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ERP Culture & Digital Transformation

ERP Culture & Digital Transformation

Who says you have no culture?

Eric Kimberling and the team at Third Stage Consulting serve as thought leaders in the digital transformation community, helping customers through software selection, change management, system implementation, and the integration of technology and business. Their “Transformation Ground Control” podcast series engages the larger business and technology communities to address various topics related to business strategy and digital transformation. Recently, I was able to sit down with Eric and discuss a topic that had become quite important to me in the field of ERP implementation — ERP culture.

ERP Culture Businessman using a computer to document management for ERP. Enterprise resource planning concept.

What is ERP culture?

In our discussion, I defined “ERP Culture” as the set of attributes or characteristics of the company’s overall business culture that support or inhibit the successful implementation of an ERP system. Over the course of an hour, we covered several of these attributes and how they apply to a given implementation.

This topic formed organically enough — I had recently worked with two companies that had gone live on an ERP system within a similar timeframe. The two companies had a number of striking similarities:

  • The two companies were of similar size.
  • Both companies were privately-owned, family businesses, headquartered in the same state.
  • The firms both worked in roughly-analogous market environments, providing products of comparable complexity.
  • Both companies were coming from antiquated, 40-year-old business systems.
  • They were implementing the same ERP system and using the same system integrator.
  • The companies had similar project budgets and similar core team contributions.

The two companies had so many similarities, and yet one implementation was a ringing success and the other was a frustrating mess. In trying to perform forensics to understand just why one implementation was successful and the other a failure, I began to wonder whether the differences between the two projects were due to the significant differences in the cultural makeup of the two companies. 

Having once worked in the area of Lean Six Sigma, the idea of “Lean Culture” had been well documented — the notion that a successful implementation of Lean methodologies was highly contingent on the culture of the organization. I tend to think that the same applies to the ERP community: that the success of an ERP implementation rests heavily on the cultural foundation of the implementing organization. That said, what are the elements that comprise the company’s cultural foundation?

ERP Culture & Digital Transformation

Clarity of Focus

Successful companies are constantly separating wheat from chaff — separating key initiatives from tertiary activities. They tend to be good at taking initiatives to their successful conclusion. They are good at avoiding distractions. In the words of Jack Welsh, they “pick a direction and implement like hell.” And when and ERP project occurs, they becomes the primary focus of the organization, and other initiatives get put on hold. Unsuccessful companies tend to be distracted by shiny objects and this distractibility infects their implementation projects.

Attention to Detail

Successful companies are process-oriented — they understand the importance of specific activities and are not prone to “skipping steps.” At times they are methodical to a fault. This is especially the case when you compare them to “cowboy companies” — companies that play it “fast and loose” in their daily business lives. In the execution of an ERP system, these tendencies quickly become evident, especially when implementing ERP functionality such as labor time entry and inventory management. Successful companies take great pride in the cleanliness of the data involved in these processes. Less successful companies tend to let their data devolve into chaos. And you can never successfully implement ERP from a foundation of chaotic data. 

Preparation

Initiatives such as an ERP implementation are not unfamiliar to successful companies, as such companies tend to plan out initiatives before they do them. They understand the value of a plan and its execution. Unsuccessful companies operate like a headless chicken — lots of activity, but very little direction. The value of such a tendency is self-evident: companies that don’t plan to get to a certain point rarely get there. 

Empowerment

The term “empowerment” generally elicits eye rolls in the manufacturing community, as it sounds like something you’d hear in a mandatory diversity training seminar. If I were to give the term a more rigorous operational definition, I would describe it as the tendency to clearly define individuals’ areas of responsibility, making them accountable for clear outcomes in those areas, and providing them the resources and autonomy to achieve those outcomes. Unsuccessful companies tend to have a domineering management style, where a few “alpha dogs” fight over decisions, while the rest of the organization resembles an army of chronically depressed lemmings. A fundamental tenant of implementing Lean is the ability for teams to define the processes in their areas of responsibility. Such is the same in an ERP system, where configuration decisions can greatly impact process performance. Such a monumental task requires a team of individuals that have the responsibility, accountability, and support to see it though. 

Proactivity

By nature, successful companies are proactive — they are perpetually looking to understand how the chess game plays out. The tendency to look ahead imbues the sometimes tedious steps of an ERP project with a degree of value that is easy to neglect. Such companies tend to be quick to solicit and receive feedback. Proactive cultures also tend to be quick to have honest conversations of the state of a project, when things are not going as planned. Such candor is not a mere complaining — it is the willingness to be accountable for uncomfortable circumstances. The opposite of these tendencies is passivity. In a passive organization, individuals might have trepidation or concerns about a given issue, but lack the proactive tendencies to get ahead of these concerns and bring them to the surface

Sense of Ownership

Ownership is the flipside of empowerment. Highly-empowered employees tend to develop a strong sense of ownership. They are not looking to have things done for them — they’re looking to understand the intended outcomes of a given task and take ownership of them. These are the best kinds of team members to have on an ERP project, as they are self-motivated and are constantly looking to move the ball forward. It’s a question of push vs pull:  I’ve had project managers on projects where the team had a lack of ownership, describe the initiative as “pulling teeth” — they were perpetually having to drag the team along. This is generally an indication of ownership issues. 

Cross-Functionality

Companies vary considerably in the degree to which they encourage their employees to understand the overall company processes, outside of their individual silos. Successful companies tend to have a greater degree of cross-functionality then their unsuccessful counterparts. They recognize the value of understanding an organization from front to back.  As a result, their team members are not content to just understand their own small areas of the map — they want to know the whole thing. One of the great outcomes of an ERP project is the level of cross-functionality that it affords.

Cultural Tendencies & ERP Success

An early mentor of mine once told me that an implementation is equal parts technical and cultural, and if you neglect the cultural, you’ll never achieve the technical endpoint that you desire. My life in ERP has proven this maxim time and again. ERP projects are never easy. But if a company lacks some basic cultural tendencies to support a successful implementation, they will find themselves struggling to achieve their lofty goals.

ROI of ERP: Software Money Games & Executive Moves

ROI of ERP: Software Money Games & Executive Moves

Once you calculate ROI (return on investment) of ERP software and determine that a new system will result in new profitability, the most important step appears: your software selection decision. But who should make this final and most important decision about the future of your organization? 

Every business has a minimum expected return on investment (ROI) of ERP projects. They have some threshold that allows a potential investment, whether in software or another asset, to even be considered. It takes a balanced software project leadership team to determine if a vendor is providing an enterprise solution that will ultimately result in solid ROI. 

Imaginative visual of business people and financial firms staff. Concept of human resources, ROI of ERP, enterprise resource planning ERP and digital technology

Who are key players and who are “extras” in your ROI journey?

Software implementation team: 

An enterprise-level software implementation is complex and takes a strong pool of talent. ERP (Enterprise Resource Software) implementation poses high risk to your business if your team doesn’t execute projects with exactitude.

External stakeholders:

We live in an outsourcing world and third-party solutions build external networks of trustworthy stakeholders. Advisory boards and partnered firms will be affected by your software of choice, so be sure to entertain their insight in selection decisions. 

Fellow CEOs, CIOs, CXOs, and the like, might have nuanced experience that will give you valuable insight into how a new system will change your company culture. Deployment decisions can also affect external stakeholders. If you move to the cloud, will your new infrastructure support your third-party integrations?

Internal support and project management teams: 

Don’t simply play “follow the leader” when it comes to software management. Choose the talent that matches the task, and build a team that works well together. A complete software implementation can take years with all configurations and customizations in consideration and can significantly alter every aspect of your culture. Deploy a team that could handle any ERP deployment necessary, and your project will be a success. 

IT experts – internal or external:

EstesGroup assists clients on a daily basis with seemingly “simple” technology decisions. In the ever-changing cyber landscape of ever-increasing cybersecurity threats, it’s critical that the people informing your software project leadership team are highly skilled at both soft IT skills and “hard” hardware skills like cloud migration and data center relationship management. Tech-savvy consultants tend to be gifted at ROI calculations. They can help ensure that your initial investment results in cash flow.

The inclusion of IT experts is especially pressing in an increasingly cloud-centric world in which consumption-based modeling can save you thousands upon thousands of both dollars and hours. Make sure to not only consider current infrastructure needs, but also entertain how technology could change. Will the vendor alter your software and force change? Consider Epicor’s Prophet 21 new client architecture updates of 2021 as an example of vendor interference. 

Cloud experts and cloud migration experts:

Even if you choose an on-premise solution, it’s important to get a cloud migration analysis, assessment, and report. Make sure your software selection and implementation teams understand the differences between public cloud and private cloud deployments. Choose the best platform for your future needs, even if investments costs run higher than your ERP software budget had pencilled in. Project plans should adapt to new information. A few extra dollars now for a high rate of return later most likely won’t break your ROI formula.

Independent enterprise resource planning consultants:

It’s important to find someone who isn’t vested in the software vendor and can therefore give an impartial review of your business needs. Enterprise resource planning software firms are everywhere. Look for one with excellent customer relationships. Testimonials are your best bet for understanding the team members you’ll add by bringing in an IT or ERP consulting firm to help in your software selection process.

Who will complete your system analysis?

You and your software implementation team have analyzed the data and prepared your findings. Now you must make a presentation to your executives for a decision. Regardless of the findings in your analysis, the decision must be made at the executive level. They know this software acquisition is under consideration. Even if the return on investment is low, let the executives make the decision.

Their choice might be to ask for further analysis or more data and the analysis returns to your group. They could ask for some reduction in cost from the software providers or possibly a review of whether some costs could be deferred. At the end, they will let you know whether to request the final purchase documentation or to let your contacts at the software provider know you have chosen not to go forward.

Who will determine executive support?

This executive decision is probably required by the rules your business follows and only this group is authorized to make significant financial decisions. There are practical values, too. If you move on to acquire your software, there will be stresses on people and resources and resistance to change. Unless your executive team fully supports the changes required, you will not have the full support of others in departments and functions around your enterprise.

When you get the go-ahead from your executive team, more work is ahead of you and your team. Begin that work with some communication. Let your employees know the decision was made and tell what will begin to happen. You will start forming work teams. Your expected completion date is some approximate future time. 

Between now and then there is a rough outline of work to accomplish, and you know everyone will do their part because there are benefits for all. It can be helpful to make a list of those benefits.

Who will predict and measure ERP implementation success?

  • Is the software a good fit for your business?
  • Are your current business processes ready for change, or are you in need of a business process review?
  • If the software is complex, like Epicor Kinetic or Prophet 21, do you have an implementation plan that will guarantee good ROI?
  • Do you need legal advice to help you negotiate a solid contract with your software vendor?

Cold hard IT fact: In the current climate of Internet of Things (IoT), one of our contacts was hacked through his refrigerator. The ROI of ERP implementation can quickly diminish when ransomware infects your system.

Is your cybersecurity solution protecting your remote workers from their toasters? Sign up for a free technology assessment with Chris Koplar, our cloud & technology expert, today.

 

Total Cost or Total Loss: New Software, New Budget

Total Cost or Total Loss: New Software, New Budget

The cost of a software budget

Software selection can be a lot like car shopping. You do a few test drives. You talk to happy drivers. You ask for the price and then ask for a better deal. You begin to investigate how much this new vehicle is going to cost. One part of the software budget is easy: that it’s going to cost you something. You might already have a quote from your prospective supplier. You might have more than one quote addressing different ways to acquire your new software or ERP system. But how can you predict the total cost of ownership?

African Professional Chartered Accountant Woman Budgeting For Enterprise Software

Initial installation costs

One option for a new software or ERP system is an on-premises installation, complete with your own hardware to support the platform. In the past, this was the only option. A business would pay money at the beginning and obtain the software to install on a company-owned computer network. Ongoing costs would include financing the staff required to maintain support, manage future upgrades, and navigate bug fixes.

Many software acquisitions today use software as a service, or SaaS, as an option. This is commonly known as the cloud, but it is the most public of the multitudes of cloud-based solutions available to businesses. SaaS requires an agreement to pay a fee monthly for some years into the future. Software as a service usually involves low or no upfront cost since the profit for the vendor is based on long-term commitment to the software subscription. Salesforce is a common example of SaaS. Implementation costs are low to none, as the software and related data are loaded on a vendor-maintained system somewhere outside of your corporate walls. Initial costs vary for SaaS, but generally they’re the deal that opens the door for a more lucrative future for the vendor, rather than an early expenditure for the purchaser.

Project management costs

Acquiring and implementing enterprise-level software of any kind is a major project that can require several years to complete. One of the first considerations is that you’ll need someone to manage the overall project. Some companies will hire a specialist who has managed similar implementations successfully with the intention that the job will be limited to this one project. Others might choose to challenge an up-and-coming person already employed with the company to transition into a position of management of the ERP or software project. The intention here is often to develop that person’s skills and groom them for future promotions. There are other options, of course, but the bottomline is that managing your enterprise software project will cost money. Even using an already-employed person has a cost, as someone will need to be hired to perform that person’s job in the interim.

Most businesses will form a steering committee that will act as a board of directors over the project. The project manager and senior executives will fill this committee and help keep the project on track, leading to completion on a schedule that will most benefit the company.

Real costs will come from the defined implementation group. This group can be made from currently employed people, but all of them, while working on the project on a part-time or full-time basis, will need replacement personnel to fill previous roles. One or more software consultants from the software provider will have roles in this group, and all of them will cost money. Likely there will be specialist consultants required to fill roles and perform tasks when the business is in need of additional resources.

Data conversion costs

Extracting data from legacy systems and converting that data to the formats required by your new software is one of those specialist roles. Most of the cost will come early in the project, but some expenses will certainly be ongoing, as new needs and corrections are found during the testing of the new software.

The price of testing

Testing the new software to ensure all transactions and reports yield the results required actually work will be an ongoing cost throughout the project. Some tests will be completed and changes to processes or data will be made and then the test will be made again until the results are satisfactory. Set aside money and time for a testing phase. This is a critical step and should have substantial representation when you’re developing your software budget.

The savings found in training

Your users will need training so that they can work with the new software immediately. Whether you hire training specialists or develop your own training process, there will be an investment here that will result in a lot of savings and profitability for your company.

The budget for hardware and networks

Your new software has the most up-to-date technologies. Likely you will need upgrades to hardware and networks to enable those technologies. Your legacy hardware probably could use some upgrades anyway if your systems were bought years ago. To create an accurate budget for hardware and networks, add up all the incremental costs and make a time-phased list of those costs. You can now compare the costs in each time bucket against the benefits you expect in each time bucket.

Looking for help developing a software budget reflective of your company’s needs and capabilities?

Get a business process review today. Our experts can assist you with full-circle enterprise resource planning, managed ERP hosting, and managed technology. EstesGroup has helped manufacturers and distributors for more than 17 years, and we have specialists for everything from Epicor Kinetic to Prophet 21.

 

When Your Value Stream Begins With Software

When Your Value Stream Begins With Software

Stay in the Flow: Estimate Your Software Value Returns

Businesses are supposed to earn a profit. New software can quickly lead to debt. Before you commit to a new software acquisition, know if your new possibilities will also be new expenses. If one of your customers wants to open up new product channels and your legacy systems will not work to meet development needs, the software selection process begins. You want to keep the good relationship you have with your customer, and you also want the new business. If you’re a small business, this means exploring the greater world of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Software Value Stream Mobile Device Cloud ERP

Can you forecast the revenue stream for this incremental product or channel?

Your customer will have their estimate. You might also be able to increase sales to other customers with the capabilities the new software brings. Is there new business you can develop that did not exist yesterday? Maybe you can win some business from your competitors using your new capabilities. Incremental revenue will also have an incremental cost of sales. The additional margin is what you need to estimate for this analysis. Some of the new sales might replace existing orders and, if this is your case, subtract the forgone revenue associated.

All You Need to Know About the Savings Game

During the meetings you and your team hold for developing software requirements and talking in general terms about this new software, you will hear excited thoughts about sales orders moving faster into production. People will talk about how you can manage inventory much better. Another one might suggest that you could produce the same level of product with half the personnel in a department.

Some “software value stream” thoughts will make it to your software selection requirement list.

Here’s a potential thought stream surrounding value potential, especially when considering adding or upgrading an ERP software.

  • What can I do to enable a 25% reduction in inventory levels?
  • How can I ensure that all new sales orders will be in production or shipping within four hours of receipt of the order? Can I achieve this using only one support person to handle exceptions? Can I do this if I reduce staff to one from the current level of five people?

With new software, value can now be seen everywhere in your company’s future. Other potential savings are not requirements but remain as expectations. You know that you and your team will benefit from this software. Develop your list of savings and describe those savings in monetary terms divided into time phases. Remember that reducing your sales order support staff as described in your requirement only counts when you actually reduce staff.

Downstream From Your Software Value Stream: Ensuring Future Business

Often some of our software requirements enable us to meet new demands such as a new compliance regulation that our legacy system cannot support. When our new software allows us to meet that compliance, we cannot say we increased revenue or reduced cost. But we can continue in business so that there is a clear value. We could say the cost avoided is the loss of any margin that comes from an entire product line, so the loss would have been significant.

Your Total Value Stream

Evaluate all of your cost savings and incremental revenue and any other measurable improvement related to your new software. Lay these objective benefits out in time buckets over the next several years. You will probably be able to name other benefits that are not easily measurable. An easier user interface will be valuable to your employees, but there might not be any cost savings related. Keep your benefits simple and only use those that you can measure. When in the selection process and considering your software value stream, get your costs of acquisition and usage defined, so that you can compare these benefits directly with your costs later.

Book an hour with a software expert & find new value in your business.

Custom Cloud: Public Cloud Choices, SaaS Challenges

Custom Cloud: Public Cloud Choices, SaaS Challenges

What to Do When ERP Turns SaaS

I once sat in at a sales conference for an ERP vendor and listened as the CEO explained sales strategy as it related to their ongoing movement to the cloud. He described the situation as one of configurability vs. customizability. There were some customers who could live with and work within the configurable features and capabilities of the base application as they existed “out-of-the-box.” These customers would be targets for the vendors single-tenant and multi-tenant cloud (or SaaS) offerings. For the subset of customers whose needs extended beyond the system’s base configuration, and were in need of custom functionality and integrations, the vendor would still offer the traditional perpetual license. This would allow customers with more complex needs to deploy their applications on-premise or in a private cloud.

ERP Public Cloud Software as a Service

That was the CEO’s perspective. Customers have their own perspective. 

Configuration & Customization to Order

I recently talked with a customer who was struggling to implement the cloud version of an ERP to the vendor’s public cloud. The customer had purchased the software based on a set of assumptions, assumptions that were not instantiated by the vendor’s public cloud (or SaaS) platform. For one, the customer had come from a highly customized in-house suite of applications, and had a highly developer-centric approach to application implementation: if the app didn’t do what you need, customize it so that it would do what you need.

This approach is anathema to ERP implementations in general, and as a customer implementing on a public cloud SaaS platform, the shock was only intensified. The customization toolset to which they believed themselves to be privy to was less than advertised. And the documentation that explained just what was and was not possible was all but nonexistent. As the customer put it, his team’s vast C# skillset went largely underutilized.

Frustrations abounded on all fronts. Creating the necessary reports and labels, whether through Bartender or SSRS had been a disaster, as both the licensing and underlying architecture made for an untenable situation. Development and deployment of new solutions was cumbersome and time-consuming, as it required the vendor to perform the deployment every time a change was made. Similarly, the approved third-party applications that they had purchased in conjunction with the base package didn’t integrate as well as advertised, and they turned out to be even less configurable than the base ERP system.

Worse still, the customer was a user of the ERP’s product configurator module. This mode was itself a mini-development platform, but its features were largely server-side and thus greatly hampered in the vendor’s SaaS platform. The ability to use the module to look up and retrieve data, for instance, was greatly limited on the SaaS architecture, and the customer struggled to construct configurators to handle their complex product needs. Beyond functionality, the overall performance of the application was a drag. For many customers, the move from whip-fast, green-screen legacy platform to a contemporary ERP brings an unfortunate surprise when it comes to basic performance at a user interaction level. But in this case, it was magnified by the performance of the underlying cloud platform.

It was a disheartening conversation and I struggled to offer suggestions, outside of a reimplementation under a perpetual license model. The strange thing was that the customer did not really even come to me looking for help. He was really just venting his frustrations. He had learned enough of the application, its architecture, and the Service-as-a-Software (SaaS) deployment model to know that whatever help he might receive, he was constrained by the architecture to which he had bound himself. The cloud, whose name implies boundless opportunity and possibility, had become a crippling constraint.  

Different ERP systems provide different levels of configurability and customizability. Some systems offer a basic platform with robust tools to use to build custom functionality with which to tailor the base platform. Others provide extensive configurability, as to avoid the need for additional tailoring. The systems that best combine configurability and customizability capabilities stand the best chance of supporting the needs of complex organizations. Even still, the unbridled requirements of a given company can often exceed the combined abilities of an ERP system to handle it.

This may necessitate the need for third-party integrations, to atone for liabilities in the base system. It may require integration to a pre-existing home-grown system, to address the specific needs of the organization. In the most extreme of cases, customers may look to modify the system’s source code to make the system do what it needs. At some point, it should be considered whether such extreme measures justify the investment in ERP at all. Sometimes it is simply a cultural conundrum: if an organization is unable to bend some of its needs to the will of the application, they may truly be better off with a homegrown system, and live with the liabilities that come with such a decision. 

DRaaS for SaaS: When the Public Cloud Vendor Needs to Adapt

Beyond configurability and customizability, the questions of functionality and integration as they relate to an ERP system’s deployment model complicate matters further. The textbook cases regarding ERP customization nightmares from the 1990s all occurred within an on-premise context. The evolution of cloud computing had not yet thrown this new variable into the mix. But with the improvement of server processing power, the expansion of data centers, and the ability to pass larger and larger amounts of data over networks, ERP vendors were able to construct ERP applications that conformed to the public cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment model.

This shift toward a SaaS model allowed for highly available and highly scalable ERP solutions, whose subscription-based model provided ERP services for a monthly rate. But in doing so, the features and capabilities that these vendors offered were often scaled back significantly, when compared to their on-premise, perpetual license predecessors. Similarly, the integration capabilities of such platforms were drastically reduced to the web APIs that the ERP SaaS platform supported. This made the extension of the application’s capabilities much more difficult to achieve. For customers needing robust and expansive ERP functionality, as was the case with my customer above, the results of a mismatch between business requirements, customization tendencies, and deployment models can lead to a perfect storm of failure and disillusion. 

How does one avoid such a problematic situation? To begin with, there are some key questions to answer at the time of software selection before you’ve signed the dotted line:

  • Firstly, you need to understand the background of your own organization. Are you coming from a standard system or from a highly-tailored home-grown system? Are your business requirements of the variety that are commonly managed by a packaged system? Is the shift from your current system to the future system a small shuffle or a quantum leap?
  • You also need to understand your own expectations for the new system: are you trying to fit your organization into the system, or are you trying to tailor the system to fit your business? Do you see an ERP system as a packaged application or a custom development platform? Companies differ in this approach, and this greatly affects how they intend to use the system, so you need to be explicit about your expectations.
  • Finally, it should be noted that in many cases, a software’s public cloud version will differ markedly in functionality from its cloud cousin. As such, be careful to understand the version from which the Sales Engineers are basing their demonstrations. If you’re looking at a cloud deployment, ensure that the sales team demonstrates the application, as you will experience it as a customer, and not the products more robust, on-premise version.

Cloud services are as unique as business processes, and SaaS companies / SaaS, or public cloud, applications aren’t always as “internet connection, web browser, go” like they’re often advertised to be.

If your corporate office is mandating some form of “cloud” solution, understand that not all clouds are created equal. A system’s deployment mode is not as simple as choosing between an on-premise dinosaur and a public cloud popsicle. One significant alternative to the SaaS vs on-premise dichotomy is a private cloud deployment. Private cloud allows an ERP customer to install an on-premise, perpetual license version of the software, but in a virtual cloud environment. This allows customers to leverage the full set of capabilities, functionality, and integration opportunities that the software offers. For customers bent on heavy tailoring and customization, this allows them to leverage the full set of tools tailor the application to the customer’s specific needs. Further still, this model makes integrations much easier, as it provides access to the application and database server layers, as needed, which can greatly simplify integration architectures. 

Cloud Customs of Custom Code

A company’s implementation story should be neither a laughable comedy nor a disheartening tragedy. With planning and discretion, companies can formulate a successful narrative. Are you in search of an ERP story with a happy ending? Talk to us, and we’ll spin you a yarn.

You can consolidate everything from software licensing and updates to hardware inventory management with EstesCloud Managed Application Hosting. We offer custom solutions for web-based transactions. We might not be famous like Amazon web services, but our private cloud, hybrid cloud, IaaS, and PaaS solutions offer you the personal attention of world-class IT and ERP consultants.

ERP Deployment Options & Cloud Services

Infrastructure as a Service

Platform as a Service

Software as a Service

IT Management Models

In pure form, a public cloud deployment limits your control and troubles cybersecurity and compliance management efforts. Know your enterprise resource planning options before you deploy. The cloud should be one of your most powerful tools as you move your company forward. But cloud computing terminology is hazy, and cloud migration can be a step backward if the deployment model isn’t a good fit. Do you understand your cloud options? Our cloud ERP experts can walk you through the cloud spectrum and help you find the best platform for your business. When a complex ERP like Epicor’s Prophet 21 is going through client-server architecture changes, EstesGroup consultants are here to answer questions so that you can focus on your business, rather than on its supporting software.

Feeling the pressure to upgrade your ERP system to a new SaaS version? Know your options before you commit to the public cloud. Get a free demo and consultation with our cloud experts today.

A Business Automation Nation – How AI Helps Us Connect

A Business Automation Nation – How AI Helps Us Connect

The 2020 shift to remote work forced small to medium companies to increase business automation. To quickly become touch-less and contactless, owners used technology solutions managed by third-party suppliers to guide the new network of online business communication, home offices, and third-party vendors. As the world reopens, AI continues to help businesses network for future growth, especially for organizations leveraging ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

Business Automation Virtual AI Interface

Artificial intelligence (AI) is human, too

Do you trust your software? Do you trust the humans supporting your software? Consider everything that your ERP software and its underlying technology supports:

  • Internal and external communication
  • Supply chain management
  • Customer transactions and interactions
  • Software integrations
  • Sensitive data

Large companies and global enterprises shifted their cultures to automation long ago. Cloud-based solutions are not new. Successful management of company resources has depended on internal or external IT support since the dawn of the internet. Now it the time for small and medium-sized organizations to access the same business automation tools used by the world’s wealthiest companies.

“As a Service” Business Strategy: Automation as a Service

AI supports your company reputation and culture, so it’s often best to consider automation with experts guiding the process. Focus areas might include the following:

  • GENERAL: How to automate business processes
  • SPECIFIC: How to use data analysis to optimize insight
  • INTERNAL: How to support employees securely as they interact with one another and with your customer base
  • EXTERNAL: How to keep your customers happy, even when supplies are running low and shipping times are burdening relationships

AI, AI, O!: Create a Real-Time Data Window For Your Business

Business owners use tracking tools and data analysis software to understand everything from organization performance to customer behavior. Google tracks search quantity and quality. Amazon compiles endless data on customer purchase intent. Apple allows customers to use their fingerprints, their voice, and their app interactions to optimize device interactions. Microsoft creates data for every email click and innovates based on how clients are using the software. All of this data is useless if not organized and managed properly.

The Automation of Cybercrime – When Malware Uses AI Against You

Ransomware is in the daily news because cyber warfare leverages the same technological innovations that global companies are using to stay ahead of the competition. If malware gets into your backups, you might have a security breach that turns your own AI against you.

Software as a service platforms are especially vulnerability because you’re completely depending on the third-party to handle a large piece of your automation. A hosted environment often provides a more secure infrastructure, especially for companies on the move. An off-site data center can be regulated by compliance regulations. The IT team is required to abide by best practices for cybersecurity. As a result, your data is set up, monitored, and maintained according to the highest security standards. This keeps ransomware from troubling your servers or your software.

Automation for CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

A business wouldn’t be a business without a product or a service to market and sell. Customer data is key to streamlining your sales process. AI allows you to track, analyze, and save valuable information about your relationships:

  • Buyer behaviors
  • Market trends
  • Customer preferences
  • Budget concerns
  • Business direction / business strategy

A business process review can be a great way to get instant insight into how your employees are supporting your customer base.

Pricing Automation: The AI Will Bill You Now

Automated pricing and billing is everywhere in the virtual world, especially when it comes to e-commerce. When customers shop for something using the internet, pricing visibility is critical to buyer engagement. “See the price in cart” might work, but “contact us for pricing” can be a turnoff in this new world of instant gratification automation and digitization.

Pricing can get complicated if you’re offering custom products or complex services. Let’s look at medical billing as an example of a complex business service. HIPAA regulates all third-party interactions. So medical professionals need to ensure that any automation tools that are outsources are in compliance with these medical industry standards. In manufacturing and distributions, everything from shipping costs to supply chain management falls within similar, often less famous, compliance regulations. Pricing and billing can benefit from automation, but the AI software must be managed according to professional standards.

Outsourced Services: A Bot That Never Sleeps is Part Human

To use the medical industry as an example again, anyone offering professional health services needs 24/7 IT support. Why? In the off-hours, portals are still open, networks are still vulnerable, and emergency services are offered around the clock. Often, small and medium-sized businesses can’t afford an in-house employee to handle the 24/7 monitoring of sensitive information and infrastructure. Automation software can help monitor your system while sleeping. If your data is sensitive, your AI tools should come with a 24/7 IT help desk that is continually on watch for a potential or an attempted security breach.

Computer systems are nothing without people. AI systems are developed as a way for machine intelligence to supplement the problem solving skills of people. Strong AI is impressive: computer science continues to build automation systems that play chess or accomplish specific tasks that most humans want to avoid. AI development continues to reduce mundane tasks within a data management system, for example. AI research is focused on creating vast and intelligent artificial neural networks capable of driving cars. To control systems remotely is no longer science fiction. With an intelligent system, even small business owners can save time on routine tasks.

Automate Your Virtual Presence

Your virtual office makes your online presence paramount to the reputation of your business. Other online interactions create a complex representation of who you are as a business owner. Do you have a website or a virtual storefront? A strong web presence can bring you global success, or propagate mass reputation damage. With an internet culture of constant connectivity, automation can help you reach potential clients, even while you are sleeping, by promoting your brand, your ethics, your differentiators, and your value that only you can bring to your customers.

E-commerce comes with high risk, but with proper technology management, the virtual markets can only bring success to your business. You might be able to open new sales channels by offering direct supply to potential and current customers. Don’t be limited by your zip code: use AI to grow your business outside of your region, offering more people the services and products that you believe in as a business owner.

Using Business Automation to Scale While Lowering Costs

AI should help you streamline operations so that you can optimize your budget. However, poorly managed automation solutions can quickly overwhelm your staff, opening the doors to chaos. Fortunately, this loss of productivity is easily avoided when automation begins with expertise. EstesGroup’s staff includes ERP and IT experts that bring complete understanding to your business:

  • Project timing
  • Budgeting
  • Software selection
  • Infrastructure planning and deployment
  • Enterprise risk management
  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Business process improvement

Save time and money while focusing on the work you love. As a Managed Service Provider and ERP consultancy, we can help you choose the latest business solutions that can help you avoid time-consuming tasks by safely using business automation to gain wealth, health, and reputation.

Are you ready to automate success? Let our IT experts help you up your AI IQ.

Please fill out the form below or chat with us now to begin a network assessment today!