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.

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