edit each role template and assign any role to any user instantly, or apply multiple roles to a single user.  Predefined roles include: Accountant, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Banking, Finance, Full Access, Inventory, Payroll Manager, Payroll Processor, Purchasing, Sales, Time Tracking, and View-only.  Check out the full description of the security capabilities in QuickBooks Enterprise Suite. My CPA constantly complained about how easy it was to change data from a prior year, for which a tax return had already been filed.  Problem solved.  And in the off-the-shelf versions of QuickBooks, such as QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier, user security over data is very limited.  Also solved in QBES. Upgrading to QuickBooks Enterprise Suite is very easy, and provides the accounting and security control that most companies really need.  As a business owner I am very impressed with the new security functions in QuickBooks Enterprise Suite Version 9.0, and  I like that I do not have to worry about my company’s data being misused.

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Jan 12 2009

Afraid to purge Macola data? Use data retention instead.

Run Macola Lean and Mean

Macola Progression SQL users that have been using Macola for a long time and have not regularly purged the database experience significantly slower processing and much longer times for report execution, invoice posting, GL subsidiary ledger posting, etc. The Attivo Group has developed a data retention utility for Progression SQL that allows the user to first archive all historical data into a separate database, and then purge their system using data retention guidelines.  In this way, NO data is lost. Using SQL tools, the program removes all data that falls outside of the date retention period.  In this way,  historical reporting and analysis can still be performed as required against the archived data, leaving the production database "lean and mean". The data retention process is rules-driven to allow a company to define which files (tables) need to be archived and how much historical data is retained in the production environment. For example, 2 years of accounts receivables invoices and payments may be sufficient for most queries. However, your company may need to keep 5 years worth of receivables information to support some contractual or legal requirements. Using the Attivo data retention utility, the company can have both. 

Designed for ongoing use

The system is designed for ongoing use, as well.  Once you define the data retention schedule, the utility will add any data records in the production company that do not already exist in the archive company, and then purge the production company of any transactions beyond the data retention period. This provides the ability for the company to perform historical trends and analysis without taking up the resources in the production environment. Daily processing will go faster since the database that is being accessed is smaller, and there are fewer records that the system will need to look through when determining what information is to be used for a given process.  Users have reported reductions of 40-60% in database size.  Data intensive processes such as MRP regeneration, invoice posting, subsidiary ledger posting to General Ledger, etc. post a dramatic improvement in processing time.  The associated database size reduction also reduces daily backup time, as well.

Save an incredible amount of time

Can this be accomplished using the purge processes already in Macola?  Absolutely.  However, the time required to purge each and every file using the native system tools will take hours and hours, spread over several days or weeks, since you can't purge the system while people are using it.  The data retention utility will accomplish the entire job within an hour or so.  That's a huge gain in productivity for a system administrator, and encourages and facilitates regular maintenance to keep your Macola system operating at peak performance.

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Jan 03 2009

Event Management, Business Activity Management, and who needs it, anyway? Tip #1

Tip #1 - In business, things will go sideways.  Be prepared.

With all of the data that we're creating every day, especially as things become more automated, how can anyone possibly keep up with all of this?  Are we expected to spend more time reading reports?  That doesn't sound very productive. In business, knowing what didn't happen, or is not going to happen as expected is very important.  Knowing what looks like a problem in the making is extremely valuable.  That's one of the things that event management and business activity managment is all about - getting some advance warning about things that are about to go sideways. A great example is customer credit - something that definitely needs to be managed.  Under the old fashion way, a customer has to show up in the 60 day (or worse) column before someone swings into motion to make some collection calls.  And then you go through the dance - "Can you send us a copy of the invoice? It's waiting approval from so-and-so who's on vacaction until next Wednesday, It's in our check run for this Thursday" etc., etc.  (Call me if you need some more of these...I've heard some beauties).  Using an Event Management system, things can be VERY different.  Let's say one of your customers just went past their terms (like 10 days past 30 days).  And you are about to ship some more product to them, only your event manager system just notified credit, and either the credit department or your system has locked down printing of pick tickets for this customer until the hold is released.  Someone in customer service has also been notified that this customer's order will not be shipped until this credit problem is resolved, and optionally, the customer has also been notified that their order is being held up until the problem is resolved.  Within hours, a few phone calls are exchanged, and the problem is resolved, while you still have some leverage with your customer.  They might be embarassed for the moment, but it was their mistake, after all.  You resolved it with them while everyone was still friends.  They received the merchandise that they needed, and you received the cash that you were owed.  And they also know to not delay payment to YOUR company when the cash requirements report is printed next time.  They know that some vendors watch, and others, not so much.  You are now on their list of vendors that is watching.  The lesson here is that like credit, which will go sideways if you are not watching (guaranteed), there are many things in business where you can be prepared, forewarned or alerted that something important needs your attention.  It doesn't matter what type of software application you are using, or how many different applications or databases might be involved, either.   Business activity management systems look for pre-defined conditions in the database, and then execute your pre-programmed instructions.  The trigger could be something as simple as an email received with a particular word in the subject line.  The response that you plan for might be simply an email to someone that can affect the outcome, or it could be a complex series of outcomes.  In our example above, it might have been a simple email to the controller or credit manager, or a combination of that email plus automated credit holds on all orders and an email notification to the customer.  You define the action to take - whatever is appropriate for the issue at hand. Put these simple and inexpensive tools to work for you - and deal with fewer fire drills every day.  Fire drills are very expensive, and take time away from your productivity.

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Dec 30 2008

Year End Closing in Macola Progression and Macola ES

It's that time again - year end closing for those companies that follow a calendar year.  There are a few unique and important processes that need to be done to properly close the year in either Macola Progression or Macola ES.  We are coming up on the calendar year end...however, these rules would apply if you had a fiscal year end as well.  If you are using Macola Progression, starting with Version 7.X,  please click here for Progression Year End Closing Procedures.  You can also access this from our website in our tech center, at http://www.attivoconsulting.com/resource_center/index/techcenter.html. If you are using Macola ES (any version), please click here for Macola ES Year End Closing Procedures..  You can also access this from our website in our tech center, at http://www.attivoconsulting.com/resource_center/index/techcenter.html. Please note - you MUST complete your normal month end closing procedures and perform these processes IN ADDITION TO your normal month end closing procedures.  If you do not have a month end closing checklist, please contact us and we will gladly provide one for you at no charge. Happy year end closing, and may I also add...good riddance to 2008!  Have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009!

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Dec 22 2008

Stop Printing Paper - Use Free PDF Creators Instead

Everyone has "going green" on their minds today, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to stop printing most of the things that you print.  Printing to a PDF (Portable Document Format) print utility instead will not only save the paper, you will save precious time, and improve your productivity.  Remember - more productivity equals one of two things: (1) More work accomplished in the same amount of time, or (2) The same amount of work accomplished in less time.  You choose - both outcomes are good things! When you print a document, you must get up to retrieve it, along with the inevitable chores of putting paper in the printer, etc., and then do something with the paper afterwards like filing it somewhere.  Then all of that filing needs to be dealt with at some point, and put into storage.  You're probably thinking - what about the state and federal records retention requirements?  Don't I have to keep these records for 7 years?  Yes, you probably need to keep certain accounting records for that long.  but they do not have to be hard copies - it is perfectly acceptable to the IRS and others to have electronic copies of these valuable documents available rather than hard copies.  It is actually easier for auditors to use electronic copies, rather than sifting through a mountain of paper.  Which means less time spent on the audit, and the sooner the audit can be completed, the better the chance of a "no change" result. If you don't already have a PDF creator software such as Adobe Acrobat, which can cost $450 for the full version, consider one of the many FREE PDF creators.  One of my personal favorites, which I use and recommend to all my clients, is CutePDF Writer.  So far, 740,000 people have downloaded it from www.downloads.com alone.  You can also download it from www.cutepdf.com.  There is a freeware version, as well as a few other, more functional versions at very reasonable prices. The only other choice to make is where to save all these electronic documents.  They should definitely be saved where they will be backed up, such as your network server if you have one.  Come up with a scheme to store the documents, such as a master folder for "2008 Accounting", with subfolders for each month of the year below that.  When you save the documents using CutePDF, it will prompt you for a name for the document.  For those routine documents, such as accounts payable registers, come up with a short, concise recognizable name for the document and use it consistently, perhaps just changing the date at the end of the file name each time. And don't forget to start using the 2nd monitor that now sits on your desk (see my previous post) to pull up these electronic documents from your easy to navigate electronic filing systems...

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Dec 10 2008

Event-Managing the Conditional/Scheduled Report. The Right Way.

In addition to being "The Event Manager" here at Attivo, I also write many Crystal Reports, most commonly for ISOMan.  ISOMan is always asking me for a new Crystal Report displaying a different collection of Product Information for him to present to our clients' Quality and Product Managers. Sometimes we deploy these reports via some means of on-demand distribution, like the Crystal Enterprise Suite or the HTML Wizard Recrystallize.  And sometimes we deploy the reports via a scheduled job in Event Manager, sending 1 or more daily reports each afternoon at the close of the workday. Event Manager, as you may know, is fully capable of automatically running any Crystal Report and attaching them as .pdf files to an email, before spinning that email off to a predefined recipient. But what if you ONLY want that report to send off when there is data to display in the report? What if the range in data for the report varies from 0 to 100's of results? In this instance, you will need to create a conditional/scheduled report. Anyone with any experience in Event Manager knows that the first step is to create a query. We need to know WHEN to run the report.  So we begin by creating the query, adding/ linking the tables, and adding the columns and filters.  However, do not spend too much time on the columns. Why? Because we won't be needing any database columns beyond the unique ID to tell our scheduled report to run.  The columns you pick will soon be deleted once we have verified our data.  save point Once you have created your filters and your preview displays only those results you are looking for, click the SQL tab and check the box stating that you will manually edit the SQL for this query.  First, break your SQL up into it's three main components, the 'select' statement, the 'from' statement, and the 'where' clause. Next, delete everything in the select statement EXCEPT the unique column you selected earlier.

select imitmadt_sql.id
We want to COUNT the amount of times this id comes up. Remember, our REPORT which will get triggered by this query will display all the required columns. This query is to determine IF the report should be run ONLY. Our short query becomes:
select count(imitmadt_sql.id)
Skip the 'from' section and proceed to the 'where' filters you added earlier.  Assuming you created the filters correctly using the Event Manager Filters tab, you will just need to add one more 'filter' to the very end of your SQL statement.
where... imitmadt_sql.activity_cd='F' AND imitmadt_sql.aud_action='A'
Becomes
where... imitmadt_sql.activity_cd='F' AND imitmadt_sql.aud_action='A' having count (imitmadt_sql.id)>0
Note that there is no AND between the last 'where' clause and the new 'having' clause which includes the same count formula we used in the select statement earlier. This keeps this query from triggering when there are no results! Click Preview and confirm that your results should look something like this where '3' is the number of hits that came up the FIRST time you Previewed this query:
"Column1" 3
Click Save and Close and go to Events. Create a new Event that uses the query you just made and select the Reports tab. Add the report that you wanted to be conditional but didn't want to send with zero results. Remember to set the Output Type/Style. Finally, draft your Email in the email tab, add subscribers in the subscriber tab, and schedule the report. That's it, no more reports without data! If there is no report sent, your recipients will know that there was no data generated by that report for that day.

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