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Software & Vendor Selection: Where to Look

Software & Vendor Selection: Where to Look

The Best ERP Software Begins with the Best People

At every step, from software selection to ERP implementation, people are always your best resource.

Software and Vendor Selection Team

Back-feed your software & vendor selection script with experiential feedback.

Now that the internal part of the work is done, you can start contacting people outside of your business to help with your software & vendor selection process. Before you call any vendors or developers, there is another step. Peer and expert help is a good idea, especially when considering new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Where to look for feedback and ideas

Advice from industry peers and other groups will help you understand your software application options. Cloud-based ERP education is easy to come by, but it is important to have a trusted person explain the fine print. ERP solutions are often sold in a pure SaaS (Software as a Service) deployment, and this might not be the perfect fit for your business. You might be a small business looking for your first ERP software solution, or you might be a complex manufacturing company looking for the real-time flexibility of a cloud hosted ERP system.

We all have friends from previous jobs and alumni groups that we can lean on when making big business decisions. The internet is full of advice and much of it is useful. Chase answers, seek multiple views, and engage in a business process review if you’d like an assessment of where you’re at before adding anything new to the mix. An ERP vendor will give you one perspective, and those near and dear to your internal business processes might have different opinions.

Keep your search organized

Develop a questionnaire. This will help keep the members of your team unified when they begin gathering information. The questionnaire also keeps the questions useful. For example, the question “Did you like the software?” is not a very powerful question. Instead, use questions such as, “What was the primary requirement you wanted to satisfy?” Then you might follow up with a related question like, “In what specific ways did the software satisfy that requirement?” The final value of your questionnaire is that you will be able to compare and relate responses from a variety of sources to each other. You will also be able to develop a value scale that can allow you to have an objective scale to compare the responses and their value to your business.

Talk to people 

When trying to choose ERP software, it is helpful to contact people from industry and trade groups. These will often be businesses that are similar to yours and their input can be useful in helping you make your decision. Use a little caution and avoid sharing where your next growth is expected and understand these businesses will be wary of sharing anything that might allow you to become a better competitor.

Your CPA and other resources that you have can benefit you as well when selecting software. Other clients that your CPA has might have been through a software search of their own. At this stage, you are not ready to take action yet and your CPA probably is ready and willing to act as a consultant helping in your search for a fee.

Use the internet for software & vendor selection research

The internet can provide examples of other businesses who have experience with software selection. Often you can find these businesses on the fifth page of your Google search and once you find them, even a quick phone call will frequently yield a person who directly participated in their selection and software implementation and has useful experiences to share. Many people are more than willing to help if you ask them.

Now take action

Once you have done your research, you might first decide to re-evaluate your requirement list. You might find some listed requirements to be of less value than originally considered or have found a point from one of your sources that should be added to your requirement list. Through this research, you probably learned of a software provider, previously unknown to you, that was highly recommended. You certainly learned new ways that others found that helped in their search or even helped their business operations after their implementation. You also learned of search actions others would have done differently if there were an opportunity to make their search again.

Now you can develop a list of only a few software providers or brands that likely will be beneficial to you. An internet search might list a thousand systems, which are too many to evaluate. Focus on your short list and begin contacting those few. The goods or services you offer will greatly benefit from new solution, whether you’re adding a third-party business intelligence platform or a new accounting software to your resource pool.

Remember that people are your best resources for ERP and more

Mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies are especially vulnerable right now to supply chain management issues. Make sure you have the in-house human resources it takes to ensure that warehouses managed during a pandemic are restored to pre-crisis stability. If you need help with inventory management, enterprise risk management, cloud migration, or other critical business operations, EstesGroup offers you a one-stop-shop approach to operational optimization.

Are you ready to talk to a software & vendor selection expert? Let’s begin a conversation today.

Ask an IT or ERP expert a question now.

Getting Selective with Software Selection

Getting Selective with Software Selection

Begin by gathering both business requirements & software requirements

After all that inward looking, it is time for some more inward looking. It’s now time to set a basis for communication that will help keep current and future software projects on track. It’s time to begin the process of discovering and sorting out the real requirements for your business as they relate to software acquisition.

Cloud Software Selection Process

A conversation that leads to a complete requirement list

When it feels like every possible software and technology requirement is on the table, publish the list for your entire company to review it. Let the whole business know what software is under consideration and what you hope to achieve through the new software. This could be a subject for the next company-wide get-together or a post on the company intranet. Give everyone a little time to consider the potential requirement list and ask for feedback. The guy at the shipping dock might offer an idea no one yet thought of. A remote worker might demand additional integrations in order to optimize a virtual office.

Try to separate the team members from the business processes to let your selection project entertain every product or service that could benefit both people and infrastructure. This is especially important when considering ERP systems. Every software system has its challenges, but as companies grow and enterprise resource planning increases in complexity, due diligence in the software selection process will overcome both high level and more detailed problems along the way.

Your software selection team

Always choose a selection team that represents departments from across your business. You will have some managers and directors, but also include people who will benefit from working on this project by getting to know the bosses while contributing to the cause.

Your potential requirements list is probably quite long, so take a comprehensive approach when it comes to team building. When it comes to software requirements, specification is key. When you have a talented team working together to brainstorm every potential problem and solution, you’ll likely surface a long list of needs and expectations. Likely some of the items are duplicates, or very similar. Combine those and shorten the list a little. It is not yet time to strike any ideas out yet. And avoid assumptions: take time to understand what the proposals really mean lest any good ideas become diluted beyond the original intention.

Look for requirements that probably cannot be helped by this particular software acquisition. Don’t simply strike the idea; move it to another list for future consideration. Someone thought they had a requirement to be solved, so keep it as it still needs a resolution, just not now with this particular software.

Prioritize software selection process outcomes

Prioritizing is the next step. Split your list into one section that truly is a requirement and another that is very nice to have but truly less than a requirement. Sort each section into your best consensus of priority. Theoretically, the required list is all number one, but there is still a good chance that less than 100% can be attained. A software selection process doesn’t always end with a new software. Keep an open mind when considering all options and how they might affect your business. Stuck on old software or technology? A growing manufacturing company will struggle without the move to an ERP software, and an ERP system will most likely benefit from a cloud hosting environment. Know your history and know your goals and choose your system and its deployment model wisely.

Communicate still more

Time now for more communication. This time upwards: meet with your executive sponsor and consider each requirement again. Be certain your sponsor agrees with your breakout of priorities and good ideas, and also with the sorting. Your sponsor might have other ideas too on how to revise some items, or they might have entirely new items for the list. Your executive sponsor must agree with the requirement list and commit to supporting your future efforts.

Communicate again with the rest of your business by sharing the current requirement list and a second list of items you hope to achieve. Let all know you will soon look for software that meets every one of the required points and as many as possible of the nice-to-have list as well. Be sure to thank everyone who helped with requirement points and with the enterprise evaluation of your requirements.

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How To Begin Your Software Selection

How To Begin Your Software Selection

Toward a Simple Software Selection Process

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

ERP Software Selection

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.

But What Cloud?

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.

Do you need help with software selection or management? Contact us now, chat with us, or ask an expert about IT or ERP. We love to talk about ERP software. EstesGroup provides a unique value to businesses like yours: we understand your software and its underlying technology. Learn more about our EstesCloud managed services and how EstesGroup ERP & IT consultants work together to help you optimize your infrastructure so that you can focus on the work you love while we secure your foundations.

 

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COVID-19 Remote Work Support: Message from CEO Bruce Grant

COVID-19 Remote Work Support: Message from CEO Bruce Grant

COVID-19 Remote Work Support: Message From EstesGroup

Dear Clients, Partners & Friends– 

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.

 

As always, stay safe and healthy, 

Bruce Grant / CEO
970.372.4526 office
703.624.2759 mobile
[email protected]   
www.estesgrp.com

Why Implement an ERP System?

Why Implement an ERP System?

Why Implement an ERP System?

Implementing ERP SystemIf 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.

Increased Productivity

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.

Happier Customers

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.

Increased Mobility

Implement ERP SystemWork 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).

Regulatory Compliance

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.

Reduces Disconnect

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.

Scalability

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.

Customized Reporting

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.

Can I Run Quickbooks and Compete in Smart Manufacturing?

Can I Run Quickbooks and Compete in Smart Manufacturing?

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 Quickbooks or do you need to have a real Enterprise 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 deploying Epicor 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.