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Out-of-the-Box vs. Best-in-Breed Credit Card Processing

Out-of-the-Box vs. Best-in-Breed Credit Card Processing

The (ERP) Credits Are Rolling

ERP was once a battle between “comprehensive” and “best-of-breed” solutions. While the “comprehensive” solution providers claimed to offer a one-stop-shop of business functionality, providers working under a “best-of-breed” model constructed simpler overall ERP systems that were easier to integrate with third-party solutions. 

The debate has morphed over time, as “best-of-breed” providers try to progressively dress themselves as comprehensive ERP solutions, while the old dinosaurs are working to make their systems more interoperable.  

Credit Card Processing in Enterprise Resource Planning

For customers, this has served to muddy the waters. At a macro level, it seems safe to say that ERP has increasingly moved to a best-of-breed model, where customers are willing to manage an increasing number of third-party solutions, provided that they provide “best-in-class” functionality. 

Credit card capabilities find their place among this morass of functionality, with third-party solutions competing with the integrations provided directly by vendors. Let’s look at some of the challenges that companies normally face when implementing the out-of-the-box solutions that ERP vendors provide.

Configuration Issues

We see customers frequently complain to us of the challenges in configuring their credit card modules. A customer purchases an integrated module from an ERP vendor’s feature card and expect that it should be as easy to implement as the rest of the application. Normally, we only hear from them after those hopes have been dashed. 

It’s worth noting that these “modules” are modules in name only—in truth, they are loosely integrated third parties, sold as a comprehensive, out-of-the-box solution. Some ERP vendors even offer multiple versions of credit card integration, which further complicates the situation. As such, a consultant may become savvy in configuring one payment model in one licensed module, only to stumble at the next implementation. 

Testing

Testing credit card solutions is always a daunting task—there is private information and money involved, after all. But a clumsy integration can exacerbate the problem. When vendors integrate with third-party solutions, but the third-party solutions themselves do not “own” the functionality and the integration, a situation where a diffusion of responsibility is likely to occur.  

 

In such a situation, neither side of the functionally can adjudicate the outcome of testing, and provide guidance to the causes for errant outcomes. In an ERP system, the customer invariably wants a single throat to choke—a party who can assume responsibility for the functionality in question. 

I’ve seen too many cases where vendor integrations leads to situations where the customer ends up paying a consultant to determine that there are bugs or unknown limitations to the integration that will hamper the use of the advertised functionality. 

Functionality Limitations

It’s not uncommon that a company’s needs exceed the capabilities of the solutions that the vendor’s out-of-the-box integrations provide. Because of the specialized functionality and capabilities involved, it is often the case that the credit card capabilities provided by a vendor are a “minimal acceptable solution” variety—a solution that barely meets the base requirements, but offers very little “wiggle room” for customers whose requirements step over the vendor’s proverbial line. Such is often the problem with vendor-supplier solutions, and one of the reasons customers leverage best-of-breed solutions in their place.

“Comprehensive” Credit Card Processing or Best-in-Breed?

With all the challenges to credit card processing, we’ve found the best-of-breed solutions to be generally preferable to the comprehensive but underpowered solutions provided out-of-the box by the ERP vendor community. In that light, our work with Century Business Solutions and their EBizCharge payment platform has proven to help customers handle complex payment requirements, helping them extend their operations and shorten their order to cash cycles.

Interested in e-commerce, cloud, backup and disaster recovery, and other services and solutions that complement your ERP system? Watch our videos to learn more!

This Old IT: The Modify vs. Rebuild Software Quandary

This Old IT: The Modify vs. Rebuild Software Quandary

When should you start from scratch?

When I was about ten years old, my family lived in an old frame house. I have a lot of fond memories from our time there, but it had some quirks.

New Construction ERP With Blueprints & Project Planning Consultants

Originally a two-bedroom house, a third bedroom had been added onto one side. Built in sort of a lean-to style, the roofline didn’t match, of course. And it was added against the dining room/kitchen side over what was formerly the back door, so you could look out the kitchen window into my parents’ bedroom. It was built on a concrete slab instead of the pier-and-beam construction of the old house, so you stepped down into it, and then there was another back door in the bedroom opening to the backyard. It was an interesting place.

I’m reminded of that house occasionally when I encounter an aging software package that we’re replacing with a modern Epicor ERP system.

When the old stuff was installed, the implementation team made modifications to tailor it to the company’s operation and crafted operating instructions to guide the team. Over the years, the company and its requirements evolved, so more changes and additions were tacked on, old features were abandoned but not removed, and documentation was bypassed in the name of expediency. “Spaghetti Mess” is the technical term for what you get after ten, twenty, or thirty years. That’s just the way of life.

Eventually, a company makes the painful choice to start afresh with current technology and fresh eyes, and we find ourselves on the brink of an adventure. As we all know, adventure is rarely experienced without peril, sacrifice, and hard work. But it also can bring us reward and satisfaction.

When IT comes to IT, our consultants will be there.

The EstesGroup will be excited to be your partners in this journey. Need help with technology solutions or cloud services?  Is it time for help with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system? We’ll be there before you know it!

ERP Shift vs Delete Keyboard

Partner with EstesGroup for your entire ERP journey.

Are you researching Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and seeking help understanding what your ERP vendor has to offer? Software vendors aside, an initial ERP implementation or ERP upgrade should improve your user experience, streamline business functions, and create new management systems that optimize your core business processes. With real-time data, a single system (deployed in a private or hybrid cloud) can be the software program that gets your business beyond the burdens of the computer system itself – meaning that your ERP software gives you a clean solution across all business units and future software development projects. EstesGroup offers custom solutions for your unique business needs.

Watch Joe Trent On “Epicor Kinetic Business Activity Query: Fancy Tips & Nuanced Tricks”

Watch Joe Trent On “Modifying Standard Reports: SSRS Reporting”

6 Tips to Save Time & Money When Customizing Your Epicor Application

6 Tips to Save Time & Money When Customizing Your Epicor Application

Here at EstesGroup, we do a lot of customizations for Epicor ERP and P21 systems. These include adding new logic to processing, adding / changing reports, updating screens to add custom information and creating new dashboards to simplify business understanding. We love customizing both P21 and Epicor Kinetic / E10 because it drives customer efficiency and productivity. But the process of getting things done can be frustrating when delays set in. With that in mind, I want to give you six tips to streamline the customization process and save you time and money!  

Epicor Application Time & Money

Does your Epicor application have you caught in a cycle of subtraction?

#1 – You should consider having an ad-hoc Statement of Work (SOW) setup with EstesGroup.

Doesn’t it always seem that the more urgent the request, the more roadblocks you encounter?

Often you want something quick, but you find that your current SOW has expired. Or maybe is doesn’t have enough hours for the customization. This delays your request and adds more work for you. That’s why we offer our “ad-hoc SOW” as an option.

If you have an ad-hoc SOW established with us, we can skip the step of creating a new SOW (sending emails, getting signatures, entering all of that into systems, etc.) and focus on getting the work done.

Action Step: Contact us and setup an ad-hoc SOW now. Then keep it active so that there is no delay if you have an urgent issue. We usually set them up for 12 months long and we will contact you for approval to renew. And we always get your email approval before starting any work so there are no surprises.

#2 – Have the actual user write up what is needed so that you get the most accurate version of the request.

Remember the telephone game? You whisper in another person’s ear, and they then do the same? What you find is that a request that goes through multiple people can gradually change. Then when the estimate comes back, it doesn’t match the real user’s needs and we’ve introduced more delay in the process.

Action Step: If you are the intermediary at your organization and are gathering the information, have the actual user describe what they want in their own words. Don’t try to interpret it for them or make assumptions you haven’t checked out.

#3 – Focus on describing what you want and how you would like it to work not the details of how the developer should make the code changes.

Often, we get customization requests where the customer focuses on describing the details of how the customization should technically be done rather than what the customization should accomplish.

That’s helpful but overlooks the fact that a developer may know a better way to accomplish the same thing. Plus, realize that developers are naturally prone to find solutions that will not require more work in the future. And there is also a good chance they may have done this same change for another customer.  

Letting them figure out the best way ensures they will offer a solution that doesn’t affect your next upgrade and is also simpler to do.

Action Step: Focus on what you want and how you would like it to work. Describe what the screens must do, or how the report should look. Trust the developer to use their expertise to find the best way to do it.

#4 – Use a standard set of questions for each customization request. Don’t settle for a brief email that can be interpreted several different ways.

We often let requests come in with partial information and the result is a lot of unnecessary back and forth conversations to get the information needed. Your time is valuable, so use a template.

We know that when the user answers the right questions, they offer the best information. And a template is a great way to simplify the process. Of course, we know that in some cases an internal discussion is best to gather the answers. But you can still use the template, right?

Action Step: Use this downloadable form to capture the request information up-front.

#5 – Be clear about what you want and don’t rely on assumptions!

Developers will make assumptions. It’s human nature and that will affect how they estimate the time to make, test and deliver the customization. If you can define those assumptions beforehand, it will reduce delays and improve the quality of the estimate. Here’s a list of common assumptions made by the developer:

  1. The customer doesn’t need to license any new modules to complete the solution.
  2. This area of the application hasn’t been significantly modified before.
  3. The customer has a good testing environment they can use.
  4. The customer has good data to test with.
  5. The end user will review and help test the solution.
  6. I’m the only person currently customizing the environment.

Action Step: If these assumptions are incorrect, include the information in your request so they include them in their thinking. Don’t make them guess!

#6 – Don’t wait to verify the developer has good access to your test environment.  

One of the biggest delays in delivering customizations is when the developer cannot get working access to your test environment. We’ve seen delays of several weeks around this problem and we know that is frustrating for you.

Plus, we are prone to assume that because access worked once before, that it still works. New versions of VPN software and minor configuration changes in your network will easily break the process used only several weeks ago.

Action Step: Provide connection information to the developer early in the process and have them test their access as they develop solutions. If you can validate their access yourself by emulating the developer, we highly recommend doing that so that you know your connection information works.

SUMMARY

Customizations are great but the process can be challenging.  As you use these Six Tips to Save Time and Money When Customizing Your Epicor Application, you will simplify the process for your organization and save time in getting the solutions you need. Plus, you will feel less aggravation in the process

Please feel free to share this information in your organization and let us know if you have any other suggestions as well!

Are you ready to begin a conversation about your Epicor application? Please fill out the form below, or chat with us now!

We have Epicor Kinetic / E11 / E10 & Epicor Prophet 21 experts on standby to answer your questions about every aspect of the application – from the software vendor through to the server!

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Best Practices for Paying Supplier Invoices in Epicor ERP

There are many challenges when it comes to paying supplier invoices in Epicor E10, Epicor Kinetic (E11), or in Epicor Prophet 21. In simple terms, a company purchases goods from a supplier according to pre-established and carefully-specified terms. In most cases, a company needs to pay them within the specified terms, waiting as long as possible, as to keep the cash flow within the confines of the company’s banking system for as long as possible. 

But the payment must not be so late as to incur the wrath of the supplier and avoid the inconveniences that credit hold will place on subsequent purchases. And the company may elect to take advantage of an early payment discount, if one exists.

Sounds simple enough. But a company also must ensure that invoices are accurate. The amount invoiced must correspond to the quantities that were actually delivered. Some many-to-one complexities muddle the water a bit, given that a supplier invoice may cover several purchase orders and that each PO could be dozens or even hundreds of lines in length.

Supplier Invoices Epicor Kinetic ERP Cloud

Automating the Three-Way Matching Process

At this point, we haven’t even begun to validate the amount that was on the original purchase order. Such is the magic of the three-way match: cross-referencing the information that was on the PO with the information on the receipt and matching both of these with the invoice from the supplier.

The matching process differs by company, as many companies have different rules and tolerances that govern the matching process. This can make the process laborious and time consuming for accounts payable staff, and it’s not uncommon for many accounting departments to spend inordinate amounts of time matching invoices and cutting checks for routine purchases. 

Given that the three-way matching process is largely mechanical in nature, one would think that it could be automated. But what would it look like for a system to perform some of the heavy lifting, allowing your AP staff to focus on the critical few problems, without having to grind thought the invoices that went through without a hitch?

  • Firstly, the system would need to read the invoice. It would need to read and digitize supplier invoices, whether they’re sent as PDFs Word documents, or in some other format.
  • Secondly, it would need to validate the invoice. It would need to review the past POs and match the invoice lines with the corresponding PO lines, whether they come from multiple Purchase Orders or a single PO.
  • Thirdly, they’d need to perform the three-way match. Using the rules that your company has configured, the system would need to compare line items from the purchase order, the invoice, and the actual receipt of goods.
  • Finally, the system would need to generate payment vouchers with the click of a button.

The benefits of such a system should be self-evident. Automation works to secure your supplier relationship, while minimizing invested time and effort. Moreover, such a system would be the kind of repetitive and rigorous data-driven analytical work that computers are made to do:

  • Processing matched invoices
  • Kicking out exceptions

Automation allows skilled staff to focus on the real work, not the grunt work. 

Are you in search of such a solution? Our supply chain automation partner SourceDay will be presenting a webinar entitled “3-Way Matching Success Through AP Automation” with Epicor ERP software solutions expert Jim Frye.  

SourceDay Logo

The webinar will focus on the final stage of the purchase order process: paying supplier invoices. Anyone who’s navigated the perils of accounts payables in Epicor knows the burden of matching purchase orders and invoices. There has to be a better way!

Join Epicor ERP expert Jim Frye to learn how SourceDay helps Epicor customers reduce the time and effort it takes to pay supplier invoices, resulting in early payment discounts, efficiency gains, and hard cost savings. The webinar will cover the following:

The challenges of paying supplier invoices in Epicor
The measurable benefits of faster invoice payment
How to increase operational efficiency and automation

Learn more about Epicor software by attending an EstesGroup Summit! Whether you’re a small business or a global manufacturer or distributor, our world-class enterprise resource planning (ERP) consultants can help you with everything from raw materials management to ERP cloud migration. Our Epicor consulting team can help you move from the paper based systems of the past to the cloud based applications of the future.

Brad Feakes SVP of Professional Services

BRAD FEAKES

SVP or Professional Services

EstesGroup

Jim Frye SourceDay Epicor Expert

JIM FRYE

Enterprise Sales Director & In-House Epicor ERP Expert

SourceDay

Phillip Pavelka SourceDay Supply Chain Expert

PHILLIP PAVELKA

Solutions Engineer

SourceDay

Leveraging Union Queries in Epicor Kinetic BAQs

Leveraging Union Queries in Epicor Kinetic BAQs

BAQs — Becoming One Data

A fundamental value of your Epicor ERP system is the data that it holds — all that data sits there, nicely organized and begging for consumption. But good data needs to be converted into information to be of value. As such, getting good data out of your ERP system is key. Often, it takes a good query to perform that information transformation. A Union query is one tool in the Epicor BAQ toolbox that can perform this action.

Data Server Epicor BAQs
Within the Epicor Business activity query toolset, Union queries combine multiple data sources into a single results set. Union queries are a great way to combine data from different tables that are, for whatever reason, sufficiently similar as to combine them into a single dataset. Some examples might include:

  • You are using the project module and wish to combine project phases and project tasks into one single set of activities
  • You are tracking the completion of manufactured parts in a mixed mode environment, and need to merge the Job Assembly and Job Material tables
  • You are reviewing sales activity for a customer and wish to combine open orders and open quotes

The UNION command in some ways functions like a JOIN command. It is used to select related information from two related tables. The biggest difference is in how the two tables are related and returned. A JOIN returns multiple table data elements combined into a single row, while with the UNION command, the records from different tables are returned as separate rows. It’s important to note the following: because records from different tables are being combined into a single set of rows, the rows returned need to be of the same data type. We will spell this out further below.

Let’s look at the attached Epicor BAQ example and better understand the UNION command in an Epicor business activity query.

The following query combines three sets of supply-side data into a single dataset:

  • Purchase Orders
  • Jobs
  • Inventory
SubQuery1 is the top-level query. It pulls data from the PartBin and PlantWhse tables:
Epicor SubQuery1
SubQuery2 is a Union query, from the JobPart and JobHead tables. Note: the data types are organized in the same order as the top-level query:
Epicor Kinetic SubQuery2
SubQuery3 is also a Union subquery that returns data from the PODetail and PORel tables:
Epicor Kinetic SubQuery3
Note: UNION command requires all selected columns to be of the same data type. If these returned values are not of the same type, you will receive error messages, per the screenshot below:
Epicor Kinetic Union Command
The value of Union queries is far-reaching. For example, the above query can then be used in a job shortage dashboard, such as the one below. In the following dashboard, the main query returns all past-due job material records where the material’s related operations have been started, but the material has not been issued. The main query published out the material part number, such that the child query can subscribe to this value and present the collected supply for the part in question, whether coming from inventory, from a job, or from a purchase order:
Epicor Kinetic Job

Need help with Epicor Kinetic BAQs?

Epicor Kinetic User Summit Fall 2021

Like BAQs? Looking for more Epicor Kinetic tips and tricks?

Meet us at the EstesGroup Kinetic Summit!

3 Ways to Spring your Epicor Installation Ahead

3 Ways to Spring your Epicor Installation Ahead

Spring Cleaning & New Growth for Epicor ERP

While individuals differ in their opinion of daylight savings time, the metaphor of “springing ahead” feels perfect for the enterprise resource planning (ERP) season. Spring is, after all, the time of growth and expansion. So how do companies make the most of this season? Successful Epicor customers often find ways to move their implementation forward, following through on the ERP resolutions made in winter. 

Whether you’re heading toward a great spring-loaded leap forward or merely some spring cleaning, there are many things that you can do to help your Epicor application spring ahead in terms of functionality, capability and overall return on investment (ROI).

Epicor Installation Manufacturing Tool Sparks

Spring your Epicor Installation Ahead with a Master File Cleanup

Daily problems in business operations often have their source in the master file records. Master file records are the kind of data that gradually deteriorates over time, if not cared for with vigor. Cleaning up the customer, supplier, and part master tables allows companies to quickly resolve multiple ongoing issues. I’ve seen many companies perform annual intensive data cleanup efforts to rectify such ongoing issues, and this often results in a system that is more predictable and more scalable over time. With each master file, countless questions can be asked to verify the accuracy of this foundational data.

These might include some of the following:

  • Customer Master: Are customer contacts up to date? How about the terms? Are credit limits in need of a review?
  • Supplier Master: Is banking information correct? Are purchase points defined correctly? Are terms up to date?
  • Part Master: Is supply-side information correctly configured to handle demand? Are part costs in line? What about customer and supplier-based part pricing?

Spring your ERP Ahead with a User Security Review

Cleaning up security within the ERP application is a simple step that can improve the maintenance and maintainability of the application. One significant question would be to ask whether your company utilizes individual user security or group security. The use of group-based security tends to keep the management of security much cleaner than the individual method, as users inherit permissions from the security groups, which ensures consistent and predicable access, without the scramble of managing individual permissions on every user account. Has your individual user security gotten out of hand? It’s never too late to rationalize security groups and roll back some of the disarray. This is one simple way of keeping your Epicor installation from becoming risky business.

Within this general structure, attention should be take to a few key functions, as to ensure that they are adequately managed:

  • Part Maintenance: Who has the ability to create and maintain parts? In many organizations, too many individuals have this ability, and it can create a significant amount of disruption if they are not doing so in a consistent manner.
  • Quantity Adjustments: The ability to adjust inventory quantities on the fly is a powerful but dangerous capability. Often, quantity adjustments are made to cover other issues, such as incorrect quality practices or inaccurate material issuing tendencies. Limiting quantity adjustments to a few reliable individuals is key to preventing inventory problems from spinning out of control.
  • Job Entry: Who should be able to modify a job? There are several settings (backflush, make direct, purchase direct, etc.) that can radically affect the application. Tightening the screws on job entry is often a means of ensuring successful supply for the jobs in question.

Spring Ahead with Focused Education

In an ERP context, education should be distinguished from training. Training generally refers to basic instruction geared for general end users, to allow them to perform processes accurately and consistently. Education differs from simple training in that it focuses much more on the underlying mechanics of the ERP system than on performing specific pre-defined tasks. When a larger critical mass of super users understands the underlying mechanisms of the system, you are better able to make decisions and further refine your system, improving efficiency and handling new challenges as they arise. Also, as new employees enter the organization, providing them with a solid understanding of the system can prevent needless backtracking. This is especially true for an Epicor installation.

So, what areas of the application could use some additional deep dives? Here are a few:

  • Transaction types: What’s the different between MFG-STK and MFG-WIP? It’s an important distinction.
  • Non-Stock: Understanding the effects of the non-stock flag on Sales Order Entry, the Engineering Workbench, and Job Entry is fundamental to successfully managing parts through the system.
  • Phantom BOMs — phantoms may help simplify your job BOMs, consolidate engineering levels, and simplify transactions.
  • Labor Entry Method: How does backflushing differ from Quantity Only? These are subtle but important differences, and the ramifications are widespread.
  • Backflushing Materials: Backflushing is another opportunity to make the system more efficient, but it relies on a solid understanding of the related hierarchy.

A Clean Epicor Installation Enables Growth

Spring, after all, is the season of growth, so push to move your Epicor ERP application forward this season, and sew the seeds for a bountiful harvest in 2021. Ready for optimal growth? Get the Epicor consulting services or Prophet 21 services you need to get ahead of the season. Take a tour of Epicor in a future-proof environment with a free ECHO cloud hosting demo. ECHO supports all ERP systems, including cloud-ready P21cloud-ready SYSPRO.