September 1, 2015
News Release: Blue Link speaks with TechnologyAdvice.com about Blue Link’s Inventory and Accounting ERP software.
The following summary post is from TechnologyAdvice.com, a website that provides reviews and rankings of business software, including customer relationship management tools, the best ERP software, and more.
Recently our very own Samantha Hornby, spoke with Eric Perry of TechnologyAdvice to go over a few features, best practises and what makes Blue Link ERP software unique.
Samantha described how Blue Link ERP is an all-in-one inventory management system and accounting ERP system targeted at small to medium sized businesses with approximately 5-100 people. Check out the full interview video or read below for a transcript of the conversation.
TA: Welcome Technology Advice viewers to this week’s product spotlight. I’m joined today by Samantha Hornby, the marketing manager of Blue Link, an ERP software provider. Samantha, describe Blue Link ERP in one sentence.
Hornby: Blue Link ERP provides inventory management and accounting ERP software for small to medium size businesses, primarily those in the wholesale and distribution industry.
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August 21, 2015
Accounting processes are an integral part of business management and include managing your company’s accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger and dealing with banking. Depending on the size and sophistication of your business, you may be able to use manual methods of data entry and calculation, or perhaps an introductory accounting system. However, in order to meet standard accounting regulations, and ensure a high level of data accuracy, as the business grows more sophisticated accounting ERP software is your best choice. Accounting ERP systems provide many benefits including:
- The ability to manage multiple currencies and multiple companies
- Real-time posting in which the software automatically posts to general ledger when processing invoices, payments or any other transactions
- Automatic emailing of statements
- Posting integrity controls to prevent a business’s books from going out of balance and to ensure a trail of entries, adjustments and transactions for auditing purposes
These benefits, however, are only as good as the data actually being input into the system. Poor data input is a common issue, especially in smaller organizations with less formal procedures in place. As an example, consider the accounts receivable function. Attention to data quality in your billing system profoundly affects the collection and reporting of revenue. The more incorrect data in your database, the longer it takes to collect revenue. The consequences of mailing invoices to the wrong address (or emailing to the wrong email address) are obvious. This also applies to sending information to the wrong contact at each company. Accurate data collection helps avert this situation and protects the bottom line from inaccurate billing that might mask the real financial picture. Moreover, it prevents unnecessary referral of accounts to collection agencies because of incorrect data.
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August 10, 2015
We’ve all read a company’s “about” page on their website, claiming that their competitive advantage is their great customer service, and yet so many of these businesses are not taking advantage of software to better serve their customers. Even with social media and the internet providing consumers with much of the information they need to make an informed purchase decision, a knowledgeable sales team is still a valued resource in many industries. Traditionally, businesses have looked to back-end inventory and accounting software (ERP) with CRM or contact management tools as enough functionality for their sales team, but these tools often lack order taking features and analytics. Whether interacting with customers on location, at tradeshows or in a showroom, equipping your sales team with the tools and information they need in a timely manner can make a positive impact on your bottom line. To understand what functionality you need, first you need to understand your sales team.
Depending on the nature of your business and target market, you may benefit from using a small number of internal sales reps (employed and paid for by you) or an outside sales team (employed on a contract basis). If you employ a small number of internal reps, than it may be worth it to give them full access to your back-end inventory and accounting ERP system. This way they have full autonomy to view available inventory, access customer information and place orders. However keep in mind that many software systems charge based on number of users so this can become expensive. In addition, you may want to restrict your sales team to only seeing certain information, and although this can be achieved with different permission settings, there are other options as well. Consider implementing an online order portal or mobile sales application that is fully integrated with your back-end ERP system, as an alternative means of providing your sales reps the option to view inventory and place orders.
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July 6, 2015
There is a reason that training is one of the most costly aspects of software implementations, namely that it’s also one of the most important aspects. When upgrading to a sophisticated accounting ERP system from introductory software such as QuickBooks, there will be a significant learning curve. This is not to say that such Tier 2 systems are all very complicated and difficult to use, but instead that the software necessary to help grow your business will require a better understanding of accounting principles and good business processes. Without this kind of knowledge it’s tough to run a successful multi-million dollar company, and this is where good training comes into play – with regard to accounting functionality, inventory management and other areas. To help you understand why training is so important, we have outlined some reasons below:
The better trained your employees are on a software system, the more productive they will be. All things being equal, when employees feel confident using software they will rely on it more in order to perform their responsibilities. This in turn can help automate previously manual processes, therefore reducing the instance of human error. This also means less time is wasted learning how to use a system every time you want to perform a task, and coming up with workarounds for managing certain processes. ERP software is designed to improve and streamline processes in order to increase efficiency and reduce costs. A good vendor will work with you to evaluate existing internal processes and explore how they can be enhanced or improved upon with the help of software.
Proper training reduces costs. This may not seem like the case initially, however in the long run proper training reduces not only the costs of on-going support, but also the costs associated with lost productivity. If you invest time and money on training up-front, employees will be better equipped to handle their daily responsibilities. This will also make it easier for employees to train new hires on the system, and to assist one another with software questions and issues. If you’re upgrading from introductory accounting software, it is important that employees understand why the system works the way it does, not just how it works. Creating a strong internal network of system experts will make the transition to new software easier for employees, which can reduce the stress associated with such change.
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April 22, 2015
As 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.
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 »
April 7, 2015
ERP 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.
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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March 10, 2015
Introductory software systems, such as QuickBooks, are great tools for small and start-up businesses. They require minimal training and set-up, are intuitive and easy to use and come with a relatively low price tag. However, as your business grows and order volume increases, there may come a time where more robust accounting ERP software is required. ERP systems provide functionality across a variety of departments and are designed to handle large amounts of data, increase automation and reduce the need for duplicate entry. As a result, the implementation process is much more complex and requires significant planning, the benefit being a system that will continue to grow with your company for years to come. ERP software is a good solution for businesses who have outgrown their existing systems, but what happens when a company outgrows its staff?
Implementing an appropriate mid-market accounting ERP solution can reduce or delay the need to hire additional employees by providing opportunities for automation. There is less need for manual entry as the system integrates data across all departments including inventory, accounting, contact management, and order entry and processing. However, there are two instances where employees with a more advanced skill set may be needed; (1) when IT management is required, (2) when no one at the company has advanced knowledge of accounting practices.
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