Making Informed Decisions with the Right ERP

Making Informed Decisions with the Right ERP

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions like Acumatica offer a wide range of Business Intelligence (BI) features. BI is a collection of technologies and practices that enable sophisticated analysis of business data. Used right, BI can help managers make informed decisions about their companies.

Understanding BI and Its Relationship with Making Informed Decisions

What does it mean to make an informed business decision? Opinions will vary on this question, of course, but in general an informed decision is one that is made using an abundance of facts. It’s a decision based on relevant, timely information—complete with context. The opposite of an informed decision is “going with your gut” or “shooting from the hip.”

It is possible to make an informed decision without BI. The problem is usually one of timing. With enough people and manual data gathering tools, a manager can assemble the facts he or she needs to make a decision. The difficulty with this approach in today’s business environment is that circumstances may change in the time it takes to get all the data together. Additionally, manual data analysis deprives the manager of the ability to quickly run different decision scenarios.

Example: Deciding When and Where to Liquidate Inventory

Figuring out what to do with excess inventory offers a great example of informed decision making with ERP. With BI, a business manager can create a dynamic dashboard that displays the company’s top products in inventory, sorted by cost and location. If the manager needs cash, this graphic data display shows which location is holding the most inventory. The manager can see which products are in the warehouses.

Using simultaneously-generated reports on seasonal sales predictions, the manager can make an informed decision about which products to sell to raise cash. BI’s accurate presentation of live data gives the manager the ability to avoid selling inventory that would be more profitable to keep on hand.

Example: To Borrow or Not?

Borrowing money is a big decision for most business managers. Taking on debt affects both the balance sheet and the income statement. In the worst case, debt can get a business in trouble. BI gives the manager a maximal amount of data to make an informed decision about borrowing.

For example, a BI tool can provide the manager with a 360-degree view of the business. Relevant operational and financial data appear in dynamic graphs. These might include Accounts Receivables (AR) aging, profit trends, sales pipeline, existing debt load, inventories and existing orders in progress. With all of this information available for assessment, the manager can forecast the impact of debt on the business. He or she can decide how much to borrow, and on what terms.

Example: Evaluating Sales Managers

One of the worst areas of business for “going with your gut” is in the evaluation of employees. With sales managers in particular, data is essential for making an informed decision about their performance. A sales management dashboard gives the manager an accurate, contextual information set for the employee evaluation. It might contain data about sales wins and losses, deal size trend and profitability. This way, the manager can see the “quality” of a sales quarter, i.e. if sales growth is matched by profitability.

Integrated Business Group has expertise with multiple BI solutions across any platform. We will provide advice and consulting to get the right fit for your BI needs. Contact us today to learn about all the Business Intelligence options available for your unique needs.

Signs You Are Outgrowing Your ERP Solution

Signs You Are Outgrowing Your ERP Solution

Growing businesses sometimes find they are outgrowing their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions. It can be a hard thing to notice. After all, for some companies, even just making the decision to implement ERP in the first place was a big deal. Getting it running was a project. Then, though, you start noticing issues with your ERP. It’s not quite doing the job it was originally meant to do. The system might have once been optimal for your business, but now it’s a drag on growth.

You’re Living Through a Series of Tradeoffs

ERP software, like other kinds of business applications, tends to create tradeoffs between functionality and cost. This is generally a good thing. If you’re running a smaller business, you don’t want (and literally could never afford) to implement a massive, highly complex enterprise-scale solution. Instead, you opt for a solution that comes with pre-packaged functions and offers easy setup. All is well until you start to chafe under these tradeoffs.

You Wish the Features Were Better

Feature depth is an area where tradeoffs can become pronounced. For example, a simple ERP solution might let you choose the standard currency for your business. Work in dollars or Euros—but perhaps not both. What if you open a European office and need to run that site in Euros while the rest of the business uses dollars? This could be a sign that you’re outgrowing your ERP. Similarly, your business might need to operate through multiple wholly owned subsidiaries. Not all starter-level ERP solutions enable this capability.

You Can’t Customize Enough

Using preset features is an advantage early on with ERP. Indeed, you can make yourself crazy by trying to sort through too many configuration options. Extensive customization usually means you’ll be working with an outside consultant on ERP implementation. In the starter phase, it’s worth minimizing the overwhelming choices of excessive customization. As you grow, though, you might feel the need to customize ERP. For example, the out-of-the-box purchase order module may not align with the way your growing business wants to manage its procurement. If you can’t customize that module, you’ll start to feel constrained.

It’s a Hassle to Integrate

When you first adopt ERP, you probably don’t want the burden of integrating it with other systems. Then, you’ll reach a moment where you see that your business needs integration. For instance, your evolving workflows might require integration between email and ERP, or between ERP and Customer Resource management (CRM). If your solution either doesn’t offer this kind of integration, or makes it into a big, messy project, you’ve outgrown that system.

Data Analytics Capabilities are Limited

Growing businesses tend to want more sophisticated data analytics capabilities than are available in lower-end ERP solutions. Again, it’s great to have analytics and dashboards out-of-the-box without a lot of work. These pre-packaged analytics tools have limits, however. If you’re wanting to see analysis of data that isn’t available on your ERP solution, you’ve outgrown it.

The Support Could Be Better

ERP users need vendor support from time to time. If you don’t need support, you probably aren’t using your ERP to the utmost. Poor vendor support is a sure sign that you’ve outgrown your ERP solution.

Integrated Business Group assess your ERP needs. To learn more, visit https://www.integratedbusinessgroup.com/acumatica-cloud-erp/

Additional ERP Resources

When You Know It’s Time to Move to the Cloud

How to Get a Full View of Your Business with the Right ERP Solution

What You Should Know Before Choosing an ERP Solution

When You Know It’s Time to Move to the Cloud

When You Know It’s Time to Move to the Cloud

If your business is like most, you’ve already started using cloud computing in your operations. This could be something as simple as swapping out your email server for Office 365 or entrusting CRM to Salesforce.com. More sophisticated and valuable cloud options await you, but is it time to make the move? In our experience, you will reach a moment when you just know it’s time to move to the cloud. Here are some thoughts on making this decision.

(Really) understanding the cloud and what it means to your business

Knowing when to make the move to the cloud requires understanding what the cloud is and what it can do for your business. The cloud doesn’t stand still. What you knew about it even a year or two ago doesn’t describe today’s cloud. Offerings have gotten more sophisticated. They create more value than ever before. Previously, moving business software to the cloud meant having someone who understood how to set up and manage cloud-based systems. This is less and less true. Today’s cloud includes offerings like:

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – where you get software through a web browser, hosted by a cloud provider, e.g. Acumatica for ERP or Salesforce.com
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – where you get access to prebuilt software platforms like Microsoft Windows Server running in the cloud, ready to be configured for your specific needs
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – where you can build your own systems using cloud-based infrastructure elements like servers and storage arrays
  • Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) – where you can back up and restore your critical systems and data in the cloud

Ready to retire your data center?

One way to know if it’s time to move to the cloud is if you feel ready to retire, or at least reduce your data center costs. These facilities are, as you probably know, expensive to run. They take up space. They require a lot of electricity and air conditioning. They need specialized personnel to manage. You can give that all up if you move to the cloud.

Had enough of hardware, software and support?

Running your own systems on-premises means buying the hardware and software, which is a capital expense (CapEx). Both hardware and software are continually being updated. It’s a never-ending CapEx cycle. With a cloud service, you pay a recurring fee, which is an operating expense (OpEx). The cloud service provider shoulders the CapEx burden.

You also have to support your on-site systems. For systems that have a dedicated client application on the end user’s device, that’s another layer of support you have to provide. IT people are hard to find and replace. Moving to the cloud reduces the need for dedicated IT staff.

Concerned about cyber security?

If you’re not, you should be. Cloud providers usually work on a two-tier security model. They assume responsibility for securing the infrastructure. You’re on the hook for your own data and users. This is a reasonable approach, and one that makes you far more secure than you would be if you did it all yourself. Unless you’re spectacularly good at security, the cloud provider will have far better infrastructure than you can manage on your own.

Doing cloud the right way

All of these advantages aside, it can still be unwise to rush into the cloud. It makes sense to think it through carefully and come up with a cloud migration plan. What will move first? How will you do it? We can help you with this planning process and resulting execution steps.

Integrated Business Group can help you move to the cloud. To learn more, visit https://www.integratedbusinessgroup.com/acumatica-cloud-erp/

How to Get a Full View of Your Business with the Right ERP Solution

How to Get a Full View of Your Business with the Right ERP Solution

Running a business may sometimes feel like building a house of cards inside a hall of mirrors. It’s hard to know what’s going on and how various areas of the business are performing. Yet, though you lack the right information, you must still plan your next steps. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions offer a way out of this challenging, but very common, management scenario. ERP offers detailed, accurate views into different areas of your business. It is even possible to achieve a full view of your business, if you use the right ERP solution.

ERP in Brief

What is ERP? ERP is a class of software that has evolved over the last 40-50 years. In its earliest forms, ERP was meant to help managers of industrial companies stay on top of operations, supply chains and finances. With the maturing of ERP, coupled with cheaper and more agile computing, you can now easily avail yourself of sophisticated ERP solutions that meet your industry’s unique parameters. You can also implement ERP modules that address distinct areas of your business.

Getting a Full View of Your Business with ERP

The term “solution,” though commonly used to describe ERP, is not quite right. ERP is typically available as a connected system of separate modules. Acumatica, for example, offers modules that address a diverse range of operational areas and core business processes. Together, these modules offer a full view of your business. Used on an individual basis, they provide a complete picture of their given focus area.

  • Financial Management – The CFO can use the Financial Management capabilities of the ERP solution to perform basic accounting tasks, take care of treasury management and plan for the company’s financial future. Learn more
  • Distribution Management – For businesses that run a distribution operation, the Distribution Management module of an ERP solution let you manage quotes and orders and track inventory. The module may also enable the automation of purchasing. Acumatica Distribution Management, for example, also drives improvements in customer service with full integration with Customer Resource Management (CRM), financials, project management and so forth—creating visibility a given customer across the entire company. Learn more
  • Customer Resource Management – This module lets you manage your sales pipeline, including leads, contacts and opportunities. Automatic CRM includes functions for post-sales service as well as customer portals. Learn more
  • Reporting, Dashboards, and Data Analysis – Full visibility means having a quick (ideally instant) overview of how each area of the business is performing. ERP solutions typically include some built-in reporting and data analysis features as well as dashboard displays of real time reports. The solutions almost always also connect with popular third-party analytics and reporting tools.
  • Project Accounting – If your business is project-based, a project accounting tools in the ERP solution will let you know actual project costs as you accrue them. You can manage budgets and time sheets as well as project inventory and billing. The right ERP solution gives you sophisticated budget tracking and estimate vs real cost reports in real time. Learn more

ERP solutions like Acumatica also offer a number of specialized operational module. Examples include Manufacturing Management, Field Service Management, eCommerce and Construction Management. These will only matter to you if you are involved in one of these areas of business. Each of these dedicated modules integrates with Financial Management, CRM and so forth—giving you a full view of your business no matter what business you’re in.

Integrated Business Group offers extensive selection and advisory services for ERP. To learn how we can help you get a full view of your business with ERP, visit https://www.integratedbusinessgroup.com/services/consultation/

What You Should Know Before Choosing an ERP Solution

What You Should Know Before Choosing an ERP Solution

Choosing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution is one of the most significant decisions you’ll ever make for your business. It’s akin to getting married. You’ll be together a long time. Compatibility and adaptability count. There may be difficulties, but with the right partner, you can get through almost anything. The main thing, though, as in a real life marriage, is to avoid making a sub-optimal choice at the beginning.

Know Your Business

You think you know your business. When you start moving processes onto a core software system like ERP, you may start to see dependencies and requirements you didn’t know you had. Know your use cases. Also, to make the right selection of ERP, you have to have a good idea of where your business is heading. For example, if you’re planning on working with distributors in the near future, your ERP system should be easily adaptable to this mode of business

ERP Table Stakes

Any ERP vendor you choose needs to come to the deal with what the industry calls “table stakes.” As it goes in Las Vegas, if you don’t have the minimum to play at a given table, you aren’t in the game. ERP is no different, except in ERP, table stakes includes things like proven reliability, scalability, the complete feature set you require and good references. Peer endorsements of product support are also a very helpful data point. If someone in your industry can vouch for the vendor’s quality of support, that’s a positive sign.

Mobility and Context

Your employees are all mobile. That might not be completely true right now, but it will be soon. People are working while they’re on the road, at client sites and at home—and they expect the same software functionality regardless of their location. The right ERP solution will be one that has rich mobile features. It should work equally well on a laptop or a tablet, and even on a phone.

Usage context is a related notion, particularly for international businesses. Users in different countries have to be able to adapt the ERP solution for local use. Compatibility with multiple currencies is a good example of contextualization, as are weights and measures. That way, an order for “5,000 pounds of product at $2,500.75” will automatically show up as 2.267 kilograms of product at €4.447,22” on the EU user’s screen. Better ERP solution adapt easily to international contexts.

Integration

It’s wise to think through how a new ERP solution will work with your existing systems. Most businesses will need to integrate some elements of their software ecosystem with ERP. Even something as simple as the postal service delivery tracking system needs to be included in assessment of ERP suitability. Integration with email systems, document management tools and unified communications (UC) should all be looked at carefully.

Remember, anything can be integrated… for a price. That’s not where you want to be. You want to have the easiest, simplest and lowest cost integrations. Today, this usually means having RESTful APIs that can easily form connections with virtually any other solution as required.

Data Analytics Needs

ERP generates a lot of business data. Ideally, the system will enable you to analyze it with relative ease. This could mean having built-in analytics and reporting capabilities. It also might involve connecting third party analytics solutions like Tableau to your ERP. The ERP vendor ought to be able to demonstrate relevant analytics use cases to you before you buy.

Partners

ERP vendors have partners. It pays to take a close look at these partnerships as they could have a significant impact on your long term experience with the ERP solution. Implementation partners, for instance, are absolutely critical. You may buy the ERP system from a vendor, but you’ll probably be living with the implementation and support partner for years.

Technological partners are also worth a thorough examination. For example, an ERP solution built initially to run on the Linux operating system may also be available on Windows Server. If you run Windows Server, it’s worth knowing whether the solution is “Certified” on Windows Server versus simply being able to run on Windows.

OpEx vs. CapEx

A number of ERP solutions are now able to run completely in the cloud. This can be a huge advantage in terms of cost, flexibility and in-house support. When you run ERP on your own premises, you are responsible for it all. You also have to buy it, with a lot of up-front capital investment cash (CapEx.) The cloud, on the other hand, is an ongoing operating expense (OpEx.) This may be desirable, or not. There is no one correct answer. You may have to have on-premises ERP for data sovereignty reasons. Or, your use cases favor CapEx over the long term.

Integrated Business Group can help you select and implement the right ERP solution for your business. To learn how we can help you with ERP, visit https://www.integratedbusinessgroup.com/services/consultation/

How to Streamline Your Multi-Entity Financials

How to Streamline Your Multi-Entity Financials

The question, “How’s business?” isn’t quite right. Most of the time, it really should be, “How are your businesses?” Many, if not all sizable business concerns, are actually running multiple, separate business entities. Even if the corporation looks like one company from the outside, the inside will invariably comprise a multi-entity structure. Accounting in a multi-entity environment can be a challenge without the right tools. It is possible, though, to streamline your multi-entity financials.

What is a Business Entity and Why Do Companies Run Multiples?

A business entity is a legal structure that allows one or more people (You know, human beings…) to establish a business that can conduct business. Typical examples include the S Corporation, C Corporation and Limited Liability Company (LLC). A business entity is self-contained. It receives capital investment from its owners, earns and spends money and pays taxes on its profits. In the eyes of the law, a business entity is like a person. It can enter into contracts, open bank accounts, buy assets like real estate, sue people and so forth. In the United States, business entities are formed and governed through state laws.

In practice, most companies set up more than one entity to do business. For example, a company that’s known to the public as Acme, Inc. might actually consist of Acme, a California Corporation and Acme, a Delaware Corporation. There are many different reasons for doing this.

Drivers of multi-entity business structures include differences in local tax laws, requirements to incorporate in a specific state in order to do certain kinds of business there, licensing requirements and so forth. Other factors involve a desire to bring different groups of investors into separate entities. This is common in real estate, for example, where each building or development project is a separate entity. Some companies may run wholly owned subsidiaries and foreign subsidiaries.

Challenges in Multi-Entity Accounting

Accounting and financial reporting in a multi-entity business can be challenging. While each entity has to report its own, unique profits and losses to taxing authorities, at a high level, it’s still really one big business. In fact, one variant of the multi-entity construct is to have a single holding company whose whole reason for existence is to own stock in all the subsidiary entities.

On a practical basis, much of the time, even if there are multiple entities, there is just one accounting department. And, even if each entity has a separate bank account, in actuality, there’s just one big checkbook, so to speak, to pay the bills. Multi-entity businesses are constantly shuffling money between entities to pay the bills.

Multi-entity accounting is therefore somewhat complex and labor-intensive. Financial reporting and closing the books on a period can be a big chore.

Streamlining the Multi-Entity Accounting Process

Financial management systems like Acumatica offer features that are designed to help make multi-entity accounting and reporting easier and less time-consuming than traditional alternatives. Examples of how this happens include:

  • Entity setup – Acumatica and platforms like it have simple, streamlined tools for setting up business entities in the system. Acumatica can manage finances for multiple business entities at the same time through the same interface.
  • Access controls – Not everyone on the accounting team needs to be able to access every entity’s books. A financial management platform should enable entity-specific access controls.
  • Consolidation – This is a big one. Shareholders and senior manager want to see a consolidated view of the multiple entities. The system should make consolidation easy, ideally on an automated basis. At the same time, the system needs to provide independent balance sheets and separate tax reporting information on demand for each entity.
  • Payments – Multiple entities often deal with the same vendors. To keep the process of managing payables streamlined across multiple entities, the financial system should enable cross-entity views of accrued payables, purchase orders, budgets, payment schedules, approvals and related information.
  • Cash management – Even through there may be more than one business entity, a multi-entity business will want to manage cash coherently and efficiently across the entities. The financial system needs to make this possible in order to streamline multi-entity financial management. Learn more in ERP Decision Making: The Importance of a Powerful Cash Management Solution.
  • Automated reporting – To keep multi-entity financial management streamlined, the financial system has to automate reporting. The accounting team will usually run the same reports every period, e.g. consolidated cash flow statements. It’s a waste of time to do a custom setup for this report to run every period. It should be automatically preset to run.

Integrated Business Group offers streamlined multi-entity financial management through Acumatica. To learn how we can help you with managing multiple entities, visit https://www.integratedbusinessgroup.com/services/consultation/