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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.

The Top 5 Benefits of an ERP System

The Top 5 Benefits of an ERP System

The Top 5 Benefits of an ERP System

As any business knows, the right technology is crucial to success. However, the process of vetting and selecting an ERP software is often a challenging one. Many Small and Medium Business Solutions (SMBS) for instance have yet to adopt a platform as many fear the unknown of what sort of disruption it may cause in their business processes. Yet with an attentive Business Process Review conducted by a seasoned ERP consulting implementation team who know how to fully leverage a platform such as Epicor ERP or Prophet 21, you will be in great hands to advance your business initiatives in a scalable way.

The question we hear most often from businesses is “Why should we migrate to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system?” Typically when we discuss this topic further with our prospective clients, the top concerns inspiring this question center around upfront costs, security, data clarity, and maintenance fees. Below, we discuss why you should consider making the move.

The Primary Benefits of an ERP System

1. Exponential ROI Benefits

According to an Epicor-Forrester collaborative study, organizations that deployed the Epicor ERP system for 3 years recognized a $9.3 million PV (present value) benefit. This number was calculated after subtracting the costs of the Epicor ERP implementation consulting. All in all, the ROI was 264%.

2. End-To-End Visibility Across The Organization

According to the Epicor-Forrester report, the most compelling financial benefit of the ERP deployment was realized through improved inventory and supply chain management. With the Epicor ERP software, you get a bird’s-eye view of inventory levels. Data is consolidated and shared from disparate sources, which facilitates improved employee collaboration and better decision-making, both of which lead to cost-effective product inventory levels. Businesses that leveraged Epicor ERP’s real-time data capabilities realized:

  • $4.4 million PV inventory benefits,
  • More than $65,000 PV supply chain management benefits,
  • 10% increase in inventory ordering accuracy,
  • 67% reduction in inventory counting efforts,
  • 5% improvement in buyer productivity,
  • $250,000 annual savings in rework reductions.

Improved data quality facilitates agility and enables businesses to identify new market opportunities. With real-time visibility, data is no longer held captive in siloed sources. Instead, it can be unleashed to extract insights that facilitate greater growth.

3. Strengthened Network Security

Today, cloud-based ERP solutions are popular because of their lower upfront costs. Unlike on-premise ERP solutions, cloud-based ERPs store data in virtual servers. This negates the need to maintain expensive equipment on-site and retain a dedicated IT staff.

Also, implementing expensive, time-consuming software updates become unnecessary with a cloud-based solution since all updates are done automatically. Such a platform also comes with powerful backup and disaster recovery features. Epicor ERP’s Watchdog ISS ensures the security of your databases and network infrastructure through:

  • Virus and spyware protection,
  • Automation of security updates,
  • Centralized backups of critical data,
  • Hacker detection/prevention,
  • Intrusion protection and deep packet inspection of network traffic,
  • Firewall updates and management.

According to the Epicor-Forrester report, businesses that replaced legacy systems with Epicor saved $800,000 in IT maintenance fees and infrastructure costs.

4. Easy Compliance With Regulatory Requirements

It’s no secret that non-compliance to privacy regulations results in alarmingly high costs. For example, businesses that commit infringements of any GDPR article may expect to pay between €2 to 4 million in fines. Similarly, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) infringements can result in crippling fines from between US $100 to $50,000 per violation. With Epicor ERP, businesses realized a $50,000 Pharmacovigilance (PV) compliance, risk, and governance benefit.

5. Increased Competitive Advantage Across The Global Marketplace

As the global marketplace evolves, businesses must leverage new tools to remain competitive. According to Gartner, augmented analytics represents the next wave of technology most likely to impact modern businesses. To that end, Epicor ERP’s latest global version equips businesses with critical real-time insights to drive powerful operational benefits. For example:

  • The Epicor Virtual Agent can use its AI capabilities to adjust inventory and production levels based on market conditions and historical data,
  • Epicor IoT integration with the Microsoft Azure IoT framework allows businesses to extract data from IoT sensors and gain insights to support more agile business processes,
  • With Epicor DocStar, common fields in forms are automatically filled. The reduced need for manual processing will result in accelerated sales and fulfillment velocity.

As the above reveals, Epicor ERP provides crucial benefits for businesses across the global stage. At its heart, the Epicor ERP platform represents 45 years of continued commitment to business growth and success.

 

EstesGroup stands ready to help your business realize operational efficiencies and solve existing infrastructure challenges. Contact us today for more information!

Ransomware, a Good Way to Stop Your Business. Or Maybe Not?

Ransomware, a Good Way to Stop Your Business. Or Maybe Not?

I just need to get this off my chest – so bear with me. 

First off, I’ve been doing sysadmin work for scores of years now, and the idea of backups, business continuity, and “bad guys” isn’t new.  However, this week it was brought to a new and interesting head for one small business. 

Rewind the clock two years and we were in the conversation with this business about where they host their “golden nuggets” of their business, what servers did what, where were the users, how did the backups fare, state of malware, web filtering protection, etc.  You know, all the “normal” stuff any qualified IT provider would ask a prospective customer. “We’re fine” was the answer – they had an in-house IT guru watching all that stuff.  However, they did make a (wise) decision to host their ERP solution with us.  

Last week, our monitoring went suspiciously quiet, it looked like the company went on vacation, or they had fallen asleep at the keyboard. I reached out to the company, and was informed that they had been the victim of the latest ransomware attack, and all their documents were encrypted and unusable. Thankfully, since they were hosting their ERP system with us, that was safe from the attack. All their ERP data was secure but everything else they controlled was locked. Backups proved unreliable or inaccessible, so the ransom was paid. The company got lucky and the recovery key worked and they got their documents back.  What they didn’t get back was Active Directory.  Ouch!  Nobody could login, even though their documents were back on a server, nobody could access them. 

A week later, a new domain, and new profiles on everyone’s desktop, new shares, new permissions, and they were back up and running. After everything, the company is back to doing business, but it could have been a much worse situation. A critical note: the ERP system was never at risk and no ERP data was lost since that was safely stored elsewhere. 

Moral of the story: 

  • Test your backups. Not just documents, but the whole server.  How long does it take to get it back? It should not be more than a few hours.
  • Just because you can restore files doesn’t mean you can go out, buy a new server and restore your existing workload onto a new server. 
  • If you can’t live without it, and you don’t have the in-house expertise to manage it – outsource it! Let the pros handle the critical IT while you do what you do best: making essential product and making your business grow. 

 

Contact Us to learn whether Hosting is right for your company.  

Learn more about EstesGroup’s EstesCloud Hosted ERP here…