Monday, December 31, 2012

ERP Regrets

As time passes by we are presented with opportunities to look backwards in time.  We often do this when a loved one passes or we reach a birthday milestone or whenever a significant event occurs.  Otherwise we tend to take our personal and business lives one day at a time.


The most often reported regret among older people in the fall season of their lives is not in what they did, but rather what opportunities they did not take advantage of, what risks they did not take.  Did I do all that I could have, did I waste any part of my life? 


When you are responsible for your business’ well being and growth it is important to take periodic reviews of where you are and where you want to be.  What goals are you achieving?  What goals would you like to achieve? 


At periodic intervals it is important to take stock and review.


How are your inventory levels?   Are you achieving the number of inventory turns you expected?  What is your competition doing to erode your customer base that you wish you thought of?  Would you really increase any operational efficiency by implementing a more fully integrated system?


If you are old enough to remember the Rubik’s Cube, one of the challenges of the solution was to not look at what you solved, but to look at what moves were needed to finish the puzzle.  I remember getting so close with only a few color blocks in the wrong position.  In order to successfully finish the puzzle, it was necessary to make a lot of moves that seemingly canceled what was done.  This was the most frustrating point, but necessary for the solution.


Taking a good hard look at your operations is similar to the above solution.  Purchasing, the supply chain, customer service, warehouse operations, financial reporting, check processing, receivables, manufacturing and a dozen or so other functions in your business may all seem to be working.  After all, you are making money, but at what rate?  What costs are eroding your profitability? 


In what areas could automation increase efficiencies? 


Would the trauma and risk of replacing the systems your company relies on really be a benefit?  How do you calculate the true Return on Investment (ROI)?  You know that there is a difference between the upfront costs and ongoing costs, but how do they figure in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?


Would just upgrading what you are already using be a better investment? 


How much would the upgrade or replacement cost?  Can I afford to do an update?  More importantly, can you afford to not update?  In many cases it may cost more to not make changes.  You want to maximize your cash flow now, but by delaying it may end up costing more.  More in terms of lost customers, lost sales, and missed opportunities. 


Today both people and businesses expect to utilize the Internet and its’ technologies to speed up purchasing and sales.  In what ways is your organization taking advantage of the great communications highway?  In what way is your competition utilizing this medium to increase their market share?


Business development and growth is a lot like a long flight.  For the majority of the flight the computer and pilot are making course corrections.  Small incremental changes to keep on course, the most efficient course.  Without these adjustments there would have to be a major change near the end of the flight to reach your destination.  A costly and time consuming change.


At Dolvin Consulting we have worked with businesses at both ends of the spectrum.  Most were actually somewhere between being completely out of date and being cutting edge.  In all of the cases we took time to figure out what corrections were needed.  Sometimes that meant a quick fix.  Sometimes a short term solution with bigger plans for the future.  Sometimes starting anew.


Honestly, we do not know who you are, so we need you to contact us.  No pressure, no sales, just conversation.  What are you doing now, what is holding you back, and where do you want to be in the future.  Let us work together to build a plan, work on the budget, and feel confident that you are making the necessary course corrections to keep your business competitive.



Monday, December 17, 2012

ERP Migration

Before you get ready to run over to the local mall and buy your next Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, it might make sense to know what you are trying to fix.  Is your organization trying for better reporting or data management capabilities?  How about speeding up order entry and other customer service related tasks?

It takes time and you should take time to do a thorough analysis or your current operations first.

Depending on the size of your organization, you should budget approximately six months for this task.  Your survey should not be judgmental and you should try to minimize prejudice as to where you think any problems lay.  The whole point of a survey and analysis is to uncover your company’s culture.  How will you know if the solution provider has the same culture mix, if you do not understand your own?

Once you have identified how you do business, you can compare that to how you would like to do business or how you thought you were doing business. 

Sometimes small improvements in several areas will mitigate the needs to immediately replace an ERP system.  Still, at other times, the result is that your company has grown since its last system was put in place and the potential return from using a new fully integrated system is cost justified and appropriate.

Once you have made the commitment to grow, change, and adapt your business to the economy and needs of your current and future customers, the next step is to find a partner that will work with you to implement a solution that delivers outstanding customer service. 

Without this integral piece (customer service) addressed there is little reason to move forward.

You may want to consider the culture and organization of the ERP solution provider as you do your own organization.  Are they corporate focused?  Are they family owned and operated?  Are they flexible with their product?  Will you mold your business to their solution or will their solution mold to your business?  Do they have success stories with other organizations in your industry?  How flexible are they?  Will they grow with you?  How unique is your business?

Every branch, department and role of your organization needs to give input to the project.  The underlying principal of any ERP solution is to integrate everything under one roof.  Great efficiency requires integration.  From efficiency comes cost reduction and greater profits.  Keep in mind you are building plans for the future and while the ultimate goal is complete integration, you can step into this and bring each department or process on in phases. 

The method and process depends on your organizations needs.  You may need to organize in teams of oversight and application.  This teamwork helps to build consensus and responsibility in the workforce.  Once your people take ownership, the commitment level and resulting quality improve.  It also helps to ensure that people and process are not overlooked.  It is helpful to have separate pairs of eyes look at what you are doing.

Careful planning helps to ensure your project stays on budget and the promised Return on Investment (ROI) is achieved in the expected time frame.  One of main contributors to the ERP budget problems comes from looking at the project as a technology project. 

The reason for change should be business driven, not technology.

There are some rare cases where a company wants to be a leader and leverage the fact they are using the latest and greatest (you fill in the blank here).  These are usually showcase examples that really amount to advertising initiatives to make the organization appear to be more focused than they really are.

True growth is always tied to a better customer experience. 

Ask yourself why you are spending more to shop at one store, while you could get the equivalent product someplace else for less.  Is there something about the quality or location or you-get-what-you-pay-for thought that sits in the back of everyone’s mind? 

It is not the price.  Price is important, but the result and the time it takes to get that result is the driver.  So first of all you need to know what the result will look like and how you expect to achieve it.  Next is finding a partner to help you get there.  Finally, there is the commitment to make it happen.

At Dolvin Consulting we work hard to help you help yourself.  We have a vested interest in your success.  Contact us today to see what options you have.  We do not bite.  If we cannot help you directly, then we will do our best to connect you with the resources you do need.


Monday, December 10, 2012

ERP Solution Provider’s Understanding of Business Challenges


“VAI truly understood our business challenges and developed a flexible solution that has transformed our organizations’ operations. VAI was able to get both organizations up and running in six months and we are already delighted by the results. With truly automated operations and real-time access to critical data, we are now able to offer customers outstanding service and support that truly sets us apart from the competition.”



It is not only comforting to know that your solution provider cares, but truly understands your challenges.  You business depends on their ability to deliver the right solution.  Nice to know that your business is important to your solution provider.






The companies’ previous ERP system limited their ability to efficiently and cost effectively perform critical every day sales and service functions.  Service billing was a labor intensive process, as both organizations used paper invoices that needed to be printed before going to the customers’ sites.  In addition, sales and service reps didn’t have a clear snapshot of what products customers were using, what they were already billed for and what they already paid.  In one instance, inventory processing and billing were previously delayed by one full week as a result of the salesmen checking in on a Friday, and then the accounting department entered the sales and cash receipts during the following week.



Any system that limits your ability to do business is a problem.  The whole point of real Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions is to drive efficiency, reduce costs and make you more profitable.  Great solutions do this and enable great customer service.




Situation Summary

• Manual and offline processes used.

• Labor intensive service billing due to using paper invoices.

• Inventory processing and billing extensively delayed.

• Limited insight into inventory and customer data.



Manual anything is not good.  Labor intensive anything is not good.  Delayed anything is not good.  Limited anything is not good.  All of these “not good” items are heavy cost overhead to a business trying to compete.





GLE and HRT needed to improve service billing operations, streamline inventory management and reduce costs associated with truck routing processes.



Any company that wants to remain competitive and stay in business needs to concentrate on operational efficiencies which include billing, inventory and other processing.





GLE and HRT evaluated several ERP solutions but discovered that these offerings were not able to provide them with the manufacturing processes they needed to ensure streamlined operations and reduced costs.  Madden, along with management in both companies determined that with its ease-of deployment and real-time data discovery, VAI S2K was the ideal solution for GLE and HRT.



Good to evaluate multiple systems, you want to make sure your solution fits your challenges.  Even better is the analysis that gives you the metrics to make that decision.  Streamlining operations is key to operational efficiency.  Without this no solution would be worth the investment.




Business Results

After implementing VAI S2K remote access and service billing, the entire billing and invoicing process was completely automated, allowing GLE and HRT to significantly enhance the level of service and support they provide to customers. 


“Not only was the implementation of VAI S2K seamless and quick, but its performance has been flawless as well. Since deploying, technicians are no longer burdened with customer service and billing issues, and we have been able to integrate all of our ERP systems so that we have one, accurate view of all our data,” said Madden.



Automation is a key component to efficiency and operating competitively.  Really great news is the statement indicating that their service levels to their customers was improved.  Quick implementation is great also as long as it does come at the compromise of quality and effectiveness. 




Key Benefits

• Rapid implementation.

• Seamless integration of VAI S2K.

• More efficient and up-to-the-minute inventory management.

• Real-time accounts receivable control.

• Transitioned from paper to electronic records/management.

• Reduction of human error, manual processes and employee resources.

• DOT sheets can be printed automatically based on truck loads.

• Suggested truck loads can be obtained and altered in real-time.

• Royalties and commissions generated automatically in the system after each sale.



·         Rapid implementation is good.  Who likes to wait to open their Christmas presents. 

·         Seamless integration  is the goal of an ERP solution.  The more the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, the more likely anything is to get done.

·         Managing inventory is the most challenging and yet cost savings activity that can be done in an organization.

·         Real –time AR as well any real-time information is critical to making accurate business decisions now, not later.  Management needs information to make decisions.

·         We are all in the process of transitioning to electronic solutions.  From personal banking and other paperwork.  Our businesses should do the same.  This increases efficiencies in the back office as well as in customer service.

·         Reduction of human error is a natural byproduct of investing in an ERP solution.  Anytime a human is involved errors are likely to manifest. 

·         Producing the right paperwork, when actual paper is needed, is a good thing.  The cost of corrections and remediation far out way the cost of doing the job right the first time.

·         Real-time information leads itself to being able to be modified in real-time.  Let the efficiencies rule.





I have made many comments about the published article.  What stands out to you?  There are two that I would like to leave with you.


1.       From my perspective I see a fairly typical company that reached the strong part of the growth curve and seemingly a sudden inability to keep up.  Their old processing worked well with a lower level of business operations, but that solution did not have the ability to scale well.


 It is like a set of tires on your car.  They start out strong and well suited to the vehicle.  Over time the tires wear and you adjust to the worn tread.  Then seemingly all-of-a-sudden you find you had trouble stopping in enough time or you took a turn wider than usual.  The changes are happening all the time and you are adjusting, yet at some point you realize that the tires just need to be replaced, because they are more of a liability at this point than an asset.


2.       Customer service from the ERP solution provider, in this case VAI, to you enables you to provide better customer service to your customers.  Apply the Golden Rule here (and everywhere for that matter).  Treat others how you would like to be treated.  No rocket science here.  By increasing your ability to service the needs of your customers, you increase the ability of your customers to keep doing business with you and to spread the word about how your relationship with them helps.


THIS IS IMPORTANT:  Anything you do, in the name of your business or anything for that matter must have increased customer service as the driving factor.  Without happy customers you are out of business.  Period.  People try to draw many overlays over an ERP solution.  Kind of like throwing cooked pasta on the fridge.  Let us see what sticks and go with that. 


Bottom line – Efficiency is great.  Automation is great.  But, ask yourself, WHY?  Sure, we all would like more business.  In fact I would like you to reach out to me now so we could sit down and talk.  That is right, just talk.  No one that I talk with needs what I can offer at the time we make contact or they need the solutions, but they do not have budget.  So we talk, just talk.  Let us find out what keeps you awake at night.  Let us work on your budget so that you have the information you need to make improvements in your operations that drive customer satisfaction and increase your profitability. 


I do not expect you to say “Wow, let us go to Dolvin and buy something today”.  But, I hope and I mean this sincerely, you will engage me in conversation.  I truly want to help your organization, business, do better.  Sometimes this means pointing you in a different direction.  Regardless, we (me, myself and I) will never try to sell you something you do not need or that will not help you. 


Contact Dolvin Consulting today.  We are here to help.  Here to help you.  If you do not like what you hear, then just hang up.  We all have good days and bad ones.  Let us help you have more better days.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Enhancing ERP Efficiencies

So many organizations dream of greater efficiencies, yet are faced with budget constraints.  Add to this the pressure to remain competitive and responsive to your customers, and you have the makings for sleepless nights. 


Torn between being budget responsible and competitive is a tight rope balancing act at best.

Before any investment is made, the underlying motivation needs to boil down to better customer service.  Treat your customers like you would like to be treated.  The golden rule applies here too. 

So let us assume that you have either already invested in a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution or perhaps you cannot afford to invest in a new solution at this point in time, but you are relatively current.  What can you do next to empower your workforce and deliver better customer service?

Most new ERP solutions have Business Intelligence (BI) modules.  This is a great tool to integrate in your organization, especially if it produced by the same organization.  Some solution providers have created their own, fully integrated BI solution, while others have integrated a well matured solution to their applications.  What should be a cautionary flag is if you are attempting to build your own solution.  Not that this cannot be done, but it is time consuming and prone to errors and a lot of debugging.  So often the upfront costs of an integrated solution are absorbed in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  The do-it-yourself method usually ends up either costing more or does not deliver a complete solution.

Why is this “integrated” solution so important?  After all any in-house solution is going to be integrated, right?  Will that in-house application be portable to a mobile workforce?  Will there be a web or Internet access connections?  What devices will connect?  Who will have access?  What security protocols are going to be embedded in the solution?  What access will your customers or suppliers have?   Which of your employees will have access?  Who will develop and who will use the solution?  Most of these questions are already pre answered in a packaged solution.  There are also many existing reports in a provided solution.  Even if these are not exactly what you need, they have enough logic built in them to be a good template for a custom report.

Mobile technology is another key technology to include in your efficiency drive.  Not just in delivery of BI reporting, but in total access to the various modules.  Do your Salesreps need access to real-time inventory, order, and receivables information when they are in front of your customers?  How will you manage security in all the various and different mobile technologies? 

Do you need Cloud technologies?  This is the new frontier in solutions.  Most organizations are already starting to incorporate these solutions in part of their business line.  The solutions are maturing and people are remembering what they learned when they grew up, that free is not really free and the no charge solutions are either limited or leave serious questions about ownership and security.

Mobile and Cloud technologies, if implemented correctly, can drive impressive breakthroughs.  Cost and operational efficiencies are optimized, collaboration with customers, the supply chain, and staff are improved.  Faster and more personalized customer service results, which results in more loyal customers that know that you care.

Before venturing out into these new technologies, make sure that you take the time necessary to discuss them with your trusted advisor and ERP solution provider.  Find out what resources you will need to add.  Find out what personnel resources will be needed to implement and support the effort.  Will there be cost savings?  Many times the move to the Cloud shifts expenses from capital to operational.  Regardless it is money invested.  Do your homework to ensure it is a wise investment. 

You might not have a choice to implement these technologies, your competition may already be providing it to your customers, but you do have a choice in how and with whom you implement them.

The process should be well planned as it will take some time to implement the technologies and more time to incorporate them in your company’s culture.  Regardless, there are costs and a need to budget the solution.  Do you implement them all at once or add them one at a time?  Which departments will be the first adopters?  Do you have trusted customers and/or suppliers to pilot the solutions?  How much training will your employees need?  Who will use the solutions?  Senior management, sales force, customer service?

Like anything new, careful planning and internal audits are key components.  You need to know where you are and where you want to end up.  Your budget will determine the timeline for implementation, training and solution delivery.  You should expect a reasonable Return on Investment (ROI) on any new solution. 

The only exception, and it really does apply here too, is where an organization wants to become a leader in their market place, set the bar high, and dominate their market.  This approach should be done with extreme caution.  Too many organizations have fallen flat, because they were promised the world and no solution was delivered.  This happens from a number of different factors, from training, budget, and a general lack of resources.  Regardless, you do not want this to happen to your company.


The number one question to ask in the very beginning and at the end of the process is:  “Does this solution empower my organization to deliver superior customer service?   If the answer is not YES, then more homework needs to be done.  There might only be a piece of the puzzle missing that will change a no to a yes answer.

Dolvin Consulting works with companies like yours to develop and deliver solutions that drive efficiencies, reduce costs and enable you to become more profitable.  Contact us today to see how we can help your company navigate the constant flux in technologies.