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10 Internal Questions You Absolutely Need To Ask For A Successful ERP Search

10 Internal Questions You Absolutely Need To Ask For A Successful ERP Search

Internal Planning is Key to Forming ERP Search Questions 

Let’s face it, many articles have been written about companies “Outgrowing QuickBooks” or “Signs you need an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system”. But what those articles don’t usually talk about is what you can do to prep your team internally for an ERP software system. This is a comprehensive sales, finance, and operations system. As such, planning comes into play. Unfortunately, “planning” is one of those words that tends to make people groan. They know it means more work, lots of discussions, and loss of time. However, asking detailed internal ERP search questions is paramount to a successful ERP evaluation and implementation.

 

Would a military general or combat veteran go into battle without a plan? There is a reason that ERP implementation rooms are nicknamed “War Rooms.” First, leaders storm through strategy. Then, heavy system testing is done and current company practices come into question.

 

What are some of the right internal ERP search questions to ask for planning purposes? Questions like system design, usability, industry specific functionality, cost, and implementation assistance are just some aspects to consider when looking for an ERP system. I look around on the web, and I find a lot of system questions written by software vendors, but not a lot of internal company questions to ask or considerations that need to be discussed. Having talked and worked with many, many companies over the years during their ERP searches, I wanted to give some examples of planning areas and questions for companies to prep internally.

 

10 Internal ERP Search Questions to Get the Project Planning Started

  1. What does my company need and want to accomplish with an ERP System?
    1. Accessibility throughout departments
    2. Financial reporting
    3. Time frame for evaluation purchase, deployment phases/locations, and full usability
  2. What are the challenges of my company’s current business software? Why is it no longer meeting the needs of my company? Look at this from a department level:
    1. Production challenges
    2. Services challenges
    3. Finance challenges
    4. Executive/Owner(s) challenges
    5. Sales & Marketing challenges
    6. Purchasing challenges
    7. the Warehouse(s) challenges
    8. Research & Development challenges (if applicable)
    9. Human Resources challenges (if required as part of an ERP search)
  3. Is my company fully utilizing current systems in place. Is the current software potentially sufficient with added training? (I suggest talking with an expert consultant of that software if it’s an ERP system. Through this view, you can see if the current software works for your needs. Then, you can focus on ERP user training.)
  4. Does my company have specific compliance or auditing conditions? Examples: Medical CFR, Aerospace & DoD DCAA, Medical Records HIPAA, Internal export FCPA, Electronic Underwriters UL, Federal Airlines FAA, Finance SOX etc.
    1. What are the key aspects of the compliance in relation to software? What data needs to be captured?
    2. Why do I need an ERP to do in order for my company to meet the compliance? Reporting?
  5. Do we need a SaaS (cloud-based) solution, on-premise (due to data security concerns), or a hybrid cloud (hosted) system? Hybrid cloud platforms combine the best of on-premise with the best of pure cloud.
  6. How do you plan to care for your ERP system? Do we have IT staff in-house to support an on-premise solution, or is there an outsourced IT firm we can work with to help?
  7. Do we need a system that will work for 3 years, 5 years, or 10 years?
    1. How important is scalability?
    2. What modules would you like to add to your core functions as your company grows?
    3. Do you have multi-company or multi-site requirements?
  8. What are the key functions we need the ERP system to do? Look at this on a department level:
    1. What does production need?
    2. What does services need?
    3. What does finance need?
    4. What do the executives and owners need?
    5. What does sales & marketing need?
    6. What does purchasing need?
    7. What does the warehouse need?
    8. What does research and development need?
    9. What does human resources need, especially for the ERP search?
  9. What are the “nice to have” or “wanted” functions beyond the base needed requirements?
  10. What is a realistic budget and ROI for a new ERP system?
    1. Licensing budget (per month spending for cloud or for fully purchased or financed system)
    2. Implementation budget (research firms say to estimate 1 to 2 times the licensing budget for implementation costs)
    3. Software maintenance, etc. should also be factored into a budget
    4. Hardware system requirement budget (especially important for on-premise software which basically requires a data center in-house)
    5. Additional personnel / staffing requirements to support a new system
    6. Expected ROI?

 

Is your company looking for an ERP system?

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EDI Not Working? Try Picking Up the Phone. Communication is Key to Problem Solving.

EDI Not Working? Try Picking Up the Phone. Communication is Key to Problem Solving.

One of the greatest challenges to having a successful Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) process will be determined by the data being sent to you and what your system will do with that data. In many cases, translation tables can be placed that will autocorrect incorrect data. But what if that data is not just incorrect, but corrupted or just plain invalid? Even though Electronic Data Interchange services are designed to be an automated process, manual intervention is still required to ensure the integrity of the data being received. If this data is not found and managed at the beginning of the EDI process, issues will occur that could derail the EDI process right from the start. To enhance success a proactive approach is required. This is where communication with your partners becomes critical. With constant communication with partners, customers and suppliers, your EDI setup will have fewer issues, and the ones that do occur will be much easier to manage and correct.

 

One instance that comes to mind was with a customer who sent daily and ten-day forecasts every workday. These forecasts contained firm orders that needed to be filled correctly each week. For weeks, an incorrect quantity was being shipped from our business to this customer. After multiple weeks went by, our inside sales rep finally brought the issue to my attention that either the incorrect order quantity was shipped out, or that the inside sales rep had to call the customer for confirmation of the quantity needed before shipment. Until this matter was corrected, our customer was certain that it was an issue on our side and we were to blame for their inability to produce their required products to their customers, causing our customer a great deal of problems.

 

After being able to review the raw EDI files data it was determined that the issue was arising on our customer’s end and not ours. Their ERP Electronic Data Interchange services system’s materials requirements were not set up with the correct required quantities and in turn produced an incorrect sales order on our end. Once the partner was able to get this corrected in their system, we started to see the correct quantities in orders and the partner started to see the correct quantities received.

 

This just shows that even though EDI is an automated process, manual interaction is needed throughout to proactively handle issues and provide effective EDI solutions and management. Without it, an issue like this could have taken even longer to discover and even longer still to get the proper research and solution in place. These sorts of issues erode trust with the EDI process even when the process is working as intended. With incorrect or corrupt system data, the EDI process, no matter how well the EDI mapping setup was done, will falter and fail to give the results needed to run your business the way you need it to. This is not the type of reflection you should want your partners receiving back from your digital mirror.

 

Having issues with your EDI management or interested in getting an EDI solution for your business? Want to chat with the author? Contact us and learn about our Electronic Data Interchange services today.

What is EDI? Be Careful, It’s Your Company’s Digital Mirror

What is EDI? Be Careful, It’s Your Company’s Digital Mirror

What is EDI?

 

What is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)? In a much simpler five words or less definition, it means “data in, data out”. EDI is a toolset that interacts with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) business software system that takes data coming into the EDI system, processes that data in the ERP, and sends that data back out to the originator (like a customer). You would think that a process which can be explained in only four words would be pretty simple, right? And it can be, if the proper care and attention is given to the EDI’s initial setup and further EDI strategy.
 
If a customer’s purchase order sent via EDI is being processed and has an incorrect date, or is completely missing a cell’s data, a simple mapping adjustment can be made to correct these sorts of issues. How can you ensure that your customer’s purchase orders are processed into your system correctly, if that attention to detail is not done? How can you be sure the pricing on your sales orders and the invoices that are generated are correct if your price lists are not correctly setup in your ERP system?
 
The EDI strategy and process is a digital mirror of how your system is currently setup and will reflect your strengths and faults back to your customers and suppliers. Think of EDI as a linked chain and your business is a boat being pulled along by a truck, which represents your customers or suppliers.
If all the links are solid, that truck will pull that boat forever always getting to the desired destination, but if there is a broken link, the chain will start to fail and eventually break, allowing that truck to continue driving, but it leaves the boat behind stranded in the middle of nowhere. To avoid being stranded and left behind, make sure that your chain is strong and durable by taking time setting up the ERP data properly, the EDI mapping, and running many tests before going live with customers. With the proper care and attention to your EDI solution, it will not matter how large that boat or truck gets. Your chain will not break; it can handle the pressure. Now ask yourself this, is your chain strong and durable enough? Or could there be some broken links you may or may not even know about?

 

 

Still not clear on the answer to the question “What is electronic data interchange?” Ask us anything, we would love to chat.

 

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How You Can Strengthen Your Network and Security with Passwords

How You Can Strengthen Your Network and Security with Passwords

We’ve all done it, at least once. Some of us maybe more than a couple of times, and I know there’s few that are repeat offenders. You know what I’m talking about – the bane of the security admin’s existence – default passwords.

Those are the usernames and passwords that come with every device. Even in this day and age, most systems don’t REQUIRE you to change the credentials that get you system admin rights. The bad guys know that and use it to their advantage.

When most of our business and personal systems are protected with just a name and a basic password (and maybe a trusted network range?), that’s pretty easy pickings for someone with a brute force tool or a sniffer to find out your secrets. And once the bad guys have your credentials, then what? Well after that is when the real dangers begin.

When’s the last time you changed your voicemail PIN from 0000? Perhaps your home router is still admin/password even though the FBI issued a warning for everyone to change it? And how many ERP users keep system admin “manager” around with the default password of… you guessed it. And those accounts open the door wide to anyone wanting to get in; good and bad.

If you have systems exposed to the bad guys (and we all do!) then this post is for you. STOP IT! Even if you told me “Well, none of those systems are internet exposed”, I’d ask “where are the bad actors in your network?”. If you said “outside the firewall”, I’d respond with something like “I dare you to create a share/folder called “payroll” and see how long some curious netizen (aka employee) fell into that folder looking for something juicy.

Imagine splaying your entire infrastructure wide open to someone who just happened to know that Netgear uses admin/password for all their routers? Or that your company name is NOT a good password?

So what’s a concerned system admin gonna do? It’s easy in theory and hard in practice. Here are some digital security tips that will create a stronger password security strategy:

1. Change the default username and change the default password.

2. Start using stronger passwords, not P@ssw0rd. We recommend pass phrases, or a sentence that you can remember but the bag guys will have a hard time guessing.

3. Enable account lockout so that if “x” bad passwords are guessed in a row, the account is locked FOREVER (not reset after 10 minutes, thank you Microsoft). Helpdesk notification of such a lockout will put you in the know.

4. Remove admin credentials from being used on untrusted networks. Yes, your users are untrusted! Create a management VLAN, or a specific set of IP’s that can RDP, or shutdown the access from outside devices altogether.

5. Enable multi-factor authentication. This can easily be enabled in Office 365 and Active Directory, and if your devices leverage that directory then they automatically get that 2FA protection as well.

6. Hack yourself! Run a network scanner, or hire an outsourced IT firm to investigate for you, find the unsecured devices and fix them before the bad guys do.

7. Let us help you! We can run an ethical scan IT Assessment Detective scan of your systems, attempt to break into your systems, and give you a full reporting of your IT weaknesses. As “they say” knowledge is power.

So, don’t let your next phone call to the EstesGroup be “help me, I got hacked!” And let our managed IT services company help you run your business better with a strong password security strategy – before the bad guys teach you a lesson.

Interested in Outsourcing your IT? Or have a question on data security? Ask us, we would love to chat.

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An Independent Look at the Epicor 10.2 User Experience

Are you ready for an Epicor 10 Demo?

Epicor ERP is a powerful platform with thousands of manufacturers using it to run their businesses. With power often comes complexity, and that’s been the case with earlier versions of the system. There is no perfect ERP system, and the ever-changing balance between functionality and usability is a constant series of trade-offs. Epicor ERP Version 9 often required multiple servers, performance tuning was critical, it had a Progress data base layer, even when running on SQL, and the user experience was challenging. A personalized Epicor ERP demo is the perfect beginning to your Epicor consulting journey.

 

Epicor invested $25M in Epicor ERP Version 10, developing a completely new platform. The system was written and optimized for Microsoft .NET Framework and the Microsoft Data Platform, including Microsoft SQL Server. Users will experience a big increase in performance (over Epicor 9) and find the system easier to manage.

 

What you’ll see in your Epicor ERP demo

According to Epicor, here are the Top 5 user ERP system experience enhancements for Epicor ERP 10.

  •  Responsiveness – Performance has doubled and scalability has quadrupled across virtually all aspects of the system. ERP 10 is much more hardware efficient, which dramatically lowers hardware costs.
  • Simplicity – ERP 10 services are hosted purely using Microsoft Windows® components, including Internet Information Services (IIS) and Microsoft .NET. An all new management architecture makes deployment and migration much easier.
  • Mobility – Touch-enabled devices are now supported for a new navigation system and a re-architected Epicor Web Access (EWA) browser client.
  • Collaboration – Epicor Social Enterprise is included with ERP 10 and is a new way for ERP users to interact with each other and with ERP data.
  • Choice – ERP 10 can be deployed on premise, hosted, or access via subscription. It is also much easier to create a high-performing virtualized infrastructure.

The current version, Epicor 10.2, introduces some really exciting capabilities that you’ll see in your ERP demo, including Active Home Page and Epicor Data Discovery (EDD). Here are some highlights:

  • Developed using the latest web standard, which makes the system mobile-friendly and responsive.
  • Manufacturing role-based KPIs, examples: Percentage of Jobs without Scrap or Non Conformance, Manufacturing Hours and Indirect Hours.
  • Finance and Supply Chain role-based KPIs, including: Price Variance, Open PO Count and Amount, and Negative Inventory Items/Out of Stock.
  • Customization capabilities to modify out-of-the-box KPIs or create entirely new ones based on existing or newly created BAQs.

 

Epicor Consulting: How can we help?

What do you want to see? Our Epicor consultants will show it to you. The best way to get an in-depth look at the new Epicor 10.2 functionality is to experience it firsthand! Our Epicor consulting team can give you a demo of the full system, or one of our ERP specialists can walk you through a specific module. We can help you with project planning, including Epicor budgeting so you experience increased revenue at every step of your ERP upgrade. Your personalized Epicor ERP demo can even show you the newest managed ERP hosting capabilities.

 

All Licensed Up with No Place to Code – Making the Most of your Service Connect Investment

During the rush to select, acquire, and implement an ERP application, companies often license modules that they do not end up utilizing by the time cutover rolls around. Once the booming, buzzing confusion of going live has diminished, companies frequently review their suite of modules to determine whether some second phase enhancements can be implemented, both to benefit their organizations and to make use of the money spent on licensure. Epicor’s Service Connect application often falls into this second-phase category. It is not uncommon for Epicor customers, fresh off an implementation, to come to us and ask, “So we own Service Connect—now what is it good for?”

Service Connect is a multi-purpose tool in which a user can automate business processes and create application integrations to aid a business in its day-to-day processing. By using documents as its primary interface, Service Connect can convert data from one application into a form another application (or internal process) can understand. It uses industry-wide technologies to exchange information between applications or business processes based on data mappings and data manipulation.

A business may benefit from the use of Service Connect for many reasons. Some reasons include:

  • To automate an internal process by removing the human interaction from a process. For example, a company might use Service Connect to automate the entry of a Sales Order, based on an external trigger, or have the lines of a Sales Order automatically ship when the Sales Order has been closed.
  • To have one application pass information to another application, in order for the second application to process the data. An example of this would be billing information from a project tracking application to an accounting application. This would allow Accounting to bill for services rendered on the project.
  • To respond back to an application with updated data after a business process has been completed. This would keep two unrelated applications in sync. For example, if an item were to be requested to be shipped in an inventory application, the data would be passed to a shipping application to be shipped, then once shipped the tracking number would be returned to the inventory application.
  • To send emails requesting tasks be executed before another step of a business process can be completed. An example of this would be sending an email to a Purchase Order manager to approve a Purchase Order over a specific amount.
  • To assign tasks to be completed to users, to help manage the flow of a business process. By using Service Connect Task Monitor, instead of emails, a task can be assigned to a specific user and the business process halted until the user completes the task. This could be used for setting up project service billings approvals or Personal Time Off requests.

The automation and orchestration capabilities of Service Connect improve processes within the Epicor application and improve interactions between the Epicor application and other applications.  Customers in need of such capabilities find that by dusting off their Service Connect license and connecting with some skilled partners, they can extend the scope of their enterprise application and yield tangible business benefits in so doing.  The Estes Group has a wide breadth and depth of experience in Service Connect, and has been helping customers to get the most out of their investment.  Looking to take your enterprise application to the next level?  Come check us out—we’d love to talk with you and see what’s possible.