Advice

5
Oct

Six strategies to see ROI from your ERP implementation sooner

When you think of ROI, monetary returns spring to mind – particularly if you have stocks.

But there are other, crucial factors of ROI to do with savings and increases. The right investments can save you time, effort, resources, and sometimes even your sanity. And increases gained can include efficiency, productivity, the speed of getting the job done and much more.

When you purchase a new laptop, you may not realise it, but you’re probably thinking about savings and increases. How much faster will the laptop work? How much more can you get done in less time with a more efficient processor?

When it comes to business management software, it’s the same situation. Sure, there’s a monetary factor. The right ERP software can help you increase sales and grow your revenue. But it can also help reduce time-consuming processes through automation, do more with fewer resources, get your operations running more efficiently, and make your team more productive.

There are a lot more ROI benefits to leverage from an ERP implementation. So, if you’re considering an ERP system, be sure to start out with the right strategies that will help maximise ROI, faster.

ERP implementation is key

Analyst firm, Gartner, estimates that 55% to 75% of all ERP projects fail to meet their objectives. Common causes of failure include inadequate communication and planning, poor change management and constant adjustments to business objectives during the implementation process.

If you’re considering an ERP system to help your business grow faster and improve profit, getting your ERP implementation right is a crucial ingredient. And seeing a strong return on investment from your ERP software hinges on the implementation.

Here are the top 6 strategies to help you see ROI from your implementation sooner.

Identify your requirements

When scoping an ERP solution, choose software that’s designed for the needs of your business and industry. Look for functionality that addresses your core processes and business requirements.

Spend some time jotting down the current pain points and issues that you and your team are having with your current systems. Are you spending too much time rekeying data from one system to another? Or you see errors in your critical business data as a result? Are there specific business reports you need as standard? Ask your team for their input and prioritise the impact of the current issues. If you’re not sure how to get started, talk to the ERP provider you’re considering working with. They’ll often have a wealth of experience and advice about what to consider.

Think of your relationship with the ERP provider as a partnership that can aid the success of your implementation. Don’t be afraid to ask for their advice. Any good solution provider will already regard this as a necessary part of the process. Have a further read of our post, ERP software comparison: how to plan the right choice, for some additional tips on what to look for and what to expect from an ERP solution provider.

Customised or standard?

Studies have shown that customisation is a leading factor of why implementations can take longer than expected and incur higher costs. Think about how you want to start off with your ERP system. Do you want to start simply and quickly, planning for additional functionality or customisations is a second phase of your project? Or do you have specific requirements that need to be met as part of the initial set up? It can help to work with an ERP solution provider to clarify what your business needs early on. Scoping your ERP implementation project appropriately and considering customisations or additional functionality, whether that’s immediately or in a second phase, can help set the right timeframes and expectations.

A standardised ERP implementation isn’t right for every business. But for those wanting to get up and running with financials and inventory as soon as possible, it can be a wise decision that lets you see ROI very quickly. Once you’re up and running, you can continue to work with your ERP provider on customisations and expanding functionality to drive value from your software investment even further. Work with your ERP provider to establish the right plan for your continued implementation goals beyond your initial ‘go-live’ phase.

Choose the right ERP implementation for your business

It’s crucial to understand the differences between two main types of ERP systems in which you can invest. You can purchase an on-premise ERP system and install it on your own physical computers and servers. Using an on-premise option, the software is installed on your physical servers. To keep your ERP technology current, you’ll need to perform regular testing and upgrades of the software. You’ll need the knowledge and resources in-house to do this or pay for an IT technician to help.

You might also need to schedule windows of down time for the work to be done or organise out-of-office hours to manage updates. Be mindful of how you plan this out as it can run the risk of affecting productivity, as well as any customisations and integrations you’ve set up, if not handled correctly.

On-premise ERP software generally incurs a much larger upfront investment. You’ll need to consider costs for the software, the hardware and the resources to maintain and upgrade both the software and the hardware.

The other option is cloud-based ERP software. Your system is always securely accessible in the cloud and the infrastructure is managed by your ERP provider. You don’t have to spend anything on hardware or invest in resources to maintain or upgrade the system – that’s all handled by the ERP software vendor. This gives you an ERP solution that is always current, without the down time or additional resources needed to manage regular upgrades.

Implementation can also be much simpler – and faster. Cloud delivery gets you system access as soon as your software licenses are provisioned. Your ERP provider can start working with you sooner to implement your system.

Factor in change management and organise training

ERP implementations require dedicated time, planning, training, communication and documentation. Those factors apply added pressure to the day-to-day business responsibilities and operations of your team if not handled the right way.

Larger enterprises have the resources to assemble ERP implementation teams to manage the entire process. But for growing businesses, that’s not as feasible. Investing in a cloud-based ERP implementation service can take some of the burden away from your employees and free them up to focus on other tasks. A good cloud ERP provider will drive training as part of the implementation process – letting your team learn throughout the setup. Delivery is often managed by web conferencing to help get all stakeholders involved in the setup, no matter where they are, to speed up the process and maximise value.

Make sure your ERP provider also offers a knowledge base of information to support your employees. Pre-defined reference material, processes, help articles and FAQs can be a quick ‘lifeline’ for your team the moment they need answers.

Any new system of process will need your team to adapt, and it’s a factor for which you should be prepared. Get your team’s buy-in. Include them early on in the ERP implementation process. Spend the time you need on change management. And when your ERP implementation is complete, think about ongoing training to keep your team using the system to its full potential. The more effectively everyone is using your ERP software, the better ROI you can expect to see.

Develop and execute a communication plan

Keeping everyone on the same page about the progress of your implementation and key milestones is important. A good communication plan should:

  • Identify all stakeholders and make people accountable.
  • Outline the ERP implementation schedule and go-live date.
  • Detail all the various stages of your implementation and key milestones.
  • Provide information, such as FAQs, on the ERP system’s functionality.
  • Promote scheduled demonstrations and any testing requirements.

Allocate adequate time

There’s no getting around the fact that an ERP implementation needs time and resources to make it successful. So be sure to allocate what’s needed for your implementation requirements, to see that the process runs efficiently. A few tips to make this happen:

  • Letting stakeholders and your ERP implementation team know how many hours a week they should set aside for reviewing changes and updates, testing, training and helping to define any new processes.
  • Allow plenty of time to train users on the new system – during and after the implementation – so they can hit the ground running and continue maximising use of the system (and the ROI you’ll gain from it) after your implementation is live.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-set expectations – if unexpected factors arise during implementation, account for them in your implementation timeline and update stakeholders with new timeframes.

Getting it right

These 6 strategic steps can help you see ROI that targets savings and increases that the right ERP implementation can bring to your business. And all this leads to greater profitability.

Having an experienced implementation provider to work with you through the process can make all the difference. Be sure to ask the ERP provider you’re considering about the number of ERP implementations they’ve successfully completed. Look for customer testimonials to understand how the solution has worked for other businesses. Start preparing your ERP implementation checklist to make sure you’re taking all requirements into account. And when you’re ready, reach out to an ERP provider for a tailored demo that focuses on what you want to get out of the system.

So, what next?

Are you ready to reach out to a request a demo of an ERP system? Then we can help! Drop us a message here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

3
Oct

ERP software comparison: how to plan the right choice

Have you ever been to the supermarket and found yourself paralysed by which one of four different types of tomatoes to throw in the basket? It can be astounding how many questions rush through your mind like, ‘Do I need diced, crushed or chopped?’, or, ‘Do I get the larger tin that’s better value or the smaller tin which looks like a higher quality brand?’.

It seems like there are so many options for as simple a task as just doing the shopping. So, what happens when you get to the important decisions like making an ERP software comparison between options that will run your entire business?

Choosing an ERP isn’t a task to be taken lightly.

It can mean the difference between dramatically improved business performance and profitability when getting it right, or getting stuck with more convoluted processes and decreased performance if it goes wrong. There are many different vendors, resellers and implementers out there, all pushing their own strengths. Which ones should you be paying attention to? Which are the top ERP systems to start researching? And how do you focus on your specific ERP solution needs to choose the ERP system that’s right for your business?

We’ve set out some straightforward considerations and steps to follow for choosing ERP software, and some questions you may not have thought about, that are sure to give you some food for thought.

Get your shortlist in order

Before starting your research for ERP solution advice and comparing vendors and providers, it’s a good idea to jot down the biggest problems or pain points you’re trying to solve. What kind of process inefficiencies is your business seeing right now? Are you using multiple systems which don’t talk to each other? Think about all the processes that are happening in your business each day – including inventory and order management, purchasing, CRM, sales and marketing, and accounting.

Consider running your shortlist past others in the business to help validate the importance of issues and uncover more opportunities for improvement. The most pertinent issues will soon reveal themselves and you can begin putting an order of importance to your list.

The first choice: traditional on-premise or modern cloud-based?

This is an important decision to make early on, as it will dramatically cut down the number of ERP options you need to compare and help crystallise what you’d like to gain from an ERP system. To touch on it briefly, choosing a cloud ERP simply means you’ll have an ongoing subscription to the vendor’s software. There’s no server equipment to set up as your system is accessed via a secure web interface.

There’s a lot of flexibility with cloud-based solutions as users can access the system securely from wherever they are. There’s no longer a need to be in the office to stay productive. You’ll also be able to add functionality as soon as you need it, and all software updates are managed for you automatically by the software vendor.

On-premise ERP solutions are the traditional set-ups which require servers and other equipment to be installed locally to run your ERP application. This is a non-issue if you already have a high level of existing IT infrastructure and skilled IT staff in-house to maintain and update equipment but can present a challenge for start-ups and small businesses due to larger up-front costs.

Security and data redundancy are aspects which also need to be carefully considered. Keeping equipment on your premises presents a certain level of risk which needs to be mitigated. Whether it’s the risk of physical intrusion or natural disaster, it’s important to plan for a variety of circumstances that will ensure business continuity and safety of your important business data.

Understanding all the costs involved

Whenever you speak with an ERP vendor or ERP implementation partner about costs, there are standard areas covered such as licenses, setup and implementation of the software, ongoing support and add-ons that can further enhance functionality where needed. But there’s still more that you’ll need to think about, such as:

Total implementation time

No matter how competitive a quote for an ERP implementation may seem, an implementation project that’s not executed efficiently can drag on interminably. There’s also a commitment from your business’ stakeholders during this phase, dedicating their own time and effort to the project. If they’re kept working through the setup for too long, it’s likely to cause implementation fatigue and slow down the process even more.

Find out if the implementation partner you’re looking to work with has a rapid implementation methodology. This is a positive sign that they’re experienced, organised and will keep the momentum going to see you going live and using the system sooner.

Training

Involving the key stakeholders from your business right from the start of implementation can be hugely beneficial. When they’re guided through the setup for their roles and responsibilities, they’ll become more confident in using the ERP once it’s in place. This reduces the need for additional training or extended time working system processes and usage after go-live.

They’ll naturally become the champions and help to drive enthusiasm throughout the business in using your new ERP system. They’ll also be able to help other users get familiar from the beginning, quickly raising the collective knowledge and expertise.

Physical equipment

This is largely restricted to on-premise ERP solutions, as cloud systems are designed to work on virtually any device with minimal specifications. The physical equipment requirements for on-premise systems often requires a much larger, up-front investment. It includes hardware such as servers, operating system software for those servers, backup devices, additional networking and other equipment needed to run your business software.

Many startups and small businesses don’t have this level of existing IT infrastructure, so be sure to find out about equipment requirements needed to run the ERP software you’re considering. It’s an additional cost that needs to be taken into account.

It’s all in the delivery

Once you’re ready to start engaging ERP providers, find out whether they can manage everything for you directly from supply of the software, right through to implementation and ongoing support. Some solution providers manage all implementation work in-house, which provides a greater level of direct quality control. Others may supply the licensing but use outsourced partners to manage the setup and implementation. You may even choose to use a specific implementation partner yourself if you’ve heard positive feedback about that partner.

The delivery of implementation plays a huge part to your ERP system’s success or failure. Regardless of whether it’s an ERP provider or a partner managing the implementation for you, find out how many resources they have, whether they’re locally based, and how many implementations they’ve completed to date. It’s important to have confidence in having experienced, knowledgeable resources setting up the software that will run your business.

It’s the same situation for ongoing support requirements. No matter how involved your stakeholders and staff are throughout the implementation, sooner or later they’ll need help with using parts of the system, new features and enhancements, or alternative processes that they haven’t seen before. Over time, businesses also see staff changes, which means having re-training needs. Does the ERP provider you’re considering have the resources to provide local support and training?

The proof is in the pudding

To wrap up the research process, and to give yourself reassurance that you’re choosing the right ERP solution, get across the success stories of other clients who have chosen the same solution. Have they made significant improvements to their business by using the software? Have they managed to reduce costs, grow their business and improve performance?

If you can’t easily find customer success stories on an ERP provider’s website, ask them to provide case studies, success stories or other material that provides proof of their solution for your type of business.

So, what next?

If you’ve got more to do than time to do it, then we need to talk. An ERP system is something that can not only help improve your business processes and make your business become much more efficient, it will also free up time so you and your staff can focus on other things in the business.

Get in contact with us today to see how we can help, by either dropping us a message here, or calling us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

20
Sep

How EPOS systems can improve employee management

Keeping on top of your employee reviews, training, incentives and day-to-day communications can be hard work, particularly when you have so many other tasks to juggle.

It can also cost you extensively in time and money. Yet, these processes are essential to the efficient running of your business and cannot be overlooked or ignored.

No one said running a business would be easy, but there are ways to simplify your working day. An EPOS system, for instance, is designed to help manage your team more efficiently, while also giving your staff the provisions and information they require to help make healthy business decisions day after day.

In order to say goodbye to poor staff management, it’s important to first realise the most common challenges suffered by business. Four extremely common management problems are experienced by companies of all shapes and sizes, from restaurants to retail outlets, and we’ve touched on these in more detail below.

Common employee management challenges

Now many of you may be a little confused, after all, doesn’t EPOS stand for Electronic Point of Sale, and isn’t it essentially an electronic way of letting people pay for goods or services? This is a common misconception, as yes, it is an electronic point of sale, but it can also help to improve your employee management significantly…the question is, how?

Challenge 1: accountability

The challenge here is that without close monitoring, it;s difficult to determine who is accountable for what. This can be troublesome should a problem occur, for example, if a payment has been processed incorrectly, you wouldn’t know which specific staff member to query the transaction with.

Solution: With the help of an EPOS system, each transaction is assigned to the employee who completed the checkout. Knowing that store transactions are closely monitored can deter both mishandling and also internal theft practices.

Challenge 2: setting an expectation

Poor transparency among your team can mean your colleagues are somewhat blind to the level of expectation you’ve set, or at least, they’re in need of a reminder. Lack of monitoring can result in standards slipping. Also, too often than not, employee objectives are set on insufficient or inaccurate information, which can result in businesses creating both unreasonable and uninspiring targets with little business value.

Solution: With each of your staff members working under the same EPOS system, you will be able to motivate staff by setting relevant goals. Such level of monitoring will encourage staff to thrive in their performance, resulting in higher levels of productivity amongst your workforce.

Challenge 3: career development

It’s not always easy to identify and reward your top performers, especially if you’re unsure of who they are. Without the use of up-to-date reporting, you’re likely to lose sight of who is generating large amounts of sales or who is falling behind in meeting his or her monthly quota.

Solution: With an EPOS system, you’ll be able to run sales performance reports which can help you to recognise your most reliable team members. You’ll be able to pinpoint who your highest performing employees are. Such statistics will enable you to determine who deserves recognition and praise for their ongoing hard work.

Challenge 4: staff training

There will always be that star pupil among your workforce who naturally performs to a higher standard than the others. But for those who are struggling and are in need of a helping hand, it’s important to implement the right level of training.

Solution: Now that your EPOS reports have helped you to identify your high performers, you can dig deeper into what makes these employees perform better, as this data can really enable you to get into the nitty gritty of your employee performance. As a result, you can adjust your staff training to help under-performers perform better.

How an EPOS can help aid employee management

Well, in the cases listed above i.e. accountability, setting expectations etc., an EPOS system can work wonders for your workplace. This is because it arms you with the essential facts and figures you need to gain better insight and set meaningful employee objectives that are both clear and measurable, all via valuable reporting tools.

It also provides the opportunity for you and your staff to gain better transparency of exactly what activity has taken place on a day-to-day basis. The record performance and results of such activities can help to indicate opportunities for career development and staff training, boosting morale amongst your team.

Monpellier can ensure that you have the sales and stock analysis you need to gain comprehensive management reports and information. This gives you greater control over your business and better insight into employee productivity and performance.

For more information on how EPOS can benefit your business, contact our friendly team at Monpellier today, by either dropping us a message here, or calling 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

4
Sep

Can ERP systems contribute to your competitive advantage?

With the rapid advancement of technology, SMEs need to transform the way they manage their business in order to stay competitive.

According to a survey conducted by Oxford Economics, 64% of SMEs are leveraging technology to outperform their peers; everything from social media, mobile friendly software, cloud computing and big data.

Indeed many businesses that use enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications are transforming their business to stay ahead of competition with improved visibility, efficient operation, and the ability to capture vast amounts of data – data on things like sales, production, and inventory management.

The challenge remains finding a way to analyse this data more efficiently to gain actionable insight and outperform the competition. That’s where applications like Sage and Pegasus comes in. In order to make sense of business data, SMEs are taking advantage of reporting and advanced in-memory analytics that ERP systems have to offer; increasing visibility and enabling fast and accurate analysis. What’s more is that they are doing this faster, easier and with more accuracy.

SMEs now have the option to leverage business information into valuable insight through an ERP solution. Every business hopes to receive some turnaround on their ERP investment. The name of the game is to make more money and trump your competitors, but in an era where just about everyone has an ERP system, standing out against the competition can be tough. If you’re looking to gain a competitive advantage in your respective industry, the right ERP software can help.

Pick the right ERP system for your company

Despite the fact that many ERP solutions cover a lot of the same core functions, there are some differences to take note of that differ from industry to industry. It is crucial for your newly implemented ERP software to be industry specific to ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck. If you were in the business of manufacturing, you would never tell a professional service firm how to do business. The same goes for ERP systems.

Just because everyone else is working from the cloud doesn’t mean that it’s best for your business, and vice versa. Picking the right ERP software has everything to do with picking the right partner so that your organisation has the constant support and training that you need to be sure your needs are met.

Don’t waste money on customisations that won’t help you grow

While it may be tempting to go ahead and customise every aspect of your new system, first consider these system customisations are really going to make a difference in how you do business. Customising little things that don’t give you an advantage isn’t as necessary as using your customisations to fit areas that do. That being said, don’t be completely stingy with customisations either.

There is great value to be found in customising ERP. If your business has come up with a unique process that allows you to outshine your competitors, that is when you should customise your ERP to fit your model. Thoughtfully differentiating between the two will save you a great deal of time and money in the long run.

Take advantage of your ERP’s predictive capabilities

The use of real time analytics can be a great advantage for businesses using ERP software. This automated software enhances preventative maintenance and detects potential failure before the problem arises. Something that competitors without advanced ERP systems will continue to struggle with.

Your ERP’s predictive capabilities can allow users to pinpoint the location of potential errors so that you can eliminate the problem right off the bat. Thanks to many ERP collaborations, err can be essentially eliminated thanks to smart technology. Don’t get set behind by silly errors and mistakes, and use ERP to keep you ahead of the competition.

Improve planning, scheduling and execution

ERP systems like Sage and Pegasus have highly advanced manufacturing and planning modules that support the entire range of products from beginning to end. Execution modules give decision makers full access to data collection options and quality measures, while the scheduling module provides easy to read visuals of master schedules so that your planners can make accurate ‘what-if’ scenarios accordingly.

Meeting demand and rerouting potentially conflicting schedules only enhances conflict and error prevention, helping you to focus on the bigger picture. In a world where good and bad reviews can make or break a company via the internet in just a click of a button, it’s important to make sure that your ERP software works for you and not against you. Standing out against your competitors can be easy with ERP.

Gaining an advantage over your competition is as easy as finding the right ERP software and implementing it in a way that serves you best. For more information on how Sage and Pegasus could be the next best step to help your company gain a competitive advantage, either contact us here, or call 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

30
Aug

The importance of integrating your most important IT systems

Growth: it’s every retailers goal.

Whether it’s a small shop opening a second location across town or a big-box chain with stores numbering in the thousands, retailers of all stripes and sizes want their businesses to grow. When it comes to expanding operations, EPOS solutions do much of the heavy lifting. But not all EPOS systems are created equal.

There are key features and functionalities that particularly equip some EPOS systems to aid retailers on their path to growth and expansion – and an important feature is the ability for your EPOS system to integrate with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

When ERP meets EPOS

When your business integrates its ERP program with an EPOS system, then you’re dealing with a horse of a different colour. Today’s customers want options in everything. From ecommerce stores to brick and mortar stores and even shopping opportunities on social media, the consumer is a mobile animal.

Your business software must be able to keep up with the demands of your customers. It may be time to integrate EPOS capabilities with ERP functionalities. Even in traditional brick and mortar stores, an integrated EPOS/ERP system can keep them competitive by improving efficiency and providing them with a mobile presence to meet consumers’ changing demands.

EPOS software completes your transactions on the spot. It isn’t dependent on a computer console but is fully functional on a tablet or phone and offers the ease of a touch-screen. It can calculate a sale, including tax and delivery charges, and adjust inventory. This makes your sales staff more efficient, improve sales (and possibly their commissions) and tracks inventory levels in real time.

Integrating with the ERP means your front-office processes and your back-office operations can coordinate and play nicely together.

Good news…

With an integrated retail system in use, your business combines the front-end EPOS, inventory and stock management in the middle of the process, and accounting in the back-end. There may even be links with your supply chain partners. This means a streamlined process across all departments.

Specific advantages to integrating ERP and EPOS may include the following:

  • Information at fingertips: An integrated mobile EPOS system provides sales staff with immediate access to information they need to effectively close the deal. Customer information and purchase history helps t hem make better recommendations, improving cross-sells and upsells.
  • Options: By integrating a mobile EPOS system with your ERP platform, you give your customers the same experience online as they get in your store. You can offer such features as order online and pick up in store.
  • Improved sales numbers: Integrating your mobile EPOS and ERP lets you close sales wherever you may be without the need for increased overhead associated with syncing customer information.
  • Customer satisfaction: Your customers will appreciate the more personal service they get when your sales representatives have the information they need to help build deeper customer relationships.
  • Inventory management: The back-office inventory control can let your front-office sales person know when an item is available in another store so you never miss a sale. You can also get alerts of potential problems, such as a product going out of stock.

… and not so good news

As with everything in life, there is usually a downside. The most glaring argument against incorporating ERP/EPOS into your business platform is cost. These systems can be expensive to implement.

The counter argument is the old adage: you have to spend money to make money. Incorporating an integrated ERP/EPOS system can help take your business to the next level. With the many positives outweighing the cost outlay, smart business owners are getting on board with ERP/EPOS systems of their own.

Open for business

Open-platform EPOS systems offer many benefits and advantages for growing retailers, but one of the biggest is that an open API allows developers to integrate your EPOS and your ERP systems. ERP-agnostic EPOS systems enable data exchanged automatically among all store systems and applications, including accounting, inventory, ecommerce, promotions and CRM. This integration eliminates having to re-enter data, which is time-consuming and error prone.

With integrated EPOS and ERP at the core of retail IT, your store systems can integrate easily with third-party solutions. After all, no retailer wants to be left behind when competitors are getting ahead by adopting new tech as people-counting software that offers critical data on store traffic or digital signage that engages shoppers with bright displays on product information, promotions, videos and other content. And you want to be prepared for advances in technology that are around the corner such as augmented reality and virtual reality applications for brand immersion experiences.

In essence, an EPOS platform with an open API ensures your system is future-proof and can accommodate new directions your business may take. An EPOS system that is truly scalable is designed for whatever your business needs will be tomorrow.

Extensibility

Is your EPOS solution rigid or flexible? How often do you find yourself saying “I wish my EPOS could…?” Unfortunately, some EPOS platforms were built with a ‘walled garden’ approach. Truly scalable EPOS, however, lets retailers get their hands on the code and tweak it to their specifications when needed. Every retailer is different and as much as off-the-shelf EPOS software tries to accommodate all, many businesses demand a certain level of customisation in order to truly manage the nuances of their specific vertical, whether that’s the optical industry or the restaurant world. Truly scalable EPOS doesn’t hold you back from what you want it to do.

Going mobile

When you purchased your EPOS software, it’s entirely possible that mobile EPOS wasn’t a staple yet in retail. But now that handheld devices are downright commonplace among frontline retail store staff, you’re probably considering adding mobile EPOS to your operations. As retail continues to move towards a customer-centric approach, it’s increasingly important for sales-floor staff to have EPOS functionality at their fingertips.

The question is, however, does your entire IT system support mobility? Truly scalable EPOS, which integrates with your ERP system, can accommodate new modules and functionality, such as putting the software onto small form-factor devices and enabling sales associates to access customer data, update inventory from mobile EPOS, and conduct payment transactions that are automatically shared with the accounting program.

Whatever lies ahead

Maybe the next step for your business is as simple as incorporating additional EPOS terminals or onboarding new users. Or perhaps you have big plans to expand into new areas or even grow internationally. Working with a scalable EPOS system made possible by integrated EPOS and ERP makes all of this a straightforward, painless process. No matter how big or small your plans are, a purpose-built platform can scale along with you.

When considering an investment in new technology, be sure that the software meets your needs today – and is feature-rich to exceed your demands tomorrow. Insist on an ERP-agnostic, scalable EPOS system that will enable you to build a unified, powerful retail management system, positioning your business for growth and competitiveness in a fast-changing environment.

For any help and advice regarding either EPOS or ERP systems, we at Monpellier are here to help, so either contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 and speak to a Business Software Consultant.

14
Aug

How a professionally installed EPOS can help you get more

You’d be hard pressed to find a business these days without a dedicated EPOS system.

They’ve almost completely replaced traditional tills, but many businesses still don’t know how to make the most of them, or which EPOS system is the right fit for them and their customers.

When choosing a new EPOS system or upgrading from an older one, it’s important to look at what different systems are available and explore the many different ways they can be configured. A professionally installed EPOS system should make your business run smoother than ever before, helping with things like stock control, bookkeeping and the quality and efficiency of your service.

In fact, one of the most overlooked advantages of having a professionally configured EPOS system in place is how much it can benefit your workforce.

Keeping mistakes to a minimum

Whether you run a bar, restaurant or retail store, on of the trickiest things to deal with is human error. It happens to all of us from time to time, especially during long, busy shifts. While EPOS systems can’t actively stop somebody from making a mistake, they can dramatically reduce the chances of a mistake occurring.

A well configured EPOS system will have products laid out logically and neatly in categories and folders, with quick and easy access to items that normally go together – like gin and tonic or a burger with a side of fries. As well as products being easier to find, discounts and complicated offers can also be implemented across all terminals at the same time, so your staff can apply them quickly and easily without any confusion or risk of overcharging the customer.

Giving more ownership and responsibility to staff

With a professionally installed EPOS system, each staff member will have their own log-in for each terminal. This might be accessed through a magnetised key chain or a quick swipe with a card, or even a code they can use to manually log in each time. Such a system can let them start an order on one terminal and pick it up on another, and if something isn’t cashed off leaving you scratching your head at the end of a long shift – you know who to ask.

Increasing productivity

A good EPOS system will help your staff to avoid making mistakes and help you keep better control of stock and orders, but a great EPOS system will actively help your business to be more profitable by enhancing your productivity. For example, you could easily track individual staff members and see how many orders they’re putting through in a given one hour shift.

This might help you better prioritise their placement or organise shift patterns. What’s more, because staff are better able to find and process orders on the fly, their average service time should decrease – good news for your customers who won’t have to wait quite so long to enjoy their purchase.

However, we all know that it isn’t just about making your workforce happy, it is also about saving your business money in the short and long term.

As the way consumers pay constantly evolves, you need an EPOS system than can evolve with them. While a do-it-yourself approach might get you part of the way there, you leave yourself vulnerable to crashes, errors and downtime that can cost your business money. That’s where a professionally installed and maintained EPOS solution can pay dividends…

As technology advances and workplaces become more and more connected, the ways in which businesses handle their EPOS systems is evolving. We’re living in an increasingly cashless society, with card payments overtaking cash payments for the first time last year. From bars and restaurants to high street stores and takeaway, consumers want choice when it comes to parting with their hard earned money, and old POS systems simply won’t cut it.

Why getting the right EPOS system is essential

In 2018, you need to make sure your business is equipped with an EPOS system that cannot just handle card payments, but also contactless NFC features for things like Apple Pay, Android Pay and contactless card transactions. This goes doubly so for businesses who sell at low cost and high volume, like cafes and bars. More EPOS capability means faster transactions and more sales, rapidly increasing the productivity of your staff.

We’ve already touched upon the point that having an up-to-date EPOS system is important if you intend to grow your physical business, but for start-ups or existing businesses looking to modernise, it can be difficult to know where to get started.

The technology available today has made do-it-yourself EPOS systems perfectly viable, and many businesses have seen success using this method through trial and error. But how many startups have the resources to get such a complex system running, and how many have the bounceback ability to recover when something inevitably goes wrong? That’s where getting a professionally installed EPOS system really starts to make sense.

Why you should get your EPOS system professionally installed

A professionally installed EPOS system can be tailored to your individual business needs, whether you’re running a charity shop on the high street or you’re a landlord at the local pub. An initial set up would usually include all the products, pricing, promos and staff profiles you need, allowing you to concentrate on running your business.

They’re often cloud-cased with extensive back up capabilities so you’re always covered if anything goes wrong – particularly if you go with a local EPOS supplier who offer ongoing service and support like Monpellier. If there’s’a power outage or our system stops working for any reason, support will be no more than a quick phone call away.

Remember, an EPOS system should be an asset to your business rather than a burden; less downtime means more productivity and profitability for your business.

Getting a system professionally installed will also make it easier for you and your staff on shift. For example, at Monpellier we learn all we can about our customers before we implement the right point of sale solution for them, so you can be rest assured that your team will have everything you need to record sales and issue bills right from the get go. We’ll even show you how to update and programme the system yourself so you can easily add and remove products as well as change prices on the fly.

When all is said and done, an EPOS system is there to make your business run smoothly and make it easier to manage, both on a day-to-day basis and when managing the bigger picture. If you want to make the most out of your workforce, there’s no better way than getting an EPOS system professionally tailored to the individual needs of your business.

When it comes to choosing the right EPOS ssytem the choice is ultimately yours, but in order to stay ahead of the curve and keep your business running smoothly without interruption, a managed professional installation is definitely the way to go.

Want to get in touch with Monpellier? Whether you’re looking for a completely new EPOS system or just some help and advice on your current EPOS solution, we’re here to help. Call 0191 500 8150 or leave us a message today.

31
Jul

Key benefits of ERP in the construction industry

In today’s highly populated and constantly evolving world, infrastructure, architecture, technological advancements and development of a nation depend on well-planned construction facilities.

Where such fields face demands and challenges with regard to business management, transactions can be made simpler with the use of ERP in the construction industry.

Effective development of construction projects rely a great deal on strategic resource management and planning. Research proves that 30% of the unsuccessful projects have solely ended in disaster due to inadequacy in the aforementioned criteria.

Construction ERP software helps managers to devise comprehensive plans for successful civil engineering of projects from the onset of project work till the outcome, and during the entire construction lifecycle.

Here are eight key benefits of ERP in the construction industry:

Assimilation of data

When running an organisation, there are many forces simultaneously at play, which are required to be utilised in various work streams from time to time. Having a standardised work platform which combines these processes into a single storage system ensures that data is easily managed, thereby increasing the overall efficiency of the system.

The benefits of ERP in the construction industry include dynamic analysis of financial and operational data, which provides executives with more accurate and precisely calculated information in real-time. By using this data effectively, companies can track simultaneous operations and report and manage deficiencies across departments in a more effective manner.

Planning and analysis

Improper planning within the framework of an architectural firm has led to the substandard completion of projects and the downfall of many reputed global organisations. Enterprises incur heavy losses in the form of labour costs and loss of clientele due to untimely completion of targets. Delay in the delivery of projects due to a lack of planning also reflects poorly on the goodwill of an organisation.

An accurate analysis of raw materials required, effective utilisation of manpower, architectural design and contract management is essential for proper channelling of resources. Construction ERP software can be used to make allowance for collateral expenditure and financial budgeting of the assignment. This helps avoid unnecessary downtime and contractual complications with the client, throughout the duration of the project.

Streamlining of data

Latest service providers have started to come up with industry-oriented solutions where construction ERP software has started to become more project-oriented due to the demand for a system that can handle numerous tenders at the same time.

Larger construction companies handle more than one client at any given time, because of which exchange of information within the organisation can become quite tedious and confusing.

Having to manage and compile data for multiple assignments in the form on individual Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations becomes cumbersome for executives to process.

At the same time, using different software solutions for multiple operations leads to an ineffective exchange of information among departments of the same organisation. An ERP solution manages to kill both birds with a single stone.

Increased system efficiency

A centralised system helps increase efficiency by providing an overall view of the scenario prior to making decisions. Whenever employees are required to correlate information from different sources, an ERP solution assists in extracting data and providing relevant criteria that need compliance prior to closing a query.

For example, when deciding on a purchase order for a specific raw material, the budget report is handed over to the project manager, based on which the project manager refers to the engineering team and formulates the design of construction. Based on this design, the purchasing manager creates the purchase order which is finally screened by the accounting department prior to being passed.

The interdepartmental transfer and correlation of these reports, combined with back and forth changes as well as real-time monitoring of the entire process would be nearly impossible without having an efficient ERP solution in place.

Estimation of construction cost

More construction companies work on a contractual basis with their clients. Prior to acquiring the tender for a project, these firms are required to bid for the project with their cost estimations.

Since different clients have different priorities, the most suitable bid is chosen based on the design submitted, the reputation of the company and most importantly, the cost feasibility to the customer.

A majority of construction projects continue to develop over a span of a couple of years. Therefore, planning expenses for such projects must be carried out keeping in mind the overhead liabilities that may be incurred in the future.

An ERP can be used to determine an accurate estimation, so that the actual cost does not deviate much from the projected cost of the undertaking.

Diversity of business processes

An all-encompassing ERP solution divides business processes into various modules. With the industry becoming more and more aware of ways to improve stability, risk management, cost effectiveness and other operational facets, construction enterprises have had to encounter restrictions at every step of the way.

This had led to the bifurcation of construction ERP software into diversified modules such as architectural designing, contract management, project phasing, inventory management, marketing and HR management and accounting and financial management. This not only helps in better handling of the processes, but also organises regulatory compliance of the system.

Effective communication

For better management of operations, it is necessary for effective communication channels to exist between employees. An ERP solution being equipped with in-built chat forums and other communication capabilities to provide the perfect platform for executives to communicate internally, irrespective of the location of where work is being carried out.

Execution of marketing strategies

The end goal of any construction enterprise is to deliver quality work and acquire as many reliable clients as possible. Without the existence of construction ERP software, contractors would have a hard time implementing marketing strategies to effectively handle customers, projects and outsourced employees.

In order to consistently increase market productivity, it is crucial that long-term strategies are installed in place and executed from time to time.

Conclusion

Every business must assess the information collated after careful scrutiny of the market demands and possibilities of growth. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the magnitude of positive outcomes with the use of ERP in the construction industry, in comparison to the hindrances that can appear as major blocks in the path to success without the ease of project planning and data management.

ERP is the on-stop software solution for all your business demands if you’re looking to make an imprint in the world of construction in today’s competitive times.

Sound interesting? If you would like to see which ERP package would suit your business needs and processes, get in contact with us, or call 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our friendly Business Software Consultants.

19
Jul

How to select an implementation partner for your software solution

If your organisation is considering a replacement or upgrade for your business software solution, you will have to make two of your most important business decisions.

If yours is like most firms, you’ve spent plenty of time deciding on the best solution; now it’s time to choose the right partner. Because choosing the right partner is as important as choosing the right software, here are some important recommendations,

Insist on specific industry experience

It’s crucial that the partner you choose has not only knowledge but a depth of experience working with firms in your industry. They need now only to know the software and how it functions, but they need to understand your specific challenges, business processes, regulations and anything else unique to your industry and they way you operate.

Be specific when you interview a partner – ask specifically about your sub-industry (e.g. not financial services, but wealth management). Different approaches and processes are involved, so ask about their team’s experience in your field and always ask for and check client references.

Don’t judge by size

Bigger is better, right? Not necessarily. You might assume that bigger companies have the most experience and reliability. But be aware that size comes with its pros and cons. Larger companies often have more bureaucracy, and often it takes longer to get anything done. A simple request can slow down the whole process while they pursue everyone’s approval. Look for a partner that is large enough to support your needs, but small enough to be efficient.

Larger companies often have standardised solutions and don’t allow for thinking outside the box. You may be pressured to do things their way or be charged extra for a customised solution. Look for a partner that embraces your vision and thinks creatively to give you the exact solution you want.

Larger companies often have less leeway when determining cost. A nimble partner can work with you on meeting your budget, and they can make strategic decisions about their people and their clients. Look for a partner that is focused on doing what’s right for you and within your budget and for whom your success is a priority.

A large organisation might offer you more than you need and charge you for it. Does you project really need a consulting director, a project manager, a consultant and a development resource? Maybe, but perhaps you have qualified people internally who can fill one or more of those roles? Look out for hidden, unnecessary costs.

If you’re no a ‘big’ client (often well into the millions of pounds), you are going to share resources with other clients, and you may not be a priority. Look for a partner that focuses on working with firms of your size – and solutions required by firms of your size. Look for a partner that treats you like you are their biggest client, even if you aren’t.

Don’t ignore the human factor

You may sometimes have been forced to work with someone you didn’t see eye-to-eye with or even someone you didn’t particularly like or respect. But don’t choose someone like that as a technology partner. You can minimise stress and possible complications if you work well together as a team.

You’ll want your culture and business approach to align with those of your partner. If not, you risk the success of your entire project. Look for a partner that plays well with your team and insist on meeting with those who will work on your project. Don’t assume you know the implementation team because you’ve met the sales team. The sales team will not be working on your project.

Remember, the choice of partner can make the difference between success and failure of your software replacement or upgrade. Know what to look for and choose a partner for success.

Any leader considering an ERP solution is likely very familiar with the benefits, and possibly heard the success stories shared by those from other companies:

  • Automated tasks and increased productivity
  • Streamlined processes and efficiency
  • Created more accurate forecasts
  • Forecasted interdepartmental collaboration
  • And the list goes on…

Identical to implementing any new software, one of the biggest hesitations for those considering an ERP solution is the disruption caused during the planning and implementation stage. The reality is, like almost any business improvement, it’s impossible to make a change without investing some time and effort into its success.

Implementing an ERP solution is like remodelling your home while you’re still living in it.

If you don’t tell the designer what you want, don’t work with the contractor throughout the process to provide input and address small changes along the way, and don’t test the new appliances or smart devices until long after everyone has packed up and left, the end result is likely to be a disappointment.

Although ERP solutions can produce some of the largest benefits, they can also be more painful than other software projects. With many moving pieces and the risk of impacting current and future operations, ERP implementations are more often complex and robustly managed.

If not managed correctly, parts or all of the implementation can fail. According to a recent study by analytics firm Gartner, almost 75% of all ERP projects will fail in some way. There are several reasons why:

  • Ambiguous requirements
  • Limited availability of key stakeholders
  • Miscalculation of budget and timeline
  • Team adaptability and training
  • Inadequate testing

Often, we are invited in by companies going through a failing ERP implementation. One or more factors mentioned above are the reason for that. Strong project management and sound functional and technical expertise are critical, but above all having the right mindset is the key. There are two important mindsets to achieve success.

Mindset 1: the journey is as important as the goal

Let’s say you are planning to take a holiday to an amazing destination like Hawaii. You most likely will pack for the nice warm weather, bring sunscreen, a bathing suit etc. If you are a diligent planner, you will also plan for the journey and include snacks or something to occupy your time in the airport.

What if the flight is significantly delayed due to bad weather? If you packed an extra pair of clothes in the carry-on, or included battery backups, you’d be much better off than most of the other passengers. If you thought even further ahead and secured travel insurance, that would put you in an even better position.

An ERP implementation is obviously much more complex than planning a holiday. Moreover, the stakes are much higher. Given this, why do we focus almost exclusively on the destination (the end goal) and not prepare for the journey itself? With so many variables and even the most well-thought-out procedures, we know that things will not go exactly as planned and, like bad weather or mechanical issues impacting a flight, we should be prepared to address the issues that arise.

Recognising this, we can choose to have a mindset to focus more and enjoy the journey.

With many years experience, we have seen that ERP implementation teams (including ERP partners) focus too much on the end goals and not enough on the journey. With some success criteria such as a budget, defined timeline, KPIs, specifics of what needs to be built or implemented, etc., the journey begins and project plans and milestones are laid down. How many times does the original goal – due to situation, budget, timeline, scope, resources, or something else, change during a project execution?

In our experience the goal invariably changes. Due to various reasons, we deviate from the original goal. And that is where things start going south. Out of necessity, you must communicate the change and re-plan the project. Then the project change/risk-related problems start. This is an issue only because everyone was focused on the goals and not the journey.

How do we become better prepared?

  • Like Murphy’s Law, assume that the ERP implementation will not be a walk in the park. When things go south, look for opportunity.
  • Live in the present. This will help drive innovation. Under the stress of unrealistic deadlines, we have not seen many innovative solutions created, just ‘good enough’ solutions that will meet the deadline and not necessarily far surpass expectations.
  • Always have your emergency kit ready. You have this because you planned for it!

Mindset 2: always think of ways to empower your employees

ERP systems are designed as bottom – up systems, thereby bringing transparency to the organisation. That means if all the transactions, such as purchase orders, sales orders, production orders, invoices etc. are entered correctly, then your top numbers will match and every report will be accurate. ERP systems will not work properly, nor bring the greatest benefits and improvements, if employees are not motivated to use the new system or, sometimes worse, not trained properly to use it.

This is why it is critical for your ERP implementation team to go above and beyond to ensure all users are empowered not only once the implementation is complete, but also during the implementation journey.

It is critical for the ERP implementation team to assess how they can make their users’ lives easier not just as part of the implementation, but also during the journey itself.

Pain is temporary, profits are permanent.

Remember when considering an ERP solution, or starting an implementation, that adopting these two mindsets will help you. your company and your users as well. The more deliberate the journey, the more exciting the destination is.

If you’re ready to choose the right partner to deliver you not only the best implementation, but the best journey as well, contact us here, or call us on 0191 500 8150 and speak to a Business Software Consultant to see if we’re a good fit for your business.

10
Jul

How ERP solutions address problems of an SME

In today’s globalised world, SMEs in manufacturing are grappling with many challenges to remain competitive and relevant.

With limited time, resources, skills and budget, there is a growing need to demonstrate and derive value from every investment made.

Many SMEs in manufacturing may not know the value of technology in addressing some of these challenges. Those that do usually worry about the enormous costs of acquiring and running these technologies. Poor decision making in IT investments can have a critical impact on the profitability and sustainability of any business.

In reality, some of these businesses may be making money. So why do they need to invest in automating processes? If as a business owner you want to save time, accelerate your response time to problems and customer queries, plan ahead with real-time data, mitigate wastage and keep the frown lines off your brow, then you definitely need to automate your business processes. A good way to do this for SME manufacturers is deploying an ERP solution.

While some might be informed on the concept of ERP software and what it can do for them, there is definitely a section of business owners who would like to start with the most basic question…

What is ERP?

Let us take a step back and look at all the processes that are central to running a business such as purchasing, production, marketing, invoicing, managing inventory, human resource management, customer relations management, accounting and more.

At the basic level, ERP integrates all of these processes into one seamless system giving you real-time information which is a necessity to survive cut-throat midmarket competition. It also means boosting your sales and customer satisfaction rate by having real-time data and avoiding delays spent scouting for scattered records.

Further, it increases business intelligence support for quick, dynamic decisions and adjustments whenever necessary. Having too many software solutions for different processes can add to the bureaucracy of management in the crucial growing years. ERP systems help to centralise all of these processes.

Did you know that SME businesses hold over 95% of the market and regulate 70% of employment? However, only 50% of businesses survive in the market and the rest just don’t remain in the competition and are shut down.

The recent era of advanced technology has drawn the attention of customers towards better quality and more innovative plus customer-centric products. Therefore, more and more manufacturers are now moving towards ERP implementation for automating their business.

With an ERP, small businesses can focus on core business operations and its productivity that helps to improve profit margins and reduce operational costs. A competitive edge is achieved by streamlining and automating day-to-day activities. Let’s take a look at the five most common problems an SME faces, and how an ERP solution can help to address them.

Problem 1: Manual Data Processing

Small businesses rely on manual data entries and get stuck in manual data logging methods. Manual entries may lead to data redundancy and time wastage. Also, human negligence results in unsuccessful data keeping.

But an ERP integrates all information into a single system which provides business immediate access to key data like financials, sales forecasts, purchase activities and inventory levels, thus, providing a holistic view of your business operations.

With an ERP, you get increased accuracy, information empowerment and improvement in the overall health of your business.

Problem 2: Intense Competition

Competition is everywhere and businesses – small or big – are under it’s impact. Due to unavailability of all resources and tools and unplanned strategies in the business process, small businesses lack this advantage. They need specialised tools to deal with big businesses and maintain a place in the marketplace.

An ERP provides important information related to reduction in operational and administrative costs. Also, an ERP helps to monitor and control business operations to execute business plans effectively.

With an ERP, you get better decision making, streamlining of overall business activities, improvement in quality, customer retention and cost reduction.

Problem 3: Inaccurate Scheduling

For every manufacturing business, effective scheduling is the most important key to inculcate better scheduling when data is the tool. In absence of real-time data, a lot of time is spent in preparing schedules for the shop floor which are erroneous too.

With an ERP, you get real-time analysis of demand and supply of the materials, efficient production plans based on demand, supply, resource availability, various lead times, and accurate procurement plans eliminating the chance of over or under supply.

Problem 4: Poor Customer Service

Taking care of customer satisfaction is a prime factor to develop a long-lasting business. Showing customers a caring approach could help you in your business growth, but what if you fail your deliveries or do not respond back to customer queries?

Your business will lose customers and eventually you will notice a reduction in your sales. ERP helps in providing instant access to get your sales staff which helps them in making true commitments that can be fulfilled in the specified time genre.

With an ERP, you get instant information access for your customers about accurate updates and deliveries of the product item, resolution to all customer queries by gaining real-time access to the data and information regarding cancellations of refund procedures.

Problem 5: Meeting Quality and Statutory Guidelines

For every business, meeting quality and statutory guidelines is necessary. A compliant business can keep the risk of fines, penalties and lawsuits to function smoothly. However, the small businesses find it difficult to meet the regulatory needs.

An ERP helps by providing visibility to the entire product flow, starting from material receipt, production process to the supply of finished goods, helping manufacturers to track the product across the supply chain.

With an ERP, you get quick report generation of all materials and their details, bi-directional traceability of products starting from raw material. Intermediates to finished goods, easy tracking of faulty materials and production tracking on multiple parameters.

With and without ERP

Features Traditional Methods ERP Implementations
Ease of Integration

No integration, seeks out each and

every business activity individually.

Integrates all business activities

in a systematic manner.

Business Intelligence

Scrambling your mind to bring out a

decision with no surety of its aptness.

Allows making informed and

data-centric decisions.

Database Management

Data managed unsystematically through

the use of manual data logging methods.

Data is kept in systematic records

which are easily accessible with real

time visibility.

Flexibility

No flexibility, sticks to old primitive

methods.

Accepts to all new changing trends,

challenges and laws.

Ease of Communication

Lacks communications and develops

misunderstanding between departments.

Collaborated workforce becomes the

new identity of businesses that run

on ERP.

Cost Effectiveness

Manual data handling can lead to surplus

or deficit inventory level which can cause

increase in overhead costs.

ERP maintains optimum inventory

levels that help in controlling costs.

Security

The possibility of data theft,

manipulations or misuse is quite high.

Enhanced security features with role

based permissions ensure complete

security.

Reporting

Manual data analysis can lead to wrong

planning which results in degraded

business performance.

Effective reports can be created and

analysed in order to create effective

future strategies.

Supply Chain

Manual methods can lead to compliance

and unmanaged supply chain cycle.

Improvises supply chain management

by integrating all business processes.

Tips to create a successful plan and eliminate business challenges

  • Take your business decisions wisely considering all the pros and cons of the output.
  • Be consistent and stick to your business routines.
  • Implement an ERP software to manage all your day to day operations.
  • Make innovation your company value.
  • Manage your employees at every level.
  • Regularly share information within all the departments.
  • Understand market requirements and gather information accordingly to create strategy.
  • Never ignore the sales performance calculations.
  • Analyse the past pitfalls and plan a strategy to never repeat them again.

Old ways will never open new doors”

To grow your business, implement an ERP and ditch those primitive business methods that deliver the same output.

We, at Monpellier, understand all your business needs and help you integrate all your business processes under one platform. We can help you meet all the challenging trends through faster innovation, better compliance, effective planning, controlled costs, reduced wastage and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Get in contact with us here today to organise a free business consultation and demonstration, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

5
Jul

Why one-size-fits-all ERP systems are not the future

Any ERP system, at its core, is a collection of applications that perform tasks related to verticals like finance management, inventory management, human resource management and more.

Due to the seemingly generic nature of ERP software, some organisations rely on systems that operate on a common platform, and are supposed to cater to the needs of different industries.

Why does the one-size-fit-all trend exist?

Many best practices are common across industries. Some ERP vendors develop and market their application suites basing them on these standards. Key benefits are that it’s less expensive for a vendor to develop a generic system and they will likely benefit from volumes.

Problems caused by one-size-fits-all ERP solutions

Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all ERP software suite is rarely sufficiently reliable because the applications are simply not designed keeping in mind individual, organisational requirements. Some applications may not be suited to handle the unique needs of an organisation at all, and even those that may be are unlikely to uncover all your core business processes and will, therefore be fragmented and inefficient. Ultimately, it’s a case of wasted resources, time and money. We’d go so far as to say continued reliance on a one-size-fits-all ERP system can be very bad for business.

A generic ERP tool can restrict your organisation’s workflow and slow down growth and innovation. Problems can surface when it’s time to scale up and diversify. A tool offering a blanket solution is rigid and hampers progress because it cannot support the agility most businesses need to help them grow.

While picking specifics up front might seem like a daunting task, making the right ERP choice to suit your specific needs doesn’t need to be hard.

Choosing the right ERP solution for you

We’ve said this many times before, and we’ll reiterate it, start any selection process with careful deliberation to avoid the risks associated with a generic tool. If your organisation is clear about its goals, that’s a good first step. While choosing an ERP solution, establish the capabilities of the product as well as the solution provider.

Make sure the tool offers most of what you require out of the box. This translates to reduced customisation later. Ensure your ERP vendor has experienced delivering ERP solutions specific to your industry. A vendor who has provided ERP solutions for the manufacturing industry, for instance, understands the unique requirements of the industry better than a company that has a solution geared to manufacturing that they offer to customise.

The advantages of an industry-specific ERP tool

An industry specific tool is more likely to accomplish a task using fewer resources and in less time than a -one-size-fits-all tool.

It will also require little or no customisation before it can be deployed.

When your organisation grows, an industry-specific solution will be able to handle changes with greater efficiency. This makes your job easier and less time-consuming.

In comparison, a generic tool can slow your organisation down to a crawl. Sometimes, even when it’s tailored to your requirements, the heavy customisation in itself can become a bottleneck.

Choosing a suitable ERP solution and deploying it requires the guidance of experts who are familiar with integration and change management, but how to you determine when your business is ready for a new ERP system?

Making the move to an ERP system is a major milestone in any company, signifying a certain level of success and growth. To ensure your company can continue on that growth and success trajectory, making the move to an ERP is key. Understandably though, making the transition to an ERP can be rife with concern. Before you make a move, it is vital to understand your business needs now and in the future. If you think your business may be ready for an ERP, ask yourself the following questions:

Are your current systems able to connect all departments in all locations?

Are all of your current business systems fully integrated or do you find that each department is functioning within a silo? What may have worked in the past when your company first started, consisting of only a handful of employees all working out of the same location, may no longer fit the bill.

If your business has grown and now you have multiple locations, with multiple systems and limited integration, it becomes increasingly difficult to work effectively as a team. ERP software is designed to help the flow of internal business processes and allow for communication between the various business departments and their internal functions and data.

Are your processes consistent across the business?

Along with having software systems that are fully integrated, a successful, growing organisation needs to have consistent processes across the business. As your organisation has grown, it may have accumulated and adopted a wide range of work practices and procedures. Moving to a global set of standards will help your business work more efficiently. An ERP system can support this move and ease the adoption of processes across the business.

Are your staff productive?

Are your staff spending time on manual processes that could (and should) be automated? Do they have to call or email each other to determine stock availability or to track customer orders? Are you missing sales because it takes too long to get an accurate reading on your inventory? ERP systems can increase productivity by automating processes and providing consistent information on orders, sales and inventory.

Are your staff in sync?

How many times has this happened: sales have sold more stock than you have; sales blames operations for not having enough inventory, and operations blames sales for over-selling and not informing them soon enough? This leads to unhappy customers, lost sales, and frustration among your employees. This type of disconnect is one of the major reasons why businesses need an ERP solution.

Are your reports accurate and reliable?

If it is taking consistently more time to check and reconcile the number within your business, then it is taking longer to make important business decisions. ERP systems provide real-time insight into the state of your financials, so you can make better business decisions faster.

It takes some introspection to determine your company’s readiness for an ERP. However, knowing that your business is ready for an ERP system helps make the investment more palatable, and the transition smoother.

For more information on other advantages of using an ERP, how your company can benefit from this software, and how to get assistance in picking an ERP system that is right for your business needs, contact us here, or call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our Business Software Consultants.

3
Jul

How ERP systems can increase a business’ operational efficiency

Every business wants to get ahead of the competition and increasingly looks to innovative ways of achieving effective solutions that cut costs but retain a smooth-running, efficient organisation.

Many businesses are turning to ERP systems to increase operations efficiency by integrating organisational systems into a single program.

ERP is a software solution comprised of a variety of modules that link departmental data and information together with real time updates. Businesses can choose the modules most relevant to their needs and add more as they develop and expand further.

Management Integration

ERP enables its users to join up multiple areas of the business into one program and allows managers to have access to an overall database that covers client information, orders, invoices and figures. The users, who will require high quality training on the system, can update changes and then implement them in real time. Information is accurately stored and will not get lost across other applications or spreadsheets.

Cost Benefits

With industries constantly examining ways to cut costs but maintain efficiency, ERP can bring significant cost benefits to all sectors. Using ERP means that managers can make considerable reductions in costs relating to inventory and administrative mistakes. With information available to be exchanged across all levels, communications between all departments is made much easier. As each department is able to access a central database, the cost associated with multiple data centres is diminished, with both time and money saved.

Operating costs can also be reduced using an ERP solution. The program works to merge all aspects of the business into one central system, allowing businesses to improve their processes and cut down on waste or unprofitable areas. By increasing organisational efficiency, ERP not only helps decrease operating costs but can also reduce control and inventory costs as well as costs incurred in help desk support and marketing.

Strategic Planning

ERP can help managers as a strategic planning resource, allowing them to pinpoint their target market and define exactly what their aims and objectives are. In terms of day-to-day activities, the software gives quick and easy access for managers to get the information required for better decision-making.

Financial Controls

With finance at the heart of every organisation, managers need to keep a close watch on how the financial department is operating. ERP gives management comprehensive visibility into the department’s performance, so the functioning of accounts can be viewed with full integration of business analytics. By keeping on top of the financial situation there are opportunities to boost organisation profitability and to improve financial controls and risk management.

Organisational Performance

The creation of a single system allows management to drill down to see how efficient and productive individual employees are, using precise, accurate data from each department. As a result, organisational performance together with staff efficiency can be increased.

An Effective Solution

When ERP is rolled out across an organisation, and provided it is implemented correctly, it has the ability to transform the operational, financial and human resources aspect of any business.

As you can gather from the above, companies at the forefront of innovation are looking to implement ERP to reduce internal costs, improve processes and increase efficiency across the organisation.

So, if you still need some persuasion that now might be the time you need to implement an ERP system, we’ve compiled 15 of the most common benefits of an ERP system that companies have reported after implementation.

Competition

It’s true that ERP software requires a major investment, but there’s also an even bigger cost in not making the investment. While some businesses choose to stick to the tried and true methods of the past, others seek technology solutions. Companies cannot afford to put off an ERP implementation while their competition invests in ERP and starts reaping the many benefits we’ll touch on below.

Efficiency

An ERP solution eliminates repetitive processes and make it easier and more efficient for companies to collect data, no matter what department they’re working in.

Forecasting

Enterprise resource planning software gives your users, and especially managers, the tools they need to create more accurate forecasts. Since the information within ERP is as accurate as possible, businesses can make realistic estimates and more effective forecasts.

Collaboration

Nobody wants to run a siloed business with each department functioning separate from the other. Collaboration between departments is a crucial and often unnecessary part of the business. With the data entered into ERP systems being centralised and consistent, there’s no reason why departments can’t work together. The software also touches on almost every aspect of a business, thus naturally encouraging collaborative, interdepartmental efforts.

Scalability

Did you know structured ERP systems allow the addition of new users and functions to grow the initially implemented solution over time? When your business is ready to grow or needs more resources, enterprise resource planning software should be able to facilitate that growth.

Integrated Information

No more issues with data spread across separate databases; all information will be housed in a single location. This means you can integrate platforms like your CRM software or EPOS with the ERP system, keeping data consistent, accurate and unique. Know your customer, their orders, and your inventory, all in one place.

Cost Savings

With one source of accurate, real time information, ERP software reduces administrative and operations cost. It allows companies to proactively manage organisations, prevents disruptions and delays, breaks up information logjams and helps users make decisions more quickly. If you’ve chosen the right solution for your business, and the right vendor who meets your needs, you’re bound to see powerful ROI.

Streamlined Processes

As companies grow, their operations become more and more complex. ERP software automates business operations cross-departmentally, providing accurate, real time information to everyone utilising the solution. ERP increases efficiency and productivity by helping users to navigate complex processes, preventing data re-entry, and improving functions such as production, order completion and delivery. Streamlined, efficient processes throughout.

Mobility

An advantage of ERP solutions is having access to a centralised database from anywhere you work. Home, office, wherever, through cloud-based ERP software solution and application.

Reporting

ERP software helps make reporting easier and more customisable. With improved reporting capabilities, your company can respond to complex data requests more easily. Users can also run their own reports without relying on help from IT, saving your users time to use towards other projects.

Productivity

Save time and increase productivity levels. Sound too good to be true? It’s not with ERP software. By having redundant processes automated, users have more time to work on other pressing projects and tasks. They’ll also be able to work easier since the solution was designed for ease of use.

Regulatory Compliance

A benefit of ERP software which sometimes goes unnoticed is how it ties well into regulatory compliance within a number of different industries. Powerful ERP solutions will keep track of regulations within the industry and monitor changes in compliance.

Flexibility

Modern ERP software systems are robust, flexible and configurable. They are not a one-size-fits-all proposition but can be tailored to the unique needs of a business. ERP systems also can adapt to the ever-changing needs of a growing business, ensuring you won’t have to buy a new solution once your needs change or your business grows.

Customer Service

It’s easier to provide high-quality customer service using an enterprise solution, especially when you’re using one as well-equipped as some of the solutions out there, such as Pegasus or Sage. Sales and customer service people can interact with customers better and improve relationships with them through faster, more accurate access to customer’s information and history. You’ll also have access to marketing automation, ensuring your customers can be interacted with constantly.

Security

Data security isn’t a worry when you have an enterprise resource planning solution in place. A new system will improve the accuracy, consistency, and security of data, all through built-in resources and firewalls. Restrictions to data can also be enhanced by managers of the solution, so you can make your own software as secure as you like.

Convinced? Ready to learn more or just to have questions? Contact us here today or call us on 0191 500 8150. Our Business Software Consultants are ready and willing to answer all your questions and help you get started on selecting the right solution for your business.

28
Jun

Covering all your bases: the importance of ERP training

Imagine this situation: your family needs a second car because one vehicle just can’t get everyone where they need to go. So, you undertake the extensive research and finally decide upon a fuel efficient yet powerful model. You decide the best way to inform your other family members of this purchase is by surprising them with the keys.

However, the one thing you don’t do is give them the owner’s manual. Maybe they don’t know how to drive, or they’re not familiar with how this model works. In any event, the fantastic new car sits in the driveway. You’re bewildered – why isn’t anyone using it?

Now replace ‘car’ with ‘ERP system’.

When no one knows how to use your new ERP system, it will remain under or unutilised, no matter how user-friendly it’s supposed to be. Read on to learn why providing end user training for ERP systems is a crucial part of your implementation.

You won’t use it if you don’t know what you’re doing.

We’ll go back to the example of the new car purchase. Maybe your family members understand that the purchase of the car is important because it will help them get to where they need to go faster, but if they don’t understand how to operate the vehicle, they can’t use it. Perhaps some of them don’t believe they need a car in the first place – maybe they’ve got a bike or they rely on the bus. Why do they need a new car?

End user training for an ERP system solves that problem. It teaches users how to use the system and explains why it’s important. Your employees might be using workarounds now that they believe makes their jobs more efficient or easier, though that’s because they’ve never had a solution that works as well as an ERP system. When your employees understand how to use an ERP system, they’ll gain insight into how it helps them carry out their jobs.

Don’t sacrifice ROI

The example of the car purchase works in this case because of the principle of ROI. If your employees aren’t utilising an ERP system because they don’t understand it, or they don’t see the need for it, you’re not going to see very much (or any) ROI on this technology.

How upset would you be if you saw a beautiful new car sitting on your driveway, its internal workings becoming gummed up due to lack of use? While your ERP system won’t experience the same problems because no one is using it, it will be the same waste of money.

There are some business leaders who believe that their employees are capable enough to figure out how to use an ERP system on their own without needing any kind of training. That mindset is costly. Even the most user-friendly ERP system requires some user training to ensure that they understand how it works.

Don’t look at end user training as an unnecessary cost. It’s the last step in your ERP implementation and arguably one of the most important.

As you can see from the above, ERP training should be one of the top priorities when planning an ERP implementation.

Before the implementation even begins, training should be outlined and planned, and some training should be started. As the implementation progresses, so should the training, and it should continue even after the implementation is complete.

Training leads to success

Many organisations believe that users will adapt to the system after it’s in place, and therefore, training doesn’t need to be such a high priority. Consider this: more than half of the organisations that believe users will adapt with a minimum of training end up with an ERP system that is underused and, in some cases, fails completely. Training is considered one of the top five most important factors for achieving ERP implementation success.

Well-trained users are most productive

By some estimates, well-trained ERP users reach required skill levels in about a quarter of the time it takes users who have received only minimal training – if the less trained users ever  actually get to full proficiency. In most cases, those users who are not trained well will use only the most basic aspects of the system and default to the more manual processes with which they’re more comfortable. Well-trained ERP users, however, are sometimes as much as five times more productive and capable of gaining all the value the system has to offer.

Training helps reduce costs

Remember those lesser-trained users who revert to the old way of doing things? Those users are costing the organisation far more than what the company would have paid to train those users, because manual processes are more time-consuming, and undertrained users could waste a lot of time getting help from peers or help desk personnel. Training users to take full advantage of an ERP system with a minimal amount of help, however, can help them be more proficient and more effective at tasks, freeing them – and those who may have been stuck helping them – to spend time on higher-value activities.

Training helps improve quality

We’ve already established that users who don’t receive sufficient training often revert to the old manual processes. Unfortunately, those processes often riddled with mistakes. To compound the problem, when some users or processes are on the old system and others are on the new system, data tends to be degraded, duplicated or just plain wrong. Training helps ensure that all users are using the same data, and it reduces the risk of human error in processes that can be automated. The result is better-quality data and processes with less likelihood of incorrect or duplicated data instances, which improves quality overall.

Training can reduce attrition

The stress level of users who are poorly trained is often cited as the reason those employees move on to another job. That presents two problems. First the knowledge existing employees take with them can be invaluable; second, new employees must now be trained. Users who don’t have proper training will reject the ERP system, creating a vicious cycle that often leads to employee attrition. In contrast, great training helps employees feel competent and valuable. They may enjoy their jobs more and are less likely to see greener pastures with other organisations.

Even though it’s common knowledge that ERP training is essential, many organisations still wait until the last minute to consider a training program. That strategy could lead to failure of the ERP system at worst, and unhappy employees at best. Put a training plan in place early. It’s the one way to be sure you’re getting the most from your ERP system.

For more information about support and training for your ERP system, get in touch with us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our friendly Business Software Consultants.

26
Jun

Cloud ERP: taking your business to the next level

It’s estimated that 95% of businesses will use cloud technology within the next five years.

What makes the cloud so appealing to a growing number of companies? It’s because cloud computing enables them to consume computing resources as a utility, just like electricity, without the need to build and maintain computing infrastructure in-house.

Three powerful core features compel businesses to move from on-premise to cloud solutions. First, it’s fully customisable at any time, allowing users to manage and create their own systems for fast deployment. Second, it’s highly scalable, giving the users the ability to adjust their needed resources based on how much the system is being used. And third, businesses only pay for what they use.

Large corporations are embracing the cloud because they need to move nimbly in today’s dynamic environment without being held down by an immovable and inflexible IT infrastructure. In fact, according to McKinsey, large companies will double their adoption of cloud services by 2018.

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs), on the other hand, are moving swiftly toward the cloud while also eyeing the promises of the lower costs and convenience of third parties managing their IT needs. Studies by Intuit reveal that by 2020, 78% of these small businesses will complete their migration to the cloud.

The big shift to the cloud

Cloud technology started in the early 2000s, when applications were written as software as a service (SaaS) applications. Its popularity began to grow in the mid 2000s. By this time, many enterprises had moved their email, document sharing, and customer relationship management solutions to the cloud.

Cloud computing solutions cover a gamut of applications, including enterprise resource planning (ERP). However, even as ERP can be migrated to the cloud, some companies still choose to have it on-premise. They see on-premise ERP as a capital expenditure, a one-time, upfront investment. Meanwhile, cloud-based ERP is increasingly viewed as an operating expenditure – one that is paid for on an ongoing basis.

On-premise ERP benefits include greater ability to customise the system and control over the implementation process. However, the price of these benefits is a heavy upfront investment, the need to pay for associated hardware and IT costs, as well as risking data security that might not have optimised security protocols. These are further coupled with implementation delays that might come from ERP customisations.

Such disadvantages laid the groundwork for a business to shift from on-premise to cloud ERP. And for many organisations, the move to cloud was just irresistible. Why keep spending on IT when they could just ‘set it and forget it?’

The business benefits of cloud-based ERP solutions

Businesses, big and small are embracing the on-premise ERP to cloud ERP shift, because the benefits are c;ear, and they point to cost efficiency. Indeed, business owners and finance managers have been paying attention to cloud’s practical business benefits which include:

Lower Costs

One advantage business owners find in the cloud is the lack of heavy maintenance required to keep their company running. Thanks to SaaS, enterprises can save on hardware infrastructure costs and do away with experienced IT experts required to manage and run the solutions. Costs related to office space, utility and manpower are reduced as well.

The move to cloud technology also helps companies manage their cash flow, and business processes. Without the need for significant upfront costs, upgrades or third-party licensing, users can enjoy predictable costs without being handcuffed to physical hardware. They also get to tailor the terms, such as the number of users and contract length to fit their business requirements.

Convenience of Automated Updates and Reliability

No more worries about slow processing, system downtime, and disaster recoveries; these will be handled by the ERP provider.

Better Security

Entrepreneurs might wonder if the shift from an on-premise to cloud-based ERP solution will affect security. Cloud vendors typically provide a higher level of security than most companies could achieve on their own. In the cloud, essential integration between enterprise applications and supported data, processes, and user interfaces isn’t an issue.

Fast, Agile and Scalable Operations

The marketplace is increasingly unpredictable. Through cloud-based ERP solutions, business owners and stakeholders can respond to the dynamic needs of their clients more quickly, giving them the edge to outmanoeuvre the competition.

Transitioning from on-premise to the cloud not only improves productivity, but it also helps save financial capital and ongoing manpower costs that might otherwise be needed.

The transition from on-premise to the cloud

Is the shift from on-premise to cloud-based ERP troublesome and difficult? As with any system overhaul, there is a learning curve, but it is an easy one if you choose the right partner.

When migrating to SME cloud-based ERP, you need to identify processes, inventory your systems, and define the integration points across the enterprise. Ask yourself these questions to prevent any negative impacts on your business:

  • What cloud adoption strategies should you consider?
  • Who is responsible for your cloud data?
  • Which functions and data will you move to the cloud?
  • What skills and organisational structures are required for cloud innovation?
  • How should you measure your business value now you’re in the cloud?
  • Which vendors will provide user training and testing to help ensure a smooth transition to the cloud?
  • Who is accountable for damages when they are service level agreement agreeable?
  • What are the grounds for terminating a cloud providers service?

A popular strategy is to use a hybrid approach that balances the use of local servers and the cloud. By utilising virtual servers on a local machine and selectively choosing the right applications to run in the cloud, businesses reap the benefits of simple management and efficient operation. The core servers and applications can be maintained locally while customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP systems are managed in the cloud.

Finding the right vendor that helps ensure a smooth small business migration can make the difference between a painless move and one that costs significant time and money.

The tools you need, at your fingertips

When moving to the cloud, it’s important that your ERP solution remains at the top of every aspect of the business. Plus, standardisation and streamlined processes enable better decision-making across functional areas, such as accounting and finance, sales and customer management, purchasing and operations, inventory and distribution, and reporting and administration.

And because a cloud-based ERP solution is a SaaS, businesses can deploy and extend functionality quickly. In turn, this brings a great advantage over the competition as reaction to changing market conditions accelerate.

Companies of all sizes can hasten growth, achieve competitive differentiation, and profit from cloud solutions. And as the business grows, decision-makers can easily adapt and respond to the ever-changing market landscape while overcoming workplace complexities.

So, what next? If you think that you are ready to make the move to the cloud, and want to explore your options, we’re here to help. Either get in touch with us here, or call 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

19
Jun

When and why to implement an ERP system

In one of our last posts, we talked about what enterprise resource planning software is – and how it can help businesses operate more efficiently. But now you may be wondering whether your small or midsized company is ready to make the move.

Although individual cases vary, many companies adopt an ERP system because they’ve experienced growing pains.

Let’s look at some common symptoms that manifest – and how an ERP system can help clear them up.

Here are the top five signs that you are ready for an ERP:

Time spent on daily activities is up

You find it’s taking longer to manage key activities across your organisation. Perhaps your finance department is struggling to close the books on time or IT is overloaded with updating and maintaining patchwork legacy systems.

If inefficiency rules your daily business operations even though you are adequately staffed for business volume, check to see how many disconnected software applications are being used across the company. ERP software integrates solutions and data into one system with a common interface, making it easier for business units to communicate and do their jobs effectively.

Unanswered business questions

Can you easily answer important questions about your business, both big picture and granular? For example, how much revenue certain product lines bring in or the number of returns you receive? If you’re in the dark, information silos from segregated systems and a lack of easy access to metrics and KPIs could be to blame – all ailments that enterprise resource planning software has been designed to address.

Runaway business processes

Are there areas where your processes are getting away from you? Maybe it’s harder to manage inventory, satisfy customers, or keep costs in check. If so, your business processes may need to be restructured to accommodate growth or changing business priorities – a natural fit for ERP software.

Manual processes involving multiple data sets

If most departments are using their own applications and processes to get things done, chances are you are spending too much time inputting duplicate data entries into separate systems. Reporting takes longer and the chance of errors is magnified. And when information can’t easily flow between them, connections can be lost.

Inability to seize opportunities quickly

Does a new opportunity excite you, or are you already scared by the thinking about implementing the changes required to follow through on it?

If you’re experiencing some of the above pain points, you’re probably spending so much time running your business that you can’t easily identify emerging business opportunities, let alone pounce on them. Many ERP systems include advanced analytics capabilities that help you spot new sales channels and revenue streams. And they give you the technologies such as in-memory computing and mobile to help you capitalise on them very quickly.

Specific ERP use cases

Beyond helping you to resolve the issues described above, enterprise resource planning software offers clear benefits in the following scenarios.

Support rapid growth

When your business is thriving, an ERP system can help you manage a growing pool of people and processes to keep up with demand. It can help simplify and standardise processes across departments, business units and even new geographic locations. And scalable enterprise resource planning software ensures your needs will continue to be met over time.

Adopt industry-specific functionality

There are many ERP systems that offer industry-focused functionality, tools, best practices and processes right out of the box. If you’re a manufacturer, you may be looking to streamline production processes and to get visibility across supply, production, inventory, and demand. Or perhaps your organisation wants to adopt more efficient procure-to-pay processes. Procurement-specific ERP supports everything from requisitioning to invoicing.

Enter new business areas

Expanding product lines or branching into new markets? If so, you probably need a new process and creating one requires a lot of hand-on input. Questions may arise that you don’t have the time or means to dig into. How much are you paying for new commodities, for example?

An ERP system provides the structure and workflows for efficient best-practice processes –  ranging from procuring raw materials to customer returns. It frees up time and also provides the metrics you need to make profitable adjustments.

Reinvigorate a flagging business

If your business is struggling to make ends meet, ERP software can help you hone in on areas where you can improve and streamline. It can help you run smarter and leaner operations, restore order and seize new profitable opportunities. And with an abundance of cloud ERP solutions to choose from, you can get the capabilities you need relatively quickly.

If you know your business can be improved with enterprise resource planning software, but are still unsure whether the time is right, you could be facing a common issue, fear of the implementation process. Smaller companies are understandably nervous about lengthy ‘large-enterprise-sized’ implementations that cost more than their budgets allow.

But now, cloud-based enterprise resource planning software can be deployed quickly and with a low up-front investment. And on-premise ERP deployments are significantly faster and more affordable thanks to pre-configuration and industry best practices.

To explore your options, and to find out what ERP software is most suited to your business needs, give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant, or contact us here to organise a good time to come out and speak with you.

14
Jun

ERP selection: the definition of insanity

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Why are you reading this? We’re sure you have better things to do, like focus on your customers and your products. You’re likely reading this because at some point your ERP solution stopped meeting your needs. Don’t worry, you’re not alone; only nine percent of companies achieve 80 percent or more of the expected benefits out of their ERP systems.

For some companies this may have happened on day zero due to the design of the implementation. For other companies, it may have happened later as the needs of the company evolved (and their ERP solution did not).

Your business environment is constantly changing. Growth, mergers and acquisitions, new regulations, new products and even new competitors can impact the requirements you have for an ERP system. At the same time, unless you’re working to continuously evolve your ERP solution, a gap will grow between your needs and what your ERP provides.

The three sins of ERP

Here’s something to think about: 75 percent of ERP implementations take longer to implement than planned, 55 percent are over budget and 21 percent fail at implementation. Add to that the fact that 60 percent receive less than 50 percent of their expected benefits, and there’s good reason to step back and try to understand why some ERP projects fail while others succeed.

In working with some companies who came to us because of failed ERP projects, we have identified what we call the three sins of ERP that other vendors often commit. These include: lack of continuous improvement approach, a singular concentration software and assuming the job is over when the solution is deployed.

In general, these ‘sins’ are associated with a feature-focused rather than a business-focused approach to ERP. In fact, 72 percent of projects have a feature focus versus business focus. A feature-focused approach can lead to complex, higher cost, big bang projects focused on ‘advanced’ software features. A business approach will lead to a lower cost and lower risk phased project focused on achieving business outcomes through process review and business transformation backed by a rational set of software features.

How can you tell the difference?

  • Are you working to define your technical requirements or your business process requirements?
  • When you train do you conduct system transaction training or workflow training that emphasises ERP as an enabler of those processes, not ERP as the process itself?
  • Do you measure the success of your ERP based on minimising technical bugs or maximising business results?

Time to rethink your ERP

Just as a near death experience can cause you to reassess your priorities, a failed ERP implementation has led companies to rethink their solution.

The first step in preventing a similar fate is to challenge yourselves about the role of ERP in your business and the criteria you will use in selecting an ERP partner.

If you don’t you’re doomed to suffer the same fate again. After all, don’t you already have an ERP system? What will prevent you from being in the exact same place again in eight years?

It’s already known the ERP solutions are mission critical systems for the company or organisation.

They support the organisation’s core business processes and store very valuable information that will be key input for the management team when making important decisions.

Like any software, ERPs have a limited lifespan and, on average, every 7 to 10 years the system will need a replacement. However, implementing a new ERP solution is a complex process that will require an initial investment, an external expert help from an implementer and a project that will take months of work to fully complete the system configuration and customisation according to business requirements. In addition, the new ERP software will also have a big impact on the organisation, as users will have to learn how to use it to be productive in the shortest time possible.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it is clear that selecting the right ERP software is a strategic decision for the company that will have a huge impact on the business’ or organisations’ performance. Below is a list of the nine key criteria we recommend taking into account when choosing a new ERP solution.

Meet functional requirements

The first analysis to do is mapping the functional requirements with the system capabilities. When doing this exercise, it is important to distinguish must have from nice to have needs and prioritise them accordingly. ERP implementations are usually phased and it is recommended to focus on must have requirements in the initial phase, leaving more advanced or complex needs for later phases.

Platform flexibility and scalability

Although we might have a clear list of functional requirements to be addressed during the implementation, the reality is that some of the current organisation’s needs probably won’t be fully covered with standard features or new needs will appear in the future. We need to make sure that it will be possible to address them. Software flexibility and scalability will remove possible limitations in the present and in the future.

Ease of use and intuitive user interface

Usability is a very important criterion that needs to be taken into account. In the end, the easier the system is to use, the greater return it will provide. Users need to be productive and self-sufficient when recording new transactions and searching for the information they need. This will even have an impact on customer service quality.

Innovative technology

As ERP systems have a long lifespan, it is important that their technology is innovative enough to not become obsolete too early. Technology evolves very quickly and what can be enough today, might be a bottleneck in the future. Currently, cloud-ready solutions that can be access from anywhere and any device are a must.

Competitive pricing and flexible financing

The ERP implementation will be an investment that will provide return. As with any investment, it is important that costs are properly distributed over time. If possible, it is advisable to avoid big upfront investments and go with a model that allows you to pay a similar amount every year.

Similar customer references

Certainly your company or organisation will not be the first one in your market segment willing to adopt specific ERP software. Another proof of having made the right selection is knowledge of other similar companies or organisations using the same solution.

Local implementer and support

Choosing the right software is important, but working with the right partner is key. In an ERP project, there are three elements that are equally important: product, implementer and company involvement. Make sure that your implementer is experienced in both the business and technology areas and can provide local support when needed.

ERP vendor backup

An additional guarantee that the implementer will be able to provide the right support you need is having ERP vendor support. Working with an official vendor partner is essential. Ask for the SLAs the vendor has agreed with your implementer when receiving support.

Compelling product roadmap

Finally, it is also advisable to look at the product roadmap for the coming years to check if the vendor’s vision is aligned with yours and your future business plans. Make sure the ERP software will also evolve from a technology perspective so that you can benefit from future innovations in this field in addition to new features.

So, there you have it. If you would like to find out more about ERP software or would like to organise a free consultation and demo, either contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our friendly Business Software Consultants.

12
Jun

Using ERP software to create competitive advantage

To be frank, the majority of ERP implementations are embarked upon to increase organisational profitability.

Though the phrasing may vary, ‘increased efficiency’, ‘streamlined processes’, ‘improved integration’ and really, most any other benefit a company might want out of an ERP system all boils down to one key goal: make more money/ And the best way to make more money? Grow your customer base by trumping your competitors. So how can an organisation leverage its ERP software to do just that?

Buy and implement the ERP system that’s right for the company – not necessarily what the competition is using.

Organisations often believe that if they implement the same ERP software that the leaders in their industry use, they will even out the playing field and somehow increase competitive edge. Not the case. An organisation that follows this line of thinking risks ending up with software that’s a poor fit and losing time, money and even market share trying to right this wrong. Pick a software based on your company’s wants and requirements and forget about what your competitors are doing.

Only use ‘out of the box’ ERP functionalities in areas that don’t provide a competitive advantage.

It’s tempting to buy into an ERP vendor’s sales talk about all the benefits of the systems’ canned functionality. But no matter how smoothly the vendors demonstrate, we’re here to assure you that implementing without customisation will not cause liquid gold to run from the faucet and one hundred pound notes to spit out of the fax machine.

While canned functionality can bring operation efficiency (and profit), it can only do that in areas that do not already bring the company competitive advantage. If your organisations has figured out a way to make sure every widget comes off the line 25 minutes before your competitor’s widgets do, then make the software fit that process – not the other way around, regardless of what your vendor tells you.

Stop pretending that your people don’t have anything to do with your competitive advantage.

Companies that fail to invest in the organisational change management required  to make sure their employees are aligned around the ERP implementation goals, understand the benefits of the system and want to work to capitalise on those benefits will cede both existing and desired competitive advantages. Your people aren’t going to like the system, they’re not going to use the system in the right way and they’re surely not going to give a care if the system makes the company money or not unless the organisation makes it make sense to them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking change management isn’t on the critical path – rest assured that it is.

The best way to gain competitive advantage from ERP software is simple: pick the right one and implement it in the right way.

But many companies don’t know how to accomplish either of those tasks, which means they’ll never get the return they want from an ERP system. This is where we come into play. By guiding you through the software selection, implementation and organisational change management, we are able to ensure you realise the benefits you want from an ERP system. And as we’ve already stated, benefits is just a code word for cold hard cash.

So, if you’re looking to implement an ERP solution for your company, it’s important that you know the various points of impact in advance. So, we’ve compiled the ten key benefits that having an ERP software system in place brings.

Scalability

An ERP system is easily scalable. That means adding new functionality to the system as the business needs change is easy. This could mean easy management of new processes, departments, and more.

Improved reporting

Much of the inefficiency in operational work stems from improper reporting. With an ERP system, this possibility is eliminated as reporting follows an automated template system, allowing various departments to access information seamlessly.

Data quality

As compared with manual record-keeping or other traditional approaches, an ERP system improves data quality by improving the underlying processes. As a result, better business decisions can be reached.

Lower cost of operations

An ERP system introduces fundamental innovations in managing resources, which eliminates delays and thus reduces the cost of operations. For instance, use of mobility allows real-time collection of data, which is indispensable to lowering costs.

Better CRM

A direct benefit of using a good ERP system is improved customer relations as a result of better business processes.

Business analytics

Having high quality data allows businesses to use the power of intelligent analytics tools to arrive at better business decisions. In fact, many good ERP systems have built-in analytics functionality to allow easier data analysis.

Improved data access

Controlling data access properly is always a challenge in organisations. With an ERP system, this challenge is overcome with the use of advanced user management and access control.

Better supply chain

Having the right ERP system in place means improved procurement, inventory, demand forecasting, etc. essentially improving the entire supply chain and making it more responsive.

Regulatory compliance

Having the system in control means organisations can better comply with regulations. Further, the most important and recurring regulatory requirements can be built right into the system.

Reduced complexity

Perhaps the most elegant argument in the favour of ERP systems is that they reduce the complexity of a business and introduce a neatly designed system of workflows. This makes the entire human resource chain more efficient.

There are many good benefits of an ERP system, but the above are the chief ones. Needless to say, a good ERP system is indispensable in the modern economic scenario.

For more information about ERP systems, or if you feel now is the time to start to see how an ERP software system can benefit your business, we can help. Either contact us here, or call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our Business Software Consultants.

7
Jun

Why consider an ERP solution over accounting software?

Many small and medium sized companies may be thinking that it’s time to upgrade their business IT systems, but they’re not sure if they’re ready to go ahead and implement a full ERP solution, or whether they should go for a standalone accounting software product.

Here we explain the differences between ERP and accounting software and attempt to help you decide which of the two you need.

What’s the difference?

As the name would imply, an accounting package handles only the accounting business functions. ERP software handles an entire range of business functions covering functional areas like accounting and finance, professional services automation, HR and payroll, CRM, inventory and supply chain, project management and more.

Accounting software or ERP software: which should you choose?

When deciding whether to implement ERP software or accounting software in your business, ask yourself the following questions:

How many disparate systems will you have to manage?

If you purchase standalone accounting software, will you be using a separate piece of software to manage your leads, customers, partners and vendors (i.e. CRM software), another piece of software to manage your stock, and yet another one to manage your projects?

Think about how many separate point solutions you will need to manage and maintain. One of the biggest downsides of having multiple systems across your business is that IT management can become a nightmare. Customising these systems, integrating them and maintaining them with patches and upgrades can be complex, costly and use up critical time and resources.

Whilst it is likely that you can integrate some of these disparate solutions so they feed each other information, you’re still left managing several systems at the same time. And when various front and back end systems run separately, it can wreak havoc on the processes that are meant to ensure your company is running smoothly.

If you believe that you will be managing several point solutions as well as your accounting software, perhaps it’s time to consider investing in an ERP system.

ERP software integrates these systems so that every business function relies on a single database. This means you only have one system to worry about. And with only one source of information, your staff have easier access to data and duplicated effort is therefore reduced.

Are you planning business growth?

If you are planning growth, then it makes sense for you to consider ERP software. Do you risk investing in standalone accounting software now (and potentially two or three other point solutions), only to replace them all with an ERP three years down the line?

Whilst many accounting packages are great for small and medium businesses, they may start to struggle to cope with high volume companies and larger enterprises. So, if you choose an accounting package now and you achieve growth, then bear in mind that you may outgrow the system’s capabilities and have to upgrade to a more feature-rich ERP solution at a later date.

Most ERP software is scalable and usually modular in design (particularly cloud-based ERP), so you can continue to build on your system as your company grows and your requirements change.

Do staff outside of your accounting team need visibility of certain financial data?

When each department in a company has their own separate system designed to complete their own tasks, this means they can only see the business data that is within the system, So, it’s usually the case that only people in your accounts department can view financial data.

However, it may be beneficial that members of other departments can view certain data that is contained within the accounting software. They don’t need full access, but it would be handy for them to see certain information. For example, a member of the sales team might need to know how much a customer paid for their last order but currently, they have to go and ask one of the accounts team to find out this information.

With ERP software, all the information is in the same system so each employee can see what they need to see without disturbing other teams. This doesn’t mean that everyone has access to everything – you can, of course, set restrictions which means each employee only has access to the information they actually need to complete their own roles.

Do you need to be able to report on KPIs across your entire business?

Despite your chosen accounting software probably offering good reporting and analytics tools, the problem is it won’t pull together data from across your entire organisation. Your reports will only include financial data and won’t tie in data from other parts of the business, such

as sales or stock levels. For example, you may need to create a sales order vs. invoice reports which you can only get by linking your financials to your CRM software.

ERP software provides powerful reporting tools and search capabilities because it incorporates all key business data from across the whole business. This means, provided you have the access rights, you’re able to locate any type of data you need from any department quickly and easily. You can then create accurate reports on key aspects of your business.

If you still haven’t been persuaded that your company needs to invest in an ERP system, then read on to find our top 10 reasons to consider an ERP system for your organisation.

Investment optimisation

ERP packages are not cheap, but it doesn’t mean it will increase the organisation’s expenditure. An ERP integrates with multiple departments that are currently scattered in your organisation, and this ranges from everything from product and development and supply chain management to IT support, management and more. By integrating all the departments, you will create cost-efficiency and improved business processes, apart from that organisations can save time and money by not training different users on different systems.

Integration

The features of ERP vary based on the programs that you are using, but these systems enable you to share and edit the data as well as to improve security and access. There is no need to merge information across various systems or sources because all data are stored, and shared through a single system.

Business Intelligence Reports

The right ERP makes it easier for you to generate various reports, and this may include everything from income and expense statements to customised reports. Having quick access to different reports will help the organisation to make better decisions.

Productivity

ERP systems enable maximum utilisation of available resources, and this in turn eliminates wastages. This then results in maximum productivity.

Customer Satisfaction

You might be thinking an ERP has nothing much to do with customer satisfaction. That’s not true. A right ERP software can be used for various marketing activities, and this relates to processes that include lead generation and customer acquisition to after sales service and customer retention. End of the day it can help you to better communicate with your customers and clients through all stages of the process.

Inventory and production control

An ERP system helps to reduce wastages, improves production, schedules delivery on time and more. It makes it easy to make informed decisions rather than making a guess about volumes, processes, production and demand.

The decision to use an ERP as well as to decide which ERP are crucial decisions that cannot be taken lightly. By defining your requirements and matching it with the features of a system will help you to take the best ERP solution that fits your needs.

Security

How secure is your data in your system? It’s another important question to ask. An ERP software helps in easy storage and retrieval of your data. If you don’t have an ERP system and you maintain data in Excel and other formats, there is a chance that you may lose all your data. Having an ERP in place avoids such security problems.

Business expansion

If you’re planning to expand your business, you don’t have to spend much time and effort in doing so if you already have an ERP software solution in place. You can easily add new locations online or change your business modules without a whole brand new costly system.

Efficiency

It does not matter how big or small your organisation it. Errors and manual processes can consume more money and time for any company. ERP systems help in integrating different functions in an organisation and helps to improve the operational efficiency of an organisation.

Performance management

Some time it will be difficult for the management to track the overall performance of the organisation. ERP software helps company staff on all levels to understand the company’s performance and it’s impact within the company.

So, there you have it. If you need more reason as to why you need an ERP implementing, or you want to discuss how an ERP software solution can help improve your company’s efficiency, contact us here, or call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

5
Jun

How to choose the right ERP provider for your manufacturing business

Choosing an ERP is a critical decision.

It will impact your team’s day-to-day works as well as your company’s long-term growth potential and viability. Unfortunately, it’s a decision that far too many companies get wrong.

The good new is, like a lot of business decisions, there’s a relatively straightforward process you can follow to ensure you find the right solution. Here are five steps every company should take when choosing an ERP.

Step 1: Form your selection panel

Kickoff: you know you’re ready for an ERP, it’s time to build your team.

Assemble your A-Team

From the very beginning, selecting an ERP will require input from your key people – this can’t be stressed enough. There are two big reasons to put your best people on this project: first, ERP selection requires an accurate and complete understanding of your company; and second, you’re going to need all major stakeholders to ‘buy-in’ early on – otherwise, pockets of your company might be resistant to the changes an ERP system brings, possibly undermining success.

Look outside of the C-suite

Yes, the CEO might have the final say, but it’s important to include team members that represent the full scope of your ERP needs, and understand how you’ll be using the new tools once installed. Since an ERP system is about improving daily workflow, consider including the people who will be on the system everyday. Also think about adding different types of voices to the mix; there is no value in adding people that are just going to play follow the leader.

How big should this team be?

They say too many cooks make for a salty soup. It’s usually true with soup, as well as with forming a selection committee. Since the new ERP will impact a lot of departments, try to include someone from each group, or someone who can speak for each group. But ideally, don’t let your team get bigger than a pit crew – four to six people is about the right number. If necessary, sub-committees can be formed to ensure that all departments are consulted.

Step 2: Evaluate needs

With the right team in place, it’s time for a self-evaluation.

What do you need exactly?

To find the right ERP, you need to truly understand who your company is and what you really need. Over a couple of meetings with your selection team, start digging into your processes and practices. Identify where operations are humming along and where they are lagging. This process can start with a group-wide conversation or brainstorming – whatever suits your panel – so long as it ends with a clear list of concrete needs.

Write your needs as actionable items

The best sentence for absolute clarity is ‘we need to improve ____ by ____.’ Maybe you need to improve profitability by cutting down on raw material costs. Maybe you need to reduce errors by clarifying procedures. Whatever the case, by phrasing it into an actionable sentence, you’ll find it’s easier to communicate your needs, internally and externally.

Start thinking about cost, value, fit and ROI

An ERP purchase should be justified with a projected ROI. Different ERPs will package pricing and payments in different ways – so it’s important to keep value and fit in mind, along with cost. A tool that costs less and doesn’t have the features you need is more expensive in the long run, so there is less value. An expensive system that you’ll only use 40% of isn’t a fit either. Value and fit are every bit as important as cost.

Step 3: Identify available solutions

With your needs clearly defined, it’s time to see what’s out there.

There are a lot of ERP systems, so choose carefully

No ERP can be everything for everyone – and you wouldn’t want that ERP anyway. Anything built for everyone is built for no one. Just ask anyone who has ever bought one size fits all trousers. There’s also a tonne of ERPs on the market, and you can’t dig into all of them. Start by whittling the list down to ERPs that focus on your industry. An ERP built for retail or shipping isn’t going to do a manufacturing company like yours much good.

Find the right fit for you

Sorting through which ERPs to investigate and which ones to eliminate really comes down to your needs assessment. That list of your specific needs is your guide at this point in the process. Use those actionable ‘we need to improve ____ by ____’ sentences to compare the offerings of various solutions. If they can’t solve your main challenge, move on.

Each ERP system will come with its own set of proprietary features or modules designed with a certain type of company in mind. For instance, the needs of a 2000-employee make-to-inventory repeat plant will be very different from the needs of a 200-employee engineer-to-order custom manufacturer. The ERP that suits one will not likely suit the other. Finding the one that fits you becomes clearer and clearer throughout the process.

Start thinking of this as partner – not just solution – selection

This is important. You know from your own business that finding the right long-term partner is more beneficial than just finding a short-term, one-off customer. It’s the same with ERPs. You want to find the company and the people that are going to be there with you the whole way. The ERP relationship doesn’t end at ‘it’s a deal’. This is a new tool for your whole operation, and if you find the right ERP provider, they will help grow your business.

Step 4: Schedule conversations

Time to see what they can really do.

Who to invite?

The typical spread of ERP providers to invite goes something like this: a vendor based on a colleague’s referral, a vendor based on size or reputation, a vendor your team found through needs/fit assessment, and maybe a vendor based on price. With this range of choices, one or two are likely to stand out, and different members of your team will react to different companies.

Have questions ready for each ERP provider

Better-suited ERP providers will be able to give better answers to questions that specifically address your needs. Given the complexity of ERP solutions and the delicate matter of implementation, it’s extremely important to vet the true competencies of each company. Grill each company thoroughly. The good ones will welcome it and prove they are a worthy partner. The less-good ones will try to pivot or sell you an alternative.

Good thing you’re prepared

Because of the work your A-Team has put in, you have a strong grasp of your needs. This will help steer the conversation during demos and product pitches. You;re now an informed panel that knows what it wants to hear, and knows how to pick good providers out from the pack.

Step 5: Shortlist, check references

Now narrow it down, and verify

The finalists

When it comes to ERP selection, you need to narrow it down to a winner while you still have momentum. With a razor, take your shortlist and shave it down to two or three vendors. Don’t find yourself stuck near the end with too many choices. If paralysis by analysis sets in, it will nix all your hard work.

Check references

Companies don’t just install an ERP, they experience the change it brings. So, there’s no better people to get feedback from than existing customers. From your shortlisted vendors, get references for manufacturers similar to you. If you’re a custom manufacturer, be sure to speak with another custom manufacturer. If inventory is a big part of your assembly operation, then find another company with similar inventory management needs. And if a reference is close by, consider paying them a friendly visit.

Gather the A-Team one last time

Look back on what you just accomplished. Pretty amazing. Your best people came together to help with a critical decision for the future of your company. You learnt, you laughed (at least once or twice we’re sure) and you listened to each other. Now nearing the end, give everyone a chance to say their final thoughts and reflect on the experience.

Now make a decision

Each company will have its own way of doing this, How you decide to seal the deal on ERP selection will depend on your established procedures and what feels right nearing the end of selection. The team has provided valuable input. You have reflected. Now you can be confident. That’s a nice feeling.

And here’s the bonus: you have just given your company a huge head start on successful ERP implementation. The next steps – kick off, install, implementation and go live – will be met with less resistance and a lot more anticipation. It’s a job well done, and you’re more than ready for the next steps. Celebrate as you see fit, and announce the good news to the whole company.

So, what next?

If you are ready to take the first step in your ERP selection process, we are here to help. Contact us here or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

31
May

Tips for accounting ERP training success

It’s been a couple of months since you first began the search for new accounting ERP software and you’ve finally settled on a solution.

After weeks of in-depth discussions with vendors, internal meetings to review requirements and processes, several live product demos and finally a review of vendor proposals, the hard part is over.

But before you decide to take a holiday from software, employees need to be trained on how to use the new system. There is a reason training costs make up a large portion of total implementation costs and the amount and type of training will vary significantly from one vendor and one company to the next.

One of the benefits of moving from introductory systems to accounting ERP software is the automation that comes with implementing an all-in-one solution, however this, in turn, will require employees to change existing processes which adds on to training. Other factors which affect training include:

  • Whether or not employees will interact with more than one part of the system
  • How familiar are employees with software solutions and technology applications
  • How sophisticated and outdated are the existing systems in place
  • Will there be a steep learning curve for employees?

Even with the most user-friendly ERP systems, if employees are not comfortable working with enterprise applications, it will take time to fully train them. All of the above factors will have an impact on training costs and time, and because each factor will vary by company, it is difficult for software vendors to accurately quote training costs from initial conversations.

Working with a software vendor that employs consultants and support personnel in-house provides the added benefit that once training is complete, you will be able to work with the same consultant who did the training on any future projects – such as if you decide to implement additional features, if there is a need for custom work and if you hire new employees who need training.

Working with the same consultants means they already know your business and don’t need to waste time learning about your specific needs. Adequate training in the beginning will set your business up for success well into the future. Below we’ve compiled some yips to make the most of software training.

Onsite wins every time

Some vendors provide the option of remote or onsite training. When employees all work remotely from different locations and from virtual offices, onsite may not be an option, but wherever possible, onsite is best. Trying to save money with remote training frequently results in spending money down the road on additional training or support when employees do not fully understand how to use the system. If possible, consider visiting the software vendor at their location for training. Engaging with consultants while they are onsite doing training makes it easier to stay focused and not get distracted with everyday tasks.

Practice makes perfect

It’s true what they say – practice does really make perfect. Instead of trying to learn a new system all within a couple of days, it is better to do a couple hours of training and then practice what was learnt immediately afterwards. This gives employees ample time to get familiar with the new system and ensures any issues are addressed as soon as possible – and when the consultant is still onsite to help.

Trust the experts

Engage your consultant and accounting ERP vendor and be open to their advice. Instead of asking how to do a specific task, explain what you are trying to accomplish and discuss different approaches to achieve it. This is another benefit to working with a software vendor who has experience in your specific industry – they will be able to make recommendations for approaches to managing processes and automating workflows. It can be difficult to take an objective approach to changing processes and just because you have always done something a certain way, does not mean that it is the best way. Be open to suggestions the vendor has and dedicate time to properly learn and implement their suggestions.

Along with the importance of training your employees when implementing a new ERP system, it is also important to ensure you have a solid ERP software maintenance and support contract in place.

Companies typically spend 15-20% of their software license fees on maintenance and support each year. In fact, according to a recent Panorama survey, 69% of companies spend at least 15% per year for support and maintenance. On the other hand, 8% indicate that they are no longer paying support for their systems. Given the 10 – 15 year lifespan of ERP investments, license costs are often eclipsed by maintenance costs in the long term. So, it’s understandable that companies would want to reduce these costs.

However, there are some risks to consider before cancelling your ERP software maintenance contract. Here are three reasons to think carefully before doing so:

Inability to upgrade your software

Once you cancel your maintenance contract, your organisation will generally be ineligible for automatic upgrades. ERP vendors spend significant sums of money on R&D to improve their software functionality incorporating best practices from their client bases, so there may be opportunity costs and lost business benefits associated with cancelling your maintenance.

Business operations become frozen in time

Because upgrades and support stop when the maintenance contract is cancelled, it becomes very unlikely that you will change the system to keep up with the evolution of your organisation. As a result, your business needs are likely to become misaligned with the functionality of the software. This misalignment may accelerate the need to completely replace your ERP system, which can be more costly than the savings from reducing annual maintenance.

Proliferation of workarounds outside the system

Because of the first two reasons, users are more likely to become frustrated with the system and start adopting their own business processes and workarounds outside the ERP system. This will generally decrease user satisfaction with the system and undermine business benefits. Companies generally make significant investments in enterprise software implementations to take steps forward, so regressing backwards can damage your overall return on investment.

However, this is not to say that companies should blindly pay high costs for annual maintenance. These annual contracts are a high-profit area for ERP vendors, so these costs and terms should be negotiated accordingly. In addition, it is important to negotiate service level agreements to hold your ERP vendor accountable for the duration of the contract. Both negotiation tactics should be incorporated into your ERP selection process.

Thinking about renegotiating your support and maintenance contract or feel like you need more training when it comes to using your ERP system? Here at Monpellier, we’re here to help! Contact us here or call us on 0191 500 8150 to see how we can help you today.

29
May

How to decide which ERP you need

One of the most important decisions that a wholesale and distribution business will make, is what (if any) ERP software is necessary.

For most small businesses, no matter the industry, the first software purchase is made in order to manage the company’s financials and accounting.

In this situation, order volume is still low enough that managing inventory and the picking, packing process and shipping process can be easily accomplished with the help of pen and paper or simple business tools such as Excel.

However, there will come a time when the company starts to grow and order volume increases, and you will start to notice that an entry level ERP system is not working as well anymore. Frequently, with company growth comes the addition of new sales channels, increased competition and added business complexities such as the need for additional warehouse space.

An increase in order volume combined with manual processes results in more room for human errors and more work for employees. It is at this point in time that it is appropriate to begin looking for alternative software solutions.

Software options

For wholesale and distribution companies looking for software to manage their inventory, accounting, sales, contacts, etc. there are a couple of different options depending on required functionality, the sophistication of processes and budget.

Option 1: Introductory Software – Multiple Systems

Introductory software is marketed towards small companies as the first solution implemented in an organisation. These systems typically accommodate one business process (such as accounting or inventory management), but in some cases and on the upper end, may accomplish several.

For the most part, introductory software is typically designed to accommodate only one business processes across multiple departments. The training and implementation process is minimal and introductory software is suited for use by employees with limited accounting knowledge and software experience. For small businesses with slow growth, introductory systems are a great and economical tool for managing processes.

Option 2: Midmarket ERP Software

ERP describes software that is designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations as an all-in-one solution. Midmarket ERP is marketed towards companies that have outgrown their existing introductory software and in certain instances is suitable for start-up businesses.

ERP software includes functionality for accounting, order entry and processing, inventory, contact management and warehouse management, and replaces all existing systems as a stepping stone for continued growth. Certain features that are unavailable in introductory systems, or provided but with very limited functionality, are inherent in true ERP systems.

Examples include robust reporting, multiple units of measure, multi-locations and multi-currency, integration with email and the ability to manage unlimited file size and transaction volume. Since ERP systems are designed to scale with company growth, many systems also provide advanced functionality that can either be purchased at the get-go or added on down the road, such as full two-way integration with ecommerce sites, barcode scanning and mobile picking, landed cost tracking and CRM.

Option 3: Top Tier – Global ERP software

Top Tier ERP systems provide the same functionality as midmarket ERP but on a scale necessary for vast organisations with global operations. They are marketed towards companies with a significant number of users and complex global operations. The sophistication of these pieces of software necessitates a significant capital spend and IT resources.

Now that you have a netter understanding of the options for software, it is time to determine which one is best for your business. In order to do that, it is important to take a step back to evaluate why you’re looking for new software and the benefits you hope to realise from a new system.

Although there are an infinite number of reasons as to why a company replaces their existing software system, there are a few common ones that we hear most often.

My existing system is antiquated/outdated

When working with legacy software, there will certainly come a time when you will need to replace the system for a more modern solution, usually as a result of a system crash or lack of support. Because antiquated software has an ‘expiry’ date, it is important to find a new solution before the existing system becomes unusable. It can be enticing to continue to use existing software for as long as possible since it ‘still works’, but it is very important to dedicate the right amount of time and resources to finding a new solution for when you make the switch.

This will allow you to learn a new system, transition from existing software and change processes without needing to rush through each aspect. In this situation, even if your existing software was once marketed as midmarket ERP that is not to say you will have to upgrade to a new midmarket system.

Depending on how your business has changed over the years and the amount of growth, it may be appropriate to implement more basic introductory software. Keep in mind that due to changes in technology, many features that are lacking in your existing system will exist in modern ERP software, and in some cases, even introductory systems.

In either situation, the biggest hindrance to making the switch when moving from legacy software will be the attitude and commitment from employees and management. Make sure the team is open to change before starting the search.

I do not like certain aspects of my existing system – it won’t integrate with my website, it does not have robust reporting functionality and it lacks inventory management.

Although issues with existing systems can be frustrating, its not necessarily reason enough to make the switch to a different solution. If your existing software is lacking functionality do you currently have workarounds for managing these processes? If so, it is important to quantify how these processes affect the company. Consider factors such as:

  • Man-hours required
  • Number of errors
  • Lost opportunities
  • Customer satisfaction

If your system is lacking certain functionality but the workaround you created only adds an extra two man hours a month, it’s probably not worth making the switch. Is functionality more important than cost? Where does service fit in? Understanding how you prioritise each factor will help you decide if new software is right for your business. Shopping strictly on price will likely lead you to introductory software where midmarket ERP is designed with specific advanced functionality in mind.

I’m looking for a system that is easier to use and all-in-one. I want a system that reduces the number of manual processes.

Let’s start with ease of use. Switching systems require that you also change some of your processes which might be the most difficult aspect of training – learning to operate in a different way than what you’re used to. As a starting point, most vendors will provide demos that will allow you to get a look and feel to then make your own assumptions about user friendliness.

With an all-in-one ERP system comes fewer manual processes, but the costs reflect this. It is important that when you compare the cost of midmarket ERP with introductory systems or manual processes you compare all the costs. The cost of existing software, hardware and IT resources, plus non-monetary costs like time spent entering data and correcting mistakes. It is also important to compare future costs – will you need to hire a new employee to enter orders or manage processes without the right software?

Hopefully now you have a good understanding of what ERP software is and other types of systems available in the market. Remember, it is still worthwhile to speak with introductory and midmarket ERP software vendors if you’re unsure as to what is right for your business – as long as you approach these conversations with an open mind.

Do you have any questions regarding ERP software? If you do, we’re here to help. Contact us here or call 0191 500 8150 and speak to a Business Software Consultant.