A very typical software selection process begins by clicking on “I am interested” after reading about a software product. Someone replies, and pretty soon a salesperson has you convinced their product will have you living the Life of Riley.
Is that narrative oversimplified? Maybe, but all of us have followed that process at times and possibly even with enterprise-level software products such as Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP solutions.
A simple selection process can work because there are many very good systems on the market, and they are flexible enough that good value is there for many businesses. None of us knows what we don’t know. Choosing an off-the-shelf software could lead to an 80% or even 90% satisfaction, but the 100% solution we hoped for could be beyond reach.
Software Selection First Steps: Look Inward First
Rather than taking a chance, consider yourself, your business, and your co-workers. You might have had past success at developing workarounds to resolve little shortfalls in software. The cost wasn’t too high, and the work still got done. There is nothing wrong with this approach and possibly a lot right. The workaround gave someone in your business a successful win. You did not need to pay any additional money to arrive at your satisfactory solution.
The Old ERP & the New ERP
On the other hand, you might want to replace an ERP that your business has used for many years, and although it began as off-the-shelf, you have modified and customized it over the years. Your users are comfortable with the software, and their work gets done well. That legacy system is not available now and can no longer be maintained. Do you want to get another similar system and begin again to modify and customize it?
Software in the Cloud
Today we need to consider the platform in addition to the software itself. In the past, companies bought software and installed it on in-house servers and managed the system internally. However, many ERP systems run in the cloud now.
Cloud-ready software, like SYSPRO or Prophet 21, requires substantially less money up front and the maintenance is provided as a part of the ongoing fee. For many the total cost of ownership is much less than running a system on your own server.
There are several varieties of cloud, beyond cumulus or cirrus. A very common option is a shared system provided by the software company. The software is a single instance and each multi-tenant customer has secured storage for their own data. You set your own configurations and can personalize user interfaces. But little or no customization is available, as that single instance is shared. Integration of other systems might be possible, but automatically updating files or uploading data from another system will be tightly controlled by the software cloud managers.
A second option is single tenancy where you have your own instance of the software in the cloud and your data is similarly secured. Here your options to customize or integrate are a little more flexible, but the ongoing cost is higher.
The third option is to purchase the on-premises version of the software but install it in a cloud server. With this option, the system is yours to customize or integrate as your business needs. But the system is yours so that your business also must manage ongoing maintenance. You have many options related to the software and to the platform.
Consider carefully how your system will work best for your needs and with your style of operating. Only after knowing your own business and its culture and style should you begin a search for your future software.
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I wanted to share an update on what EstesGroup is doing today to keep our community safe and our delivery services moving forward, as well as specific steps we are taking to continue to deliver the solutions your business relies on. I encourage you to regularly check our website, which contains the latest operational updates and links to additional information on specific events. We will also be reaching out individually to clients and partners over the next several days.
EstesGroup Continuity and Wellness Activities Update
Remote Work Tests As part of our ongoing preparedness with respect to the COVID-19 spread, we are activating business continuity plans to continually test various teams’ remote work capabilities. This is done to ensure we maintain service levels and resolution times, regardless of where our teams are physically located. We were founded as a remote-work company, and we have refined our tools and procedures over the past 16 years of operations. As such, we feel confident that we can continue to deliver the exceptional remote service you have come to depend on from EstesGroup.
Limited Travel In line with CDC recommendations, we have decided to limit much of our team’s travel schedules. Our teams are ready and able to conduct most of our delivery work virtually, as they have for many years. While we’ll miss our face time, we feel this is the right choice to support the health of everyone.
Remote Delivery Enablement Some of our clients have asked for assistance in preparing their teams for better remote and home-based work, including security, access, backup, and remote connectivity. We welcome any questions you may have or assistance you may require in helping to make your remote working environments as efficient and effective as possible.
Health and Safety Finally, the health and safety of our colleagues, their families, and our communities are the highest priority. We continue to encourage everyone to follow the preventive measures recommended by the CDC to stay healthy and slow the spread of the virus, including:
Clean your hands frequently
Avoid touching your face
Stay home if you feel ill
EstesGroup is well-positioned and prepared to work through this pandemic. Although we feel our plan is good for our partners, our colleagues, and our community, confusion may arise as we move through this situation. We ask for your patience as the situation progresses. Please feel free to reach out at any time with questions or concerns.
If you asked your IT personnel what the advantages of implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, in all likelihood, they’d tell you that it could be revolutionary or absolutely destructive depending on their past experiences. The key to making it revolutionary revolves around partnering with experienced ERP consultants who know how to implement and manage an ERP system on-time, on-budget, within the scope described to you during the initial phases of the implementation.
Below you will find some of the reasons why implementing an ERP system like Epicor ERP, can be revolutionary.
Implementing an ERP system streamlines and automates your business processes improving productivity and organization. This dramatically reduces the time spent on business tasks such as manual entry, tracking time sheets, generating reports, and the time spent trying to fix problems related to using multiple platforms across multiple departments. Because an ERP aggregates data into a single database, you are able to tie information across every department to gain meaningful insights in real-time and automate reporting so that your company’s internal resources can be leveraged for analyzing that information rather than collecting it.
With the advent of online shopping and services, competition has never been stiffer for businesses. If you don’t keep your customers happy, another company will. Customers who are able to get their questions answered quickly and without much effort are happier customers. This is why implementing an ERP system is important. It not only provides you with instant access to a customer’s ordering history and information, but it also allows greater interaction between you and your suppliers as well as you and your customers. By using the Customer Relations Management (CRM) , customer data can be accessed across business operations, so you’re not only able to better handle the needs and concerns of your customers, but also use the information gleaned from customer order history to refine your sales strategy and improve lead generation.
Work is no longer just something that takes place in an office. Today, people are working while on vacation. They’re working from home. They’re working anywhere that life takes them. The Epicor ERP system is mobile-friendly, meaning that you and your employees are able to access important information and continue to contribute in even the most remote places in the world (so long as they have an internet connection, that is).
Still wondering why you should implement an ERP system at your company? An important factor in a powerful ERP solution is that it can track regulations within your industry and alert you when there are regulatory changes, ensuring that you stay in compliance without stress. While this is helpful at the local level, it is particularly important for businesses with a global reach and varying regulations in the countries where they do business. Additionally, the ERP’s auditing tools provide documentation and generate reports so that you can easily show your compliance to any governing authority that asks.
Multiple platforms can provide conflicting information and often result in single departments working in a bubble, even though they may be largely dependent upon other departments for important information. This not only creates a disconnect between your departments, but can also result in decreased productivity and time-consuming errors. An ERP system places all of your departments in the same room, with the same access to information and a built-in accuracy that cannot be found in traditional business methods.
Businesses require customization within their systems. They grow, they shrink, and their needs change. Epicor ERP provides you with that level of flexibility by incorporating lean manufacturing tools that enable operational best practices.
Not to mention, your ERP solution should scale as well. The team of software engineers at Epicor are constantly updating their systems to address new problems that never existed before, so that all of their customers receive exactly what they need.
Reports are necessary for a variety of reasons, and your ERP system uses information stored in the centralized database to generate professional reports for any business reason you may have. Your employees can easily access analytics data needed for the report without help from IT.
These are just some of the benefits of an ERP system. For more information about how you can implement an ERP within your company, contact EstesGroup today!
Do you have a specific question or interested in learning more about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems? Let us know.
You’ve heard the term Smart Manufacturing or Industry 4.0; but what does that really mean for your manufacturing company? Can a company be “Smart” and use basic software like Quickbooksor do you need to have a realEnterprise Resource Planning (ERP)system? The short answer is: yes, your company needs an ERP system to truly adopt Smart manufacturing and be ahead (or even keep pace) with the competition.
For those still wondering what Smart manufacturing or Industry 4.0 are, don’t worry, the terms are newer and only recently been used in a fairly regular manner. Smart Manufacturing is, simply put, the melding of operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT). Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing are really the newest phase or a new Industrial Revolution if you will hitting manufacturing on a worldwide scale.
In order to remain competitive, manufacturers must invest in inter-connectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data analytics.
Holding together various systems needed to properly track and analyze the smart manufacturing data captured, is a strong ERP system, which can marry the shop-floor data with cost breakdowns, operational information, job details, and customer information, etc. I find it interesting how many manufacturers still run homegrown systems or rely on access database, excel, etc to track production, which is clunky, prone to data corruption, and does not collect all relevant data to provide a company with true business analytics.
One of our clients used a homegrown system before deployingEpicor ERP a few years ago. They noticed immediate improvements in inventory control, accurate cost measurements for their products, and better shop floor scheduling. Now, image if the same company deployed machine learning and automation married with real-time data analytic software? The potential to outpace the competition is dramatically increased.
So to get back to the second question, no, Quickbooks or other smaller software systems will not support manufacturers focused on growth since they lack the basic shop floor data collection and analytics needed to streamline your business. Manufacturers that wish to remain competitive, and have an optimized business require an ERP system.
Is your company looking to move away from small accounting systems and move to a manufacturing ERP system? Or do you have an ERP system and need to work on optimizing it? We would love to talk with you about how we can work together to make your business run better.
Internal Planning is Key to Forming ERP Search Questions
Let’s face it, many articles have been written about companies “Outgrowing QuickBooks” or “Signs you need an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system”. But what those articles don’t usually talk about is what you can do to prep your team internally for an ERP software system. This is a comprehensive sales, finance, and operations system. As such, planning comes into play. Unfortunately, “planning” is one of those words that tends to make people groan. They know it means more work, lots of discussions, and loss of time. However, asking detailed internal ERP search questions is paramount to a successful ERP evaluation and implementation.
Would a military general or combat veteran go into battle without a plan? There is a reason that ERP implementation rooms are nicknamed “War Rooms.” First, leaders storm through strategy. Then, heavy system testing is done and current company practices come into question.
What are some of the right internal ERP search questions to ask for planning purposes? Questions like system design, usability, industry specific functionality, cost, and implementation assistance are just some aspects to consider when looking for an ERP system. I look around on the web, and I find a lot of system questions written by software vendors, but not a lot of internal company questions to ask or considerations that need to be discussed. Having talked and worked with many, many companies over the years during their ERP searches, I wanted to give some examples of planning areas and questions for companies to prep internally.
10 Internal ERP Search Questions to Get the Project Planning Started
What does my company need and want to accomplish with an ERP System?
Accessibility throughout departments
Time frame for evaluation purchase, deployment phases/locations, and full usability
What are the challenges of my company’s current business software? Why is it no longer meeting the needs of my company? Look at this from a department level:
Sales & Marketing challenges
the Warehouse(s) challenges
Research & Development challenges (if applicable)
Human Resources challenges (if required as part of an ERP search)
Is my company fully utilizing current systems in place. Is the current software potentially sufficient with added training? (I suggest talking with an expert consultant of that software if it’s an ERP system. Through this view, you can see if the current software works for your needs. Then, you can focus on ERP user training.)
Does my company have specific compliance or auditing conditions? Examples: Medical CFR, Aerospace & DoD DCAA, Medical Records HIPAA, Internal export FCPA, Electronic Underwriters UL, Federal Airlines FAA, Finance SOX etc.
What are the key aspects of the compliance in relation to software? What data needs to be captured?
Why do I need an ERP to do in order for my company to meet the compliance? Reporting?
Do we need a SaaS (cloud-based) solution, on-premise (due to data security concerns), or a hybrid cloud (hosted) system? Hybrid cloud platforms combine the best of on-premise with the best of pure cloud.
How do you plan to care for your ERP system? Do we have IT staff in-house to support an on-premise solution, or is there an outsourced IT firm we can work with to help?
Do we need a system that will work for 3 years, 5 years, or 10 years?
How important is scalability?
What modules would you like to add to your core functions as your company grows?
Do you have multi-company or multi-site requirements?
What are the key functions we need the ERP system to do? Look at this on a department level:
What does production need?
What does services need?
What does finance need?
What do the executives and owners need?
What does sales & marketing need?
What does purchasing need?
What does the warehouse need?
What does research and development need?
What does human resources need, especially for the ERP search?
What are the “nice to have” or “wanted” functions beyond the base needed requirements?
What is a realistic budget and ROI for a new ERP system?
Licensing budget (per month spending for cloud or for fully purchased or financed system)
Implementation budget (research firms say to estimate 1 to 2 times the licensing budget for implementation costs)
Software maintenance, etc. should also be factored into a budget
Hardware system requirement budget (especially important for on-premise software which basically requires a data center in-house)
Additional personnel / staffing requirements to support a new system
“When the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table” – T.S. Eliot
When I first began dabbling in the field of Business Process Management, the terminology of this new and strange body of knowledge perplexed me greatly. The concept of elevation, for one thing, was utter babble to me. Or Babel, perhaps. My notion of “high level” carried with it certain ancient connotations—height was a luxury in the ancient world, and only the most powerful civilizations were able to get a view from above the tree tops: from a Babylonian ziggurat or an Egyptian pyramid, for instance. Height, therefore, implied greatness, or to use one of Aristotle’s favorite terms Eudaimonia, sometimes translated as “flourishing.” At the highest Olympian point, one breathes the rarest of airs, or so I thought. But I was breathing the ether of an entirely different allegory. Height, in this new world, dealt not with levels of greatness, but rather with levels of precision and abstraction. In the business world, for something to be “high level” inferred that it was at some level of aggregation and abstraction as to be disconnected from the tactical nuances of day-to-day operations. News to me.
Back in the day, it was common war room parlance to utter something to the degree of “we’re looking at this from thirty-thousand feet” at least once a day. It was not until my first airplane flight that I truly understood what it meant, to look at something from that kind of distance—beautiful, and a little terrifying. I’m more of a pavement-and-pothole kind of guy. The other day, I was skidding down the highway in another rental, that was fortunate enough to still have a CD player hidden amongst its many modern accoutrements. I had borrowed Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” in CD form the local lending library and spent the better part of my ride listening once again to his seminal work. It was a fun listen: Collins began by underscoring some of the key principles of successful companies, and then went on to expound on some examples of excellence, such as…Wells Fargo, and um, Circuit City, and well…Fannie Mae? My ride, all at once, seemed a little…dated. I thought to myself that Collins would do well to write a follow-up to his earlier work and title it “From Good to Great to God Awful.” Now that would keep me engaged while ripping down the interstate! So, maybe Lord Jim’s examples have not stood the test of time. But I believe that the good leadership qualities that underscore successful organizations have outlived their exemplars.
To that point, whenever I think of flashy and charismatic leaders in business process management, I smell pizza. Not because of any neurological condition that would make me a risk on the open road, but due, rather, to a story a man recounted on a flight from Minneapolis to Memphis, regarding the former executive of a large manufacturing company.
Let’s call this former executive “Pep.” Now Pep came to his role of eminence in this company not as an internal promotion, but as an outside hire, touting a flashy resume from one of America’s well-known pizza chains. And his demeanor was more flashy than his letterhead, and greasier than the pizza he peddled. He’d bound down the hallway in a shiny suit, talking like a sailor and firing off one-liners, like the proverbial mouthy guy at the end of the local bar. One of his favorite lines was “yesterday’s news wraps today’s meat.” It was a line, with his delivery, that could drive a man to veganism. Another time, his personal assistant heard him cussing out his computer and rushed to his aide, not to discover that the company’s earnings report was unfavorable, but that he had just lost another game of solitaire. All of this from a guy with a Fortune-500 pedigree. It was his story, among others, that led me finally to realize that CVs are like statistics—they can be twisted to tell you whatever story you want to hear.
Of his many witticisms, one line stood out to me from the others. When commenting on the company’s long-standing issues with the accuracy of its outside sales staff, he exclaimed. “If they wanted you to be exact, they wouldn’t have called it estimating, they would have called itexactamating!”
Exactamating. As you might have guessed, Pep was a rather high-level guy. He sounded like such a high-level, that I imagined him bantering aboutexactamatingin the first-class section of a transatlantic flight, sucking down a gin & tonic, while eating a big greasy slice of pizza, all at thirty-thousand feet.
As you might imagine, he was also afflicted with many of the ailments that bother high-level fellows of his ilk. For one, he didn’t sweat the details—he liked to make big decisions, make them fast, and then walk out of the room and have someone else fill in the finer points. If you locked him in a board room with the VP of engineering, he’d find a way to slip out the ventilation shaft for a smoke before the hour was quartered. To the folks in the trenches, it seemed like simple impatience—he seemed too impatient to be bothered with the details, and similarly too impatient or just incapable of holding any of his people accountable at any kind of detailed manner. But at any level, the company’s failing business results empowered the CEO to request that this high-flyer to take the next flight out of town.
Back to Good-to-Great, one of Collins’ key observations from the book has to do with the demeanor of those with good leadership qualities. Good leadership qualities for business process management, according to Collins, tend not to be of the flashy variety, full of id and ego. Rather, they tend to be soft spoken, less interested in their own presentation than in the success of their company. Interestingly enough, this same company, who sent Pep the Pizza Man packing opted to replace him with a leader who fit Collins’ model. For one, the new executive was a hire from within the company, and not a fly-in, as had been his predecessor. Moreover, the new leader was much less of a showman. Most importantly, the new leader’s obsession with the company’s success drove him to understand the company’s inner-workings at all levels. Don’t get me wrong—he was never going to replace any of the data entry clerks, but his willingness to engage the organization, and its members at all levels was one important part of the success that the company went on to have under his leadership.
I’ll admit it: one of my guilty pleasures is the legalized blood-sport commonly referred to as mixed martial arts, or MMA. As you may be aware, MMA involves the combination of multiple fighting arts, and they best fighters are often the ones who excel in combining these disparate arts into one integrate skillset. One related skill in this field is the ability to “change levels”—to convince your combatant that you are going to attempt a strike, and then drop down for a wrestling takedown and quickly haul your opponent to the mat. In my work as a consultant, I have had the good fortune to meet and work with many different managers and leaders, each with differing motives, differing personalities and differing intensities. I find that the most successful leaders are those who similarly have the ability tochange levelsas needed—to move from high-level strategic thinking, down to tactical or operational problems, and then back up again. The high-level folks often struggle with this: they are the proverbial kick boxer in a wrestling match—great when they’re on their feed, but hopeless at the ground-level. All that being said, the next time that I have to take a flight, I think I might sneak a New York slice in with me, before I leave the ground.
Ask us any question you many have about good leadership qualities for business process management and ERP Software Implementations, we would love to chat.