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Archive for February, 2009

Justifying a Software Selection Project in Our Current Economic State

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Alex Smith

As 2009 arrives, companies of various sizes contemplate the year ahead and consider their options for remaining both profitable and viable in a world of relative economic uncertainty. As such, business leaders are adjusting to the new economic challenges and market conditions. While all of this uncertainty will eventually stabilize, organizations must question what is next for them as a company and for their upcoming projects and applicable expenditures.

As has occurred throughout history, human nature evolves and the strong survive. Businesses are no different. Virtually every industry or sector has evolved in some manner over the last few months. The world of information technology has experienced its own transformation. Technology-based purchases are still occurring and companies are initiating new projects. The difference is the nature of the project and the decision making process surrounding the acquisition of the products or services purchased.

ERP software is, without question, a major endeavor for any organization. While a significant amount of work goes into both the selection and implementation of a new business software system, it does so with the ultimate promise of providing significant tangible and intangible benefits to the organization. ERP software can help transform an organization by eliminating internal weaknesses and by producing a roadmap for leaner, more efficient, and more profitable operations. It can be the saving grace for a struggling company, and it can help provide a solid foundation for a profitable tomorrow.

To achieve the project success and the promises ERP software offers, the ERP selection process needs to be tightly managed and executed in a very systematic manner. Now more than ever, the purchase needs to be based on known pain points or organizational weaknesses. The purchase needs to help solidify the organization’s future. The resulting purchase needs to allow for tangible benefits and a measurable return on investment. The purchase needs to be justifiable for both the selection team and the organization’s leadership.

While this may seem like a pipe dream to some, concrete return on investment is completely feasible when the right ERP software is purchased and implemented. From inventory reductions and improved order fill rates to more efficient back-office processing, ERP software can significantly improve an organization’s bottom line and overall profitability. ERP software can provide a genuine return on investment through lower inventory carrying costs, reductions in overtime hours, and more efficient production lines.

While these are only a few areas of ROI, they are realistic expectations when implementing a solid ERP solution. These benefits can provide a relatively fast payback, and they represent the means to justify the purchase that brings along with it a number of additional intangible benefits such as visibility to data, improved customer service, and an increase in overall customer satisfaction. Intangible benefits aside, in uncertain times, any major expenditure needs to be backed by measurable results.

If 2009 brings the promise of change, an ERP software purchase can help provide the catalyst for that transformation. It can provide the backbone for an organization’s future by offering a path to a more efficient operational flow and a more productive workforce in the months and years to come. It can be a justifiable purchase with solid return and measurable payback.


Overcoming the Biggest Obstacle to Successful Enterprise Software Implementation

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by admin

While most discussions about successful implementation of enterprise software focus on the critical tasks to be completed – training, testing, and data migration – the biggest obstacle to successful enterprise software implementation is getting key resources engaged and keeping them focused and energized enough to push the project across the finish line.

It is very common for there to be a lot of energy and enthusiasm from project team members when a new implementation project kicks off. However, as things continue to move forward – generally somewhere in the 90-120 day range of the project – things can begin to bog down. People have been working on the project for a sufficient period of time so the energy and excitement that they felt day 1 when the project kickoff occurred has worn off. And, by this point in the project, they have come to the realization that there is still a lot of hard work ahead of them to see the project through to success.

Some people continue to focus and grind out the days keeping an eye on the goal. Others become distracted and gravitate back to old habits and tasks that may seem urgent at the moment but will not be beneficial to helping get their company to the new software platform. Without an outside impetus to continue to move the team forward, things will stagnate. Then, there will be an epiphany some 30-60 days before a desired production go-live date when it is realized that 80% of the project time line is completed, and 50% of the work tasks remain. Too many times, the project team has become so blinded that they don’t even realize they have this amount of work to complete for a successful go-live.

So, what’s the remedy to this situation – to keep things from bogging down to the point where project success is in jeopardy? The answer is two fold.

First, it is imperative to keep the finish line in mind in some concrete manner. Discussing the objectives simply doesn’t make things vivid enough to keep the organization focused. Rather, making the objectives visual in some manner – with pictures and images that depict where the business will be after the project go-live date – will keep the goals of the organization much more alive and real to project team members.

The second, in addition to having the project manager monitor tasks and project progress, one can establish and monitor a project morale barometer – some means to measure how resources are feeling about the project and how engaged they are in completing their assigned tasks in a timely and high-quality manner. When things start to slip, there needs to be an action taken that intentionally breathes new life back into the project team member(s) who are struggling.

The sooner it is determined that the project morale barometer is starting to slip, the better the odds that taking appropriate actions will resolve matters and keep the project on track. Making minor course corrections during the project will keep the team moving toward the same goal. Left unchecked, even a minor deviation will cause the team to be miles off target several months down the road when it had intended to be ready to go-live with the software.

In conclusion, if project focus and morale are properly maintained throughout the software implementation process, then the customer should expect to have a highly successful go-live experience.


Learning To Develop Your Own Reports In Enterprise 21

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Alex Smith

After the dust has settled from a software implementation and system users have become fully submersed in the various functions they perform on a day-to-day basis, one of the key areas of importance post go-live is to learn to develop personalized reports.

In Enterprise 21, reports can be generated in a variety of ways with each possessing varying degrees of difficulty and flexibility for customization. If you are only looking to export data out of the system and into a report, with appropriate security privileges you can simply click an icon that allows you to export the raw data that you are viewing directly into an Excel spreadsheet. The data you see in this report, however, is limited to the fields and data contained on the specific screen from which the data was exported.

The second way to generate your own reports in Enterprise 21 is to use the fully integrated business intelligence software. The business intelligence module is designed for users to view and track data residing primarily in Enterprise 21’s associated data warehouse in a variety of formats, including pie charts, bar charts, area charts, simple spreadsheets, a combination of graphs and spreadsheets, etc. With this reporting and analytical tool, users can “drill down” on information from high-level views to more detailed views, such as viewing sales over time to then viewing sales over time by customer or product.

A third way to generate reports in Enterprise 21 is through workbenches. Workbenches enable users to create and design their own inquiry screens without touching application source code. Users can choose any of a variety of fields to place on a given screen and then use these fields to generate data that can be put into reports in graphical or spreadsheet format. The benefit of using Enterprise 21’s workbenches to generate your own reports is two fold; first, the workbenches can be created on a user-by-user basis with no two workbenches being exactly the same, without touching application source code. Secondly, such a tool further alleviates users’ dependence on their software provider. The workbenches offer Enterprise 21 users a degree of independence on the part of the user after what was largely a dependent process in the software implementation project.

Finally, users can also be trained to develop reports using Crystal Reports. Depending on the complexities of the information contained in the report, this may or may not be an option for users looking to create reports without the help of a technical resource.

Having users within your organization learn to develop reports on their own is an essential part of the implementation process; remember, the implementation process does not end at go-live! In a world with routine (and lately, dramatic) price and market fluctuations, creating reports to track daily and weekly fluctuations and trends is vital to ongoing business success, planning, and forecasting.