Monday, January 28, 2013

What specific problems are you trying to solve?

How do you fix something, deliver new services, increase efficiencies if you do not know what is broken or worse yet you do not know what you are trying to solve?  When companies look at Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, they are typically looking to increase operational efficiencies in order to decrease costs and overhead in order to drive better profits. 

Full integration of all departments or functional roles in an organization is benefit of ERP solutions.  This may be accomplished over time or all at once, but any solution should address this need.  If you do not recognize this need or its potential benefits, then that is a great place to start in your analysis. 


The left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing.  Management needs access to real time information in order to address critical issues and make better and faster bottom line decisions.


Business Intelligence (BI) software is one module that usually comes after an initial implementation.  It works best when there is a lot data to massage.  Trends only become detectible when there is enough data or information to recognize them.  BI is one of the true gems of ERP solutions in what it can deliver in regards to forecasting and real-time data analysis.


BI comes in many varieties.  Most ERP solutions come with a Sales Analysis module which will give you basic trends and analysis.  That coupled with dynamic report writers and of course your friendly programmer will provide a good transition as you build the volume of information that makes a full BI solution worthwhile. 


A formal BI solution typically requires a data warehouse to store the information.  Many times this data warehouse involves some processing of the core data to massage it into a useable format.  This process of massaging the information can delay the real-time availability.  Size of the data warehouse and physical location, whether on premise or hosted in the cloud all factor into the equation.  A cloud solution may not be a good choice unless the entire ERP solution is based there as the overhead to populate the cloud can be a real hindrance.  Building it in house can generate a lot of upfront costs in labor, equipment, training, support and redundant support systems.


BI solutions may be fully integrated with the ERP solution or may become Add-on solutions from third parties.  Both have plusses and minuses.  Full integration as long as it provides the analysis your organization needs and fits your budget is preferred.  It has to be affordable, but comparing to an Add-on solution is not an apple-to-apple comparison.  There are flavors of Add-on as well.  Some Add-ons are supported by the ERP provider and act closely in functionality as one that might have been developed in house.  There are others that are great packages, but require a lot of effort to integrate and are often time delayed in providing information, from a few hours to whole day(s).  Full integration often allows for real-time analysis. 


One of your analysis questions should be is real-time even necessary?  If you are dealing globally, it may not be that critical.  If you are dealing with retail outlets across a geographic area, then knowing where your inventory demands becomes more time sensitive.


Of course the base of any decision to purchase new software, upgrade an existing solution or add new modules to fill holes should be better customer service. 


Happier customers purchase more, more often and tell others how happy they are with your organization.  What is guaranteed even more than this positive customer feedback is what your customers or should I say former customers will say if they have a bad experience dealing with your company. 


Happy customers like dealing with friendly, happy people that make them feel valued, their business is important regardless of order size as well as on time deliveries, accurate shipments and being kept informed.  


A fully integrated system in which empowers your people to purchase the right materials, pick pack and ship accurately and keep your customers informed is a great step in the right direction.  The primary is goal is good people and has nothing to do with software or hardware.  Good people are happy people.  Happy people have the right tools to answer and solve customer issues directly and quickly (this is where good software helps).


So what are you trying to achieve with BI?  How quickly do you need to look at and analyze your information?  Do you understand what BI is and how it can help? 


A thorough analysis should be undertaken first to build and answer a list of questions.  BI solutions should be able to provide a Return on Investment (ROI) to offset the upfront costs.  This is where Dolvin Consulting can help.  We have experience in Enterprise Solutions and BI to help you define the questions and look find the answers.  Contact us today to see how we can help you help yourself.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Competition Drives Need for a New ERP System

If you are content running as-is and enjoy a shrinking market share from overseas competitors that do not have your overhead or constraints, then you probably are already doing everything you need to do.  If on the other hand you would like to remain in business, chances are you will have to reinvent what you do and how you do it.  “It” being whatever it is that makes you unique among your competitors.

Global Trade Magazine has an article from a colleague of mine, Dani Kaplan, who has enough years experience to understand the impact that automation has on operations in efforts to drive efficiency versus Big-Company sales goals, where the only goal is profits and not necessarily customer success.  Unfortunately, even today, many software suppliers are only concerned with their next sale.  Perhaps they think that once the customer has committed, purchased the solution and struggled with the implementation that they are essentially stuck and will eventually come around.  Eventually they will make the system work.




“Having accurate machine production and forecasting systems improved productivity and eliminated inventory shortages,” he continued. “With the new system we were able to open additional markets in Europe and make plans to sell our audio products in the Far and Middle East. Opening the new markets in Europe enabled us to increase our market share beyond everybody’s expectations.”

What value does the relationship between a company and its software provider have?

One year after going live with the new ERP system, the company’s VP of operations reflected on overcoming the challenges. “We took our time searching for the right ERP system,” he said. “We looked for a vendor who would not only provide us with excellent support but would also be our business partner for years to come. The new ERP System enabled us to achieve just in time inventory with 99 percent inventory accuracy. Our manufacturing plant was able to keep track of the multi-bill-of-material usage.”


The company profiled in the article is not unique.  Many company struggle with the same issues.  They have been in business for many years.  We see this same issue with family run businesses as well.  We have always done business this way.  The overhead and inefficiencies are like a pulled muscle or constant ache in your body.  You have lived with it for so long that you have given up trying to deal with solutions, that you just learn to live with the problem.  You erroneously make the assumption that there is nothing you can do to effectively make positive changes.  Perhaps the fear of taking that step one more time is more fearful that dealing with the current issues.  After all, you have dealt with it for so long it has to get better some time.  Maybe it is the economy’s fault.  It is hard everywhere.

A key foundation for this solution and any other is finding the right partner. 

The company in this article invested time to look at what they were doing and identified manual processing that could take advantage of automation and an integrated system.  The next step was finding a trusted advisor to help them find a partner and solution to address the challenges. 

There are many software solutions that will work for any given situation.  It is critically important to find one that matches your company’s culture.  The right tool for the right job.  Spread sheets are not effective for a larger organization and a full scale tier 1 global solution is overkill for a regional business. 

Pricing a solution is important too.  There needs to be a good Return on Investment (ROI) that takes into account the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  It is important to look past the upfront costs to see what return can be reasonably be expected. 

After all, if you felt 100% confident that any and all monies invested would be returned in a year, why would you not make the change?

The only reason would be an uncomfortable relationship with the supplier or lack of confidence in either the solution provider or your company’s ability to make the necessary changes.

Change is the only constant.  As a friend of mine often says- “Change is inevitable, Growth is optional”.

So what are your next steps?  First and foremost, count up the number of hours of missed sleep. You know, the extra hours you work each day.  The hours you spend awake at night staring at the ceiling.  The time away from home.  How often do you go back to the office or remotely sign-in after dinner so that you can just try to keep up?

There has to be a return just in the number of hours gained from a new solution that is fully integrated.  Most organizations that pick the right solution with the right partner (notice I say “partner” and not “supplier” – partner implies a vested interest) will achieve a complete return on investment in a relatively short period of time.  Anything after that is profit.  It is the empowering option to reinvest in your business and drive profits (and get some sleep).

Dolvin Consulting works with manufacturers, distributors and specialty retailers to help them streamline their computer operations with ERP solutions so that they increase their operational efficiencies through automation, reduce costs, and ultimately increase profits.  We have a mutually vested interest in your success.  Contact us today to see how we can help.  We help or do our best to refer you to a resource that can help.  Really.

Monday, January 14, 2013

To the Cloud or not to the Cloud?

By now you have seen hundreds of articles about the benefits and draw backs of Cloud based solutions.  The reason you may be reading this and other articles is either that you have not figured out whether it is a good solution for your business or you want to confirm the decision you already made.


If you are already in the Cloud, then more than likely you want to make sure it was a good decision.  After all, even if everything is okay, chances are you want to make sure that you are not the only one on this path.  Who will support you, answer questions that arise from new technologies, create new features, if you are the only one.  You do not want to be abandoned, because no one else chose your path.

If you are not in the Cloud you may be wondering if these solutions would answer your growth pains, lack of growth, cost challenges or support issues.  Is this the magic pill to solve your issues?  Will choosing this path enable you to compete?  Give you features that your customers want?  How will you get there and what happens if it does not work out?

Some of the many benefits of Cloud based solutions:

·         Scalability – Add more users, computing resources, features without having to build it yourself.

·         Financial – Change some of your expenses to operational from capital.  Predictable costs, adding what you need when you need it.

·         Administration – Someone else is responsible for hiring and training and keeping everything running.

·         Fault Tolerance – Someone else has taken responsibility for disaster recovery and business continuity into consideration.

·         Connectivity – Anytime, anywhere access for everyone.

·         Self Service – Users can access capabilities without human intervention.

·         Standards – Compliance with software and industry standards.  Helps to standardize internal operations to software structure.  While restrictive at first it puts the company into standards of growth.


Some of the many concerns of Cloud based solutions:

·         Information – Who owns your data?  Who has access?

·         Connectivity – What happens if my Internet connection goes down?  How do I support my remote users?

·         Maturity – On premise solutions are typically more mature and feature rich.  Vendors are working constantly to provide all the same benefits to Cloud solutions.

·         Pricing – User and/or resource costing can scale with usage, where on premise cost tend to be self contained, but sometimes overpaid.  If you lose the ability to pay, so goes your access.

·         Information – Relatively easy to get information to the Cloud, not so easy to get it back.

·         Ownership – Who owns the software and the rights to use it?

·         Customization – Use as is, often little customization is possible.  You make your operations match the software, not software to operations.  What if you need custom interfaces or reports?


So to answer your question-

·         Should you go to the Cloud?

·         Should you choose and on-premise solution?

·         Did you make the right decision to go to the Cloud?

·         Did you make the right decision not to go to the Cloud?


Answer: It depends.


That is about as clear it gets. 


The first priority should be an analysis of what you need to service your customers better.  Better customer service, better inventory management, better on time deliveries, better accuracy, better and easier access for your customers to do business with you.

The second priority after you know what you need to do to service your customers, remember if you do not your competition will, is an analysis of where you are now.  How do know what to do, if you do not know where you are.

Find out where you are and where you want to go.  Fill in the gaps between here and there.

Now you are ready to determine if a Cloud solution is appropriate.  Many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions are available in on-premise and Cloud versions.  Same solution, different ser vice.  Often there may be a feature differences.  It might make sense to work with a solution in-house, and then migrate to the Cloud. If there are missing features, are they necessary or important?  You may be able to go directly to the cloud. 

Remember the implementation is going to be the single biggest cost category.  Conversion, testing, and training.  It is going to take time, cost money, and generate a lot of frustration.  Check to see if the solution provider has any success stories in your industry.  Almost all will admit challenges in the implementation, but typically you will hear the message “I wish we had done this years ago”, if they are happy.

Are you happy? 
A good place to start is with a trusted advisor.  Someone who has walked this path before and can guide you through the maze.  Contact Dolvin Consulting today.  We are here to help.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Accelerate Results with ERP Solutions

If you are reading this, then you already know the struggles of the supply chain, manufacturing and distribution.  More than likely you are already using an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution to manage your workflow processing, employees, and inventory. 

So, is there any need to read further? 

You have integrated all of your departments and operations.  Your employees are productive, inventory levels are optimized and accurate.  Customers always receive the correct product when you promised.  Management has access to real-time information for analysis and decision making.  The equipment you run your system on is reliable and unplanned downtime is almost nonexistent.

Real solutions for real world challenges:

Innovation accelerates results.

·         Innovation- How technology is applied to your specific challenges.

·         Management- Better, more complete, real time information about employee productivity, inventory levels, customer service, manufacturing and financials.

·         Efficiency- Your competitive advantage.  Automation.  The right tool for the right job.  Get more work done with less manpower.

·         Technologies- Latest technologies integrated to drive efficiencies.  Anytime, anywhere access to your information.

·         Implementation- On time and as planned with your technology partner.  On premise or hosted in the cloud.  The right solution delivered to your needs.

·         Forecasting- The right inventory levels for better purchasing and customer service.

·         Customer Service- High service levels.  Service more customers, more quickly, more accurately.  Sales team members have the information necessary to service customers.

·         Complete- Complete solution.  Full integration.

·         Reliability- System is available when you need it.  Time is invested in your business, not maintaining it or running the equipment on which it runs.  Uptime, all the time.

·         Analysis- Integrated business intelligence.  Invest your time understanding market trends, not in implementing the solution.  Flexible ad-hock reporting leading to greater insight.

·         Relationships- Integrated sales force automation.  Invest your time building corporate relationships.  All the information your team needs, when they need it.  No need to figure out how to make separate systems talk to one another.

·         Logistics- Inventory looks at your product levels.  Warehouse integration allows you to manage the movement of your inventory.  Real time, full integration means better customer service.  Know how much and where each and every product is located.

The ultimate goal of every organization should include great customer service. 

Happy customers should not be a mistake or byproduct, they should be in your every thought.  We all need customers, including our competition.  I have seen countless web sites saying how important their customers are and how well they treat them.  Call that company’s phone number and try to get someone to speak with.  There is a gap between desire and implementation.  If your employees were more productive and could get more work done in less time, then maybe you could replace the automated answering system with a live person.    

Fully integrated systems are a must.  The left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing. 

Automation is a must.  Only through automation can you drive efficiency in your operations.  This is how you stay competitive. 

You may have an existing system.  That system may work.  But, how well?  Is the overhead of maintaining an old system more than an investment in a solution that works better?   No one is suggesting you change anything just, because there is something new.  However, it does make sense to see if the cost of not making changes and keeping current outweighs the upfront costs of a new solution. 

For example many household appliances, especially refrigerators, can be replaced and paid for by replacing them with a new energy efficient model.  With the new model comes new features and new support from the vendor.  ERP solutions, if selected correctly, can save on energy, reduce employee levels allowing redistribution of manpower, increase operational efficiency, reduce costs and increase profits.

At Dolvin Consulting we love success stories.  We team with industry experts to ensure that you are equipping your organization with the tools necessary to remain competitive and deliver high customer service.  Contact us today to see how we can help.