Select Page
6 Steps When It’s Time for a Software Demo

6 Steps When It’s Time for a Software Demo

STEP 1: Contact providers and arrange demonstrations

A new day is here and you can finally start contacting potential suppliers for your new software. If you already have a short list to begin with, you can start right away. Software suppliers come in several flavors, so it makes sense to set up multiple ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution demos. A variety of demos with help you find the perfect ERP software for your business. It might seem boring to sit through one software demo after another, but putting in the time to find the perfect fit will allow you to swiftly return to focusing on your business, rather than on its infrastructure. During your demo, be sure to also consider and question ERP deployment options. Your company might be heading toward SaaS (software as a service) when it’s truly a private cloud hosting platform that you need to sustain operations.

Enterprise Software Demo

STEP 2: Compare different types of software suppliers

You might see a particular brand of software and one option is to get your software directly from the business that developed the system. Many work directly with end customers and have adequate tools to provide the support you need for implementation and maintenance of your system whether you choose to install it on premises or use the cloud version of the system.

There are providers that primarily are third-party consultants that can help you with some of the same software brands. Often these will provide better ongoing support compared to the developer company that has a continued interest in maintaining the software and perhaps less time to provide support.

Some of those third-party consultants represent more than one software brand. You might contact them regarding brand X but after getting to know your business they might suggest brand Y could be a better fit. You will need to make the choice and keep in mind that it is also possible that they earn more money from brand Y.

Another possibility is open-source software. These can be downloaded free or at little cost for your use. There are consultants that specialize in these systems much like those that represent branded software. If your business has substantial resources in software development and maintenance, this could be an excellent choice.

STEP 3: Make the right software selection contacts

Any of these sources can provide the support you need. Contact them and provide some background for your business, why you are looking, a description of your business, and a list of the requirements you have defined. Most of them will reply quickly and will be happy to introduce themselves and begin to get to know each other.

STEP 4: Control your software demonstrations

A vendor might suggest a demonstration of their software to enable you to make a choice. They already have a standard, prepackaged demonstration ready. Hold off because you should keep some control over the demonstrations. The company has your requirements you’ve provided, so they should be ready to demonstrate how the software answers to every one of your needs. Ask the vendor to customize the demonstration to show exactly what you have requested from the software.

Keep an open mind though. Their business is the software and they have experience with many customers. If they suggest that one of your requirements should be modified, they might be right. If they suggest that a requirement is not possible using their software, they might have a work-around that will satisfy your requirement. These are your choices. You can insist on your requirement list and simply keep looking at other software providers who can fill your needs.

Schedule a demonstration. Find a time that allows representatives from all your stakeholders to attend. Even if the software is intended for production, it will affect finance and engineering and others and they should attend for their own evaluation. If two demonstrations are needed to ensure your team can attend, ask the supplier to schedule two demonstrations.

STEP 5: Evaluate each software demo systematically

Before the first demonstration, prepare a common survey or questionnaire for your team. Ask each attendee to use a common format to evaluate the demonstrations. Collect the questionnaires quickly after the demonstrations. After several different demonstrations no one will be able to remember specific points and how each supplier covered specifics.

When the demonstrations are finished, combine the individual questionnaires into a common report. Work up a point value system for each question point. Summarize the demonstrations and total the points for each supplier. Ideally one will have more points and you will have your objective winner. You might ask one or two of the suppliers to provide additional demonstrations and reply to specific follow-up questions.

STEP 6: Check references and read customer testimonials

Contact the references your top supplier candidates gave you. Learn what they felt went well and what they wish might have gone differently. Ask if they know of any other business that used that supplier. Use the internet to find additional customers you might use as references that were not provided by the software supplier. When you feel you have found the right supplier, you can begin negotiations.

After the software demo, the software

Do you need help comparing software supplier data? Are you still watching software demo videos looking for differentiators? When creating a software demo, suppliers often skip the details, and our business experts can assist in determining potential pain points after your installation. Our IT experts can assist with everything from system software compatibility to software license protocol. Our ERP and managed IT specialists understand everything from source code to supply chains.

Sign up for a free demo of managed application hosting.

Please chat with us to schedule a demo today!

Prophet 21 Event: Servers, Financials & Supply Chains

Prophet 21 Event: Servers, Financials & Supply Chains

With summer in full swing, distributors are on the move, crossing docks, splitting shipments, and delivering goods by the truckload to a diverse array of customers. It is a time for expansion—of old trade routes of supply chains and of new opportunities as our reopening country rediscovers its possibilities.

Female Attending a Virtual Epicor Prophet 21 Event

Attend a 2021 Prophet 21 event in person or online

With user conferences back in the schedule for 2021, P21 users are highly anticipating the Prophet 21 user conference P21WWUG CONNECT in mid-August. This event serves as a focal point for the P21 user community and as a bookend for a busy summer. At the onset of the summer season, we thought it would be helpful to host our P21 summer summit as a prelude to the larger Prophet 21 community event. This also gives you the opportunity to open the summer with some new ideas for using your P21 application to its fullest capabilities.

Events like this are a great opportunity to review your application’s capabilities and find ways to improve internal processes, discover ways to reduce costs, and reveal methods to improve information flow and presentation. You’ll also surface steps you can take to better integrate Prophet 21 with suppliers and customers.

Our summer 2021 Prophet 21® event takes place on June 24, from 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM (Central Time). Three panelists will discuss topics pertinent to the P21® user community. The event is free, and all are welcome! This summit will also provide an insider’s view of the Epicor Prophet 21® solution for any distributor who is looking for growth opportunities that only a new software can provide.

Prophet 21 Event Itinerary

Server Best Practices for the Epicor P21 Environment

10 AM – 11 AM (CST)

Daryl Sirota, Executive Director of Technical Services at EstesGroup, will discuss server best practices for P21. Understanding the optimal means for deploying the Prophet 21 application has never been more important, especially with Epicor’s move to a new client-server architecture. Daryl will discuss some of the key considerations when deploying and maintaining your server stack. Daryl leverages 35+ years of IT experience to help customers develop server and cloud architectures that are robust, flexible and reliable. A veteran systems engineer and Microsoft expert, Daryl provides the stable technical foundations that allow customers to focus on their business. Attend this Prophet 21 event if you’d like to know how to create a private cloud for your ERP software.

Creating Financial Statements Using Financial Line Express

11 AM – Noon (CST)

Terri Gage, Senior Consultant at EstesGroup, will discuss the creation of Financial Statements. P21 customers express frustration in successfully creating financial statements, but the often forgotten Financial Line Express can bring ample help to your financial reporting needs. A longtime project manager, implementation consultant, and Prophet 21 specialist, Terri works with organizations to help them successfully implement and fully benefit from the P21 application, actualizing their goals of sustained profitability and business excellence.

Bridging the Gap Between Epicor and Suppliers for Distribution Companies

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (CST)

Jim Frye, Enterprise Sales Director at SourceDay, will discuss how distribution companies bridge the gap between their Prophet 21 system and their supply chains. Distributors need to do many things to help secure their supply chains as the ground shifts beneath them, automating the mundane and improving collaboration, visibility, and accountability between them and their varied suppliers. Jim leverages 30+ years of experience working with Global Manufacturing Companies, big and small. His passion is to help organizations facilitate growth, reduce operating costs, and increase profitability through supply chain efficiency.

Our event concludes with an open Q&A session, allowing users to raise questions regarding the sessions themselves and the Prophet 21 application in general. Operations management strategies. Cloud server integration steps. Cloud hosting service risks. Prophet 21 cloud platform options. Global supply chain trends. Operation system updates. Dedicated servers, multiple servers, SaaS… from Prophet 21 consulting to server hosting, we have answers to your P21 ERP and IT questions.

Do you have questions you’ve been meaning to ask a consultant, but haven’t wanted to shell out the cash? 

Now is your chance to do it–on our time and our dime!

Epicor’s Prophet 21 user community is founded on collaboration.

Come collaborate with us on June 24.

This event can also help distributors who are considering a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Cyber Security

Understanding the New Client Architecture of Prophet 21

Understanding the New Client Architecture of Prophet 21

Software development never stands still. I remember a time where I felt like I had finally come to understand DataSets, DataTables, DataRows and DataViews, only to have a much more experienced developer inform me that the System.Data namespace was old, antiquated, and no longer used in the development of cutting-edge applications. I had walked the prescribed trail, only to realize that it dead-ended in a software swamp.

Epicor Prophet 21 Warehouse Worker

The implications of such rapid movements in application development are significant, as software vendors often find themselves down similar dead ends and are forced to backtrack their way out of them. I liken software applications to my great-grandaddy’s venerable old axe: two new heads and seven new handles later, yet still seen by everyone in the family as the same axe.

Like the axe, Epicor’s Prophet 21 ERP application has been refitted over time. P21 helps distribution companies with a variety of features and capabilities. But like many such applications, the vendor found that over time, there was a need to reshape the application as to better position it for future use. Limitations to the existing architecture could not support the long-term needs of the industry. For that reason, Epicor has been reworking and fine-tuning its P21 architecture, moving towards a more scalable, interoperable and accessible application. Understanding where P21 has been and where it’s going can be of great use for customers, as to help them chart a course for the future. 

The Old Prophet 21

Epicor’s E10 application followed an infrastructure that separated the user client, the application server, and the database itself. For someone coming from Epicor 10, P21’s original architecture might look a little strange. Traditionally, P21 employed a fat client architecture, in which a large amount of business logic was housed in the 32-bit client itself, and this client communicated with the database. A liability of this approach was the difficulty in deploying a full API that could be accessed externally. Also, this model created natural limits to the number of clients that could share a single terminal server, due to the size and scope of the fat client.

The New Epicor Model

As Epicor sought to develop a more robust and accessible platform, changes were made both to the client and the overall architecture. Epicor’s updated architecture inserted a new layer, referred to as the “Middleware Server,” that serves as an intermediary between the client and the database, and provides the foundation for API-level interactions. 

Logic that had previously resided in the “fat client” desktop version was moved into the middleware layer. This architecture more closely resembles Epicor’s E10 application server-based architecture. Communication with the middleware server occurs using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol. This allows you to connect without the need for direct access to the network or a VPN connection. A web connection and an SSL certificate are all you need.

Beyond the API benefits, another benefit of this approach comes from performance, as the middleware server supports as much as twice as many clients as can be supported by a terminal server with the traditional fat client. For customers with high user counts, Prophet 21’s new architecture supports multiple load-balanced middleware servers.

Client Types: Understanding Your New P21 Options

From a client interaction perspective, two new options were developed to support the new architecture:

  • Web Client: The web client is a browser-based capability, allowing customers to access their system from a PC, a tablet or a mobile device.
  • Hybrid Client: The hybrid client meets the needs of customers who like the look and feel of a traditional desktop application, but wish to leverage the capabilities and features of the updated web client. The hybrid client installs like a normal Windows application, and connects directly to the middleware server, without the use of a browser.

Desktop Client – A Line in the Sand

Initially, Epicor’s web client lacked some of the functionality available with the traditional client, making things like DynaChange screen modifications difficult to accomplish without a traditional client. But as Epicor ramped up the capabilities of the web client, these differences have fallen off, such that as of spring of 2021, new P21 features will be available only in the web and hybrid clients. 

Epicor will slowly migrate away from traditional desktop application. By the fall 0f 2021, Epicor will no longer develop and release new versions of the desktop client. By the end of the year, Epicor will no longer release fixes for the desktop client. For P21 customers, this will require all users to migrate to the new architecture, both to retain support and to capitalize on the benefits of the newer releases.

The bottom line for P21 customers is clear: they can migrate to the new architecture or else work on the legacy platform, in an unimproved and unsupported state. In making this move, there are a few additional considerations to be made relative to the Prophet 21 deployment options available.

SaaS or Private Cloud Hosting for Epicor P21 Applications

Customers may opt to choose Epicor’s SaaS solution and place their application under Epicor’s control. This amounts to making two significant shifts, and many customers may not be sufficiently confident in Epicor’s SaaS solution to make the move. For customers suspect of SaaS, but looking for cloud options to host their new P21 architecture, private cloud hosting for ERP combines the new architecture with P21’s full functionality, without the hardware investments that come with an on-premise install.

Do you need help understanding your P21 deployment options? Do you need help migrating your existing architecture to take advantage of Epicor’s new features and capabilities? Give us a call — we are the #1 Prophet 21 consultancy in the nation, and we’d love to make you our “client”!

Warehouse & Inventory Management

Are you a wholesale distributor and planning for new P21 features and capabilities? Please take our survey as a step towards understanding the new client architecture of Prophet 21 and how it relates to your future!

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.

Will cloud technology change your software selection process?

Could a private cloud environment save you software headaches in the future?

Chat with us now to get a personalized demo of what your business would look like in the cloud.

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.

Managed Services vs. Break-Fix IT

Managed Services vs. Break-Fix IT

What happens when break-fix IT breaks?

As a business owner, you make daily decisions on how to serve your customers and how to improve your company. As part of this, you choose partners and solutions to create a support system that guarantees the quality of your work. A business process review is a popular step in the direction of improvement. For IT support services, small and medium-sized companies often fall into a costly “break-fix” cycle. Business owners can quickly end this break-fix madness by partnering with a managed services provider for affordable, reliable IT plans that are based on unique needs.

Managed Services IT Backup Cloud on Desktop

What is “break-fix” IT?

If a computer or a phone breaks or a server goes down, do you call around until you find someone who can fix the problem? This is break-fix IT. You go about your business, and when something breaks, you pay someone to fix it.

Large companies often have an in-house break-fix team that can manage everything from mobile phones to on-site servers, but these tasks need to be balanced with more complicated demands. No matter what your company size, break-fix IT is expensive and stressful. Managed IT services provide a way for you to break the break-fix cycle while lowering both risks and costs. You can even move to a more competitive managed cloud environment via new cutting-edge hosting solutions.

Signs you’re in a break-fix IT model:

  • Unpredictability across departments: Your technology fails, and all departments spin into chaos.
  • Downtime: Unexpected software and hardware failures reduce productivity and increase costs.
  • Lost revenue: Downtime is only one part of the problem, especially when a security breach is the cause of shutdown.
  • Outages: If the network is down, how can your employees support your customers?
  • Stress: The inherent stress of a break-fix IT strategy can result in high turnover and toxic work culture.

Managed IT Services that End Break-Fix IT Unpredictability

Managed Services Provide Unbreakable IT Solutions

While the break-fix model may work for a time, it ends up costing more than you plan for. This might lead you to consider hiring new in-house IT staff. However, a managed service provider can give you the same talent at lowers costs, and the services are 24/7/365 — and you don’t have to pay for benefits, vacation days, sick days, training, and everything else that supports an in-house IT department.

EstesGroup wants you to find the best IT services for your business. Learn more about our flexible IT solutions today.

Ready for a managed cloud solution that lets you completely focus on your business while EstesGroup IT & ERP specialists manage your infrastructure? Get a free demo of ECHO, our EstesCloud hosting solution. Learn more about SYSPRO hosting, Sage hosting, Epicor hosting, and Prophet 21 hosting today.