CRM Advice & Guides

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9
May

Eliminate These Three Revenue Killers in your CRM

You can only help your customers (and sell to them) if you understand their requirements. That’s why Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are so powerful: they enable you to capture all your company’s information about prospects in one place, so you can develop a deeper understanding of every opportunity. Each interaction can build on the previous one and your company can behave as a single organisation in the customer’s eyes.

However, CRM is just a tool, and its effectiveness will depend heavily on how you use it. We’ll tell you about three revenue killers that might be lurking in your company right now, and give you tips on defeating them.

Killer #1: Poor training

To unlock the potential of a CRM solution, it’s essential that your team is trained on how to get the best from it. While training is often carried out when a solution is first introduced, people come and go, and experienced team members often fall into the trap of using the same handful of techniques they can remember. Regular training enables you to revise the most helpful usage patterns, and dig deeper into some of the enhanced productivity features.

Perhaps most importantly, regular training helps the team to gain confidence in using the software. CRM solutions are sophisticated and some people can feel intimidated if they aren’t supported in using them effectively. When people lack confidence, they might be tempted to revert to sticky notes and scraps of paper, undermining the premise of the CRM solution.

Training can also help to bring about cultural change. In many organisations, sales teams feel a strong ownership of their leads and might be reluctant to record everything in the computer. Some sales people might feel the CRM solution is there to spy on them. Regular training can show how the solution helps everyone to spend more time delighting customers, selling more, and growing the company.

Killer #2: Busy work

Sales people are hired for their talent at selling, but much of their time may be spent preparing to sell and not actually generating business. Your salespeople may be wasting time trying to understand the lead pipeline or where their best opportunities are. Manually creating proposals and quotes can be time consuming, and the whiteboard is a relatively labour intensive way to track sales progress against targets.

This is the kind of work that your CRM solution should be doing automatically for you. For example, you can use it to route leads to the right person, to avoid manual rerouting within the team. The CRM solution can use a repeatable process to create quotes and proposals, and deliver up-to-the-minute reports tracking sales against targets. Artificial intelligence can identify the most promising leads to follow up, while alerts and schedules can highlight those requiring immediate attention.

By giving your sales team more time, you can avoid the risk of leads going stale. The best time to act on a lead is often just after it comes in.

Killer #3: Disconnected marketing

One of the frustrations that sales teams can experience is a disconnect with the marketing processes. There may not be enough leads, but it can also be a problem if the sales team is overwhelmed with leads and they aren’t converting at a good rate. That’s a lot of wasted time on the phone.

CRM systems make it easy for marketing to capture more information than ever, including the context about where the information came from, and the very first interactions the prospect had with your company. You can also see how the customer has interacted with various marketing campaigns and assets. That’s all useful information, but the first question the sales team will ask is: “Are they ready to buy?”

One of the easiest ways to increase the efficiency of an overstretched sales team is to strip out the leads that aren’t ready to buy, so your people can focus on the best opportunities. To do that, ensure the marketing team has a view of the entire marketing and sales funnel, so they can better understand which leads convert, and which nurturing processes prove most effective. That will help to find promising new prospects, but will also enable them to better time the handover of a lead to sales, so that it’s more likely to convert. It might be a culture shock for marketing to share responsibility for sales in this way, but it helps to ensure your sales and your marketing efforts are focused in the right places.

Get in touch

As a Microsoft Dynamics 365 partner, we can help you with business management solutions for businesses of any size, that include a comprehensive CRM system. Whether you have outgrown your existing CRM solution or are implementing CRM for the first time, we’d love to tell you more! Why not give us a call?

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.

26
Sep

ERP vs CRM software – what’s the difference?

Today’s technology gives companies an advantage they have never had.

With the ability to streamline processes and access data in real-time, companies can stay on top of their competition. In addition, today’s data analysis technology allows companies to forsee future events and plan accordingly. These tools, which include both enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and customer relationship management (CRM) software, give companies the power to control their success in today’s market. While similar at first glance, ERP and CRM platforms are distinctively different. Understanding each platform is critical to your system’s success.

What is ERP software?

First and foremost, ERP software is designed to make a company’s processes more effective and efficient. By better managing all the key functions of a company – accounting, warehouse, stock and supply chain – ERP software allows the company to focus on what really matters: the data.

With integrated ERP software, employees can update the platform with important information available in real-time to all departments within the company. This integrated technology gives companies a heads-up when problems occur. If there is a problem in the supply chain, the ERP software will capture the issue and make it available to all areas affected, such as the warehouse. ERP not only provides all departments with updated information, it also gives companies a clear and accurate picture of their standings at any given moment.

What is CRM software?

CRM software fulfils the customer side of the system. Customer relationship management systems focus on just that: customers. This software manages customer information and captures all relevant details for the company. This information is used across the board, from sales reps to managers to accounting personnel. A quality CRM system should capture every interaction the company has with the customer. By properly managing customer information, companies can build their customer relationships to increase customer loyalty and ultimately, revenue.

Not all CRMs are the same, however. Nearly all CRM programs consist of different modules – such as marketing, sales and service – all used by different departments of an organisation.

ERP and CRM integration

ERP and CRM systems both manage important information for your company. While both software systems manage different information, their integration is critical. The benefits of ERP and CRM integration are many, including ensuring an optimal return on your investment in both platforms. The information captured by both platforms helps employees make better decisions. For example, a sales rep could not make an effective sale without leveraging both ERP and CRM. Without CRM, the rep may miss out on information crucial to that client’s sale. Without ERP, the sale has the possibility of not being communicated to accounting, production, and/or warehouse departments, creating a mess that could result in unmet client expectations.

Ultimately, integration between ERP and CRM ensures that your customers’ expectations – and your company goals – are met. This integration guarantees that all departments in your company are working together. The sales rep can communicate with the accounting, supply and warehouse departments before making the sale. If there are any problems, the sales rep will be notified ahead of time. This gives sales reps the ability to close deals with all necessary information and maintain a good name for your company. Without ERP and CRM integration, your company stands the risk of being lost in communication.

Streamline business processes

If you’re looking to streamline business processes and boost productivity, consider integrating your ERP system and CRM software system. Doing so will help remove data silos in your organisation and optimise operations to enhance efficiency.

Let’s take a look at the three benefits of merging your ERP and CRM software.

A 360-degree view of your customer

 

Exactly how well does your business know its customers? One of the biggest advantages of CRM and ERP integration is that it provides a complete view of your customers. From sales and support to finance and accounting; these systems provide complete visibility on your customer’s buying habits, order history and general needs.

Not only does this provide you with a better insight into your customer base, it can help you build lasting relationships and determine where their is potential for future growth. Consistent data gives you better analytics and reporting, so you can track changes in your customers preferences, profitability, and loyalty.

Increased mobility

When your sales team are in the middle of a crucial touchpoint throughout a customer’s journey, having on-the-go access to all customer inventory and orders alongside product and pricing information will assist in closing deals more efficiently – they must have up-to-date data during the interaction, not afterwards.

ERP systems such as Pegasus and Sage enables a sales team to view a customer’s credit limit, current balance, a list of outstanding invoices and previous orders placed; meaning they will have the full history of the customer’s purchasing patterns.

With effective integration, employees from various departments will also find it easier to collaborate, for streamlined information keeps everyone in your business on the same page.

Managers can keep a track of all the critical business operations in real time, which will aid them to make more informed business decisions.

Faster access to crucial information

Without a fully integrated system, employees run the risk of becoming less efficient, meaning your customers will pay the price.

For example – when a customer contacts you requesting an order status update, your customer service staff should not have to trawl through different systems to access that information or inquire with other employees, for this could result in a negative customer experience and therefore a loss in business.

A fully integrated CRM and ERP solution will provide employees with access to important information in real-time. With the push of a button, they can retrieve information on stock levels, customer financials, order history, returns, payments, pricing and more.

Eliminate tedious data entry and duplication

Although both ERP and CRM systems hold account and contact information, it is done for different purposes – CRM is focused on support/sales and prospects; whereas ERP is focused on stock, warehouse, shipping and billing, etc.

The ERP and CRM integration removes the tedious necessity of duplicating data entry by providing identical rules for each system. For instance, any alterations made in the ERP database will reflect in the CRM system and vice versa. The same principle also applies for the addition or removal of custom fields, new entries or changes to the database.

Improved order, stock and quote management

Once a CRM proposal has generated into an order in the ERP software, having to switch systems and re-enter the data multiple times is neither time-sensitive nor practical.

With ERP and CRM integration, businesses can turn proposal generation (created in the CRM) into actual orders (executed and tracked at the ERP level) using just one system; reducing time consumption for data management and increasing company efficiency. Furthermore, a sales team would have enhanced visibility regarding order status updates for customers and easy access to make necessary changes if needed.

Also, while quoting for a prospect/customer in CRM, a sales representative can quote the most accurate pricing by using the integrated ERP solution to retrieve the updated pricing information. Any promotional or discount pricing will be available in the CRM as well.

Reduced IT and training overheads

Statistics indicate that businesses spend a yearly average of £1028 on training per employee and 31.5 hours a year training employees – that’s a substantial amount of expenditure and lost time.

With a single, unified platform for both CRM and ERP, there is no need of maintaining two separate systems resulting in reduced IT costs. Likewise, if the integration is carried out effectively, the amount of support and training goes down, for training sessions would only be required for the combined system instead of the individual systems.

Staff might be sceptical to embrace more than one piece of software; especially if it requires extensive training. Learning to use both ERP and CRM at the same time can be a challenge, resulting in poor adoption rates post-implementation.

The combination of these two programs makes it easier for employees to gather and analyse data – they can familiarise themselves with a singular piece of software and spend time learning all of its features.

So, what next?

To see how you can truly benefit from CRM and ERP integration, we can help. Give us a call on 0191 500 8150, or contact us here and we can come and see what your current business processes are, and how we can deliver a solution to streamline your business.

6
Sep

Empower your business and staff with data

Data is one of the most powerful tools for modern business to gain a competitive advantage.

Is your business ready for the data revolution?

According to some commentators, we are in the throes of the fourth industrial revolution. Technology has changed the way we think about the world and affects every interaction, from ordering a pizza to watching a movie to chatting with our friends.

From a business perspective, it is no different. The outward signs are obvious enough to see, with changes in communication and dynamics, an increase in flexible and remote working practices and so on. But perhaps the biggest game-changer concerns data.

Quite simply, we are now producing volumes of data that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. Today’s data comes from a variety of sources: every web search, mouse click and purchase; every like, share and retweet on social media. It all creates its very own data stream and the business that makes the best use of the insights that are hidden in all that data will be the one that gets an edge over the competition.

Given that it is such a new discipline, our full understanding of just how much we can do with big data is still developing every day. What is clear, though, is that the biggest and most successful organisations in the world are devoting ever more budget into developing their data analytics capacity. Those who fail to capitalise on the opportunity are at risk of being left behind.

Big data in action

It is worth taking a step back and looking at some everyday applications of big data. Here is a perfect example – you might sometimes feel as if you are living in some Orwellian dystopia with Big Brother looking over your shoulder as you search the net for, let’s say a flight to Amsterdam, then log on to Facebook to be bombarded by banner ads offering you bargain rates for that exact flight.

There it is, big data in action. Machine processes watch our every move and try to predict what we are likely to do next, and this capacity will grow beyond our wildest dreams over the coming years. It might sound sinister, but all it is trying to do is help us do what we want to do as easily as possible.

Other examples abound – while you sit reading this article, Siri is there on your wrist, quietly keeping an eye on your health and exercise, and your LinkedIn profile is busy looking for a great next step in your career.

From a business perspective, there have already been some major transformations in the finance sector that have been brought about by big data, including enhanced customer service levels and streamlined back office functions. Increasingly, we are seeing data-driven technology behind every innovative business practice.

Investing in the new oil

Businesses have many driving factors in deciding whether to implement a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, often sharing the same wish lists and requirements with other organisations.

Streamlining business processes, increasing revenue and driving forward growth against market competitors are key targets to attain.

So, what are the benefits of implementing an ERP system? In this post, we’re going to look at the rewards of bringing an Enterprise Resource Planning solution to your business.

Integration

One of the top requirements for many organisations implementing a new ERP system is bringing together multiple parts of the business into a unified solution. Sales, accounting, production, and customer service are tied together to allow free-flowing communication and information, resulting in a streamlined and efficient process.

Revenue

Secondly, if not a defining requirement for many, is increasing the company revenue. ERP systems are best-in-class when it comes to helping you minimise costs within your organisation. They are also staggeringly intelligent when it comes to helping you identify and capitalise on opportunities you may have not previously been aware of. CRM modules can help your sales team keep track of all your customer data, including sales history and eligibility for cross-selling.

Employee engagement

A key benefit of implementing an ERP solution not widely expressed is the increase in employee engagement and morale. It’s a difficult metric to measure, but many report seeing a boost in morale after an ERP system implementation. Manual processes become automated, freeing up time for other tasks, information is delivered quicker and tasks become easier to execute.

Efficiency

Many businesses are still comprised of several legacy systems and processes that have left the current structuring inefficient and incredibly expensive. An ERP solution replaces and eradicates these problems. That’s not to say that bringing in an ERP solution will fix all niggles in your organisation, but it’s important to remember that it can help bridge the gap between restructured processes and your desired business outcomes.

Minimising waste

Companies that hold a significant amount of product often find themselves with problems such as not having the capacity for their stock levels, or an excess due to the inability to accurately predict product demand. An ERP system can analyse demand from your customer base and accurately predict future consumption, so you will know exactly how much to allocate to your warehouse and at what time, inadvertently minimising waste and reducing associated warehousing costs.

Monpellier are experts in ERP software solutions including MicrosoftSage and Pegasus and we can advise on a range of popular products that could be right for your business needs. If you are thinking about the benefits of an ERP solution and what it could provide to your business, then contact us today – we’ll talk you through the options and help you implement a system that’s right for your business.

You can either contact us here, or give us a call on 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 help them 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 salesperson 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.

2
Aug

How ERP can revolutionise your manufacturing process

Enterprise resource planning can help organise inventory, prepare for customer demand and improve productivity.

From better inventory management and productivity, to improving quality and lead times, companies with manufacturing operations are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency. However,  this requires coordination across the entire enterprise from the back office to production.

Without achieving synchronisation across all operations, manufacturers cannot effectively manage fluctuations in demand, increasing competition, and supply chain issues.

Although many manufacturing companies already have multiple software installed to manage their operations, relying on several vendors for different processes can become extremely costly.

Fortunately, there is an alternative that allows all processes to be operated through a single, streamlined solution that listens to your business’ unique needs. With this in mind, here are six ways enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can revolutionise your manufacturing process.

Optimise inventory management

There are two sides to inventory management – materials and product inventory.

Materials management is the processes that go into ensuring an organisation has the appropriate materials to complete the manufacturing process; whereas product inventory includes the products that are produced through the manufacturing process and how they’re transported to customers.

However, if these two equations aren’t synchronised, difficulties might arise with having the appropriate materials at the right time and product levels being incorrect or insufficient to satisfy orders.

By implementing ERP software, processes such as billing of materials, tracking materials and inventory management can be updated automatically – for smaller manufacturers, these are most likely updated manually through spreadsheets; which are prone to human error.

Introducing an ERP system can help reduce these human errors and automate inventory requirements so that materials always arrive when needed, instead of taking up space your business can’t spare.

Prepare for customer demand

When data is tracked manually and historically, it;s difficult to tell what levels of inventory are necessary from one term to another. The business can make an educated guess based on previous data, but this doesn’t account for current changes in the market.

With an estimation about customer trends, it doesn’t account for deviations in customer history, for example, if one of your business’ top clients, goes out of business and you’re working on an estimated guess, the results will be costly.

With a manufacturing ERP system, it will alert your business to these significant changes in customer demand, both from previous data and real-time. This makes it much easier for accurate future customer demands.

Refine human resources

Refining human resource operations with training and attendance tracking can also have a positive impact on your business operations. By integrating human resource management and your ERP system, your business can automate many of the paper-based admin tasks facing your HR department.

This will allow HR to focus on the development of your business workforce, which results in a huge win for saving time and optimising human resources.

A good human resource management system can be crucial to maintaining a lean workforce who, on a daily basis, respond to many challenges. Your business will be rewarded with employees who are more committed, inventive and productive.

Streamline collaboration with customers and suppliers

ERP can optimise business processes and drastically improve response times. This will improve virtual communication across the supply chain and internal communication between unrelated departments. This can have a positive impact on collaborating across your business.

With these close collaborations with partners, it means that specific challenges are met in a timely fashion.

With a quick response to change, it can ultimately improve your customer relationships. This is just one of the ways ERP software can impact as a continuous business improvement tool. By finding important information with satisfaction, your business will be more prompt in leveraging development opportunities.

Automate processes

If a process is definable and repeatable, then chances are it’s better off automated.

ERP systems such as Pegasus Opera and Sage 200c integrate quality control and manufacturing management – purchase invoices matched against goods, job profits can be assessed and stock control managed all from one place; creating a streamlined, cost-effective manufacturing solution.

The time saved through automation can then be reinvested into your business for the other projects that are more pressing.

Improve employee productivity

Businesses that still try to run their manufacturing by using manual processes are more likely to have higher labour costs. The same can be said, however, for some lean manufacturers too. Even in a lean environment, these indirect labour costs can be a potential problem.

A great ERP system can help businesses improve these processes and efficiencies so less labour time is required to complete the same amount of work. Additionally, an ERP can automate manual processes, which frees up more labour hours that can be reinvested into higher-return activities.

In the past, ERP software was a system many manufacturers wanted to make their everyday processes more efficient.

To stay competitive, however, manufacturers need to now invest time and money into ERP software to optimise inventories, be aware of customer demands, automate processes and more. It’s only with these capabilities that a manufacturer can streamline processes and stay in the competition.

As you can see from above, an ERP solution can help your manufacturing operation in a variety of ways, but what about the bottom line? When weighing the pros and cons of a comprehensive ERP implementation, it helps to look at the many ways ERP can save you money.

The following list provides a handful of cost saving benefits of an ERP for manufacturers.

Reduce inventory deviations

Inventory is the key to your company and likely your largest asset, so knowing its accurate levels is imperative. Inventory translates to money, and if you’re relying on disparate systems or manual methods to track the receipt of raw goods, the issuance of ingredients to batch tickets, and the shipment of finished goods, it’s easy for these numbers to lose accuracy.

It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to experience inventory deviations upwards of 20% due to inaccurate data entry in their warehouse inventory practices. This is a humbling realisation when preparing year-end financials for upper management.

An ERP, integrated with a barcode scanning solution, automatically tracks inventory balances, serial numbers, lots and product line information. Inventory data is stored, collected and disseminated through one centralised database within the ERP solution creating accurate inventory levels and reducing deviations. All balances are updated in real-time, allowing you up-to-the-minute, on-screen access to your crucial inventory data.

Customer retention

Customers are the company’s lifeblood, demanding superior products, timely access to inventory, dependable delivery and accurate paperwork. ERP software provides manufacturing functionalities that include various bills of material, quality control, formulation testing and recording, material requirements planning, inventory management and more.

Your ERP can also help you move CRM functionality out of spreadsheets and email programs and into the vital flow of information between the sales department, support representatives, and the rest of the company. With CRM functionality, you can analyse, manage and synchronise sales, marketing and customer care activities across all points of contact, giving teams the tools needed to find new customers, close sales faster, and build lasting, more profitable relationships across all channels. Finally, ERP software records and stores accurate, comprehensive customer data that can be delivered in real-time throughout the purchasing process and on-going relationships.

The result? You’ll close sales faster, prospect more efficiently, and create superior customer satisfaction. This will help your cash flow stay moving in the right direction.

Adjust with regulatory changes

The question isn’t if there will be regulatory change, but when. Rather than allowing these changes to throw your processes into turmoil, having an ERP system that’s attuned to the needs of your industry can help you save money and stay in compliance.

First, you can lean on the industry experts of your ERP provider in helping you implement the changes necessary to understand and comply with changing regulations. Of course, you’d be wise to go with an ERP provider who understands your industry needs and compliance obligations.

How working with Monpellier can help you save money

ERP software solutions providers are many, the key is finding a provider that designs, develops and sells to manufacturers and know the industry well. Monpellier can save you money by providing the experience and insight of experts who understand your specific needs, from regulatory compliance to formulation management and beyond.

Contact us today and let us help your company determine how an ERP solution can save you money. Call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our friendly Business Software Consultants.

26
Jul

It’s not about technology, it’s about making your strategy future ready

In a day to day environment, you often get to hear, “I’ll just mail the spreadsheet to you.”

A fairly harmless expression by itself, but if you stop for a moment to consider, it highlights a vital point, not so much a flaw but definitely a shortcoming.

Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, conversational bots, Digital Twins, Blockchain and Machine Learning are practically redefining the way businesses are getting more structured, accurate, definite and efficient, eliminating more scopes of uncertainty and mitigating risks of errors. Besides, the use of spreadsheets, instead of an enterprise-level resource planning software, underlines a major drawback in management as it highlights the lack of foresightedness that is required to equip the organisation to battle challenges that inevitably come with gradual expression over time.

It’s okay to love Excel spreadsheets

When it comes to spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel is inarguably the most popular one. Numbers don’t lie: over 750 million people are using it worldwide to record, track and calculate. And not for no reason. It is easy to use, flexible and largely reduces dependency on the IT department, especially for storing, calculating, tracking and accessing data. Think about a world without Excel. It seems impossible. That’s because Excel has enabled the masses to make sense of the numbers.

But you shouldn’t love it too much

However, while spreadsheets might be phenomenal for personal productivity tracking and arguably for small businesses, they are not designed to manage enterprises. Expanding enterprises eventually arrive at a juncture where they, albeit begrudgingly, have to admit that their dependence on Excel is not serving their business purpose adequately. There are limitations on Excel, and nobody should be doing anything 100% in Excel.

Accurate revenue recognition requires outgrowing spreadsheets

It has been reiterated that the fundamental requirements of a business changes as the company grows. It’s obvious. However, businesses don’t do it. They continue to use spreadsheets, increasing complexities of business operations which can impact tasks as vital as revenue recognition.

This is how:

  • Billing process is spread across multiple spreadsheets, dependent on manual processes which significantly increases risks of errors and frequency of delays, thereby resulting in a slow opp-to-cash cycle.
  • Revenue data is scattered across multiple source spreadsheets which has to then be collated manually. This magnifies compliance risk, which in turn, leads to an audit process that’s not only costly but time-consuming too.
  • Maintaining expansive spreadsheets means recording customer details, project details and contracts. Over time, data integrity may get compromised in Excel.
  • Limitations and difficulties of reporting through spreadsheets makes it practically impossible for you to have a clear and accurate picture of revenue.

Thus, most back office personnel managing departments like HR, Finance, Marketing and IT struggle to track the progress of each process, clear backlogs and identify opportunities leading to a mammoth bottleneck for the decision making. The challenges of errors in data entry are a grave concern as well. Additionally, in a competitive environment of today, businesses are relying on data analytics to arrive at accurate insightful decisions which is practically non-existent in spreadsheets, thereby hampering business growth.

Today’s spreadsheets can be tomorrow’s databases, with ERP:

Why spreadsheet users are so intensely attached to their files is quite understandable. After having spent weeks, maybe even months to prepare and keep them updated, it is not easy to consider not using them anymore. That’s why, the first response to a proposal to use an enterprise resource planning software or ERP, is often, “what’s wrong with spreadsheets?”

It is important to understand that enterprise software doesn’t entirely do away with spreadsheets. Instead, it actually helps to ensure that the data has been carefully entered and updated, managed well, made more secure, maintained consistently and rendered accessible across the organisation. ERP ensures that the spreadsheets of yesterday can successfully be converted into databases for tomorrow.

Executives can still export data into spreadsheets when they want to take a quick look at information or run ad-hoc analyses. Alternately, they can use the software’s built-in business analytics and reporting features to generate the same information in half the time.

Besides reducing data entry errors, ERP also helps to eliminate repetitive data entry between users, which is a real possibility in Excel. If no one recognises these errors, there may be a risk of the company making less than favourable decisions, based on conclusions drawn from inaccurate information.

ERP helps to resolve collaboration challenges. Since all users draw data from a centralised source, chances of confusion are less. Moreover, computing protocols prevent the possibility for users to duplicate efforts or confuse updates to product information.

It improves visibility and communication between departments, divisions and suppliers, which in turn, can integrate various business processes and reduce time to market, thereby improving return on investment.

Spreadsheets vs. ERP

Spreadsheets

  • Temporary, short term
  • Unstable environment
  • Simple data sets
  • Static data
  • Localised use
  • Decision support

ERP

  • Medium to long term
  • Stable environment
  • Complex interactive data sets
  • Real-time process/data flows
  • Pan-organisational use
  • Decision execution

How can ERP serve as a critical element in getting future-ready?

ERP solutions can not only benefit those who are implementing it for the first time, but also can be beneficial for those organisations that are updating and adding incremental operations like HR management or CRM. In fact, some ERP softwares have built-in HR or CRM modules that can be activated or used only when a company grows and reaches a certain level and the need for enhanced coordination and collaboration becomes prominent.

Digital transformation is only effective when it is seamless and company-wide and such ERP solutions ensure that this seamlessness can be achieved by enabling capabilities to be added when the time is right. Back office has always played an instrumental role in aiding the front office achieve business goals.

It’s only now that ERP is integrating the two and encouraging digitally-transformed businesses to focus on the front-office and the customer experience by ensuring that back-office tasks are being conducted smoothly with enhanced efficiency and heightened accuracy.

Making the move from spreadsheets to ERP is not as much about technology as it is about strategising for future growth. And as businesses grow they need to assess the need for fewer systems. If spreadsheets are still holding your business back, now is the right time to consider implementing new age ERP software. It can be the major component of a sustainable, scalable IT strategy that evolves with your business and strengthens the foundation for future growth.

Ready to take the next step? Get in touch with us today to set up a meeting so we can help you help yourself. Call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our friendly Business Software Consultants.

24
Jul

Solving paperwork overload: the enemy of business growth

A common growing pain for many small businesses is a build up of paperwork.

And while it may be something your business has become used to, it can be a big win in terms of saving time and costs. An overload of paperwork can cause big headaches for owners and managers, bring day-to-day operations to a crawl and hinder sustainable growth.

An overload of paperwork usually occurs at the point where a business is outgrowing how it manages its financials. Starting out, you probably only have one or two employees looking after the books. With only a few users, you decide that basic financial software will be enough.

Without sales and CRM functionality, your team has to spend hours every week manually entering in data from the sales reps into the system so you can invoice clients. In addition, the business might also be utilising spreadsheets to manage inventory and capture information like sales and commissions.

You have manual, time-insensitive processes for getting invoices to clients and duplicated information kept in multiple sources, managed by various employees. The more sales you get, the more pressure builds on this process and the harder it becomes to maintain. The end result is a constant backlog of invoice reconciliation to manage due to double-entering data, checking different sources for the correct data, and fixing manual entry errors along the way.

Month-end continually becomes a larger task as more transactions increase the reconciliation task between systems. It all ends up creating an overload of paperwork. Additional pressure is lumped onto your team. Time is spent firefighting instead of working on more strategic, revenue-generating business activities.

So, what can you do to solve the paperwork overload and get back to growing the business? How can you go paperless and leverage business systems that save you time instead of costing you time? Here are five ways you can reduce your paperwork burden and set your business up for faster growth:

Start bringing data together

Is your team spending a considerable amount of time re-entering and reconciling data? If so, it’s a clear sign you’ve outgrown ad-hoc systems, financial software and other disparate processes that may be struggling to manage all your business information.

When the same data exists in several different systems, it creates more work because of the time it takes to re-enter data manually. That duplicate data also creates two key problems when it comes to data entry.

The first issue is accuracy. It doesn’t matter how careful your team or their attention to detail is, when it comes to double handling (or even triple handling) data, it will eventually cause errors. Fixing these errors can be time-consuming. Errors add another, unnecessary cost to the business.

The second problem area is fractured data in multiple systems. Data entered by different people in different formats. With two sets of information that differ slightly, how do you know which is correct? The integrity of your data is then called into question altogether. Time is spent confirming information and reconciling data from conflicting sources.

With a single, central source of real-time data made possible with an ERP system, you can eliminate the lengthy process of entering the same data into different systems. If you’re not ready to invest in ERP software, at the very least, choose one system as the source of truth for each type of data. For example, have all sales or CRM information stored in the one application that everyone will use consistently. When you’re ready to grow into an ERP system, it will make the transition a lot easier.

Say goodbye to inaccurate spreadsheets

Using spreadsheet software to manage your inventory might seem like an easy solution when you’re first starting out. But it can quickly become complicated. As you grow and your sales and product lines increase, spreadsheets can end up costing your business significantly.

The biggest issue with using spreadsheets to manage your inventory is human error. How many times do you press the backspace key when writing an email, updating a word document, or entering information into a spreadsheet? Multiply that number by how many people in your business are updating spreadsheet information. That’s a lot of potential errors.

The time and resources it takes to fix errors from manually entering data can add up quickly. Fixing errors means costing your business time and money.

From an inventory management perspective, stock-related errors, such as inaccurate stock levels, can impact the business’ reputation and its relationships with customers. Imagine needing to fulfil a customer order only to discover there isn’t enough stock to complete it, even though the spreadsheet records list adequate levels.

Situations like these are common when using spreadsheets – particularly when inventory is involved.

Gain more visibility across your business

If you’re not careful, you can start to lose visibility on what’s happening across your business. As your business grows, you add new employees, your sales levels increase, you open new locations, and your inventory expands. Information becomes more difficult to locate, and inaccuracy becomes more difficult to locate, and inaccuracy becomes more common.

The reason for the loss of visibility? At this stage in a business’ growth, many are using a patchwork of systems to run the company. For instance, accounting software manages finances, spreadsheets take care of inventory, and locally-kept word documents house customer details and agreements. A mobile workforce compounds the problem further. Employees tend to save files locally on their devices, like laptops and tablets. It can get frustrating when trying to locate business-critical data.

Look at systems which give you real-time information that can be accessed by multiple parts of the business. Having one central system, like an ERP, can give your business enhanced visibility and provide a common platform for all employees to access data from across the business. For instance, finance staff can view a complete history of customer interactions, sales reps can see stock amounts and administration team members can see other team’s calendars, tasks and reminders. This means everyone in the company can quickly answer the dreaded, ‘where’s my order?’ question from any customer.

Having a greater level of visibility across areas like sales, inventory, productivity and profitability, can also help to identify any obstacles. You and your team can quickly cover issues, trends and opportunities. You can make critical decisions faster and with more confidence. And, you can do it all as part of a paperless office environment. Keep visibility high using the right digital systems for your business needs.

Put the right reporting in place

When trying to grow a business, reporting is critical. Reporting helps you gain clarity about your financial position. However, for most small businesses, reporting is a manual process that takes too long and might not always give enough detail on what’s impacting the financial position. For instance, were sales affected by stock shortages of key items? Did you carry an excess of old stock which then had to be written off? How effective were your marketing efforts in bringing in new customers and generating sales?

When you’re running reports from multiple sources, checking and consolidating that reporting can take too long. Days can pass as the report is emailed from one individual to the next, adding their relevant information or cross-referencing. The view of your business position is no longer current – it’s days or weeks old. Aside from being time-consuming, if the data is accurate or out of date, it can affect the quality of your reporting and the decisions made as a result.

In contrast, live reporting based on real-time data can be extremely valuable. It gives you the business intelligence needed to quickly and clearly understand your business performance – as it’s happening.

An ideal solution to access live reporting is by using business intelligence dashboards. They can be set up to report on data from multiple areas of the business and present you with the most up to date information – all on one screen.

Take the guesswork out of forecasting

When it comes to forecasting, there can be a tendency to trust your instincts rather than spending the time and effort compiling data that’s sitting in multiple systems or documents. After all, it’s frustrating and can be difficult to get accurate information, all on the one format so that you can do a proper trend analysis – without printing dozens of paper reports that create a war zone out of your desk.

Rather than sift through various systems to get the data you need to prepare your forecasts, consider whether its time to move to better business technology that provides a single source of data, like a cloud ERP system. Forecasting needs a single source of truth to be reliable.

Bring everything together and leveraging the real-time, single-source data that you know will be accurate and up to date. Start thinking about the right business system that can support your forecasting requirements.

The next step

An overload of paperwork can weigh you down and stop you from working on strategies that will grow your business. Rather than limp along using the same processes and systems you set up when you started your business, think about using clever business tools that will improve your process management, business visibility, and data integrity.

For instance, a cloud ERP can bring all your information and data together in a single, central system and improve data access for all employees, assist with inventory management, give you more visibility across the business, speed up reporting procedures and give you a better picture of future performance. And, you can truly go paperless in the process.

What’s the next step to reducing your paperwork burden and saving your business time and costs? Start by getting in touch with our team of ERP solution specialists on 0191 500 8150. Let us know your business needs so we can let you know how the right technology can unlock faster business growth.

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.

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.

21
Jun

Why it’s time to replace your legacy ERP system

Today, we wanted to cover the reasons why companies decide to replace their ERP systems that have achieved legacy status, what common approaches are available to them, and the antidote to these dilemmas.

Why your legacy isn’t enough

While vintage jewellery and furniture are considered prize possessions, vintage technology is not. A legacy ERP system is software that is no longer supported and enhanced and, according to Gartner, is ‘not sufficiently flexible to meet changing business needs’. While the costs associated with getting a new enterprise-level solution are considerable, maintaining an outdated one is likely hurting organisations even more.

There are multiple reasons why companies makes the decision to modernise their software, some of the most common which are:

Outdated software and hardware

Many legacy systems were coded in languages that are no longer staples of modern programming. This means that there aren’t enough qualified people who can keep maintaining the software. This problem can also occur when the ERP system was initially developed in-house by an ex-employee and replacements don’t have the necessary knowledge, or if the vendor of the software has long been out of business. All of this means that companies incur increased costs to get the appropriate support.

Hardware costs, too, become burdensome when it is becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive to find parts for the technology needed to keep your legacy system up and running.

Impaired scalability and growth

At the dawn of their establishment, companies typically have limited needs, but as they grow and expand, their software requirements become much more complex. A growing company needs agile software that can scale along with it. Moreover, as more of your competitors switch to newer and shinier systems, you’ll find yourself increasingly behind. In order to keep your competitive edge, you must invest in software that is as dynamic as your business.

Increased support costs

Legacy ERP systems are notorious for their high operating costs. Largely due to the decreasing number of professionals who can keep the systems running smoothly, the costs of such services tend to increase.

Inability to integrate with newer systems

If your company software isn’t compatible with newer tools and applications like a new CRM of a chat bot, chances are you are not running your business as efficiently as you could.

Difficulties accessing vital information

One of the biggest setbacks business owners incur because of legacy systems is the inability to access centralised information as fast as they need to, which often impairs decision-making. This is also a problem if a company has a mobile workforce. If your employees cannot access important information from a device other than their office computers, their performance may suffer.

Compliance with regulations

Often companies decide to upgrade their legacy systems due to regulatory mandates. Companies in the financial services industry, for example, often undergo changes when it comes to regulatory environments. To ensure the integrity and compliance of their operations, they must have properly integrated ERP systems in place.

Things to consider

Evaluate your resources

You need to perform a cost/benefit analysis of your enterprise software before coming to a conclusion that it needs to be replaced – it’s not simply about chasing the latest fad. Even though this is not an exact science, do think about how much time and money your current system is costing you. How long does your own or contracted staff spend on ‘fixing’ its glitches? Does your software enhance your business processes or stagnate them? If in the end you have figured out that the benefits of a new ERP solution outweigh the costs of maintaining your legacy system, then it is time for a change.

Don’t get hung up on the old and embrace the new

An important thing to remember when replacing your legacy system is not to fall into the trap of trying to replicate its functions entirely in the new one. This way you’ll surely miss out on all the great features and functionality a new system has to offer. Not to mention, if you want the exact same system, what’s the point of getting a new one?

Explore your options

Finding the right replacement for your legacy system is no easy task. Look for a solution that will not only be the right fit in terms of functionality, but also ease of use. Your team will certainly appreciate an ERP system that is easy to understand and maintain. Also, when selecting a vendor, look for one that can provide you with an ongoing support plan that can meet your needs.

So, you have finally decided to either invest in an ERP system to achieve better efficiency and profitability or to replace your legacy system. As you are sifting through the different options available to you, let’s go over the ERP features which we feel are essential to any solution worth investing in.

Integration

The one thing that is clear about new ERP implementation is that it is rarely ever a clear-cut process. Issues with integration arise on multiple levels. First, this list includes a number of separate modules (see below), which need to be integrated flawlessly for your new ERP system to serve its purpose.

Second, almost all businesses require extending additional systems, which are not a part of their new ERP solution, to cater to their unique needs. As such, to avoid future hassle and complications, make sure your new solution has the ability to interoperate with other systems.

Hosting options

Many ERP solution providers like to push their notions of whichever hosting option they prefer themselves on their customers. This is very limiting, to say the least. You should be able to decide on your own whether you want your new solution to be hosted on your own servers (on-premise ERP), on a cloud or a hybrid cloud (when a company uses a mix of public and private cloud services).

Every company is different. They all have their own security concerns, update and configuration requirements, and flexibility needs. This is why offering different hosting options is on this list of must-have ERP features.

Usability

We all know that ERP solutions are complex systems with a slew of functionalities that should ideally help you carry out all your business processes. If, however, the solution is not user friendly and too complicated to use, then all those functionalities defy their own purpose and hurt your company’s productivity. Therefore, always make sure to request a demo before deciding on a new ERP system.

Platform scalability

Your business is not a static rigid entity. Neither should it be an ERP system. You are aware that once you decide to update your ERP system, it will cost you considerable resources. This is all the more reason to make sure that your ERP provider offers you a scalable solution that will adapt to your future needs. Otherwise, you will either be force to change your solution every couple of years, or start using additional applications to satisfy all business needs.

Flexibility and mobility

Having mobile access is no longer a futuristic ERP feature. With many workers accessing data and workflows with their own devices, having a mobile version is a must. Not only will a mobile-friendly ERP dashboard give your employees on-the-go access, it will also give you the opportunity to see how your business is doing at any particular point in time.

CRM and Sales Management

Many will argue that CRM and Sales Management are the starting points of your entire business operation. You receive a sales order, which then triggers procurement, production, or service delivery, and ends with a satisfied customer. This is why this tool is usually part of core ERP functionality.

Finance and Accounting

As your business grows, you will really appreciate having a Financial Management module as part of your ERP solution. The idea is to get a comprehensive platform that will help streamline financial operations. By integrating with other modules, Financial and Accounting will keep track of your cash flows and give you a snapshot of your financial performance at any point in time.

HR Management

Human Resources Management is no longer solely an administrative task. A good ERP system should have a HR Management module with advanced features like time and attendance management, employee benefits management, risk and compliance management, etc. in order to enable company executives to monitor and take care of its most important resource – its people.

BI Reports

Business Intelligence tools are indispensable for executives to get a 360-degree view of their businesses. It enables the company to turn all of its accumulated information into actionable acumen in order to be able to analyse company performance and make better decisions.

Now you realise the importance of having a new ERP software solution in place for the scalability and efficiency of your company, why not get in touch with us to see how we can help! 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.

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.

22
May

Get one step closer to GDPR compliance with an ERP upgrade

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on the 25th May 2018, which is this Friday!

Regardless of Brexit, UK companies need to comply with this new regulation or suffer very harsh consequences in the form of hefty fines. This new regulation is the biggest shake up to occur in data protection regulations in 20 years and complying in GDPR is no small feat.

GDPR is all about protecting data that can be used to identify an individual. The regulations state that an individual must remain in control of how their data is used, stored and disposed of at all times. This means that ways in which companies collect and process this sort of personal data has to change.

An example of the new regulations is that individuals now have to perform a double opt-in to give consent of their data being collected and processed. They also have the right to be forgotten and can demand proof that their data has been removed from a corporate database.

Businesses are expected to be GDPR compliant right from the start of any project, under key aspects of the regulations named ‘privacy by design’ and ‘privacy by default’. In practical terms, this means that from the earliest stages of planning, before projects are rolled out or new systems deployed, data privacy must be considered.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions have always claimed excellent data storage, accurate representation of data and the centralising of data housed in an organisation. So, of course, ERP and GDPR are connected. However, it;s crucial to recognise that GDPR compliance is a company-wide concern that will require changes to policy, IT security and data protection processes.

Yet your ERP lies at the centre of your business operations and if your data management solution is aligned correctly, it can play an enormous role in your organisation achieving compliance.

Let’s investigate how a modern, robust ERP system can help a business as it works towards GDPR compliance.

Data security management

When last did you consider your company’s data security? This is not only about the applications used to gather or the servers on which its stored. A comprehensive internal data policy must be developed and instituted before the GDPR deadline and it must include answers to questions such as:

  • What personal data do you hold?
  • Where did it come from?
  • How was it gathered?
  • Who internally has access to it?
  • Do they access it from any mobile devices that leave the office?
  • Do you keep an asset register tracking location of all company mobile devices?
  • Are they able to upload any new personal data from outside the office onto your systems?
  • How long do you keep personal data?
  • How does your company share this data – internally and externally?
  • Do you know where all your data ends up?
  • What is your process for deleting old data?

The first step in answering these questions is to undertake an information audit. This audit needs to unpack the management of every piece of personal data you hold, which might mean investigating multiple systems used to collect, process and store personal data.

The more systems your business has in place, the tougher the information audit might be. But the consolidation of the information and data from the disparate systems will already stand you in good stead for GDPR compliance.

The fewer points of data collection you manage, the clearer your views into the data you hold, the more streamlined your operations will become and the easier compliance should be. Your ERP solution should also offer benefits of greater functionality, enabling you to control data access permissions and view throughout the strata of your business.

Consent and data erasure

GDPR requires businesses to obtain explicit consent from its customers to remain in contact with them regarding sales and marketing activities. By the same token, those very same customers must be allowed to withdraw their consent and they have the right to be forgotten.

Obtaining consent needs to be a simple process that in plain and simple language explains what the customer is agreeing to. The onus is on the business to then be able to, at all times, demonstrate that all of their contacts have provided consent to be contacted and have their data processed, controlled and kept.

As with data security, consent and data erasure are also better managed by having a suitable ERP solution in place. Your solution should be equipped with customer relationship management (CRM) functionality as standard. This allows you to manage contact records, communication history and provides an audit trail of all customer touch points. You can see how your customer has corresponded with you including any calls and meetings and, critically, if you have all of this information in one place, deleting their record on request is straight forward.

GDPR compliance makes your business better

The deadline for GDPR compliance may appear looming, leaving many company executives feeling full of dread. But it has long term benefits because it forces companies to interact with their customers more authentically. The transparency that GDPR enforces will provide both companies and their customers with improved communication.

Companies can expect better lead conversion and customer retention by adhering to GDPR. Employing an ERP solution makes GDPR compliance easier. It’s a smart move for companies who want to become customer-centric and want to implement data-driven marketing activities.

Is GDPR not reason enough for upgrading? Do you need some incentive to start pushing for your company to upgrade its ERP software?

We’ve got six reasons why you should upgrade your ERP software right now ready to go. If anything on this list sounds familiar, quit wasting time and upgrade already!

You’re jealous of anyone who can run their business from their smartphone

Do you still have to call someone in the office for help when you’re trying to answer customer questions? Did you know you can easily resolve this problem by upgrading to cloud-based ERP software?

Using cloud-based ERP software gives you complete mobility. You can stay connected with your data on any device with an internet connection, respond to new opportunities, and exceed customer expectations. It’s a win-win for everyone. There’s no need to stay within arms reach of a desktop anymore. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be using ERP software that’s mobile-friendly and allows you to provide the customer service that clients have come to expect in the digital age.

You’ve uttered the phrase,  ‘I think we might have that product somewhere in the warehouse’

If your system can’t tell you what’s in stock or what’s been distributed to a customer, you aren’t alone. It’s surprising, but there’s a lot of businesses out there that operate without a firm understanding of their inventory. But why?

There are so many great options out there just waiting for you to take advantage of them! Your ERP software should provide you with any and all information about your inventory with the easy tapping motion of fingertips on a screen. So, if you constantly find yourself playing the ‘maybe’ game, don’t you think it;s time to start thinking about an upgrade?

You’re losing sales to competitors whose products don’t hold a candle to yours

You can be the best of the best, but if you don’t provide visibility into account information, available stock, or self-service options, your customer service, and sales, will fall flat. There’s no good reason why you should be losing sales to competitors with inferior products. Especially if that reason comes back to your ERP software, mainly because that’s an easy problem to fix. How? You guessed it, upgrade your system.

Your ERP software is older than graduates applying for jobs at your company

If you can still talk to us about how you Y2K-proofed your current ERP system, we’ve got a problem. Your ERP system has seen better days when it starts limiting functionality.

Things move fast in the world of tech and software and if you haven’t made any changes over the last two decades, it’s safe to say you’re missing out. Don’t hold your business back by hanging onto old, outdated systems and processes. Change is good. Embrace it. Keep moving forward and upgrade that ERP software.

You don’t have a comprehensive view of what you’re spending and earning

How many details about expenses and accounts do you have in one-off spreadsheets? Lacking an accurate and comprehensive view of where your spending and earning is going to catch up with you and hurt you in the long run.

The ability to operate cost-effectively relies on your ability to utilise information like payroll and other expenses. You have to know when and where to cut costs and adjust budgets if you plan on continuing to grow. Analysing your costs and earnings should be easy if the ERP software you’re using is up-to-date and it’s the right fit for your company.

Your current software is no longer benefiting your business

This should be a no-brainer and practically encompasses everything we’ve discussed this far anyway, but it’s worth going over again.

Does your current system provide you with automatic updates? Is it multi-user accessible and collaboration friendly? Do you have a clear overview of your financial position in real-time? Has it reduced upfront business costs like version upgrades, maintenance and system admin costs? Has it prevented you from worrying about server failures?

If you can’t answer yes to all of the above questions, here’s your sign. It’s time to upgrade your system so what are you waiting for? Get in contact with us here today to book a free consultation, or call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

3
May

Replacing your legacy ERP system

We wanted to cover the reasons why companies decide to replace their ERP systems that have achieved ‘legacy’ status, what common approaches are available to them, and the antidote to these dilemmas.

Why your legacy isn’t enough

While vintage jewellery and furniture are considered prized possessions, vintage technology is not. A legacy ERP system is software that is no longer supported and enhanced and, according to Gartner, is ‘not sufficiently flexible to meet changing business needs.’ While the costs associated with getting a new enterprise-level solution are considerable, maintaining an outdated one is likely hurting organisations even more.

There are multiple reasons why companies make the decision to modernise their software, some of the most common of which are:

Outdated software and hardware

Many legacy systems were coded in languages that are no longer staples of modern programming. This means that there aren’t enough qualified people who can keep maintaining the software. This problem can also occur when the ERP system was initially developed in-house by an ex-employee and replacements don’t have the necessary knowledge, or if the vendor of the software has long been out of business. All of this means companies incur increased costs to get the appropriate support.

Hardware costs, too, become burdensome when it is becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive to find parts for the technology needed to keep your legacy system up and running.

Impaired scalability and growth

At the dawn of their establishment, companies typically have limited needs, but as they grow and expand, their software requirements become much more complex. A growing company needs agile software that can scale along with it. Moreover, as more of your competitors switch to newer and shinier systems, you’ll find yourself increasingly behind. In order to keep your competitive edge, you must invest in software that is as dynamic as your business.

Increased support costs

Legacy ERP systems are notorious for  their high operating costs. Largely due to the decreasing number of professionals who can jeep the systems running smoothly, the costs of such services tend to increase.

Inability to integrate with newer systems

If your company software isn’t compatible with newer tools and applications like a new CRM or a chat bot, chances are you are not running your business as efficiently as you could.

Difficulties accessing vital information

One of the biggest setbacks business owners incur because of legacy systems is the inability to access centralised information as fast as they need to, which often impairs decision-making. This is also a problem if a company has a mobile workforce. If your employees cannot access important information from a device other than their office computers, their performance may suffer.

Compliance with regulations

Often, companies decide to upgrade their legacy systems due to regulatory mandates. Companies in the financial services industry, for example, often undergo changes when it comes to regulatory environments. To ensure the integrity and compliance of their operations, they must have properly integrated ERP systems in place.

Things to consider

Evaluate your resources

You need to perform a cost/benefit analysis of your enterprise software before coming to the conclusion that it needs to be replaced – it’s not simply about chasing the latest fad. Even though this is not an exact science, do think about how much time and money your current system is costing you. How long does your own or contracted staff spend on ‘fixing’ glitches? Does your software enhance your business processes or stagnate them? If in the end you have figured out that the benefits of a new ERP solution outweigh the costs of maintaining your legacy system, then it’s time for a change.

Don’t get hung up on the old. Embrace the new

An important thing to remember when replacing your legacy system is not to fall into the trap of trying to replicate its functions entirely in the new one. This way you’ll surely miss out on all the great features and functionality a new system has to offer. Not to mention, if you want the exact same system, what’s the point of getting a new one?

Explore your options

Finding the right replacement for your legacy system is no easy task. Look for a solution that will not only be the right fit in terms of functionality, but also ease of use. Your team will certainly appreciate an ERP system that is easy to understand and maintain. Also, when selecting a vendor, look for one that can provide you with an ongoing support plan that can meet your needs.

Be bold, replace your legacy system

Don’t wait until the point when you are spending more resources to maintain your legacy system that you would if you were to switch to a new ERP solution. Also, when upgrading your enterprise solution, avoid the same pitfall of a rigid system – plan for tomorrow and get an ERP system that is flexible and extendable.

Monpellier can help you in your endeavour to replace your legacy systems. Our free consultation and demonstration services will give you a better understanding of our values and workflows. Contact us here to book a free consultation, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

1
May

How ERP software can improve customer satisfaction

Just about every business in any industry relies on repeat clients to keep business going, and  that entails ensuring customers are satisfied with goods and level of service. But mid-sized distributors in particular may face some challenges that are unique to their business. Distributors are usually competing directly with much bigger companies that can get advantageous terms from suppliers and can get their hands on more resources.

As such, small to mid-sized distributors may find themselves charging higher prices and having less manpower compared to their competitors. Competing on price isn’t an option, so there are other ways that small to mid-sized distributors need to compete to attract new customers and keep them.

Taking advantage of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software with customer resource management (CRM) capabilities can give small to mid-sized distributors the opportunity to more effectively meet expectations for a high level of customer service.

Since good customer service translates into good business sense, an ERP solution can give distributors the ability to attain higher quality interactions with both new and existing clients.

Here are some ways that ERP software can help improve overall customer service and inevitably increase sales.

Get rid of inefficient order processing

Making sure that deliveries are on time is of paramount importance when it comes to customer satisfaction. An ERP system can help make sure that deliveries reach their destination when they’re supposed to. Distributors that make use of ERP solutions can provide distributors with on-time shipments just about every time because they eliminate inefficiencies.

Boost efficiency when solving client issues

In distribution companies, customer service representatives are the first people to deliver service to clients. It’s important that they’ve got the information needed to resolve any issues in a timely manner.

Having ERP software can help provide customer service reps with more power to offer pertinent details about a client’s whole experience with a company. These representatives can see all there is to know about a customer’s history, including payment methods, previous orders, and so on. This can help them provide customers with the answers they’re looking for, which ultimately enhances customer loyalty.

Offering value through business intelligence

Customers can be better served by being offered the right value-added services at the right time. ERP solutions allows sales teams to be much more confident in the data they’ve got on customers because they can more closely rely on the information that’s stored in the system. With such information on hand, they can offer services such as special discounts that can boost sales.

These types of tools are essential to the success of small to mid-sized distributor companies. Monpellier offer customised ERP solutions such as MicrosoftSage and Pegasus that can help improve customer service, make order processing more efficient and increase sales.

Now, you might be thinking ”does my company really need to implement a new ERP solution?”. Well, here are our top five reasons why you should:

An effective cost reduction tool

ERP systems offer the chance to get the actual and real-time data about daily operations that help companies to plan their strategy professionally. An ERP is a wonderful system that not only saves on operational cost & administration cost, as we mentioned earlier, but very effectively systematises the operation. One thing that needs a special mention here is that with modern ERP, distributors deliver complete and on-time shipments 97% of the time, thus it has become a comfortable tool for distributors.

Increase the producitivy

There is no doubt that any company would like to work on reducing the cost and time consumed in doing a particular job. And, ERP is one such system that consolidates all the information fed into its system across the multiple departments, thus acting as a safe storehouse.

The employees can use this wholesome information for various activities and expedite the process and make a faster decision that would be in the interest of the company. You wouldn’t want your staff to run here and there or call each and every colleague across different departments until they have found their exact piece of information, which could have been easily maintained in the system.

Reinforce customer service

No company can just go on selling until and unless it has maintained the old customers and believes in adding the new ones. ERP, here too, acts as a guide that comes to the rescue of the company that wants to focus on the growth and customer service. Whether it is a simple query of a customer regarding the product availability or managing the inventory accurately, the ERP system has the entire information ready on what to do now or next. This is an impeccable way to move ahead in the competition.

Consistency and smooth functioning

A study came out in 2015 indicating that more organisations are going to go multi-site over the next few years. An increasing percentage of organisations are implementing an ERP system across multiple offices, warehouses and sites. Last year, 85% of companies implemented an ERP system at two or more locations.

A well-informed player is always confident and this applies to business too. A common system enables the decision maker to receive information and to gain a holistic view of the operations spread across various locations, thus having the ability to make better and quicker decisions.

ERP squashes the need for various other software, like CRM for different departments. So, it’s evidently better to have a centralised arrangement such as an ERP system that stores and updates the information in real-time and is helpful to each and every department for planning purposes.

Nips the problem in the bud

With the constant flow of data being transcended into information for management, any aberration or issue can be quickly highlighted in real-time. Although most organisations begin their ERP initiatives with the expectation that they use the software as is, many are still making changes to the way the software was intended to be used.

Thus, companies planning to implement an ERP system for their day-to-day business should, first of all, undergo an evaluation to understand why and how they can use ERP at its best. The business should consider the technology and make a move in that direction so that they have a competitive edge over others. Using ERP can prove to be a healthy deal if used to its maximum.

For more information about implementing ERP systems, or if you think you are ready to take the plunge and would like to book a free consultation with us, contact us here, or call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

26
Apr

Is your accounting software putting your business at risk?

Your customers’ needs and expectations have evolved, but your accounting and business management systems aren’t able to keep pace with increasing demands.

You need a technology platform that improves team productivity, increases sales, drives customer loyalty, and supports your growth ambitions.

Today’s customers and tomorrow’s workforce are increasingly accustomed to instant access, self-service, and a myriad of buying options. Failure to meet these expectations often means your competition ends up the winner.

More than ever, businesses need to give their people tools that put information at their fingertips so they can delight customers, grow sales and keep customers coming back for more. A recent study found that more than 90% of consumers said they would consider taking their business elsewhere rather than work with a company that uses outdated technology.

Signs your accounting software is putting your business at risk

As your business grows in size and complexity, and your customer expect better and faster service, the tools that once supported you may now be standing in your way. For small and midsize businesses, deciding to overhaul your accounting software or business management systems may seem like a daunting task.

But what is the real cost of trying to maintain a system that is no longer keeping up with demands? Whether the result is lost sales, customer dissatisfaction, or compliance risks, failing to update your technology can be a costly decision. If you recognise any of these warning signs, the time has come to make a change.

Unsupported software

One of the biggest red flags that your ERP system needs changing is when it’s no longer supported by the manufacturer. Whilst it might be functioning well enough so your employees are still able to work, the system will eventually become outdated. Imagine if one day your ERP system suddenly stopped working or had an error message. Without the manufacturer, no one would be able to help you fix the problem leaving you without a working system. The inevitable chaos from this scenario could result in serious consequences for your business’ productivity: it would be more efficient to replace the software sooner rather than later to eliminate any risk.

Employees complain about the system

If your ERP software is causing employees to complain that it’s difficult to use or that it’s preventing them from completing their tasks, this is a major sign that your system needs updating or replacing. Usability is key, so failing to update an outdated system could cause your employees to start working outside the software, diminishing both its value and effectiveness. This could also result in data inputting becoming prone to human error, making monitoring and reporting extremely difficult. Once the new ERP system is implemented, provide your employees with additional and ongoing training to facilitate them becoming more familiar with it in a shorter time frame otherwise productivity could be noticeably reduced.

Cloud compatibility

Whether or not your company is interested in cloud compatibility at the moment, it is revolutionising the way several businesses operate, in fact – the number of businesses operating on cloud-based ERP systems grew from 11% in 2016 to 27% last year, so it might be worth considering upgrading to a cloud-compatible ERP software. Systems such as Pegasus and Sage enable you to access a complete business solution online, whether it’s at the office, via a mobile device or at home; putting the user experience first. Cloud-compatible systems can be easily integrated into your business’ existing processes, providing you with everything in one tailored solution. If your current ERP software is not ‘cloud-compatible’  then you should start looking into other options to increase your mobility.

Outdated licensing

The cost of updating your ERP system is one of the most critical parts of the decision to either stick with your current system or to replace it. With the ever-evolving development of technology, cost models for ERP have also changed. Unlike many of the older ERP solutions, the modern options enable you to keep costs at a minimum and adapt to the changing environment. Whilst the licensing is only a small part of the overall cost, it is important to regularly check the cost of your current ERP system compared with replacing it for a newer one.

Systems don’t communicate

If your business relies on multiple software packages that aren’t communicating effectively with each other, it is time to consider scrapping them all and looking into an integrated system. Forcing your employees to spend their time transferring data from one system into another will simply waste their time and reduce efficiency. Modern ERP software incorporates accounting, invoicing and financial analysis alongside the functionality of customer relationship management (CRM) with marketing, sales, warehousing, purchasing and manufacturing; rendering manually importing data between systems obsolete.

Strong reliance on key people

Older ERP systems, especially those that have been developed in-house or are heavily customised, are usually reliant on just one or two people in the business to keep them running smoothly. These people know the system inside out, but what if they both decided to leave? This could pose a large threat to the everyday functionality of your business. To combat this, select a new ERP system that is easier to manage by all employees to guarantee there will always be someone who can support the system.

Although deciding when your ERP software is old is never easy, it is essential you regularly review your processes to determine if you’re using an outdated system. Evaluate how your business’ requirements have changed over the years against how the system is currently performing. With new technology and developments, replacing your ERP system can be a catalyst for a wide range of positive changes throughout your business and, with the right training, all your employees can be experts on a new ERP system. Just make sure you don’t leave it too late!

We can help you find the perfect match for your business’ needs. We’re partners with a number of accounting and ERP software providers, so contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our friendly Business Software Consultants

19
Apr

EPOS systems and the GDPR

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection regulation that comes into force on the 25th May 2018.

It is designed to give individuals more control over their personal data, particularly held by international companies. By harmonising data protection regulations throughout Europe, it makes it easier for companies around the world to comply. Why does this matter to you?

What does this mean for you?

Data is integral to most industries, meaning that collecting customer data to work out trends and patterns is essential for growth and success. If you are not already collecting this data, and making use of it, you should be, as it can go a long way to helping you become better. So, how should you be collecting this, and what changes will you need to make to comply with GDPR? Headline components of the new regulations are:

  • Ask for ‘unambiguous consent’ for processing personal data – importantly, this means that pre-ticked boxes no longer constitute consent.
  • Remove personal data from your database when requested.
  • Authorities must be notified within 72 hours of a data breach.
  • Appoint a Data Protection Officer within your business, if you deal with a lot of sensitive data.

It is important to understand that, even when using an EPOS system, you are classified as the controller of the data. Responsibility for getting consent and making the customer aware of how the data is to be used, lies with you.

Penalties for non-compliance

An understanding of these new regulations is vital, as there can be huge fines for those who find themselves on the wrong side of it. The sanctions that can be imposed for non-compliance include:

  • A written warning in the case of first and non-intentional non-compliance.
  • Regular data protection audits.
  • Fines of up to 20 million euros, or up to 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater.

As you can see from the above, it is imperative that you get your EPOS system up to date and in line with GDPR, as to be sure not to breach the GDPR, and to have peace of mind that you are being compliant with the new legislations.

Below, we have outlined some tips on how to choose an EPOS system, which we think you will find helpful.

There are many factors to consider when selecting an EPOS system and many of them can be puzzling for the uninitiated. An EPOS, or electronic point of sale system can offer great convenience to customers and lead to an upturn in sales in their own right.

However, they also afford vendors a tremendous number of benefits, too. In this blog to choosing an EPOS system, we’ll be addressing these advantages and working out which ones will be relevant to the sort of business you run. Ultimately, choosing an EPOS system comes down to the level of functionality you require weighed up against any cost implications. In other words, it is just like any other business decision – working out how you can add the best value.

One size does not fit all

The first thing to realise about an EPOS system is that it can have as much or as little functionality as you need.

If you think you need to invest great sums to obtain an all-singing, all-dancing version, then it is time to reconsider. Depending on your specific requirements, you don’t need to go for a fully-fledged version. In order to work out what EPOS system might suit you, seek advice. Specialists in the field should be able to work out which size of the system will be the most beneficial to you. A little time spent researching the various EPOS systems on the market will pay off in the long run.

In order to avoid the pitfalls and to obtain a more tailored solution, it is important to think about what your business requirements actually are. If you consider that you simply need an EPOS system because that is what your competitors are offering, then it may be time to do a more specific business needs study. By being clear about the sort of requirements your business has, it is much easier for suppliers to bespoke their EPOS systems to match them. After all, most business functions require tailored solutions these days and not a simple ‘me too’ application.

Once you have conducted the research necessary to make an informed decision about what functions you want, it is time to start looking at the various EPOS systems that can offer these. Ask yourself a few questions when shopping around. Firstly, it can be helpful to ask yourself how adjustable your favoured EPOS system might be down the line, if your business needs change. Secondly, it can be good to ask your preferred supplier to conduct a calculation that gives you a picture of the return you can expect on your investment, if they cannot, then move onto another supplier.

Defining your business requirements

Working out what you need from an EPOS system is essential.In addition, you might like to form a wish list of what else it might be able to do for you. Sometimes you may be surprised at the degree of integration with your other business functions an EPOS can offer. They are not just there to process transactions, although this is a primary reason for investing in one. Nevertheless, defining your business requirements is not always so simple. What should you be looking for?

Initially, it is a good idea to have a clearly defined statement of your normal business operations. This might be easy to do if you work in retail only or you are in the leisure industry. However, many businesses cross over into more than one sector, which means their customer interactions can differ slightly. For example, some businesses need an EPOS system to handle their wholesale payments and transactions from registered trade customers, but they also have a requirement to process transactions from retail customers, sometimes with differing rates and separate nominal coding for their accounts package. Many leisure and tourist attractions require bulk bookings to be made by phone or via an e-commerce platform, but also require smaller transactions to be made on site, perhaps from a cafe or a shop.

Furthermore, many businesses need to be able to accurately describe themselves in terms of their point of sales functions. Multi-discipline sites are a typical example of when this is not necessarily straightforward. Multiple points of sale – even if they are under differing brands – can all be run from a single, well installed, EPOS system. If you need to run transactions from a bar, a box office, a ticket office and a retail space, then there is an EPOS system that will do it, but it will mean you need to look for a specific solution that will handle all of these functions. Lastly, it is important to think about mobility. Not all EPOS systems allow for transactions to be made away from base units, something that is now expected in most restaurant or service-led environments, for example.

Determining your business priorities

Ask yourself: what is paramount for an EPOS system, what else would you like from it and what is a luxury that you might be able to do without? All too often, businesses are put off adopting an EPOS system, which could do so much for their company’s operations because they either look at a high-end solution which offers far too much, or a low-cost system with limited functionality. By determining what is a priority and ruling out those things which are not, it becomes much simpler to see where the cost benefits are. Put another way, by focusing on the essential business needs, you are more likely to find a system which matches your requirements at a cost that is affordable.

When talking to a potential supplier about their EPOS system, it is essential to work out whether they are offering a fully scalable solution. Although you may want to cut down the functionality to what your firm needs at the moment – thus keeping installation costs at a minimum – it is important to know which functions can be rolled out should something from your wish list become a genuine business need in the future. Essentially, your paramount requirements will shape the initial proposal and form the first phase of any implementation. Nevertheless, you may not want to stop there and it is a business risk not to check whether the proposed EPOS system possesses the ability to be extended in phases down the line. This factor can have a huge influence on deciding which system is chosen.

What might my business priorities be?

Deciding what you need now and what you might want available to you in the future comes down to the sort of business you run. However, there are certain key functions which many sorts of companies ought to be considering as potential add-ons from the start. For example, booking management modules might not be needed at the moment, if you are only engaged in retail or e-commerce sales at the moment. However, if you choose to sell maintenance inspections or upgrades down the line, then managing these services through an EPOS system is perfectly possible, so you might want this sort of module included. Equally, if you offer a customer loyalty scheme at the moment – a common enough way of promoting repeat business – then issuing customer loyalty cards which can be swiped or loaded with credit that functions with your chosen EPOS system might be a priority.

For warehouse businesses, an EPOS solution which can plug into the stock and inventory system can be invaluable, especially as a point of sale function frequently reflects downward trends in stock. An EPOS system can be used to trigger buying instructions, for example, so that you don’t run out of stock at key times. While small businesses, which can track their stock more easily, don’t often need this sort of integration, growing companies often find that they do benefit from it. Such functionality can be especially useful for firms which have their warehouse and despatch areas located in different physical location from the point of sale.

Other areas which are important to look out for when considering an EPOS system include how one might interact with your other software solutions. Do you have a CRM package which you might want to integrate with your EPOS one day? As well as CRM, you may want an EPOS system to feed your marketing functions, perhaps generating data for an email campaign, for instance? In addition, many specialist areas of industry rely on third party software solutions which are specific to their sector. It is certainly worth working out how an EPOS system you choose might integrate with third party software.

Get a demonstration

With all of your specialist functions, basic requirements and wish list now fully worked out, it is highly desirable to see an EPOS system in place which is performing in the way you would like yours to. This may mean observing one in operation within a similar organisation. However, it is preferable to have a solution provider offer you an industry-specific demo using data that is relevant to your sector. Ask your proposed solution provider to use your own data, if possible, which is an even better way of assessing how the system will ultimately function.

Understand the full cost implications and how they are generated

Much of the visible part of an EPOS system is the physical hardware that comes with one. this might include touch screens and new tills, but it can also include things like improved scanners, customer displays and printing facilities. Remember that along with all of this hardware is the software which runs it. Often this is regarded as an ‘invisible’ cost, but it is essential that buyers of EPOS systems realise that they are not simply investing in new physical equipment, but in a software solution which can integrate with other applications too.

Choose a partner, not a supplier

All EPOS system investment should be made with due diligence. Research the company offering a system which matches your requirements and check that it really does meet your business needs. If possible, gain insights from existing customers and ask for references as a matter of course. When you obtain references and testimonials, make sure that they are relatively recent and that they chime with the sort of system you’re after. Finally, consider the product road map of the EPOS system in question and check for future support and software releases. Future proofing is really the key and should be your watchword with any purchase decisions.

For more information regarding EPOS systems, contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our Business Software Consultants.

10
Apr

How ERP software can revolutionise your manufacturing processes

Enterprise resource planning can help organise inventory, prepare for customer demand and improve productivity.

From better inventory management and productivity, to improving quality and lead times, companies with manufacturing operations are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency. However, this requires coordination across the entire enterprise, from back office to production.

Without achieving synchronisation across all operations, manufacturers cannot effectively manage fluctuations in demand, increasing competition, and supply chain issues.

Although many manufacturing companies already have multiple software’s installed to manage their operations, relying on several vendors for different processes can become extremely costly.

Fortunately, there is an alternative that allows all processes to be operated through a single, streamlined solution that listens to your business’ unique needs. With this in mind, here are six ways enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can revolutionise your manufacturing process.

Optimise Inventory Management

There are two sides to inventory management – materials and product inventory.

Materials management is the process that foes into ensuring an organisation has the appropriate materials to complete the manufacturing process; whereas product inventory includes the products that are produced through the manufacturing process and how they’re transported to customers.

However, if these two equations aren’t synchronised, difficulties might arise with having the appropriate materials at the right time and product levels being incorrect or insufficient to satisfy orders.

By implementing ERP software, processes such as billing of materials, tracking materials and inventory management can be updated automatically – for smaller manufacturers, these are most likely updated manually through spreadsheets; which are prone to human error.

Introducing an ERP system can help reduce these human errors and automate inventory requirements so that materials always arrive when needed, instead of taking up space your business can’t spare.

Prepare for Customer Demand

When data is tracked manually and historically, it’s difficult to tell what levels of inventory are necessary from one term to another. The business can make an educated guess based on previous data, but this doesn’t account for current changes in the market.

With an estimation about customer trends, it doesn’t account for deviations in customer history, for example, if one of your business’ top clients, foes out of business and you’re working on an estimated guess, the results will be costly.

With a manufacturing ERP system, it will alert your business to these significant changes in customer demand, both from previous data and real-time. This makes it much easier for accurate future customer demands.

Refine Human Resources

Refining human resource operations with training and attendance tracking can also have a positive impact on your business operations. By integrating human resource management and your ERP system, your business can automate many of the paper-based admin tasks facing your HR department.

This will allow HR to focus on the development of your business workforce, which results in a huge win for saving time and optimising human resources.

A good human resource management system can be crucial to maintaining a lean workforce who, on a daily basis, respond to many challenges. Your business will be rewarded with employees who are more committed, inventive and productive.

Streamline Collaboration with Customers and Suppliers

ERP can optimise business processes and drastically improve response times. This will improve virtual communication across the supply chain and internal communication between unrelated departments. This can have a positive impact on collaborating across your business.

These close collaborations with partners can mean that specific challenges are met in a timely fashion.

With a quick response to change, it can ultimately improve your customer relationship, which is just one of the ways ERP software can impact as a continuous business improvement tool. By finding important information with satisfaction, your business will be more prompt in leveraging development opportunities.

Automate Processes

If a process is definable and repeatable, then chances are it’s better off automated.

ERP systems such as Pegasus Opera 3 integrates quality control and manufacturing management – purchase invoices matched against goods, job profits can be assessed and stock control managed all from one place; creating a streamlined, cost-effective manufacturing solution.

The time saved through automation can then be reinvested into your business for other projects that are more pressing.

Improve Employee Productivity

Businesses that still try to run their manufacturing by using manual processes are more likely to have high labour costs. The same can be said, however, for some lean manufacturers too. Even in a lean environment, these indirect labour costs can be a potential problem.

A great ERP system can help businesses improve these processes and efficiencies so less labour time is required to complete the same amount of work. Additionally, an ERP that can automate manual process, freeing up more labour hours that can be reinvested into higher return activities.

In the past, ERP software was a system many manufacturers wanted to make their everyday processes more efficient.

To stay competitive, however, manufacturers need to now invest time and money into ERP software to optimise inventories, be aware of customer demands, automate processes and more. It’s only with these capabilities that a manufacturer can streamline processes and stay in competition.

However, something else that could be putting you off investing in an ERP system could be the fact that people aren’t 100% sure how they can save money when it appears that there is such a large upfront cost to begin with.

It’s a question many small or expanding businesses ask and what it really boils down to is this: how do I know if my business really needs an ERP system – and, more importantly, will it be worth the cost?

ERP systems aren’t a light investment choice to make. Whether you need one depends on your business – something for another blog post! Whether it will be worth the cost is another matter entirely. Improving business performance is a top cited reason by those looking to invest in an ERP system for the first time according to a 2015 survey by Panorama Consulting.

But how do you calculate whether an ERP system is worth the investment?

Return on investment – in practical terms.

The real consideration to any business looking to implement an ERP system is the return on investment. To calculate this, you need to establish what your current issues and goals are and then quantify what improvements to functions in support of those goals are.

Without a consultation, we can’t help you establish or quantify these at this stage. However, we can give you a clearer picture of how an ERP system works to save money across the most common areas that are assisted by streamlined and automated functions: operating costs, admin costs, inventory costs, obsolete inventory and cycle time.

Operation Costs

  • Making allocation of work more efficient: an ERP system provides overall visibility of jobs and resources, instead of looking at these by department or function only.
  • Manufacturing and material planning: ERP solutions can provide a single view of the allocation of materials and resources for production planning. Normally manufacturing businesses struggle to gain an overview of materials and resources or they need to look at three different systems to establish the current state of play.
  • Process performance: without an ERP system there will be processes in place that may not be working but there will be no visibility of this.

Admin Costs

  • All customer information in one place on one customer record: usually accounts, services and CRM all hold information but there is no link between them without an ERP system in place. This can double, treble or even quadruple the amount of time taken to get the information and the number of admin staff needed.
  • No chasing paperwork, with all jobs recorded in real-time: without ERP software, job data is typically recorded on sheets and entered into a service system managed by the service department. However, all of this then needs to be re-entered for invoicing purposes – leading to wasted time, lost paperwork and frustrated staff who can think of much better ways of spending their time.
  • Real-time view of data to answer customer queries: usually in businesses that haven’t made the move to ERP, the customer services operator would have to route through numerous systems or data sources to answer simple customer queries. With the information in once place, time spent dealing with customers is reduced – meaning higher profits and happier customers.
  • Simple report mechanism, all in one place: without ERP getting reports for management, service meetings and accounts etc. will be laborious as you have to go into one system and then cross reference this with another to establish issues and trends.
  • Ease of scheduling and employee management for both processes and HR: without enterprise software in place, employee information will be sat in various systems and scheduling, jobs and holidays etc. will be on different systems that don’t join up. So, your service department may have the employee booked in for jobs because they couldn’t see that HR have marked the employee away as on holiday.

Management Costs

  • Real-time reporting and dashboards providing up to the minute analysis of the business or department: typically in businesses without real-time reporting, teams can spend hours at the end of the week gathering information, much of which is a few weeks out of date.
  • Triggers and alerts to highlight exceptions: without this, management only know about operational difficulties after they have accumulated to become a major risk to the business.
  • Project overviews and statuses: management that make do without this only get a view of true project costs after the project is completed and hours of manual data collation has taken place.
  • Employee information and performance: without an ERP system, it is difficult for management to get a full understanding of their workforce, efficiency and training requirements. Everything is in different systems, meaning that information can slip through the net, or take too long to collate.

Inventory Management

  • Reduces over and under stocking: without ERP solutions, the business may have a view of stock holding but will find it difficult to differentiate between good and bad stock, allocated stock and repaired stock.
  • Allows for the forecasting of stock requirement: without this there will be no predictive analytics that look at seasonal trends, year-on-year figures or other variants that affect predictive stock ordering.
  • Reports on wastage, returns, swap outs, replacements and items to be returned to the manufacturer: this is very important if you don;t want to be left with a warehouse black hole, with no understanding of the stock that is in it and whether it needs writing off, repairing or returning to the manufacturer.
  • Gives location visibility for picking, etc: most businesses without an enterprise system in place can waste hours searching for stock.
  • Provides stock valuation: without this the business would not have a full understanding of its stock position and how the value of their stock holding reflects on the business as a whole – reflecting on warehousing costs and cash flow.

Calculating the costs and time savings

Interviewing your staff in each department can assist in establishing how much time they feel they waste when they encounter any of the above issues. However, sometimes what your employees say and what they do in reality are very different. You need to be confident that you are asking the right questions and making the right observations.

A good ERP partner can guide you here, by listening to the requirements o the business and often taking you a few steps back to look at the ideal situation, not just what you think is possible based on pre-conceived ideas. They should listen to all the stakeholders and employees and offer suggestions based on their experience of implementing systems in different markets. From there, a good ERP partner can build a picture of the best solution and its design and present you with a written document as part of your proposal.

With this, you should be able to assess the return on investment based on what can be achieved and the likely costs. It’s important to remember that every company’s needs and likely return on investment is different.

One final thought – its not just the software

However, in order to ensure a successful ERP implementation, you need to avoid these five business factors:

  • setting unrealistic expectations at the outset
  • not managing organisational change
  • not including key stakeholders in the implementation
  • poor project management
  • not addressing business benefits

The ability to adapt quickly to the changing demands of your business are also key and an agile approach is now deemed the gold standard. That’s why we believe in lifetime application management of your ERP implementation, to ensure that it truly reflects your business needs both now and in the future.

For more information regarding ERP systems, take a look here, or to book a free demo and consultation with one of our Business Software Specialists to see how we can help you help your business, contact us here or call us on 0191 500 8150.