5 Software Features to Run a Successful Omni-Channel Distribution Business

April 30, 2015

omni-channel-business-managementOmni-channel retailing is exactly as it sounds – a business model in which a company offers its products and services through multiple sales channels including: on-line, bricks and mortar, showrooms, trade-shows, mobile devices, print catalogues, etc.  This model is becoming more popular with many industries, not just those who retail direct to consumer. Even traditional wholesale and distribution companies have started branching out to sell products on-line and in showrooms.  Omni-channel retailing provides businesses the opportunity to reach new target markets and serve a larger group of customers. However, the addition of sales channels increases the complexity of a business, which can make it challenging to find a software system to manage all channels in one database.  This is a where a fully integrated accounting and inventory ERP system comes into play.  An all-in-one solution allows you to gain control and provides insight into all retail and wholesale orders coming from multiple channels.  Although information gets stored in one database, users can still distinguish between type and source of orders.  This eliminates the need to pull information from multiple systems when managing orders, and ensures you always have up-to-date inventory information.  In order to accurately account for all sales channels when searching for new software, look for the following features:

eCommerce Integration

Whether you have your own on-line store, sell through sites like Amazon and eBay, or both, it is important that your back-end software is properly integrated with all your eCommerce stores. Sophisticated two-way integration means data is shared from your back-end system to your on-line store fronts and vice versa in order to properly account for sales and inventory.  Items purchased on-line get reflected in your back-end system for further processing and associated inventory gets allocated for picking. When receiving inventory this information gets entered once, into the back-end system, and pushed on-line. Two-way integration eliminates the need for double entry and ensures information across all systems is up-to-date.

B2B Online Order Portal

B2B eCommerce sites empower customers to place their own orders through a self-service type interface. Providing this sales channel allows for complete control over who purchases from your company through the use of a login.  This option also caters to your customers’ specific needs and business hours without having to hire extra staff to manage this process internally.

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The Logic behind ERP Software Implementation Timeframes

April 22, 2015

ERP Software implementation timeframeAs a general rule, there are differences in software implementation time-frames, dependent on the tier or type of software being implemented. When it comes to inventory and accounting ERP software, Tier 1 or Introductory Systems (such as QuickBooks), usually take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to get set up; Tier 2 ERP systems can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to get set up; and Tier 3 or Blue Chip systems can take the longest – from several months to a year plus.  These timeframes correlate with the sophistication of each tier of system and the complexity of business processes. This also means that the work included with software implementations will vary by tier, and also by software vendor within each tier.  This makes it very important to read the fine print on all software vendor quotes in order to compare apples to apples when making a purchasing decision. Because of this, it’s important to begin the software search when your current systems are still in good working condition, and the search has not yet become a critical need in order to maintain business operations.  It’s unrealistic to expect vendors to complete the implementation process immediately after a signed quote is received, for reasons outlined below.

Data Migration

One of the most time consuming parts of an ERP software implementation is the data migration process.  This aspect not only greatly impacts implementation timeframe, but also total costs.  Data migration consists of transferring data from your existing software systems or from spreadsheets, and importing it into your new software.  This process can be further broken down into 3 parts:

  • Extracting data from the existing system
  • “Massaging” the data – clean up and structuring
  • Moving the data into the new system

Essentially, data is mapped from the old system to the new according to labels, titles and structures, and additional “massaging” or “cleaning up” gets performed to ensure bad data is not brought into the new system.  This process usually happens multiple times in order to get the most accurate and up-to-date data before Go-Live.  As you can imagine, for software vendors that manage the entire data migration process, this is not a quick and simple task – especially when dealing with companies that have 30+ years’ worth of data to migrate.  Certain software vendors will put the onus on the client to extract the data and manually enter it themselves, which can lead to quicker implementation timeframes and lower costs – but this logic works mostly in theory and not reality. Relying on the client to perform the data migration can mean that the massaging process gets ignored, some data gets missed during the process and employees must take time away from their daily work to complete the task. Read the rest of this entry »


Hosted ERP Software helps when moving premises

April 10, 2015

In this brief post I want to share a quick thought. We’re frequently asked which deployment method is better for ERP Software – hosted or on-premise. Personally, I’m agnostic on this, as it really depends on a number of factors, and you can read up on some of these in this analysis of Hosted (Cloud) & On-Premises (In-House) pros and cons.

As our company approaches a move to new premises in a few weeks, I’ve begun to realize how significant a benefit having your ERP Software (and other key business software) in the cloud can be. I know that ERP-Hosted-Movingbusinesses do not move frequently, but when you do move it’s a massively disruptive undertaking. And having to move your own servers, meaning you’re essentially down for at least several hours (or need to spend large sums on redundant servers at new and old locations, or temporary on-line solutions), adds to the stress and cost of a move.

For those of us fortunate to have our key applications in the cloud, life’s a lot simpler on moving day: anyone not needed to participate in the actual move will simply work from anywhere there’s an internet connection – including from home. Meaning no down time at all, and no interruption of software-dependant business activities.

An increasing number of businesses are considering switching to hosted software as their existing servers approach replacement age. For such companies, if a move is also on the horizon, it makes the decision almost obvious.

 

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5 Benefits of ERP Software

April 7, 2015

Benefits of ERPERP software is designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations, and includes tools for inventory management, order entry and processing, accounting, warehouse management and more.  ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is typically categorized as a Tier 2 software system.  This means that a true ERP system is best for companies who have outgrown their existing introductory systems, and are looking for a solution that can scale with their company growth.  It also means that the price tag associated with an ERP solution can sometimes cause a bit of sticker shock.  However, once you compare the benefits and opportunities of using a fully-integrated solution, the value of such a system becomes very clear.  Below we have further outlined 5 benefits of ERP.

Improved Customer Service

One of the inherent benefits of ERP software is that all information is stored in a single database, which helps streamline operations across multiple departments. This makes it easy for any given employee with the right user permissions to quickly look up inventory, customer, or sales information in order to make informed decisions.  This data is especially useful when speaking directly with customers and for those who work in customer service. When clients phone in with questions surrounding what available credit they have on their account, how much they owe, their purchase history or a need to update their contact details, this information is all readily available at the click of a couple of buttons.  This eliminates the need for searching through multiple systems and in some cases, the need to search through hard copy files.  To further simplify processes, reports with the above information can be automatically generated and sent out to customers on a regular basis – for example a report that outlines overdue accounts.  Other features such as the ability to track communication, set next action dates, assign sales reps, and create notes, means that information about your customers and potential customers is easily accessible within one system. In many businesses, this leads directly to increased sales.

Cost Reductions

Properly implemented ERP should result in cost reductions across multiple areas of your business. This is especially apparent in businesses with many manual processes and those moving off of introductory and disparate systems.  On the inventory side of the business, proper inventory management increases the accuracy of shipping processes which reduces the costs of dealing with returned merchandise, lost inventory and customer service costs. It also provides tools for accurately predicting your customers’ buying patterns, which reduces the costs of holding inventory and decreases dead stock.  On the accounting side, automating processes such as accounts receivable collection (by sending out reports to customers) reduces the amount of time and costs associated with manual approaches.  An all-in-one solution means data only has to be entered into the system once, by one employee.  This eliminates the costs of manually entering data into multiple systems and the associated keying errors.  Another area of cost savings can be gained from choosing to implement the software as a cloud solution, which results in lower IT maintenance costs and eliminates the need for expensive server hardware.

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