Wednesday, November 30, 2011

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Midmarket ERP Solution

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Midmarket ERP Solution

Don’t you just love it when someone produces a top-10 list of questions you already know?  Doesn’t it makes you feel better that you think you have the answers and are up to date?  Well, at least until you dig a little deeper and really begin to wonder about the questions and the answers and how they pertain to your operations.

Read Inside-ERP’s guide by following the link below:

Highlights from the article:
1.       Do you know and understand the business problems your organization’s business leaders plan to solve with ERP?
2.       Does your organization have a business-application vendor already?
3.       Does your organization have any legacy ERP systems to contend with?
4.       Is a vertical ERP solution suitable for your organization?
5.       What functionality will your organization actually use?
6.       Does the ERP solution align with your organization’s business processes?
7.   Does your organization have the IT resources necessary to support an on-premise installation?
8.       What kind of services will your organization require from the ERP vendor?
9.       What is the true cost of the ERP solution?
10.   Does the vendor have a clear long-term product strategy?

At first you think you know the answers.  After all the questions are not complicated, it is what the answers unearth that makes you lose sleep.  Then you begin to wonder, can we really make the changes necessary to compete globally?  It sounds costly and it is probably a lot of work.  We do not have enough staff now.   

Maybe what we have is not so bad.  Maybe we can squeeze a little more productivity out of our reduced staff.  Maybe the competition is having the same thoughts and we really do not need to do anything at all.  Maybe I will still get my year-end bonus. 

Maybe things are not so bad.  Really? 

If you said “Yes”, then stop reading now, no one is going to help your business until you are replaced.  The only constant is change and its pace is increasing each day and your competition is not only worried about it too, they are doing something about it.  Successful businesses will analyze the risks and take action.  Growing businesses are ones that take the time to learn and grow, embrace change, and think long-term.

You might not have the budget to do everything you would like to do, but you should always be looking for new solutions that can be incorporated when the time is right.  Find out what others are doing right and incorporate as much as you can.  That is how and why the Lean Manufacturing practices are attributed to Toyota.  An entire industry of change based on a best practice leader.

Dolvin Consulting works with manufactures, distributors and retailers to help them streamline their operations so they operate more efficiently, reduce costs, and become more profitable.  We do not know who you are, so you have to contact us. 

We cannot promise you anything, but we will listen and do our best to help. 

Remember, we do not sell software, we find solutions.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Standardized Business Processes

There are literally thousands of articles on the benefits of standardizing.  A recent Google search turned up “About 7,320,000 results”.  So how do you determine what is relevant?  If you are lucky, you can narrow the search a bit.  The luck really is in guessing what keywords can be used to narrow the search.  Many of the articles will have some nice content, but is it relevant?  And, how much time will that take and will you be confident the answer you come up fits your questions?

So perhaps the better question would be what effects would standardizing my business operations have on the bottom line of my financials?  And not so much what is a standard business process. 

One of the key ingredients of America’s industrial growth was in adopting a set of standards.  All sorts of different standards exist for different things, like bolt sizes, dimensions of lumber, etc.  If you can think of it, some group someplace has a standard for it. 

So how does that help my business? 

Being able to consistently repeat a process is a key ingredient.  Through repetition we have the ability to track and measure all aspects of the operation.  That track and measure ability creates averages and those can be compared to industry standards, which are repeatable averages across an industry.

We do not have to recreate the wheel.  We just need to recognize that we have one and tune our operations to what others have already figured out.  While it is possible your business is unique, it is more likely that someone someplace is already doing what you are doing or are attempting to do.  So the challenge becomes a matter of placing your business in the right category and finding out what the competition in that category is doing. 

Really, believe it or not, someone has already figured out what you need to do to streamline your operations.  If you are using an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that is more than a few years old or was not a real good fit to begin with, or you do not have an ERP system, then you need to start taking a look to see what options you have. 

In the case where you have an older system, it might be as simple as upgrading what you have to the same Vendor’s newest release.  They may have already fixed the issues that are a stumbling block.  If you have more than one system, perhaps due to a merger or acquisition, then you will need to figure out which one, if any of the existing systems, will carry you forward.  You may need to replace all of the systems with a new unified system.  It is sometimes just easier to start fresh.

A new system installed correctly where there never was one will be a lot easier than retraining existing users on a new system.  Regardless, it is important to keep an eye to the end goal.  A standardized solution across the enterprise enables efficiencies, which increases productivity, which reduces costs, which leads to increased profits (i.e. an improved bottom line).

So, does this all make sense?   It should, because so far it is everything you already know.

A good fit solution properly implemented will yield a good Return on Investment (ROI).  At that point you begin to wonder how you ever managed before.  You just cannot imagine how you operated before having your new solution.  The pain of conversion is a distant memory.  There by the way is no pain-free change. 

It is a matter of taking that first step.  They do not write books about people who played it safe.  Successful businesses take calculated risks, they constantly learn and grow, they embrace change, and they think long-term.

All businesses that are successful realize that if they change nothing, they will eventually be out of business.  There is only change and its rate is ever increasing. 

A new solution must have the foundation to be able to grow with and adapt to your business process changes.  A trusted advisor like Dolvin Consulting taps industry experts to link your challenges to an appropriate solution. 

If any part of this article makes sense or makes you think, then it is your responsibility to contact us to see if we can help.  We cannot promise you anything, but we will listen and do our very best to help. 

Remember, we do not sell software, we find solutions.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sample Business Associate Contract for HIPAA Compliance

There is no single document, web page, or resource that can provide you with a bullet proof contract that protects both the organization and a subcontractor or business partner.  The government has provided a sample that may cover a percentage of issues that should be addressed.

Click here for the government sample.

This plan is by definition only a guideline, but it is a place to start thinking.  What is missing is the Written Information Security Program (WISP) Plan.  A WISP plan is tailored to the risk quotient of an organization.  It is certainly not a one size fits all solution.  A comprehensive plan will address business partner access as well as the other risks associated with the business operations. 

A WSIP plan is a process not an event.  It is a living, breathing, changing set of documents that evolves with the growth and changes in your business.   Like the sample business partner it should not be done with a do-it-yourself process or attitude.  The idea of a doctor treating themselves should come to mind.  

A WISP plan should incorporate at a minimum Technology, Insurance, Legal, and most importantly Human Resources.  No internal person is likely to have enough expertise in all of these areas.  You need expert outside and objective eyes looking at your business operations.  That is where a resource like Cyber Security Auditors and Administrators (CSA2) helps. 

CSA2 is a resource of resources.  CSA2 has access to leading industry experts.  Experts that will help you prepare, plan and execute a real working WISP plan.  Think of a WISP plan as a fire drill for data breaches.  It may be painful to have to think about these things, but it will be a significantly less stressful exercise than a post breach forensic analysis, government regulated, fine levied eternity.

If you value the relationship and trust build over the years you have been in business with your employees, suppliers and customers, then plan now.  It will take a long time to rebuild trust that can be lost in an instant.  An instant that was preventable.  

There is no perfect  mouse trap and the mice keep getting smarter, so even a great WISP plan cannot prevent all disasters, but a good plan will allow quick response and create a defensible position.  Everyone needs a plan that is tailored to your level of risk.  Hopefully you will contact Dolvin Consulting to see how we can mitigate your risks.  Call now, the time invested is well worth the peace of mind. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Inside ERP’s 10 Golden Rules for Choosing and ERP System

Inside ERP’s two page document highlights 10 important rules.  You may have more or less than 10 yourself and you may organize them differently, but you must have some standard to rate your needs and expectations to help justify your decision to either commit to a new solution or make what you currently have work.

Here are their 10 rules which ones match your organizations top issues:
1.       Focus on the ERP solutions that target your company’s requirements.
2.       Include a Software-as-a-Service solution in your assessments.
3.       Weigh each potential ERP vendor’s strengths and weaknesses.
4.       Plan for the future.
5.       Assess your existing network.
6.       Consider each vendor’s other business application offerings.
7.       Calculate the true total cost of ownership (TCO) of each ERP offering.
8.       Insist on a thorough demonstration of the ERP solution.
9.       Consider an ERP consultant.
10.   Buy only the modules you need.

These are common sense rules that can be applied to many technology decisions.  I may be biased, but a consultant is a wise choice to consider.  It makes sense to do some homework first before engaging in a relationship with a new consultant so that you can maximize their time. 

You need fresh eyes, new perspectives to help you really determine true needs from wants.  Dolvin Consulting is here to help.  Contact us today to see how we can help you navigate your choices.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It is not a nightmare anymore

Since 1977, Sheralven Enterprises Ltd. has been a full service sales, manufacturing and distribution company of Brand Name Fragrances.  From their multiple state-of-the-art distribution centers, Sheralven maintains the highest fulfillment rate in the industry and provides customizable shipping options both domestically and internationally.

Sheralven explains in this video how Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions provider VAI was a perfect fit.  They wanted a company big enough to handle their needs without being a giant conglomerate.  They had the ability to deal directly with the company principals. 

VAI provided an integrated solution with everything under one roof.  They were able to accomplish everything with one group.  

They had not previously addressed the web (Internet), but realized that is how business operates today and VAI was able to provide them with a professional web site that integrated with their business and provide a great return on investment.

Their older system was PC based and had a lot of down-time.  Now all their information is integrated and accessible by those who need it, when they need it.  Salesreps can track orders from start to finish.  They can get customers more timely information.

By implementing scanning they have automated counting, cut down on errors, have less customer returns, more timely processing, and have cut back on costs associated with those inefficiencies.

We are so much more efficient.  It is not a nightmare anymore.  The warehouse is happy.  There is greater efficiency in getting orders out of the door.

Our business evolved.  What we did 5 or 10 years ago is totally different than what we are doing today.  It will likely be different 5 to10 years from now.  We know that the VAI system will grow with us.  It is easy.

Watch the video and compare and contrast your operation with what Sheralven went through and imagine what the impact on your bottom line would be with a new solution.  Dolvin Consulting has the business partnerships to help you determine if there is a good fit between your challenges and the available solutions.  Contact us today to see how we can help.

Friday, November 18, 2011

HIPPA Audits and Compliance

Alan Heyman, Managing Director of Cyber Security Auditors & Administrators LLC (CSA2) was contacted and quoted recently, because of his expertise in working with companies to help them determine their risk quotient. 

Automating HIPAA Compliance Tracking and Audit Preparation

The article is a quick read, but reading between the lines may take a bit longer.  Alan is of course talking about a Written Information Security Program (WISP) plan and a WISP-Vault which is a highly secured storage facility to keep the plan safe. 

There has never been a perfect mouse trap and the mice keep getting smarter.  You cannot engineer a perfectly secure environment when humans are involved.  A WISP plan is more than a fancy binder filled with out-of-date information sitting on a shelf in someone’s office collecting dust.  It is a process, not an event.  A real WISP plan is a living breathing environment which is kept up to date with the changes in your business.

Think of a WISP plan as a fire drill for data breaches.  You plan, prepare, and practice over and over so that in the case there is a data breach everyone stays calm and you implement the right corrective action in a timely manner.

You cannot keep the auditors away, but you can be prepared.  A working WISP plan creates a defensible position that will protect you and your business.  The preventative medicine might taste a little bitter, but is a lot less painful than cure.  You know the saying Ben Franklin made famous: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Ben made this observation long before there were computers or HIPPA concerns.

Every business has its own risk assessment and the solution is based on potential exposure.  You would prepare your home if you knew a storm was coming, so why not do the same with your business.  Start now by contacting us to see how we can help. 

Dolvin Consulting works with organizations that are worried about lawsuits related to the theft of personal information and are concerned about the loss of customers related to a data breach.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ERP Solutions are Strategic

In today’s technological world there are Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions for just about all industries.  The birth of these solutions came several decades ago when Manufacturers needed better ways to manage their inventory, equipment and personnel.  As the underlying technology improved many people created solutions for other industries.

The name indicates the benefit.  Connect your “Enterprise” by creating a central repository of information that everyone can share and you create opportunities for efficiency.  The more efficient you can be, the greater the profit potential.  Even small reductions in inventory levels from more accurate counts and warehouse management translate to the bottom line.

So is an ERP solution strategic or tactical?  Actually the solution can be both.  It should be in your organizations long term goals or strategic plan to implement the right solution.  How you implement and utilize the enterprise solution is tactical. 

Does your business have all of its information in a central repository?  Can you retrieve the information in a usable format that allows you to make quicker decisions and evaluate your performance? 

Has your company grown enough since your last solution that you have multiple systems patched and linked through manual processes.  Every time you touch the data it gets corrupted.  It is inevitable and you end up making incorrect conclusions about operations.  You find yourself not trusting the system in front of you.  You stare out at the shop floor, your inventory locations and wonder. 

How accurate was your last physical inventory?  How closely does production match your paperwork?  Do you know what the true costs of your inventory items?  Are you paying your employees to do twice the work?  Ouch, these can be costly issues, especially when the economy is so lean and we are all learning how to do more with fewer resources.

You cannot prevent obsolescence, it happens.  You cannot compete in today’s market using old technology.  Every company needs a trusted advisor.   Someone they can turn to for advice.  They usually start with a project manager or consultant and over a period of time that person becomes trusted.  You know you have reached that point when they even recommend other solutions that do not benefit them, just because it is the right solution for you.

We do not know each other, but I invite you to contact us to so we can show you how we are different.  Let us help you calculate what the Return on Investment (ROI) will be so that you will be able to determine the best Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of available new solutions.  Dolvin Consulting is here to help.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Smith Drug Company Success Story

Smith Drug Company, the first founded business in the J M Smith Corporation, is listed among one of the top 10 wholesale drug companies in the United States. From three distribution centers, covering 19 states, the Smith Drug Company supplies independent, locally owned pharmacies with pharmaceutical products, health and beauty aids and home medical equipment.

Smith Drug explains why, even though their previous system worked, it just did not work well enough.
·         We knew we had to change and become more standardized in the way we operate.
·         We move a lot of products, we have to move fast, and we depend on our systems. 
·         Everything is double checked to ensure accuracy.
·         We have all our data/information online and in one place.
·         Our system makes it easier to interface with our customers. 
·         The software was fit to our needs by people who took the time to understand our challenges.
·         We have better tracking of our products and people now.
·         We had our fears, but the training and teamwork has made the difference.
·         It made our jobs easier.

Not everything is within our control all of the time, but when you look at the work you are processing and realize there could be some improvements, your options increase. 

Ask yourself what effect on my business’ bottom line would there be if we could ship more products each day and do it more accurately?  What if we had less returns?  What if we could depend on the inventory counts in our system?  What if our customers could self serve many of their own needs and when they needed assistance our customer service people had the tools to answer their questions right away and be freed up sooner to help the next person?

There are a lot of questions you should be discussing with your advisor.  Dolvin Consulting takes pride in helping your team find the right solutions to your challenges.  Contact us today to see how we can help.

Friday, November 11, 2011

HIPPA Enforcement Promotes Compliance

Leon Rodriguez, the new director of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights, describes his HIPAA enforcement agenda.

"As I've learned as a prosecutor and then as a defense lawyer, enforcement promotes compliance," Rodriguez says in an interview with HealthcareInfoSecurity's Howard Anderson. "The fact that covered entities out there know that they are at risk for penalties is something that, in fact, in many cases will promote compliance."

The full article can be found by clicking here.  Some excerpts are below. 

ANDERSON: In recent months, as you just alluded to, the Office for Civil Rights has significantly ramped up its HIPAA enforcement efforts.  Under your leadership can we expect to see your office announce more resolution agreements in civil monetary penalties and other enforcement actions?
RODRIGUEZ: I think you can expect that; absolutely you can expect that.

ANDERSON: The Office for Civil Rights recently hired KPMG to launch a HIPAA audit program. What would you like to see that program achieve, and is it possible that any of those audits will result in sanctions or penalties?
RODRIGUEZ: This is the first time we're doing it, so the first thing ... is for us to 'go to school' on how best we will run an audit program. In part, this is what you might call a pilot. We're going to look at it and learn: How do we use an audit program? How does an audit program best advance our enforcement goals?

The second purpose, and this is really different than enforcement, is to promote compliance among the covered entities that are subject to the audit.  Our first objective is not to go out there and start banging [organizations] with penalties; it's really to take a good look at them, find out where their opportunities for improvement are and help them improve.  Having said that, I think we know that there are cases where we're going to find some significant vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  And in those cases, we may be pursuing significant corrective action.  And in some of those cases, we may be actually pursuing civil monetary penalties.  But that's really not the primary goal of the audit program.

Rodriguez’s goal is to audit and learn, but even then he acknowledges they will pursue significant corrective action.  You can interpret the interview in several ways and they may all be correct to some extent.  What I suggest you walk away with is that the casual compliance days are over.  If you are found at-fault for a data breach, you will be subject to fines and other penalties.

In a post breach situation, there is no moderator.  Your organization will be held accountable.  Your client base will lose confidence in your operations and unless you are the only one performing that service, your clients will go elsewhere.  The publicity of the lawsuits will ensure a degradation of reputation and client base.

The only real course of action is to address your Risk Quotient in a pre breach environment.  Your organization will have the luxury of being able to take the time to plan and prevent data loss.  Preparation is like a fire drill for data security.  Plan and practice in the hopes you never need to use what you know.  But, if you do, then you will know what to do and when and the result will be a defensible position for the regulators.

Dolvin Consulting works with Cyber Security Auditors & Administrators (CSA2) and your organization to prepare, plan and implement a Written Information Security Program (WISP) plan.  The WISP plan is your key to sleeping well at night.  Contact us today to start a conversation that will help you connect with resources that can help with your compliance challenges.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Major Canadian seafood supplier automates business…

Seacore Seafood is a full line importer, distributor and custom processor of fresh and frozen fish, seafood, and live lobster.  Located in the Toronto suburb of Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, Seacore’s Retail division, Seafood Depot, is one of the largest seafood outlets in the world.  Seacore uses S2K for Food, along with S2K Retail Point of Sale (POS), to automate its business processes, allowing expansion.

The past included stand-alone systems that did not integrate well, tedious manual processes based on paper, latency in reporting, not having an on-time accurate inventory system.  To enable growth this company accepted the fact that they had to change.  The needs were simple enough: incorporate wholesale, retail, and Ecommerce in a single system. 

The goal, utilize a single integrated inventory system throughout their entire operation.  The benefits included accurate order entry and fulfillment, automatic route fulfillment, flexibility in use, better and easier customer service, customer self service, and quicker turnaround time to analyze financial results. 

All the information needed at your fingertips resulting in expansion and an increase in sales.

Contact us so that we can help you identify areas for improvement in your operations.  Dolvin Consulting is here to help you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Operate More Efficiently

Okay, we have all herd the software companies claiming that if we integrate everything, we will operate more efficiently.  In a perfect world yes, we would, but getting there may be a challenge.  Having an integrated repository of information certainly helps.  Having an integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that ties together operations should enable better management, better inventory control and a greater awareness of key metrics.  The more fully integrated your systems, the more efficient you can become.

In business and life the left hand should know what the right hand is doing.  If we are making pancakes, then our hands need to be coordinated or else we might drop one and that is really disappointing to see.  I am amazed when I watch people, like my brother in law, play the drums.  Each arm and leg doing what appears to be something different at a different pace, yet it is always coordinated and provides the backbone to the song.  You might not see it right away, but you know it when you hear it, you feel it, you just know.   A good drummer sets and keeps the beat which ties the other musicians together. 

Now I realize an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is not exactly a band, but hopefully you see my point.  Having the instruments is a requirement, but not a guarantee that you can make music.  Having the components of an ERP system is a requirement, but knowing how to fully utilize them in a coordinated way is the challenge.   You know it when you see it, feel it, hear it.  Just like when you hear a great band doing a long jam, the bridge can seem like a bunch of separate musicians, and then it breaks and you are amazed at how nicely everything synced back up. 

Yes, you need to operate your business more efficiently and a newer ERP system might be the answer to help you achieve your goals.  It might also be a waste of money if you do not have your team working together.  Like any band, the more you practice, the better you can get.  But, if you want to get to the next level, you will need a coach or producer that has a clear vision of the future.  Dolvin Consulting works as a trusted advisor to their clients to help connect them to the resources they need to get to the next level and drive efficiency in their operations.

The only way to know if we can help you is to contact us to discuss your challenges.  We will not judge you.  You might not hear what you want to hear, but you might hear what you need to hear.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wells Fargo mixes up customer statements

Wells Fargo mixes up customer statements The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment

There was a time that this would have been laughable.  As a bank customer you could understand that some machine was out of sync and documents where mismatched with envelopes.  In fact, in the “old” days when you actually received your canceled checks back with your monthly statement I remember receiving someone else’s canceled checks.  I contacted the bank and they were able to straighten out the mix-up.  It was not something we worried much about, back-then.

Today’s world is much different.  Data breaches are linked to identity theft.  Identity thefts create so many challenges for the victims.  Bad credit scores, denied loans, governmental actions and of course, lots of aggravation for the victim and what seems like little penalty for the culprit, if they are ever captured. 

The only party the government seems to be able to touch effectively is the original holder of the information, in this case the bank.  The regulators have their calculators lined up, charging fees and fines.  In a post breach situation, the offending organization is at the mercy of the regulators and courts.  In some cases there really is some negligence and the penalties are justified.  Sometimes these organizations become scapegoats for the industry.

Whenever an organization finds itself in a post breach situation it is like a roller coaster ride.  You just have to ride it out and pay whatever you have to make the problem go away and identify and remediate the vulnerability.

What a difference it makes in a pre breach situation.  You have the time to do audit and analysis, testing and documentation.  Parts in a well organized Written Information Security Program (WISP) plan.  Of course, there is more to a WISP plan than a technology audit.  WISP plans ensure that all aspects of information technology infrastructure, human resources, legal, and insurance issues are addressed.  The depth and expense of a WISP plan is tied to the complexity of the operation it is designed to protect. 

A WISP plan is not an event, it is a process.  A process too complex to be navigated alone.  That is why Dolvin Consulting has teamed up with industry experts Cyber Security Auditors and Administrators (CSA2) to work with your team to design, plan, and implement a working WISP plan so that you can sleep at night.  Contact us today.  We are here to help!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Inventory Control and Warehouse Management

Inventory Control Systems are about eliminating waste and gaining the most value out of your operation.  Just-In-Time Inventory Control Systems provide the platform for Lean Manufacturing, enabling you to have the exact amount of materials and inventory you need, when you need it- no more and no less.

Excess inventory remaining in your warehouse collects dust and incurs cost instead of generating revenue.  In addition to lost profit from administration, financing and storage costs, inventory in your warehouse has to be insured and is exposed to risk such as fires, floods, obsolescence, and market depreciation.  And raw material inventory remaining in the warehouse for a sluggish product can be a significant drag in markets that demand fast product changes.

Competitive markets reward fluid operations that are responsive to costs.  A fluid and responsive operation enables you to move product quickly, based on demand with purchase orders in step with inventory movement.  This results in faster movement of accurate quantities of inventory that are responsive to your markets generating a faster time to revenue.

Inventory Control Systems are typically delivered through a combination of software and services, supported by experts with wide experience in the business of manufacturing and distribution.  

With Just-In-Time Inventory Control Systems, you can quickly automate procedures that:
·         Scan inventory upon receipt at the warehouse
·         Enable purchase orders to be available on a real time basis
·         Allocate incoming inventory to customer orders
·         Ship inventory as soon as it's received at the warehouse dock
·         Confirm the shipment of merchandise to customers
·         Easily track that the correct items and quantities were fulfilled

We bring hands-on understanding, value and experience to your unique business challenges, working closely with you to implement the solution that works best.  Dolvin Consulting works with you to address your inventory and warehouse management challenges.  Contact us today to see how we can help you navigate these challenging times.