Understanding Software End of Support

April 15, 2014

End of Support WarningWe’ve all received that ominous notice that the software we are using will soon no longer be supported – with the most recent example coming from Microsoft in regards to the end of support for Windows XP as of April 8th 2014. Even though this news tends to be received negatively, it doesn’t always have to be, as there are many legitimate reasons as to why a company would discontinue software support, and benefits that can come as a result of having to upgrade. The worst approach to dealing with end of support is to “do nothing”, and it is important to fully understand the reasons behind the decision and your options for moving forward.

What does “end of support” mean?

Before we begin, let’s first take a look at what the dreaded “end of support” means, and why many software companies choose to do this. When companies discontinue a site or service and stop development and support, this is referred as “sunsetting” the product. Many large companies do this as a way of herding customers into larger concentrated groups of users.  For smaller companies though, this is usually performed when several newer versions of the software have been released, and the cost to support older systems outweighs the benefits of maintaining them. More specifically, vendors who offer several versions of software must have their support team trained on all versions in order to manage any issues.  Once a system has reached a certain age, and only a minimum number of customers are using it, it becomes cumbersome to train new employees on old versions and load applicable technology in order to continue to support them.  There may also be several improvements to the system or inherent reasons why the product was never good from the start, which would validate sunsetting the product and ending support.

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3 Great Exception Reports for Small Business Owners

April 9, 2014

Inventory-management-reportsIn a previous post we dealt with the concept of management by exception. As explained more fully in that post, a small business owner can benefit in multiple ways from being alerted by the company’s Inventory Management and Accounting ERP Software to important exceptions to the norm. Here are 3 good examples of exception reports that can help the owner (or manager) of a wholesale / distribution business to identify issues in a timely manner, without having to wade through all the routine transaction detail. Note that this article assumes that these reports are generated and sent automatically at the requisite intervals.

1. Price and Margin Exceptions

This one’s obvious: alert the owner to any sales orders entered that day for which the gross margin is below an acceptable threshold, and / or where the order entry person has overridden the system-defaulted selling price. The details on this will of course depend on your specific business and rules – for example, should the exception report be based on each individual line of an order, or just the order total? Additionally, the frequency and timeliness of this report will depend on your pick / pack / ship process and timelines – if you ship orders next day, then perhaps a nightly summary would be best.

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Distribution ERP Software – Integration vs. Automation

March 31, 2014

distribution automation vs, integrationOne of the greatest advantages of a sophisticated distribution ERP system is that it allows companies to easily integrate with other software or websites. This includes integrating with a CRM system, a payroll add-on, or eCommerce websites. Even though all these systems talk to one another, it does not necessarily mean that your company’s processes are automated. It is true that in order for there to be automation where multiple systems are in play, some form of integration is necessary. However, automation goes one step further and does not require any human interaction. Here is a simple comparison between integration and automation, looking at someone buying products online:

An interested buyer wants to buy t-shirts, so she submits her order to an online shopping site, say Amazon. She will specify exactly what she would like to purchase along with her credit card information. Her credit card is pre-authorized by Amazon’s software, and the order is received by the company that actually distributes the t-shirts. At this point, the t-shirt vendor’s internal distribution ERP system will need to be updated to account for this purchase. Through integration, the vendor’s software will be able to pull information from Amazon into their ERP system. The connection between these 2 systems implies that they are integrated. The next step is where the difference between integration and automation comes into play. There are two basic approaches for Amazon and the internal ERP system to exchange data:

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Sometimes Accounting Inventory Software Bells and Whistles Can Wait

March 13, 2014

ERP Software Additional ComponentsAs with any large corporate investment, implementing new accounting and inventory ERP software is a time and resource consuming process.  Although this can be daunting when first starting the search process, the benefits gained from properly implementing an automated, all-in-one system, to manage all your business processes across departments will almost always outweigh the costs. For businesses moving from mostly manual processes or an introductory system, it can be exciting to learn about all the new advantages to be gained from the functionality and components offered by a more sophisticated system.  However, there are a lot of efficiencies to be gained right from the start when upgrading to a proper system even before adding in all the bells and whistles that come as additional components.  It may seem counterintuitive for a vendor to be down-selling the product, but there are various reasons why wanting to implement too many components from the get-go can be a bad idea.

Consider the Costs

Many ERP systems will provide functionality such as inventory, accounting, contact management, order entry and processing and warehouse management as part of their base offering. In most cases, additional components that are more unique to specific types of businesses can be added – but at an additional cost. These types of components include: barcode scanning, eCommerce integration, lot tracking, and landed cost tracking, and are not necessarily needed by every company.  Even companies who claim they need specific components such as sophisticated barcode scanning, may be able to benefit from a less expensive option.  This is why it is important to speak with vendors who will spend the time needed to learn about your business, in order to offer guidance on what components you could use, as opposed to vendors who try to upsell their product.  Fully evaluating which additional components your business actually needs, vs. wants, may dramatically impact the overall software cost.

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Looking to Replace QuickBooks? Consider the Following…

March 7, 2014

Considering Replacing QuickBooks?Investing in ERP software is a huge decision for a company of any size. Moving from manual processes or an introductory system such as QuickBooks to completely automated, sophisticated practices can be a costly, time-consuming, and often confusing, decision-making process. So where should you start? Consider this list of basic questions to ask yourself…

Cloud or On-Premises?

Today, one of the biggest decisions facing companies regarding ERP implementations is whether to run the system on-premises or as a hosted solution. There are pros and cons to each option – it really does depend on your business model and needs. Here’s a brief look at some of the differences:

Cloud vs. On-Premises

There is no “right answer” when it comes to choosing between on-premises or cloud, so just be sure to do your research! (Of course the software suitability and vendor’s service level are even more important). Consider looking at a provider who will offer both, so your company has more flexibility to make a decision, will be given unbiased recommendations, and has the option of moving from one to the other.

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Inventory Management Software – Different Barcode Scanning Options

February 14, 2014

Barcode ScanningWe often speak with prospects who insist they need barcode scanning for managing their warehouse.  This piece of functionality has almost become synonymous with needing inventory management functionality in general, but there are varying levels of barcode scanning technologies and businesses can sometimes achieve the same efficiencies without spending the money on the more sophisticated options. To determine what level of barcode scanning functionality can benefit your company, if any, think about the following questions:

  1. How many orders are received and shipped a day?
  2. How big is your warehouse?
  3. Is your warehouse set up with bin and shelf locations?
  4. How many picking errors do your warehouse staff deal with on a regular basis?
  5. Do you inventory a lot of similar products, with small differences?
  6. What percentage of the SKUs you carry actually have barcodes?

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PCI Compliance – What You Need to Know

January 27, 2014

PCI Compliant

Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance refers to a set of standards designed to protect cardholder information. These standards apply to any business that stores, processes, or transmits payment cardholder data both online and offline. The specific PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) consist of a list of 12 requirements that vary depending on company size and the quantity of credit card transactions your business handles. This means that it is important to review the different PCI compliance levels on a regular basis to ensure you’re adhering to the correct standards.

The 12 PCI DSS requirements can be summed up into three sections:

Assess Remediate Report
  • Take inventory of your company’s IT assets and business practices for managing payment card processing
  • Analyze these for any vulnerabilities
  • Implement processes and equipment to fix and manage any identified vulnerabilities
  • Gather data and records required by PCI DSS to confirm your company’s remediation
  • Submit compliance reports to the acquiring bank and any global payment brands you work with

Failure to validate your business’s compliance according to the correct PCI level, and not following the standards above can lead to fines, penalties and even the termination of your right to accept cards. Aside from the possible legal consequences, failure to adhere to PCI compliance standards puts your company at risk for data theft. Simply put, someone could get a hold of your database and gain full access to information that is unencrypted.

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