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The Right ERP Consultants Will Improve Your ERP Project

The Right ERP Consultants Will Improve Your ERP Project

Implementing an ERP system for your business can be a daunting and time-consuming task. However, choosing the right ERP consultant can make the process go a lot smoother and provide you with much needed ongoing support. Here are some of the ways the right “independent” ERP consultant can improve your ERP project.

Experience and Expertise

The experience and expertise in implementing an ERP system is perhaps the biggest way an ERP consultant can help you. Your ERP consultant will know the best practices for implementing your program. They do it every day! They’ll also help you stay on time and on budget. They will also view your project from an outside perspective which can be valuable. It’s important to ensure that the consultant you choose fits your culture and is independent. Truly independent consultants are not software resellers and they do not receive compensation from software companies.

To make the most of your ERP consultant’s expertise, be sure to choose a consultant who has experience implementing ERP software in your specific industry or with other similar businesses. A good consultant will also suggest best practices from outside of your industry that could be of help to your business if incorporated.

Day-to-Day

Every project has unique needs and once the initial plan and strategy is done, the day-to-day details start. Some people need a lot of guidance while some need assistance when problems or questions pop up. An experienced consultant will have shepherded multiple ERP projects while most companies have not. Whatever your specific situation is, let your ERP consultant know your level of experience so he or she knows how to meet your needs. Also let your ERP consultant know how you like to communicate and share the communication plan that’s been drafted for the project.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

Project Management

You probably have project managers in your company, but they also have other responsibilities. ERP consultants can manage all facets of the ERP implementation process to ensure a timely and cost-effective result. The ERP consultant will also help your company set/validate realistic goals, budgets and deadlines.

A consultant will understand industry standards and best practices and will help you negotiate your ERP software costs with vendors. Consultants often have established relationships with vendors and can help expedite the process. Consultants also have your best interests in mind. Typically, a consultant can negotiate a lower overall software package price on your behalf.

You may task your consultant with help validating a software that you have chosen or hire them to lead a more comprehensive software selection process. Ultimately, they will help you ask the right questions to ensure you are getting the best product fit for your business.

The Big Picture

Your ERP consultant can also provide you with unbiased opinions about what’s working or not working regarding your business processes. This expert outsider’s perspective can be invaluable throughout your implementation project. Most companies and employees have personal biases, based on their job roles and how things have been done in the past. Business process improvement should also be tackled before the implementation begins.

Your ERP consultant will help you meet your objectives and keep your team on track. It can be easy to lose focus with all the excitement of a new system. But your ERP consultant will keep your decisions in line with the big picture and company goals for the new system.

Your consultant will also help you address any insufficiencies in your business operations (think redundancies) and help ensure that your overall process for doing business is optimized.

Change Management

Implementing an ERP system can mean big changes for your business. These changes can be overwhelming for your team and the rest of your workforce. An ERP consultant can help usher in these changes. Employees are often worried about job loss or having to learn new duties or routines.

An ERP consultant can help with training and provide resources to make sure your workforce is ready and able to make changes to their daily routines. Your consultant can also act as a mediator when differences of opinion will undoubtedly arise. Having someone to help manage the human element of your ERP implementation is important. A common cause of ERP implementation failures is not dedicating enough time, money and resources to ensure that employees understand and are supportive of upcoming system changes. 

As you can see, choosing the right ERP consultant can improve many facets of your ERP software selection and implementation process. Finding a truly independent consultant like Panorama Consulting Solutions may be one of your biggest challenges.

Five Surprising Takeaways from the 2018 ERP Software Report

Five Surprising Takeaways from the 2018 ERP Software Report

Today we published our brand new 2018 ERP Software Report, which summarizes the results from nearly 300 recent ERP implementations across the globe. While the data tells a similar story to years past, it also contains a few surprises.

First, it’s important to understand where we gathered the data. The average company in our sample generates $439 million USD in annual revenue, with a majority of organizations based in North America. Organizations in the study were in industries of all types, ranging from manufacturers, retail and distribution companies, construction firms, and a range of other industry verticals.

We summarized and analyzed this broad data set to arrive at some conclusions regarding trends in the industry, challenges companies face when implementing new ERP software, and lessons learned. This is the twelfth consecutive year that we have conducted the annual study.

Some results aren’t surprising to those of us that have been in the industry for a while. Others were a big surprise to the Panorama team and I.

Here are five surprising takeaways from this year’s ERP Software Report:

1. Cloud ERP Software Adoption May Have Finally Reached a Tipping Point

We saw a very large increase in cloud ERP software adoption this year compared to past years, with this year’s mix of SaaS and cloud deployments increasing to 85%, compared to 15% on-premise deployments. While this number may not be striking on the surface, it is a big difference from last year’s data, which showed less than 50% of organizations were deploying cloud and SaaS solutions.

Screen Shot 2018 03 13 at 6.46.11 PM

The fact that the leading ERP vendors are pushing SAP S4/HANA, Oracle Cloud, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 cloud solutions so aggressively may finally be paying off for them. So, which is more surprising: the fact that cloud and SaaS adoption has reached 85%, or the fact that last year’s number was so low?

2. The Grand Illusion of Lower ERP Implementation Costs

Past years have shown that the average total ERP implementation costs anywhere from 4% to 5% of a company’s annual revenue. This number includes a project’s all-in costs, including software licenses, implementation costs, hardware upgrades, organizational change management, training, backfilling internal resources, and any other costs associated with the transformation.

This year, that number decreased to 3.6% of annual revenue. While this may sound positive on the surface, it actually reveals a flaw in our data: since most deployments are cloud solutions (see point #1 above), initial costs are naturally going to be lower. However, our implementation cost data only captures the initial implementation costs – not the ongoing costs. In most cases, cloud deployment costs less money up front, but can increase longer-term outlays due to higher annual subscription costs. It is important to take this data with a grain of salt.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. ERP Implementations are Taking Longer and Resulting in more Operational Disruption

Despite lower up-front costs, ERP implementation durations are increasing. While the total average duration increased a relatively innocuous 16.9 to 17.4 months, those that took longer than expected increased from 59% to 79%. Again, this can be largely attributed to the increase in cloud deployments, which creates a false sense of implementation speed and ease and results in unrealistic expectations along the way.

Operational disruptions saw a similar increase. Those that experienced a material disruption following go-live – such as being unable to ship product or close the books – increased from 56% to 66% last year. This isn’t comforting to most executives and points to some of the lingering deficiencies in the abilities of most ERP consultants’ and vendors’ ability to manage implementations well.

4. Despite Relatively High Satisfaction with ERP Software Vendors, Overall ERP Implementation Satisfaction Levels Plummeted to 42%

Customer satisfaction with their chosen and implemented ERP software increased to 68% this year. However, satisfaction with their overall implementations plummeted from 81% to 42%, which suggests that more companies are either struggling with their deployments and/or managing to unrealistic expectations surrounding those initiatives. Thought leadership such as Ten Tips to a Successful ERP Implementationprovide guidance on how to manage your digital transformation to success.

Screen Shot 2018 03 13 at 6.55.06 PM

5. Organizational Change Management Still Reigns as the Biggest Challenge to a Successful ERP Implementation

For the second straight year, organizational change management was atop the list of top reasons why projects took longer or cost more money than expected. Ironically, many organizations think they will actually save time and money by cutting this important corner, but our research tells a different story. You are more likely to find that you have underinvested in managing organizational change, and those that do find that they implement faster, less expensively, and with a higher ROI than those that don’t.

These five “surprises” may or may not be surprises to you. They also just barely scratch the surface of the many lessons and takeaways outlined in this 40-page report, so I encourage you to download the complete 2018 ERP Report to learn more, click on the button below.

How Infor Cloud Compares to Other ERP Software

How Infor Cloud Compares to Other ERP Software

If you have looked into ERP software, then you have almost certainly heard of Infor Cloud. For over 16 years, Infor has been providing ERP solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. Currently, a Tier I ERP vendor, Infor Cloud is one of the four most leveraged ERP systems. This is primarily due to the variety of functions and capabilities it offers, as well as its scalability [1].

So, how does Infor Cloud compare to other ERP software like SAP or Oracle? Here’s a quick look at how Infor Cloud stacks up against other top ERP vendors:

1. Although Once Targeted at the Manufacturing Industry, Infor Cloud now Offers a Variety of Products Designed for Other Industries

Unlike some other ERP vendors, Infor Cloud has worked diligently to create continuously enhanced software for every industry. Their ERP software is not considered “one type fits all” and no one industry is considered more important than the other. They have specialized software available for every industry, including fashion, equipment rental, healthcare, hospitality, food and beverage, public sector, automotive, aerospace and defense. All software features the latest innovations and modules specifically designed for that individual niche including social applications and mobile access. This may help eliminate the need for specialized (and expensive) customizations.

2. After Making Numerous Acquisitions, Infor Cloud has Made Integration with Other Services Easy

When some ERP vendors acquire others, they put little, if any, effort into integration. At Infor Cloud, this is not the case. Instead, they have released middleware that allows for high integration with other services. For example, systems used to do everything from track workflow to monitor processes and manage events can be integrated into Infor Cloud software.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Infor Cloud offers fast installation

Infor ERP software has been designed to facilitate rapid deployment, allowing users to get up and running as quickly as possible. This is the case, whether it is on-premise or in the cloud. This may be an advantage over some other ERP systems that require lengthy installations or a great deal of customization.

4. Infor Cloud is a Leader in Mobile Functionality

Infor Cloud understands that in today’s world, traditional offices, where everyone comes in and works in the same building from 8-5 p.m. are a thing of the past. Instead, more and more companies allow remote offices and employees to work from home. Infor Cloud’s mobile functionality is touted to be more robust than its competition.

5. Infor Cloud is Always Looking for Ways to Modernize, Simplify and Save

Infor Cloud dedicates a significant amount of time and effort to creating software that is continuously innovative, offers greater choices and increased value. Additionally, they have a strong support network that ensures upgrades go as efficiently as possible. In just the last year alone, Infor Cloud has introduced over 6,400 new integrations, 6,200 new features, and 176 new products, an impressive accomplishment [2]. Few, if any, other ERP vendors can match this. It is easy to see why their customer list includes some of the world’s top corporations, including Ferrari, Heineken, Bausch & Lomb, Best Western International and Wyndham Hotels.

Simply put, many other ERP vendors cannot compare to Infor Cloud.  Not sure if Infor Cloud is right for your company?  Don’t fret, leave it to the best!  Contact Panorama Consulting Solutions to help determine the right ERP software roadmap.

Standardization vs. Flexibility: How This Decision Drives Your Digital Transformation

Standardization vs. Flexibility: How This Decision Drives Your Digital Transformation

As you consider the potential shift to an ERP system, it’s important to identify which style of digital transformation is most aligned with your business strategies and goals. One of the most important questions you should consider in your planning is whether or not you are looking for standardization or flexibility in your operations. There are certainly pros and cons to both approaches.

1. Pros and Cons of Standardization

Standardization is a great option if you are looking to create a system that delivers quality goods or services with a solid degree of predictability. Standardization allows for consolidation of business practices and adds a great deal of stability to your operations. Standardization also allows you to implement foundational processes with consistency and dependability.

You may find a few issues with standardization as well. Sometimes, standardization makes it difficult to keep up with changing trends. While your standardization allows your business a great amount of stability in the here and now, it may not leave room for future forecasting. As your business grows, your standardized processes could hold you back if you’re not careful.

In terms of implementation, standardization will require a greater amount of management up front in both the business process and in implementing organizational change You’ll also need to plan for a large scale employee training program.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

2. Pros and Cons of Flexibility

Flexibility in your digital transformation will allow you to better meet the unique and often customizable demands of your clients. Flexibility can be great for rapidly growing companies that need to be able to adjust operations processes quickly. Smaller companies also benefit from flexibility, as they often face unique challenges because of their size. A flexible system might also provide compatibility for upgrading software in the future.

On the downside of flexibility, your system can become too loose. This might make it more difficult to enact standard business processes across the board. It also might not push employees who are resisting your digital transformation to make necessary operational changes. Too much customization in your software can also be a negative, as this affects usability.

A flexible ERP system will require a large amount of project governance. There also needs to be aggressive controls in place throughout the implementation and customization process.

3. How to Decide

As you can see there are valid reasons to consider a standardized or flexible approach to your ERP system. Often, you can choose a software program and implementation plan for your business that lends itself more to one side of the spectrum or the other. Consider what aspects of your digital transformation are most important to your company brand and growth strategy.

The best thing is to decide what the goals of your ERP system implementation are and look at how more standardization or flexibility will support you in achieving these goals.

Key Drivers of ERP Implementation Success

Key Drivers of ERP Implementation Success

Most ERP implementations take longer than planned, cost more than expected and don’t effectively mitigate risks. It’s perplexing why this happens so frequently. What can be done to avoid falling into the same trap of so many implementation teams?

According to Panorama’s 2018 ERP Report, 64% of organizations spent more money than they budgeted, and 79% took more time than expected. Even more surprisingly, over half of respondents indicated they experienced some sort of material operational disruption after go-live, such as the inability to ship product or close the books.

While ERP implementations are difficult, some organizations have cracked the code on how to overcome the challenges. Success isn’t due to luck. Project success is initiated with a deliberate and strategic approach that navigates the many pitfalls and risks. Based on this year’s research and Panorama’s experience, here are the top five drivers of successful implementations:

1. Alignment with Overall Business Strategy

Misalignment between a project and an organization’s overall strategy is one of the most common challenges of implementations. For example, we recently worked with a company that was driving an overarching business transformation focused on leveraging technology to surpass its competitors. Their main goal was to improve the customer experience. However, their ERP implementation was more focused on using technology to automate and streamline back-office functions, rather than customer-centric improvements. This misalignment resulted in confusion, higher project costs and diluted results. The project failed to live up to executive and customer expectations.

Recommendation: utilize independent ERP software experts to help translate your corporate strategy into an aligned implementation strategy and plan.

2. Realistic Expectations During Implementation Planning

We’ve found many ERP implementations are doomed from the start. Often, it’s because their project teams had unrealistic expectations from day one. When expectations aren’t aligned with reality, bad decisions with rippling effects can result. For example, if you commit to complete your project with an inadequate timeframe or budget, you are more likely to cut critical project activities such as organizational change management and business process improvement. This will actually accelerate your risk of time and cost overruns.

Recommendation: rather than taking your ERP vendor’s proposal at face value, be sure to rely on independent third parties to validate and supplement your implementation strategy and plan.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Laser Focus on People, Organizational Change Management and Workforce Transition

According to our 2018 ERP Report, organizational and people issues are the number one reason most ERP implementations take more time and money than expected. The key is to not become overwhelmed by this issue but find ways to overcome people issues. Best-in-class implementations and project teams understand that erring on the side of investing heavily in organizational change management will result in a lower cost and risk implementation.

Recommendation: invest as heavily in your organizational change management activities as you would in your software and technical project activities. It will mean less time, money and risk in the long term.

4. Effective Business Process Management and Process Improvement

One of the biggest (and most common) mistakes is to defer to your chosen ERP software to determine how your business processes will look in the future. Today’s ERP systems are robust and flexible, meaning you need to define your business processes before your implementation. The last thing you want, is your expensive functional and technical consultants, billing their time while your team decides how it wants its business processes to look going forward.

Recommendation: define your future state business processes and improvements before you begin your technical software implementation.

 

5. Strong Project Management, Governance and Controls

Poor project management and controls can wreak havoc on any implementation. Make sure your project charter clearly defines your governance controls and structure. Clear roles and responsibilities must be in place for your project manager, executive steering committee and other internal and third-party project roles.

Governance must align with the unique needs and dynamics of your organization. The framework of your governance must be comprehensive yet dynamic, as well as specific and repeatable.

Since ERP implementations can be complex business transformations (rather than just technology initiatives) it’s important to have the right people, controls and governance in place prior to beginning your implementation.

Recommendation: clearly define your project team, governance and controls as part of your project charter. Consider hiring independent, third-party experts that manage these sorts of implementations for a living.

While this blog is intended to highlight some of the key drivers of successful implementations, we’ve only scratched the surface of this topic. We didn’t say much about risk management, issue identification, communication or transparent reporting.

While effective project governance provides direction and decision-making protocols, it does not replace the need for effective leaders who can manage accountability and validate metrics.

How SAP Compares to Other ERP Software

How SAP Compares to Other ERP Software

When you are considering ERP software to integrate and streamline your business’s finances, HR, and other processes, SAP is an option that you will frequently come across. For well over a decade, SAP has been the ERP system of choice for all types of industries. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years [1].

This raises two important questions. What sets SAP apart from other ERP systems currently available? Why is it one of the most widely used ERP systems in the world [2]? To answer these questions, here’s a brief look at how SAP compares to other ERP software.

1. SAP can Fit Any Size Business (From Small Companies to Fortune 500 Companies)

Unlike some other ERP systems that are geared for use by companies of a specific size, this is not the case with SAP. Instead, they offer a diverse line of ERP platforms that are known for being incredibly consistent. They offer an all-in-one solution with a straightforward implementation process. Additionally, transitions are easy as a company grows and expands.

SAP also offers multiple cloud solutions and it integrates straight out-of-the-box with complementary services, such as Google and PayPal. This is uncommon in the world of ERP systems. All of these are things, as well as the fact that SAP offers plenty of flexibility for growth, are things that small businesses can greatly benefit from. At the same, SAP offers the functions and capabilities needed by the world’s largest companies. In fact, almost 80% of Fortune 500 companies use SAP, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Phillip Morris [3].

2. It is Also Ideal for Any Business

As mentioned above, SAP works with all types of industries, which isn’t always the case with ERP systems. Businesses that are implementing a new ERP may not know exactly which functions and modules they need. SAP has a wide selection for a custom fit without having to pay for customization. Businesses also benefit from SAP’s integration. When changes are made to one module, other modules are immediately updated.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. It Does Not Offer Unnecessary Functionality

All ERP systems require training and time for your staff to learn how to use it. The simpler the system, the shorter the learning curve will be. Some ERP systems, such as Oracle, to offer too many functions for most businesses. Many of them are unnecessary which makes training more difficult and complicated. While SAP offers all the functions a business needs, it keeps them streamlined so the users does not become confused.

4. When Compared to Other ERP Systems, SAP Offers the Quickest Financial Payback and Shorter Implementation Time

SAP is the second most expensive ERP system to implement (Oracle is first). However, it does provide the quickest financial payback (around nine months) when compared to other ERP systems [4]. For businesses using SAP, this results in faster financial benefits. At the same time, SAP has established a significantly shorter implementation period than its counterparts, which also facilitates quicker success.

5. SAP Usually Requires Less Customization Than Other ERP Systems

When compared to its competition, SAP has a reputation for its impressive out-of-the-box functionality. This results in minimal, if any, need for customization, which can slow down the implementation period. However, it is worth noting that SAP does provide plenty of customizable solutions that will suit all types of business if needed.

Currently, SAP rates very high when compared to other ERP systems. Of course, other vendors, including Oracle and Infor, are continually looking to make upgrades and changes. SAP will have have to work hard to stay ahead of the competition, or they could be surpassed in the future. 

Don’t fret, contact Panorama Consulting Solutions to help with your ERP selection.

Risk: Its Impact on Your ERP Implementation Project

Risk: Its Impact on Your ERP Implementation Project

ERP failures may be more common than you think, but they don’t simply happen without warning. They also don’t happen overnight.  Instead, failures and other ERP implementation project challenges tend to build over time. Seemingly small risks become bigger, while a subset of risks may mutate into exponentially more complex challenges over time. If not properly identified, managed, reduced or eliminated these risks will reach a tipping point – wreaking havoc on the project, or worse, causing a full-blown failure.

To the trained eye, many risks are recognizable from the start. The key is to know what to look for and how to navigate the challenges. I like to call this iterative process, “actionable strategies for risk mitigation.” Risks come in many forms, if you’re too close to your project (immersed in detail) or don’t have a deep specialization in digital transformations the road ahead may be bumpy.

Below are five key takeaways about assessing risk on your ERP implementation project:

1. Conduct a Risk Assessment During Your Implementation

A crucial mindset is to accept risk exists and put forth a concerted effort and plan to control it. An objective, third-party assessment of your implementation is a best practice. It’s key to involve someone who isn’t clouded by, or too close to the day-to-day details to recognize risks and warning signs. One way to do to this is to bring on a resource that isn’t part of the project team. Someone whose area of expertise includes risk assessment experience with several similar projects throughout their career.

These assessments should be done regularly throughout your implementation to identify probability of occurrence, consequence severity and impact. Unlike most of your team members, an external partner can also dedicate time and methodology to this important effort (think identify, manage, eliminate or proactively avoid or reduced risks). You can learn more about Panorama’s independent oversight service offerings here.

2. View from all Perspectives

Project risks come in different shapes, sizes and variations so it’s important to assess your project using many different “lenses.” Risk factors can span a spectrum relating to people, process and technology. Identifying and recognizing risk earlier on is preferable to reacting to risk factors as they pop up. For example, Panorama uses a project assessment framework, evaluating from 12 key areas including data, organizational change management, business processes, project management and a host of other areas. Whatever evaluation framework you decide to use, it’s important it provides a comprehensive and structured analysis of your project in a time sensitive manner.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Assess Project Risk

Those of us who have been involved with enough ERP implementations recognize there are commonalties across projects (pitfalls, cost impacts, failure points) in these initiatives. Rather than recreating the wheel or shooting from the hip, it’s useful to start by evaluating project risks relative to what other similar projects experience. This helps ensure you have a “checklist” of sorts to help identify and focus on specific project risks and threats. With this said, you’re also working in a constantly changing environment. The ability to monitor and adjust is key, as well as understanding how the project’s risk profile may change.

4. Prioritize Risks and Create an Action Plan

When done correctly, most project assessments identify more risks than can reasonably be addressed with limited resources and team members. Additionally, not all risks require a mitigation strategy. Therefore, prioritization is important since it enables your team to focus on addressing the things posing the most immediate and/or greatest risk to your project. An objective view of your project and plenty of experience will ensure the most pressing issues are being addressed first. For these highest priority risks, you will want to create and execute a risk mitigation plan backed by a contingency plan.

5. Recognize Early Warning Signs of ERP Implementation Failure

It’s important not to underestimate the complexity of an ERP implementation. It’s also not an exaggeration to say there’s a direct correlation between successful implementations and early risk identification. Experience and research shows most ERP failures marinate over time. A string of small, seemingly insignificant mistakes can morph into sometimes unstoppable failure points when unattended. Like the “canary in the coal mine,” it’s important to recognize the value of early warning signs. Read this blog to learn some of the common warning signs of ERP implementation risk.

The takeaways mentioned above highlight the importance of dedicated independent risk oversight, which can sometimes get buried in the excitement and momentum of an implementation project. It’s a complex subject and I’ve only touched on it. Realistically assessing risks, recognizing recurring risks and understanding the opportunities made possible by risk are other important considerations. Don’t tackle these challenges alone.

Download Seven Pre-implementation Steps for a Successful Implementation.

A Quick Look at Microsoft Dynamics GP and the Distribution Process

A Quick Look at Microsoft Dynamics GP and the Distribution Process

Margins are critical in every business. For a distributor, healthy margins are the difference between success and failure. Vendor costs, inventory control, sales pricing and delivery expense all directly affect your margins. Properly managing all these areas while delivering outstanding customer support is the key to driving business growth.

Therefore finding the best ERP software is crucial to ensuring that every aspect of the distribution process goes as smoothly and as efficiently as possible. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most crucial aspects of distribution and how the ERP software Microsoft Dynamics GP approaches it.

1. Purchasing Inventory

Having the correct inventory levels is vital. Balancing just in time inventory maximizes cash flow and avoids wasting capital. Microsoft Dynamics GP’s inventory module allows you to identify which vendor has the things you need across multiple locations. It also allows you to cross-reference a vendor’s SKU number with yours. This makes coordinating purchases much more simple, decreases the likelihood of miscommunication and makes certain you get the right products.

Dynamics GP can also analyze purchasing trends. You can be prepared for when sales spike and avoid being out of stock. This data will also help you to scale back inventory during slow periods preventing you from having capital tied up in unused inventory.

2. Purchase Orders

Microsoft Dynamics GP includes a field that not only tells you how long a specific vendor takes to supply goods but also converts this data into a chart that is easy-to-read. Having this lead time information at your fingertips makes it much easier to select a vendor with the ability to supply what you need at the time you need it. GP’s inventory module also looks at what you have on hand and recommends purchase orders. As a bonus, it will check your database of primary vendors to ensure they have what you need. This streamlines the entire purchase order process.

3. Warehouse Assembly

Some assembly work may be needed for special promotions, such as Kitting and Bill of Materials (BOM) assembly. Microsoft Dynamics GP’s inventory module allows your warehouse to identify assembly of products at the time the order is received. For example, you may sell party plates, cups, and forks separately, but offer a special price when all three are purchased together. When this order is placed at the special price, GP’s kitting process will ensure your warehouse sees a list of all three items, making the assembly process easier and reducing the chances of errors. Dynamics GP also supports handheld scanners to ensure quality control.

4. Fulfillment Process

In some cases, fulfillment includes more than order entry and shipment. For example, it may require crating, special packaging, or gift wrapping. Microsoft Dynamics GP includes an advanced distribution option so that you have complete insight into each step. This allows managers to identify and fix potential issues, as well as make crucial business decisions that could affect workflow.

5. Invoicing

Ordering and shipping a lot of products is great but only if you get paid. Dynamics GP not only helps with invoicing but it also assists in making sure those invoices are collected. It can automatically generate an invoice when the order is placed or shipped. Customers with recurring invoices or shipments are easily managed. If a customer exceeds their credit terms or extends beyond their payment limit, Dynamics GP will automatically halt shipments and deliveries. This protects you from customers who are credit risks.

6. Returns

Returns are a fact of life. Microsoft Dynamics GP’s Returns Management Process simplifies this process by creating accounts that show the types of returns coming in, whether it’s a repair and return, advanced exchange, full credit or etc. The system is also responsible for all the paperwork, meaning it automatically adds it back to the inventory and automatically credits the customers. In other words, returns have never been easier.

7. Pricing

If you are involved in the business to business transactions, you may offer customer specific pricing options. For example, you may want to discount prices or have contracts that are renegotiated yearly. GP’s extended pricing function makes it easier to manage this date sensitive reporting.

Of course, customer service remains a crucial part of your business. Integrating your sales department in with your inventory control is an excellent idea. This makes it easier for your sales team to quickly answer questions, avoid backorders, and know which vendor has a product on hand. This results in a seamless experience that is sure to please every customer.

Download Getting More Out of Your Curent ERP System.

Suggestions for Successful ERP Training

Suggestions for Successful ERP Training

Potentially the largest contributor to successful end user adoption at the onset of an ERP project go-live can often be attributed to the effectiveness of the training. The best suited systems will struggle in actual practice if they are not adopted by and utilized by employees as they were designed. End user training can feel like a massive task within the organization. The challenge is often exasperated by those individuals tasked with providing the training, especially if they are not “trainers” by skill or education.  As with most critical and complex tasks, the best approach is meticulous planning, completed well prior to the start of training events. Some considerations when you think through the planning approach are:

1. Training focused on the audience

Know the level of understanding of the individuals who are receiving ERP training, to ensure they are approached at the appropriate level. The approach to executive training is different than training of line staff for a given function. Ensure you are addressing the user on the topics of interest to them. Even when training on the same topic one size does not always fit all. Align your message, objective, content and exercises to the audience.

2. Keep it simple

One of the common mistakes in training is exposing users to information they do not need to know. You want users to understand the steps they need to perform and execute a process and the implications those actions have. However, end users do not need to know the inner workings of the system or processes that do not affect their use of the system to perform daily tasks. Stay focused on ensuring the user can perform their duties. Less is sometimes more, explaining configuration settings is not often necessary. Stay focused on “HOW,” and spend less time explaining “WHY.”

3. Iterative approach

As a training program evolves, ensure you consider incorporating the concept of incremental learning. Especially if the tasks or processes are complex, train using a traditional, level-based approach (i.e. 101, 201, 301), starting with foundational elements and simpler components and grow in complexity through additional sessions. At the start of each new session, ensure the prior training was understood through active testing/questioning so you can build on the educational foundation already trained on.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

4. Hands on

Training means “teaching others how to do something,” therefore users must be “touching” the system as a part of the training to best retain content. Many Individuals learn best by doing. Users are also better able to ask questions when they are working through hands on instructional steps. Exercise-based training is very necessary and useful. Show the concept, then have the users perform the tasks. Execution also tends to seem much simpler and smoother when it is presented by an experienced trainer. Expect new users to want to walk through each small step or input to feel prepared and comfortable for live execution.

5. Training documentation

Training to prepare for an ERP implementation is often a series of specialized events preceding go-live. Keep in mind each organization has turnover and new staff will need training at some point in the future. Training should be recorded for future training of new employees and is critical to ensuring consistency of future training needs. Training documentation can include documented job aides and printed exercise-based training. Video/voice recorded training can also be very effective in getting new users up to speed quickly. The benefit of recorded training is that the content remains consistent. Taking the time to create training videos for the most frequently executed tasks or navigation can save time in the long run. When training documentation is created, ensure that it is well organized and accessible to employees as needed.

6. Support structure

Once users are trained, do not forget to provide them with contacts for on-going support and questions that arise when they are working in the new system. Video based training as mentioned above, can be a self-service support mechanism for users in additional to live support such as super users or trainers.

Training is a crucial portion of any ERP implementation and many of the clients Panorama works with on struggling ERP implementations say users did not receive adequate training. This does not always mean that the training didn’t take enough time, but rather the training was not executed in a way that ensured success. Consider the items we have listed to help prepare your team for training success or contact Panorama Consulting to help validate or design your new system training plan.

Tips to Get More Value Out of Your Current ERP Software

Tips to Get More Value Out of Your Current ERP Software

Another New Year is progressing and you may be feeling it’s time for new ERP software. Your old system is broken, employees don’t like it and your business processes inefficient. You feel like you need to do something right away to fix the problem. Before lunging forward with a new ERP evaluation and selection process, it may help to take a step back and consider if the problem might be something other than your current system?

Could it be you haven’t upgraded the system in a while? Maybe you have over-customized the software, which has made things worse? Or perhaps your business processes and organizational dynamics alone could be improved to help alleviate some of the pain?

Whatever the symptoms, your broken ERP software could be a root cause pointing to other issues. Perhaps fixes to your current environment could yield a stronger return on investment at a lower cost/risk than a full rip and replace. This isn’t always the case, but it’s true more often than you might think.

Being completely technology-agnostic, our team doesn’t care whether a client replaces their current system. We don’t sell software or have financial ties to ERP vendors, so we objectively analyze each clients’ situation, to help determine the best path forward.

Even if you do ultimately decide to replace your system, there are ways to get more bang for your buck in the short-term. Here are five tips to get more value out of your current ERP system:

1. Identify the root causes of your current business process and technology environment

Flawed ERP systems are usually the results of people or processes – not the technology itself. Most ERP software “works,” but it often doesn’t work for your business. For example, a business process may not have been well defined, which makes the system more difficult to use. Whatever the reason, it’s important to analyze the causes of misalignment between the technology and your operational expectations.

2. Assess and identify improvements to your current business processes

Broken or redundant business processes are often the culprit of broken business systems. If this is the case, then even the best enterprise technology won’t help fix the problem. Rather, it will simply mask the root cause. Even in cases where a new system is being implemented, we typically advise clients to identify potential business processes that can be improved in advance of the new technology. This also helps pace the rate of change employees need to adapt to, while possibly accelerating potential business benefits.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Evaluate potential organizational change management issues

Employee resistance to change – either intentional or not – is another common root cause for flawed ERP systems. As is the case with business processes, a new ERP system is not going to fix this issue. Employee resistance may be difficult to identify and address, but it’s a must-do if you are going to improve your operational efficiencies and effectiveness. And here’s a low-cost, actionable recommendation: conduct an organizational assessment to determine where the organizational issues are and to help develop an organizational change management  plan to address them.

4. Objectively assess various alternatives and scenarios

Once you have considered the potential root causes of your challenges, it is important to consider all your options. For example, you might evaluate one scenario involving the potential implementation of a new Tier I ERP system, such as SAP S4/HANA or Oracle Cloud, while another option might entail more simple improvements to your current environment. You will want to evaluate costs, benefits, time commitments, resource requirements and risks associated with both options. An objective evaluation of your various alternatives will ensure you are making an informed decision, coupled with a solid strategic plan to move forward.

5. Enlist the help of a technology-agnostic and independent ERP consultant

The above four steps may sound good, but they are difficult to execute without the right competency and objectivity. This is where the help of an independent ERP consultant (such as Panorama Consulting) can help provide an objective view of your challenges, potential scenarios and recommended action plans moving forward. Make sure your consultant is both very knowledgeable in ERP software and is, in no way, incentivized to recommend new technology unless it makes sense for your business.

How SAP Compares to Other ERP Software

Top Tips for SAP S/4HANA ERP Implementation

SAP S/4HANA is a competitive Tier 1 fourth generation ERP solution available in multi-lingual configurations. It goes beyond the traditional ERP system, giving you the ability to connect all your processes and providing you with live information and insights. In 2015 SAP promoted S/4HANA has its “biggest launch in 23 years, if not the entire history of the company.”

S/4HANA represents a transformational shift in how data is stored and accessed. Therefore when it was launched there were initial questions about the functionality, availability, pricing and migration. SAP has worked hard to educate users about this powerful new platform. As a result SAP now has 6,000 customers, including companies like Google and Centrica, who have implemented S/4HANA.

What makes S/4HANA unique is how the SAP products work together. The HANA data store runs in-memory or data is stored in columns rather than rows. This means faster access and virtually real-time analytics. S/4Hana is a suite of ERP software that runs on top of the HANA database. The goal is to move away from a system that records data to one that actively supports users decisions in real time based on internal and external sources.

This is an ERP system with the potential to completely transform your company for the future.  SAP S/4HANA may allow you to address your current challenges, while very likely handling your “future state” needs as well. Since this software can be complex below you’ll find some valuable SAP S/4HANA implementation tips to keep in mind.

1. Define, Plan and Staff Your Implementation Strategy Carefully

Implementation will be determined by your starting point. What type of ERP system do you currently have? A non-SAP legacy ERP or even from a SAP ERP requires an initial data load. If you are currently running SAP Business Suite system then you might be able to migrate your data. A third scenario is combining several regional ERPs into a single global S/4HANA platform.

Another aspect to consider is where S/4HANA will be deployed. It can be on-site, cloud based or a hybrid model. A cloud based deployment is recommended for maximum benefit. If you choose cloud based, you must decide if it will be a public or private cloud.  

Your starting point determines how long implementation will take. Some transitions can take as little as 6 months. Others make take several years. This highlights the value of having an ERP consultant to help guide you from the very beginning.  

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

2. Plan Your Migration

SAP S/4HANA data migration can be straightforward or a lengthy and complex process. Therefore it is essential to come up with a detailed plan for handling the migration. This will also help predict how long the implementation will take.

When it comes to planning data migration, you can never start too early. First determine if the data can be sourced from your current system. Then if possible, plan your migration for a time of the year when your company is not quite as busy.

Next examine what data is essential. Eliminate any repetitive or extraneous data. Remember you are implementing S/4HANA to become more efficient. Having any more than the essentials is counter-productive. This would also be the time to correct any erroneous data as well as key-in any missing information. All of this can be done well before migration starts.

3. Evaluate SAP-Delivered Best Practices

SAP S/4HANA includes a series of Best Practices that you can activate and use as a reference for a variety of scopes. Once you have identified your scopes, the Best Practices will provide you with a recommended process flow and standard test script, while also allowing you to adopt/adapt them to your specific needs. This offers plenty of advantages and can make this process go so much smoother.

4. Be Ready to do Extensive Testing Before Going Live

Test, test and then test again. While it may seem a bit over the top to test your ERP system for every detail before going live, this is something that should not be skipped. It ensures you know how each part of the system works and prevents costly errors.  

Need help in your SAP implementation? Contact Panorama Consulting Solutions today!

Why Private Equity Firms Demand Successful ERP Implementations

Why Private Equity Firms Demand Successful ERP Implementations

We help companies select and implement ERP software and each has unique needs and requirements. Some are looking for more of a strategic and complete digital transformation, while others are looking for a shorter-term effective fix. Some are looking for ways to standardize operations and drive business improvements, while others are simply trying to replace their outdated legacy systems.

Private equity (PE) owners and funds are some of our most frequent repeat clients. They are more predictable customers who hire us to manage ERP implementations at companies they directly own or invest in. Their needs and drivers are laser focused because they are driven to accelerate growth and profitability even more so than most executives. PE firms are formed by investors often using a combination of private and borrowed money. This makes their needs and motivations particularly interesting and time sensitive.

Below are some key things we commonly see PE firms looking for in their ERP implementations:

1. Low Tolerance for Implementation Time and Cost Overruns

No executive likes to see an implementation take too much time, money or resources and this is especially true with private equity organizations. They tend to have a very low tolerance for software customization, overly complicated software functionality, poor project management and other things impacting implementation time, cost and risk. Almost to a fault, they want to make sure their ERP investments are maximized and not distracted by what they perceive to be superfluous project activities or costs.

2. Higher Likelihood of Opting Out of “Big” ERP Systems

Because of the lower tolerances for cost, time and risk overruns, PE firms are more likely to push for alternatives to “big” ERP systems such as SAP S/4HANA or Oracle Cloud. While plenty of large, Fortune 1000 companies use these products, PE firms are more likely explore ways to get more bang for their buck at a lower cost point.

One common school of thought is the new system may be a shorter-term (but credible) enhancement until they sell the company to an acquirer, so they don’t want to spend too much time or money on a larger or more complex system. This often leads them to a Tier II or industry-focused solution rather than one of the more common “big” names.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Scalability of Business Processes and Credible Reporting

A primary focus is often to ensure their investment in new ERP systems can help scale for aggressive growth. This means they are more likely to stomp out inefficient processes, automate as much as they can and build a business process and technology framework that aligns. Delays or inefficiencies can directly impact profitability and momentum. This is where shared services models, common business practice, optimized business processes and other drivers of scale and precision are particularly appreciated.

Operating and reporting enhancements are another driver, such as credibly being able to report, capture and manage key performance indicators. This is an important tool for PE firms to measure value, progress and predict cash flows. 

The most sophisticated private equity firms also recognize that managing organizational change management (OCM) will be a key enabler and driver of scalability and growth. A trend is to use the functionality the software provides, so the people must adapt to the new system and not vice versa. This reduces costly customizations and recognizes the impact on the people side (think business culture change). Experienced ERP consultants like Panorama offer detailed roadmap OCM Solutions that should be incorporated with any ERP implementation. 

4. What Does This Mean to Companies that Aren’t Private Equity Firms?

While most readers don’t work for or are owned by private PE firms, there are still plenty of lessons to learn from these practitioners. They are fueled by strategic growth even more than most, so if your organization shares a similar focus you may learn from their priorities and approach.

Many public and private companies acquiring other companies with the intention of integrating them profitably, can learn from this discussion. Also, the ability to achieve higher returns or accelerate growth could benefit all types of businesses. Bottom line, underlying most successful enterprises is an effective, modern ERP system that can support the goal of the organization while maximizing resources. PE companies have opportunistically realized they can usually sell a company for a greater premium or valuation when equipped with an effective ERP system.

PE firms have a compelling reputation of a successful buy-to-sell focus that must yield superior financial results. This tends to focus them solely on running their businesses and portfolios, while strategically using outside experienced independent ERP help to do the heavy lifting when it comes to changing or enhancing systems. This begs the question; why do some companies without a core competency in ERP excellence try to do this themselves? 

Six Things to Consider for Your Global ERP Implementation

Six Things to Consider for Your Global ERP Implementation

Deciding to implement a global ERP system is not one that should be made lightly. The truth is this can be a very challenging transition to. Are you ready to take on the challenge of global ERP implementation? It can be daunting, like when you are at the top of a ski slope thinking you are ready to push off. To make this process easier, first determine if this is even the best strategy for your company. Here are six things you should consider before embarking on a global ERP implementation:

1. Consider the Size and Reach of Your Business

Just like skiing, if you have not been growing your skill level you might not be ready for this big of a mountain. The primary reasons to even consider making the switch to a global ERP system are size, scale and locations. If you have multiple sites and operate on a worldwide level, a global system may be necessary or desirable. It will allow for standardized business practices, streamlined processes and faster financial reporting. If your company does not have this type of footprint, there may not be a need to go global. If it does, consider adding the services of an independent ERP consultant to help navigate. Global ERP implementations are difficult and fraught with unknowns.   

2. Evaluate Possible Language and Cultural Barriers

Trying to get everyone in your company on the same page can be hard, mainly when there are issues with communication. This can lead to a significant breakdown of the ERP planning and implementation process. In fact, underestimating the impact of culture is one of the primary reasons of global ERP implementation failure. This is why it is imperative that you partner with someone who has experience and expertise in the language and culture of the country you are working in. This will help avoid language barriers, prevent you from committing cultural taboos and help you gain the trust of your company’s local team.

3. Have a Clear Understanding of the Country Requirements

Every country has different (and sometimes intricate) requirements when it comes to taxes, currencies and regulatory reporting. Without even realizing it, you could fall out of compliance and be subject to penalties. Global ERP systems necessitate understanding each country’s requirements and nuances. Countries can operate very differently. While may use a flat tax rate regardless of profit, some countries (Italy and Germany, for example) have alternate tax models that correlate the effective tax rate with increasing profits. Matching and testing them within your ERP system can be complex at best.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

4. Find an ERP System that Provides a Balance Between Localized and Global Processes

Global ERP systems give you the opportunity to standardize as much as possible. When determining how to do this you should be sure to identify methods that will work best for everyone. Be willing to bridge differences that will make it easier for everyone to accomplish crucial tasks and build a healthy relationship between the various locations. This is also the time to determine whether your support will be global, localized or customized.

5. Think About Your Rollout Style

Are you planning to go-live with all features and geographies simultaneously or will you roll out in phases, based on geography and/or features? This will largely depend on the experience of your implementation team and other resources, as well as any legacy system constraints. Keep in mind that a well-defined phased implementation offers significant advantages including decreased ERP failure risk.

6. Develop a Clear Plan for Cleaning and Migrating All Data

Determine how data and growth will be managed now and in the future. How much data will be transferred to the new system? Another way of thinking about this is your ERP initiative should be geared for the future state business challenges and opportunities. For example, can local offices control their local accounts or will any changes require centralized governance?

Don’t jump off on this big mountain without anticipating all the pitfalls, bumps and angles. Contact Panorama Consulting Solutions to help determine and validate if this is the right time and approach for your global ERP implementation

Why an ERP Center of Excellence is Critical to Your Success

Why an ERP Center of Excellence is Critical to Your Success

Most organizations don’t implement new ERP software for the technology. Instead, they are implementing to improve their business capabilities and competencies.  However, most organizations don’t think enough about how they will build these internal competencies to be successful in the long term.  Instead, they focus on technical aspects of their ERP transformations. An ERP Center of Excellence is the best way to build these internal capabilities. But, what exactly is a center of excellence and how can you build one as part of your longer-term ERP strategies?

Here are five things to keep in mind as you build your internal center of excellence:

1. Define the Scope of Your Center of Excellence

Every ERP center of excellence has different purposes, depending on the needs of the organization. Some are focused on extending the usage of software, while others might focus on continuously improving business processes. Still others might focus on ensuring master data is effectively managed. Whatever the purpose of your center of excellence, it is important you clearly define its scope and purpose as a starting point.

2. Define the Roles and Responsibilities Required for Your Center of Excellence

Just as you’ll want to define the scope, you’ll also want to define the roles, responsibilities and skills required to develop your internal center of excellence. These roles and skills will typically constitute a combination of functional, technical, software, support and business needs, along with short-term and longer-term needs. This requires a broad and cross-functional team understanding the software well, as well as the internal goals and objectives of the organization.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Focus on Long-Term, Strategic Needs – Not Just Short-Term Support Needs

Some see a center of excellence simply as a glorified IT help desk or support mechanism. The best centers, however, are those that don’t just focus on short-term support needs, but those focusing on more strategic needs as well. In particular, centers of excellence are especially effective when they look for ways to better support long-term strategic and operational objectives, such as better aligned business processes and benefits realization.

4. Use Your Center of Excellence as a Way to Extend the Lifecycle of Your ERP Software

Many organizations are forced to prematurely choose new ERP software due to misalignment between their operational needs and software capabilities. In many cases, simple upgrades or better use of their software can extend the useful lives of their ERP systems (think: advanced software modules and capabilities such as advanced planning or predictive analytics). A primary goal of your center of excellence should be to extend the lifecycle of and improve the alignment with your ERP software. After all, you’re probably not interested in doing another implementation sooner than you need to.

5. Don’t Wait Until After Go-Live to Build Your Center of Excellence

Since centers of excellence make organizations more self-sufficient and less reliant on external consultants, you should ideally start building one before your implementation is even completed. This will allow you to take better ownership of the software and the business benefits afforded by that technology, as well as to build those internal competencies sooner. This will enable you to accelerate the ERP implementation and post-implementation business benefits as well.

But don’t fear, if you’ve already completed a portion of your ERP initiative, it’s never too late to begin building these internal competencies. In addition, the perspective of an independent consultant will add value to you project in relation to building your center of excellence. 

What to Look For in a Qualified ERP Consultant

What to Look For in a Qualified ERP Consultant

Finding the right ERP consultant for your business can be a time consuming process! There are so many different factors to consider in your search that it can feel a bit overwhelming. But choosing the right ERP consultant is essential to the successful implantation of your ERP project. Here are several things to consider when selecting your ERP consultant.

ERP Firm Experience

It’s important to do your research on the specific ERP consulting firm you’re considering. Different firms may have different experiences with ERP selection and implementation and you want to make sure the firm you choose is the best fit for your project goals. Is the information on the company’s website accurate? Is the firm involved in any lawsuits? Be sure to check facts and ask for references early on in the process.

2. ERP Consultant Experience

If the ERP firm checks out, you’ll also want to consider the individual consultant you might be working with as well. Understand your potential ERP consultant’s background and experience with the firm. Also, take into consideration whether or not your potential consultant is a contracted employee and if this matters to you. Has the consultant worked on projects similar to yours? Be sure to assess the particular skills that a potential consultant brings to the table to ensure they are a good fit.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. ERP Consultant Knowledge

It’s also important to get a feel for your ERP consultant’s general knowledge. Don’t be afraid to as a lot of questions. What is their education and professional qualifications? Does the consultant have real world experience that will enable them to understand potential problems that arise in implementing a new ERP system? What kind of industries has your ERP consultant worked in? All of these questions will help you determine whether or not your ERP consultant has the knowledge required to help you implement your project.

4. Customer Stats and Feedback

Make sure to understand the types of customers your ERP firm and consultant has worked with in the past. ERP software can be highly specialized and it might be important to consider an ERP consultant whose previous clients are in a similar industry to your own. Also, consider the size of previous companies an ERP consultant has worked with. Do they have experience in with a company your size? Be sure to request references from the ERP firm and contact companies for feedback.

5. Project Plan and Methodology

Make sure your ERP consultant has a plan for taking your project on. Ask for a project plan and make sure it outlines in detail the steps they will take for implementation, as well as their methodology. Also, be sure to consider the proposed methodology. Does it fit with your company’s business philosophy? This is an important partnership and you want to make sure that your goals align.

There are many things to consider when choosing an ERP consultant. It may seem like a lengthy process, but doing your research to pick the right consultant will only save you time, money, and stress in the end.  Be sure to check out our list of qualified, independent ERP consultants here.

Tips to Choose the Best ERP System Integrator

Tips to Choose the Best ERP System Integrator

The ERP software market has changed considerably over the last few years. So much so that many companies find themselves limited to a handful of systems to choose from – meaning that there is no need for an extensive software selection process and that the attention shifts from finding a “perfect system” to finding the best ERP system integrator.

There is merit to focusing more on the right ERP system integrator and less on overanalyzing ERP software options. For example, we are working with two global, multibillion-dollar companies that have narrowed their software search to SAP S4/HANA and Oracle Cloud. One isn’t a fan of Oracle, while the other has a bias against SAP, which leaves them each with one viable option.

Rather than considering the Tier II ERP space, which isn’t likely to fit their complex and global needs, both companies are instead focusing on finding the right system integrator. Sure, they could spend another several weeks or months analyzing these solutions to find the one that is the “most perfect” for their organization, but in both cases, they feel as though getting the groundwork started for a successful implementation is more important.

Not all SAP, Oracle or other SAP system integrators are created perfectly or equally. Some are more skilled than others. Some have global capabilities, while others have more of a personal touch. Some have great people, while others focus on building great methodologies. With so many to choose from, it is important to get this decision right.

Here are six tips to help choose the best ERP system integrator for your organization:

1. Define the Criteria Most Important to Your Organization

Every company has unique needs. Some need a global software partner with a deep bench of resources to support multiple countries. Others want a more boutique firm with specialized knowledge. Whatever the case, be sure to define, prioritize and evaluate the criteria most important to your organization.

2. Evaluate People, Resumes, Methodologies and Tools

It’s important to assess system integration firms from all angles. You will want to consider the people, their bios, experience and history. Be sure that the firm you are working with has the necessary tools and methodologies that can scale or be tailored to fit your needs. Companies frequently assess for bios and people, but they often forget to look at repeatable toolsets and methodologies to augment the skills of their people.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Assess Understanding of Current Software Tools and Options

Every ERP implementation looks different, so it is likely that yours will be different as well. You will require modules, enhancements and integration points that fit your unique needs. It is important that your chosen system integrator has experience with a variety of deployment options. On one hand, you want to leverage their experience and knowledge to make recommendations, but you also want the comfort of knowing that the integrator has broad proven experience to help define the best approach for your organization.

4. Evaluate the Company’s Direct and Indirect Industry Knowledge

Industry experience and knowledge is important, as is cross-industry experience. You want to know that your integrator has experience with companies like yours (in your industry) to ensure that you don’t over-customize or miss ways to leverage their off-the-shelf technology to fit your business processes. In addition, you want to know that the integrator is capable of leveraging best practices from other industries to help your team think outside the box (for example: best practices from financial services firms to help a manufacturer better run its financial operations).

5. Do Not Forget About Cultural Fit

It is easy to get caught up in technical and functional capabilities while forgetting about what is arguably the most important thing, cultural fit. You need to know that your integrator’s people are going to fit in well with your team. They will need to understand your culture and operations and help you navigate the various complexities of an SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, or ERP implementation with another solution. This is an intangible, yet a very important aspect of what will determine your project’s success or failure.

6. Explore all of Your Alternatives

You may believe that you are limited in which system integrators you can use, but this simply isn’t true. Your ERP software vendor may recommend one or a handful of alternatives, but keep in mind that they are biased in their recommendations. This has to do with which ones have reached the highest sales tiers – not necessarily which one is the best fit for your organization. There are hundreds of VARs, resellers and system integrators supporting each of the major systems, so it’s up to you to explore and research all your alternatives.

A best practice is to have experienced independent thinking on your bench; an outside entity that has your best interest in mind while viewing the situation through a fresh lens. CNN and Fox News can report on the same event but have very different narratives, so who is right? Panorama Consulting can help in an agnostic way. With an unbiased view comes a partner that has a variety of resources and experience with both implementation successes and dissecting ERP failures.  Start here by checking out our “2017 Clash of the Titans” report.

Five Common Gaps to Watch for in Your ERP Software

Five Common Gaps to Watch for in Your ERP Software

While enterprise resource planning (ERP) software has proven to be invaluable for all types of businesses, you cannot always be certain the ERP system you are using is without gaps. Fortunately, performing a GAP analysis can help you determine what functions and/or services your ERP software may be lacking, whether accidentally, deliberately or because it still needs to be developed.

In addition to being without certain features and functions, there are several other gaps you should watch out for with your ERP software. Here’s a quick look at the five most common gaps:

1. Your ERP system is missing features, functions or services that could benefit your business.

Yes, this is stated above but it is important enough to mention again. There are three crucial components your ERP software should have. Although sales and marketing are apparent, service is not. However, it is essential for tracking complaints, warranty claims and service issues that require the assistance of your ERP system vendor to help your customer. Performing a GAP analysis can suggest changes and additions that would offer plenty of benefits.gs.

2. There may be areas of redundancy.

This is a common problem that many businesses fail to recognize. It involves identifying data that must repeatedly be entered, which is a waste of both time and money. GAP analysis can also be used to point out areas of redundancy, allowing you to make the changes necessary to ensure the ERP software you are using is as efficient as possible.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. The system does not offer the flexibility you need.

Companies will need to be able to make changes to their ERP software at some point in time. Therefore choosing a software package that offers flexibility and adaptability is important. If your current ERP software is not flexible, it may not be a problem now, but it could create significant pain points in the future.

4. The ERP system has challenges that create a gap as your business evolves.

After a business has experienced a significant change or undergone restructuring, there may be gaps. GAP analysis will identify them. For example, if your company underwent a change to combine positions, your ERP system may not be designed to take advantage of this organizational efficiency. Check out “An Expert’s Guide to Organization Change Management” to get some help with this process.

5. Your software vendor does not provide preventative maintenance, or you are not taking advantage of this service.

Not all ERP systems are equipped with the ability to perform preventative maintenance. Without a maintenance plan in place for your ERP system, you run the risk of unexpected downtime which can take a considerable toll on your business. It also puts you at a higher risk of a security breach, especially if the system you are using is outdated. If you do have a maintenance plan, it is vital that you keep up with when maintenance is due. You may want to read “Three Reasons Not to Cancel Your ERP Software Maintenance.” This will allow you to schedule it at a time that will create the least inconvenience.

How ERP Software May Be Affected by The End of Net Neutrality

How ERP Software May Be Affected by The End of Net Neutrality

A phrase that has been on everyone’s mind in the last few months has been “the end of net neutrality.”  In case you might not know exactly what this ominous phrase means, it is simply the end of free internet.  Currently, with the exception of paid services and subscriptions, the internet is a free and open marketplace where you can browse anywhere you’d like, for free.  This means you pay your ISP to get internet and there’s no fee to access Facebook and no higher price to access national news outlets (as opposed to local new outlets).  The end of net neutrality many mean that the internet could soon become a very regulated and expensive experience for some. 

The end of net neutrality is a fairly new concept and even many experts can’t say for sure what the future may hold for this new internet environment but here are some ways that the end of net neutrality could impact ERP:

1. Less Connected Future

Some estimates believe that there will be 30 billion connected devices online by 2020 according to Network World*.  That’s a lot of time on the internet to say the least.  At Panorama, we are always promoting “Digital Transformation” within your facility which can make for easier, faster communication and better overall day-to-day functionality.  Some experts anticipate less connectivity in the future because some may not be able to afford to stay connected or some will opt out in frustration.   

2. Less Innovation

We live in an age where you can start a multi-million dollar company from your home by using the internet.  Many people across the world have created fantastic, innovative and truly awe-inspiring technology through humble start-ups.  With the end of net neutrality, many experts think that the internet may become a pay-for-content landscape, which would ultimately snub out those with small, inadequate budgets and could effectively create monopolies for some.  The end of net neutrality could damper innovation as smaller companies are pushed into the shadows.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Changes to AI and ERP

Enterprise Resource Planning software, especially cloud-based platforms, have opted to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their functionality.  This makes sense, especially in manufacturing or performance tracking, this technology could take a lot of guesswork out of operations and help to define clear and obvious patterns otherwise not seen.  AI comes from not just internal patterns, but ones which exist in similar markets and with the end of net neutrality this could alter those organically made patterns.

4. New Frontier

There’s always the possibility that the end of net neutrality could hold something beneficial for us after the dust and upset has cleared. No matter what happens in the future, the end of net neutrality signals a new era for anyone in the field of technology. This future, while unknown, could hold new innovation and opportunity that we just can’t see yet.   

*Gary Eastwood, 2017  “How the end of Net Neutrality will affect IoT” https://www.networkworld.com/article/3244251/net-neutrality/how-the-end-of-net-neutrality-will-affect-iot.html

Three Simple Ways to Get Your ERP Implementation Back on Track

Three Simple Ways to Get Your ERP Implementation Back on Track

Every ERP software implementation is difficult, riddled with pitfalls, risks, and common mistakes. Most fall into the various traps of an ERP implementation, but few effectively navigate those traps once they’ve fallen in.

But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get your project back on track if and when you encounter those risks.

First, it helps to understand why projects fail. The reasons are numerous, but some of the more common reasons are things such as:

  • Lack of executive buy-in
  • Poor project management and controls
  • Unrealistic expectations early in the project
  • Too much focus on the technical aspects of the implementation
  • Choosing the wrong software for your organization
  • Too much customization of the software
  • Failure to regularly identify and mitigate implementation risks along the way

While there is no way to avoid these risks altogether, there are ways to address and mitigate them along the way. Here are three ways to get your implementation back on track:

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

1. Perform an Assessment of Your Current Project

Effective project recovery begins with an objective understanding of where the project is and trying to pinpoint where the project went off track. The best way to do this is to perform an implementation project assessment. This should be an objective view of the people, process, and technology components of our project, along with an assessment of the project from several more detailed “project lenses” that are important to an implementation.

For example, these are just a few of the common areas worth assessing in your project:

In addition to these and other areas of importance, any implementation should be objectively assessed to identify the problem areas and opportunities for improvement.

2. Look for Common Warning Signs

As part of the assessment identified in step #1, it is important to look for common warning signs that portend a potential failure – or, at the very least, problems that could lead to failure later on.

In a recent blog, we identified thirteen warning signs we commonly see in troubled ERP software implementations. Some of the early indicators of trouble include things like: not enough iterations of conference room pilots, no organizational change activities beyond training, and not addressing the non-technical aspects of your implementation. These and other warning signs need to be identified as part of your implementation project assessment. Caught early enough, these indicators can be remediated before they turn into bigger risks.

3. Develop A Project Recovery Plan

Once you’ve identified the warning signs during your project assessment, it’s time to define how you’re going to remediate those risks. This could through either a formal project recovery plan, and/or updates to your implementation plan and strategy.

The recovery plan should cover the people, process, and technology aspects of your implementation. And remember to not try boiling the ocean. Even just addressing the low-hanging fruit rather than trying to improve everything at once can have a material impact on your project and help get it back on track.

Don’t be discouraged by warning signs or difficulties you may be facing. Through assessment, analysis, and experience, you’ll be able to get your project back on track. For more info, watch our on demand webinar Confessions of an ERP Expert Witness, which highlights some of these warning signs in more detail.

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5 ERP Software Trends to Watch in the Retail Industry

5 ERP Software Trends to Watch in the Retail Industry

With a new year comes new trends, especially when ERP software in the retail industry is involved. After all, ERP (enterprise resource planning) software vendors are constantly working to create more powerful, less complicated and more affordable options for retailers.

So, what should you expect to see in the upcoming year? Here are five ERP software trends to watch in the retail industry in 2018.

1. Retailers Using Legacy ERP Systems will be Forced to Change

Believe it or not, there are still a few ERP vendors who have not encouraged their retailers to move away from the legacy ERP systems they have been using for years. These include systems such as Microsoft Great Plains, Oracle EBS and Epicor Prelude. However, as an increasing number of ERP vendors focus on cloud solutions, they will put less and less focus on legacy systems. In fact, they are almost certain to stop introducing new functions or offering long-term support for these dated systems. As a result, retailers will have no other option than to mitigate to a modern ERP software system. In fact, more and more retail companies are using omnichannel systems. Using an omnichannel system allows owners to see the connections between channels and the customer enjoys a unified approach to their purchase and to stay in touch with the company on many different levels.

2. More and More Retailers will Opt for a Cloud-Based ERP System

At one point in time, retailers avoided cloud-based ERP systems like the plague. That is no longer true. More retailers than ever have been making the switch to a cloud-based ERP system, a trend that will continue over the next year. The reasons for this are simple. Cloud-based systems offer the benefits retailers are looking for, including enhanced security, better scalability and increased support. By 2020, it is estimated that the cloud ERP system software market will be worth around $26.5 billion [1].

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

3. Niche Industries will Begin Using ERP Systems

Over the last few years, ERP system vendors have begun to see the importance of catering to small businesses and niche industries. As a result, they have been working to incorporate functions and capabilities they had previously overlooked. For example, traceability is a common requirement in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Vendors want to do business with these niche industries, which is why they are adding functions that trace everything from equipment used to test results. Now that the niche industries are noticing that their industry is being catered to, you will see them start to use ERP system software.

4. Retailers will take Advantage of Increased Functions and Capabilities by Reassessing Their Business Processes

Again, thanks to the trend of migrating to cloud-based ERP systems, retailers will have the opportunity to outsource responsibilities, which could lead to changes in business processes. For example, they may choose to rethink the company’s organization and outsource some tasks. At the same time, they may take a good look at their data and decide to refocus the company’s values on the needs of today’s customers. More retailers are using eCommerce websites instead of Big Box stores since the trend of purchases are made online. To keep up with online sales; businesses need to utilizing e-trailing to stay abreast of customer needs.

5. The Push for Mobile ERP will Only Get Stronger

More employees are working outside of the office. They need to be able to easily collaborate with colleagues and access data on the go. In 2018, retailers will push vendors for improved mobile ERP systems, giving employees the chance to access reports, shipping/ billing details, etc. using their cellphone or tablet. Vendors will have to focus on this to keep retailers happy.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/681753/worldwide-cloud-erp-software-revenue/