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!

Accounting and ERP Vendor Apologizes? Sage Email to Sage 50 Payroll Direct Deposit Customers

A client that uses Sage 50 (formerly Peachtree) sent us an email from Sage. It turns out that Sage switched from one direct deposit product to another and it caused some issues. Here’s the first part of the email:

The Sage Leadership team wants to talk to you.

On June 11, 2015, we implemented Sage ID, a sign-in system with enhanced security that replaced Sage Passport. While many customers have migrated successfully, some customers have experienced issues, making it difficult to process direct deposits. If you had challenges or were not able to process direct deposit, we are extremely sorry and would like the opportunity to apologize to you personally.

I’ve never seen this before, but it made me feel good about Sage; the Sage 50 product still isn’t the bees’ knees, though.

Computer Lockups and Troubleshooting

In the last few days, my computer system decided to lock up several times. I just installed a couple of trial versions of software, and I had purchased Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 12. I’d also installed the upgrade to 12.5.

When the lockup started, I assumed that it was one of two things (A) the software I just installed, or (B) something new Windows Update had installed automatically. I Googled the problem and the names of the software, and discovered that Dragon was being blamed for several lockups similar to the ones I had experienced. I followed the instructions, turning off many features of Dragon that I really like. Lockups continued.

I uninstalled software. I reinstalled Microsoft Office. Lockups continued.

I finally remembered that I had installed Microsoft virtualization technology in Windows 8. This also required me to turn on Hyper V support on my motherboard. When I turned off virtualization support on my motherboard, the lockups went away.

The moral: Troubleshooting is frustrating even for an IT professional. The problem isn’t always obvious, and the solution often involves retracing your steps. It’s something like finding lost keys.

I hope you’re not troubleshooting anything now, and I hope it’s easy to find if you are.

ERP, Technology, and the Danger of Knowing Too Little

There is a new phenomenon I’m experiencing lately: the danger of knowing too little about ERP and technology. I don’t mean the danger of Photo of a person at a desk with head in hands.knowing too little, I mean the danger of businesses knowing too little. Or perhaps individuals in those businesses knowing too little. Or perhaps IT advisors knowing too little.

Here’s what I mean: it’s not enough any more to know the technology. There was a time when our clients were amazed if we could just get things to work (that was a long time ago). Now we need to know much more. Not only do we need to know technical details to make things work, we need to know business processes. It’s more likely today that an IT specialist can make things work; it’s not likely that a business can take advantage of everything that is in the software.

Let’s take a simple example: inventory levels. Simply, that’s how much inventory to order, when to reorder, and how much should be on the shelf at any given time. It also involves deciding which products should in fact be in inventory, and which should be special ordered. Many businesses still use some version of average sales to get to this number. I can tell when I ask, “How do you decide what to order?” If I get the answer, “We have this report that lists the sales for the last 12 months,” I know we’re using average sales at some level.

The fact is that this isn’t the state of the art in inventory management. It’s not about state of the art software. It’s about knowing what is possible (from a business standpoint) and selecting a tool that can produce it.

The problem is that many businesses hand off the (entire) selection of the business software to the IT folk. Many IT folk know too little. But they’d never admit it. So we see ERP systems that half work, and don’t produce the ROI they were designed to produce. Oh, they work from a technical standpoint. It’s the business standpoint where they fail miserably.

The danger of knowing too little.

Microsoft Dynamics AX – Directed to the Enterprise

Microsoft might disagree with this simplification, but they seem to have identified two basic market segments: SMB (Small and Mid-sized businesses) and enterprise. In the Enterprise space, Dynamics AX is the ERP system targeted. Licensing for enterprise AX will soon be available through the volume license agreement channel, though the requirements for the partner organization providing licenses in this model will be significantly greater.

The other Dynamics products (NAV and GP primarily, and perhaps SL to a lesser degree), will have a new licensing model. The changes will be good for smaller businesses that need more functionality (like most of our clients).

Getting More from Your Business Software in a Floundering Economy

Business software isn’t the most important thing on most customers’ minds today. Most of the businesses I talk to these days seem to believe that the economy is improving some. Trouble is, they’re not quite ready to say the recession is over. I’m sure the uncertainty in the political environment is part of this, but it appears that economic ups and downs will continue for the next few months, at least.

Image of accounting and business software output pages.Businesses are trying to do more with less. More shipments with fewer employees. More sales with fewer salespeople. Some have found that the downturn is a good time to improve technology in order to fare better during the downturn. The key to this is not about technology. I’m always suspicious of the companies that promise me an improvement if only I’ll buy their technology. Sometimes the technology you have can do more.

Finding More in Your Business Software

When I talk to clients about their business software, ERP, or accounting software, it’s not unusual to find that there is some feature they weren’t aware of (or didn’t remember) that could save money or improve sales. It’s these features that you might look at during the next few months. As the economy recovers, use of these features may allow you to get more work done with less effort.

Some features you might look at include: credit management, CRM, sales automation, quoting, automated marketing, and integration to other operational systems. Watch this blog for more ideas.

 

What do you do when QuickBooks isn’t quite enough for your business?

Intuit’s QuickBooks product is one of the best known products for small business accounting that exists. Intuit does a good job marketing the product,  most accountants and bookkeepers are familiar with it, and it is easy to use. Perhaps most important is the fact that the various QuickBooks products (Pro, Premier, Deluxe, Enterprise, etc.) are priced to be attractive.

But what do you do when QuickBooks isn’t quite enough? You can purchase another product in the mid-market or use a product like FishBowl, but these alternatives are often quite expensive in relation to what you need. Sometimes, they don’t provide what you need. What do you do, for example, if you need a specific report that isn’t available in QuickBooks and can’t be generated using the “Customize Report” option? If you have QuickBooks Enterprise Solution, you can use a report writer like Crystal Reports and access the data through ODBC. If your needs are complex at all, you’ll discover as other businesses have that Crystal Reports is easy to use for basic reports, but more advance reports require some programming expertise.

We often deal with exactly these issues. The QuickBooks SDK combined with the ODBC link allows us to extract data from QuickBooks and do a host of things with it. Data Guidance Group has developed a set of programming tools that allow us to quickly assemble programs to meet your detailed needs.

If you’ve got an idea that would save you hours of time, or you need to know if something’s possible with QuickBooks, call a developer. We’re glad to answer questions about what’s possible with QuickBooks.

Changing the Way You Think About Business Software (ERP) and Technology

For 20+ years, DGG has really been in the business of changing the way our customers think about business, accounting, and ERP software. Changing the way you think about business software and technology can make you a lot of money. I’m thinking that perhaps we should have been talking about this for a long time.

Why? Our customers know that we’re different because we’re deep in both business and technology. Being deep in business changes (or should change) the way you think about software and technology in general. Using technology in business is like using a car.Photo of a man looking at the screen of his laptop.

The car is the hardware and infrastructure. The cables and racks and servers and operating systems (for example, Windows Server or Linux). Information Technology (IT) professionals spend a great deal of their time keeping the car working and tuning it up. I was talking to a customer’s IT support a week or so ago. He was lamenting the fact that the previous support person didn’t have individual servers for each piece of software: email on one server, web services on another, and accounting software on yet another. From an infrastructure standpoint, I completely agree with his objective. But polishing and tuning up the car doesn’t get you anywhere. Having the car (or server) running well is a precondition or prerequisite for everything else.

The gas is the application software. I’m not thinking about server software: SQL, email, etc. I’m thinking about Word, Excel, accounting, and business operations software. In order to go anywhere (in business or in a car) you need gas. This is the place many businesses (and IT departments) fall flat. They have new hardware on which they spend thousands of dollars with software that’s 20 years old. Old gas is bad for engines; old software can be equally bad for companies.

The result of old software is that businesses begin to think in terms of the software capability they have. Twenty years ago, we were happy that software worked and was stable. If we started the day with 10 in inventory, invoiced 2, and the computer said we h ad 8 left, we were ecstatic. Today, we expect the features we thought were whiz-bang in 1992. A car with 1992 gas sputters along, wheezing–if it runs at all. A business just creates a huge amount of work and “fights” its software by using Excel, ACCESS, and other tools to do the heavy lifting.

Finally, there’s the driver training. Anyone who’s taught a 15-year-old to drive knows that without training, the best place for the car and the gas is in the garage. Without proper training, you can hurt yourself.

And here’s where the analogy of the car vs. business technology breaks down. If your car doesn’t run, you don’t have gas, or you can’t drive, you find out pretty quickly. You wind up walking, pushing, or having a heart-to-heart conversation with a telephone pole or police officer. If your business technology isn’t optimal, you can run for a long time (harder, with more difficulty) without realizing it.

I’ve seen businesses run into the ground because they didn’t use the right software or didn’t use software right.

There’s more information on business software on the DGG site, and our Profit Tools eBook can provide some ideas.

 

No Time Sheets; No Hourly Rates

Photo of a man who might be a CPA I was trained in Public Accounting, as a CPA. I’m not sure that’s a good thing; I’m pretty sure it’s not a bad thing. Before you ask, I don’t do tax returns and I know very little about IFRS other than the acronym and that it’s important.

I do know, however, that time was important in public accounting. We lived and died (not literally, but in our careers) by the billable hour. More was better; too few and you’d find yourself in the unemployment line or looking for another job.

For management, it was an easy way to judge our contribution. Clients often didn’t receive it very well, particularly when the invoice was more than the “estimate.”

As of March 1, 2012, the only billable hours at DGG will be those we have to track because of existing contracts. Those contracts will end sometime in the next 8 or 10 months, and we will offer fixed prices to all of those customers.

Net results? (a) We can focus on delivering quality rather than billable hours. (b) We will manage delivery of a high quality product on time and on budget rather than managing the number of hours. (c) Customers will know exactly what the invoice will be at the end of the work. No surprises.

So, the billable hour is dead at DGG. Time sheets are dead. Hourly rates are no more.

From now on, we’ll use the time we save to help customers get more profit out of their existing systems. That was how I got into this business in the first place, and it’s what DGG is best at.

Business Update: The IRS Has an Official Email Address

The email address for the IRS isn’t studiozoom@studiozoom.com.pl. Nor does the IRS have a website at radiobaran.com address. I’m not pulling these from the air. They were actually in an email sent to me with From: IRS Tax Notification Department and Subject: Failure to file tax return on time.

The email body was gobbledygook about section this and subsection that. It indicated that I owed a $10,000 penalty which I could avoid by visiting the website.

If you get one of these, don’t fall for it.

IRS does not send notices via email. You get them in the mail.

And irs.gov is the official website. Anything else is suspect.

Tax fraud is on the rise. Don’t be a victim!