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Use Your ERP Software Implementation to Clean Up Your Garbage Data

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 by Alex Smith

A common concern many small business owners have when selecting a small business ERP software package is how they are going to be able to extract their existing data from their legacy software systems (QuickBooks, Excel, etc.) and transfer the data into their new ERP software solution. While migrating historical data into the new software package is important, the real question small business owners should ask is what historical data should be migrated over to the new ERP solution?

Within most small businesses, manufacturing and distribution operations use multiple software packages simultaneously, which leads to numerous instances in which data is duplicated, and, in many cases, inconsistent. Products are often times entered with one product description in one software package and a different product description in a second software package; the organization may also have a customer’s shipping address entered in one software package and the same customer’s billing address entered in a different software package. The software implementation process is an excellent opportunity for the organization to clean up its duplicated and inconsistent data and develop a single, cohesive data set for products, customers, ingredients and raw materials, suppliers, financial accounts, etc.

While the process of going through potentially hundreds or thousands of data records may be painful, it will prove to be highly beneficial to the small business during the initial system go-live and beyond. A sophisticated ERP software solution is only as good as its associated data. I recently spoke with one small business owner, and I believe his take on data migration was probably one of the most simplistic, yet most accurate statements I have heard when he said, “Garbage data in is just going to mean garbage data out.” This statement is just as true today as it has always been when using automated systems.

Establishing an accurate and consistent data set during software implementation is one of the first steps for the small business in realizing significant ROI for its software purchase and developing improved, efficient business operations.

When is Your Small Business Ready for an ERP System?

Friday, June 12th, 2009 by Alex Smith

A common question small business owners ask themselves is when their business is ready to implement an ERP software application that will replace their existing small business software. Fortunately for the small business owner, there are a number of small business ERP software solutions on the market today that serve as a viable replacement for QuickBooks, Peachtree, and other small business accounting software packages. In my experience, there are three telling signs of when a small business is ready to migrate from its existing small business software to a more sophisticated ERP system.

First, the small business is operating in a multitude of software packages based on a given department within the organization. Accounting personnel make journal entries in QuickBooks; warehouse managers enter data into Excel; sales representatives use ACT, Goldmine,, or some other customer relationship management software solution; and for production and scheduling, well, sometimes there are small businesses that abandon the concept of using software for production altogether and revert to more archaic methods – I recently visited a food processing company that had its production manager hand-write the week’s production schedule on a chalkboard! The problem with this lack of integration between software packages is that it leads to a lack of organizational and business process integration. Divisions and departments begin to operate independently of one another or develop into individual silos of activity and information. Access to information in a given department becomes highly dependent on the software package used to process transactions and the associated person entering the data. This level of independence between various departments poses a serious problem for the small business owner who needs to manage the overall success of all of his or her business’ operations and makes it substantially more difficult for the owner to identify what areas of his or her business need improvement.

A second sign that a small business is ready to move to an ERP system is that duplicate data entry and data processing has become a common practice within the organization. When operating a business in multiple software solutions, it is common to have employees enter the same data into two or more different software packages. This poses two problems to the business. First, duplicate data entry consumes workers’ time and leads to operational inefficiencies and added time costs to perform a given transaction. Secondly, duplicate data entry increases the chances of having data entered incorrectly or inaccurately, thus leading to more workers’ time spent trying to correct the problem and keep key business data up to date and accurate. A fully-integrated ERP software solution can help remedy these problems and provides immediate benefits to the organization. By having all employees enter data into a singular software package, there is no need to enter data more than once. This can reduce employee time spent on data entry and provide employees more time to perform their daily tasks, hopefully leading to an increase in worker productivity and overall business productivity and output. Small businesses can even see substantial reductions in time spent performing period and year-end processing with a fully-integrated software solution.

Lastly, one of the most common signs that a small business is ready to implement a sophisticated ERP system is that the business suffers from frequent inventory shortages for some items and dramatic inventory surpluses for other items. I frequently hear many small business owners offer the complaint that they are frequently out of stock on their most popular items. They even complain that they suffer from inventory shortages of the packing materials required for their most popular items. An ERP system with tight inventory control, a comprehensive warehouse management system, and sophisticated forecasting and planning capabilities can ensure that sufficient inventory of a given item is available to meet customer demand without excessive on-hand inventory levels; in fact, a true ERP software system can help the organization increase order fill rates and improve customer service while simultaneously reducing on-hand inventory levels. This leads to reduced inventory costs, improved customer service, and increased profitability, giving the small business a significant advantage over its competition.

The Migration from QuickBooks to ERP Software: Problems, Solutions, and Common Questions

Monday, April 20th, 2009 by Alex Smith

Many small business manufacturing and distribution companies run some combination of QuickBooks for managing accounting transactions and Excel spreadsheets to maintain inventory levels and record production scheduling. For these companies, the mere thought of migrating from these widely used and recognized tools can be intimidating for even the most technologically savvy small business owners. That being said, with proper data migration and training, small business executives and employees can learn new, more efficient practices in a timely manner to help run a small business more profitably.

One common issue software users have as an impetus for migrating from QuickBooks to more sophisticated software solutions is changing the business’ costing methodology. QuickBooks, while highly intuitive, only allows for one costing methodology. Enterprise 21, however, offers more flexible costing methods to best suit each small business’ specific needs. Enterprise 21 small business ERP software allows for average, standard, LIFO, and FIFO costing as granular as on a product-by-product basis.

A relevant example of this is when a small business within the food and beverage industry migrates from their existing entry-level software package. Many start-up or small food processors do not have the ability to use FIFO-based costing, yet they require it in order to meet their accounting and costing needs more adequately.

In addition, small business owners are frequently concerned with moving their existing data maintained in QuickBooks, Excel spreadsheets, or other small business accounting software packages into more advanced software solutions. Though small businesses have fewer employees than larger organizations, that does not exclude them from often times having hundreds or even thousands of products, ingredients, parts, vendors, and customers.

The thought of spending employee time and resources to enter each individual record manually with this volume of data is simply not practical (or affordable) for a small business. Fortunately, TGI developers have standard routines and tools in place to load existing data contained in QuickBooks, Excel spreadsheets, and other small business software packages directly into the proper fields within Enterprise 21 with little to no manual data entry. The data is then rigorously tested (in a test environment) to check for accuracy and consistency, and to make sure no errors have occurred in the migration process. By migrating existing data rather than manually entering it into the new system results in substantial time and cost savings to the small business.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, small business owners question in what ways their day-to-day business operations must change in order to adopt a new, technologically- and functionally-sophisticated software package. To achieve a rational and sizable return on investment (ROI), both small business owners and employees must be flexible and open-minded in adopting new, more efficient business practices and processes with the implementation of a new software package. The goal in selecting a new manufacturing or distribution software package should be, ultimately, to enable daily business operations to run more effectively, efficiently, accurately, and profitably. A fully-integrated ERP software package can do this with ease.

A fully-integrated software package eliminates the need for data entry and transacting business in a multitude of software packages concurrently; every entry and transaction would be performed in only one software package, allowing for improved data accuracy and visibility. Initially, employees may struggle to grasp new methodologies because the way they perform their daily jobs and tasks could be radically different. They will, however, also be significantly better. The new manufacturing or distribution software system will offer process improvements and provide a structure for adopting best practices. With adequate training and practice, software users will adopt new, better business processes and practices that will ultimately result in better, more efficient operations and an increase in the productivity and bottom line for the entire organization, thus allowing for future and sustainable business growth.