Never Get Satisfied With ERP Software!

There is always more work to do on an ERP system! Let’s face it, systems can be hard to implement. Companies that set up new systems sometimes heave huge sighs and rest in the fact that they’ve made it to the end. There is always something new to do in an ERP system. It is often that “something more” that gives the big returns on new software.

Easy Tweaks in ERP

ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning word cloud with magnifying glass business conceptThere’s always something to refine or clean up in the ERP system. Old items in inventory that need to be deleted or marked inactive. Customers that aren’t in business anymore. Vendors that haven’t supplied anything in 5 years. These kinds of cleanup have occurred to most people; “do it tomorrow” is the biggest block to getting this done. Like cleaning out the garage, it is easy to put off but very satisfying once done.

Bigger Value Tweaks

Some companies just never got around to using some ERP features that save time. Using with the bank to download transactions and automate bank reconciliations is an example. Many companies list “automate purchasing” as a key goal during system selection. In the end, they may not get minimum and reorder quantities set well enough to use automated ordering.

Adding Features

If you’ve ever thought, “I wish the system could …” then there is likely either a feature already there to handle the function, or it can be added. ERP consultants and experts keep up-to-date not only on new features of ERP systems, but also on the growing market for add-on or third-party applications which add even more features. EDI, shipping, logistics, warehouse management, etc., can dramatically improve the efficiency of your system.

Don’t be satisfied with what you have now! Explore opportunities to add features and improve productivity.

How much does an ERP Expert need to know about business?

A computer expert when I started business was someone who could make a mail merge work in Consulting concept with knowledge experience professional expert words on chalkboardWordPerfect. If you could install WordPerfect, you were looked upon with the awe given the true Guru. And if you could write a macro in Lotus 1-2-3 that actually worked, you must have god-like powers. I’m exaggerating. A little.

Today, everyone uses Excel. Most people have created PowerPoint presentations. Some have even created ACCESS programs. Computer literacy has risen–at least among people under 60 (maybe it’s 70 today, but who knows). Facebook carries enough of our news that Republican congressmen get their noses out of joint about whether the company is filtering conservative news.

ERP Software and Business

Today’s businesses operate more and more with automated systems. ERP software (accounting) software has become big business. Even with the consolidation of companies (and the exodus of companies) in the market after the Great Recession, there is still an abundance of folk that would classify themselves as ERP experts.

So what qualifies one as an ERP expert? Certainly, an expert knows the software. Inventory, sales orders, logistics, shipping, warehousing, etc. are the mainstay of the ERP application, and an expert ought to know something about these. But should an ERP expert know the answer to the following questions:

  • How can I use the cash flow projections in my software to improve cash management?
  • What’s the difference in the manufacturing system between indirect overhead and labor burden?
  • How do I analyze cost and quantity variance with the system? (Or for that matter, what is cost and quantity variance?)
  • I’d like to cut the space my product is occupying in my warehouse (to decrease the square footage of warehouse space used). How can I do that with the ERP system?

Increasingly, I run into two different types of ERP “experts:” (a) the computer literate internal expert that knows a lot about the business and business process, and (b) the external expert that knows great details about the internal operation of the software (and often its programming), but knows very little about the operation of a business. Let me give you a real example.

An Expert Example (ERP)

I was asked to attend a meeting with two “experts” that had been working with a rather large business. One of them was developing an eCommerce site based on an open-source content management system (CMS); the other was implementing a warehouse management system (WMS).

The WMS implementor began the conversation with the statement that his system didn’t handle “backorders.” By that he meant that if there were an order for 100 of a product, and all the product could not be shipped, the WMS would not “remember” that there was still product due on that order. Likewise, if an order was entered for 5 different products, and the warehouse shipped 2 of the 5, the WMS would not remember that there were more products to ship. The same situation applied to receiving products. An order once received and closed by the WMS was “finished” as far as the WMS was concerned.

The eCommerce vendor wasn’t concerned with this. He was concerned with modifying the eCommerce system to work with wholesale orders. For him, this meant that the typical “search” and “add to cart” was to be replaced by an “order entry” system. Rather than buying products like one might on Amazon, the system would present a spreadsheet where a buyer could enter the list of products and quantities.

The Business Problem

The business problem with the WMS was that distribution and wholesale companies frequently make partial shipments. Vendors (particularly overseas) sometimes ship partial purchase orders to fill containers. In order for the system to work, there would need to be an intermediate function (most WMS systems have this, his didn’t) that allowed the warehouse manager to review open orders and purchase orders and “release” product that was to be shipped or received to the warehouse. In addition, the ERP system would need to deal with returns, credit memos, etc., and pass these to the WMS (since the eCommerce system didn’t do this).

In the case of the eCommerce system, the vendor missed what is generally a huge problem with B2B (business to business) eCommerce using a traditional system. Let’s take Amazon as an example. If I place an order for 20 razors on Amazon, finalize the order, and pay for it, that constitutes a transaction in Amazon’s mind. If I decide ten minutes or 10 days later that I really meant to order 25 or 15, my options are: (a) place another order for the extra product, (b) return product that’s already shipped, or (c) cancel the original order and place another. There’s no function at Amazon that allows me to change the quantity of a product that I ordered after the order has been placed. For that matter, to change the shipping destination of an order on Amazon requires cancelling the order.

Oops Happens

What happens all too often is that the “expert” realizes the problem only after the system has gone live and the client calls to ask, “How do I change this order?” The answer: “We’ll make a change to the system!” Unsaid: “And send you a bill for something we should have realized in the beginning!”

The answer? A true “expert” has both deep knowledge of the software (to determine what features are present) and deep knowledge of business (to understand best practices). Without both of these, “experts” are just wannabes. My $0.02.

Dynamics NAV 2016 Creating a PO for Special Order Automatically

Without workflow, Dynamics NAV takes several steps to create Purchase Orders for special order items. This video demonstrates a workflow that automatically creates the purchase order once the Sales Order has been approved.

Setup in this company requires that all sales orders over $500 be approved by the user DGG. This video also demonstrates the Web user interface by having the approval user create the approval in a web browser.

Warning: Ransomware Is On the Rise

A message appears on your computer: “You have visited illegal websites and must pay a fine of $200 to continue using your computer.” You discover that none of your files can be opened. All of their contents looks like Greek letters. What is going on?

You may ave been struck by the newest trend running around: ransomware. The malicious software (malware) encrypts all the files on your hard drive and asks for payment to unlock them.

Hands of a missing kidnapped abused hostage victim woman tied up with rope in emotional stress and pain afraid restricted trapped call for help struggle terrified locked in a cage cell.

Hands of a missing kidnapped abused hostage victim woman tied up with rope in emotional stress and pain afraid restricted trapped call for help struggle terrified locked in a cage cell.

How Does Ransomware Happen?

According to US-CERT (https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA16-091A), ransomware is usually connected to other trojan or virus software. It infects your computer in many of the same ways malicious software has always worked. Attachments to emails, tainted downloads, and open network shares are common entry points.

Preventing Ransomware

There are the standard prescriptions for preventing malware, including:

  • Backups
  • Keeping your antivirus software up to date
  • Installing new operating system versions and security updates when they come out
  • Avoid web links and attachments in unsolicited emails.

All of these you can probably handle yourself. Other suggestions from US-CERT include:

  • Whitelisting software
  • Restricting user permissions
  • Restricting macros in emailed spreadsheets, word processing documents, and other like data

You can read the full report at https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA16-091A.

Be careful out there!

 

Sage 300 2016 Feature Review – New Database Requirements

I think the biggest new feature in this year’s release of Sage 300 is Sage 300c, the web browser version. I talked about it in an earlier post.

One item that I think deserves a post of its own is the fact that Oracle and Pervasive.SQL will no longer be supported. The server requirements also hopped up a version. The 2016 version of Sage 300 supports only Microsoft SQL Server 2012 or 2014 and Windows Server 2012 R2!

New Feature-stampThis means that companies will need to convert the popular Pervasive database to SQL. We’ve done this in several installations without issues. However, the collating sequence and the date formats on SQL are a bit different from Pervasive. This means that you may have to tweak the Pervasive data to get it to load on Microsoft SQL.

Sage 300 does support the Express Edition of SQL server, which is limited to 10Gb databases, but is also FREE. A 10Gb database is generally large enough for most accounting implementations. For companies with fewer than 10 users that aren’t keeping large amounts of historical data (5 or 10 years), this is probably adequate. You’ll have to look at the database size to know, though.

There are a few more entries on the What’s New list for Sage 300. We’ll get to those shortly.

Meanwhile, let us know if we can help with an issue!

Garbage in, Garbage out … I hadn’t seen this quote before…

Speech bubble illustration of information technology acronym abbreviation term definition GIGO Garbage In Garbage Out

 

I saw this quote for the first time today and wanted to share it…

“On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament], ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”
— Charles Babbage (1791-1871)

NAV 2016 Feature Review – OCR Invoice Processing

Now that we’re past year end (almost), I’ve returned to the annual task of reviewing all of the new features in the new releases of software. One of the neat new features in Dynamics NAV 2016 is OCR invoice processing. Basically, Invoices Drawer Labelthe process works as follows:

  • Import a PDF file (or scan it and then import it) as an Incoming document
  • Send it to the OCR service (or let NAV Job Queue do it)
  • Receive it from the OCR service (or schedule it)
  • Review the results (if necessary)
  • Correct the OCR results and send feedback to the Lexmark ICS (Invoice Capture Service) to improve the results next time.
  • Automatically create an invoice or queue it for processing. The OCR recognizes text in the invoice to supply G/L account numbers for the lines on the invoice.

That’s wonderful functionality, but it leaves just a few questions unanswered:

  • You’ll have to have a Lexmark ICS account before you can use the feature. Sign up for the account here: https://store.readsoftonline.com/nav/
  • Once you sign up, you’ll get an email with the information you need to enter in OCR Setup in Dynamics NAV (account number, password, and key). The password here is not the same one you used when you set up your account for Lexmark ICS.
  • Workflow is also possible using Incoming Documents (such as invoice approvals, etc.). That will be in another post.
  • Lexmark ICS is available as a free service for up to 75 documents per month. After that you’ll pay per invoice (now $0.89 per document). There are also subscription services available for larger volume users.

Next I’ll record a few videos showing my adventures in using Lexmark ICS.

Why should ERP users care about Microsoft, Skylake, and Windows 10?

Skylake is Intel’s name for their 6th generation of processors. Microsoft has announced that within 18 months, only Windows 10 will be supported on Skylake. In other words, they won’t continue to build the code necessary to run Windows 7 and 8 on the newest processors. Here are a couple of articles: from the Verge and from extremetech.com.

Does This Affect You?

So does this really affect you? Afterall, you just bought new computers a week ago. If you go to Dell’s site and navigate to pages where they’re selling new Dell PCs, you’ll see the following or something similar in the text description of the processor: “6th Generation Intel® Core™ i3 processor.” Now if you go to Google, you’ll find that “Skylake is the codename used by Intel for the 6th generation Core processor microarchitecture,” courtesy of Wikipedia. This means–simply put–that if you buy this (low-end) machine from Dell today, you’ll eventually have to upgrade to Windows 10. And when you upgrade to Windows 10, you’ll have to ask: “Is my software compatible?”

An Example: Is my ERP compatible?

Suppose you have an accounting and ERP system that’s 7 years old. Generally, by the time a product is 7 years old, the manufacturer (say Sage, Intuit or Microsoft) has “discontinued support.” This means–in a nutshell–that there will be no further upgrades or fixes to the software. In addition, it means that new updates to existing operating systems won’t be tested with the software; no new compatibility will be announced. So if Windows 10 came out after support stopped, it’s not that it won’t be compatible; you just won’t know (officially) whether it is compatible or not.

Upgrade Upgrading Software Program Icon Symbol On Computer KeyboEnter Google and other consultants. So let’s suppose you Google a product that’s long out of support and add “Windows 10” to your search. You’ll likely find (as we do) that there are some consultant blogs out there (like this one) that claim, “we tried it and it worked!” Problem: where and how did they try it? If they tried it in-house, and not in production situations, I generally don’t trust it. I’ve seen a lot of software in 30 years that seemed to run on the new operating system. Later I found out that it didn’t work 100%; usually I found out before there was data corruption.

In the best of cases, if you’re running an unsupported program version on a new version of Windows, you’ll find yourself hearing, “I’m sorry, we don’t support that version any longer,” when you have a problem. You will never know whether the problem is the software, incompatibility, or something else.

Our Observation

In brief, our observation is that businesses that stay relatively current have fewer problems, are more satisfied with the product and are better able to compete. Businesses that don’t upgrade on a regular basis have increasingly more issues as the software gets older.

Bottom line: If you use a computer, you need to keep your software up to date!

Microsoft Calling…NOT!

I just got off the phone with a person who said they were with Microsoft Support. “We are getting messages that there is a dangerous virus on your computer and are calling to help you remove it. OK?”

“Sure,” I said.

Businessman With Computer Virus Alert“We need to install a program on your machine to remove the virus. Ok?”

“Sure,” I said, “I need to call you back, though. What’s your number?”

“You cannot call us back, because this is support,” she said.

“I cannot call you back because this is a fraud. My company is a Microsoft Partner…” Click.

Bye. Did you really think I would fall for that?

If you’re reading this, don’t fall for it either. Microsoft doesn’t call.