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Epicor Optimization Success for Remote Teams

Epicor Optimization Success for Remote Teams

Rock the House by Refining Your Epicor Application

 

After completing an implementation, you can continue fine-tuning your processes to gain maximum return on investment through Epicor optimization.  If your team is working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the temptation might be to stall ERP optimization (Phase 2) steps.  Such delay has been the pattern among Epicor customers over the years.  But home can be the ideal environment for managing these Phase 2 actions.  Epicor optimization activities that improve the utility of your Epicor application can be accomplished via remote work.

 

ERP Optimization

 

 

Improve While in the Home Office Groove

 

By necessity, companies implement ERP with an initial push for the system’s essentials, as to go live in a timely manner with the intention of circling back and further elaborating on the ERP application as time allows.  When implementing Epicor as a customer, I once had a teammate bemoan this delay in the implementation of a certain element of functionality: “If we push it to Phase 2, it’ll never happen!”  The functionality was, to his dismay, postponed until after cutover.

 

His concern was not unfounded: Epicor ERP implementation Phase 2 activities frequently get set aside in lieu of the daily grind.

 

You might similarly worry that if you push tasks to Phase 2, they’ll never happen.  This is a good reason to be proactive in your Epicor optimization.  The remote organizational structures necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 give you time to focus on process improvement, leading you toward improved on-site ERP functionality in the future.  Remote Epicor ERP optimization allows for time to be spent knocking off Phase 2 projects that will help you make better use of your application.

 

Let’s look at some of the optimization steps that your ERP team can do from home:

  • Data Cleansing: It’s not uncommon for a company to look back at its data and note the places where data discipline has been found wanting or where additional data could be updated to improve downstream processes.  Use remote ERP team time to query the data out of your system, massage it in Excel, and run updates through Epicor’s Data Management Tool (DMT).  DMT is a great tool when it comes to data cleansing—use it to your advantage.
  • Improving visibility across the enterprise: This is a great time to improve visibility to processes and data throughout the organization.  This is necessary in any organization, but even more so when the workforce is distributed.  Dashboards provide the simple kind of visibility that streamlines business processes and improves communication across your company.  But dashboards take a certain amount of quiet time to work through the underlying queries and predict how users might look to access the data.  Remote work gives your team those quiet hours.  Similarly, a well-done SSRS report can save time and effort, and remote work assignments to create these reports can help bridge communication gaps.
  • Enhancing existing modules: It’s not uncommon for customers to buy more functionality than they actually use at cutover.  Each functional area within an organization likely has some application capabilities that have gone underutilized, and Epicor optimization often begins with revisiting usage. You can also introduce or refine existing supplier and customer price lists, or even dust off the Buyer’s Workbench or the Fulfillment Workbench and put them to use in relating supply and demand.
  • Implementing new modules: Beyond utilizing existing licenses, some customers may take this time to implement new modules entirely.  Case Entry and Field Service are customer-facing modules that often get pushed to Phase 2 and are comparatively easy to do when implemented on top of an existing system configuration.  Project Entry is another module that can provide benefits when implemented on top of a live system.  Similarly, a customer looking to implement product configurator, to further enhance order entry and engineering processes, recently reached out to me, and remote consulting was a good way to address this Epicor optimization step.
  • Bullet-Proofing: Once a company is live, a number of places where processes can be tightened up always surface, such as missing steps or missing data that can create downstream troubles.  Optimization of your Epicor application can be remotely organized to help with tightening up or bullet-proofing existing processes.  Extended properties are a simple way to make fields mandatory or read-only, which may be of use in a given situation.  Similarly, a few well-placed BPMs can assist in providing extra validation or automation as needed. Cumulatively, these simple fixes go a long way in standardizing a given process.

Do More Than Float While Working Remote

 

Even if you’ve always used on-site consulting for your ERP implementation, you can, with a simple click into a web conferencing tool, have an expert consultant helping you with your Epicor optimization.  Sure, face-to-face meetings can be the ideal way for you to manage your team, and we’re all excited to eventually get our projects back in the office, but many Epicor ERP optimization project activities can be completed through remote consulting.

 

Looking for ways to use remote work time to improve your existing Epicor ERP implementation?  In addition to Managed IT, Epicor ERP, Prophet 21 and CyberSecurity services, EstesGroup also specializes in providing remote consulting assistance.  We’ve been working remotely with customers for years, providing the necessary assistance to knock off optimization tasks that help companies make better use of their Epicor application.

 

 

 

Learn a few more ways to use remote consulting to boost your team’s performance by checking out our blog on COVID-19 Remote Consulting Strategies in Epicor ERP.

COVID-19 Remote Consulting Strategies in Epicor ERP

COVID-19 Remote Consulting Strategies in Epicor ERP

Why Remote ERP Implementation is Essential

 

Remote ERP consulting in Epicor has become a necessary service for manufacturing and distribution industries during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Coronavirus quarantines and stay-at-home decrees have disbanded ERP project teams.  Separated from traditional onsite ERP consulting paradigms, office culture has shifted into remote consulting platforms in order to support the manufacturers and distributors critical to our nation.  With travel advisories in place, remote consulting has quickly become the new normal, and ERP consultants are empowering teams to meet the challenges of implementing ERP using remote technology and methodology.  Fortunately, remote ERP consulting strategies can be quickly and securely deployed to keep your Epicor ERP implementation projects successful throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

 

 

How to Effectively Enable Remote Work

 

Working with our customers over the past few weeks, we’ve used our team’s experience to come up with a few recommendations for remote ERP consulting and ERP project management:

 

  • Leverage Technology: Software providers have spent decades developing products that enable remote activities.  Go beyond basic connectivity and familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of your web conferencing tool of choice, such as Zoom, WebEx, or GoToMeeting.  Record sessions and look for ways to make file sharing and communication easier: SharePoint, Teams, OneNote, etc.  And if a remote engagement is on the horizon, work with your IT staff ahead of time to make sure everyone has requisite access.
  • Bring in remote expertise: As consultants, who by necessity have to connect to one of many types of projectors, screens, and presentation architectures, we naturally become quite adept at this process, bringing with us a toolbox of adaptors to connect to this or that technology.  In the remote world, we similarly need to master the skills of remote connectivity: VPN, Citrix, RDP, etc.  These communication modes work to bring clients and consultants effectively together, keeping an ERP implementation on schedule.
  • Modularize assistance: As COVID-19 disrupts traditional business culture across the manufacturing and distribution industries, moving key workers into home offices, Epicor ERP implementation projects demand adaptable technology and adaptable teamwork.  Remote consulting strategies that help to create ultimate flexibility for IT projects can bring success to your ERP implementations, even from your living room, by breaking up consulting into segments specific to particular individual needs.  Clients can optimize the increased flexibility of a consultant’s remote work schedule by using technology to enhance communication and productivity.
  • Master the help-homework-help cycle: Related to the above steps, look to leverage the modular approach by scheduling incremental sessions.  In this more intensive cycle, a consultant can provide instruction on a given topic with a customer, then allow a period of time between sessions for the customer team member to perform independent work before picking up with the next session.  The key here is getting to a good point at the end of a session such that homework can be assigned, with the customer not only responsible for the next steps, but also well-equipped with the knowledge necessary to be successful.
  • Keep your team connected: Communication becomes paramount during times of remote activity.  In these circumstances, consultants need to increasingly serve as the glue between team members.  Questions that don’t get asked are rarely answered, so this is a good time to get people asking questions.  In the absence of traditional project structures, individual team members might need more direction from their Epicor ERP consultants.  Customers working remotely are not only in need of consulting assistance but are also in need of increased project management.

 

When the Home Office Becomes Your Conference Room

 

Epicor ERP consultants are remotely managing teams to keep manufacturing and distribution projects successful throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.  With travel down and customers closing their doors to consultants who have been implementing ERP onsite, project teams might find themselves in an unfamiliar work architecture.  The shift to remote work environments brings challenges to ERP implementation teams and their consultants.  The coronavirus outlook for the upcoming weeks and months means the dependency on remote communication is only set to increase, making remote ERP consulting a necessity.  This will change the way that Epicor ERP consultants ply their trade for a while, but it won’t limit the success of ERP implementations.

 

Remote consulting strategies abound to assist customers in their remote business environments, and consultants more than ever need to be facilitators first and consultants second as we help manufacturing and distribution companies through the coronavirus disruption.  It’s a time for Epicor ERP project teams to be assertive, with consultants and team leaders providing direction, organization, communication and encouragement, not only though our application expertise, but also through the soft skills that we bring as part of our value proposition, keeping to our mission of Epicor ERP implementation success.

 

Looking for ways to enable remote work for your team?  Contact EstesGroup to learn more about our Managed IT, Epicor ERP, Prophet 21 and CyberSecurity services.  Stay well, be safe, and talk to us about the future of your business.

 

 

 

Looking for more information on Project Management to help keep your Epicor ERP Implementation moving forward? Check out our blog on: The Unique Family Dynamics of a Successful ERP Implementation.

In-House Hosting vs. Cloud Based Hosting

In-House Hosting vs. Cloud Based Hosting

If you’ve recently decided to implement an ERP system like Epicor ERP at your company, you have a couple of options for where to deploy the system. You can either have it hosted on your in-house server or it can be hosted on a cloud server. Here is a look at each of these options.

 

In-House Servers

In-house servers are a more traditional route to providing the software your team needs to get its job done. The server is physically located at your place of business. Some of the reasons why this is still the best answer for many companies include:

  • You maintain complete control of the server. You are not reliant on the cloud for your security, but rather are able to find a custom solution to handle your security needs on your own
  • You can upgrade your system any time you’d like without paying additional hosting fees
  • All of your critical data remains in-house, with no access by third-parties

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to in-house hosting as well, including:

  • A large upfront investment in hardware and infrastructure
  • Space for your server room is required, as well as IT support
  • You have no guarantees regarding uptime or the time it takes to recover your data
  • You are responsible for backing up your data and you may be more likely to suffer data loss if there is a disaster in your area

 

Hosted Cloud Servers

Hosted cloud services allow you the opportunity to have access to the same software you would use with an in-house server, yet the software is accessible in the cloud. The benefits of host-based cloud services include:

  • The ability for your staff to access files even when they’re out of the office. Cloud-based services are available anywhere where there is an internet connection
  • You avoid the stress and expense of maintaining an in-house server, including the expense of having IT staff
  • Your host provides security, a disaster recovery plan, and an uptime guarantee
  • Hosted cloud services are scalable, meaning you pay for the services you need, when you need them, rather than shelling out money for services you don’t need simply because they were available in your big-box solution
  • You can initiate backup and restore processes from anywhere. Data on the cloud can be backed up in intervals as short as every fifteen minutes, which minimizes the potential for data loss
  • Your host will provide upgrades when they become available, ensuring that you’re using the newest technology available

The downside to hosted cloud servers includes:

  • The inability to access your files if your internet is down
  • You must pay a monthly hosting fee for the service
  • You may be limited on the amount of data and files you can store due to storage availability and cost

 

Which is Better?

Which solution is best for you depends greatly on the size of your business, the potential for growth, and the industry you’re in. If you have limited funds for investing in IT staff or infrastructure, or you don’t want the stress of maintaining your own server, a hosted cloud server may be the ideal solution for you. However, if you wish to be in control of your server, or if you deal with a lot of sensitive information — such as customer health records or financial data — and don’t feel comfortable with allowing a third-party to access that information, you may fare better with hosted services in-house.

 

Conclusion

EstesGroup is pleased to provide expert assistance in determining whether your business is best served by hosted cloud services or hosted services on your in-house server. Contact us today so we can begin exploring your options with you.

 

Download our Epicor ERP On-Premise (In-House) vs Cloud Hosted Calculator by filling out the form.

 

The Unique Family Dynamics of a Successful ERP Implementation

The Unique Family Dynamics of a Successful ERP Implementation

Tolstoy famously remarked that “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Reflecting on Tolstoy’s own relations and on the kindred lives of the characters in his novels, I’ve often wondered if Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations are like families, and whether such categorical statements could be similarly applied to successful and unsuccessful families of projects.  While every project has its own unique dynamics, I’m obliged to believe that roughly the inverse of Tolstoy’s statement is the case—that each happy ERP implementation isn’t alike, but rather is successful in its own way.

 

That is, I’ve seen successful ERP implementation projects that have differed from one another in surprisingly significant ways.  As such, it might be best to review successful ERP projects individually and try to understand what it is among them that made them successful.  Anyone can wax eloquent on the generic platitudes that lead to a successful implementation, but in practice, when the time comes to make tradeoffs between platitudes, it’s helpful to know how companies work through challenges and finally arrive at successful implementations.

 

One project that we recently completed fit such a mold.  While not free of obstacles, the end-product was immensely successful.  A number of key factors led to the ERP implementation’s success:

  • All of the team members were engaged and onboard.  Getting the team to buy into the project’s mission, and actively support that mission, was never a problem.
  • The project team did a large amount of their own end-to-end testing.  Unlike some projects, where the team only tests while the consultants are onsite, the team verified their system configuration and business processes whenever possible, leading to a rock-solid business process at cutover.
  • The team took ownership of issue resolution.  The team dug in, tried things out, and came to solutions.  This served to greatly shorten certain phases of the project.
  • The team made decisions quickly, collaboratively.  The project was rarely, if ever, waiting on a key decision, and nobody on the team could have been accused of analysis paralysis.
  • The team took responsibility for their roles and did the work on time, and on schedule.  Schedule attainment was a high priority, and the team put the necessary work in to make things happen.
  • The team displayed a culture of respect, staying respectful during difficult conversations and decisions.  The stresses involved in an ERP project can at times encourage dysfunctional or toxic behaviors, but this team treated each other with a high degree of respect, even when working through the toughest decisions.
  • The team’s project management was of the highest capabilities, displaying excellent collaboration and communication with the core team, and with the EstesGroup team as well.

The net result was a successful ERP implementation project on-time and on-budget, with the expected level of system capabilities.  The team experienced a clean and quiet cutover, and quickly stabilized.  Within a short time, the company had moved onto managing daily operations and planning for the future.

Every project has its wayward sheep, be they executive sponsorship, excessive customization, inadequate team investment, or challenges with data conversion.  No project ever checks all the happy boxes. 

 

But in spite of challenges, the best companies still manage to successfully implement their enterprise systems, keeping their team engaged, committed, and dependable—regardless of all the unique twists in their project’s DNA. 

 

Are you ready for your company to create its own exceptional implementation story? 

Come talk to us, and we’ll share some of the greatest success stories of ERP history—prosperous implementations similar in success, yet nuanced in achievement—stories that can inspire your own project to be a story with a happy ending.

The Company You Keep: Deploying Company-Specific Customizations in a Multi-Company Environment

The Company You Keep: Deploying Company-Specific Customizations in a Multi-Company Environment

Setup is crucial for a successful company-specific customization in an Epicor ERP multi-company environment.

Maintenance of the Epicor ERP menu in multi-company environments can be unintuitive, and many customers come to us looking to better understand its capabilities and its limitations.  One area of special frustration is the deployment of customizations in multi-company environments.  Deploying company-specific customizations—especially since ERP version 10.1.600—has been a point of confusion.  Fortunately, once the steps are understood, the act of getting your customizations to the menu becomes less ambiguous, even if a little cumbersome.

 

When creating customizations, you can develop one that is specific to a single company or one that applies to all companies.  Let’s assume you were making a customization of the Epicor ERP Part Maintenance form.  For instance, perhaps you thought the Part Maintenance form would look better with a big green spot:

Let’s also assume you wanted the big-green-spot version deployed only to the company you were working in (in the case below, this would be the “EPIC06” company).  As such, you’ve saved the customization by not setting the “All Companies” flag and allowing the company to remain the one you’ve been working in.  This creates what is called a “company-specific customization”:

Now, deploying this customization to the standard “System” menu is not possible—the customization is not available when you click the “Customization” drop-down in Menu Maintenance:

To deploy the customization to the currently company without affecting all companies, navigate to the “Actions” menu in Menu Maintenance and select “Copy to Current Company”:

When this is done, the application makes a copy of the system menu.  In doing so, the new menu carries over a number of values from the original menu: the Menu ID, the Name, the Security ID, the Parent Menu ID, and even the Order Sequence is carried over.  But a number of key fields change.  The duplicate menu is no longer a System Menu, as it now has a Module type of “UD.”  The menu no longer applies to All Companies, as the owning company is now the company in which it was deployed. 

Most importantly, the “Customization” drop-down now allows you to select the customization that you’ve created:

When deploying a company-specific customization in a multi-company environment, the above steps allow you to create a menu deployment that will replace the system-based menu deployment for the company in question.  To demonstrate this, log out of the application and back in. 

 

As you can see, only a single menu node for the Part form is displayed:

And when this single node is selected, the customized version of the Part form that was previously created (big green spot and all) is displayed:

If, for some reason, you need to revert to the base “System” menu, you can always delete the duplicated menu from Menu Maintenance.

 

The ability to manage company-specific customizations in a multi-company environment is of great importance, especially in environments where companies have vastly differing business requirements and require highly-specific form deployments.  Such capabilities will keep your requirements aligned with your environments and keep you user base in good company.

Have any feedback or questions about custimizations? Let us know.

Why on Earth Do I Need an ERP System?

Why on Earth Do I Need an ERP System?

My boss once said to me that nobody wakes up in the morning and cries “I’m going to implement an ERP system!”  

 

It’s a fair point.  Apart from a few business process masochists that I’ve met over the years, few people out there really go out of their way to implement an enterprise system.  Enterprise systems are costly and they drain a lot of time and energy from key resources within a company.  They can be generally…painful to implement.  And yet I’ve seen so many companies make the move to enterprise systemand benefit greatly from the transition, in spite of the challenges.  This raises a question that I’ve had more than a few prospects ask me: “Why on earth do I need an ERP system?”

 

Pundits have long noted that the “E” in “ERP” is the most important of the three letters.  The value ian ERP system comes iits applicability to the entire enterprise and not just to a few selective functions within the organization.  And while ERP has been around now for many decades, there continues to be ample opportunity for better enterprise-level integration among companies.  Quite often, the “why” of ERP comes in a quick analysis of a Company’s current-state application architecture. 

 

With many of the customers that I’ve helped migrate to Epicor’s ERP platform, I’ve observed a current state application map to include one or more of the following:

  • The utilization of stand-alone financial modules such as QuickBooks for financial management.  Such systems are good for counting waves, but not for making them.
  • The use of manufacturing oriented work order systems for managing the shop floor.  Job Shop-oriented systems can be effective in defining product structures and working them through the shop-floor, but are less effective in managing the selling and shipping of manufactured products anin comparing the resultant revenues to costs.
  • 1980s-era ERP systems, with one or more bolt-ons for managing product configuration and/or the shop floor.  First-generation ERP systems are generally solid when it comes to inventory management, and basic order-to-cash cycles, but are limited in many areas, and are a burden to maintain.
  • Paper-based systems for inventory management & time card entry—some customers are still pounding the paper when it comes to basic warehouse and shop floor transactions.
  • Varieties of macro-enhanced spreadsheets for doing one of many things.  Spreadsheets are a great gap-filling tool, but their limitations quickly become apparent as multi-user capabilities and large data requirements become a necessity.

 

Based on the above, iis no surprise that companies come to us looking to implement Epicor because their current state is a drafty quilt of poorly-stitched and poorly-patched legacy applications, homegrown boondoggles, and siloed modules.  Customers come to us believing that there must be a better answer, anin most cases there is.  The problem is, most companies took a lifetime to grow into their patchy ponchos.  At certain early stages in their relative existence, most companies can get away with the above scattershot array of systemand pseudo-systems.  But these same systems become hindrances as the company looks to scale up, expand its offerings, ramp up its output, or better integrate with customers, suppliers or best-of-breed applications.  As these challenges become clear, the “why” of ERP begins to take shape.

 

Our work as Epicor partners quite often has to do with explaining the “why” of ERP.  My own “why” came to me many years ago.  At the time, I was still a customer and still quite naive regarding the ERP space.  Working on a process-improvement project with my company’s Vice President of IT, I asked him point blank whether our recent ERP implementation had been a success.  “Yes!” he replied, emphatically.  “Why?” I responded.  I was a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt at the time and was practicing my “5-Whys” methodology.  I only needed one of them, for his answer changed the way I’ve seen enterprise systems ever since.  By implementing an ERP system, we were laying the foundation for everything that was to come.  In our case it was configurability—we were an engineer-to-order company, living ian increasingly configure-to-order market, anneeded to make moves toward configurability before our old methodologies priced us out of that market.  By implementing an ERP system, we set in place the building blocks for product configurabilityand our subsequent initiatives took these building blocks and reshaped the way the company did business.  Fifteen years anan ERP system later, my old company is still successfully competing iits target markets, proffering configured products, andoing so profitably.

 

Now every company owns its own specific point in time, and faces its own set of unique challenges, as it tries to grow and thrive in changing markets.  I’ve seen a lot of good reasons for moving away from a patchwork of solutions to a more integrated and comprehensive system.  My own story may resonate with some, or there may be other stories that better answer the question as to why a company might make the move to an enterprise system.  This is all to say that there are a lot of reasons for implementing an ERP system.  And everyone here at the EstesGroup would love to hear your story.  Anif you don’t think you have a reason for implementing ERP, we’d love to talk to you about that as well.

 

Have a question for our consultants? Trying to determine if your company needs an ERP system?