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Why Cloud ERP is Right for Your Business

Why Cloud ERP is Right for Your Business

Cloud-based computing allows users to access their software applications on shared computing resources, thus avoiding the costs of managing and maintaining their own data center. It’s an ideal option for those who need guaranteed up-time and want the most up-to-date software applications available. More and more business is turning to cloud ERP software as well, as it provides the anywhere-access of all cloud applications and features a lower up-front investment.

What Is Cloud ERP Software?

ERP software integrates your business processes to foster automated workflows and provides you a full view of all of the various aspects of your business that make it work, including sales, finance, and production. The only major difference between cloud ERP software and on-premises ERP software is the physical location of the software. However, if that physical location is at the vendor’s data center and made available to you through the internet, you are able to access the software from anywhere.

The History of Cloud ERP

ERP software is now entering the phase where data is flowing freely across all aspects of a business and providing the ease and precision of automated workflows. It wasn’t always that way, however.

In the early 1960s, the original ERP was the pioneer computer system installed at a manufacturing plant in order to track materials. Two decades ago, business solutions were maintained on space-eating machines on premises of all types of businesses. ERP software was sold in large, cumbersome packages with questionable functionality.

Customizing that software required hiring someone to configure it through millions of lines of software code. If you had a problem, it would take a team of engineers to figure it out.

There were a number of issues that necessitated the progress of ERP to the cloud. The biggest of those issues is that the expense of the data center, the IT team, space for the computers, the computers themselves, the code writer and the engineers caused the powerful benefits of ERP software to be little more than a dream to everyone but the largest and most profitable companies. Further, the processes of inputting and accessing the information left little room for alternatives, and noncompliance with procedures was high as frustrated employees refused to conform to the system’s process changes.

Benefits of Cloud ERP

In addition to providing a cost-effective solution for businesses of all sizes, without the demands of on-premises deployment, cloud ERP offers many other benefits, such as:

  • No upfront software licensing fees
  • The vendor handles all software updates and upgrades, meaning you and your employees always have access to the latest versio
  • Access to your data wherever you are
  • You pay only for the cloud services you need and you’re easily able to add more as your business grows or your needs change
  • A fixed monthly rate for the software that you rely on
  • Data is backed up regularly and there is a disaster recovery plan in place
  • Your vendor provides data security and your vulnerability to attacks is diminished, as your data is not located on premises
  • A limited amount of time is needed for implementation, meaning you can take advantage of the benefits of your cloud ERP a lot sooner

Why Cloud ERP Is Right for Your Business

Is your business in the process of growing and, therefore, requires a scalable solution? Do you have limited funds to invest in hardware, software, and IT personnel? Do you want guaranteed up-time and the knowledge that your data is recoverable in the event of a disaster? Do you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly how much you’re going to pay each month for the business technology you require? Are you ready to start using your ERP system as soon as possible? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then cloud-based ERP is a great solution for you. Contact us for more information.

Cloud vs On Premise ERP

Cloud vs On Premise ERP

In-House Hosting Compared to Cloud-Based Hosting

When you hear about Cloud vs on premise ERP hosting, the conversation is about the server infrastructure on which your software applications run, and your data is stored. Both on premise (or in-house) and cloud-based options have benefits and downsides, so choosing between the two often comes down to costs, how much uptime you need, and the other specific needs of your company at this time.

What is In-House Hosting and Cloud-Based Hosting?

In-house hosting means that you house your infrastructure on-premises at your company. You have absolute control over your data, including how it is protected. Cloud-based hosting involves having your applications and data stored on a public or private cloud that is accessible to you over the internet.

The Benefits & Challenges In-House Hosting

Pros:

  • Physical control over your data and backup
  • Access to your data is not reliant on an internet connection

Cons:

  • Requires an investment in hardware and infrastructure, which depreciates rapidly — often within about four years
  • Requires dedicated space at your business, as well as a dedicated IT support team
  • Disaster recovery is difficult and there are no guarantees that your data can be recovered

The Benefits & Challenges of Cloud ERP

Pros:

  • A great option for small to medium-sized businesses who cannot afford the large investment needed to develop, maintain, and secure their data
  • Scalable, meaning that your solution grows along with your business
  • Backup, security, restoration, and support are all provided for you
  • You can back up your data as often as you’d like
  • You can access your data anywhere you are, as long as you have an internet connection

Cons:

  • You can’t access your data without an internet connection
  • You’re limited by internet speeds
  • Although your data is backed up, restoring large amounts of data may take some time, even with a fast internet connection

In Conclusion

When it comes to Cloud vs on premise ERP, there are good and bad points to either option. Cloud-based hosting is a good alternative for small to medium-sized businesses who wish to focus on all of the services that make the business great while resting in the knowledge that the data is monitored and secure. Cloud solutions remove the need to focus attention, time, money, and staff resources on building and maintaining your own personal data center that may “feel” safe, but actually comes with no guarantees.

For more information on our Cloud based hosting services – contact EstesGroup today.

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.

Historical Transactional Data Conversion: Prevent the Past from Haunting Your Present

Historical Transactional Data Conversion: Prevent the Past from Haunting Your Present

“I give [this watch] to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” – William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

 

Living and writing at a time where the legends of the Civil War and the fables of the Reconstruction were still part of living memory, William Faulkner’s work wrestled with the ideas of history, memory, mythology and heritage, and the challenges of one’s immediate existence amid such a monumental backdrop. 

 

The notion of contending with one’s history extends far beyond the literary world, and takes a place of eminence within the world of enterprise system implementation.  Almost without exception, I find myself with customers at the onset of Epicor implementation projects working through options regarding how best to address the management of the historical transactional data from their legacy system.  Customers find themselves in a paradoxical situation: customers want to move forward with a new system that can meet their upcoming strategic goals and initiatives, but they also want to be able to reference the rich history that was built up as part of their legacy system.  It is as if they wish to rip all the lathe, plasterwork, and wainscoting off their old home and slap it onto the walls of their new dwelling.  But as any carpenter would attest, the fit of old materials is never perfect.  Often, is it downright shoddy. 

Given the challenges of layering the old with the new, I often work with customers to help them understand the perils and promises of their data desires.  I try to find a way to satisfy the company’s history without compromising the new installation in question.  The fundamental challenge has to do with whether a specific company can bring over historical transactional data from their legacy system.  Transactional data may include Quotes, Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, Work Orders, Shipments, Receipts, Invoices, etc.  In going over the options, there are normally three ways in which a company can reference its historical data as part of a new Epicor implementation:

 

  • The transactional data can be converted using Epicor’s Data Management Tool (DMT).  That is, the legacy data can be manipulated to fit into a format conducive to the setup of the Epicor environment and loaded into the database, as if it were a live transaction load.
  • The transactional data can be loaded into Epicor user-defined (UD) tables and references from within the application using BAQs and Dashboards.
  • The legacy database can be connected to the Epicor application using external data source configurations, and then to queries using external BAQs.

 

The primary concern has to do with addressing the desire to actually convert legacy transactional data into Epicor’s database without compromising the historicity of the data itself, and without gumming up the system with a lot of noise.  It’s hard enough to correctly convert live records, much less to convert the mountains of ancient data.  From my own experience and from the experiences of my coworkers, we do not consider it a recommended best practice to convert historical transactional data into Epicor’s standard table structure when implementing Epicor ERP.   The following reasons underlay this recommendation:

  • When implementing or reimplementing, it is often the case that the base setup data values change, in terms of their naming conventions, quantity, values, etc.  This can make the transformation of legacy data labor-intensive and error-prone. 
  • ERP data is by its nature integrated.  Loading transactional records can trigger unexpected effects.  For instance, should an Epicor customer elect to import the Purchase Orders from the legacy environment, the system would plan for these POs to be received and alter system planning accordingly.  To avoid this, these records would need to be closed, but the data in question would therefore fail to reflect the original legacy data, in which Purchase Orders were closed through the receiving/invoicing process at a much earlier date. 
  • To load transactional data in the form in which it exists in the legacy environment, the entire collection of related records needs to be loaded.  For instance, if a customer wished to have purchase order history, to have representative data in the Epicor environment, the related PO Receipt and AP Invoice records would also need to be included.  This is, among other things, a tremendous amount of work. 
  • In some cases, Epicor’s business logic updates fields and does not allow these to be user-updated.  For instance, Sales Order or Purchase Order lines are system-set and not user-modifiable.  This makes it difficult to load historical data that accurately reflects the legacy data: what was PO Line 2 in the legacy system may get converted to PO Line 1, as it was the first line to be loaded.
  • Transactions have general ledger implications.  Loading transactions can thus have unexpected consequences that affect WIP, inventory, and their related GL accounts.  For instance, should the user import Purchase Order Receipt records, the transaction date would not by default reflect the actual date in which the transaction occurred.  Should the customer wish to date the transactions into the past, the necessary fiscal periods would need to be created.  If the load does not include all transactions, the General Ledger would be inaccurate, and would require effort to reconcile and correct. 

 

An alternative to performing a DMT table load into the standard tables is the utilization of Epicor UD tables to store this data.  This avoids many of the perils above, but requires the implementing customer to construct querying tools (BAQs and Dashboards) to retrieve and present this information.  Moreover, I’ve found that the actual usage of historical data tends to be less than anticipated.  In many cases, we have found that the actual usage of this data tends to decrease significantly shortly after cutover.  I recently had one customer go to great lengths to convert data to UD tables and construct the necessary querying tools to view the data—only to forget almost entirely about these capabilities amidst the booming buzzing confusion of cutover.  By the time they had settled down, they already had built enough living history into their database to move forward, and the UD tables were all but forgotten.

 

A final option is to access the legacy database using external data source connections and query it using external BAQs.  This option is normally the simplest of the three, as it saves the time of initially converting the data, though it similarly requires the construction of the necessary querying tools to receive and present the data.  Depending on the age and format of the legacy database, the external data source option might not be feasible.  As part of some implementations, I have seen customers convert their legacy databases into SQL format at cutover, for the express purpose of querying their ad hoc history via external BAQs.  In other cases, I’ve seen customers fall back to the UD table option when other options were seen as too labor-intensive.   

 

As such, given the other options, I recommend that the conversion of data at cutover be limited to master file and open transactions, and utilize external data source connections to the legacy database, and/or UD table conversion, in order to gain access to historical legacy data.

 

When it comes to the art of crafting prose, William Faulkner forgot more than most of us remember.  Elsewhere in his works, Faulkner wrote that “[t]he past is not dead. It’s not even past.”  In a similar vein, the attempt to bring old historical data into a new ERP system is itself an act of rewriting history.  And in doing so, one sacrifices accuracy for availability.  Also, when implementing a new system, a company quickly learns that the high cost of retaining history is something they would soon like to forget.  As a company builds a new history in its new system, the old history becomes less and less valuable, with such surprising rapidity that the old soon takes its place at the back of the database, taking up space and gathering data dust, like a childhood diary left on a top shelf and forgotten. 

 

Do you have questions about the Data Management Tool or best practices for data conversion? Or do you want to talk with the author about anything Epicor related? Let us know.

Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Recession-Proof Investments: Cloud Computing and the Refrigerator of the Future

We’ve long been told that necessity is the mother of invention, but when necessity is out of a sense of privation, reactions vary. Born and raised into the world of residential and commercial construction, I’ve felt the motion sickness that results from the ups and downs of the building cycle well into my earliest memories. And I‘ve been in business long enough to have stomached enough down-cycles to observe how different companies react to these changing economic climates.

 

As the current bull market gets slowly walked to the slaughterhouse, managers at all levels begin to wonder what it will mean for their own place within America’s larger business landscape. There is always the search for the investments that could be considered “recession-proof”—investments that will yield value during the current crisis, but would also serve as a foundation for future success. Simple cost-cutting is rarely such an investment—it yields short-term savings, but often at the expense of long-term objectives: I’ve never seen a hiker make it to the top of a peak faster by trimming down the soles of his boots.

 

That is, the most reactionary of companies looks to simple knee-jerk reactions to trim costs in order to get in line with shrinking revenues: eliminating optional programs or reducing essential services to their bare minimum. More innovative companies utilize this newfound necessity as a means of transforming their current state by getting ahead of the competition.

 

At the consumer level, the most well-known example of this phenomenon was the advent of the refrigerator. It was the Great Depression, of all things, that led to the broad use of the refrigerator by America’s large middle class. While it was, at the time, a significant capital expenditure for any given household, the refrigerator allowed families to save time and money: the ability to extend the life of the day’s victuals allows families to reduce waste, and thus cut costs, while also allowing them to expend the physical labor that would have been spent on the next meal on other activities. This rendered the old-fashioned ice box obsolete. In this way, times of downturn often have a way of surfacing new innovations—products that outpace their competitors suddenly emerge because the competitive landscape has reduced the viability of their less-innovative competitors.

 

Similarly, as America hit rock bottom in the late 2000s and early 2010s, cloud computing grew rapidly at the same time, as companies looked for ways to reduce cost and risk, while scaling up for the future. In this way, cloud computing may very well serve to become the coming recession’s refrigerator—the tool that will allow individuals and companies to strategically equip themselves not only for the hard times ahead, but also for the good times thereafter.

 

For Epicor customers, cloud computing surfaces as an opportunity to avoid the costs of replacing outdated hardware. Also, by moving installations into hosted environments, customers are able to eliminate the cooling costs required to keep their stacks on ice. Estes Group’s Epicor Cloud Managed Hosting offering (ECHO) is ready-by-design to protect and carry your company through the down-cycles and get you back into the saddle and riding the next bull market to better times. Looking to recession-proof your business? Please reach out to our team, and we’ll help you innovate a cloud computing strategy that will keep you ahead of the storm.

 

Are you looking for cloud computing options, or have questions on how we can help make your systems more flexible? Contact Us today or let us know below.

Why Implement an ERP System?

Why Implement an ERP System?

Why Implement an ERP System?

Implementing ERP SystemIf you asked your IT personnel what the advantages of implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, in all likelihood, they’d tell you that it could be revolutionary or absolutely destructive depending on their past experiences. The key to making it revolutionary revolves around partnering with experienced ERP consultants who know how to implement and manage an ERP system on-time, on-budget, within the scope described to you during the initial phases of the implementation.

Below you will find some of the reasons why implementing an ERP system like Epicor ERP, can be revolutionary.

Increased Productivity

Implementing an ERP system streamlines and automates your business processes improving productivity and organization. This dramatically reduces the time spent on business tasks such as manual entry, tracking time sheets, generating reports, and the time spent trying to fix problems related to using multiple platforms across multiple departments. Because an ERP aggregates data into a single database, you are able to tie information across every department to gain meaningful insights in real-time and automate reporting so that your company’s internal resources can be leveraged for analyzing that information rather than collecting it.

Happier Customers

With the advent of online shopping and services, competition has never been stiffer for businesses. If you don’t keep your customers happy, another company will. Customers who are able to get their questions answered quickly and without much effort are happier customers. This is why implementing an ERP system is important. It not only provides you with instant access to a customer’s ordering history and information, but it also allows greater interaction between you and your suppliers as well as you and your customers. By using the Customer Relations Management (CRM) , customer data can be accessed across business operations, so you’re not only able to better handle the needs and concerns of your customers, but also use the information gleaned from customer order history to refine your sales strategy and improve lead generation.

Increased Mobility

Implement ERP SystemWork is no longer just something that takes place in an office. Today, people are working while on vacation. They’re working from home. They’re working anywhere that life takes them. The Epicor ERP system is mobile-friendly, meaning that you and your employees are able to access important information and continue to contribute in even the most remote places in the world (so long as they have an internet connection, that is).

Regulatory Compliance

Still wondering why you should implement an ERP system at your company? An important factor in a powerful ERP solution is that it can track regulations within your industry and alert you when there are regulatory changes, ensuring that you stay in compliance without stress. While this is helpful at the local level, it is particularly important for businesses with a global reach and varying regulations in the countries where they do business. Additionally, the ERP’s auditing tools provide documentation and generate reports so that you can easily show your compliance to any governing authority that asks.

Reduces Disconnect

Multiple platforms can provide conflicting information and often result in single departments working in a bubble, even though they may be largely dependent upon other departments for important information. This not only creates a disconnect between your departments, but can also result in decreased productivity and time-consuming errors. An ERP system places all of your departments in the same room, with the same access to information and a built-in accuracy that cannot be found in traditional business methods.

Scalability

Businesses require customization within their systems. They grow, they shrink, and their needs change. Epicor ERP provides you with that level of flexibility by incorporating lean manufacturing tools that enable operational best practices.

Not to mention, your ERP solution should scale as well. The team of software engineers at Epicor are constantly updating their systems to address new problems that never existed before, so that all of their customers receive exactly what they need.

Customized Reporting

Reports are necessary for a variety of reasons, and your ERP system uses information stored in the centralized database to generate professional reports for any business reason you may have. Your employees can easily access analytics data needed for the report without help from IT.

These are just some of the benefits of an ERP system. For more information about how you can implement an ERP within your company, contact EstesGroup today!

Do you have a specific question or interested in learning more about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems? Let us know.