Monday, July 29, 2013

What do CEO’s care about ERP?

Today is no different than yesterday, nor will tomorrow be different.  CEO’s have a lot on their mind.  Vision of the future, productivity, profit, competition.  How will my organization “get-it” and work as hard as I do?  How do empower them?  Are my people interested in a pay check or succeeding? 

Do they believe in me, in my vision?

Will my shareholders support my vision of the future? 

How do I make management care about our market share and stock price?

Do I care which Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution we use or do I care how well we service our customers, grow our market share and provide value to our stock holders and owners?

Does my management team care about the company’s stock value?  Do they have a monetary interest in the company?  Too often they forget that stock means ownership.  How do I make management understand that their job is to produce gains for the shareholders?  Although a manager has little or no direct control of share price in the short run, poor stock performance could, over the long run, be attributed to mismanagement of the company.

Successful organizations know that if you care about the growth and prosperity of your company, that your primary focal point has to be that your customers come first and foremost.  All the best bells and whistles mean nothing, if at the end of the day they do not drive efficiency in your organization to the point that you can service your customers better.

Who purchases your products?

To move forward it helps to document your challenges and identify metrics by which you can measure change.  This might be something simple like implementing an automated pick-pack-ship process that allows you to track and identify lag areas in between the actual picking, packing and shipment processing.  Why is it taking so long to pick orders?  Can the warehouse be better organized to minimize travel to pick the most popular items?  Can the pick list be sorted in the order of the products in the warehouse?  Would it be more efficient to bulk pick orders, stage and then sort or is it better to pick individual orders?  Why does “Joe” take twice as long to pick an order?  

Time is a commodity of which we all have the same allotment. 

Managing lost, non-productive time is one definitive way to increase productivity.  To do this, an organization first needs to set this as a priority and then look to their current resources to see if it has the tools needed to track and measure results.  Most ERP solutions have both direct and indirect time tracking capabilities. 

Workforce management is just one of many components to building a productive enterprise.

Communication both internally with employees and externally with the supply chain and customers is another critical function in productivity and ultimately customer service.  ERP systems that are properly implemented have the functions and features to enable better data collection and communication between all business entities.

An organized environment where everyone knows what they are supposed to do and which is reflected in a centralized system provides management the information they need in a time frame they need it to make better and quicker decisions. 

An environment where management has the information to make key decisions is the foundation for less frustration and savings. 

Do your employees provide feedback, do you have a system for them to provide feedback?  What good are your plans, if no one understands them and how they can be implemented?  By establishing key metrics and implementing automation in stages you enable management to go after tasks that are inefficient and pull waste from those functions.  These are the building blocks to lean processing.  Tracking, measuring and reporting needs to become a philosophy in your organization. 

Acknowledge your customer’s issues.  Treat them like you would like to be treated.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software solutions should be based on understanding the real business needs.  The solutions can be found if you know what you are trying to solve and what you want to achieve.

What is the CEO’s vision of the future?

If you are considering a new ERP solution or updates to an existing one, you need to determine if any of the proposed features and functions are related to the challenges you are trying solve?  They could be nice features, but do they enable you to provide better customer service (who buys your products?). 

Perhaps you would like to move to a newer, more feature rich accounting solution, but your ERP solution is still satisfying the needs of your organization and since you are continuing to grow, you do not want to disrupt the business by replacing it.  The very thing that attracted you to your solution is now holding you back.  Because it is tightly integrated, you cannot just replace a single module without replacing the whole thing.

No software is a solution to poor management or business practices. 

Function/Feature is not nearly as important as Challenge/Solution.  Just ask yourself which impacts the bottom line quickest. 

A fully integrated and implemented system enables better business planning activities, which include financial planning, procurement, logistics, supply chain and customer service.  Happy customers mean better profits. 

Customer Service To-Do list focal points:

1. Keep your existing customers happy and you will have a strong business.

2. Concentrate on providing value, not hype, to find new customers.

3. People learn about you by using the Internet, so keep your website updated.

4. Deliver what your customers want, not what you think is good.

5. Planning is good, but implementation is better.

Dolvin Consulting works.  We work to help you help yourself.  We are not here to take up residency in your organization. We are here to help you identify challenges in your operations and customer service and find solutions that address those challenges through Enterprise Solutions.  Contact us, today, to see how we can help.  That is why we are here.  To serve.


Monday, July 22, 2013

E-Commerce and ERP Solutions

“Should we choose an eCommerce system to fit our ERP system, or an ERP system to fit our eCommerce system?”  So went the online post for help.  Like so many posts before it, the real answer will only reveal itself once the homework is done.


I know what I would do, but the choice is not up to me. 


A number of years ago someone figured out that a company might be able to generate revenue by utilizing the Internet.  For a long time, way before the Internet was available to the public, companies understood that automation and integration were key components in lowering costs.  Over time creative people came up with ways to integrate technology to improve efficiencies, enough so that some business operations are now molded around available technologies.


An almost universal question that must be answered by organizations evaluating software solutions is how much will I change my operating procedures to match the software capabilities or how much will we modify the software to match our operations. 


The answers run from one extreme to the other. 


What we look for is a closer match of software to business than the reverse.  It means that the software is the right choice.  The Solution provider understands your business and has made the customizations for you.  That is why you pay them or should is I say what you pay them for. 


It is not that a company cannot completely modify a solution to match their operations, however, that is essentially custom software and most organizations want to move away from that type of solution.  Granted it meets all of your business needs, but the problem is that it tends to isolate you from industry change.  This isolation either leads to falling behind or means that you have to invest in extra staff to keep current. 


No business operates alone and should not look for a solution that furthers the divide. 


There are exceptions.  Of course, it is possible that your organization is completely unique, operates like no other and therefore you need a completely custom solution.  If their products are in demand and no one else produces them, they have a monopoly and since there is demand, then it may make sense.  However, the vast majority of those so egotistical have not taken the time to see how the technology industry has transformed the way it interacts with their demand. 


It is more likely that that there were no solutions years ago and that company had to develop their own.  They were industry leaders at the time.  Regardless, how will they keep up with change?


This applies to the Ecommerce versus ERP question that we started out with. 


I am sure that a lot of work went into the web site.  They may have finally got all the pieces to work.  Well, except for the integration with the back end.  The ecommerce solution may be working so well that what once worked at one business level, just simply cannot keep up with the new higher demand.


Sound familiar?


This company came up with a custom solution to meet a current and growing need.  It worked really well.  Business grew.  Grew so well, that they grew right out of their custom solution.  Now they have to decide to scale back the business, invest in more manpower to increase the integration and accommodate the growth or invest in a new solution, throw some or all of the existing solution out and then move forward. 


How many steps backwards does this organization now have to take, because they isolated their technology solution?


It is like climbing a ladder up a building only to realize they are climbing the wrong building.  Depending on a lot of information that we do not have, it is possible that they may just need a bigger ladder.  Of course you have figure out what that new ladder will rest on.  Will they have to climb all the way down and then start climbing once again and hope the ladder is big enough this time?


There is no substitution for full integration. 


That does not mean to say that everyone can afford all the bells and whistles on an initial purchase, however, does the solution provider you are considering have a solution for what you will likely need in the future?  Do they have a growth plan available?  What are your choices when the growth of your operations necessitates more horsepower in your systems and transactional processing?  Will you have to throw everything out or can you add more resources? 


Changing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution is a lot like open heart surgery without any anesthesia.  It is painful.  No doubt, but afterwards you are grateful for the change.  Low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) contributes to a higher Return on Investment (ROI) and inevitably the right solution pays for itself.


My answer to the question is the same answer to any new solution. 


Invest in an ERP solution that is designed for growth and can add features and modules directly or from vetted third-party solutions when your business needs them.  Do not throw away the development in the Ecommerce solution.  No need to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Concentrate on integrating the front end of the current web site with the existing backend web constructs that exist and are fully integrated with a new ERP solution.  Over time, when it makes sense, consider the ramifications of moving completely over to the ERP offering. 


ERP solutions work best when you let them do what they are designed to do. 


Integrate the Enterprise.  The more integrated, the higher the operational efficiencies, cost reductions and increase profit potential. 


ERP solutions are not a substitute, or fix, for bad management, however, good management has the potential to be great with the right solution.


Dolvin Consulting works with midsized manufacturers, distributors and specialty retailers to help them streamline their computer operations, reduce costs, and increase profits.  Those organizations typically struggle with warehouse and inventory control issues, have outgrown manual processing or are frustrated with the constant flux in technology and have lost the ability to keep current. 


Please contact us today to see how we can help you identify and address the challenges that hold you back.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Complete ERP Solution

What are people saying about your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution?  Does it improve your bottom line results by leveraging the latest technologies?  Can it run on-site (on premise) or in the Cloud to meet your needs?  Is it an all-in-one solution?  After all is that not what an “Enterprise” solution is supposed to do?  Do your people have anytime anywhere access to the information they need to make intelligent decisions and to get their work done?


Does innovation in your ERP solution accelerate your results?



Video quotes and thoughts:

·         I am a better manager with my employees.  I can clearly see what they are doing.  I never have to wonder if they are working.

o   Productivity improved.  More accurate and on time shipments to your customers.

·         Efficiencies have gone up 47%.

o   This is a key component on making a decision to implement or switch an ERP solution.  To drive efficiencies.  Increased efficiency means lower costs and better profits.  What are they doing with that increase in efficiency?

·         My team is better prepared.

o   Success lives in the details.  The better prepared your team is, the better they are able to handle customer challenges and provide great customer service.

·         Everything went off without a hitch.

o   Great planning and experience from the solution provider which took the time to understand the challenges and impact the solution could bring to make the transition as painless as possible.  Does your ERP provider care about you?

·         Very good forecasting package.

o   Better planning means better operation.  Being able to plan well helps to drive efficiencies.  Having the information and knowing what to do with it is key.  Do you think that a better forecast would lead to better on hand inventory and better customer service?

·         Increase sales volume.

o   Whatever your particular threshold, doing more sales means you are likely running more efficiently and you are delivering great customer service.  There is some reason why the customer are purchasing more.

·         Nothing compares to the Power Systems reliability.

o   Concentrate on your business and customers, not the system it is running on.  One really important consideration about the equipment your solution runs on.  More time for customer service!

·         We were guaranteed speed and uptime.

o   You cannot keep your customers happy, market your product, or compete effectively, if the system you are relying on does not work.  A fast system is nice, but worthless if it is not up and running.  There is a big difference between up and available.  Which do you think your customers prefer?

·         Likes the process as it helps to develop corporate relationships.

o   Of course, people do business with people they like, first and foremost.  That is why a system with integrated functions helps to develop and nurture relationships.  Those relationships lead to more business and happier customers.

·         Flexible ad-hoc reporting. 

o   Built in reports are a nice asset.  Many times ERP systems either have too much or too little information or the information is there, but not in a way that is easily digested.   The ability to see “what-if” and the ability to put that power in the hands of end users is empowering.  What higher level of customer service could you achieve with the right information at your finger tips.

·         The Warehouse Management System (WMS) enables to us to know exactly where every case is located and how many we have.

o   Inventory accuracy is a key component in any system.  Finding the inventory is really important.  On time, accurate shipments, replenishment ordering, labor efficiency are just a few benefits.  From a customer perspective – did I receive what I ordered when it was promised?

·         We are informed about our customers.

o   How do you feel when you purchase and the supplier knows who you are, what you purchased in the past, your buying habits, your budget, what you like and what you do not?  Do you feel special?  Do you feel that they care?  What did they just do to keep you as a happy customer?  Would you want your customers to feel that way about you?

·         Multiplatform coexistence.

o   All in one systems are a great asset and help to drive efficiency, however, there are many legitimate reasons that organizations may have a need for more than one system.  When those systems work together, then you can concentrate your time and budget on what matters most (customers).

·         Our service level is second to none.

o   On time, accurate production and delivery.  Sufficient, but not excessive inventory levels.  Reduced overhead, better planning.  Who benefits?

·         Saturday cashier levels dropped from 4-5 to 2 or 3 people.

o   Reduce labor costs, more efficiency, quicker customer checkout.  Redeployed labor to areas in greater need.  Win-win.

·         We stopped having to look else ware.

o   The solution does what it says it will.  Our ERP supplier not only promised, but delivered.  Our operations are better.  Our customers are happier.  We are happier.  Finally.  A supplier that treats its customers how they like to treat their customers.


Any solution should not only drive efficiency to lower costs, but should have the net effect of delivering the best possible customer service possible.  No one has an unlimited budget.  So Return on Investment (ROI) is important.  Any organization that invests in itself wants to feel comfortable that they made wise decisions. 


How your ERP solution provider treats you is an indicator of how you treat or would like to treat your customers.  How well do you stack up?  How happy are your customers?  When was the last time you asked them?  Have any given you a referral (with or without you asking for one)?


Each time I watch this video I see and hear another aspect of this particular ERP solution and I look to see how that highlighted feature, module or solution better enables that company to serve their customers.   Take three minutes now and go watch it again:



What would the net effect of an investment like this one have on internal operations and personnel?  Will it enable them to achieve better levels of service to their organization and their customers?


At Dolvin Consulting we like solutions that achieve the same high level of standards to which we hold ourselves.  Contact us today to see how we can help you help your customers.



Monday, July 8, 2013

Technology is Too Important for the Business not to be Involved

This statement is exactly the point that should resonate with business owners.  With the recent publicity of the Internet Cloud services, everyone’s focus seems to be there.  There are a great number of benefits for Cloud services, storage, collaboration, and operations, but there has to be a business driver to make the changes.


Cloud or not, any investment in technology should have a driver that will provide a reasonable Return on Investment (ROI).  The recent fiscal crisis focused on cutting costs and increasing efficiencies.  Budgets were and still are very tight, so there needs to be business driver to make changes.  What is good for the business?  What will allow us to compete more effectively?  How can we use technology to empower our people to open and serve new markets?


In years past, the Technology Department in a corporation reported directly under the Finance department and was used to tabulate numbers for financial reporting.  Technology has evolved through time to the point where it is fully integrated in our lifestyles.  All you have to do to verify this is stop walking or whatever you are doing for a minute and look around.  People are stuck in their phones, tablets, and laptop computers.  Used to be at a luncheon if you saw someone bowed, they were giving thanks, now more than likely, they are checking their email. 


Everyone is a technology user today. 


This shift in technology from the glass room to people’s hands has changed the view of how technology should be used in business.  The shift is not only in the technology itself, but also includes the business.  The Internet and related technologies has leveled the competition plane enough so that companies from one to twenty or more now have access to tools and technology that keeps them connected and competitive.  Smaller companies are more agile and can make a technology shift and adopt new technologies much more quickly than large organizations.


Regardless of company size, executives want and need their phones, email, messaging, and applications in their hand, available when they need it, on their schedule. 


This transition is not a blanket resolution to say that Information Technology Departments have no role in the decision process, it is more a reflection that they themselves are taking on different roles.  Solutions are being driven by the business demands and technology is looked at to deliver the solution.


One note of caution for the early adopters is the more separate systems that are implemented either on premise or hosted in the Cloud, the greater the burden on the transfer of information and an exponential growth for errors.  This is no small issue.  Every time humans are involved, the more humans involved, the greater the potential for errors.


The prevalence of new technologies eventually leads to consolidation at some point.  Multiple suppliers offering almost identical products and services.  It is a trend repeated throughout history.  The only difference today is that it can take a lot less time for products and services to transition.  Adopting new technologies quickly can give a boost to a company, however, that new technology may also be replaced tomorrow or consolidated to another platform.  This can actually destabilize an organization depending on how much that organization relies on the technology.


Public, private, hybrid, large corporation, small supplier, there are a multitude of choices. 


What really matters most is customer service.  How well your supplier of services serves you is a reflection of how well you service your customers.  You will naturally be attracted to those that give the same level of service or the level of service you want to deliver. 


Nothing is more important than customer service.


A happy customer refers others to you.  A happy customer returns and buys more stuff.  A happy customer pays your bills.  We all need happy customers.


There is a lot of use of social media to get a consensus of what works and what does not.  Industries are the same and yet each organization struggles at different points along the path to success.  This is where a trusted advisor can help.  The advisor can take an objective view of the organization and let them see themselves in a new way.  The advisor can narrow the field of many solution providers to a few candidates taking care of the leg work allowing you to concentrate more on your business.


You just cannot make the decision alone.


While true for many technologies, this is especially true of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.  Given the scope of the change an ERP solution can make for and in an enterprise, it takes correspondingly more effort and diligence to make the right choice.


A lot of time and energy can be invested in trying to upgrade and make work an existing system that was never intended to handle the latest business trend. 


Selecting an ERP solution is an educational process. 


It requires open dialog so that the solution matches the challenges.  Many sales people call offering solutions to problems that do not exist.  To avoid that, someone needs to be open and honest about areas that could use improvements.  This is where a trusted advisor can help by interfacing your challenges with potential solutions.


Deeper relationships are needed in today’s ever changing world of technology.  An understanding of the role technology plays in an Enterprise is a crucial factor in selecting a trusted advisor and solution provider.


Dolvin Consulting works with industry experts to deliver Enterprise solutions that drive efficiency, reduce costs and increase profitability.  Contact us today to see how we can help you define the challenges that slow your business down and identify potential solutions.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Trial and Error

I have discussed Berk Enterprise in the past.  Still a great company as far as I know and I hope they continue to be successful.  What I find interesting is what points stand out when I take another look at their video.  Each time I see something new.



There are a number of really good points made in their video.  The point(s) that stick are most likely indicators of areas in your organization that could use improvement.  Or areas where you wish you had more comfort.  We tend to focus on our biggest concerns.  And for a good reason.  What do you see and hear? 


After thinking about some recent conversations I have had with some prospects and associates lately, this video highlights a consistent theme that I see either lacking or celebrated.  The relationship between the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution provider and the business is really critical. 

If budget were not an issue a lot companies would make changes in what they were using and who they worked with.  Most businesses at least want to know that they are doing the best they can with the available resources at their disposal. 
Would a new system drive enough efficiency to pay for itself?

Who do you trust?  Does a proven track record matter?  Does the size of the organization providing support matter?  Are they one or two people sitting in a garage?  Are they thousands of employees spread over the globe?  Are they regional and sized big enough to maintain what they have created and develop new modules to meet the changing demands of your industry, yet small enough to take the time to talk with you?  Will they (how will they) help you stay competitive?

Do you have the feeling that you are being left behind?  Have you so modified your systems in an effort to keep up with demand that it takes too many people to keep everything tied together and working?  Are you spending your time on business operations or running your business?  Does your system provide the information you need, in the time frame you need it, to make intelligent decisions?

Do you think it would be wise to ask advice before planting a new tree in your yard?  After all, it might help to know what others have experienced.  How tall and wide will it get, does it require a lot of water, does it need special soil, will it tolerate the seasonal weather change, will it drop leaves, berries, or other debris?  Perhaps there is a reason why that nursery has experts to ask questions and give advice.

A trusted advisor can help span the gap between your organization and an ERP solution provider.  

Would having all of your separate operations consolidated in a single system help to drive efficiency?  Would being able to get as much or more information out of your system than you put in it be reason to consider making a change?  Better information, better forecasting, better planning.  Insight. 

There is a saying that the teacher appears when the student is ready. 

How well would you rate your company’s relationship with your ERP solution provider?  Are they investing in your future?  Do they care?  Are they sincere?  How well do they communicate with your people?  Do they follow through?

Do they listen?

At Dolvin Consulting, we work with you to understand your challenges, what keeps you up at night.  We work with your team to improve the efficiency of your operations with the goal of reducing your costs and increasing profits.  Contact us today to see how we can help.  We do care.  We will listen.  No false promises, just conversation.