Blog
2017-07-21

As a small business owner, I have learned many lessons (some harder than others) on how to keep my business growing and thriving. Here are some of the more memorable challenges:



1. Attracting and KEEPING Employees - I am not able to offer the kind of benefits that a big company offers, but I am determined to provide an environment where employees can learn, grow, get paid well, and have relationships that only a small company fosters. For me, it is important that whoever joins our company fits into the culture, and enjoys the opportunity to become proficient in ways they could never accomplish with a large company.


2. Founder Dependence - As a founder of a small business, I am very focused on the quality and value we offer customers. Founder Dependence is the Achilles heel of a small business. The very qualities that energized the business at the start can now become a stumbling block. I have learned that letting go and delegating responsibilities to employees is challenging, but necessary if we are to evolve as a company. Sometimes I need to step back to allow employees enough room to figure out how to approach an issue. Their solutions may not be exactly how I would handle it, but encouraging them to take on more is the best way for them to learn.


3. Remaining Profitable - The shortcut to profitability lies in examining how everyone in our company can work more efficiently. We are constantly looking at how we deliver products and services to see if we can do it better. We have discovered that the best way to stay profitable is through innovation and optimization. The old adage, “Do more with less” is vital for us as a small business.


4. Overworked and Fatigued - Studies show that being fatigued can lead to rash decisions. As a small business owner, it is my responsibility to take care of my mental and physical health. To keep pace with ever-changing circumstances, I carve out time just for me to help me focus better. Investing in my state of mind pays off in better decisions, and stronger commitment to accomplish what is needed.


5. Seek Expert Help - You don’t know what you don’t know. That is why it is rewarding to seek guidance from other business owners who have “been there, done that.” I belong to a professional group of small business owners who give me encouragement and practical answers to common problems. There is nothing more reassuring than to hear how another successful small business owner resolved a situation.



What challenges do you face in your small business? Please comment below to continue the conversation.

2017-07-21

Even the most customer-centric company has experienced times when one of their customers becomes dissatisfied. How you handle complaints can make or break your reputation and affect your brand.


Today’s digital world gives your customers a lot of power. One post can sour other potential customers from engaging with you, so it becomes even more important today to act quickly to resolve any complaints.


Keep in mind that your clients only complain about what they care about, so you can look at negative feedback as a gift to really understand your client. If you don’t have an avenue for your customers to give feedback, some of them will never tell you until they have gone elsewhere with their business.


I have found a step-by-step process helps diffuse the heat of a negative customer experience.




  1. First, thank them for telling you. “I appreciate your feedback.”

  2. Validate their feelings. “I hear you say that this has been a bad experience for you.” Repeat their complaint and take notes, so they know you are giving this your full attention.

  3. Apologize. Don’t admit blame or throw your colleagues under the bus, just let them know their feedback is important for how you want to operate as a company. “I’m sorry for your bad experience.”

  4. Take action. Don’t dwell on how the problem happened, as this is seen as excusing the behavior. Convey your confidence that “we,” as a company will resolve this issue with an action plan. Get your customer’s agreement on what you propose to do. Ask them, “Does this action plan make sense?”

  5. Take responsibility. Honor any promises you have made to your customer. Follow up to ensure the plan is working well from their point of view.


Most often, the issue you are having is due to the customer feeling that their expectations are not being met. Researchers have suggested that our brains really detest unanticipated outcomes. If you build in a process for setting the expectations up front, this may mitigate hard feelings in the future.



For example, customers often feel they shouldn’t have to pay for project management. By setting the right expectations during the sales cycle, you can eliminate discussions about what they are being charged for. Project Management is an integral part of the implementation and drives the success of the project so, for us as a company, it is non-negotiable.



Ultimately, you are in business because of your customers. Respecting their opinions, yet coming up with a plan that is fair to both parties will ensure that you remain profitable, and are there to support them in the future.



What strategies do you have when dealing with customer complaints? Please continue the conversation and share in the comments below.

2017-06-09

SEATTLE— Sept. 7, 2016 — PC Bennett Solutions, a premium, personalized service for Acumatica’s end-to-end enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting services, announced its acquisition of Dallas area-based ERP consulting and implementation firm ROC Solutions. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed at this time. However, the merger positions PC Bennett Solutions as one of the largest Acumatica exclusive reseller partners. Effective immediately, PC Bennett Solutions acquires all of ROC Solutions’ intellectual property and customer base while expanding its physical presence with locations now in the Seattle and Dallas areas, as well as virtual offices in California and Colorado.



“This is a truly exciting time for PC Bennett Solutions,” said Patricia Bennett, chief executive officer of PC Bennett Solutions. “Both of our companies share similar values and because of that we’re going to be focused on forming long-term relationships with our clients for many years to come. As the largest exclusive Acumatica reselling partner, our goal is to achieve even higher levels of customer satisfaction while searching for growth opportunities in untapped markets.”



“PC Bennett Solutions brings a wealth of knowledge and talent around Acumatica in Sales, Implementation, Support, and the Development platform—it made perfect sense to make this leap to create a world-class organization built around the Acumatica platform,” said Tim O’Sullivan, newly appointed chief operating officer of PC Bennett Solutions and former managing partner of ROC Solutions. “Our customers, as well as PC Bennett’s, will immediately receive a much larger expert support team that can help move their business to the next level.”


Broadening Resources for Serving Clients, Expanding Markets


As part of the acquisition, which was just finalized, PC Bennett Solutions will broaden its resources for serving customers, with O’Sullivan shifting roles to chief operating officer. In his new role, O’Sullivan is responsible for managing the company’s day-to-day operations while overseeing PC Bennett Solution’s consulting division. Additionally, former managing partners Angie Crockett and Jose Antonio Romero will now serve as senior vice president of customer care, and senior vice president of global services, respectively.


“Merging with PC Bennett Solutions offers us the opportunity to take ROC Solutions to the next level by bringing together teams with a variety of skills and many years of experience in the ERP space,” said Crockett. “We look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.”

As part of the acquisition, PC Bennett Solutions is in the process of planning its continued growth and expansion across U.S. markets as well as into Latin American markets, including Peru and Colombia, where Romero and Bennett hail from.

“Joining forces with another enterprise can create innovation in manufacturing, distribution, design, and research and development,” said Romero. “This partnership allows us to align our synergies while enhancing our ability to reach new markets.”

Award-Winning Team


For the second time in two years, the Puget Sound Business Journal named PC Bennett Solutions as one of the top 50 fastest-growing private companies on the Eastside area. PC Bennett Solutions was also recognized on Inc. 5000’s List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies.


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About PC Bennett Solutions


PC Bennett Solutions offers a personalized, full-service experience for customers by implementing business management technology. Through a hands-on approach, PC Bennett Solutions helps companies get the most out of their software system. The team provides training, implementation and customization of Acumatica. Headquartered in the Seattle area, PC Bennett Solutions is one of the largest exclusive Acumatica resellers. For more information, visit www.pcbennett.com.


About Acumatica


Acumatica provides cloud-based business management software that empowers small and mid-size businesses to unlock their potential and drive growth. Built on cloud and mobile technology and a unique customer-centric licensing model, Acumatica delivers a suite of fully integrated business management applications, such as Financials, Distribution, CRM and Project Accounting, on a robust and flexible platform. In an interconnected world, Acumatica enables customers to take full control of their businesses, play to their organizations’ unique strengths and support their clients by following them anywhere on any device. For more information, visit www.acumatica.com.

2017-06-08

Cloud Based ERP for Medium Sized Business


Acumatica Cloud ERP software has leveled the playing field for (SMBs) small-medium business. Today SMBs can experience the same competitive advantages as big-budget Enterprise level organizations. Successful SMBs are moving to the cloud in record numbers to benefit from technology that boosts profits for existing businesses and creates entirely new business opportunities.


Access from Any Web Device


Acumatica Cloud ERP provides SMBs with access to all its robust functionality (Financial Management, Distribution Management, Project Accounting, and CRM) from any device connected to the web. And, there is no need to ever wonder if your software is upgraded to the latest version as its all taken care of in the cloud.


Grow Your Business with Abandon – No Per-User Pricing


Your business can scale up or down rapidly so you can respond to changing customer demands. There is no per-user pricing with Acumatica Cloud ERP so you are free to grow without the added costs that traditional ERP systems force you to pay.


Eliminate Costly Infrastructure that is Draining Profits


SMBs can improve profits by eliminating the huge overhead costs needed to setup and maintain a traditional “on premise” infrastructure. With Acumatica Cloud ERP, businesses can go from ground-breaking ideas to finished products lightning fast, unencumbered by costly infrastructure.


Get Your Head in the Clouds


Most small to medium businesses would benefit from moving operations to the cloud. Predictions from research groups are that small and midsize business use of cloud applications will grow from 33% to 44% over the coming year, while some studies anticipate the global market for SMB cloud services will expand to $95 billion by 2015.


Some industries thriving in the cloud are listed below:


  • eCommerce

  • Financial Management

  • Distribution

  • Manufacturing

  • Professional Services

  • And more

Please contact PC Bennett Solutions to learn more. We’d love to boost you to the cloud.

2017-06-07

What is an ERP System?


A CEO’s Perspective


Our CEO, Patricia Bennett, and I spoke to a group of managerial accountants and CPA’s about what ERP systems are, how to select one and how to implement them. During the question and answer period one attendee said, “I’m still not clear about what an ERP system is. Can you give me an example?”


I’ve written a blog post on this topic that takes a slightly more technical approach, explaining about the evolution of ERP systems and the typical functionality.


Patricia took a different approach and set the vision from a CEO’s perspective. She said, and I paraphrase:


Sales and Marketing


ERP systems are software tools that help run the business from end to end. Imagine if you will that you acquire some leads from a list company, content download, or other marketing activity. You can set up your ERP system to automatically import those leads into the lead management portion of the system.


Your sales team can then have access to those leads for further interaction via email, phone calls and events, then track that activity and schedule follow up actions in the lead management system. You as the CEO can instantly see how the sales cycle is progressing and how much potential business the team is working to generate as those opportunities.


Here are some sales dashboards for various ERP systems:


ERP CRM Dashboards

Automated Management of Customers, Inventory, and Services


Once the sale is made the prospect information can be automatically transferred into a customer account, without manual or duplicate data entry. The opportunity can be converted to a sale with the details of what the customer is buying. If you stock inventory, the sales department can automatically communicate to the shipping department what to ship to the customer and when. If you are a services company, the service manager can be automatically notified of a new project.


Once the product is delivered or the services provided, invoices can be automatically generated by the system and emailed to the customer. Or they can be sent via regular mail as well. Customers can transfer their payments to your company and be captured by the bank who can report the details of the deposit. Your accounting team can record the invoices paid either from a wire transfer or a check that has been deposited.


The system can monitor your inventory levels and make recommendations about what to purchase and when based on current inventory levels, vendor lead times and sales patterns. It can automatically generate and email purchase orders to vendors. When goods arrive the receiving department can record the inventory items that were received. Inventory quantities will automatically be available for the sales team.


All Activities Tie to Accounting


The accounts payable team will be able to view the receipts and match them to the vendor invoices. Accounts payable invoices can grouped based on the terms and due dates and paid electronically thereby eliminating printing and mailing checks.


During any point in the month you can see what has been sold and look at the margins generated by those sales. Many people say “cash is king” and you can view your cash and other balance sheet accounts like inventory, payables and receivables. In addition to balance sheet accounts, income statement amounts can be viewed in a dashboard format so that you know where to focus your energies. The statements and dashboard items are linked to the transactions which will allow you to drill down to the details to address any question you may have about them.


One Integrated Business Management System


So a well-designed and implemented ERP system can help efficiently manage your business from end to end and provide the key information decision makers require to run the business.


The attendee indicated that the answer really helped him conceptualize what an ERP system is and how it could benefit his company.

2017-06-06

Acumatica Raises $10 Million


Expecting $1 Billion in Revenue in 10 Years


If you know PC Bennett, you know that we’ve been excited about Acumatica for some time now. Here is some recent news about the modern ERP vendor.


After growing by more than 300% several years in a row, Acumatica has just raised $10 million from Runa Capital.


A November 18th press release reported:


“The latest funding will enable Acumatica to accelerate its already aggressive growth and work with its robust partner channel to make its offering the Cloud ERP solution of choice for SMBs worldwide.


‘We have a solid product roadmap loaded with new innovative additions, and a partner channel that continues to grow faster than we ever could have expected,’ said Larichev. ‘We do not need more funding because we are already making money.’ “



A managing partner of Almaz Capital is quoted in the press release as saying, “We see Acumatica growing to more than a billion in revenue in less than 10 years”.

2017-06-05

What is ERP?


Most people start by talking about the various components of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. I’ll get there, but first a little background. In the 1980’s software companies came out with MRP systems that ran on mainframe systems initially. MRP at that time was an acronym for “Materials Requirements Planning”. These systems were focused on reducing material shortages and excesses on the manufacturing floor.


At that time, and still today, MRP calculations generally look at demands and supplies of inventory items. Demands include forecasts, sales orders and manufacturing orders. Supplies are inventory, purchase orders and manufacturing orders, which both consume inventory and produce it. The final factor was a bill of materials, which in complex products can be multiple levels deep. When MRP runs it looks at demands, supplies, bills of material and other planning parameters and then suggests that buyers and planners take actions to place, adjust or cancel purchase orders and manufacturing orders.


Next software companies and manufacturing companies moved to include resources, such as production workers and equipment in the planning process to help manage capacity and production levels. They also linked inventory related activity to the accounting systems so that there was a closed loop, integrated system which enabled manufacturers to better manage and account for the business.


In the 1990’s Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, systems started to catch on. These systems allowed companies to manage the sales process and track activity with customers.  They started as standalone products but eventually MRP companies and CRM companies merged, or MRP companies developed their own CRM systems. That left the marketing with a challenge of what to call the combined systems so they ended up with Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP as a label for the combination of MRP and ERP systems.


Software companies that did not have a manufacturing option picked up on the ERP label as well (and don’t necessarily have the “P” or planning component). These days the ERP term is used to label accounting and operations software no matter the industry.


Perhaps a simpler way to explain what ERP systems are is to think of them performing several functions:


What does ERP do?


Lead to Cash


Lead to cash starts with the process of acquiring new customers, securing orders, delivering products and services and finally invoicing for and collecting for those products and services. Typical software components include:


  • Lead management

  • Customer management

  • Sales order entry

  • Shipping

  • Project costing

  • Invoicing

  • Cash receipts

Procure to Pay


Procure to pay starts with ordering things like services, inventory, expense items and assets and then receiving them followed by recording the invoices and paying for those items.


  • Purchase requisitions

  • Purchase order management

  • Receiving

  • Production

  • Services delivery

  • Invoice entry

  • Cash disbursements

Reporting


The lead to cash cycle and procure to pay cycle both generate financial transactions that end up in the “books” or general ledger, which is the foundation of financial reporting. In addition the other cycles can also provide information for reporting and analysis of business performance. Some systems include report generation tools that are used to define and produce financial statements such as income statements and balance sheets. But some systems require an additional external tool to design and produce those reports. Most systems have a query tool that allows users to create their own views of the data. And most of ERP systems support exporting data to Excel for further analysis and some allow for the automatic refreshing of the Excel data without logging into the ERP system.


In the end, the primary objective of ERP systems is to enable companies to better manage their operations and provide better information to decision makers at all levels. So if you are looking for a system make sure the systems you consider meet your information needs and company objectives.

2017-06-04

There are 6 phases that make up an ERP implementation project: Discovery and Planning, Design, Development, Testing, Deployment, and Ongoing Support. Though this is an iterative process, there will be a tendency for phases to overlap, and for movement back and forth between phases.


With our team having over a century of combined experience in financial software and ERP implementations, I have outlined the process that we use with our customers as a series of 6 articles. See the linked steps below for a more in depth look at each phase.


We hope that the articles linked below can serve as a valuable resource to you and your organization when exploring ERP projects as well as other enterprise systems.


ERP Implementation Plan


1. Discovery and Planning


This first phase begins during the sales process and then continues post-sale. During this period, the project team will be created. There will be initial meetings and documentation developed as the team works to identify current issues and potential solutions. An important part of this phase is constructing the project plan, which will serve as a guide throughout the rest of the project.


2. Design


We’re not talking about painting the office or rearranging furniture. Instead, what will the new enterprise-wide system look like and how will it be used in the organization? In the ERP Design phase, the project team and implementation team will be working out the various configurations for the new system, defining roles, and documenting standard procedures.


3. Development


The purpose of the development phase is to prepare the entire system for going live. This includes activities such as completing any necessary customizations, developing user trainings, and importing data. With ERP implementations, like any custom software development projects – “First, Solve the problem. Then, write the code.”


4. Testing


Is the system’s functionality aligning with the set requirements for the project? The Testing and Development phases will often overlap, as the implementation and project teams jump between the two – constantly fine tuning the configuration. By the end of this phase, project team members will be comfortable doing their jobs in the new system. This is the final step before diving into the live system.


5. Deployment


The project team and implementation team will assess the situation and make the final go or no-go decision. Prior to going live, the final data will be loaded and validated. The project team will train other employees who will then start working in the new system, and completely stop using the old one.


6. Ongoing Support


Once the ERP system has gone live, the purpose of the project team will shift. Over time, as the way the users work within the system evolves, adjustments and changes to the system configuration may be needed.


We have included all of these steps in much greater detail in the free e-book which you can download below. PC Bennett has been implementing ERP systems and providing ongoing ERP support for companies since 2002 and we are happy to assist as we know it can be a large endeavor.


Phone: (425) 831-7924

Email: info@pcbennett.com

2017-06-03

New ERP Features


There are a lot of really great technical updates in the latest version of Acumatica. However, we wanted to take some time and show you some of our favorite usability enhancements in this cutting edge business management system.


Exciting Changes that Affect All ERP & CRM Users


Drag & Drop Files Onto Any Screen


Whether you’re working with a lead or a sales order, quickly grab multiple files at a time and release them right into the screen that you’d like to attach them to. Check out our post with a video and explanation.


Advanced Filtering (Parametric) For Any User


Don’t be afraid. “Advanced” refers to the functionality – not the skill level required. And “parametric” is a cool word – but shouldn’t be intimidating. What this means is that sorting information through out the system is easier and more powerful than ever. Check out our post with a video and explanation.


Sync with Excel using Real-time Connectivity


This isn’t just integrating with Excel. This new feature allows users to export a spreadsheet that has permanent links back to the original source. Enter credentials and click refresh in MS Excel and… Voila! Check out our post with a video and explanation.

2017-06-02

Permanent Excel Links in Business Software


Cool Features that are Changing ERP


Back in the day…


Even the simplest business management systems like QuickBooks, Intacct, Microsoft Dynamics, or Sage will allow users to export data to MS Excel spreadsheets. Acumatica is no exception. Many, many screens in Acumatica allow users to export data to Excel. There is something new, however, in this regard that makes Acumatica stand out from all the rest.


Now… Real-time Excel Connectivity upon Export


Screenshot & Video


If a user has a particular screen they want to monitor, say period to date sales to customers, they can create an Excel file that links to the underlying data. That means that users can just open the file, refresh the data and view the up-to-date information.


Acumatica Excel Integration

Demo Video of Acumatica’s Real-time Excel Integration



Some other nice things about Acumatica 4.1 include:


  • Optimized data entry with suggestion and auto-complete capabilities

  • The ability to add and secure specific import scenarios to the menu system

  • Improved layout of reports and printed forms

  • Simplified scheduling for recurring general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable transactions

  • Expanded developer documentation
2017-06-01

Fastest Growing Cloud-based ERP & Accounting Software


There’s been so much activity at Acumatica these days it’s been difficult to keep up. With a rapidly growing network of excited partners the innovative tech company plans to aggressively disrupt the business management software industry over the next few years. Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen in August 2013 so far:


Acumatica’s Whirlwind of Announcements


On the 14th, Acumatica was recognized with the Silver Stevie award in the Best New Product category in the 10th Annual International Business Awards. According to this press release, the company received this “for taking ‘financial management for SMBs to the next level'”.


Acumatica Adds Partners


After bringing on Dawn Jaeger to lead their partner recruiting efforts and launching a recruiting campaign involving direct mail flip flops, the company announced the addition of more than 40 partners in 4 months on August 18th. This brought the total worldwide count of partners to 221.


Acumatica Increases Revenue


Then, on August 19th, Acumatica announced a record annual growth of over 300% and potentially hitting 350% by year end. In the past year they’ve moved their headquarters to Kirkland, WA and doubled their staff.


Acumatica Expands Territory


As if that wasn’t enough, in the two days that followed, the company releases their most usable and powerful version yet – Acumatica 4.1, and huge exclusive partnership deals with leading software providers in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands. With that, the Cloud ERP innovator continues to tout being the “fastest-growing provider of cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial software”.


Acumatica Recognizes Top Partners


Eva Idom, President of AIM Solutions was named Partner of the Year


Acumatica Partner of the Year

PC Bennett Recognized for Outstanding Achievement


With over 280 partner attendees, we were honored to be one of the 10 partners recognized for outstanding achievement at the annual summit. PC Bennett has seen “Acumatica-like” growth since joining them in 2011. Due to our committed and highly trained team, PC Bennett Solutions was named a Gold Certified Partner in April 2013.

2017-05-31

Drag-and-Drop in Business Software


Cool Features that are Changing ERP


Back in the day…


Previous versions of Acumatica allowed users to attach documents to transactions, customers, vendors and so on. However, this is a common functionality in other business management applications. In the past, a user would have to upload a file one at a time – repeating the click, browse, select process for multiple files. As Acumatica is continually distancing itself from legacy systems, impressive functionality is constantly emerging.


Now… Drag & Drop in ERP – Cloud or On-premise


Screenshot & Video


Version 4.1 allows users to simply grab multiple files in a group and drag them onto the appropriate Acumatica screen. For example, expense reports often include numerous expenses so users can drag images of those receipts onto the expense report where they become part of the transaction. That means anyone who wants more information about the transaction can simply open each attachment to see relevant details.


Acumatica Cloud ERP Features: Drag and Drop

Click here for more information on the 4.1 release.

2017-05-30

Parameter-based Filtering in Business Software


Cool Features that are Changing ERP


Back in the day…


It’s been pretty standard for a while that in business management software systems such as ERP, Accounting, and CRM – the user can rearrange columns and sort greatest to least numerically or alphabetically.


Now… Acumatica 4.1 ERP Parametric Filtering


Screenshot & Video of Advanced Filtering


Acumatica has many inquiry and transactional screens with multiple data columns that can be sorted and filtered to address user’s information needs. You can now sort the results in ascending or descending order and filter the column 6 different ways. Filters can also be applied to multiple columns multiple ways. Here is an example:


Acumatica Cloud ERP Features: Parametric Filtering | Advanced Filtering & Navigation

Click here for more information on the 4.1 release.

2017-05-29

On day two, as the 2013 Acumatica Partner Summit ramped up, the focus was on clarifying the overall direction of the product as well as equipping partners with tips on marketing this new and advanced system.


Acumatica Partners Growing & Evolving with 4.1


Learn more about the Acumatica 4.1 release


With a partner-only channel that is rapidly growing, Acumatica is moving on the crucial need to continually invest in the success of these partners. These, businesses that are selling Acumatica are coming from many different backgrounds such as Sage, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics GP and SL, and many more. After speaking with many of them, it is clear that they are here because they want to provide their business communities with a more modern solution that will last for decades to come. Because Acumatica approaches consolidated business software solutions in completely different than legacy vendors, it’s definitely important for partners to tweak their messaging approach when it comes to sales and marketing.


Acumatica Leadership


The day kicked off with Co-founder, John Howell reflecting on the 2007 formation of the innovative cloud business management software provider and the strategy involved. He mentioned Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law being the foundation for Acumatica’s revolutionary pricing structure and deployment flexibility, and partnership program. Next we saw presentations by the Founder of PostcardMania, as well as Acumatica’s own Product Marketing Manager, and Channel Marketing Manager. Acumatica will be increasing their marketing efforts and supporting and encouraging their partners to do the same at a more focused scale in their own backyards. Today, the Channel Marketing Manager, Charlie Horton introduced a new extensive co-marketing marketing program that will help partners take advantage of targeted marketing campaigns and strengthen their websites.


Increasing Revenue, Increasing Partners


After that, Acumatica Co-founder and Owner, Serguei Beloussov spoke. He told partners about his own story and perspective on growing Acumatica. He was followed by CEO Yury Larichev who finished up the session some more light on the company’s goals from a financial perspective. Acumatica plans to double revenue each year for the next two years, and eventually reach 1,000 partners.


NetSuite, Intacct, MS Dynamics, Acumatica


Partners Learning From Each Others’ Specialties


Following that session, 4 Acumatica partners presented and demonstrated competing products that they were experienced with. The systems that were demonstrated were Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains), SL (Solomon), Intacct, and NetSuite. This was a great learning opportunity where the audience was able to ask questions and really test Acumatica against the competition.

2017-05-28

Acumatica 4.1 Cloud ERP


Learn more about the Acumatica 4.1 release


Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, VA – just a few minutes away from Washington, DC – hummed with activity late Sunday night and all day Monday. Nearly 300 professionals representing 98 partners, 20 Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) from 12 countries, gathered there to celebrate the launch of Acumatica 4.1, “the best and most usable version of of Acumatica to date” according to Jean Gea, Product Marketing Manager. Partners will be training all week there – fully committed to the cutting edge Cloud ERP company that has grown by over 300% in 2013.


Acumatica 4.1, 5.0, and Beyond


The focus of the first day of the event was educating partners on exciting changes regarding pricing, partnerships, and product functionality. Partners were also introduced to the product roadmap to version 5.0 and the latest available 3rd party software integrations.


Learn more about the Acumatica 4.1 release


Acumatica CTO, Mike Chtchelkonogov spoke to the crowd about features coming soon to the product such as integrated business intelligence, simpler customization and integration, mobile application framework, Office 365 Integration, more streamlined implementation, and overall more functionality out of the box. The company’s development team has significantly increased in size and has built up a lot of momentum over the last year. Testing processes have become much more efficient – reducing bugs and speeding up development time.


The Acumatica team is also focusing on continuing the progress they’ve already made in Acumatica University – the partner training program dedicated to establishing a strong community of salespeople, implementers, and developers.


Acumatica eCommerce


CurveCommerce


We had the pleasure of sitting through a fantastic live demonstration of an Acumatica eCommerce tool. “CurveCommerce has partnered with Acumatica to deliver a fully integrated ERP and eCommerce Platform. The CurveCommerce System incorporates all of the flexibility and functionality of Magento® eCommerce software with time-tested usability and state of the art marketing techniques. The result is a user-friendly website framework which generates superior sales performance and outstanding conversion rates while seamlessly passing information quickly and securely between Acumatica and the website.”


Retail Management System with Acumatica


FusionRMS


Another application we got to see in action was FusionRMS. Like many of the ISV products, this RMS seemlessly integrates with Acumatica. That is, a user will never even see where Acumatica ends and the ISV product begins. The client installed POS does have a different feel, but is said to be redesigned to fit the Acumatica style in the future. “Fusion Integrated Software application suite includes retail applications: point of sale, customer service, call center, scheduling, etc. Restaurant applications address the need of both counter sales as well as sit down dining. Wholesale / distribution applications include high volume order entry and warehouse management complete with Fedex / UPS integration.”


Services Management Module for Acumatica


M5


We were blown away by the functionality of this application. It was good to see that it was fully embedded in the Acumatica UI. M5 also shared with us their SCRUM development process.


“M5 software brings over 20 years in accounting and ERP software implementation and customization, IT consulting and development. The backgrounds of M5 Software key staff include Industrial Engineers, CPAs, CMAs, Senior Developers and Consultants.


This depth of management and operations knowledge, coupled with software-implementation expertise, results in the best-practices approach to give your business a real top-quality and versatile solution.”

2017-05-27

Software Development Design Phase


What makes up a system design?


Having over 30 years of experience in software development, I currently serve as the Director of Development at PC Bennett Solutions. At PC Bennett, we implement streamlined business management solutions for companies that often have complex processes and system requirements.


In designing a new system, or new integrations to a current system, it can be tempting to just start building out the new code. Often people forget that the most important stage of any software development project is building a detailed design document.  PC Bennett strongly believes that a successful development project is entirely dependent upon a thorough and complete design that has been reviewed, revised, and approved by the end-users and major stake-holders of the software.


A successful design will include:


  1. A screen mockup and complete description of every major screen in the system, including a description of each field on the screen and its purpose.

  2. A complete description of every major process in the system (flow of data, calculations, posting processes, etc.) with diagrams (such as flowcharts) as appropriate.

  3. A report mockup and complete description of every report to be built for the system, detailing the source of the data to be included, filtering, sorting, and subtotaling options.

  4. A detailed description of the technology to be utilized.

  5. A complete and detailed field-by-field table specification for each new table to be built for the system.

  6. A list of existing table “objects” to be utilized or to be integrated with, along with a field-by-field list of custom fields to be added to these objects (note, a table “object” may refer to a virtual table entity from the existing application’s perspective; this entity may be comprised of one or more actual SQL tables).

  7. A data dictionary tracking all of the data fields to be used throughout the system (mapped to the tables using them).

  8. A chart of table relationships (showing key field links between them).

  9. Data Flow Diagrams as appropriate to explain how data “moves” through the software system.

  10. A description of the user-security methodology to be utilized.

  11. List of anything that will NOT be included in the system (so that there are no invalid assumptions).

This article is meant to be a more technical perspective on the Design phase of a system implementation.


Structure the Design Documentation


The finished detailed design will include both application/domain level information (for review by the client) as well as technical information (for use by the development team).  Often times these are divided into separate documents, but I prefer to combine them into a single document, with sections clearly delineated (so that the client does not get bogged down in trying to read and understand the technical details).  I prefer this combined-design approach for the following reasons:


  • It eliminates the concern about the two documents becoming out of sync as modifications are made (or of a key stake-holder reviewing mismatched versions of the two documents)

  • It is critical for development staff to understand the “why” (i.e. application level), not just the “how”, so they should have ready access to the client-focused design documentation as they are proceeding with the development

A Final Blueprint


A proper detailed design, as described above, can be considered an end “product” in and of itself, as it has value as a concise description of the software system to be built, much as an architectural blueprint for a building.  The design document should be such that it can be presented to any software developer (assuming the proper technology skills) for creation of the end software system.


What do think are often the greatest challenges to preparing design documentation?

2017-05-26

Acumatica Invests in Partners & Product


Since the launch of Acumatica 4.0 in March, we’ve seen and heard a non-stop buzz coming from the innovative cloud ERP vendor. Although the Kirkland based company has been growing rapidly since it was founded by former Solomon (now MS Dynamics SL) execs in  2007, there seems to be an increased momentum among staff and partners alike.


4.1 Sneak Peek for Partners


The PC Bennett Solutions team was happy to be quoted in this May release, outlining some of the major enhancements in the biggest release since 4.0. Acumatica partners were introduced to upcoming features via a exclusive online demo. The company also revealed an intriguing road map for continued product innovations for many years to come.


Increasing Partner Recruitment


Acumatica has always pursued a quality-over-quantity partner network – seeking out only the most qualified resellers to represent their product. Recently, we’ve seen a recent push to further strengthen this network.


New Leading Exec to Head up Partner Recruiting


Dawn Jaeger, former director of channel development for SugarCRM and channel recruitment manager at SAP America – has joined the Acumatica team. According to Acumatica’s CMO, Stijn Hendrikse, “Her stature, successful track record, and expertise will make a vital contribution to Acumatica’s business. Since we distribute our products exclusively through a rapidly expanding worldwide network of VARs, ISVs, and OEMs, we know that her efforts will ensure Acumatica continues to attract the best and the brightest partners to grow our business with theirs.”


Acumatica Adds 26 Partners – Many in Asia


The July press release cites that 11 of the 26 new partners are based in Asia. Erwan Phillipe, General Manager in Asia said, “We now cover big markets such as Singapore, India, and the Philippines, and also emerging markets such as Cambodia, Nepal, and Myanmar.”


We’ll keep you updated as we attend the 2013 Partner Summit in Leesburg, VA where 4.1 will be officially released.

2017-05-25

After the new ERP system is live, there will continue to be a need for ongoing optimization of system use and productivity. There may be features in the ERP system that the implementation and project teams decided to defer until after the system was live. Users may also find slightly different ways to utilize the system that help them be more productive.


Post Go-live


It’s like using Excel. When you first start using the program you use basic functions as you build a foundation, then over time you learn more capabilities that address more complex situations.


Converting the Project Team


This optimization process begins as a joint effort between the implementation team and the project team, but shifts as the project team takes on more of the lead role. Eventually they will convert to more of an IT steering committee that looks at new system requests from users and compares them with the IT resources available.


Responsibilities for the steering committee also include ensuring that new users are properly trained in the use of the system. Studies have shown that a departing user transfers roughly 10% of their knowledge to the new user. And if that role has several changeovers in a period of a few years, the way the system is used may diverge from how it was designed to be used.  This can lead to a high level of frustration with the system, a loss of productivity as users develop unnecessary workarounds and degradation in the quality of information available in the ERP system.


I have been called into over a dozen companies where the user frustration level reaches the CEO who then calls the software company to complain about the system. In all cases I found that a lack of proper user training and procedures leads to a lack of system understanding by users who then create workarounds to get their jobs done. One company had over 200 Access databases on the network to supplement the system – and there were roughly 50 users of the ERP system.


In the more severe cases, we formed a new project team and essentially re-implemented the system. A proper IT steering committee can help avoid those aggravations and expenses.


Identify Problem Areas & Develop Solutions


If there are some longer term structural changes such as acquisitions, or adding new business units there may be a need for rolling out new features in the ERP system that were not necessary before.


So even though thorough planning and testing was conducted along the way, generally, there will always be a need for proper care and feeding of the ERP system as the business progresses. This should be managed by the steering committee and members of the implementation team should be engaged where appropriate.


Are you experiencing any pain points with your current system as a result of a lack of ongoing ERP system support?


Is There Life After an ERP Implementation?


I hope this brief post gave you some helpful things to consider. In a more recent post, I readdress this issue – discussing 3 tips to maximize the effectiveness of a recently implemented ERP system.

2017-05-24

Data Security & Privacy


A March 2013 Forrester study, contacting over 350 business software decision makers found that “Security and Privacy” was a top concern when operating out of the cloud. A recent post by Stijn Hendrikse of Acumatica reflects on this research, offering 4 key questions to ask when considering moving to a Software as a Service (SaaS) ERP deployment model.


Questions to Ask


Where is your data and how safe is it?


Who has access to your data and when?


What device are you accessing data from?


How is usability impacting security?


2017-05-23

Go-live


This is where we pull the trigger and migrate to the new system. Previously I wrote about the processes leading up to deployment, which included discovery, design, development, and testing. By the end of this phase of the project, the entire organization will have switched to the new enterprise resource planning system with clean, reconciled financial and operational data.


Assess End-user Proficiency


End user training began in the development stage and will continue into deployment until all employees who will be using the new system have been sufficiently trained. Project team members will need to become subject matter experts within their respective areas and should also be given enough time to train others on the new system. For example, a controller will learn all about accounts payable and receivable, and general ledger. Then, the executive team needs to give the controller enough time to train the AP clerks, AR clerks, and so on. Before going live, all users must have enough time working with the system to comfortably do their jobs.


“Go/No Go” Decision


As the project approaches the scheduled go-live date, the project team and implementation team should work through a final evaluation of system and user readiness by simulating running the business. Based on that testing, the teams should have a discussion to decide whether or not they are ready.


Load Static and Dynamic Data


With the teams concluding that they should go live, the data load process starts. During the testing phase, the processes to load should have been tested. Now that it is time to go live the teams extract data from the legacy systems like vendors, customers and inventory item master records as described previously.


Once that data is loaded and validated, the team will extract the dynamic data and import it into the new system. That includes open invoices from accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory balances, open sales orders, open purchase orders, open projects, etc.


The general ledger data is an area customers often inquire about. Some modern systems like Acumatica have the ability to load net change activity into the GL for any number of periods a company selects.


Many clients ask about bringing in transactional detail. The problem with bringing detail is that the transactions need to be replicated in the new system. So imagine loading each accounts payable invoice for say 2 years and then issuing a check to pay the invoices. Then you’d have to do something similar on the accounts receivable side, followed by reconciling the bank statement. Then you’d have to reconcile the activity in the new system compared do the legacy system, so you can see this would be a huge undertaking.


Instead we recommend that you bring in the net activity into the GL and keep your old system available for analysis when required. Depending on your system you could also export the transactional data to a database for subsequent querying.


Validate & Balance Against Legacy System


For each area financial and operational area the teams must validate the data that was loaded into the new system against the data in the legacy system. This is a critical step to ensure that the systems match and that you have informational integrity as users start using the new system. Accurate underlying data will help users and decision makers build confidence in the new system.


Start Using It


Employees start doing their jobs in the new system and stop using the legacy system. Companies used to run parallel, which meant that during a painful transition period, people would do their job twice – once in each system, and then reconcile the differences. The problem is that it more than doubles the workload. At PC Bennett we recommend that instead of doing that, companies make a complete switch to the new ERP system. Think of jumping out of an airplane with a parachute. This is why it is important for users to have had enough practice and training so that they are comfortable doing their jobs.


What’s your experience been with ERP deployments? Was it similar to this or significantly different?

2017-05-22

Before addressing common concerns and paths toward resolution, let’s start by defining what an ERP system is.


What is ERP?


Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are software tools that enable communication across all departments within a company and potentially with other stakeholders like suppliers and customers with the objective of helping to manage the business. These systems manage the order to cash cycle including customer order entry, purchasing, production, inventory control and shipping. They track product costs in manufacturing and track project costs in a services-based company. In either case they communicate operational information to accounting and often include sales and order management. A key part of that communication is providing decision makers with the information needed to make the decisions necessary to drive their businesses forward.


Deciding to work with your current system and address deficiencies (the Repair approach) or to invest in a new system (the Replace approach) should be done through a deliberate process to help ensure you get the desired outcome. This is the first in a series of six blog posts that describe that process.


Common ERP Challenges within Organizations


CEO’s have to balance a variety of priorities as they manage their businesses. Common challenges include:


  • The company doesn’t have the product or services customers want when they want it

  • The company is expediting material and jobs to meet customer needs

  • Customers are placing smaller orders more frequently resulting in shorter production runs

  • Inventory levels are too high, which ties up cash

  • Accounts receivable are too high, which also ties up cash

  • Margins are too low, but determining which products or customers are driving those lower margins  is a challenge

When CEO’s turn to their team for information to address these and other problems they may find:


  • It takes too long to get information to support decision-making

  • Staff spend too much time working in the system

  • The team has the perception that the ERP system doesn’t work so they have developed workarounds in spreadsheets and auxiliary databases

  • The team constantly complains about the system

Whatever the reasons, once you determine that your ERP system has become a constraint instead of an asset, it is time to craft a plan to fix the root cause of poor or late business information needed to manage the business. Begin by selecting a team and a project manager to take the company through a process that will determine whether to invest in the current system or invest in a new system.


I have begun discussing this process in the next article in the series – Preparing for an ERP Change


What sort of ERP issues have you noticed in your organization?

2017-05-21

Integrated Business Software Systems


Form a Project Team


As mentioned in the previous post, assembling a team with a manager is the first step in this discovery process. ERP systems touch all parts of a company and you’ll want team participation from each major area of the company. Select a team of people from key departments that work with the system day-to-day and who also have a good understanding of the business. From this group, select a project manager to drive the project. Ideally, this person knows the business, understands in general how the ERP system works, and can facilitate a project that will involve the project team for at least several months. If you don’t have someone in-house with those skills then bring in an outside consultant with experience selecting and implementing systems.


Define ERP Objectives


Discuss the objectives for the system with the project team. Properly implemented ERP systems should support your strategic plan and may include:


  • Hitting your sales and profit targets

  • Shipping product or delivering service to customers on time

  • Generating sufficient cash to grow your business

  • Provide the infrastructure necessary to grow your business and its value

  • Support compliance with external requirements like the need to trace serial numbers or lot numbers

  • Reduce the risks of upsetting customers by missed shipments or poor quality due to rushed production

  • Minimize the risk of ordering too much inventory

The project team should be charged with managing the project, while keeping top management up-to-date on its progress and apprised of any roadblocks they encounter.


In one of my ERP implementation projects, the president selected her team and appointed the CFO as the project manager. At the kickoff meeting she told the group that they had been selected because they represented the best from each part of the company and explained the objectives of the project along with how it fit with the company’s strategic plan. She asked to be kept informed of the progress of the project and of any roadblocks the team encountered and then left them to get started. It was one of the most complicated implementations I worked on and the team did one of the best jobs implementing the system that I have seen.



Define the Issues with the System


Next, gather the issues that you and the users have with the current system and drill down to causes. For example, missing shipments to customers can be caused by stocking the wrong inventory items. This in turn can cause lower sales and lower profit margins thereby impacting cash levels. Inventory turns that are lower than the averages for your industry can indicate poor forecasting, inaccurate physical counts, inaccurate bills of material and so on. Identifying the issues and causes can help define the costs and focus the efforts on the most important areas.


Identify the Costs Caused by the Issues


Each of the issues will have costs. It may be missed opportunities as with missed shipments. Or it may be reduced productivity resulting from the inefficiencies in how the staff is using the system. Whatever the issue, work to quantify the costs involved.


As soon as the project team has a clear idea of what the objectives and issues are, they should have a good foundation to continue on in the decision making process. The next post will cover which questions to ask  as you consider investing in improving your current ERP system  or looking for a new ERP solution.

2017-05-20

Acumatica, a Microsoft platform based ERP vendor, got a new CEO last month: Yury Larichev. Yury comes to Acumatica via long-term stint at Microsoft. Yury actually joined Acumatica in September last year as COO and recently assumed the CEO post.


I had an opportunity to interview Yury, and here are some of the highlights of that conversation.


What should readers know about Yury?


Yury was born and raised in Russia. He had a reseller business of his own there before joining Microsoft Russia. There he worked on expanding channel opportunities for Microsoft. Yury moved to the United States 3.5 years ago with Microsoft.


What new directions will Acumatica take?


Yury indicated that the company will continue to develop more and deeper horizontal functionality while channel partners will continue to build out more and deeper vertical extensions to the product line. Yury indicated that 10 of its channel partners are using an Acumatica programming kit to build these vertical/industry extensions.


What size firm buys an Acumatica solution?


Yury stated that a number of its customers are SMBs (small- and medium-sized businesses). Yet, the company’s channel partners frequently sell and deliver deals to $1 billion-sized firms. Currently, Acumatica has, according to Yury, approximately 20 such customers with more in the pipeline.


Acumatica 4.0 Browser Based ERP Dashboard

Why is Acumatica in Seattle?


Yury believes that Seattle affords Acumatica access to a great talent pool. When I pressed him about Russia, he said that while Russia has historically been a source of inexpensive technical talent, it has become more expensive and challenging.


How committed is Acumatica to the channel?


Yury made it clear that Acumatica does not and is not going direct. The firm remains totally committed to channel partners for new product sales and support.


What else?


Yury indicated that Acumatica will be expanding its platform capabilities (it is a big user of Azure Server, Azure Cloud and other Microsoft core technology products). He also expects the firm will be even more competitive in the ERP space.


Originally published at ZDNet by Brian Sommer

2017-05-19
Seattle, WA February 28th, 2013 – PC Bennett Solutions is experiencing rapid growth since their mid-2012 partnership with Acumatica, a promising new player in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software industry. Currently, PC Bennett is the only Acumatica partner in the Northwest.


Patricia Bennett, founder of PC Bennett Solutions addressed her network at the Seattle Executives Association on February 27th to build awareness of the functionality of the Acumatica system. Mrs. Bennett reported substantial growth of the PC Bennett Solutions team, plans of expanding the workspace at the company’s North Bend office, and recent re-launch of the company website to reflect their new product shift.


Now, in addition to selling, implementing, and supporting Microsoft Dynamics GP and CRM and other products, PC Bennett Solutions includes Acumatica’s cloud-based ERP solution in their versatile products offering. The company has increased their team of professionals by nearly 100% in the last six months due to increased sales and plans for continued growth stemming from Acumatica 4.0 which is scheduled to be released on March 5th.


“Acumatica sells itself”, stated Ms. Bennett. “We are thrilled to be a partner of this powerful business management system. It allows us to serve other businesses with a level of functionality and flexibility that cannot be found in any other ERP system.”


“Presenting Acumatica to prospects is interesting, in that, they are often surprised by the number of features that are available readily right out of the box” said Art Olsen, Systems Architect.


Business leaders interested in learning more about services offered at PC Bennett Solutions or functionality of Acumatica, can visit www.pcbennett.com or call 425-831-7924.


PC Bennett Solutions has been providing business management software solutions to businesses since 2002. Their mission is to provide end-to-end system evaluation, implementation, support, and customization solutions to small and midsize businesses in various industries.


Jordan Lamborn, Marketing and Sales Coordinator


PC Bennett Solutions


425-831-7924

2017-05-18

Our team here at PC Bennett is excited about Acumatica 4.0. On top of already having more powerful functionality and flexibility than other “big names” in ERP, Acumatica 4.0 is offering even more features that continue to make it stand out from the rest in 2013 and beyond.


Acumatica 4.0: Who & Why?


Organizations who:


  • Seek the freedom to choose how their data is stored

  • Want to deploy their Enterprise Resource Planning system either in the Cloud, On-premise, or with a hosting provider – then have the ability to switch back and forth without costly migrations

  • Could benefit from involving as many users as necessary in their ERP – without paying extra for each person

  • Value mobility by users having access to their business management system from any browser capable device

  • Operate within industries such as Distribution, Services, Non-profit, Manufacturing, or Retail, etc…

  • Require complex or simple accounting procedures

Acumatica 4.0 Usability Enhancements


Our customers and prospects often mention how “user friendly” 3.0 is, but now, the new release makes navigating and completing tasks in Acumatica simpler than ever.


“‘Acumatica 4.0 is a breakthrough for cloud ERP because of its mobile touch UI,’ said Mike Chtchelkonogov, Chief Technology Officer. ‘Tablet-friendly, fewer clicks, faster navigation – all designed to improve the user experience, supporting wider adoption of ERP within SMB organizations,’ he added.” Read the full Acumatica 4.0 Launch Press Release.



Interface


The most noticeable difference between the two is the improved design of the user interface. Instead of opening and expanding various sections, users can quickly jump back and forth between areas such as CRM and Finance or Distribution, etc… in one click. Also, it’s optimized for tablets, and other devices with various resolutions. The layout of each page can adjust to the size of your screen.


Acumatica App


Windows 8 users can now manage and monitor current and past claims, as well as submit receipts to their ERP via photos.


Platform Efficiency


Everything seems to be faster and more accessible in Acumatica 4.0. Users should notice that navigating between records as well as processing transactions has become twice as fast. Screens open up to 3 times as fast as in the previous version.


Acumatica has always been a growth-friendly ERP, scalable to changing processes and complexities as a business develops. Scalability has improved in the 4.0 release. With the same server specifications, Acumatica 4.0 can now handle more users/larger workload.


Acumatica 4.0 Features


“‘More than 40 new customer-driven feature enhancements have been introduced across all financial, distribution, CRM, and project accounting suites,’ said Ali Jani, Vice President, Services. ‘New integrated functionality has been added to the general ledger, cash management, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and employee portal applications. We’ve also focused on Acumatica’s built-in BI capabilities, web reporting, and dashboards. Early customer adoption of Acumatica 4.0 has been very positive, particularly for its ease-of-use and adaptability,’ he added.” Read the full Acumatica 4.0 Launch Press Release.



Financial Management


Enhancements and additional functionality have been added to areas such as the General Ledger, Cash Management, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Employee Portal, and Tax Management. From cash forecasting to time card simplification, and address validation – Acumatica 4’s Financial Management Suite will help businesses manage their accounting processes even better than before.


Specific Identification Accounting


Recently, we met with an electronics distribution company who had a need for a Specific Identification accounting method in their ERP. Because they handle unique, serialized products that are purchased and sold at different prices, and at various times, other methods like FIFO and LIFO were not appropriate. Acumatica 4.0 is one of the few systems that offer this inventory costing method.


Project Accounting


Some new features coming to Project Accounting in Acumatica include the ability to reverse unbilled transactions, simpler use of project activities and attributes, and work in progress support, so that changes can be made without affecting Cost of Goods Sold.


Distribution


Along with better managing the accounting side of a business, Acumatica 4 has added more functionality to Distribution as well. Acumatica 4.0 users can receive inventory replenishment suggestions based on historical analysis. Also, shipping will be easier with USPS integration, return label support, and automated shipments capabilities.


This should serve as a helpful introduction to Acumatica 4.0, but certainly not a complete list. For more information, please contact us so that we can discuss unique business processes and see if Acumatica would be a good fit.


More Acumatica 4.0 Information:


2017-05-17

Business Management Software


At this point in the article series you’ve identified the problems or issues faced by the users, you know what your objectives are for your system, and you’ve determined the costs of continuing to struggle with the system. With this in mind consider the level of the problems:


  • Does the system generally meet your needs in terms of running daily operations?

  • Do the issues seem to be focused around a particular function or group of users?

  • Would the concerns be addressed if some automation were introduced in a particular area allowing users to be more productive?

  • Is it primarily a matter of getting the right information out of the system?

Repairing Your ERP System


If the answer to questions like these is yes, then you are probably headed toward Repairing the system, not Replacing it. Often your existing systems can be optimized by retraining new users in how the system was designed to be used and eliminating external workarounds that have not been formalized as part of the managed system.


Sometimes automating existing manual tasks can address some issues. For example, many shipping departments have invested in linking the parcel shipment activity with their ERP system thereby reducing or eliminating extra data entry as part of the shipping steps. This helps reduce errors and increases the productivity of members of the shipping team.


In some cases, the system seems adequate to the users but decision makers struggle with existing reports or spend too much time manipulating data in spreadsheets to get the information needed for decisions. To address reporting issues, first look for existing reports in the system to see if any of them provide the information you are looking for. If none of the reports fit the needs, then consider doing some custom report writing or extracting data to a third-party reporting tool which can better meet the information needs of the decision makers.


Compare the costs of continuing to use the system as it is to the amount of investment required to improve the productivity of the system. If the potential savings exceed the investment amount then it is time to look at the payback period in relation to your other investment needs and decide how to proceed. Often companies look for a relatively short payback period on these types of project of less than a year.


I’ve been brought into many situations where the CEO has heard about so many issues with the ERP system that they call the CEO of the software company and have a conversation that goes something like ‘either get someone in to fix this thing or we’ll …’  You can fill in the blanks. In most cases the issues arose because there was not enough internal documentation of how the system was implemented. New users who did not understand how the system should be used developed external workarounds or used the system incorrectly which resulted in inaccurate information or extra effort outside the core system. Usually some training and  some new reports were sufficient to address the problems.



Replacing Your ERP System


If, however, you find the answers to the above questions tend to be “no” or there have been some significant changes to the business and the system no longer supports the growth of the company, then it is probably time to Replace the system. Replacing the system involves looking at the market, evaluating prospective systems by comparing them to your needs and objectives, then implementing it once a new system is selected.


Doing Nothing


In a previous section we discussed the costs caused by the issues the team identified. These are the costs of doing nothing and sadly, too often CEO’s decide to take this approach even when those costs could be offset with investing in the current system or selecting a new one.


I worked with a company who inquired about having some custom reports developed to give them a clearer picture of when their products’ shelf-life would expire, a fairly straightforward reporting option. Even though the materials manager identified that they would save the equivalent of a quarter to half an employee’s time, the CEO elected to not proceed with the project due to the initial cost. Consequently the company continued to manually look for product on-hand that is nearing the end of its shelf-life and updating it.



Have you ever been a part of a decision like this before? What’s your experience been with the Repair/Replace dilemma?

2017-05-16
Forrester published a recent study citing results from hundreds of medium-size business leaders of organizations with 20 to 500 employees. The research revolves around understanding thoughts and preferences on cloud ERP – a trending topic throughout all industries today. As LinkedIn and various blogs buzz with debates on topics like security, costs, and speed of cloud based ERP applications, solid numbers like this are helpful in seeing what businesses are really looking for in 2013.


Cloud Based ERP


Here are just some of the interesting results from the study:


57% of mid-size businesses pointed out that choice in data storage location and choice in deployment as elements that an ERP should include.


“Lower overall costs” was the #1 reason that businesses adopted or planned to adopt SaaS, followed by to “Reduce spending on traditional  applications”.


Also, when 358 decision makers were asked about the level of concern with various issues around using SaaS, the top 3 areas of concern were:


  • Security and Privacy

  • Integrating with other applications

  • Financial lock-in to a single vendor – which is interesting, considering that NetSuite, “the #1 Cloud ERP Software Suite” operates with that very lock-in

Check out the full study here.

2017-05-15

Integrated Software Systems


The business world today is characterized by higher expectations. Customers, business owners and employees demand faster responses, more refined procedures and better fulfillment, especially in the midst of an unpredictable economy. ERP systems can help companies streamline their processes in order to meet this growing demand by providing:


  • Increased visibility to data

  • Automated data entry

  • Expedited communication between departments

  • Flexible reporting

  • Tightly integrated functionality

1. Increased Visibility to Data


By breaking down information silos and providing permission-based access to current data, business managers and employees can see the status of interrelated parts of the organization. This results in improved customer service and more accurate goal setting and trend predictions.


2. Automated Data Entry


Without an ERP to integrate processes, employees manually key data into separate systems that fulfill different functions, from sales and purchasing to shipping and accounting.  ERP systems eliminate manual re-entry of data, which reduces the potential for human error and increases efficiency.


3. Expedited Communication Between Departments


Companies must continually seek ways to improve employee productivity to remain cost-effective in today’s competitive marketplace. ERP systems expedite the flow of communication and information across all business functions and in turn boost productivity.


4. Flexible Reporting


Powerful reporting tools within an ERP allow companies to create user-specific reports on multiple dimensions as it relates to their needs and objectives.  From their dashboard view, business owners and managers can quickly assess company performance with real-time data.


5. Tightly Integrated Functionality


Companies realize increased performance by integrating processes between their divisions and with external applications, such as web stores, automated sales tax management vendors and CRMs. Transactions and communications are able to occur quickly and seamlessly.


These five ERP benefits translate to significantly improved company performance.  Businesses are able to automate communications and streamline operations which allows for increased productivity.  With the access an ERP provides to data, business owners are able to effectively assess company performance and plan for the future.


Originally published at Trek Global by CEO, Joel Stangeland

2017-05-14
n previous articles, I’ve outlined the process of deciding whether to repair or replace an ERP system in your organization. If you have decided it’s time to replace your system, the next step is to create a plan for this project. Have the project team develop a plan to evaluate, select and implement the new system. Here is an outline of an approach to do the selection.


Phase I – Develop a Short-List of Potential ERP Vendors


1.Review your current processes


One of the reasons to invest in a new ERP system is to support a significant change in your business, such as acquiring another company, opening a new division or plant and so on. Another reason is that implementing a new system provides the opportunity to improve your business processes. For example, if you have purchased a company that adds to your product lines, you will want to design how the products from both divisions get ordered and shipped to customers. Re-engineering your business will help you evaluate potential replacement systems and enable you to compare your current and future needs to the capabilities of the new systems.


2. Design an updated process


Design a new approach by creating a process flow that traces orders to cash. Document each step, noting how users interact with the system and what information is required at each step to support decision makers. Then, review the process and look for ways to shorten and simplify processes. Sometimes companies end up re-organizing the production floor or warehouse to reduce wasted steps and improve the process flow which can support concepts like lean manufacturing and lean office. Experienced consultants can be very valuable during this phase.


I was part of a team that worked with a small manufacturing company with production on one floor of a building and sales and accounting on another floor. We worked with the company to do a value stream map in preparation for some lean initiatives as well as for the selection of a new system. The company traced all of the steps and processes required to receive raw material, produce product, process a customer order and ship the finished item to the customer. They discovered that they walked a total of 2.5 miles for this process. By planning to re-arrange the floor and implement a new system, that distance was reduced to a few hundred feet and they were positioned to implement a new system.

3. Create a list of key ERP features


ERP systems are complex and focusing on features that are important to your business helps the team to narrow the list of prospective vendors. Using your redesigned process flow, make a list by function of the key capabilities a system should have in your business. Set priorities for these features from essential to nice-to-have. Pay particular attention to things that are unique to your industry, such as the need for lot-tracing items in biotech companies or serial number tracking at multiple levels for electronics manufacturers.


You will do well to find an ERP system that meets 90% of your needs, so the remaining 10% will have to be met by adapting your business to the software, purchasing additional area-specific software or developing custom applications or integration. Normally adaptation of your business to the software you select is the least expensive approach. Knowing where the missing pieces are before you implement will make that process go smoother.


4. Select a Short-List of Vendors


Armed with your prioritized list of features, survey the market for potential vendors that meet your needs and budget. There are various websites that provide summarized information and general cost information. Also, talk to others in your industry to find out who is happy with their systems.


Then talk to five or so vendors who seem to be a fit for your company. Send them your features list and ask them to describe how their tools meet the needs of your company. Ask them to tell you what the system will do “out of the box” and what workarounds or add-on tools may be required to meet your needs.


Get a preliminary budget from the vendors. Be sure to ask for both software and services costs. They are often close to about the same amount. Then select three potential vendors that will go to the next phase.


Now that the groundwork has been laid, it’s time to move on to Phase II – Final Selection. Next, we’ll be covering what that entails, as well as Phase III – Implementation.

2017-05-12

There have been some insightful ERP related articles published online in recent weeks that have caught our attention. Check out some of the great content that industry professionals are generating below.


Recent ERP Web Highlights


Cloud Based ERP & Medium Size Businesses


A recent study conducted by Forrester Research surveyed decision makers of mid-size businesses throughout the United States on their thoughts related to Cloud ERP. Download the full study.


Warning Signs that ERP Change is Needed


Are you thinking about implementing a new enterprise resource planning system? How do you know that it’s time? The author Richard Barker states in regards to adopting a new system, “Do it if you need to, but don’t take it lightly.” This article from ERPFocus explains some major points that could be red flags for your organization.


Cloud ERP: Is it Right for Your Business?


What’s the point of having your ERP in the cloud, and is it relevant to the needs of your business? Veteran writer, Tina Courntey-Brown mentions, “The most appealing aspect of cloud computing is how it provides an opportunity for businesses to completely transform how they use and pay for information technology.” Read about why businesses embrace cloud based ERP solutions and why it may or may not be the best idea for you.


SMB Cloud Market Research


We’ve been hearing a lot about the Cloud. What does the market actually look like as we continue on through 2013? Parallels, a leading software vendor and cloud services provider has published detailed reports by country.


ERP Security: Putting a Lock on the Cloud


When you think “Security” what exactly comes to mind? Check out another interesting read from ERPFocus on the many faces of security – especially related to using Cloud ERP in business.

2017-05-12

Phase II – Final Selection


The goal of the Final Selection Project is to find the vendor who best meets the company’s overall requirements and budget. Selection of an ERP system requires careful analysis to ensure that vendors can meet your company’s expectations. Continuing on from the previous post, here are the steps to make the final decision:


1. Create a demonstration script


Software vendors love to talk about what their systems can do and show off the more visually appealing features. Those may be helpful to your company but you also need to know how it will work in day-to-day operations. To put you in control of the demo process, have the selection team create a demo script based on the process design and required features defined above. Send those scripts to the vendors several weeks in advance of the demos and ask that they work through those scripts at demo time. This helps you discover what works for your company and what doesn’t. It also provides a structured approach to compare how the systems meet your needs and facilitates the decision process.


I have worked on both sides of the ERP sales process. As a ‘sales engineer’ on the selling side we would show how the systems we represented fit the business but would make sure the CEO saw the more visual features like performance dashboards, as that is what often closed the deal. On the buying side of the exercise I like vendors to show these features but also make sure they cover how those features get deployed as part of the implementation process.


2. Demo Sessions


Have the team prepare for the demo sessions by setting up a scoring mechanism for each area so the selection team members can rate each vendor on how their solution meets the needs of the company by area. The system demos will tend to blend together in peoples’ minds so having a score for each area and a section for observations will be useful in the final selection discussion.


The team should spend time with each vendor to make sure the vendors understand your business and the context of your company’s needs. If they do an onsite demo, plan time to give the vendor team a tour so they can better visualize how to best fit the software to the company.


Schedule the demo sessions close together to enable the team to be able to compare the systems. Allow the vendor some flexibility so you see all of the features they think may apply to your business but make sure they cover all of the high-priority areas in the demo script.


After each demo sessions are complete, the selection team should evaluate and score each of the solutions. You may want to join them as they work through each function of the business using the demo script discussing what went well and what didn’t. If work-arounds weren’t sufficiently covered in the demo or the features presented weren’t clear, schedule another time to review those particular areas with the vendors.


Also, at this point the vendors should have enough information to provide final proposals on their software and services. Ask for the preliminary proposals which should include software license costs, support costs, high-level implementation plans and implementation costs. Don’t forget to factor in travel costs when you get to tallying the total costs.


3. Final Selection


Once all demo sessions are complete and the project team has answered all open questions, it is time to review the results and do some follow up research:


  • Compare the ranking of each demo by area comparing how the solutions will fit the business

  • Note any workarounds and any noted deficiencies in the systems as they were presented

  • Compare the costs to your expected benefits

  • Ask the vendors for reference customers you can talk to and ideally visit onsite

  • Explore with the references what they like about the software and support and what they don’t like

  • Ask the reference customers if there are other companies they can refer you to who also use the software

  • Also, check with those in your network to see if anyone uses the system you are considering and if you can talk to them. It’s useful to get references independent of the vendor as they will only supply you with references who are happy with the system

Once you have the demo session comparisons, proposals and reference customer input you are ready to make a decision. Select the final vendor and negotiate your best deal. Work to take advantage of discounts, as many ERP vendors are anxious for business and salespeople are anxious to make quota, particularly at the end of a month or quarter. Keep in mind also that they will be long-term partners in your business.


Phase III – Implementation


Now the hard work starts. Form a project team, most likely made up of members of the selection team. Provide the team with the proper resources to implement the system and refrain from introducing additional work like starting a new product line or acquiring another company until the system is implemented.


Work with the team to establish a reasonable implementation schedule, which often ranges from 3 to 12 months, depending on the complexity of your business and the available time of the project team. The quicker the system is implemented the sooner you’ll see the return on your investment. The drivers of that return are often reduced inventory levels combined with higher levels of on-time delivery to customers, reduced inventory and labor costs as well as increased sales. In addition more timely and accurate information will help in making daily as well as strategic decisions.

2017-05-11

Many CEO’s feel frustrated or constrained by their ERP systems and are looking for better ways to get the information they need to measure and manage their businesses. ERP, or enterprise resource planning systems, manage sales, inventory, production, distribution, accounting, sales and more. Many also include some customer relations management (CRM) abilities as well and some have project tracking and costing abilities. A correctly implemented ERP system is a strategic asset supporting the growth of your business not a distraction holding it back.


Enterprise Resource Planning Decisions


Below is a summary of the process to discover  your next steps with your current Enterprise Resource Planning System.


ERP Frustrations


CEO’s often directly experience the issues caused by ineffective ERP systems when product isn’t delivered to customers on time, inventory levels are too high, margins too low and so on. They may also hear from employees about how frustrating the system is to use, how much time it takes to get things done or get information out of the system. The IT group often experiences high levels of frustration with systems when they are burdened with the additional effort and cost of supporting multiple systems, home-grown workarounds and users who are spending too much time doing tasks on the system. Sales teams pushing to meet quotas get frustrated when they can’t quickly get information about what customers are buying and not buying. Accountants can spend inordinate amounts of time sorting through the inadequate data collected and generated by the systems. And all of these concerns can be exacerbated when a company experiences significant growth.


Moving Your ERP Forward


Based on prior bad experiences with ERP systems some CEO’s may also be afraid that selecting and implementing a new ERP system will yield similar frustrations. They can fall into the trap of not knowing what to do and end up doing nothing, which can cost time, money and customers. To help mitigate these risks, select a project team and project manager who can take the company through a deliberate process that will determine whether to Repair or Replace the current system. Then make sure the team understands what the objectives of an ERP system are and how those objectives fit with the company’s strategic plan. Next, have the team collect the concerns and frustrations with the system and document the costs associated with addressing the key concerns.


Once the project team knows what the objectives and issues are, they should investigate what internal and external resources would be required to make the system work for the company such as additional training or report development (the Repair approach) and compare that to the ongoing costs of doing nothing. If that approach doesn’t resolve the issues with a reasonable return on that investment or the issues cannot be resolved via the Repair approach, then have the project team work on selecting a new system (the Replace approach).


The team should create a process that compares systems on the market to the business needs and select a handful of vendors as finalists. Have those finalists demonstrate how their system can be adapted to your business needs and get the project team to do a detailed assessment of how the solutions fit. Then select a finalist, check references and get a final quote including software, services and support costs. Do your final return on investment analysis and negotiate a purchase if the ROI is sufficient.


Often CEO’s will bring in consultants experienced in ERP systems to get an outside opinion about the effectiveness of their current systems and assist with improving processes and the performance of their systems. These consultants can add additional information based on their past experiences in the role of advisor or project manager. By the end of either approach, your goal should be for your system to be a strategic asset that provides the right information in an efficient manner to decision makers when they need it.

2017-05-10

We proudly support many of our customers who use Microsoft Dynamics GP as their business management system. Because of that, we would like to share with you some of the key improvements.


From general ledger enhancements to increased functionality for purchase order processing, there are a lot of exciting features in the newest version of Dynamics GP. There have already been some great resources published that have covered specific changes. We’ve included links to them below.


17 Favorite Changes in GP 2013


Distribution


Track Serial and Lot Numbers on Drop Ship PO


You can enter serial numbers and lot numbers when invoicing a drop-ship purchase order or drop-ship blanket purchase order. Read More: Slides & Document


Do More with Word Documents


Edit and print sales order processing documents and packing slips with Microsoft Word. Read More: Slides


Bin Transfer History


Manage, inquire, and report on historical movements. Read More: Slides


Reason Codes


Provides an exact reason that causes an item’s stock to be moved or adjusted. Read More: Slides, Document


Inactive Items


Now items of any type (not just Sales Inventory) can be marked as inactive. Read More: Slides


3rd Party Shipping Addresses


Allowing the shipper to give better clarification on the receiving party. Read More: SlidesDocument


Financial


User Defined Fields on Customer Addresses


Change labels on the Customer Address Maintenance window. Read More: Slides


General Ledger Batch Approval Information is Stored


You have the ability to track batch approval information for a General Ledger general journal batch in addition to the posting information that is kept.


Reconcile Sub Ledgers to General Ledger


You can use the Reconcile to GL window to generate a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Watch Video


Fixed Assets


New options for reporting on historical depreciation amounts. Read More: Slides, Document


EFT Formatting


New variable length fields and settlement date field in the EFT File Format Maintenance window. Read More: Slides


New Year End Closing Features


Making your year end closing process smoother. Read More: Slides


Reprint Remittance Forms and Check Stubs


You have the ability to reprint remittance forms and check stubs for posted check payments entered in the Payables Transaction Entry window and for computer checks. Watch Video


Other Improvements


Print on Picklist Shortage Inquiry


Adds a print icon to the Manufacturing Picklist Shortage Inquiry window. Now you can print what you see! Read More: SlidesDocument


PTO Manager Enhancements


Negative balances for vacation and sick time can be carried over – and more. Read More


Alternate/Modified Forms and Reports Window


More options and selections have been added here – making it easier to select and view forms and reports. Read More: Slides


Select a Printer for Reporting


You can select which printer to send a report to at the time you are printing the report – without changing the default printer settings. Watch Video


For even more information on new features in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013, check out this PDF.

2017-05-09

Discovery & Planning


The adventure begins! Implementing a new ERP system in an organization is a long iterative process with definite phases (with a tendency to overlap) – even extending beyond “go-live”, the point at which the new system is actively in place. If you’re still not sure about whether or not your organization should invest in a new ERP system check out this past series regarding the Repair or Replace decision. The end destination is a new era of an integrated, growth-friendly business management system, bringing with it, new heights of productivity and effective communication within an organization.


Understanding the Business’ Needs


Discovery and planning is the first stage, lasting up to roughly 4 weeks, where the main goal is for the implementation team to get to know the business and its processes. Discovery starts during the sales cycle (if it is done right) and discovery and planning continues on after the sale is made, as the implementation team works with the project team to create a solid project plan – the end goal of this phase of the ERP project. This involves looking at a company’s corporate structure, lines of business, departments, product lines, etc. The team will also dive into the business processes such as quote to cash, procure to pay, cash management, and period closing.


5 Steps for a Successful Discovery


Establish the Project Team


The project team should represent all aspects of the business. There should be someone from Sales, Customer Service, Purchasing, Materials, Operations, Accounting, and IT. Team members should have strong knowledge of current procedures in their area and be active system users with hands on experience, knowing what the current system does as well as its limitations.


The team leader should be someone who is higher up in the organization chain – having an understanding of how the business operates and where the business is heading. Often times an ERP project can be interpreted by others as just an IT project, particularly if a person with an IT background is the team leader. Watch out for this. It must be seen as a project that involves and affects the entire business – not just IT.


The best project team I have worked with was at a company that had a retail store, an online store and a production facility that built products for stock and for specific customer orders. This was a fairly complex system with two systems involved and a custom application to hook them together.


At the kickoff meeting the President started the meeting by explaining to the project team members that they had been selected because they were the best from each department and as such, were being entrusted to figure out the best way to implement the system. The project team leader was the Controller and he took full ownership of the project and did an excellent job of facilitating the work. As she concluded her remarks at the kickoff meeting, the President transferred authority to the team to complete the project and asked for frequent updates on the status. She stayed actively involved at a high level making sure the team had the resource and bandwidth to complete the task.


Hold Discovery Meetings


This is where members of the implementation team interview members of the project team to get an in-depth understanding of various parts of the business at detail level. The team will want to know what are you currently doing, and what you want to do in the future? They will discuss current processes thoroughly and identify pain points with the current system.


Document Key Processes and Requirements


Overall, this round of documentation will become the foundation for configuring the new system and also helps the implementation team with building out the project plan. This involves meetings with the implementation team and the project team, as well as executive members – looking for red flags, or gaps between the customers’ needs and system capabilities. These holes can greatly affect the requirements of the new system and the better they are understood, the better job the implementation team can do guiding the implementation.


Also, this includes discussing broader strategy with the executive team. It may be that there are new initiatives underway that can impact the requirements of the system. For instance, if the company is planning on opening 30 new stores in the US, there are most likely important implications on how the new system should be set up.


Identify Potential Gaps, Risks, and Solutions


Continuing from the discussions in the previous step, this is where the implementation team will work to identify all of the areas where the current system doesn’t meet the company’s needs. Then, based on those findings, they will begin formulating potential solutions based on the new system. Areas that require work-arounds outside the system like extensive spreadsheets are prime candidates. The team will use this information to formulate suggested solutions for the project team to evaluate and test.


In my experience, if you find a system that addresses 90% of your needs out of the box you have made a good selection. The balance of those needs can be addressed by adapting your procedures to the way the software works, customizing the software or a combination of the two. Systems like Acumatica are highly customizable. Arming the implementation team with the knowledge of your company directions and needs will arm them to guide the project team through selecting the best approach to address the remaining 10%.


It is important to identify any risks that might push out the implementation date or that make the conversion more complex. Risks to identify might include things like complex chart of accounts, inaccurate financial records and operational data, significant planned absences of project team members during the implementation and so on. These risks should be listed and steps taken to mitigate them.


Build the Project Plan


The implementation project plan will serve as a road map for the implementation. Depending on the project it may be fairly detailed or it may be higher level. It will include information from the last three steps and evolve as you work through the upcoming Design and Development processes. Think of it as a sort of backlog list of tasks used to guide the implementation team, the development team and the project team. It is a communication tool for all involved to have visibility of open items and priorities.


The bottom line for the discovery process is that the implementation team and project team must both understand and agree on the business processes and the objectives of the project. The project plan is the end goal of the discovery process and it is the foundation of the rest of the project.

2017-05-08

Why Single- or Multi-Tenancy?


Enterprise Resource Planning Software


A recent postby Stijn Hendrikse, CMO at Acumatica (the first cloud based ERP) discusses the Single-Tenancy vs Multi-Tenancy Enterprise Resource Planning debate.


Often we see a “right or wrong” approach, but here, Hendrikse explains why Acumatica insists on supporting both models. After acknowledging the benefits of multi-tenancy, he also sums up the value of single-tenant ERP solutions in 3 areas:


  1. Performance

  2. Flexibility

  3. Customized User Interface

Check out the article for his explanation including real scenarios in support of the above points.


For more reading on the relationship between Single-Tenancy and Multi-Tenancy ERP:


  • CloudTweaks.com: Single-Tenant vs Multi-Tenant Cloud ERP

  • ERPCloudNews.com: Multi-tenant versus Single-tenant ERP – a comparison
2017-05-07

ERP Design & Configuration


The design stage is the part of the implementation where the focus is on creating a system configuration that will maximize the system benefits and ROI received by the client. The design phase starts near the end of discovery and planning, where project team selection and much of the documentation and planning has already taken place. The implementation team will work to translate the client’s system requirements into potential configuration options. Then, they will work closely with the project team to establish those configurations and implementation strategies that will then lead into the development phase of the project.


6 Steps of ERP Implementation Design


The design phase of an ERP implementation project can be broken down into these 6 steps:


Gather and Review Master Records


Early in the design phase the implementation team will want to review the client’s master records. This is data that is the foundation of the current system such as:


  • Chart of accounts

  • Subaccounts if applicable

  • Customer master

  • Vendor master

  • Item master

This information along with the discovery information will form the basis for the implementation team to begin discussions with the project team about how to start configuring the new system.


ERP System Orientation & Walkthrough


Now the implementation team is ready to begin training the project team on the functionality of the new system by walking through the application. This usually follows the flow of various business cycles and starts the process of mapping out the procedures identified during discovery. This can take a few hours to a couple of days depending on the complexity of the business.


For example, we would open the accounts payable module and walk through setting up a vendor (contact info, payment methods, terms, etc.), entering an accounts payable invoice, showing the approval processes and the payment cycle steps. This allows the project team to see how they would do their jobs in the new system. During this session, project team members may identify areas where the new system differs in approach from the old system. In designing how to use the new system some compromising might take place between having to make slight changes to processes themselves or customizing the actual software.


A few years ago during the discovery process I asked a project team member to explain their current steps to generate an invoice for product shipments. She smiled and said, “Don’t laugh. We get the shipping documents from the shipping department, then take a 7 part invoice and insert it into a typewriter and type the invoice”, all the while watching the incredulous look on my face. She went on to explain where the copies went and that they then entered all of the invoice information onto a 13 column pad. She concluded by saying that they had been using this procedure for 25 years and were looking forward to changing their approach. They were very excited to see how the new system would eliminate the typewriter and 13 column pad and they went on to a successful implementation.


Establish Initial System Configuration Settings


Establishment of the initial configuration settings includes tasks like designing the chart of accounts in combination with the subaccount structure. This is a key decision point and should be done with the goal of supporting the reporting requirements that arose from the discovery process. Done correctly the proper configuration can support things like companies, divisions, departments, product lines and so on.


This is also the time to decide what the format of customer and vendor id’s – should they be simple numeric values, abbreviations for the names or some combination thereof? Advanced ERP systems like Acumatica and should support both to give you full flexibility in running your business.


If the client is a distributor and/or manufacturer, design of the item numbering scheme and bill of materials and resources is also critical.


Create a Prototype


The teams will work together to build a prototype system configured to meet the client’s business needs. The system will consist of sample customers, vendors, items that feed financial activity into the accounting system using the first pass at a chart of accounts and subaccounts. Again the teams should look to see that the client’s reporting requirements can be met. This version of the system will be used to train the project team members and prove out some of the decisions made earlier in the design process.


Define User Roles


Modern ERP systems rely on user roles to control security. These role-based systems can be simple or complex depending on the size of the business and internal control requirements. For example, a sales person should not have access to the cash receipts function, or an AP person to be able to cut a purchase order. The project team will define these roles and users who will be using those roles. This especially applies to Acumatica, which has particularly sophisticated security functionality.


Document ERP Procedures


Along the way the project team will document how the system should be used by creating procedures for each function. The procedures should include which position submits the initial invoice, how it is reviewed and how it is approved. The project team puts these types of procedures in place to support initial end-user training and the training of new people in a consistent manner. This is probably the most difficult part of the design process for most project teams. Some more advanced systems, such as Acumatica, allow client-specific procedures to be easily incorporated into the “Help” system as part of the user interface so that they are always a click away for the user’s reference thereby allowing for the consistent use of the system.


I have been brought into numerous companies to review how they were using their current system after a few years and frustration levels with it were very high. In all cases there had been significant turnover and many if not all of the original project team had left the company. In many cases users are shown about 10% of the functionality of the system. They get frustrated with it and start building workarounds usually in spreadsheets. Having current and readily accessible procedures helps reduce this problem.


What do you consider to be the most difficult part of the design process?

2017-05-06

ERP System Development


Like any development project, development does not begin with actual development work. Each member of our software development team here at PC Bennett Solutions has a wise quote on the back of their business cards. It reads, “First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.” Development must not begin until proper planning and documentation has been done. If not, a severe waste of time and energy is sure to follow. This is why the software development process begins only after the Discovery and Design phases have first paved the way.


The same is true for ERP implementation projects – Discovery and Design should be complete before the Development starts.


What’s in the Development Phase?


The objective for the development process is to prepare the new system environment for data migration & validate against requirements. As part of this, the development process includes establishing a testing environment and developing user skills. Here are some steps to make that happen:


Customization


Modern ERP systems have a great amount of flexibility built into them and there can be a variety of approaches that are possible to address the way customers want to run their businesses. Although Acumatica is very customizable, even at the user level, sometimes during the Discovery and Design phases the implementation team in coordination with the project team determine that some level of customization of the ERP is required to best meet the customer’s needs. Here, the implementation team will build, deploy, and test any required features that were identified during the design phase. This includes modifying or building new screens, developing new processes that fit the ERP system, writing new reports, and building system connections.


Configure the Go-live System


All of the decisions made regarding needed configurations in the design phase get deployed here. This is where the implementation team will load the chart of accounts, as well as any static data such as the customer master, item master, vendor master, historical financial activity, etc…


Other configurations such as formatting the chart of accounts and sub accounts, as well as setting any numeric sequences for customers and vendors will also be done. Customer classes, vendor classes, item classes and deferral codes for deferred revenue situations are also examples of areas that will be set up during the development phase.


Simulate a Live Environment


Now that a lot of the data has been added to the system, it’s time to run a conference room pilot – walking through the entire order to cash cycle for the first time in the new system. This preliminary simulation of the live environment is important in providing another opportunity for the implementation team to test the design of the system to see that it meets the business requirements.


It also offers a great deal of training value for the project team, who can now use the new system risk-free with their own data. From generating and sending a quote to reporting the results of the sale, the goal is to have everyone agree that the system has been configured in a way they want it to run the business. It’s also important that the project team understands how they will use it to do their jobs once it goes live.


The implementation team in conjunction with the project team will look at the results of the conference room pilot testing to determine whether the system is ready for go-live.


Develop End User Training


Now that the approach to using the system has been developed the project team should create training material for the end users. The members of the project team should be subject matter experts in their area of the business and should prepare the training materials for their areas. The procedures developed earlier should be the foundation for the training so that the users learn to use the system in the way the project team designed it to be used.

2017-05-05

ERP Testing


This is where the organization will really start hammering on the new system. The testing phase as part of an ERP implementation will follow after development, where most of the configurations and customizations were made. End users also began training in a special training environment with sample data. There’s no defined boundary between development and testing. In fact, there will be significant overlap between the two throughout the process. To review the development phase and other phases in the implementation process, more articles in this series can be found here.


The objectives for the testing phase will be to:



  • Validate system functionality alignment with requirements

  • Fine tune configuration

  • Establish end user proficiency


5 Crucial Points for Testing a New ERP System


User Acceptance Testing


Developing and executing the UAT plan will largely fall on the shoulders of the project team because they know the business. In order for the testing process to be successful, the users have to define what it is they want to see, and then develop a testing plan to the level of comfort need to accept the product as deployed. The implementation team will work with the project team to develop the testing scenarios to ensure all parts of the system are tested.


Import Sample Data


Part of the go-live process involves loading static and dynamic data. Static data are elements that don’t change frequently such as customers, vendors, inventory items and so on. Dynamic data changes frequently and includes things like accounts payable and receivable invoices and inventory quantities.


Often it makes sense to export that data out of the old system and import it into the new system. Part of testing should include the export and import processes. Particularly with dynamic data you will want to ensure that process works efficiently so as to minimize system downtime during conversion.


Importing some static and dynamic data enables the project team to perform system testing with familiar information and better enables simulating running the business in the new system.


Adjust Configurations


During the “testing” phase the teams may determine that some slight adjustments are necessary to some configurations in order to optimize the use of the system in running the business. If adjustments are required, they are made in both the test and go-live systems.


Establish “Cut-off” Strategy


Transitioning from the old system to the new system can take a variety of paths. In the past, companies converted systems one module at a time, or they would run both systems in parallel. The problem with those approaches is the workload for users more than doubles. They have to build interfaces to get the systems to communicate or work in both systems, and reconcile differences.


The typical approach now is to build confidence in the new system and user training through thorough testing, and then cut over all at once. At this point in the process the teams should have a full understanding of how to do the conversion. They should put in place a plan to finish training other users and bring over the static and dynamic data.


I worked with a well-funded start-up who had about $1,000,000 in payables just prior to go-live. The controller concluded that it would be much easier to just pay off all the open invoices rather than spend the time on data import and validation, and it certainly was. I have been involved in over 150 implementations and this was the only time a company took this approach.

Simulate Running the Business


Just prior to the go-live decision, the teams should work jointly to perform one final test of the system, sometimes referred to as a conference room pilot. The project team should prepare a final test scenario that simulates running the entire business in the new system. Hopefully this will either confirm that the team and the system is ready for the final step – going live.


Deliver End User Training


Once the confirmation has been made by the project team, members fan out to train the end users in their respective departments. I’ve found that it’s helpful to set up a designated training environment where there are a few workstations, a whiteboard, and projector for employees to practice and receive training instruction.

2017-05-04

New ERP Resources


Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), in the cloud or otherwise – is what we do. Because of this, we like to keep track of interesting and helpful reads that we find online, then, pass them around to our customers and followers as helpful resources. You can find these types of updates daily via our different social media accounts. However, below are a few linked articles that we felt were extra special.


7 Helpful ERP Articles From Around the Web


Fix Your Enterprise Application Performance Issues – Before They Fix You


Although it is published at Manufacturing.net, this article can be beneficial to any business. Why are end-user expectations regarding ERP performance increasing? What are the effects of poor ERP performance? What are the main challenges of enterprise systems today? These are all good questions that are addressed in this post.


How to Keep ERP Projects from Exceeding Budgets and Timelines


The statistic that are out there on over budget ERP projects are shocking. What can businesses do to make sure that their projects stay on time and within their planned budget?


Should You Replace Your Existing ERP System?


Dave Turbide explains some great points on reasons to keep a current ERP system, as well as reasons to make a change. This is a must read for anyone who is beginning to weigh their current system’s deficiencies. Some other helpful reads from mbtmag.com:



Who Owns Your Data in Your ERP Solution? Is it You?


Often overlooked, it is a question that is extremely important. This short and sweet post from Acumatica’s VP of Services will get you thinking.


Realizing Cost Savings With Cloud ERP


This article from Panorama Consulting outlines 5 ways to maximize cost savings when moving ERP to the cloud.


Do you have any other helpful articles that you would recommend?

2017-05-03

Business Software Solutions in Colorado


Seattle, WA June 20th, 2013 – PC Bennett Solutions is pleased to announce that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Strata ERP, an Acumatica partner based in Colorado. PC Bennett Solutions is a Gold Certified Partner for Acumatica and Microsoft Partner with Silver Enterprise Resource Planning Competency.


“We have customers all over the country, but Colorado is a new market for PC Bennett”, says Founder and CEO, Patricia Bennett. “This is a sign of the increasing momentum of our phenomenal team and the growing need of the modern solutions we offer.”


Tim Griffiths is joining PC Bennett Solutions from Strata ERP as a Senior Consultant, where he will continue to support businesses in the Denver area and throughout the United States. After holding positions such as Controller, VP of Finance, and VP of IT Services, he brings to PC Bennett more than 20 years of financial and technical experience.


“With the team at PC Bennett Solutions, we will ensure the highest level of service for both our existing and future customers.” He continued, “I look forward to working with a great team of professionals and continued growth in the Colorado market.”


Griffiths is coming on board at an exciting time, to a motivated group of people that has doubled in the last six months.


Due to continued growth, the Seattle based company is seeking to hire experience software developers. For more information on current openings, visit pcbennett.com.


PC Bennett Solutions has been providing business management software solutions to businesses since 2002. Their mission is to provide end-to-end business solutions by performing system evaluations, implementation, support, and customization solutions to small and midsize businesses in various industries.


Jordan Lamborn, Marketing and Sales Coordinator


PC Bennett Solutions


425-831-7924


2017-05-02

Increasing Efficiency


A number of years ago I was engaged by a software company to help them better utilize their ERP system to run their business. Some of the mid-level managers were frustrated with the lack of information provided by the accounting department and how long it took to get what they did. At the same time the CEO was closely monitoring the results provided and driving his team to improve performance.


The Situation


I was brought in by one of the departmental managers to do an assessment of the closing process each month and provide results to the management team. Being a younger consultant I started where I was comfortable, with the manager who brought me in. We worked up a schedule with other department heads including the controller and his team and planned to finish with interviewing the CEO. (Based on my experience in this project, I now start with the CEO to learn about the strategic direction of the company, but that might be a topic for a future blog post.)
Besides doing this engagement for this software company I also consulted with their clients to either implement or re-implement the ERP system this company sold. And in those engagements I always helped them look for ways to get the books closed in 5 business days. One client I worked with did a presentation at a user-group explaining how they got the close cycle down to 2 business days.


With that background, I worked my way through the various departments ending up with the controller. Along the way we considered the processes that drove accounting transactions in each department such as billing procedures, expense reporting and approval processes. In each department we found ways to utilize the existing software to eliminate manual steps which usually involved duplicate entry into the system as well as various spreadsheets.


When I met with the controller I learned that it took much more than 5 days to close the books. In fact, it could take as long as 3 weeks to close the books each month. It is difficult for department heads and executives to manage the business in an informed manner without information for that long of a period. Much of that extra time was spent entering and massaging data in spreadsheets that the CEO relied on.


Streamlining the Accounting System


The controller and I devised some ways to generate the information required by the CEO and department heads from inside their existing system. We came up with ways to creatively use the system to replace most of the work being done in the external spreadsheets. Some of it wasn’t even all that creative; it was just a matter of training the users on how to use standard features they just were not aware of. Based on these planned changes we estimated that the close cycle could be shortened to 5 business days.


Finish Line or Road Block?


In my final meeting with the CEO, I took him through my findings and showed him how the statements could be produced in just 5 days. The only difference was that the data was not quite formatted the same as the spreadsheet reports he was accustomed to receiving. As I approached this conclusion he looked at me and said “I’ve spent years working to get the information delivered to me in the format I want it. Your recommended reports are not in that format so unless you are able to produce it that way we will stick with what we are doing”. In the end they shortened their 2-3 week close cycle by a few days, but it still took too long to disseminate information.


If you are the CEO and you want your staff to make better use of your ERP or Accounting system so that everyone gets better, more timely information then be open to change and communicate that to the rest of the team. I’ll bet many of them will be open to improving how they use the current system and everyone will have better information on which to base everyday decisions.

2017-05-01

3 Essential Tips for Maximizing Productivity After Go-Live

If you are in the middle of an ERP implementation you certainly hope there is life after that process, both on the business and personal side. This post will address the business side – I’ll leave it to the reader to consider the personal side. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.


I have worked on over 100 implementations of ERP systems. At its best, the process is intense, time-consuming, educational, frustrating, daunting and rewarding, often all at the same time. What happens after the system is live varies greatly. The best outcome for the company is that the project team gets a breather once the dust settles after go-live, then evolves into a steering committee that ensures the system gets used as they intended.


More often, the users settle into a routine, knowing enough about the application to get their work done and not much more. The focus is on getting quickly up to speed on the new application and then getting their work done, which often includes getting caught up. The project team returns to their regular jobs full time along with helping users to settle in with the new system.


What often gets overlooked in this process is that ERP systems are designed to provide up-to-date information to decision-makers at all levels in the organization. During conversion to the new system and getting new users up to speed the focus is on the transactional part of the system – making sure that transactions are properly recorded in a timely manner. Here are three ideas to avoid this problem and help make your new ERP system more productive for your company.


Convert the Project Team to an ERP Steering Committee


Your project team should have an in-depth understanding of the ERP system and its capabilities beyond the functionality that was implemented. This group is uniquely qualified to help guide the continuous improvement in the use of the system with the objective of helping the company take advantage of the applicable parts of the system. Therefore, have the team meet regularly, say monthly, to hear frustrations and address issues from users, consider the implementation of more advanced features, fine tune the system and so on.


Review How Users Interact with the System


I have been called into too many companies where the President of the company calls the President of the software company and says something like: “either you fix this system or else”. Once I had a look at how the system was being used it was usually apparent that user turnover or lack of training was contributing lack of awareness of some features or work being done outside the system, usually in Access or Excel.


To prevent this and to make better use of your system, have a member of the project team take a critical look at how users are interacting with the system and compare it to how the project team initially designed the system to be used.


In the manufacturing world, the concept of Lean has become very popular. Part of that process is that the team in a work center stops work for a few hours to a day and analyzes the processes to see if they could be done more efficiently. Then, they implement those changes.


Many companies who have implemented Lean concepts refer to this process as a “Kaizen” event, using the Japanese term. That same approach could also be utilized by a subset of the steering committee in conjunction with the users to highlight inefficiencies and identify better techniques or process changes to drive improvements.


Focus on Providing Information not Data


ERP systems usually do a good job at managing transactions and some of the better systems have strong reporting and analytical tools. The steering committee in conjunction with the executive team should work together on identifying the key information that executives and managers need to drive the business forward. Then, the committee should ensure that all decision-makers get the information they need in a timely manner. Ideally the committee, including the IT group, has the capability and tools to build and deliver the information to the decision-makers. If not, consider using an outside resource.


By recognizing that ERP systems need ongoing attention and work to maintain, companies can ensure that they are getting the most out of the system after it has been implemented, and ensure that the system has a long productive life.


For more information on the ERP Implementation process, read through this past series.