Four Tech Trends That Help Businesses Thrive in the Digital World

Four Tech Trends That Help Businesses Thrive in the Digital World

Microsoft recently published a truly outstanding white paper titled Four Technology Trends Helping Businesses Thrive in a Digital World. We highly recommend it if you’re contemplating how IT can make an impact on your business success. The paper takes on topics like cloud computing, digital transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobility. Their goal is to add detail and practical insights to subjects that tend to be vague and overhyped. The context is the applicability of Dynamics 365 as a solution for digital transformation. Here’s a sneak peek:

Cloud computing: Much more than a buzzword

Cloud adoption is accelerating. As businesses put cloud technology to work in a vast variety of use cases, the concept becomes far more than a mere buzzword. Indeed, the cloud changes how and where people work. It enables new ways of doing business, or even completely new businesses. Cost reduction is still a high priority for cloud adoption, but other factors are driving adoption. The paper cites Gigaom Research, which reports, “71% of strategic buyers cite scalability, cost and business agility as the most important drivers for using cloud services.”

Digital transformation and the revolution in connectivity

Microsoft surveyed small and mid-sized business owners and employees with the goal of understanding their most challenging problems. Lost productivity emerged as a serious issue. People reported losing time working across multiple systems that are unable to “talk to each other.” The results of such disconnected systems included manual, duplicative processes and out-of-date reporting. Poor visibility into operations then translated into impaired decision making at the management level.

Digital transformation offers a way out of this trap. It’s a broad concept, but at its heart, digital transformation is about the current revolution in connectivity. Today, applications can easily and cheaply connect with one another using standards-based APIs—even spanning between multiple business entities. As the paper explains, companies that connect their systems, people, data and processes are able to anticipate operational challenges and act accordingly. They are able to gather data in real time and get deep insights into what going on in the business.

No mystery in the IoT. It’s reality

The IoT is one of those tech ideas that seemed futuristic when it first debuted. Today, it’s a reality. Using devices to collect and analyze operational and environmental data is now occurring on a regular basis. And, it’s not just for big corporations or government agencies. Even a smaller business has its “things” that generate data with which to track trends, identify patterns and perhaps even make predictions.

The challenge in IoT is threefold. First, there has to be a solution to manage the devices and related “edge” infrastructure. Then, there’s the data. IoT environments create a lot of data. It has to be stored and secured before it can be analyzed. The analytics is the third and arguably most important challenge to overcome on the way to IoT success.

Embracing mobility

Mobility is already so pervasive in business that it may not even occur to people that it’s a distinct technology area deserving of focus. It is. Your employees are increasingly mobile. You have to support them. Customers expect rich mobile connections with your brand. Your suppliers are using mobile apps. Having a mobile strategy is critical for success today.

These are the highlights of the paper. To read it in full, click here.

Understanding Acumatica Pricing

Understanding Acumatica Pricing

Acumatica offers web-based applications for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). However, the Acumatica approach to pricing is somewhat different from that of other companies in the ERP space. For this reason, we thought it would be useful to go through Acumatica pricing so you can understand your options and figure out what best fits your business.

What is Acumatica?

Acumatica is a suite of business software applications. In addition to basic ERP, the company offers solutions for financial management, field service management, project accounting, distribution, ecommerce, business intelligence and more. You can license Acumatica software or subscribe to it on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis. Acumatica SaaS is available via Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. Acumatica solutions can also be deployed on-premises, hosted in your own data center or at a hosting provider of your choice. All of these factors affect the price you pay for the product.

Making Sense of Acumatica Pricing

Unlike most ERP companies, Acumatica does not charge a seat license or a per-seat annual fee. Instead, they provide several licensing options as well as a usage-based pricing model.

Licensing options

Acumatica makes available three software licensing options:

  • SaaS Subscription – With this option, you pay an annual fee based on your usage needs. The installation and maintenance are handled by a dedicated IT organization, such as those employed by AWS.
  • Private Cloud Subscription – The private cloud option lets you pay an annual fee. You are then able to deploy Acumatica in your own on-premises data center or at a hosting provider you select.
  • Private Perpetual License – This is similar to the private cloud model, but it’s a one-time fee for perpetual use. It is the closest Acumatica comes to a traditional enterprise software licensing model.

Acumatica Usage-Based Pricing

Acumatica bases its pricing on your projected resource consumption. This, in turn, is calculated based on the transaction volume you expect to experience along with the software modules you plan to use. The company allows for unlimited users with this usage-based pricing approach. Your business is charged according to the resources it requires to perform the transactions it expects to do. It is possible to increase or decrease the resources load when needed.

Acumatica’s pricing model has incremental tiers. The best practice here is to start with what you currently need to handle expected transaction volumes. Then, you can adjust your resource levels and data storage needs as your business grows, adds users or changes.

Understanding the Full Cost of Acumatica

One thing to keep in mind is that the license or subscription price of Acumatica is not the same as the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for the solution. Other costs can arise in the acquisition process. These might include training and change management costs. The migration from existing, legacy ERP to Acumatica may require a project, with a budget, and so forth. In some of Acumatica’s cloud subscriptions, you might also have license fees for dependent system elements like Microsoft Windows Server with a Microsoft SQL database in the cloud.

Are you interested in learning more about how much you will pay for Acumatica in your business? We have extensive experience helping companies think through their ERP needs and likely usage scenarios. If so, let’s talk.

Additional Acumatica Resources

Solving Nonprofit Accounting Challenges with Acumatica

Making Informed Decisions with the Right ERP

New Features in Acumatica 2019 R1: Exciting Changes Ahead

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/