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Archive for the ‘General ERP Articles’ Category

A recent article from ERP consulting firm Panorama Consulting which, like ourselves, has dealt with the ERP requirements of PE (Private Equity) firms after they’ve acquired another company, highlights a few key considerations they demand, and the lessons that can be drawn for private companies – whether ripe for their own PE acquisition or not.

 

First, no surprise, PE acquiring firms have a “low tolerance for implementation time and cost overruns.”  While that’s not news in itself, what it does is drive them to implementations that require fewer customizations (at least initially) and to avoid overly complicated software that can be hard for new users to adjust to.  They keep a watchful eye on timely project management, simpler functionality and anything else that might impact project risk or time.  They keep superfluous project activities and distractions to a minimum and focus time only on the tasks at hand – and as defined, ideally, in the project plan.

Secondly, Panorama notes that PE companies have a higher likelihood of opting out of the “big” ERP systems, mentioning SAP and Oracle Clould as two examples.  It’s all part of the prior point, where companies look to get “more bang for their buck” by implementing Tier II or industry-focused systems.  As they note: “One common school of thought is the new system may be a shorter-term (but credible) enhancement until they sell the company to an acquirer, so they don’t want to spend too much time or money on a larger or more complex system.”

Thirdly, PE companies express a preference for the ability to scale for aggressive growth.  We see this as being perhaps the number one factor in ERP upgrades these days: companies are growing fast — or they express the desire, and are planning to do so.  PE companies are fueled by strategic growth even more than most, notes Panorama.  They are willing and in need even of eliminating redundancy and inefficient processes.  They want to automate as much as they can and build processes and a technology backbone that support this.

Companies also note the need for improved, optimized reporting and being able to relate these to KPIs (key performance indicators) or other benchmarks.

And of course, when viewed holistically, it’s not just Private Equity firms who want — or need – the characteristics noted here.  Every company today needs much the same – and in turn, they can take a lesson from the sharp focus of the PE firms who have made the priorities outlined today into buying points for their ERP systems.

 

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A recent article in APICS Magazine notes that organizations sometimes fail to leverage the power of their supply chain, despite the fact that effective supply chain management has been shown to improve overall organizational efficiency, heighten effectiveness, reduce costs, streamline material and information flows, boost margins and ROI and improve competitive advantage.

Why?  They suggest maybe it’s because too many believe it to be a “back office function” that is merely a cost center and a necessary evil, thus rendering the results invisible.  But this couldn’t be further from the truth notes Gary Smith, VP of Logistics for New York City Transit, and an APICS certified CFPIM.  Indeed, he notes, the very visible benefits are plainly apparent when you look at a company like Amazon, which you can bet thinks very deeply about its supply chain – so it’s customers don’t have to.

The article goes on to note three barriers that often prevent supply chain management from being seen as valuable:

  • Employees who procure, manage, warehouse and transport materials don’t see themselves as supply chain professionals.
  • Supply chains are far from being optimized tactically, and there continues to be a lack of aware of the value they can bring to organizations.
  • Supply chain management is not considered strategic. In fact, delivery and procurement ought to be a part of every organization’s strategic planning process.  It’s a strategic investment.

The necessary decision support tools including warehouse management, forecasting, advanced planning and scheduling and procurement optimization can actually help automate – and improve —  many of the routine decisions otherwise made (with great fallibility) by humans.

These automation tools in turn enable teams to make choices faster, with better results, so that people can “focus on the issues that can halt operations and add tremendously to costs,” notes Smith.

It’s an investment – in tools, staff, training and the application of best practices.  But it’s an investment with a return that will keep on giving as you automate what can be automated and leave your most important asset – your people – free to work on harvesting the remaining, truly value-laden (and oftentimes, higher-hanging) fruit.

 

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Manufacturers are increasingly pursuing direct online sales to end users these days, and with that comes the challenge of more, but smaller, shipments.  When you’re built for pallets and cases and you’re shipping onesies, you face new challenges.  The rise of e-commerce has made the integration of logistics and distribution a integral part of operational competency.

Moving from a manufacturing and wholesale environment to a direct sales model for e-commerce may require more employees, fixtures or space.  Instead of loading pallets into trucks, you may be staging small shipments in boxes.  Documentation and labels multiply, and new types of equipment may be needed along with everything from tape and packing materials to racks and printers.

Is it worth it?  Dave Turbide, a New Hampshire based consultant and APICS certified CPIM makes the point in a recent article in APICS Magazine that, in fact, you may not have much of a choice.  E-commerce is growing so quickly that some manufacturers have found they have no choice but to direct-ship to customers.  The question becomes one of whether to do it yourself, or engage a third party.

Turbide suggests a few questions, taken from APICS’s CPIM body of knowledge, to ask if you’re facing that question yourself:

  • Is the activity strategically important?
  • Does the company have specialized knowledge?
  • Is the company’s operations performance superior?
  • Is significant operations performance likely?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, Turbide suggests careful exploration and to consider the cost-service trade-offs involved either way.  If you can answer no to most or all, then outsourcing may be the way to go.  Just remember that e-commerce is not going away, and only likely to grow.  It can become a vital link in your customer relationship experiences.  You may want to “cultivate positive workings relationships with package delivery services” like UPS, FedEx and others.

It’s worth noting the following survey statistics recently produced by PwC.  When asked “Which of the following channels are companies using to generate sales,” respondents indicated:

  • 79% – Store
  • 73% – Website
  • 25% – Mobile app
  • 24% – Catalogue
  • 21% – Third party provider

As to the reasons people say they shop online:

  • 38% – Convenience
  • 25% – Bargains
  • 18%- Speed

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ERP blogger Eric Kimberling points out reasons that he, we and others have seen lead to project failure.  He lists a few in a recent post, including:

 

  • Lack of executive buy-in
  • Poor project management and controls
  • Unrealistic expectations early in the project
  • Too much focus on the technical aspects of the implementation
  • Choosing the wrong software for your organization
  • Too much customization of the software
  • Failure to regularly identify and mitigate implementation risks along the way

To avoid project failure, Kimberling gives three tips if you’ve gone off the tracks:

  1. Perform an assessment of your current project. Start by assessing project management, governance, and controls; organizational change management; data migration; business process reengineering; testing; and integration and customization.  You’ll zero in pretty quickly on your Achilles Heel.
  2. Look for common warning signs. Was there insufficient testing… not enough conference room pilots… too few users involved… not enough attention paid to the non-technical aspects of implementation… too little regard for customizations or configuration required to meet your team’s workflows?  Caught early, most are easily remedied.  Just don’t be afraid to pull the project stop cord for a bit when you see them.
  3. Develop a project recovery plan. To correct issues or remediate risks revealed by the warning signs, have a plan.  It can be formal or, more likely, updates to your current implementation plan.  Include people, processes, and technology and don’t try to solve world peace in one pass.  Pick the low-hanging fruit, starting if possible with the areas having the greatest impact on operations.

These simple tips won’t rescue a totally failed implementation, but if you heed the early warning signs, you can eliminate some back-tracking, focus on just the next couple of steps, and regain your footing until you merge back into the original, if now slightly altered, game plan.

 

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We occasionally like to share tips from others like the folks at Panorama Consulting that we feel support our own best practices advice when it comes to implementing complex business software systems, like the “5 Tips” they recently shared here.

 

Panorama’s “New Year” tips included these…

  1. Educate yourself on ERP software best practices. As they wisely note: “The most dangerous implementations are led by those that aren’t well educated on the risks, challenges, and best practices associated with an ERP implementation.”  While Panorama uses this one to promote its webinars (and we might do the same by searching on “ERP implementation” at our own blog), the fact is, there is a lot of information out there on best practices.  But just as importantly, many modern software options today embed those best practices within their workflows.  The point is, work with your ERP consultant to determine where your current workflows can be improved and map those efforts to your new software selection choices.
  2. Control the tempo of your initiatives. Having a solid plan in place is more important than the understandable urge just to “get something done,” notes the post’s author.  You need the right resources in place, a realistic timeline, a clearly defined project lead, as well as project controls and benchmarks.  Believe it or not, slow and steady, even if it takes longer, will actually save you money in the long run.
  3. Invest in the people side of your digital strategy. The number one cause of software project failure?  Not technology.  It’s people.  The right people in the right place, with an understanding of how organizational change management is an integral part of the ERP solution.  Training… communications… strategic planning… they are all critical, and they all start with people.
  4. Take industry hype with a grain of salt. There’s a lot of marketing, advertising, shilling and hype out there.  Choose wisely.  Everyone has a bias.  ERP solutions are not a silver bullet, and contrary to what many will tell you, they are not quickly implemented – at least not in any truly meaningful, business-transforming sense.  And if you’re not out to further the cause of your business’ growth and transformation, then why proceed in the first place?  Don’t believe the hype, do your own homework, and most of all, find someone you can trust.  It will be a long relationship.
  5. Don’t be afraid to leverage outside ERP consultants. Here, outfits like Panorama hype their “independence” (they don’t sell solutions), and that makes sense.  But a great many providers (yes, like us) offer more than one solution, and it’s in our business’ best interests to be objective and truthful.  That’s even true of those who sell only a single solution, though their options may be more limited.  Your initial analysis can be done either with, or without, bias.  Both have advantages.  Talk to your consultants and trust your gut.  Find the solution approach and implementation methodology that you believe in your heart will work best for you.

 

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Wherever your travels or life may take you in the year ahead, may they bring you closer to the places you wish to be and the people you want to share them with.

Everyone at PSSI wishes you much joy and prosperity for 2018.

Happy New Year everyone!

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The newest version of Microsoft’s best-selling ERP solution, Dynamics NAV 2018, has just recently been released.

There are far too many changes, big and small, to fit into a post here, so we’ve made the full text of their release document available FREE for the asking as a pdf.  The document was written by Microsoft, details all the changes just since the last (2017) version, and it’s yours for the asking from Ted.Myers@pssiusa.com.

(Note that it only covers what’s new in the last year.  For users on versions prior to 2017, just know that hundreds of changes preceded those listed in the new release document.)

Among the new features, in no particular order:

  • User task simplification – From a new Setup and Extensions button that provides a single place for settings, to User Tasks you can define that remind you of work to be done, by you or others.
  • A new Employee account type in general journal lines to create employee ledger entries, as well as post payments to an employee.
  • A new Image Analyzer extension uses image analytics to detect attributes in images in conjunction with Microsoft’s Computer Vision API. It’s an AI app that identifies attributes like types and colors, as well as human genders and ages for contact persons.
  • Power BI Reporting provides Business Intelligence in the place and time you need it. Select, interact with and filter reports by selecting records from the associated list page.
  • Improved OCR results and vendor synchronization (when using Lexmark ICS).
  • Easily Cancel or correct job related posted invoices on invoices created with ‘billable’ types of planning lines.
  • Posting setup improvements and visibility over missing posting notifications.
  • Improvements to ‘Change Global Dimensions’ reporting.
  • Enhancements for EFT (Electronic Funds Transfers) including report modification abilities.
  • Increased integration with Office 365.
  • New application user docs.
  • A language selector at the bottom of the page to switch to other languages.
  • Changes for developers and IT staff to C/AL functions, data types, properties and triggers.
  • Change server settings without restarting the server.
  • Personalization of the web client and report previews in the web client on ALL supported browsers, not just Explorer.
  • An expanded API library that extends NAV functionality further still, allowing third-party developers to create connected apps on the Dynamics NAV platform.

Like the world of business, the world of software never stands still for long.

We encourage you to download the full document by clicking here.  It’s fast and free, just by confirming your name and email.

 

 

 

 

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