Monday, October 29, 2012

Business Value

It really does not matter the industry, business leaders should be asking themselves how they can maximize the investment their organization spends on technology to support their efforts.  This focus is more important than the technology itself.  What business process are we trying to improve with automation?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions are typically at the forefront here and are also the point of failure for most organizations.   Reason being falls to many details, but at a high level it is easier to address a challenge by adding on to an existing solution or addressing it outside of and separately from an integrated solution. 


ERP works, because it incorporates all business functions. 

There are ERP solutions for most business industries today.  When I describe the focus to those not involved in technology, I say think about “boxes on shelves”.  Even the most lay person can visualize this environment.  It is in this type of environment where there is the greatest potential for a Return on Investment (ROI) from your investment.

ERP handles the food industry with its batch and lot control and FDA food tracking.  The Pharma industry also benefits from automation in inventory processing.  Retail industries are concerned with inventory turns and customer service (something all industries should focus on first).  Analytic or Business Intelligence applications help with the analysis of product movement and forecasting.  Salesforce and Contact Relationship Management (CRM) integration tightly integrates both internal and external sales processing.  Suggested purchase orders help to drive down inventory levels and at the same time maximize buying incentives.  E-commerce and EDI functions help integrate the supply chain to end customer support.

The more the organization adopts and embraces the changes ERP solutions offer, the quicker the return.  The problem for most organizations is the reluctance to tear their guts out and rightly so, and to instead try to fix a systematic problem with a band aid.  Ask yourself do you need a band aid or surgery? 

Everyone understands budget and the fact the economy is not full of investment monies.  That is why the first step is to undertake a thorough analysis of your business process.   Start with a technology audit.  What do you have, where is it, how are your people utilizing it and what are they doing outside of technology.  In particular what manual processing are they doing?  Where is there a paper log jam?  Are your people asking (or using without asking) mobile technologies? 

What information do your people need, where are they located, what devices are they using, and who are they?  These four aspects define your anywhere, anytime technology.

Next step after a technology review is to analyze the business processes your organization employs.  Are there areas where you can drive efficiency with technology solutions?  Can you integrate more of your enterprise?  What are the business goals that your departments are trying to achieve?

When the aforementioned analysis have been run through you will be ready to select and implement solutions that will drive operational efficiencies.  Sometimes this comes from more fully utilizing what you already have, sometimes it incorporates adding new modules or upgrading your existing system.  Sometimes the answer is to replace what you have.  It is not that what you are using is bad, it is just not giving you a competitive edge.  It may cost you more to keep using what you have than to bite the bullet and make the changes necessary to move your business forward.  It is not an easy decision to do major surgery, but it is better to do it when you are strong than to wait until there are no resources left.

In order to survive your businesses is going to increasingly rely upon technology solutions.  Now is the time to contact Dolvin Consulting, one of many trusted advisors to help you navigate the constant flux in technology.  ERP solutions today are more necessary than ever in order to deliver more value to the business.  ERP offers more significant opportunities to meet today’s challenges in real ways that increase operational efficiencies which make the business more agile, responsive and competitive.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Customer Experience

I read a recent article that focused on three key factors of successful companies and thought I would add my thoughts about how these points correlate to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution success.

1.       Change is a key component in growth. 

How many of us are where we are today without having had to change over time.  Did we all start out from college knowing how to do what we are doing?  Looking back on life we can see the decisions that got us here, but from back then could you have predicted this path? 

Likewise companies need to evolve and change.  That goes for both the company creating the ERP software as well as those implementing the solution.  I have heard many times that “we are happy with our solution”, “our business has not changed”, “our customers are happy”. 

Technology changes and the way organizations utilize new technology also changes.  I remember my old boss saying that he did not want to purchase a fax machine.  Could not understand the fuss, did not want the expense, where was he going to put it in the office, let alone the second phone line.  Perhaps only two weeks after plugging the machine in, he was praising the new technology, what this meant for the business productivity.  We could take information any time and batch process it instead of interactively. 

A whole new world opened that day.  The same is true for companies today that are embracing new technologies.  Not just change for the sake of change, but for the productivity and return the technology offers.  Not all change is good, but companies that embrace change potential and are looking for new ways to do the same old task in new and better ways tend to find themselves ahead of the competition.


2.       Personalized experience.  

We all want to feel special and we want that feeling to last past the point where the check clears.  Are we hearing genuine sincerity and concern for our company or are we hearing lip service?  Does the sales person see my challenges and have concern for the people I employ, because their jobs are on the line if this system does not work.  Am I just blanks filled in on a template or did the person take the time to interview me and figure out what my needs are?

Are our futures mutually vested?  Does their success depend on my success?    You care about your customers, does the ERP provider care about you?  How do they show it?  Can you meet with their president?  What programs do they have that are focused on my company leveraging the new technology?  How do I learn to utilize the solution the best possible way, the way I work with my customers?

3.       People make the difference. 

People do not care until they know you care about them.  Why do you pay a few cents more for products or services when there is something cheaper across the street?  Treat customers how you would like to be treated.

Do the people you work with have passion for what they do or do they just punch a time clock.  Do they have a vested interest in your success?

I do not remember the exact details, but the essence of this story illustrates the point.  A major auto manufacturer had a quality control problem.  This problem was directly related to morale.   If a supervisor stood over top of a line worker, they performed adequately.  If the supervisor went away over a period of time the line workers productivity and quality dropped.  When the auto manufacturer empowered all workers with the ability to stop the entire production line, because they saw an issue related to quality, the quality returned.  The workers felt that they were important and provided a valuable asset to the company.

Talent alone is not enough.   Good software alone is not enough.  People use the software to build and grow their business.  I would much rather work with someone who cared about me and my business as much as I do as with the smartest person alive. 


How well does your solution provider listen to your needs?  Do they have time for phone calls after the sale is done?  Are they there when you need them?  Is your success important to them?  Do they take pride in your accomplishments?

At Dolvin Consulting we have a vested interest in your success.  We work with industry experts to find and implement the solution that works with your business and one that provides the foundation for future growth.  We know that change is inevitable and growth is not an option, but a necessity.  Contact us today to see how we are different.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Leveraging ERP Solutions to Drive Efficiency

It is the goal we all have.  Implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution to drive efficiency, reduce costs, and increase profitability.  It is the Holy Grail of solutions that includes both software and hardware.  The goal is the same for both sides of the table too.  People who sell solutions want successful clients or at least we hope so and not just a sales commission.  Clients want successful solutions and do not want to feel like they were taken to the cleaners.


Great, now what. 

We all have the same goal.  We both want success that goes beyond the checkbook.  It all begins by utilizing your trusted advisor to evaluate how your current operations and workflow are integrated with your solution.  You need an objective set of eyes.  That also does not mean you are absolved of any input, homework or effort.  What it means that you need someone with expertise to help you with a self evaluation.  You need to know where you are today and where you want to be in the future, probably one or two years down the road.

Your competition is doing this right now or has done it or is about to.

Often a solution to a problem you do not know you have is right in front of you.  Many times your current ERP solution provider has an upgrade and perhaps additional modules that would help you address these challenges you will find.

You may not realize how seemingly small incremental improvements can foster big savings. 

I worked with a client several years ago.  They were using a very capable ERP solution, but only for billing.  At the same time they were maintaining a PC database of production information.  I was asked to see if I could clean it up a bit and address some data consistency issues.  What started as a cleanup procedure led to an integrated database with their ERP solution.  What appeared to be “too much work” really ended up saving them time, effort, and a lot of overhead.  With the database transitioned to their ERP system, full data integration and validation was possible.  They could view their inventory and produce exactly what was needed for their customer demands and not have excess inventory due to not knowing what was on hand.  Production and product labeling was improved.  Inventory accuracy improved. 

A level of confidence in the system resulted.  Full integration allows one hand to know what the other is doing.

In this case their ERP system was more than adequate.  It just took a fresh pair of eyes to review what they were trying to accomplish and mindful insight into what a fully integrated solution would do.  The transition was not too bad.  Afterwards there was no question that the results were worth the effort.  It was not painful, but did take time and effort.

In this case it was a matter of incorporating a database with their existing ERP solution.  Sometimes it is just upgrading the ERP solution.  In other cases it might be adding a new module.  Still in others it may be a matter of replacing a system with something altogether new.  Not all are comfortable to think about. 

Replacing ERP can sometimes be thought of as replacing your tires on your car. 

You start out with a new set and you do not think much about them.  You drive about and concentrate on the destination.  Over a period of time you do not notice the wear and tear.  You are concerned about what you want to get done, not on how well your tires are holding up.  That is not until you find yourself sliding out of control or notice that you almost rear ended the vehicle in front of you.  Not until you talk to an expert who sees clearly that your tires have worn too much.  The tires wear slowly, yet your needs continue to grow.  Perhaps the tires are just underinflated or need a retread or maybe they need to be replaced.

No one can say for sure what you need until you do a thorough analysis. 

If your system does need to be replaced it is helpful to keep in mind that in most cases, if you do your homework properly, that six months after implementation is complete you will be saying to yourself and others that you wish you had done this earlier.

Now is the time to contact Dolvin Consulting.  We leverage our industry expertise and contacts to help you to help yourself.  We are not out to sell you anything, but we may help you decide to buy a solution that will drive efficiency in your operations.  It is one of a number of ways to remain competitive.  We are here to help and are only a phone call away.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Fully Integrated Software and Happy Customers

“It used to take hours to come up with total sales for a given customer across all companies.  With S2K Sales Force, Algoma has the information with the click of a button.”


I have written about this company before.  Having faster access to information is good, but better is what they want to use the information for.  What seemed important then is still the same now.  The company had admirable goals including the want and need to improve customer satisfaction. 

First and foremost, that is a goal every company should have.  I can assure you that your competition has this goal and they want to prove it to your customers.  Algoma wanted to do this by increasing the efficiency of communication between their external and internal personnel. 

There should be no barrier to accessing customer related information when Salesreps are in front of their customers.  How do/would you feel when a sales representative is sitting in front of you and they do not even know what business you have done?  It makes you wonder if they even care.  Is your business worth anything?  Are you important?

In this particular case the company had a working Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and a very good relationship with the supplier, VAI.  Many companies who are looking for a better way to manage their sales process look for software designed to manage those tasks.  In this case, since they were already happy with their ERP supplier, the added bonus was the full integration of a Sales Force module to their existing system. 

There are many good sales management software suites available.  Many have interfaces and links to tie into other systems.  Those links are critical, however, full integration will always be more efficient.  The more tightly integrated your system, the more efficient it will run with less overhead (labor) and support issues (accuracy). 

VAI Solution for Algoma:

VAI ERP Software Suite runs over the Web through the portal, which is integrated with Algoma’s product configurator system.  This integration allows quote and order information from the configurator to be viewed from within the sales portal.  VAI S2K Sales Force application enables Algoma’s sales force to review new leads, enter and track quotes and opportunities, record tasks, view open orders, check account status and payment history, and review account history.  Sales analysis screens allow them to track personal sales data, as well as customer and item sales data.  They can quickly react to customer issues and opportunities, as well as create to-do’s, email campaigns and other marketing tasks.

The above list is a sample of how one company utilized their available resources, namely the relationship they had with their ERP supplier, to meet the demands of their customers.  To remain competitive and responsive.  That is exactly what VAI has done in this case.  The result is a happier supplier/customer chain.  Which repeats as a happy supplier/customer chain for Algoma’s customers.

Dolvin Consulting’s goals are the same.  Happy customers.  Tap and utilize their industry partnerships to develop and maintain healthy supplier/customer relationships.  We have a mutually vested interest in your success.  Contact us today to see how we can help you streamline your computer operations. 


Monday, October 1, 2012

Focus for Manufacturers

If your organization is a Manufacturer that is focused on streamlining operations, improving inventory and warehouse management, and improving customer service, then you must draw focus on and consider implementing mobile technology, business intelligence and analytics, and warehouse automation as part of your overall strategy.


There is no shortage of key areas to focus on in today’s tough economy.  In fact, the challenges really have not changed throughout history.  What does change is an individual company’s area of struggle and the constant flux in technology that is being used to address these challenges.

Mobile Technology is not just a convenient or passing fad.  It is the direction we are moving.  The evolving technology is enabling on-demand or cloud services in more affordable segments.  Some key areas that benefit are providing seamless integration, inventory tracking, shop floor management, capacity planning and product quality control.  Mobile sales force connectivity for remote workers and improved customer satisfaction (do not miss this important point – make your customers happy and they will not look else ware). 

Better service levels, more access to real-time information both in the office and remote results in major productivity boosts.

Business intelligence (BI) and analytics is another key area of focus.  Right now, buried in the depths of the information collected are trends and answers to forecasts and improved customer service.  Competitive advantages are literally at your fingertips, if only there were a convenient and dynamic way to get at the information.  Keeping abreast of competitors, sales forecasts, inventory changes and market trends are better done with the capture and reporting of information. 

Key pieces to BI are first having Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that is capable of capturing the information, hopefully while reducing the manpower needed for collection, and reporting that information in a useful way.

Warehouse automation is on the dream board for most organizations.  Everyone envisions a completely automated warehouse, no labor overhead and complete and accurate inventory, shipments and happy customers.  Barcodes, RFID labeling and tracking, data capture, shop floor collection and full integration.    To accomplish a portion of this dream will require the previously mentioned Mobile Technologies and Business Intelligence. 

An organization needs to capture and analyze as much data/information as possible as quickly as possible.  Improvements are possible by leveraging data driven strategies.  But first, you have to capture the information.  Second, you need the tools needed to analyze the information.  And, this needs to be done as close to real-time as possible.  Not weeks later after-the-fact.

No one expects that you make a commitment to change, take a long weekend, come into work and flip a switch and you have an automated your organization.  Improvements mean evolving inventory management from a record keeping tactic to a more strategic business operation by driving major improvements in overall productivity while eliminating costly mistakes in the warehouse operations.

Gains come from productivity improvements and reduction of errors.

Specific areas of gains can be found in fully integrating operations while reducing the number of separate systems, automating as many processes as possible, plan and implement better by using the information available, reducing paperwork and the errors associated with manual handling of paper, improving inventory accuracy, and as mentioned earlier, incorporating the information collected to make better decisions in marketing and sales.

There are many how-to’s involved in improving operations for manufacturers.  First and foremost there needs to be a commitment to make a change.  Number one motivator here should be your customers.  Do what you need to do to keep them happy and referring new business.  All of the other reasons and ideas do not mean anything without a focus on your customers. 

I am repeating this point again, because it is that important. 

No other reasoning will motivate your team and generate the Return on Investment (ROI) you are hoping for without the primary focus of your intentions being on your customers.  That is it.  You must get this point and bury it in the core of any changes you want to make.

There are many ways Dolvin Consulting can help your team make improvements.  We focus on you, our customers, by helping you to focus on your customers.  There is no better time than now to explore how advances in technology can be used to improve your customer relations.  I can guarantee your competition is doing just that, right now. 

Let us help you move ahead.  We have a mutually invested future together.  No hype, no sales pitch, just question and answer to see if we can match solutions to your challenges.  Now is the time to contact us.  Help is just a phone call away.  If you do not like what you hear, just hang up.