Monday, January 30, 2012

Enterprise Retail Software solve business challenges.

Retail businesses flourish using S2K for Retail.

Sporting goods retailer, Paragon Sporting Goods Co., boat supply retailer and distributor, Freeport Marine Supply Company, and educational supplies retailer, Educational Warehouse, all use S2K for Retail and POS to solve their business challenges.  These companies use dynamic ways to boost sales to their stores through e-commerce and kiosks.

This video highlights the success that the right solution can bring to a retailer that struggles with managing their customer relationships.  There is efficient product management, productivity gains, system processing, but the real benefit are happy customers.  Customers want to find the products they want whether online or in-store or in another location in a timely manner. 

A customer wants to find what they are looking for, feel appreciated and be well served.  A happy customer refers friends, a happy customer comes back.  A happy customer is loyal.  An unhappy customer tells everyone as soon as they can about their experience.

The Point of Sale (POS) system is solid, reliable and speeds up transactions.  It allows customer service to record all customer information including email addresses at the point of purchase without inconveniencing the customer.  Customers are thrilled by the improvements and can take advantage of rewards programs and gift cards.  The system automatically handles customer coupons based on their purchases.  Signatures are captured on the system instead of paper.

The system performs very well and up-time is maximized.  Suggested purchasing has minimized staff levels needed to maintain optimum inventory levels.  The system is fully integrated and handles Ecommerce and Retails sales seamlessly in real-time.  No delays, no misallocations of inventory.  Reordering is simplified.

These retailers found it just as easy to work with VAI who took the time to listen to their needs as their customers find with them.  We hope that you will find working with Dolvin Consulting just as rewarding.

Contact us today.  Solutions are available through Dolvin Consulting.  We take the time to look at and listen to your business needs.  We leverage our industry knowledge and contacts to make sure you have the right solution to your challenges.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an important concept, especially when your organization is looking at an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution.  An effective ERP solution will incorporate every department and person in your organization.  If you are not considering all people, departments, and processes, then an ERP solution is going to be a tough fit and the challenges will likely be an uphill battle. 

You may say that we understand the All-In concept, but we only have the resources to do part of the job.  That is okay as long as your priorities are correct and you are planning a phased in approach.  Permanently ignoring an operation will create the weak link in a chain.  If that person or process is in your organization, then it needs to be included at some level.  Otherwise you are missing out on future savings.  Why is that person or process even in your organization if you intend on ignoring it.

The reason this is an important concept is the TCO calculation.  TCO is a realization that the costs associated with a purchase includes more than the initial price tag.  We see this in car pricing.  There is the sticker price which is starts the conversation off on a lie.  Most everyone knows that the manufacturer inflated this price based on the bubble they live in and what they want us to perceive as the value of the auto.  The dealers may have an invoice price, but they get so much on the backend that few outsiders really know what they are making.  You cannot keep a fancy dealership running on $300 gross profit from a car sale.  What we often forget when we smell that new-car scent they spray in the cars each morning is that there is the initial price paid for the car, then there is the ongoing maintenance, oil and gas, tires, wiper blades, insurance, time for service, etc.  That is the reason that car manufactures invest so much in advertising.  They are not selling a car, they are selling a lifestyle concept that includes this automobile.  All we really need to do is get from point A to point B.  It is how we get there that is what is being sold when you buy their automobile.

I am hoping you get the picture your consultant has helped you envision.  You purchase an ERP solution to integrate your entire organization.  Through a centralized data repository all parts of your organization work together more efficiently, thus reducing your operation costs and making you more profitable. 

Getting to this utopia will often necessitate a cultural shift in your organization.  This shift has to include all people on all levels of your organization.  It also means that you should not just look at the list price of an ERP solution.  There is so much more to be included, such as your trusted advisor.  This should be considered money well spent.   Why?  Because, even though you would like to save here, this is an investment, which yields a big return.  There is too much volatility in the market today.  It is best to know where you are headed so that you know when you get there and if you are off course.  We all suffer from what we do not know.  It is your advisors job to turn on the lights.  You may not need to address everything he/she brings up, but at least you will know what is out there.

Besides your consultant and the time/money equivalent of your team’s time investment and loss of productivity during the analysis and implementation, you will need to consider the initial purchase of the solution, installation, customization, migration from an existing system, management services, training, hardware changes, possible additional staff, increased communications bandwidth for Ecommerce, web, or a hosted (SAAS) solution and do not forget testing. 

This list is not all inclusive.  Each solution will have its variables, for example, there is energy consumption and cooling costs of hardware.  Some solutions have an initially lower price tag, but use more energy and create greater cooling costs over the useful life of the equipment.

The idea here is what you already know.  There is the acquisition cost and ongoing operating costs.  Above all the solution must meet the challenges and offer room to grow.  I have seen many instances where a solution was purchased only to need updates and upgrades from day one, because the system was not sized properly.  Usually, because if the system was sized properly it would have been to highly priced for their budget.  The result was frustration feeling that they were duped somehow.  When in reality they did not take the time to really look closely at what they wanted to accomplish and factor in the cost of operating and maintaining the system. 

A realistic view will not scare off someone trying to compete in today’s demanding market.  We love the new car smell, but are realistic in our expectations that it will take more than writing a check to solve our issues.  That is the difference between a tactical and strategic solution.  Which one generates the best Return on Investment (ROI)?

At Dolvin Consulting we take the time to understand your challenges and to make sure there is a good fit between your challenges and the available solutions.  Contact us today to see how we are different.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Leading paper distributor continues to grow using e-Business solution

As a leading paper, packaging and chemical supplier, Joshen serves more than 8,000 customers including supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores, institutions, wholesalers and the food service industry throughout North America.  Joshen maintains an inventory of more than 10,000 packaging items, 1,000 janitorial items and 2,000 label variations and serves the diverse needs of its customers.  S2K Enterprise Portal software for E-Business allows Joshen to branch out to new markets.

Start with the end in mind. 

The partnership between VAI, the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system provider, and Joshen has enabled significant growth into markets that were not previously viable.  VAI has been a real partner providing support and new ideas when needed.

The flexibility of the ERP solution coupled with the ease of use, ease of implementation and right price point provided a platform for growth and the ability to keep up with the competition.

·         Increased productivity through the purchasing module enabled the Buyers to use suggested purchases instead of reviewing several reports.
·         Increased service levels from 90 to 98 percent.
·         Simplified processing.
·         Find stock and fill orders with barcode automation.
·         Quick and effective inventory handling.
·         Elimination of floor paperwork providing real-time information for the company.
·         Ecommerce solution enables customers to self serve their needs on their time frame.
·         Customer can do research, ordering, check order status, check account status, check pricing, maintain their budgets.
·         Growth into new markets and smaller markets that they could not compete effectively before.
·         Flexibility.

Faster analysis of their business market makes Joshen more profitable and able to capture greater market share.

Some things to think about when considering a new solution: 
ü  Is it worth the investment? 
ü  Will it be easy to implement? 
ü  What type of support will I receive?
ü  What happens after I purchase this system?
ü  What if I do not understand this new technology? 
ü  What if my employees reject our efforts to modernize? 
ü  Who will train my staff?
ü  How will we manage the transition?
ü  Will our customers understand and adopt our new technology?
ü  We are unique, we looked and found that there is no solution for us.
ü  How long will it take to make a Return on Investment (ROI)?
ü  What about the long term, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?
ü  How do I know I am making the right decision?
ü  I hear a lot of these systems have cost overruns, take too long, fail and put companies out of business.
ü  How soon will we be out of business if we continue to do business the same old way?

Got questions?  We cannot promise you anything, no one can.    At Dolvin Consulting we take the time to ask these and many other questions.  We have a vested interest in your success.  We work with your team to make sure that there is a good fit between your challenges and the solutions we provide.  Come check us out and contact us today and start the ball rolling.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Zappos customer data accessed in security breach

Zappos is apparently one of the latest data breach victims.  Or, perhaps their customers are the latest victims.  Zappos feels that that the information was limited in scope, because the entire credit card number was not exposed (that is what they believe).  Many data thieves compile information from many sources to build complete profiles on people.  It just takes some patience and time to put together information that can be sold to the highest bidder.  It is a volume business and the 24 million customers are just bigger targets now.

You may read the CNET article by clicking this link:

There is no perfect solution, the mice get smarter and the traps more complex, but in time unless there is a proactive approach, “they” will get in and the damage will be done.

Here is the big message in the article and it applies to everyone, not just Zappos:

"We've spent over 12 years building our reputation, brand, and trust with our customers. It's painful to see us take so many steps back due to a single incident" Hsieh wrote in the letter.

An organization builds their reputation one satisfied customer at a time.  It takes years of effort to ensure your customers are happy.  It is evidenced by the referrals you get.  Then, in an instant your well earned reputation is gone. 

The data breach notification is the tip of the ice berg.  The piracy may have actually been going on for a time and the breach turns on the lights.  Other times it may be a single event.  As far as your customer cares, it puts them in jeopardy.  The only thing slightly in your favor is that people not directly affected are becoming numb to these news stories.  Never thinking it would happen to them, until it does and your company gets the blame and loss of business.

The bad publicity comes. The regulators come.  The forensic people come.  The remediation comes.  Then you try to rebuild your business. 

What comes after an event like this is what should have been in place in the first place.  A Written Information Security Program (WISP) plan.  You may think of a WISP plan in these simple terms.  It is a fire drill for a data breach.  You plan, practice, and protect hoping that you will never use what you have learned, but in the case when it is needed, it saves your life. 

A WISP plan is not a static document that sits on a shelf collecting dust.  That is what makes it different and what satisfies and creates a defensible position with the regulators.  A WISP plan involves a risk analysis of your organization and appropriate, best practice, measures are implemented.  It is different and scales for each organization.  Every company has some exposure, some more than others.

No one can promise you anything, not even us, but you should contact Dolvin Consulting to determine your Risk Quotient.  You cannot hide your head in the sand.  It is your responsibility to find out what you can to protect yourself and your customers, supplier, and employees.  Contact us today to see how we can help you mitigate the risks associated with the private information you are responsible for.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Enterprise Business Growth needs Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems provide the centralization of information that is the foundation and framework for business growth.  True growth happens with the various parts of your business work in harmony and peak efficiency. 

Bob Vormittag, President of VAI, comments on the future of ERP Solutions.

ERP solutions work in many industries, but are a best fit for Wholesale Distributors, Manufacturers, and Retailers that attempt to maintain an optimum inventory levels to meet their customer demands without the overhead that overstocking creates.  

ERP software aids in the automation and integration of Financial Management, Customer Service, Inventory Management and Control, Warehouse automation (WMS), online Web Ordering, Salesforce Automation, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to name some of the primary modules found in today’s solutions.

ERP is designed to keep companies running at peak efficiency through integration and data metrics, which in turn enables high levels of customer service, just in time (JIT) inventory, and best pricing by streamlining the processes throughout the organization.

ERP is the future of business growth.  Tighter integration with the Internet, being connected 24/7, linking customers and trading partners in the global economy.  Anytime, anywhere computing model, cloud computing and increased interaction in social media forums.

If your organization handles inventory at some level, then you already know that an ERP solution is a necessity.  Whether you are growing and looking for your first system or you have been running an existing system for several years, now is the time to look to see if making a change is the right move.  No one can answer that question over the phone, by email or by reading a blog post. 

It takes time working with advisors like Dolvin Consulting to map out your existing process and compare that with industry best practices to be able to determine what Return on Investment (ROI) is reasonable to expect from a new solution.  Maybe you are already running at peak efficiency.  Would you like to confirm that or just keep wondering if you could be doing something better?  

We cannot promise you anything except that we will do our best to match your challenges to available solutions and give you straight answers to your questions.  Contact us today to start the process. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The future of ERP Solutions

I read a recent article that caught my attention, which asked where will Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) be in two years.   I suspect that was its only purpose, to get my attention.  Well, it did as I hope this article catches your eyes. 

What is an ERP solution?  In its simplest terms an Enterprise solution purpose is to integrate an entire organization and its software modules are arranged by functional or departmental roles.  The goal is to ensure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. There are dashboards, and metrics established that give management a quick high level overview of operations with detailed drill down for detail when necessary.  The software provides real-time status of operations.  Staff personnel have access to information necessary to solve customer service inquiries, account status, and collection questions in a timely manner. 

This goal is no small task, but the promise of a more efficient enterprise which will help to drive down costs, particularly when inventory is integrated, is a driving force for change.  This “need” is not likely to diminish over time.  It actually will increase.  A typical life cycle of an ERP solution is 3-5 years.  Longer if there is a good relationship between the enterprise and the software developer and the hardware is reliable.  Less if there is a poor fit between the challenges and solution and even less if heavy modifications were made in an inconsistent way. 

Why?  Efficiency drives cost savings which help the bottom line.  Most company’s staff is already overworked and is performing the duties of multiple people.  Not really a stress reducer environment.  Most companies if they have survived the last few years have already undergone cost and efficiency programs including six-sigma and TCV efforts.  At what point can you squeeze more liquid from a dry rock?  You get to the point of diminishing returns.  You need to start looking for different ways to accomplish the same task. 

Surprisingly the solutions sometimes incorporate more steps.  There is an old saying in computer technologies, “Garbage in, garbage out”.  Which means that funneling the same old unreliable information through an old or new solution will not yield better results.  It is like drawing a circle with straight lines.  You start with a triangle.  It works but it looks like a triangle and there is lots of waste.  Add another side and you have a square.  More sides (steps), less waste, but still not looking like a circle.  Well add enough steps and you get something that approaches a circle.  More steps, more detail, better results.  You can also reach a point where more steps added do not help anymore.  It takes time and experience to figure out at which point the effort becomes overkill.

Better results equals more confidence.  More confidence in your system improves buy-in and acceptance of new processes.  This ultimately works to improve efficiencies. 

We hope for more simple implementations, but we should really concentrate on the results and let the experts assist with the technical side and business owners can concentrate on running their business.

So what will the future entail for ERP solutions?  Better fit for one.  Companies that are looking to be leaders in their industry and want to compete globally will need to keep searching for new more tightly integrated solutions.  The landscape of on premise or hosted solutions is where most companies will see changes.  There are many factors to consider including financial incentives from governing bodies as to which type of solution fits an organizations budget best.  But, the need for change is not going away any time in the future.

We all do not have circular businesses, so those steps that become smaller and easier, because they are smaller will fit better to our odd-shaped business processes.  You are not alone and not unique.  Other companies in your industry have likely faced similar challenges. 

One of your first challenges is finding the right partners to team with.  A consulting firm like Dolvin Consulting helps you to navigate the maze of choices and match your challenges with available solutions and solution providers.  May I suggest that you contact us to begin the process?  We cannot promise anything other than to do our best and always remember that you are our client.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Accuracy, Process and Relationship result in significant Return on Investment

Indiana based Robert Weed Plywood (RWP) has been manufacturing and distributing building materials since 1966. The S2K Warehouse Management System streamlined their Train/Rail unloading process to their distribution center. Forklifts and removable RF Devices allowed the picking process to build pallets with accuracy and product precision.

Customer service needs were the initial driving force for change.  VAI Developer support worked closely with the Information Technology (IT) department, which fostered the right, custom solution for a to support RWP’s business operations.

RWP was able to go to the next level (break the glass ceiling) by upgrading and incorporating the Warehouse Management System (WMS) in their operations.  Business level grew as did the transactions.  With their old system everyone would have been “frazzled”.  The new system with its checks and balances enabled the company to process more volume with less headaches.

·         Improved efficiencies.
·         Much quicker order processing.
·         Company costs reduced.
·         Far fewer returns.
·         Fewer miss-picks.
·         Less wrong shipments.
·         Increased accuracy.

·         The right material, right away, done right the first time resulting in a significant Return on Investment (ROI). 
·         Physical inventory time cut from days and significant manpower to hours.  RWP is very pleased.  Their system is accurate 99% of the time.  No matter where you are, regardless of location or in-transit, they know what they have and where it is.
·         Radio Frequency (RF) devices deliver on their promise of increased accuracy due to process improvements.

·         RWP’s entire system is integrated.  One system.  One voice.  The relationship between RWP and VAI, their developer, is productive.  They have open dialog and appreciate the response and outsourcing.

Besides the great ROI, this is a great example of how a company with challenges teamed up with a developer who took the time to listen and learn.  VAI did not try to force RWP to mold its business to their software.  They worked together to enhance a base system with custom changes to meet their needs. 

While there needs to be some constraint with modifications as they can destabilize an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, these changes were made carefully by the developer.  The resulting efficiencies are evidence that this job was done right.  Not all solutions need to be customized, there should be some flexibility on the part of the enterprise, but it is comforting to know that changes can be done when needed (not just wanted).

I would like to suggest to you that Dolvin Consulting who is a business partner with VAI takes the time to understand your challenges and find the right solution for you, even if it is not VAI.  If you are reading this now, take five minutes and contact us.  We cannot promise you anything, but we will listen and do our best to help you.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why do so many ERP implementations end up in frustration?

What is ERP?  In the most general terms it is defined as Enterprise Resource Planning system.  Note the word Enterprise.  Here is an important key.  What is an Enterprise?  How big does a company have to be to qualify as an Enterprise?  It really is not a size issue, rather it is a functional issue. 

The functionality of any ERP solution should be matched to the organization.  For example, without knowing anything else, a two person business (small business) would probably function well with QuickBooks or equivalent Personal Computing (PC) program.  An installation of a global SAP solution is not generally needed.  Larger corporations typically fall into a Tier-1 solution platform, which include companies like SAP and Oracle.  Mid size companies should be looking for a Tier-2 solution, like VAI’s S2K solutions.  Small to mid size companies really have to take their time to see if there is a good fit between their challenges and available solutions.  

A solution may work, but may be so rigid in process that your staff cannot function.  The software works, but there are so many screens and steps to process an order that you cannot ship anything on time.  Or just as bad is the solution that has no checks and balances and really would not qualify as an Enterprise solution.   Enterprise solutions integrate the entire organization.

We are talking about an Enterprise solution.  The premise is that your organization has separate departments and/or is separated into functional roles.  This is where the right solution will fit your business.  Often a critical decision must be made and that decision needs to be made early on.  Do we mold our business to the software or modify the software to match our business? 

Resources needed.  Sometimes the software is great, but the Salesrep rushed the process and underestimated the resources needed to make a successful implementation.  This leads to a lot of frustration and finger pointing.  The Salesrep figures the company should know what to expect and the company figures the Salesrep should have explained the process in more detail.  Any company making such a decision that will affect their entire Enterprise (ERP Solution here), should have an advocate to ensure that the right questions are asked by both sides. 

I cannot imagine any solution provider would want to have an unsatisfied customer that will go out of their way to spread the bad word about their experiences.  And what customer would want a bad implementation?  This situation may have been a good fit initially, but the implementation team did not have realistic goals.  Did all levels of the organization have a say and buy-in during the selection process?

A successful implementation needs adequate planning, a fair budget, reasonable time frame, and industry expertise.  A team approach works best.  You cannot just have the Technology Department install some software on a software and client applications and expect everything to work well.  Enterprise solutions integrate the entire organization, so the entire organization must be included in the solution.  You cannot just force feed new anything on your workers.  Success comes from an integrated approach where everyone feels they can contribute.

Many times a new solution is an opportunity to document work flows inside and out of an organization.  If it has been a while since the last change or this is the first implementation the process can be enlightening.  It is also going to take some time and should be in process before making your final selection.

How would you expect a solution to work if no one knew what they were trying to fix?  Dolvin Consulting works with your organization to find your solution that addresses your challenges.  We often see cost breakdowns of 25% Software, 25% Hardware, and 50% implementation.  This is above and beyond the time needed to document your processes so that an effective Return on Investment (ROI) calculation can be estimated and benchmarks created to ensure you are on track to actually achieve the expected returns.  It takes some time to look at your business operations to determine what efficiency can be achieved or expected with a new solution.  It usually takes a fresh look, because often times you do not know what you do not know.

We cannot promise you anything.  In fact, no one can, but we do our best to leverage our industry knowledge and contacts to help connect your challenges with the right solution.  We look to see what others in your industry are doing.  We do not try to reinvent the wheel.  We work with your team to find the best solution for your budget. 

We do not know who you are so you need to contact us today to start the conversation.  We are looking forward to talking with you about your challenges.