May 20, 2015
As a small business owner it is inevitable that some of your time will be spent putting out fires, and dealing with issues as they arise on a daily basis. For wholesale distribution companies this may include: time spent searching through various systems and files to find information on specific orders, doing physical inventory counts to determine actual inventory volume and calculating different price levels for customers when vendors change their costs. Although the flexibility to do this is often seen as a benefit of being a small business, it is important to not let it get in the way of executing other projects and achieving your strategic goals. As a business owner, you should try to avoid becoming so overwhelmed dealing with everyday tasks, and putting out fires, that you’re unable to focus on the core success factors of your business. One solution is to begin looking for a more robust distribution ERP software system in order to streamline operations, automate processes and reduce the amount of time spent manually managing your business. Although this may be one of the most important reasons to upgrade your existing software, four more are outlined below.
- Your current systems lack integration with one another.
Lack of integration may include all or a few of your existing systems such as: accounting, CRM, inventory management and eCommerce. Although each of your existing software systems may work perfectly well independently of one another, as your company grows the issues that arise from lack of integration will start to become more and more obvious. Working with multiple disparate systems means that the same data must be entered several times, which can lead to keying errors and inconsistent information. In addition, if one system gets upgraded, this version may no longer be compatible with your other systems for managing simple tasks like importing and exporting data.
- Your current system is no longer supported, has reached its end of life, or is a sunset program and will no longer be developed.
Just as you have a business to grow and manage, so do software vendors, which means they may discontinue development on older systems in order to focus on more modern and lucrative software initiatives. Although this issue is unavoidable, it is important to be proactive in finding a new solution when this happens. With no support or further development, your system is more vulnerable to security threats and will no longer receive system patches. As with purchasing insurance, upgrading your software system is more beneficial when carried out pro-actively in order to protect your business from future issues.
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May 12, 2015
Living in the information age, the success and longevity of a business depends largely on how it is able to collect, process and interpret data from a multitude of sources, including one’s own inventory and accounting ERP software. Effective reporting and analytics go beyond the collection of the data itself, involving a broad spectrum of reporting techniques to provide management with valuable information that will assist in making insightful business decisions. Reports concerning inventory, production, and sales all reflect the bottom line of a business, and should be reviewed on a consistent basis to uncover trends and opportunities. However, as a business collects more data, the difficulty lies in actually finding the time to review the information and draw conclusions that will help grow the business moving forward. Ideally, an optimized reporting process would inform managers of only the most relevant information they need in order to make well-informed decisions. Inventory and accounting software with robust reporting and analytics can help business owners automate and streamline the reporting process. Reporting has become increasingly important to small and large businesses alike, and if set up appropriately, can provide the following benefits:
By implementing an effective internal reporting system, you enable information to flow upward, downward, or laterally, reaching the intended recipient in a timely manner. Automated reporting techniques, which come in some inventory and accounting platforms, take this notion one step further by allowing for reports to be emailed to specific stakeholders on a regular basis (perhaps daily, weekly, or monthly).
In order to remain productive in today’s ultra-competitive environment, organizations must be flexible enough to respond swiftly to industry changes and opportunities. A large emphasis has been placed on meeting the unique needs of targeted consumer groups in order to distinguish oneself in the market. In order to achieve these goals, businesses need an inventory and financial reporting system that supports this notion and provides relevant information to management in a timely manner.
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April 30, 2015
Omni-channel retailing is exactly as it sounds – a business model in which a company offers its products and services through multiple sales channels including: on-line, bricks and mortar, showrooms, trade-shows, mobile devices, print catalogues, etc. This model is becoming more popular with many industries, not just those who retail direct to consumer. Even traditional wholesale and distribution companies have started branching out to sell products on-line and in showrooms. Omni-channel retailing provides businesses the opportunity to reach new target markets and serve a larger group of customers. However, the addition of sales channels increases the complexity of a business, which can make it challenging to find a software system to manage all channels in one database. This is a where a fully integrated accounting and inventory ERP system comes into play. An all-in-one solution allows you to gain control and provides insight into all retail and wholesale orders coming from multiple channels. Although information gets stored in one database, users can still distinguish between type and source of orders. This eliminates the need to pull information from multiple systems when managing orders, and ensures you always have up-to-date inventory information. In order to accurately account for all sales channels when searching for new software, look for the following features:
Whether you have your own on-line store, sell through sites like Amazon and eBay, or both, it is important that your back-end software is properly integrated with all your eCommerce stores. Sophisticated two-way integration means data is shared from your back-end system to your on-line store fronts and vice versa in order to properly account for sales and inventory. Items purchased on-line get reflected in your back-end system for further processing and associated inventory gets allocated for picking. When receiving inventory this information gets entered once, into the back-end system, and pushed on-line. Two-way integration eliminates the need for double entry and ensures information across all systems is up-to-date.
B2B Online Order Portal
B2B eCommerce sites empower customers to place their own orders through a self-service type interface. Providing this sales channel allows for complete control over who purchases from your company through the use of a login. This option also caters to your customers’ specific needs and business hours without having to hire extra staff to manage this process internally.
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April 22, 2015
As a general rule, there are differences in software implementation time-frames, dependent on the tier or type of software being implemented. When it comes to inventory and accounting ERP software, Tier 1 or Introductory Systems (such as QuickBooks), usually take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to get set up; Tier 2 ERP systems can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to get set up; and Tier 3 or Blue Chip systems can take the longest – from several months to a year plus. These timeframes correlate with the sophistication of each tier of system and the complexity of business processes. This also means that the work included with software implementations will vary by tier, and also by software vendor within each tier. This makes it very important to read the fine print on all software vendor quotes in order to compare apples to apples when making a purchasing decision. Because of this, it’s important to begin the software search when your current systems are still in good working condition, and the search has not yet become a critical need in order to maintain business operations. It’s unrealistic to expect vendors to complete the implementation process immediately after a signed quote is received, for reasons outlined below.
One of the most time consuming parts of an ERP software implementation is the data migration process. This aspect not only greatly impacts implementation timeframe, but also total costs. Data migration consists of transferring data from your existing software systems or from spreadsheets, and importing it into your new software. This process can be further broken down into 3 parts:
- Extracting data from the existing system
- “Massaging” the data – clean up and structuring
- Moving the data into the new system
Essentially, data is mapped from the old system to the new according to labels, titles and structures, and additional “massaging” or “cleaning up” gets performed to ensure bad data is not brought into the new system. This process usually happens multiple times in order to get the most accurate and up-to-date data before Go-Live. As you can imagine, for software vendors that manage the entire data migration process, this is not a quick and simple task – especially when dealing with companies that have 30+ years’ worth of data to migrate. Certain software vendors will put the onus on the client to extract the data and manually enter it themselves, which can lead to quicker implementation timeframes and lower costs – but this logic works mostly in theory and not reality. Relying on the client to perform the data migration can mean that the massaging process gets ignored, some data gets missed during the process and employees must take time away from their daily work to complete the task. Read the rest of this entry »
April 10, 2015
In this brief post I want to share a quick thought. We’re frequently asked which deployment method is better for ERP Software – hosted or on-premise. Personally, I’m agnostic on this, as it really depends on a number of factors, and you can read up on some of these in this analysis of Hosted (Cloud) & On-Premises (In-House) pros and cons.
As our company approaches a move to new premises in a few weeks, I’ve begun to realize how significant a benefit having your ERP Software (and other key business software) in the cloud can be. I know that businesses do not move frequently, but when you do move it’s a massively disruptive undertaking. And having to move your own servers, meaning you’re essentially down for at least several hours (or need to spend large sums on redundant servers at new and old locations, or temporary on-line solutions), adds to the stress and cost of a move.
For those of us fortunate to have our key applications in the cloud, life’s a lot simpler on moving day: anyone not needed to participate in the actual move will simply work from anywhere there’s an internet connection – including from home. Meaning no down time at all, and no interruption of software-dependant business activities.
An increasing number of businesses are considering switching to hosted software as their existing servers approach replacement age. For such companies, if a move is also on the horizon, it makes the decision almost obvious.
April 7, 2015
ERP software is designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations, and includes tools for inventory management, order entry and processing, accounting, warehouse management and more. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is typically categorized as a Tier 2 software system. This means that a true ERP system is best for companies who have outgrown their existing introductory systems, and are looking for a solution that can scale with their company growth. It also means that the price tag associated with an ERP solution can sometimes cause a bit of sticker shock. However, once you compare the benefits and opportunities of using a fully-integrated solution, the value of such a system becomes very clear. Below we have further outlined 5 benefits of ERP.
Improved Customer Service
One of the inherent benefits of ERP software is that all information is stored in a single database, which helps streamline operations across multiple departments. This makes it easy for any given employee with the right user permissions to quickly look up inventory, customer, or sales information in order to make informed decisions. This data is especially useful when speaking directly with customers and for those who work in customer service. When clients phone in with questions surrounding what available credit they have on their account, how much they owe, their purchase history or a need to update their contact details, this information is all readily available at the click of a couple of buttons. This eliminates the need for searching through multiple systems and in some cases, the need to search through hard copy files. To further simplify processes, reports with the above information can be automatically generated and sent out to customers on a regular basis – for example a report that outlines overdue accounts. Other features such as the ability to track communication, set next action dates, assign sales reps, and create notes, means that information about your customers and potential customers is easily accessible within one system. In many businesses, this leads directly to increased sales.
Properly implemented ERP should result in cost reductions across multiple areas of your business. This is especially apparent in businesses with many manual processes and those moving off of introductory and disparate systems. On the inventory side of the business, proper inventory management increases the accuracy of shipping processes which reduces the costs of dealing with returned merchandise, lost inventory and customer service costs. It also provides tools for accurately predicting your customers’ buying patterns, which reduces the costs of holding inventory and decreases dead stock. On the accounting side, automating processes such as accounts receivable collection (by sending out reports to customers) reduces the amount of time and costs associated with manual approaches. An all-in-one solution means data only has to be entered into the system once, by one employee. This eliminates the costs of manually entering data into multiple systems and the associated keying errors. Another area of cost savings can be gained from choosing to implement the software as a cloud solution, which results in lower IT maintenance costs and eliminates the need for expensive server hardware.
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March 27, 2015
In theory, developing a custom ERP solution in-house to manage your wholesale and distribution business may sound like the perfect solution. However in practise it rarely is. Even though the system would be designed with your specific business processes in mind, the benefits gained from a completely customized solution are often outweighed by the resources necessary to maintain such a “perfect fit” system. It’s preferable to work with an industry specific software company, who can meet most of your software needs out of the box, and provides the option to customize as well. Working with an ERP software vendor who becomes a trusted business partner ensures you get the best of all worlds – a solution that is designed for your specific business type, maintained by a team that provides expertise is the areas of software development and management, and provides guidance and insight into industry process improvements. It’s often the smaller vendors who look to build these types of relationships, as it benefits them in the long run as well – working closely with customers means they get first-hand insight into industry specific requirements, and that enables them to continuously enhance the software to better meet the needs of their target market. Below we take a closer look at the dangers associated with developing a custom in-house system:
First and foremost, as a wholesale distribution company, your core competency is not in creating ERP solutions, nor should it be. One of the problems with developing a system in-house is that it eats up a lot of resources and requires a large investment into the technology and skills needed to keep the ERP application up and running. Even if this task is assigned to an IT department, it still takes time and other resources away from the activities that contribute to the businesses core competency.
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