The beginner’s guide to cloud ERP

Keeping your company running smoothly is a big task. Each individual department needs to run effectively, and all departments need to interact efficiently with each other. Cloud ERP is an effective method of keeping all areas of your business running smoothly.

This one tool really can transform how your business operates.

What is ERP?

ERP is the acronym for “enterprise resource planning.”

ERP helps organize, oversee and manage all the individual processes that keep a company running effectively. This could include everything from human resources and finance to marketing and manufacturing.

ERP systems rely on a centralized database for keeping track of all the moving pieces. When used effectively, ERP enables better communication and collaboration.

How does ERP work?

ERP works by organizing and integrating a variety of data from several departments in your company. Traditional ERP software depends on a local server infrastructure. This would require an onsite server you’d have to manage and maintain.

The great thing about cloud ERP is that it’s just as effective as a legacy, onsite ERP, and it can work for a variety of industries. That includes finance, manufacturing, distributing and any other vertical that could benefit from ERP.

How does cloud ERP work?

Doing business in the cloud allows companies to harness unprecedented levels of flexibility and agility. In fact, a cloud-based application, like cloud EPR, give SMBs access to enterprise level technology.

Cloud ERP offers customers an entire system that can work more effectively in unison. Utilizing a cloud ERP has several advantages notable advantages when compared with an ERP housed in an onsite server. These include:

  • Less costly: Services are leased as needed instead of requiring an expensive upfront purchase that might include more options than you actually need. You won’t have to invest in the necessary hardware or hire a qualified technician for maintenance. This is ideal, especially if you have a small or mid-size company.
  • Increased security: Keeping data secure is crucial and requires expertise and advanced technology that most small companies simply can’t afford. This makes it critical to choose a vendor that has the ability to keep your data secure. When your sensitive company information is stored in a secure cloud ERP, you’re adding another layer of protection to your company’s cybersecurity plan.
  • Protection from disasters: Security doesn’t just mean protection from hackers. When you’re storing all your information onsite, you’re susceptible to fire, floods and power outages. Cloud ERP can be a crucial part of your disaster plan.
  • More flexibility: Your cloud ERP can be accessed anywhere there’s internet. You can work from a tablet, a laptop or your mobile phone. This makes collaboration with your entire team easier.
  • Easy implementation & access: When your ERP is in the cloud, it normally takes less time to implement the system. You also have access to all your data and business applications at all times.

How do you keep ERP working effectively?

While there are several advantages of using cloud ERP, there are a few challenges you’ll need to keep in mind.

Support, especially during the start-up phase, is crucial. You want to get things get off the ground smoothly. We advise including your managed IT services provider in the process right from the beginning. That ensures you have the support and guidance you need to make the most of cloud ERP.

Real-world examples of business intelligence

Software and technology play an ever-increasing role in the business world. One of the most important technologies in today’s business environment is business intelligence software.

Here’s what you need to know about the basics of business intelligence and how some well-known companies have put it to work in their day-to-day operations.

What is business intelligence?

Today, businesses of all sizes have access to mountains of data that were never readily available in the past. Business intelligence (BI) is a way to make sense of what these data points mean and turn them into insights that businesses can use in real-world decision-making.

Using analysis software, BI systems take raw data sets and use them to inform everything from marketing strategies to planning for possible future setbacks.

Want a few examples?

Lowe’s leverages BI

Though the concept itself may seem a bit vague, there are many examples of large businesses putting BI to work to solve concrete problems. One of the earliest examples you’ll find of a large enterprise using BI is Lowe’s, America’s second-largest home improvement store chain.

In 2007, the company started building a new data center in Texas specifically to expand on its already significant business intelligence capabilities. Like many retail chains, Lowe’s uses BI to optimize its supply chain efficiency and reduce the rate of fraudulent returns in its stores.

Starbucks gets in on business intelligent

The Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks is also a prominent user of BI technology. Through its popular Loyalty Card program, Starbucks is able to amass individualized purchase data on millions of customers. Using this information and business intelligence software, the large coffee company can then predict what purchases and offers an individual customer is likely to be interested in. The company informs customers of the offers it believes they will want to take advantage of via mobile devices.

This system lets Starbucks draw existing customers into its stores more frequently and increase its volume of sales. In this capacity, BI has a use similar to traditional CRM systems. In fact, many businesses choose to combine BI and CRM systems to get the most out of their data.

Amex is big on BI, too

One of the areas of business in which BI has been most effective is the finance industry. American Express has been a pioneer of business intelligence in this sector, using the technology to develop new payment service products and market offers to customers.

Rather impressively, the company’s experiments in the Australian market have rendered it capable of identifying up to 24% of all Australian users who will close their accounts within four months. Using that information, American Express can take effective steps to retain those customers who would otherwise be lost.

BI software also helps the credit card company detect fraud more accurately and thereby protect customers whose card information may have been compromised.

Amazon and business intelligence go hand-in-hand

Last but not least among the companies that use BI is the online retail giant Amazon.

Much like Starbucks, Amazon uses business intelligence technology to personalize product recommendations and market products, but it also uses its BI software tools for logistical business decisions. In fact, in-depth data analysis is what enables Amazon’s massive supply chain to run smoothly.

From optimizing shipping routes to allocating inventory among warehouses, data and BI tools influence practically every step of Amazon’s supply process.

The tip of the BI iceberg

Amazingly, these are just a few of the many uses to which modern business intelligence software can be put. From finance to retail and even in the public sector, BI technology is helping organizations glean useful insights from their data.

If your business has large amounts of customer data but isn’t using it to increase profitability, now is the time to invest in BI software solutions and the IT support needed to implement them effectively.

4 ways a CRM helps you improve customer relationships

Excellent customer service is an art. One that can be difficult to master. The good news is there are plenty of tools that can help you better serve your customers.

Our favorite is a CRM.

But CRMs are packed with features. It’s hard to know the best way to use such a robust tool. To help out, let’s explore the high points.

Here are our 4 favorite ways your CRM can help you improve your customer interactions.

#1: Detailed customer dashboards.

When all of your customer data is in a single location, you spend less time searching for individual pieces of information. 360-degree customer profiles centralize customer information so that it’s all available on a convenient dashboard. In a single view, you can see email messages, order history, transactions, previous customer support interactions and more.

When a customer calls, you’ll be able to see every interaction you’ve ever had with them. All without having to dig for information.

“64.2% of companies rate CRM tools as impactful of very impactful.” — LinkedIn

#2: Access important information on the go.

Sales representatives need to be able to help customers no matter where they are—at their desks or out on the road. CRM systems are built with mobility in mind.

It doesn’t matter if your employees at a trade show, a client’s office, or in a cab on the way to a meeting. As long as they have an internet connection, your team can stay productive.

#3: Social media management made easy.

More and more CRMs are incorporating social media interaction. Why would you want to link your company’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn account with your CRM? So you can see how social media activity is affecting customer relationships.

For example, a lot of customers will take to social media when they have strong feels about a company. Every mention is an opportunity—even when customers are upset. If you can turn a bad experience into a good one right there in your Twitter feed, you’ll win that customer back as well as every other customer who’s paying attention.

“Customer relationship management (CRM) systems help you better understand your customers’ needs and how to meet those needs while enhancing your bottom line.” —CIO

#4: Knowledge at your customers’ fingertips.

Some customers will do absolutely anything to avoid making a phone call. That actually plays to your favor. Sure, you could tell insist that they call or email. Or you could create a knowledge management portal using your CRM.

Wiki-style knowledge management portals enable customers to access FAQs or troubleshooting information all on their own. Many CRM systems also let customers build their own online communities. These are spaces where customers can ask each other for help and provide your business feedback. An IT consultant with CRM experience can help you with setup.

Get the most out of your CRM system.

If you’re not using your CRM to build brand loyalty and enhance your customer service efforts, you’re missing out. These 4 CRM features will allow you to tap into and improve your customer’s experience.

Happy customers are loyal customers. And the more loyal customers you have, the more you’ll be able to grow your business.

4 SMBs that can benefit from a custom mobile app

When it comes to selecting a gaming computer there are two options. Build a custom machine or purchase a pre-built model.

You don’t need a customized computer to play online games. But if you’re looking to optimize your gaming experience, a custom-built machine is the best way to get exactly what you want.

This same idea applies to businesses and custom mobile applications.

There are plenty of pre-designed apps that will likely work for your organization. And some of them, like Office 365, even allow for moderate customization.

But if it’s freedom you’re after, partnering with a professional to build an app for your business is the way to go.

“72% of SMB decision makers say that technology solutions can help them significantly improve business outcomes and/or run the business better.” – SMB Group

To show just how versatile a custom mobile app can be, we made a list of 4 SMBs that would benefit from one.

1. Schools

Keeping busy students and educators informed about important details and activity is a challenge many educational institutions struggle with. A custom mobile app can bolster school security while also keeping staff, students, and parents in-the-know about on-campus happenings.

Possible features:

  • School calendar
  • Secure access to grades and class schedules
  • Real-time campus activity updates for teachers and staff
  • A button students press if they feel unsafe, informing campus security of their location
  • Staff and administrator directory

2. Real Estate Firms

Realtors need access to local housing market data on the go. A mobile application can provide convenient, reliable access to the property, client and area information they need when and where they need it.

Possible features:

  • Directory of available for sale and rental listings
  • Mortgage loan and property tax calculator
  • Floor plan and space measurement aids
  • Map detailing school district boundaries and community demographics
  • Electronic document management and approvals

3. Homeowners’ Associations

HOAs are required to keep their residents informed about community issues, activities, and rules. A customized mobile application can help HOAs share relevant updates and encourage participation while giving residents access to basic community and local area information.

Possible features:

  • Secure resident directory
  • Real-time updates on critical community and safety issues like street closures and water leaks
  • Pool hours and cleaning schedule
  • Community events and schedule
  • Board meeting minutes and bylaws

4. Healthcare Practices

Thirty-minute doctor’s visits often aren’t enough time to gain a full picture of a patient’s condition. A mobile app can allow patients and doctors to exchange more data on health history, status, and symptoms, helping to better diagnose, manage and customize treatment.

“46% of healthcare professionals say they will introduce mobile apps into their practices over the next five years.” – Research Now Group

Possible features:

  • Heart rate and glucose reporting
  • Calorie, nutrient, and physical activity tracker
  • Symptom journals
  • Appointment, testing and refill requests
  • List of medications and their dosage

Creating a Custom Mobile App: Next Steps

The bottom line is, custom mobile apps can help a variety of SMBs increase efficiency, mobility, and productivity.

“To really move the needle on productivity, companies need custom mobile apps that empower people to perform critical processes anytime and anywhere.” – CDW

If you think your business would benefit from one, reach out. We’re confident we can design a custom mobile app that incorporates all of the features your business needs to tackle projects and increase customer satisfaction.

Related Blog: Top 3 Signs Your Business Needs a Custom App

 

Top 3 signs your business needs a custom app

If your business is on the right track, you already have a captivating, user-friendly website that is optimized for both desktop and mobile use. The next step in promoting a better relationship with employees, customers, and potential customers is to create a custom app that maximizes value  through unique features and functions.

Here are 3 signs you are ready to talk about app development.

1. Your customers need an easy way to connect.

Keeping customers happy is one of your top priorities. To accomplish superior customer satisfaction you need to listen to your customers and provide solutions to their problems. If your customers are looking for easier ways to connect, make requests or complete a certain task, then it’s time to consider app development.

Here’s an example:

Breakdown: As a manufacturing company, you interact several times daily with customers to ensure complete orders.

Problem: Your customer wants to track order progress without having to send multiple inquiry emails or call your dedicated line.

Solution: You work with professionals to create an app that focuses solely on tracking progress of orders.

There’s a special anagram created by the Navy that is the secret to success in app development: KISS (keep it simple, stupid!).

When apps were first created, creators took an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. This is the opposite of what you want. The entire concept of creating an app is to make things work easier and better for users – in this case, your customers. So, instead of creating one app that does everything, you will actually want to create multiple apps that are hyper-focused to address specific needs or outcomes.

In our example here, you want your customer to use the custom app to see the progress and status of their order as it moves through the inventory, production, packing and delivery processes. Paying an outstanding invoice or inquiring about product specifications should be addressed in a different app altogether.

Focus on your customer wants and needs, and your app will be a success.

2. Your internal operations need more efficiency and flexibility.

In the same way that apps help connect customers in a one-touch approach, app development can also be effective for improving internal business.

Many companies have custom apps for office communication, human resources access, and presence. Here’s one example of how that might work:

Breakdown: Your mid-sized office requires constant communications between employees in different departments.

Problem: In the office, your employees communicate via an internal messaging system, but you don’t have a way for them to access messages out of the office without using company email via cell phone (security risks include internal theft and insider threats).

Solution: You work with professionals to create an internal communications app that accommodates your current cybersecurity protocols and mobile communication functionality. This app integrates with in-office tools to provide seamless communication between office and mobile environments.

Your employees deserve a quick and seamless workflow. Why? Time is money. If work satisfaction and efficiency run hand-in-hand, then creating apps for your employees is a no-brainer and it will save you money by improving productivity.

3. You are ready to tackle the mobile market opportunity.

Mobile productivity essential in most industries now, with over 62% of companies utilizing mobile applications. One recent report showed that each company had an average of 10.6 apps. Don’t let that intimidate you, though. Start with the most important issues and address others as they arise. The important thing is to remember that one app will not, and shouldn’t, solve all problems.

Once you have your apps out there, you’ll find that you’ve succeeded in a few different ways.

First, you have put yourself out there in the mobile realm. That’s huge. In fact, you should have FOMO (fear of missing out) if you don’t have an app. Your competitors probably already do. Second, you’ve created a new connection and a sense intimacy. And finally, you have made it easier for customers and employees to collaborate and solve problems.

How to Develop an App

When it comes time to develop your app, you’ll need to work with a team that is experienced at providing the right design, content, and development to fit your specific business needs..

Whether the needs are driven by customer, staff or market requirements (or all of the above), we can assist. Here at CCS we have proven experience developing apps and we’d be happy to speak with you about how that process looks. Feel free to give us a call or shoot us a message.

The advantages of ERP for small and medium-sized businesses

Imagine a juggler. He’s a showman. A talented performer capable of dazzling crowds by demonstrating a relatively simple skill with consistent dexterity.

He keeps things in the air, shuffling them from hand to hand in high, interwoven arcs. Sometimes he juggles basic things, like rubber balls, and sometimes more impressive things. Even dangerous things. Knives, for example, or chainsaws. It’s fascinating to see him perform because precision is beautiful – especially when the stakes are high.

Managing a business, particularly one focused on manufacturing or distribution, is not unlike juggling. Functionalities like production planning, procurement, inventory management, order fulfillment and shipping are balls which cannot be dropped. In order to maintain and align each of these complex processes across an entire organization, a comprehensive planning and tracking tool is needed.

The spotlight shifts to a new juggler. ERP takes center stage.

What is ERP?

In the time before ERP, businesses relied on manual processes to keep related departments in sync. Given the degree to which we utilize automated systems today, even in our personal lives, it’s a genuine mental exercise to envision literal memos and purchase orders passed from one physical inbox to another, snaking their way through a warehouse in order to facilitate fulfillment.

Describing it as “a different world” is not an overstatement.

The first system for organizing the manufacturing process dates back to 1913, courtesy of an engineer named Ford Whitman Harris. Harris’s model, known as economic order quantity, was focused on inventory management. It was, of course, entirely paper-based. For decades, EOC was the definitive means of organizing, planning and overseeing resources, even for large commercial organizations.

Pull Quote

Things took a significant step forward in 1964. That was the year Black and Decker implemented EOC principals in a digital environment, migrating the process to a mainframe computer for the first time. The resulting system was dubbed material requirements planning.

Like EOC, MRP became an industry standard. Its reign, however, was shorter-lived. In 1983, manufacturing resource planning introduced a new conceptual approach. Software modules were added to the underlying structure, allowing for the incorporation of manufacturing tasks outside the scope of material requirements. The new system was given the acronym MRPII to distinguish it from material requirements planning.

In addition to the introduction of modules, MRPII brought another innovation to resource management. Businesses began to see value in using their own internal data to improve efficiency and decrease waste. It was now possible to analyze performance and identify bottlenecks. Armed with this groundbreaking knowledge, organizations were able to overhaul their production processes, tweaking them to eliminate delays and capitalize on newly identified best practices.

Before long, companies operating in other verticals, like customer relations, human resources and finance, recognized the value similar analytics could bring to their industries. MRPII evolved beyond its manufacturing and distribution roots to include a host of other business categories. The bedrock of the technology – resource management across multiple departments within a single organization – remained the same, but the range of practical applications exploded. A new term was coined to refer to the resulting software: enterprise resource planning.

ERP has changed how multiple industries do business. Without the ability to track materials, orders, customers, billing and shipping in a single system, many of today’s powerhouse players simply wouldn’t be able to compete. How could Amazon, for example, make good on two-day delivery without this kind of system? The short answer is, they couldn’t. Not while maintaining their competitive pricing model.

When it comes to data management, automation is essential. The fewer the opportunities for human error, the better. When information flows from one department to the next in a live environment, everyone benefits. The increased efficiency lowers overhead, improves turnaround time, reduces mistakes, and creates a level of internal transparency that empowers the entire organization.

You’ve seen this in action if you’ve ever had to contact Amazon customer service. The representative on the other end of the phone is able to access all kinds of pertinent information about your order on the fly. He can tell you when you placed your order, whether or not the item is in stock, when it’s scheduled to ship, and when you can expect delivery. Without an ERP managing all this information in the background, none of that insight would be possible.

And the operational savings are real. By one estimate, real-time data can reduce an organization’s operational expenses by as much as 23%. However, the benefits of ERP innovation weren’t available to everyone until recently.

Initially, ERP implementation was limited to large organizations. The backbone of the software was static, covering the most needed bases, but it required extensive customization to be truly beneficial. And yet, even with highly individualized customization, it wasn’t unheard of for enterprise organizations to rework significant elements of their internal processes just to accommodate a new ERP system. An ERP rollout was a huge undertaking. The time and money needed to facilitate deployment made ERP packages thoroughly impractical for small and medium-sized businesses.

The SMB market was left to make due with manual systems that didn’t include the kind of cooperative, cross-platform convenience that ERP software makes possible. As a result, few SMBs even considered utilizing an ERP suite. The benefits simply didn’t outweigh the cost.

But that’s changing. New modes of ERP implementation have opened the floodgates, allowing businesses of all sizes to reap the rewards of top-tier resource management. We’ll explore those rewards in the next chapter.

How an ERP System Can Transform Your Business

In 2008, Michael Phelps already had the attention of the world. He went to the Beijing Olympic games with multiple world records under his belt. In fact, of the six individual events Phelps entered there was only one for which he did not already hold the world record: the 100-meter butterfly.

Phelps wowed the crowd during that event, pushing himself in the last 50 meters to make a comeback. The race concluded with a dramatic finish, so close that judges could not determine a winner based solely on the photo. Officials had to rely instead on the touch pads installed at the end of the pool, determining that Phelps won by a mere one-sixth of an inch.

Phelps’ victory is a fascinating study in the importance of efficiency. Had he swam with a little more drag or a little less power, he would have gone home with the silver, not the gold.

When a business is in growth mode, even slight improvements in efficiency have the potential to make a huge difference. For the small to medium-sized business, this is particularly true. The momentum generated by improved efficiency can push you into the lead while the competition stalls out.

– The Aberdeen Group

Recent research agrees. According to a 2016 report from the Aberdeen Group, 96% of the top-performing companies experiencing growth. These businesses are twice as likely to have access to custom reporting, enabling them to fine-tune performance in real time. As a result, their profits rose an average of 10% over the course of the last two years.

How can an ERP system make that kind of difference? Below are four key advantages of incorporating an ERP solution into your business process. This is not an exhaustive list. There are dozens of additional benefits. Consider these the high points.

1. Custom Reporting

The ability to create custom reports, on a schedule or on the fly, is powerful. Large corporations rely on reporting to track KPIs across the entire organization. If one department or functionality falls behind, you’ll see evidence in the numbers.

However, you can’t produce useful reports without a system for housing and compiling all that information. For example, there’s simply no way to know how long it takes for materials to work their way through the manufacturing process from start to finish if you aren’t tracking everything from inventory intake, through production, on to shipping and delivery.

An ERP solution provides a single environment for gathering and housing data, making it possible to generate reports that clearly show where you’re already efficient and where there’s room for improvement.

2. Cost Reduction

Effective ERP implementation will almost always cut administrative costs.

When employees have fewer manual processes to weigh them down, they’ll be free to take on more innovative, profitable projects. Not only that, but work flows more easily. Turnaround time decreases and your production capability goes up.

For businesses with inventory requirements, ERP solutions create the opportunity for another kind of savings in the form of inventory management. An ERP system can help forecast demand for specific materials, decrease overstock, and track real-time supply. When supply chain management runs smoothly, your entire organization benefits.

3. Automated Workflow

Human error is inevitable. It’s also one of the biggest efficiency gaps in most organization. The more often your business process relies on a human being to re-enter the same data, for example, the more exposed you are to potential delays and problems.

Automating data flow makes it far less likely that human error will result in missed orders, inventory mishaps or miscommunication. When your business operates like a well-oiled machine, customers get a consistently reliable experience and employee satisfaction gets a boost. The positive effects of both are exponential contributors to growth.

4. Scalable Production

Finally, ERP brings a game-changing level of scalability to business processes.

If a company relies on manual processes for order fulfillment, what will the employees do if there’s a growth surge? How will they handle twice the volume they’re accustomed to? How likely does it seem that important tasks will fall through the cracks as the team scrambles to cover all the bases?

While a significant increase in volume will cause growing pains for any business, ERP can greatly reduce the impact. The automation alone will take much of the burden off employees while guaranteeing a solid record of workflow. That frees your most valuable resource – your people – to handle everything else.

The advantages of incorporating an ERP solution are considerable. What’s more, cloud solutions make it more practical than ever for businesses of all sizes to harness that power.

In the next chapter, we’ll explore how the cloud is changing ERP solutions, and how small businesses can benefit.

How ERP Works With the Cloud

It wasn’t that long ago that ERP was strictly for the big players. Fortune 500 companies put it to good use, leveraging the power of these solutions by integrating them deeply into every facet of the business processes. By contrast, smaller organizations didn’t follow suit.

Why? For one simple, entirely pragmatic reason. Cost.

The software alone can be expensive. As are the servers, the staff required to maintain and support them, and the periodic updates. Additionally, the move to an ERP often means reworking internal processes. An accurate calculation of costs has to include the time it will take to reconfigure workflow, retrain employees, and compensate for delays while everyone adjusts to the changes.

— CFO

Some of those costs can’t be avoided. Even small businesses with few employees will have to change how they work to make use of an ERP solution. But the overwhelming cost of the software and hardware can be mitigated significantly by utilizing a cloud ERP solution.

Cloud-based ERP offers all the functionality of an on-premise solution but are housed remotely. What does that look like? If you’ve ever used a web-based email or storage service, then you’re already familiar with the cloud. Like those services, cloud ERP solutions aren’t kept locally. You don’t have to purchase and maintain your own server. Instead, you access the cloud solution via a protected internet connection.

Because cloud solutions make use of secure remote servers, entry costs plummet. The numbers tell the story best.

On average, cloud-based ERP systems are about 30% less expensive than traditional on-premise solutions, and that’s just the initial cost. Cloud ERP is generally faster to deploy, which means you’ll experience fewer delays and less downtime while the new system rolls out. Additionally, support and maintenance are taken care of for you by the ERP provider, so you don’t have to hire additional IT staff, either.

Strategic small business owners can further their savings by being selective about the ERP solution they choose. One notable standout is Acumatic’s offering. Unlike most cloud ERPs, Acumatic doesn’t bill according to the number of users, but instead allows for unlimited users. This gives the small business unprecedented power, allowing for every employee in the organization to access the ERP setup without driving up the cost.

Another advantage of cloud ERP is accessibility. Not only can you login from any computer, but many leading ERP packages offer mobile access, as well. As long as you have a laptop, tablet or phone, you’re connected. That means you can get to critical data anytime, from anywhere.

Furthermore, the scalability of cloud-based ERP is even greater than that of on-premise ERP software. Your initial deployment doesn’t have to include every module you might want to use at a later date. If you feel you don’t need a module now, don’t subscribe to it. You can always add it later just by updating your subscription.

In the large business sector, there’s a lot of debate about cloud ERP versus on-premise ERP. That makes sense. The larger the organization, the less dramatic the cost difference. Many large corporations prefer the higher entry cost of on-premise ERP over the recurring cost of a cloud-based solution. Over time, a big businesses could easily save more money with the on-premise option.

But for the small business owner, the cloud-based solution is typically more cost effective in both the short and long term. On-premise options are so much more expensive to purchase and maintain that small businesses are nearly guaranteed better value by opting for a cloud-based ERP rollout.

Of course, cloud versus on-premise is only the first of many critical decisions to make when selecting an ERP solution. In the next chapter, we’ll discuss some key questions to consider when choosing how to implement ERP for your business.

Picking the Right ERP Solution

ERP implementation is a huge undertaking. Survey data on implementation outcome reveals an increase in the percentage of respondents claiming neutrality in regard to project outcomes – from 21% to 36%. That means 36% of respondents responded they “Don’t Know” if their ERP project was a success or a failure.

And yet, the benefits of utilizing an ERP solution are significant. Which begs the question, how does an organization take on the challenge of finding and implementing the right ERP the right way? In a word, strategically.

In a sense, there’s no such thing as an easy ERP implementation. By its very nature, the solution should be flexible, fitting your business in ways that work with you. While there may be a need to adjust some existing process, the end result should be a faster, leaner, more profitable version of your current organizational structure. If implementation exceeds budget, misses deadlines, or doesn’t add significant efficiency, why integrate an ERP solution at all?

Project Outcomes Stat

— Panorama Consulting

The good news is that your ERP rollout isn’t predestined to fail. If done the right way, implementation can happen on time and under budget. Not only that, but you really can lower costs while increasing efficiency.

The key is a strategic approach. In this chapter, we’ll cover five critical considerations for the introduction of a new ERP solution. If these bases are covered, you’ll be set up for implementation success:

1. Define Your Goals

Your ultimate goals are most likely identical to those of other companies: lower costs, improve efficiency and increase profits. That’s a given. However, it’s important to determine the specific targets unique to your organization.

In order to facilitate this, you’ll have to take the time to dive deep into your own processes. Where are the bottlenecks, for example? What manual processes do you currently employ that could be automated? What custom reports would give you the best picture of your organization’s overall effectiveness? How might data flow more easily through your company, especially between departments? And what might your people be able to do if they won back some of the time they currently lose to inefficiency?

When you have an idea of what’s not working, it’s easier to envision a better business process. Start by focusing on pain points. Be sure to engage your team in this process, as well. Your people will be able to provide feedback no report can match.

2. Identify Your Requirements

Now it’s time to shift gears and get more solution-focused. The guiding principle at this point is pragmatism. What sort of software features and functionality will actually work for your business?

No ERP solution is one-size-fits-all. As a result, you’ll need to determine the technical requirements for solutions that will and won’t work for you. Are there existing programs in use that you simply cannot live without? Does your organization have any proprietary software you’d like to maintain? Is mobile/remote access an important factor?

It’s also wise to give some thought to scalability. Don’t limit the scope of your consideration to your current operation. What if your company doubles in size? What if that growth means more employees? More stock? More orders? What sort of functionality might be necessary to maintain smooth delivery, even if you find yourself in an aggressive growth mode?

3. Determine Your Budget

Continuing the theme of practical concerns, you’ll need to establish a budget for your ERP. The budget should include implementation, maintenance and hardware upgrades, if needed. It’s also wise to take into account intangible costs, like slower turnaround times while the new ERP is brought online and as your people get accustomed to the new solution.

This is a good time to weigh the pros and cons of on-premise versus cloud ERP solutions. Both are valid formats with their own advantages. Most small businesses will find cloud-based ERP systems to be more cost-effective, while many large corporations are better positioned to take advantage of the long-term savings of on-premise solutions.

If you find yourself leaning toward a cloud-based ERP, be sure to take into account the subscription cost per user, particularly if you anticipate growth. While Acumatic, the ERP provider mentioned in the previous chapter, offers access for unlimited users, most cloud ERP solutions assess a per-user fee.

4. Explore Your Options

With a clear idea of your goals, your requirements and your budget, it’s now time to begin the daunting task of actually comparing different ERP solutions. There are no shortcuts here. While comparison shopping may not be particularly fun, due diligence will serve you in the long run.

There’s no way to know which ERP will work best for your organization without doing some homework. However, comparative analysis takes time, and that alone leads an alarming number of business leaders to short-circuit the process, going with the first ERP they find that looks good. As understandable as that impulse is, the stakes here are high. A solid fit can make a big difference for your company.

Even if you’ve already got your eye on a specific solution, it’s prudent to look at other options.

5. Develop Your Implementation Plan

The final piece of the puzzle is actually mapping out your implementation, including deadlines. Given the sweeping nature of ERP implementation, best practice is to make sure your entire organization is familiar with the project and has an accurate picture of both the scope and schedule of the project.

ERP Implementation With CCS Technology

The benefits of utilizing an ERP solution are compelling. Improvements to efficiency have the potential to lower costs across your organization, which in turn boosts profitability. As if the impact on the bottom line weren’t enough, the upside for employee satisfaction is another strong argument in favor of implementing ERP.

The process of selecting, planning and launching an ERP system requires a well-developed strategy. Too many companies embrace the idea of using ERP only to run into the brick wall of a negative implementation experience. The five tips in the last chapter will help you to avoid those pitfalls.

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Because ERP rollout is complex, many business leaders feel it’s an area that genuinely warrants expert input. Large enterprises and small businesses alike frequently partner with IT professional services firms to assist with ERP implementation. It’s a move that just makes sense.

The experienced team at CCS Technology has helped dozens of companies through the ERP onboarding process. We will walk you through the entire process, analyze your needs, identify the best ERP for your business, and ensure that your implementation is completed on time and under budget.

CCS Technology can guide you to the right ERP for your organization. If we can help, contact us today.

The 7 irresistible qualities of cloud ERPs

ERP tools are an understandably critical component for many businesses. Particularly if you focus on manufacturing or distribution, the benefits of utilizing an ERP are undeniable. And the introduction of cloud computing has revolutionized ERPs.

In recent years, industry experts have debated every pro and con of the cloud ERP. Over time, these newer cloud solutions have proven to be a viable option, especially for small to medium-sized businesses.

Whether you’re updating your current ERP or are considering first-time implementation, here are seven reasons to consider going with a cloud solution.

1. Budget Friendly Launch

If you’re interested in saving money, here’s some good news. 82% of companies save money by moving to cloud solutions. While on-premise ERPs typically come with hefty startup costs, cloud-based ERPs are much more budget friendly up front. That savings allows SMBs to seize the advantages of improved efficiency without wiping out their annual budget on a single tool.

But be sure to shop around. Most vendors charge by the user, and those fees can add up. A few, like Acumatica, offer unlimited user spots, which allows for on-the-fly scalability without a price hike.


Source: Acumatica

2. Quicker, Easier Implementation

Rolling out a new on-premise ERP can be rough. The server has to be prepped, the software has to be installed, and then there’s the daunting task of making sure the new system plays nicely with the rest of your network. Even if everything goes smoothly, it’s rarely a speedy process.

By contrast, cloud-based implementation isn’t as painful. There’s not as much to configure and typically nothing to install. As a result, cloud ERPs deploy faster and with fewer headaches.

3. Tried and True Reliability

Cloud computing still feels like new technology, even though it’s been a steady part of the business world for nearly 20 years. Still, reliability is a top concern for business leaders. Can a cloud-based application deliver the same kind of consistent performance as an on-premise solution?

Yes. The cloud ERP isn’t an untested technology. Rather, there are quite a few vendors out there with solid track records for stability. You can opt for a cloud solution without sacrificing the assurance of reliable service.

4. Powerful Performance

In addition to stability, savvy business leaders also understand the importance of performance. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that cloud applications came with pretty significant drops in speed and functionality.

However, better connection speeds and other advancement have reshaped the landscape of cloud computing. Today, it’s possible to get the same kind of performance from an ERP you access via the cloud as one would expect from an on-premise solution.

 

5. Frustration-Free Maintenance

On-premise ERPs require a server and local maintenance. When you host the ERP yourself, there’s simply no way to avoid managing its health and performance. Given the dramatic impact of an ERP going offline, maintenance is a serious business.

If you’re not prepared to hire additional staff to maintain a new server, then a cloud-based ERP is a great way to go. The ERP provider will handle all the maintenance. You just log in and get to work, no maintenance required.

6. Baked-In Security

The very same folks who maintain your cloud ERP will also take care of the solution’s security. Keeping your data secure is one of the fundamental requirements for any cloud-based provider. Accurate, safe record-keeping is a top priority, and includes high standards for certification, compliance, and data backup and recovery.

Your ERP vendor’s security measures aren’t an adequate replacement for your own cyber security strategy. Still, it’s reassuring to know their focus includes keeping your data backed up and safe.

7. Access From Anywhere

Finally, cloud-based solutions give business leaders a level of accessibility that was unheard of even a few years ago. All you need is a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, and you have a way to check in on your business, review processes, update critical workflows, and keep tabs on top customers.

That kind of flexibility sets business leaders free. Often, a few swipes can give you the information you need, allowing you to focus on the client sitting in front of you rather than micro-managing each individual process. That’s freedom that impacts your bottom line and your quality of life.

Make Your Move to the Cloud

If you’re ready to unleash the power of utilizing a cloud ERP, CCS Technology can help. We know what it takes to streamline process management for manufacturing and distribution, and we’ve helped dozens of small to medium-sized businesses improve their efficiency. What’s more, we can guide you to the cloud solution that meets your needs without breaking your budget.

Contact us today to find out more about how a cloud-based ERP can transform your business.

 

Star Wars is basically an ad for ERP systems

We’ve all seen the commercial where the entire concept is “Don’t do X or you’re totally doomed. Do Y instead.” Like, some guy picks up a can of generic beer and he’s lonely and depressed, but then he grabs a Bud Light and he’s surrounded by beautiful women and fancy cars. That kind of commercial.

Well, it turns out that the Star Wars saga is basically a cautionary tale for what happens if you don’t use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Here’s why…

1.  It’s an ERP!

Every time any jedi in Star Wars wants to get anything done, they have to hop in a starfighter and zip from planet to planet. You would think with an entire galaxy to protect, they might create some sort of proprietary ERP system to save the jedis some precious time and fuel.

Example: Obi-Wan needs to jet off to planet Kamino to check up on some poisonous dart and then finds that the Republic invested tons of money in clones. RED FLAG!

With an ERP system, all resources in your business are live. If $50,000 is spent by your clone recruitment department, you’re going to be able to pull that information on the fly and save yourself a trip across the galaxy – not to mention saving those funds for lightsaber components and blue milk.

Tracking live resources is one of the most important parts of any fast-moving business, and so is communication.

When you utilize an ERP system optimized for your operations and priorities, your departments have a vehicle for interdepartmental coordination, communication and efficiency. The reduced payroll hours and added transparency ERP delivers creates an immediate reporting channel and enhances efficiency throughout your business.

This can mean big savings and profits. Businesses using an ERP saw an average increase in profitability of 10% over two years in a recent Aberdeen study. Additionally, 96% of the top-performing companies experiencing growth rely on ERP solutions.

2. Use the ERP, Luke…

Arguably, the greatest tragedy in the Star Wars saga is that the friendship and guidance of Obi-Wan is not enough to save Anakin from joining the dark side of the Force. Obi-Wan, clouded by his good intentions, is unable to see the dangerous path his friend has followed. This, of course, leads to the death of Padme, the birth of Vader, and years of chaos and destruction for our favorite galaxy far, far away.

If you are fortunate in your business, you are probably so busy that you don’t have time to crunch numbers and run manual reports, or to update forecasts based on these predictions. The good news is that unlike Obi-Wan, you can make good use of an ERP system to keep your forecasts regular and current.

ERP systems gather live data for your reporting requirements, and it can predict future patterns based on this data. From anticipating office expenses to scaling workforce resources to predicting network traffic patterns, capturing and analyzing this information in real time according to your operational KPIs is priceless when planning for your business growth.

3. The ERP is strong with this one…

When you utilize ERP systems, you also benefit from scalability. Both the Empire and the Republic suffered from gross inefficiencies.

The Republic had a bunch of clones sitting on a planet working out and training, not knowing how many they would need. They then needed to rush production on hundreds of thousands more to fight the Empire’s drone forces.

With a proper ERP system, the Republic could have used forecasting to know how many soldiers they would need for each battle, and then they could have scaled quickly and efficiently to deliver the right amount and type of soldiers. Why send 20,000 to each planet when 200 would do?

Just shoot us a message or give us a call, and we can chat about how to support and optimize your business operations with the right ERP capabilities.

May the Force be with you…

Office 365 migration made easy

Go into any mechanic’s garage and you’re going to find a common set of tools. There will always be a socket wrench, for example. No one who works on cars can function without one. It’s essential.

Office productivity tools are no different. You can’t do business without email and some form of a word processor. For an overwhelming number of folks – more than 1.2 billion users – the go-to productivity suite is Microsoft Office.

Cloud-Based Applications Are on the Rise

Most likely, you already have experience using Microsoft’s suite. Programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint are common fixtures in businesses both great and small. However, there’s a significant shift in how these applications are being implemented and utilized.

An increasing number of businesses are putting heavy emphasis on cloud technology. In fact, recent analysis indicates that 90% of organizations use the cloud in some way, with 50% using cloud services as their preferred solution.

Simply put, the cloud is changing how business is done at a fundamental level, and Office 365 is a major player in the move to cloud-based services. While there are other cloud tools out there – most notably, Google’s G Suite – Office 365 is currently the most used collaborative platform on the market.

Why Office 365?

It’s hardly surprising to learn Microsoft’s offering takes the top spot. The advantages of Office 365 are considerable.

First, there’s the convenience. With Office 365, you can work and collaborate with team members from any connected device – even your phone or tablet. For business leaders on the go, that alone is invaluable.

Second, documents, spreadsheets and email messages housed under the umbrella of Office 365 are backed up in the cloud. Users can access everything from their desktop computers, just like older versions of Microsoft Office, but redundancy is also baked in. If you’ve ever dealt with any kind of data loss, you know how important backups are.

Finally, the cost savings can be compelling. Many organizations are able to justify migrating to Office 365 based purely on the numbers. This is due in part to the scalability of the platform. Microsoft offers multiple subscription options for Office 365. You just have to pick the plan that works best for your organization, and isolate the products and services you need.

Additionally, adding new users to your subscription is a breeze. For companies in growth mode, Office 365 provides an easy, cost-effective way to make sure new employees have the tools they need from day one.

Migrating to Office 365

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to adopting a new software solution is the anticipated pain of making a change. Some organizations have a history of hiccups, even when just moving from one version of a program to a newer version of the same program. Moving to an entirely new solution is understandably off-putting.

Speaking frankly, who cares about improvements in efficiency in the long-term if an update puts you out of commission for weeks right now? The migration from your current solution to Office 365 has to be smooth to be worth it.

The good news is a hassle-free Office 365 migration is entirely possible. Whether you’re only migrating your email to Microsoft Exchange or planning to incorporate the full Office Suite, getting your organization online and up to full functionality doesn’t have to bring daily business to a grinding halt.

The key is working with an experienced, knowledgeable partner who can guide you through the process.

Migration Done Right

At CCS Technology, our guiding philosophy is simple. Every part of the technology experience should be convenient and efficient, including upgrades and migration.

Our goal is to take the headaches out of IT services by delivering fast, effective solutions. We’ve completed full migrations to Office 365 in as few as seven days. And when migration is done, we’ll still be here, ready and able to provide ongoing support.

You can’t achieve success without the right tools in your toolbox. Think of us as your tool provider. When it’s time to move your organization to the cloud and take advantage of everything Office 365 has to offer, we’ll be happy to guide you through the process.

Get in touch with us today to let us know how we can help.

Do you know the value of your CRM?

In 1989, a small-time collector was perusing art at a flea market. He ended up buying an uninspired pastoral painting, purely for the frame.

When he got it home, he removed the painting. He had no intention of keeping it. To his dismay, he discovered the frame was cheaply made and not salvageable.

But he found something else inside. Folded behind the painting was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. He could tell it was old, but he didn’t think it valuable. Then a friend urged him to research it.

As it turned out, the hidden copy was one of only 24 first prints of the historic document. In June of 2000, it sold at Sotheby’s for $8.1 million.

Hidden Value

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a slew of similar stories.

The original Velvet Underground demo someone bought for 75¢. The 11th-century Chinese pottery bought for three bucks and later sold for $2.2 million. The Warhol sketch purchased for $5 that turned out to be worth an estimated $2 million.

Sometimes there’s immeasurable value right under our noses, but we don’t see it. For many small business leaders, that’s true of their CRM solution. If you think of your CRM as little more than an elaborate database, you could be one of them.

How Your CRM Can Be A Game-Changer

A CRM (short for “customer relationship management”) solution is a powerful, robust tool—if you know how to use it. Unfortunately, we’ve worked with plenty of SMB owners who are barely scratching the surface.

Below is a quick list of some of the powerful things your CRM can do that you might not know about.

Streamline the sales process.

The goal in sales is to convert leads to prospects and prospects to customers. A CRM helps with that process by providing a clear picture of where each contact is in the process. By reviewing previous sales attempts, you can determine what strategies work best, equipping your sales team for better closing rates in the future.

Close the right deals.

One of the challenges of sales is qualifying potential customers. The faster you can determine who is and who is not a likely to buy, the less time you have to waste pursuing dead ends. A CRM gives you a framework for making that call faster, ensuring that you close the right deals—for you and for your clients.

Know your market.

You can also use the data in your CRM to tease out trends and movements in your market. If customers are migrating from one kind of product or service to another, you’ll see it in the reports. If your business is seasonal, that’ll become clear, too.

Meet customers’ needs.

Cross-selling and upselling get a bad rap. Neither is inherently bad. It’s all about knowing what actually helps your customer base. The better your customer records, the more easily you can identify the products and add-ons that will help the most.

Manage customer communication.

When all communication is housed in one place, it’s much easier for your employees to deliver top-tier customer service. This is especially true in the moment, like when they have a customer on the phone. A CRM makes that extra insight possible across your team.

Personalize communication.

Automatic messaging can include order status updates, shipping notifications, and simple thank you messages. A CRM gives you the ability to automate each of these with some nice personal touches. That way your customers know what’s going on at all times.

Incorporate social media.

The most current CRM tools also incorporate options for social media contact. Given the marketing potential of social media, this is a must-have for small business owners. And a CRM makes utilizing social media—for everything from announcements to events to contests to customer stories—so much easier.

Let CCS Technology Guide You to the Perfect CRM

With all the CRM solutions out there, how do you find the one that’s best for your business? And once you’ve found it, how do you transition your current process over to the new CRM?

The easiest way also happens to be the smartest way—get some help from the experts.

The pros at CCS can take you through the whole process, ensuring you end up with the best possible CRM solution for your business needs. If you’re ready to unleash the power of a CRM, give us a call. We’re ready to help.