ERP Advice & Guides

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18
Jun

Your Enterprise Resource Planning Project doesn’t have to be painful!

Your Enterprise Resource Planning Project doesn’t have to be painful!

There’s nothing worse than having to deal with a failed Enterprise Resource Planning project. It can be quite a hassle without the correct software putting things right, there are always issues like:

  • Financial information that needs to be stored in new ways
  • Processes turned inside out
  • Hard to perfect user-adoption

It doesn’t have to be this way. With ERP software, your organisation will be able to run more smoothly.

Use Services of a Reputable ERP Consultant

When you embark on any type of Enterprise Resource Planning project there tend to be obstacles to overcome. Every company is different with its own special requirements and key processes. Professional ERP consultancy specialists have the necessary experience in helping organisations to build up the best ERP solutions. Their aim is to provide:

  • Unique processing skills
  • The use of dynamic technologies
  • Expert consultancy skills

Professional ERP consultants’ task is to break down any challenges you face so your project reaches its goal without any hitches. Let the experts save you time and money by providing the relevant advice on your full context and requirements. This can be achieved by installing and implementing an ERP system that lasts.

7
May

How outdated ERP undermines your business potential

Inertia is a powerful force. It’s easier to keep doing what you’ve always done than it is to make an improvement. Change can be time consuming, scary, or require significant investment. When it comes to ERP solutions, though, the cost of doing nothing may be higher than you realise.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the ways that an old ERP system might be limiting your potential, or even putting your business at risk.

Flexible working

It can be hard to attract and retain the right talent, especially if you need everyone to be in the office. Enabling your people to work from home helps them to maintain a good balance between work and family responsibilities and gives them a chance to optimize their work environment too. Remote working is also important for those who travel on business or work from customer sites. If your ERP solution does not provide remote access using the cloud, it’s time to upgrade.

Mobility matters

We’re so dependent on our mobile devices now, it’s hard to remember a time before them. Yet, mobile computing is a relatively recent trend. Android came out ten years ago; the first iPhone was in 2007 and the iPad’s launch in 2010 invented the consumer tablet market. If you’re using an old ERP system, it may not have been designed to take advantage of mobile devices.

That really matters: if you can’t access or update information on the move, your team may be forced to use paper workarounds. It’s time consuming and error prone. There might be discrepancies in your data because someone hasn’t had time to do the updates or rekey the paperwork yet, or worse still because they can’t read someone’s wiggly handwriting. If your team don’t have current information, it could affect your sales processes, because they don’t know something is in stock, or because two people sell the exact same item. You could carry extra inventory to cope, but it’s tying up your capital.

Modern ERP solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central enable you to work wherever you are, using a wide range of devices. It enhances productivity and helps you to ensure your team are always up to date.

You need support

Old solutions may no longer be supported by the software vendor, and so won’t be updated for compatibility with new devices and other applications. Your ERP solution might have been running successfully for some time, but software is hugely complex and new bugs are often discovered late in an application’s lifetime. If the software is unsupported, these bugs won’t be squashed, which could put your data or uptime at risk.

What happens if something goes wrong with your ERP solution? You need to know that you can get it fixed, and fast. That’s unlikely to be the case if you’re working with a legacy solution. You might struggle to find IT consultants with the expertise in outdated software, and the willingness to work on it. When you do find someone, it might prove time consuming and expensive for them to find the problem and fix it.

By migrating to a modern ERP solution, you can ensure you’re benefiting from software that is currently supported, continuously updated, and easier to maintain. You not only reduce your risk of downtime (with the huge opportunity costs that entails), but may also be able to cut the cost of a support contract or any ad-hoc maintenance.

You’re under attack

IT systems are constantly under attack today, so it’s important your ERP solution is resilient. Hackers often try to exploit any bugs that become public knowledge to see if they can use them to infiltrate the system. An older ERP solution that is no longer receiving bug fixes and security patches is particularly vulnerable, so it’s important to have a current solution that still benefits from updates.

Changing business processes

Your company doesn’t operate in a vacuum: there are changes in the market and in regulatory requirements. These all need to be reflected in your business processes. We’ve recently seen the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and HMRC is now rolling out Making Tax Digital, an initiative that will require businesses to file financial returns electronically.

If you’re relying on an outdated ERP solution, you might not be meeting all the regulatory requirements that apply to your business. Compliance might involve using multiple applications and manual workarounds. It’s a productivity killer, and puts stress on your team.

Benefit from the latest trends

By using a legacy ERP solution, you’re not benefiting from the latest innovations and productivity improvements. Researchers are working out how to make software easier to use all the time, and customer feedback is often incorporated into later software releases. People use software at home and have expectations about how it will work. Older ERP solutions might be harder for them to navigate, and require more deliberate thinking to switch context from the applications they routinely use to the unfamiliar ERP environment.

The best software enables your people to work seamlessly and intuitively so they can focus on adding value to your business, not spend time puzzling over an interface. With Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, your team can use smooth integrations with the Office applications they know, and a familiar Microsoft Office look and feel throughout.

We’d love to tell you more about Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, an all-in-one business management solution for businesses of any size. Why not give us a call?

22
Mar

Mythbuster: Upgrading your ERP

If you’re still using Microsoft Dynamics NAV, it’s time to upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. It’s the latest and greatest version of Microsoft’s ERP suite, covering financials, purchasing, inventory, operations, warehousing, and projects.

You can extend Business Central with pre-built apps covering functions such as payroll, scheduling, and materials planning. If you can’t find what you need in the app store, you can add your own customisations.

We commonly hear four misunderstandings about upgrades. So, let’s bust some myths!

Myth #1: I’ll lose my customisations

Many organisations have customised their ERP solution so it perfectly fits their business. That’s to be expected: no two companies are identical and off-the-shelf solutions can’t cater for every niche process.

There are three approaches you can consider for upgrading any given customisation:

  1. Migrate to using standard functionality in Business Central, where available. You may find that a built-in process meets your needs with minimal changes to your existing workflow.
  2. Switch to using pre-built apps, encapsulating the expertise of leading niche software providers, where available.
  3. Implement customisations in your new ERP suite in partnership with an expert software consultancy.

Our team of business software consultants can help you to identify the right approach for your business. If you require customisation, our team can help you to specify your requirements clearly so our team of developers can implement them effectively. We can carry out your customisations using the Extensions feature in Business Central, to help make future upgrades much smoother.

Myth #2: Upgrades are risky

Risk is relative: using an outdated ERP solution also carries risks. Old solutions may no longer be supported, which means any security flaws and bugs are not being patched. Without an ERP solution, many businesses are paralysed, so it is reckless to use a solution that could become vulnerable to attack. Unsupported solutions won’t be updated for the latest business, tax and regulatory changes, either, forcing you to use workarounds and risk falling out of compliance. If you’re using Dynamics NAV 2013, for example, you don’t have built-in support for GDPR or Making Tax Digital.

Obviously, there is a risk inherent in any change, but you can minimise it by choosing an expert team to implement your upgrade. We use robust project management methodologies that are designed to deliver upgrades on budget and on time. Because we focus on serving businesses in the North East, Cumbria, and surrounding areas, we have a presence near our customers. We can meet you as often as necessary, and we’re on hand to quickly address any queries or concerns you have. After your new ERP launches, we can continue to support it for you, and implement any new customisations you require as your business evolves. We have a dedicated in-house support team, comprised of fully qualified IT technicians, so we can provide first class technical support to help you avoid downtime.

We offer a fixed price upgrade package to insulate you from the cost of any unforeseen issues, reducing the financial risk of an upgrade project.

Myth #3: Upgrades are expensive

Actually, if you have a Business Ready Enhancement Plan (BREP) for Dynamics NAV, you don’t have to pay any additional licence fees. It’s already covered. So, after implementation, you get the peace of mind and enhancements of Business Central at no additional cost. Your upgrade costs are limited to the cost of implementation.

Myth #4: It’ll upset users

In our experience, users want to be using the most effective software. They don’t want to be using workarounds or software that’s outlived its useful purpose, which is a feeling often evoked by legacy ERP solutions.

Business Central has an interface similar to Microsoft Office, so it immediately feels intuitive, and users can quickly find their way around it. The software helps by automating and streamlining processes, so your team can be liberated from some of the administration that might be required in your existing ERP solution. With ready access to the information they need, they can make smarter decisions to drive your business forwards.

We’ll help you by training your team too, so they can quickly get up to speed and start taking advantage of the new features that are available to them.

What’s holding you back? Contact us, and we’ll be pleased to talk over your concerns.

5
Oct

Six strategies to see ROI from your ERP implementation sooner

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

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

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

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

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

ERP implementation is key

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

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

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

Identify your requirements

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

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

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

Customised or standard?

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

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

Choose the right ERP implementation for your business

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

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

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

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

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

Factor in change management and organise training

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

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

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

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

Develop and execute a communication plan

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

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

Allocate adequate time

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

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

Getting it right

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

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

So, what next?

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

3
Oct

ERP software comparison: how to plan the right choice

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

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

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

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

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

Get your shortlist in order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding all the costs involved

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

Total implementation time

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

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

Training

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

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

Physical equipment

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

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

It’s all in the delivery

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

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

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

The proof is in the pudding

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

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

So, what next?

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

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

27
Sep

ERP facts and lessons learned

While you might be eager to reap the benefits an ERP system will bring to your business –

according to the trends we see here at Monpellier, buying and implementing an ERP system is one of the most complex projects a business will take on – no matter the size of the company. In fact, nearly 50% of ERP implementations fail the first time around. Many organisations have invested a good amount of time and money selecting and implementing in an ERP system more than once!

On a regular basis, companies contact us seeking advice on how to be an ERP success story and avoid being part of the ERP failure rate. Many enquire about the ERP systems we have analysed and reported on.

The infographic below presents facts and stats on the selection, implementation and usage of ERP systems. These are the trends we’ve seen from our interactions with businesses from a variety of industries and client projects.

Avoiding ERP failure – learning from past experiences

Budget for success, not just to save money

Many companies try to stay within budget by minimising the ‘hard’ costs such as software licensing fees; however, project mismanagement, botched negotiations, and poor user experience are more likely to cause budgets to skyrocket since costs associated with blunders are unforseeable and unpredictable.

Keeping your budget in check is possible with proper preplanning. Starting by conducting an internal review will reveal exactly what your company needs and not just what’s available on the market, monitoring the entire process will help keep the project on track and within budget, and reviewing the fine print of the contract with the services provider will ensure your company gets what it needs.

Lesson learned: become a knowledgeable software buyer to understand where you should invest money and where you shouldn’t. Focus on what is relevant to your business instead of spending money on bells and whistles that you don’t need.

Minimise disruptions, embrace change

The most challenging aspect of integrating an ERP system into your business is managing the changes and expectations associated with the new system. Change management is not part of the service provider’s responsibilities, so you’ll need to find a way to support individuals and teams throughout the process. Ignoring this aspect of an ERP implementation will only create bumps further down the road and can result in implementation failure.

Appointing a project champion or a team of champions will help minimise disruptions and manage expectations associated with the new system. The project champion need not to be an IT professional, but an employee who is skilled in project management and people management and who knows your business model and processes well. Often an outside perspective from a specialised software advisory firm such as Monpellier can help provide clarity on situations and pre-empt flare-ups before they happen.

Lesson learned: ERP implementation is as much an internal project as an external one. Empower a project champion or champions who will manage all aspects of the project, manage the relationship with the external services provider, and handle the changes and expectations the new system will bring.

Adopting new technologies – look before you leap

When it comes to a major software system such as an ERP that affects the entire organisation, you can’t just go for the latest trendy gadgets or features. Emerging technologies offer big promises of success and positive transformation, but unless your company has an unlimited budget or particularly unique problems, it’s typically best to stick to what’s tried, tested, and true.

Understanding your business and what it needs to succeed will help you identify which features are required from an ERP system vs. what might just be nice to have. For instance, if you need maximum scalability because you’re growing fast, a cloud-based solution might be a viable, cost-effective solution. However, if you need maximum flexibility because you have some very unique business processes, an on-premise solution is typically easier to adapt to your needs.

Lesson learned: don’t invest in new technology before you assess it and understand the impact it will have on your company. Businesses can be successful via a regular ERP system with optimised processes and can be highly efficient and competitive without being early adopters of the latest technology.

The path to ERP success

Although the implementation statistics and details discussed above may imply that there is a lot of room for error when selecting and implementing an ERP system, there are many steps you can take to increase your chance of success. These include identifying what your company needs from an ERP system and how you hope to benefit from it, as well as monitoring the process closely from start to finish. Throughout the process, assistance from impartial advisors like Monpellier’s experts can help keep your project on the path to success.

For more information regarding ERP implementation, or if you just want to see if there is an alternative ERP out there that would suit your business processes more, you can either contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Expert.

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.

18
Sep

How ERP functions change the world for SME manufacturers

The manufacturing industry seems deemed to grow forever.

It is, therefore, no surprise that manufacturers require incredibly efficient organisation of all their daily business processes. Solo coordinators often fail at the task of keeping up, and whole committees rarely do any better. Enter enterprise resource planning (ERP).

If you’re looking for a way to up any aspect of your company’s game, there’s a good chance this versatile, understandably popular software is your ticket.

According to statistics, manufacturing stock rose 0.4% to a record high of £81.5 million last year, and stocks were up in 9 of 21 industries, representing 58% of total manufacturing stock. Meanwhile, unfilled orders were up 3.5% to £92.8 million last year – the fourth consecutive yearly gain.

To keep unfilled orders down and stock levels at a healthy turnover rate, more and more manufacturing companies are using ERP and taking advantage of its many benefits. It’s no wonder that the global ERP software market is expected to reach £41.69 billion by 2020.

Not convinced of the vital role of ERP in manufacturing industries? Consider the following eight advantages of an ERP system for your company:

Next-level automation

Perhaps the most significant benefit that a solution involving manufacturing ERP functions offers is automation. Process automation speeds up overall production and drastically reduces errors. When your company transitions from manual manufacturing to automated, you rely less on humans, and the process becomes more straightforward and accurate, which in turn improves customer experience and boosts your profits.

Streamlined operations

As manufacturers grow, operations grow more and more complex. Custom manufacturing ERP software provides real-time information you can use. Imagine the level of productivity you could achieve by letting ERP guide users through complex processes. Eliminating data re-entry, and improving production, order completion, and delivery are just a few of the perks. Modern ERP systems also offer integration capabilities, making it easy to centralise information so all employees who need access to data can get it from one place and update each other as needed.

Cost reduction

Thanks to the automated, streamlined processes they make possible, manufacturing ERP features for SMEs help manufacturers reduce operational costs. Additionally, ERP implementation in the manufacturing industry is known to increase worker productivity, in turn minimising labour costs. The ability to efficiently track stock levels and integrate it with production planning eliminates excess stock and storage costs. Also, lower error rates curtail your losses even more.

Product quality assurance

Knowledge is power, which means observing fault in a product facilitates the production of higher quality items. An effective ERP solution can be incorporated with a quality control module which helps manufacturers standardise their products. Manufacturing ERP modules also help to detect those areas where quality issues are occurring in the first place and identify appropriate measures for putting an end to them. Better products mean higher sales and genuine customer loyalty.

Better flexibility

Manufacturing ERP functions offer you the opportunity to seize control of your stock, precisely plan out and streamline production schedules, and coordinate distribution channels. Thank your ERP-conducted system for consistently on-time product delivery – a critical performance metric for any manufacturer. Think of it as yoga for your company: enhanced flexibility goes a long way.

Stronger communication

An ERP system is all about effective communication.

Manufacturing ERP features for SMEs allow firms to share important production-related data with internal employees as well as external stakeholders like suppliers, distributors, or even end-customers. This improved ability to communicate and collaborate allows department heads to maintain, sustain, and strengthen key business relationships.

Decision-making power

A comprehensive ERP solution provides thorough visibility (and therefore insights) into every department, rendering it easy for your company to make it quick, and informed decisions on the spot. Access to key performance metrics such as overall sales, or sales margin, helps you optimise day-to-day operations and stay close to your goals whenever called for.

Increased customer satisfaction

When you put the pieces all together (which is precisely what manufacturing ERP functions do), it becomes clear very fast that the combination of accurate production planning, increased stock control, streamlined processes, and coordination of distribution has a significant positive impact on delivery times. Punctual delivery is integral to maintaining your customers’ happiness, which in turn makes them want to leave glowing reviews.

To ERP, or not to ERP?

Many SME manufacturers ask themselves if they really need the features an ERP offers. Integrating an ERP is a major investment for any manufacturer, so many small and medium-sized businesses feel they might be too small to take the leap. But, the fact of the matter is, in order to compete against larger companies, small businesses need to outdo their competition. Small and mid-sized manufacturers who use the right ERP can actually operate like enterprise-scale businesses, leveraging the power of the software to streamline their processes, increase their productivity and throughput, and reduce costs.

What are the advantages of an ERP system?

At a base level, an ERP can integrate all the core processes you need to run your manufacturing business into one seamless system: engineering, purchasing, production, inventory management, human resource management, customer relations management, accounting, sales and more.

Imagine having easy access to truly useful, real-time information about how your business is functioning, the status of individual jobs, and an accurate forecast for your margins. Manufacturers who have installed an ERP built for the manufacturing industry, have not only been able to increase their sales, but they also have higher customer satisfaction rates too.

Still, it can be difficult for many SMEs to outline the specific benefits an ERP system will deliver to help accomplish their goals. Here are just a few benefits of getting the most out of manufacturing ERP functions:

  • Transparency: all relevant data can be shared, accessed and updated by all departments, eliminating the need to re-enter or export data.
  • Productivity: a custom manufacturing ERP can handle the demands of high-variable, multi-stage production with fewer errors, increased productivity, and reduced HR expenses.
  • Decision-making: real-time data generated by the system can provide an overall picture of your operations useful for marketing, management, and accounting purposes, enabling your company to make crucial decisions on time.

The right time for ERP implementation

You can ask yourself a couple of simple questions to see if an ERP would help you:

  • Do you have 100% clarity on your stock? Can you order just-in-time for high-variable jobs?
  • Is your sales team able to build accurate quotes on the fly that your shop can produce profitably?
  • Do you know the status and anticipated delivery date of every job on your floor and in your backlog?

If your goal is to save time, achieve quicker response times when dealing with customer queries, boost your ability to plan ahead, reduce waste, and best of all, reduce stress, then it may be time to work those manufacturing ERP functions into your strategy.

Interested in finding out more? You can get in contact with us here, or call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.

13
Sep

What’s driving your ERP project?

Most project teams from mid-market and distribution organisations are challenged by an ERP selection project.

This is because an ERP project cuts across each area of the business, impacting functional areas from finance, accounting and supply chain, to shop floor, production, inventory, quality management, shipping and more. Manufacturers and distributors have already gone through lean initiatives, cutting away excess and thereby are operating with lean staff.

While it’s tempting to consider these initiatives as pure ‘technology or projects’, that perspective is not effective and often results in an implementation that fails to meet expectations. IT may lead the project and certainly has a major role, but ERP projects touch almost every area of the business. The new system will naturally bring some change to how business is done, so it’s important that business process owners are heavily involved.

Thus, when a project team is considering an ERP selection project, it’s imperative that the selection process is based on a solid foundation of industry expertise, vendor research and intimate knowledge of the business, all aligned with the goal of improved business performance.

Software decision drivers: aligning selection with the needs of the business

At its most fundamental, establishing strategic software decision drivers during a selection project involves matching the future state of requirements a business must achieve to drive business process transformation against the system features a technology solution offers.

Monpellier’s ERP consultant team has guided organisations on this very approach. This set of software decision drivers will vary for every organisation dependent on what is the best match for the specific functional areas of the business.

Six categories of software decision drivers

Manufacturers and distributors should take into consideration the following software decision drivers when entering an ERP project:

Features and functionality

  • Does the software meet the future state needs of the business?
  • Will users find the software intuitive and easy to use?
  • Does the software have advanced industry functionality to support dynamic business needs?

Vendor synergy

  • Does the vendor understand the specifics of the business?
  • Is the vendor aligned with the specific requirements of the organisation?

Solution agility and viability

  • Is the vendor invested in this product solution?
  • Will the software be part of its service offering for the long-term?

Technology alignment

  • Does the platform fit within the team’s technology roadmap?
  • Is the vendor following industry standards for current future integrations?

Total cost of ownership

  • Are licensing fees, maintenance and subscription costs understood?
  • Are fees for services/support and integrations included?

Implementation considerations

  • Does the vendor’s implementation methodology align with the organisation?
  • Is the project plan comprehensive with adequate detail?
  • How are risks and issues managed?

When the focus is business process improvement, and not solely technology, the project team has a better chance of conducting an effective technology evaluation that is designed to meet future state needs. That’s the power of a strategic approach to software decision drivers.

In a perfect world, once you implement ERP software, you don’t have to worry about your centralised business system again. The realist is that an ERP system needs upgrading like any other piece of software. Chances are good that you aren’t driving the same car you did 5 years ago and I highly doubt that you are even using the same smartphone you had 2 years ago. The fact is that technology is not just changing, it’s constantly improving.

That means software built even a few years ago starts to age and new versions are needed to take advantage of the incredible new opportunities today. For instance, ERP systems are moving towards mobile solutions to augment the core package. That wasn’t possible even 3 years ago.

Plan your future updates to your ERP system – today

Whether you are investigating the benefits of ERP software for the first time of have a system in place, it is best to plan for periodic upgrades in software. Just like you schedule tune-ups for your car, tune-ups are also good for ERP software.

The thing about upgrades is, while they bring a host of improvements, fixes and new features, it can take time before employees using the system are totally familiar with what’s new. There can also be slight downtime to the system while the ERP upgrade commits to your system. That’s why its extraordinarily important that you have a plan in place for updates.

Generally, creating a plan for downtime – how to minimise it – and training on new features is essential. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but communicating the expected changes and how it will impact day-to-day operations needs is key. All that could be rolled up into a simple company-wide email or phased in with specialised support from your ERP implementation partner.

Additional benefits of ERP upgrades

Upgrades are also like spring cleaning for your data. Before installing the upgrade, you should perform a backup of the existing data. You might also sort out old data, archive old records, and optimise the configuration of the database server to get the best performance from your system.

All of this preparation is important to keep your ERP software running smoothly and at optimal speed. Once your upgrade is complete, you have an ERP system that works even better than it did before.

Also, ERP system security improvements are generally parts of updates. You don’t need me telling you how many data breaches have happened, you can flip on the news and you’ll likely hear about a new cyber attack. ERP systems house an incredible amount of data that powers your company. Not everybody can afford to recover from the pain of lapses in security and upgrading your ERP system is one of the tools you have control over.

It all comes down to driving to work in a Model-T car and using a rotary-dial phone which is inefficient in this modern era, and so is using old software.

For more information about ERP upgrades, or if you just simply want to see what solutions are out there, that might fit your business processes better, you can contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 and speak to a Business Software Consultant.

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.

4
Sep

Can ERP systems contribute to your competitive advantage?

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

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

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

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

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

Pick the right ERP system for your company

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

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

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

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

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

Take advantage of your ERP’s predictive capabilities

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

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

Improve planning, scheduling and execution

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

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

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

30
Aug

The importance of integrating your most important IT systems

Growth: it’s every retailers goal.

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

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

When ERP meets EPOS

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

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

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

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

Good news…

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

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

  • Information at fingertips: An integrated mobile EPOS system provides sales staff with immediate access to information they need to effectively close the deal. Customer information and purchase history 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.

16
Aug

How to buy the EPOS that’s right for your business

Selecting a full EPOS system is no easy task.

There are basically many reasons to hesitate as there are elements in an EPOS system and different combinations of these elements. And at the end of it all, the bill for acquiring or using the whole system will always be a rather heavy one. Businesses that are considering to buy an EPOS for the first time should also be concerned about the time and resources they’ll need to spend in order to put together all the product and client data so they can use the EPOS software. They will then have to spend time learning how to use the software and operate the EPOS. This is why choosing an EPOS system represents a significant investment, and the decisions related to this investment should not be taken lightly.

Two major families of aspects should be reviewed: product-related aspects such as features and pricing, and provider-related aspects such as references and support.

How to buy an EPOS based on featured and pricing

Features and pricing are, naturally, the first elements which come to mind when considering to buy an EPOS.

Buy an EPOS with the right features for your business…

Businesses should be aware of the features they’ll need. More specifically, interested businesses should decide whether they’ll need the following options or not:

  • ecommerce integration
  • number of users
  • number of terminals
  • number of printers
  • mobile EPOS solution
  • industry-specific EPOS software
  • touchscreen displays

… at the right price

EPOS systems can be very expensive, depending on the hardware and software setup selected and the number of add-ons.

Make sure you have made a list of all the items that you will need, including the price of updates, consumables and support before you buy the EPOS.

Also, bear in mind that you can not only buy the EPOS, but you can also use EPOS rental or EPOS leasing options, with weekly or monthly payments and sometimes a setup fee.

References and support plans

An Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) is a vital part of your business. After you have installed it, you can simply not allow it to break down and remain unusable. It is therefore essential that you investigate the reputation of your EPOS system and enquire about support plans before you buy your EPOS.

References

There are two smart things you can to before committing to buy an EPOS system:

First, you should enquire about the reputation of your system. Ask the EPOS provider for references: past and active customers which you can call or contact directly to know how their system is doing, what difficulties they have ran into, and how efficient the support team has been in case of trouble.

Ask for a demonstration of the system. You need to know whether you or your staff will be able to understand how the system works, and operate it effortlessly. You also need to know whether the integration with your existing databases and other business systems will be seamless. It is very common for EPOS providers to offer complete demonstrations; they sometimes even can lend you some hardware and software for trial purposes.

Support: a crucial aspect

Businesses really must enquire about support plans and support policies before they choose an EPOS.

What level of support is provided? How reactive is the support team? How can they be reached? By email only? Over the phone? At what time? Do they do the support themselves, do they rely on a third party, or do they liaise directly with the support teams of the manufacturers? What kind of breakdowns and failures are actually covered by the support plan?

These are some of the questions businesses can ask when considering to buy an EPOS system.

Still not sure whether you are ready to take on the task of researching and investing in an EPOS solution?

EPOS is not just about processing transactions.

It should underpin your customer experience and should help you to acquire, retain and grow sales. That is why we have created a handy list of ten factors to consider if you are thinking of changing your EPOS.

Easy to use

Any EPOS should be easy and intuitive for all levels of staff to use. This reduces training costs and will reduce mistakes and ensure the customer experience is positive through speedy, straight forward transactions.

Customer experience

EPOS systems should have a positive impact on your overall customer experience, through speed of service, queue busting and engagement at the point of sale. We tackle this through our EPOS hardware, EPOS software and add on modules.

Grow as you grow

Ambitious growth plans? You need to make sure your EPOS provider shares your vision and understands your needs. You need to ensure scalability so you do not outgrow your EPOS solution too quickly and end up repeating this process!

Integrated payments

Integrated payments (with all the latest payment methods) are a must in this day and age. They reduce the costs associated with manual keying errors and ensure the payment process is quick and easy.

Loyalty

EPOS can give you the tools you need to get personal with customers, bring them back, and maximise their spend through personalised loyalty and actionable insights all through your own unique branded app.

Mobile

Mobile EPOS devices are a great way to enhance your EPOS solution, through the addition of what is essentially a portable till. This allows you to service customers on the shop floor, at the table or in areas which may be some distance away from the POS.

Reports and analytics

Reporting, analytics and data metrics are a big part of our cloud-based back office which allows you to drill down to the detail you require on sales; stock and staff – providing you with the tools to make more informed management decisions.

Stock control

With EPOS you can control stock and manage inventory ensuring you have what you need in stock when your customers need it.

Support

In-house support (not farmed out to contractors) is an essential aspect of selecting any EPOS provider – and making sure you can reach them when you need them most!

And finally… choose the right EPOS partner

The EPOS market is highly competitive and congested. Selecting the right partner can be tough but this single decision could have a direct impact on your revenue for years to come!

To speak to one of our EPOS experts about how we can help you, call 0191 500 8150 or contact us here.

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.

31
Jul

Key benefits of ERP in the construction industry

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

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

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

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

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

Assimilation of data

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

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

Planning and analysis

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

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

Streamlining of data

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

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

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

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

Increased system efficiency

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

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

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

Estimation of construction cost

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

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

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

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

Diversity of business processes

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

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

Effective communication

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

Execution of marketing strategies

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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.

19
Jul

How to select an implementation partner for your software solution

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

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

Insist on specific industry experience

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

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

Don’t judge by size

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t ignore the human factor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindset 1: the journey is as important as the goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we become better prepared?

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

Mindset 2: always think of ways to empower your employees

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

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

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

Pain is temporary, profits are permanent.

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

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

17
Jul

Why use ERP systems?

In a world where businesses and consumers value lightweight, easy-to-use technology, ERP systems can seem outdated and clunky.

Coupled with the startling statistics about how frequently ERP projects fail (for instance, in 2017, 66% of organisations received less that 50% of the measurable benefits they anticipated), many people wonder why companies still use enterprise resource planning software to run their businesses. Despite these concerns, the worldwide ERP market grew 3.8% last year, signalling that the software still holds an important place in business strategies. Here are some of the reasons why businesses still use ERP systems:

Because they work

Sure, ERP implementations are known for being costly, lengthy and likely to fail, but that doesn’t mean businesses should blame the software for these problems. There are myriad reasons for why ERP implementations fail, many of which can be boiled down to either a lack of initial preparedness or miscommunication between vendors and buyers.

When properly installed, however, ERP software provides users with numerous benefits, including complete centralisation of all data and processes, streamlined cross-department operations and useful business analytics and insights. Top-rated ERP software is more robust and customisable than a portfolio of best-of-breed solutions. Unlike other software, when used correctly ERP can power huge enterprises with multiple locations, increasing profits and lowering costs across the enterprise.

Because centralisation is key

For massive enterprises with dispersed offices and hundreds of employees, centralisation is key. Since ERP software can power every aspect of a business – including financials, human resources, product development and distribution – these solutions are needed to keep end-to-end operations running smoothly. While best-of-breed solutions are great for smaller businesses, large companies can’t risk less than stellar integrations or the complexity of handling a variety of disparate tools to run the business. For these companies, ERP software is the only solution.

Because legacy systems are hard to destroy

In a large corporation, even the smallest of changes can take weeks – even months – to go into effect. For companies that have relied on a certain ERP systems for years, changing to a new software can present up-front costs, potentially serious risks and a time-consuming, complicated transition process.

For many businesses, the costs of changing to a new system outweigh the costs of maintaining an existing system. For this reason, many companies still use on-premise ERP software despite the major shift toward cloud solutions. The difficulty in retiring outdated legacy systems remain a major reason why traditional ERP systems will never be completely phased out.

Because of innovation in the ERP space

Compared to other software segments, ERP has been relatively slow to adopt new technologies. While mobile, social and cloud trends are standard in most solutions, ERP vendors are still figuring out how to best incorporate these elements into their solutions. While innovation in the ERP space has been slow, it is also steady. With each passing year, companies are finding that ERP solutions are embracing these trends. For instance, MicrosoftSage and Pegasus are quick to jump onto trends, and integrating said changes into their ERP software solutions.

Another major innovation has been the creation of ERP solutions for mid-market companies. ERP vendors leverage cloud technologies to produce ERP solutions that are more flexible and wallet friendly than previous iterations. By reducing costs and taking advantage of the cloud’s anytime, anywhere accessibility, these vendors make it easier for midsize companies to utilise ERP systems. In coming years, we will likely see more vendors competing in the midmarket ERP space, and therefore more companies who are able to use the new wave of mobile and cloud friendly enterprise resource planning systems.

Since ERP software impacts every aspect of a manufacturing or distribution company, selecting the best ERP software for your business will impact all departments, as well as the extended enterprise.

Unfortunately, many ERP selection teams get pulled into a variety of directions, finding it difficult to apply the needed resources for effective ERP selection. This scenario occurs frequently, especially within mid-market manufacturing and distribution companies who lack a dedicated IT department.

Whether a company has outgrown its legacy system, is burdened with an unstable technical environment or is looking to better handle expansion into new markets or regions, the effectiveness of ERP selection has everything to do with the success of the eventual implementation.

Taking inventory: the first step towards effective ERP selection

We’ve found that establishing a cross-functional selection team is important, as is gaining internal consensus and participation from all parties. Another important aspect of effective ERP selection is taking a hard look at the current state of business processes, as well as the desired future and state. This means that teams must take their time and get a full sense of how the new ERP implementation can improve the way a business operates. Before vendor demos, organisations must focus on where they want to be, as well as developing a clear sense of where they currently are.

At Monpellier, we believe that ERP selection is a great way to drive real business process improvements and develop a clearer vision of future company goals. In general, we find the following guidelines useful for ERP teams:

  • Look at the entire functional organisation. Will ERP cut across shop floor, shipping, accounting, the front office, inventory, quality and production? What’s the desired end state in these areas?
  • How are operations running now? What’s the vision for each department in future years?
  • Identify what the organisation does well. How will the new ERP system impact those areas?
  • Identify opportunities for improvement. How specifically will the new ERP system support this desired vision?
  • Look at existing reports and metrics. How can business decisions be improved to help overall business performance?

Selecting the right ERP vendor

We also strongly believe that businesses should focus on ERP vendors who tailor their systems to a vertical industry. In particular, manufacturers and distributors are wise to team up with an ERP vendor that has proven success in the company’s specific industry. For example, if your company is an aerospace supplier, you should seek out ERP vendors that address that specific industry, and learn more about success stories within the aerospace supplier field.

Distributors are also wise to seek out ERP systems that are tailor-made to their specific requirements. In general, companies should be sure that any potential ERP vendors address critical industry requirements including regulatory mandates, customer requirements and other key considerations.

For an effective ERP selection process, your vendor should also demonstrate a presence in the industry by providing you with recent references and a product direction statement that explains how the vendor plans to be an industry leader. There is no reason to force-fit an ERP solution into an industry for which it was not designed. Instead, take the time to assess which ERP systems have the features and functions that address your industry’s specific manufacturing challenges.

Many companies find it useful to shortlist the ERP software systems that most easily accommodate distinctive processes. Similarly, you should look for a flexible solution that fits with your existing systems. You may find it useful to talk to other suppliers, customers and ERP professionals that specialise in your specific industry. Get opinions and feedback on ERP software and how it works with businesses of similar size and requirements.

Successful ERP: a matter of focus

The most successful ERP evaluations and selections occur when a manufacturer or distributor is fully engaged in the process. In these effective ERP selection processes, the team puts the focus on transforming their business processes and achieving sustained business performance improvements. Effective ERP selections happen when the team takes the time at the outset to determine who within the organisation will participate, locates appropriate vendor and external resources and builds a solid plan.

Yet evaluation and selection is only one part of the ERP journey. We encourage the entire ERP selection team to see their project as more than implementing an ERP system. Instead, the project becomes an opportunity to implement business process improvements.

Want more information on ERP software, or want to discover how we can help you help your business? Get in contact with us here, or call us on 0191 500 8150 to speak to one of our friendly Business Software Consultants.

 

12
Jul

Using your ERP to build better stakeholder relationships

Wholesale companies take a risk when they hold inventory so that products are available when their customers need them.

Although unpredictable, this has always been an accepted part of the business.

However, the damaging losses caused by too much safety stock, and subsequent stock obsolescence, could be better contained with strategic management of inventory. This is made possible by new technology.

Leverage retailer relationships

Excess and obsolete inventory is costing the typical distributor 25% total stock value a year. These are unsustainable odds. The longer stock is on the warehouse floor it is likely to depreciate in value through damage, wear and tear, and expected obsolescence. It is also taking up space that could be used for more profitable product prospects.

While a retailer’s electronic point of sale (EPOS) data is beyond the remit of a wholesaler, both parties share a mutual goal: better profit margins. Cultivating better relationships and information sharing will lead to greater insight and more informed decision-making for both retailers and wholesalers. With enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, the wholesaler has access to data that is valuable currency for retailers. Similarly, retailers communicating changes in demand – rather than making predictions based on order history – have obvious benefits to the wholesaler’s management of safety stock.

Better knowledge of supply and demand is ultimately facilitated by a wholesaler ERP. The system has the capacity to analyse and process large quantities of data, not just across time periods, but in different sections of the outlet hierarchy (eg. pubs vs hotels), and in different sections of the product hierarchy (eg. wines vs spirits). If a retailer has a hunch that a new product isn’t causing the predicted excitation and returns, wholesalers can contribute to knowledge by evaluating its performance in other outlets and contexts.

In turn, building up a detailed sales picture of each outlet and the performance of its lines can assist the wholesaler in the management of their own inventory, leading to less stock lingering in darkened recesses of the warehouse. By strategising with the retailer, the wholesaler can more accurately plan what products will be needed, in what amount, and when they will be required. Identifying changes in demand before they are visible in the order flow avoids a multitude of problems. With reduced quantities or product lines, the complexity and cost of inventory management is also minimised.

Plan, budget and compare

Fostering good relations with retailers via insights and data is one thing, but ultimately retail buyers should have a strategic criteria for purchasing – many do not. Why should the wholesaler suffer the effects of the customers’ poor planning on its own bottom line?

Moving to systems that add value to decision-making and reduce the amount of money tied up in inventory is key to generating profits. Using a wide range of variables, ERP software can pinpoint information that allows the wholesaler to see trends and spending patterns. They can then analyse this, and in conjunction with their customers, use it to plan for the future. In addition to this, operational data harvested from sales and marketing teams can be used to make faster, more strategic decisions that directly benefit their business.

Improve service standards

For those retailers that do not have a buying strategy, who they buy from is just as important as what they are buying. During a push to streamline or ‘right-size’ their number of suppliers, wholesalers need to ensure that below par customer service doesn’t stand in the way of their making the final cut.

Wholesalers should evaluate what they are offering their customers in terms of product knowledge, operational insights and industry best practices. With the help of the ERP, sales reps can make suggestions and recommendations based on information immediately available via the system. Not only will this improve customer service standards, but it will lead to a reciprocal relationship where the retailers look to the wholesaler for strategic planning help.

Order making – not order taking

Technology can assist in strategic planning and minimising risk when it comes to inventory overstock. Live customer information gives reps an up to date picture of their customer’s account and can help to avoid – even reduce – bad debts.

The ERP can ensure that customers not only get the correct prices for high demand products, including discounts and promotions, but it can also flag up additional inventory that has overstayed its welcome on the warehouse floor. The sales reps are then empowered to pitch the overstock to the retailer for a keen rate. Sales reps can also be given the ability to change prices, within predefined limits, allowing them leverage to close each sale.

Whilst creating orders, sales staff can also view profit indicators for both the overall order, and for each product within an order. This helps avoid loss-making orders, and drive sales reps to suggest high-margin products, helping with overall profitability

The use of sophisticated technology has radically changed the way wholesale companies work with their suppliers.

They now have unprecedented capacity to transfer and process large quantities of data. They can use this to leverage better relationships with retailers, amend sloppy strategies that are bad for the wholesaler’s business, and form the basis of exemplary customer service. Importantly, rather than being caught up in the doldrums of daily operations, technology can set businesses free to pursue their strategic goals.

So, whether you feel like ERP would be right for your business or not, you do need to realise if your business actually needs an ERP system. Many organisations who are not using a fully integrated ERP system question whether the investment of time and money required to implement a new system is warranted. That’s a completely understandable point of view. You may be trading quite successfully to date using your old software system, however what benefits are you missing out on that you may not have been aware of?

Check out the list below for the four tell-tale signs that your business needs to implement or invest in a new system.

You have a lot of different software systems in one place for multiple processes.

Take some time to think about how your staff are currently recording, tracking and processing information on a daily basis. Are your staff members logging into multiple systems causing a lack of efficiency? Are your accounting staff using one particular system for finance, and sales using another to enter sales orders? Are your employees in your warehouse using a totally different system to track shipping?

When businesses manage many business functions separately, many issues can arise. Some of these include errors in data, duplication of records, an overall lack of visibility into the business as a whole, and most importantly, a lack of communication between the different areas of the business.

Nobody wants to run an isolated business with each department functioning separate from the other. Collaboration between departments can be an extremely important factor for any business. ERP software is the key tool that will enable you to integrate your systems so that every department in your organisation relies on a single database. With one source of information that contains consistent, accurate, real-time data, an ERP solution will increase efficiency and productivity, help your staff make more informed decisions in less time and drives transparent communications instantly across all areas of your business.

You’re in the dark when it comes to accessing real-time information

If you find you are relying largely on gut-feel and instinct to run your business then delays in decision-making, errors and poor customer service are probably common place. The race towards faster, smarter business decision-making is won by organisations who can make immediate,preemptive responses to daily business demands. It’s all about information finding you so you don’t have to go looking for it. It’s about using the right tools to turn data into a meaningful resource enabling you to preempt, maximise and control every situation as or before it arises. If you’re finding out about issues after they have happened, then your system could be failing you and your business.

Your ERP system cannot readily be configured to accommodate an new or altered business processes

The way you run your business is often what makes you… you! It is not unreasonable therefore to assume your software system should enable you to maintain (and we believe enhance) your competitive advantage.

Unfortunately, some systems are too rigid to do what you want them to do. Customisation or configuration of an ERP system was historically deemed to be a negative with businesses pushed into taking out of the box ERP solutions and moulding their business processes to fit. It was a case of…

“You can have any colour you want as long as its black” – Henry Ford

Whilst certain legacy ERP systems still operate in this fashion, systems like Sage and Pegasus were created to ensure the unique business processes that allow companies to stand out from the competition could be accommodated in their system. The really clever trick is that the configuration capabilities within Sage and Pegasus actually enable businesses to customise certain elements of the software themselves.

Why is this a good thing?

It means you don’t have to rely on your ERP provider to make all of the changes you require, which is obviously a faster and cheaper solution for today’s modern business.

You’re running on outdated technology

You may be trying very hard to run your business as efficiently as possible but could be struggling to bring disparate systems seamlessly together. Or you might be questioning your system’s capability to handle future growth potential or its ability to embrace new technologies such as mobile, e-commerce, business intelligence etc. Indeed, if your system is quite old it may be starting to creak making it slow and cumbersome for your staff to use therefore negatively impacting customer service levels. Technology moves fast, and the loss of efficient processes is a hidden cost of time and money that nobody wants. It redirects resources into maintenance instead of allowing you to focus that money and energy on solving real problems.

As software systems continue to develop and modernise, today’s businesses have become unrecognisable from those of ten or twenty years ago. While traditional ERP applications have served us well, their built-in limitations, aging capabilities and difficulties linking to third party applications have often seen them unable to evolve with changing business requirements. So be careful not to hold onto old technology which you might find, to your cost, can’t begin to keep up with today’s modern and flexible systems.

Want to discuss integration of a new ERP into your business? That’s what we’re here for! Either contact us here, or give us a call on 0191 500 8150 to speak to a Business Software Consultant.