Category: System Pragmatist

What’s Going on in the World of ERP & Business Intelligence?

July 16th, 2020

How Do ERP Systems Work?

I am excited to be featured in SelectHub’s extremely popular and recently updated article, “How Do ERP Systems Work?“. It provides a good foundation into the world of ERP and what you’d do with an ERP system. Although most clients have an ERP system of some type, by NO means do they understand how ERP systems work and the true value of an ERP system.

Perhaps we should spend more time understanding such a critical topic. After all, an ERP system upgrade will be one of the most significant projects your company will embark upon. Although the financial commitment is substantial, the resource commitment is far greater! On the other hand, if you bury your head in the sand too long, your risk will rise to unacceptable levels and your customers’ needs will not be supported.

Naturally, since the pandemic hit, many ERP projects have come to a grinding halt because the first thought is to conserve cash. However, in surveying ERP suppliers supporting clients ranging from small and medium size closely-held businesses to private equity backed companies and large complex organizations, although there has been a slowdown, there are several clients taking the opportunity to get in front of the technology curve so that they will be ready to grow rapidly and profitably as they emerge from the pandemic. They are slowing down some areas of the project while focusing efforts on the critical functionality or areas of the business that need a technology boost. For example, we are working with a client who took the opportunity to develop an IT roadmap so that they’ll be prepared to succeed post COVID-19. To think through your options further, listen to a SelectHub panel discussion on “How to Do ERP During COVID-19“. We are interested in your feedback and stories.

One area that is of common interest is business intelligence (BI) software. If clients can slice and dice data to understand customer and inventory patterns, utilize predictive analytics to better navigate COVID-19 demand changes and support future customer needs, and develop operational dashboards to manage performance and take cost out of the business, what’s not to like? In reviewing the spectrum of available options, there are a few impressive, relatively easy-to-implement tools. Clients are interested in what will deliver immediate value.

Read our eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to dig into these concepts further as well as to start thinking through your technology roadmap.

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Blockchain, IoT, Big Data. Will Anything Stick?

 



IT/ Tech

May 13th, 2020

Does Technology Have a Seat at the Table?

Do you consider your technology leader an integral member of your executive team? If not, why not? Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, technology was starting to take over the world. With the acceleration of e-commerce, the expanded use of ERP systems, artificial intelligence applications to create predictable demand and automate repetitive tasks (and of course Amazon Alexa), the internet of things to connect objects and applications such as those used in autonomous trucks, blockchain to trace the chain of custody from farm to table across the globe and robotics to automate manufacturing and warehousing processes, IT was critical.

Now that the pandemic has hit, technology is playing an even more pivotal role. The world has gone remote. Users are gaining comfort with technology at a record pace. Additionally, because there are many complications in navigating coronavirus with employees (rules, regulations, social distancing protocols, and many more), executives are starting to see a greater advantage in proceeding more quickly with their technology roadmaps. By taking advantage of the opportunities to grow the business and improve the customer experience, employers can reallocate employees from repetitive tasks (which also can require close proximity to one another) to ones that will add value to the business.

Read our eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to dig into these concepts further as well as to debate whether to move forward with ERP upgrades or hold off to preserve cash and to be reminded of the critical importance of cyber security and protecting against cyber criminals. Also, one of our favorite topics is addressed, the MacGyver approach to moving forward with your systems infrastructure while navigating the slow ramp up following the pandemic. It is NEVER all or nothing. Invest smartly. Utilize already-existing talent and tools. You’ll speed on by your competition.

Join our Navigating Through Volatility webinar series to learn about how ESRI is using cutting edge technology and location intelligence to drive supply chain resilience and recovery. It certainly will stretch your mind when it comes to using IT/ technology to drive business value, and more importantly, value to the community. Perhaps it will inspire you to think about technology differently.

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Should We Listen to All the High Tech Talk?
Should I Upgrade Now or Later?


Should We Prioritize or Deprioritize Innovation & Technology During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

April 3rd, 2020

What is the first thing that happens when a client is shutdown due to the coronavirus? Cut all unnecessary spending. Certainly, I agree with this approach in most situations. If you cannot pay for your employees, you shouldn’t pay for unnecessary expenses! However, if the situation isn’t dire, it might just be an opportunity to refocus on innovation and technology.

There are well-regarded statistics about the Depression and the Great Recession that those companies that invested while everyone else cut back were significantly more successful following the recession. Of course, it depends on whether you are investing in what will be needed as the lockdown ends or if you just continue with your prior plans because they were well-thought out previously. All bets are off! You must re-review your strategies, business plans and associated investments with the ‘new world’ in mind. Ask your executive team and key partners questions:

  1. What will have changed as we emerge from lockdown?
  2. What opportunities will it present for your customers?
  3. What new roadblocks will exist for your customers?
  4. Is there an opportunity for new customers?
  5. Do you have an opportunity to expand to new markets?
  6. What products and services will be needed?
  7. Can you get ahead of the competition so you’ll be out of the gate at 200 mph instead of crawling at a turtle’s pace?
  8. Will you need to re-tool?
  9. What skills will you need?
  10. What technology will you need?

Challenging times can create opportunity with innovation and creativity. Innovation will fast-track growth and profits. When has there been a better time to innovate? Although we started our innovation series a while back and have always been involved with encouraging innovation (such as the Manufacturers Innovation Awards), we are going to start adding content to encourage clients to focus on innovation since we think this is a critical time to ramp up your focus on innovation.

Innovation doesn’t have to involve technology as it could simply involve repurposing, repackaging, or repositioning. In fact, there is very little that is truly ‘new’. How often does a client invent something new like the sticky note? Certainly we hope a new vaccine will be developed rapidly, but many industries will simply come up with new ways of doing things and that type of innovation will fast-track growth and profits. The only precursor is whether you have an innovative culture. Now that is something we can control, and it doesn’t have to require capital or cash.

Why not put your top talent on an innovation project while under lockdown/ social distancing? There is plenty that can be accomplished via Zoom, and you might just be thrilled with the results. From all accounts, it appears as though the recession will be short-lived and in a V shape with a rapid recovery. Will you be ready to take advantage of the opportunities?

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Manufacturing Summit Recap: Innovation & Top Talent

Systems Pragmatist



Should We Listen to all the High Tech Talk?

January 22nd, 2020

Client Question
Should we pay attention to all this high tech talk? Certainly it seems like everyone and their brother is talking about artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and even the use of technologies such as virtual reality and autonomous vehicles. And this is aside from mundane topics such as ERP systems. And,  we need to function on a daily basis. We need to serve customers and deliver value to the bottom line.  And, we prefer to only get distracted when necessary.

The Answer
We have seen clients get carried away with the latest and greatest technology fads. Although it was an interesting personal education, it typically didn’t result in a return on investment. On the other hand, we have also seen clients ignoring technology that becomes vital to survival in their industry. After all, it is easy to do. When Sears used to be the Amazon of the age, no one thought they would be going out of business.

So, as usual, the answer is “it depends”. You must pay attention, learn about and invest in technology so that you can make a good decision on which to pursue and which to ignore for your go-forward business strategy. If it were easy, we would all be successful for 100 years running.  There are VERY few companies in this position. Do you have a position or a person who is dedicated or allocates part of his/her responsibilities to this role? If you don’t call it out, it will fall by the wayside. This should be similar in concept to an R&D/new product focus. Why should we focus only on new products and not new technologies?

Food For Thought
No two clients are alike. Some ask us this question and it is an obvious,: YES, you must invest to stay relevant and increase business value. For others, it is an emphatic, NO. Why waste resources on additional technology when we haven’t implemented or used the available systems capabilities that will move the business forward? As it seems to go in business, it is usually the best executives and CIOs who are on top of their technology road map who ask these questions. The rest won’t even invest enough to find out where they should prioritize limited funds so they don’t become the next Sears!

At a minimum, once you get to a certain size or complexity, the minimum you should do is upgrade your ERP system so that you have a modern technological backbone and can scale up quickly as needed. With that said, it is rarely enough if your goal is profitable growth.

If you’d like a technology and ERP systems assessment, please contact us. At a minimum, read our numerous articles and get started in evaluating your situation!

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Is Your ERP System Scalable?

Should I Upgrade Now or Later?

Systems Pragmatist



Have You Thought About Whether You are Maximizing the Use of Your ERP System?

December 19th, 2019

Before jumping to conclusions and pursuing a system upgrade, should we explore whether we are maximizing the use of our current system? Or, is it just not modern enough to support our growth in a scalable, profitable way?

This is often the subject of a client call. After all, no one in their right mind would want to embark on an ERP upgrade unless absolutely necessary. The issue is that the situation can be quite complex. How do we separate what’s important vs. what’s not? In this case study, a client knew they had to upgrade because their system was long out of maintenance. The only question was how compelling was the upgrade to support their customers’ requirements and an efficient operation?

The Answer
Although they clearly required an upgrade to get into the current century, the question we explored is whether they could continue to improve performance using their current system to a degree large enough to delay the upgrade until they were better prepared. Unfortunately, since they had let their current system go for ‘too long’, it was highly dependent on current technical resources, partly tailored to their business processes and customized to their needs. At first glance, that doesn’t sound bad! However, the issue was that it was by no means scalable, would require significant education on concepts so that folks started thinking instead of following the process designed into the current system and they were highly dependent on resources that could leave or “get hit by a bus”. Doesn’t that sound like something you say but it doesn’t happen? Not so> One of my clients had that exact situation occur, even though it is just a phrase for a myriad of issues that could arise.

After digging into their business requirements (current as well as a few years into the future), we found ample opportunity to further leverage already existing functionality to meet customer requirements and delay the upgrade for several months. However, that still wasn’t enough. We also had to take actions to secure at-risk critical resources to the degree feasible (since we clearly cannot plan 100% for the ‘hit by the bus’ scenario). We were successful in proactively addressing the situation so that we didn’t have to leap before we knew if we had a net. Yet, we weren’t 100% comfortable, so we also put together an aggressive plan for ERP selection to find the best fit system to meet their needs (without customizing) and equally important a best fit partner that could proactively understand and think through their education needs (which were VERY different from training needs).

Food For Thought
Although we found a solution, the CEO was on pins and needles once he realized the extent of the situation. Don’t leave your infrastructure to chance. Even though all can seem quite fine at the high level, it is important to know whether you are being held up by a solid foundation or a nice-looking pile of straw. That is before considering what you’ll need at least 18 months into the future. You will not select the best system to support your plans or you’ll skimp on implementation. Every client that cut corners overspent by 20-100% and that is before considering the impact on customer service. Do you have a scalable ERP system to support your business growth and profitability? If not, start there!

 

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Is Your ERP System Scalable?

Do You Need An ERP Upgrade?

Systems Pragmatist