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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
#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:
The customer doesn’t need to license any new modules to complete the solution.
This area of the application hasn’t been significantly modified before.
The customer has a good testing environment they can use.
The customer has good data to test with.
The end user will review and help test the solution.
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.
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?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with an Epicor customer to discuss their recent upgrade to Epicor Kinetic 2021.1. For many Epicor customers, this is a decision they will be facing in the next 12 months since the Epicor lifecycle for 10.2.700 will create a decision point in September 2022.
During the discussion, we covered a lot of questions that are commonly asked. My hope is that what you learn here will be an input to your thought process about when and how to upgrade to Epicor Kinetic.
Conservation of Manufacturing Energy
This customer has been using Epicor for almost 8 years after they went live on version 10x. After the implementation they fell into the habit of not upgrading on a cadence. They regretted this because it made upgrades more challenging. Plus maintaining an Epicor upgrade cadence would have benefited them with better Epicor support, fixes, and new features. In their situation they were faced with upgrading to Epicor Kinetic from V10.2.200.
They currently have 35 users and expect to expand to 50 users in the next 12 months. They do light manufacturing and lean more to the distribution side of the spectrum. They also use Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and a Business Intelligence (BI) solution that interfaces with Epicor.
Upgrade to Kinetic
The upgrade process took them about 90 days of effort. Knowing that future upgrades are released regularly, they invested front-end effort into documenting their business processes, end-user procedures and customizations. They also developed standard test plans that they can reuse in the future when they need to do upgrades.
They are expecting this investment to pay off as they move to 2021.2 later this Fall. During the upgrade preparation they took some time to clean up reports on the system, review their over 300 dashboards and look for ways to reduce the complexity and number of customizations that had accumulated over the years.
They then did very thorough testing in a Pilot Kinetics environment. The testing used formal test plans with each department supporting the effort. They ran all reports and validated cross-functional capabilities of the new system using a copy of their production 10.x data. As they found issues, they created solutions and documented them.
They found that many of their reports didn’t fully convert over to the new Kinetics format. So, they reached out to get external SSRS support for conversion of these reports. They were able to resolve any conversion issues with their dashboard reports using internal resources. This typically involved compiling them in the new environment and then saving them in the new Kinetic format.
They also set up two separate menu structures, one with a Kinetic look and one with the Classic look. This allowed users who were hesitant to use the new Kinetic menus some time to adjust. They estimate that they will transition all users away from the Classic view over a nine-month period.
Epicor Kinetic Upgrade Process
The actual upgrade was done on the 3rd weekend of the month to avoid month-end closing activities. They pre-arranged for necessary on-call support and proceeded with the upgrade. It finished and they applied any solutions they had discovered during testing. Then they tested the overall functionality using some pre-determined tests. No glaring issues were found so they were able to release the environment to users.
They found that the minor kinks that remained took them about 30-45 days to resolve. They were pleased that there were no issues with user permissions after the upgrade or with printing and labels.
Here are a few Epicor Kinetic upgrade suggestions from the customer perspective:
Make sure you have the necessary licenses for your Pilot environment,
Don’t forget the testing of integrations that access or share data with Epicor,
Make sure that department heads sign off on the test plans, so they understand any gaps/concerns, and
Consider using the developed Test Plans to next create new End User Documentation.
In the end, they felt like the Epicor Kinetic upgrade was more of a UI and programming change than a lot of new features for their users.
One More Thing
In retrospect they had one other recommendation that I found valuable.
Since the new Kinetics Users Interface (UI) allows all Forms to be displayed in any popular browser, there is an important decision to make. The decision is whether to allow Users to access Epicor from personal devices (tablets, home computers, phones). Most companies will have security concerns that will affect this decision. In their case, they decided to not allow users to use personal devices for accessing the Epicor application.
Overall, this customer was pleased with the upgraded UI. They found that the new UI is cleaner and more modern. Plus, the users like the ability to sort, and rearrange columns on the screen. In version 2021.1 some of the features they needed still required them to use the Classic interface, but the new release 2021.2 seems to have resolved these problems.
For now, the largest issue has been helping users make the transition to the new User Interface. Some users felt it was a steep learning curve for them and others didn’t. It confirmed for them that users rarely like change particularly in the screens they use each day. That’s why it is important to give them time to experiment and view the new interface well before any upgrade.
The I.T. department didn’t see any speed issues with processing under the new release. And they are looking forward to not having to install/upgrade clients on user laptops/desktops as they fully use the new Kinetics interface.
I hope this quick look at one client’s experience will provide some background for your decision-making and spur some questions that your organization needs to explore. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us.
Ask the Author about your Kinetic ERP Project
Rob McMillen is a Senior Project Manager with EstesGroup. He has worked in the manufacturing industry for over 30 years supporting multiple implementations of new ERP systems and leading projects. Because his mom was an English teacher, he grew up with a love of writing. Combined with his working experience, he has written articles for LinkedIn and User Groups, and has published numerous blog posts. He is also a co-author of a book on technology and working collaboratively. He currently lives in the DFW area. Ask Rob a question now by clicking here to visit our “Ask An Expert” page.
Do you need help with keeping your ERP project kinetic?
For 18 years, EstesGroup has helped manufacturers and distributors implement, optimize, and support their ERP systems. With veteran consultants highly skilled in both the old Epicor ERP versions and in the latest version, our upgrade service is all-inclusive. Our Cloud ERP experts can help you understand everything from data migration to upgrade tools. We support companies on every version of Epicor, so whether you want to maintain your old system or upgrade to the latest release, you’ll find everything you need to make your application studio shine.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
SubQuery1 is the top-level query. It pulls data from the PartBin and PlantWhse tables:
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:
SubQuery3 is also a Union subquery that returns data from the PODetail and PORel tables:
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:
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: