Tag Archive: metrics

How to Spot Trends

August 6th, 2013

Factors to consider when you are looking for trends.

Since identifying trends is an important Eagle Eye skill which is instrumental in finding opportunities to elevate performance, I thought a few ideas on how to spot trends would be helpful:

1. Start with metrics – It is near impossible to spot trends if you don’t review key metrics. What information is important to running your business or your functional area? Track progress.

2. Look for peaks & valleys – I find it interesting that we can review a huge amount of metric data and create endless Power Points and yet, we still miss trends. Reviewing a single point in time is largely useless. And getting lost in too much data is not helpful. Instead, put it in perspective: How does it relate to what has happened previously? Review the last several years, quarters, months or weeks side-by-side.

3. Take out outliers – I also seem to sit in endless meetings were we get bogged down in outliers and non-essential details. Instead, take a step back and look at what the big picture is telling you and ignore the outliers.

4. Calculations – If you spot a trend change, make sure the calculation process wasn’t changed. It’s easy to get carried away with trends that do not exist if the baseline data or the calculation method changes.

5. Collaborate – When you spot a trend, ask related parties for their insights. Often, you can rapidly determine if it’s an outlier or a trend by simply asking experts.

Leverage Your ERP System for Bottom Line Business Results

June 27th, 2013
LMA Consulting Group elevates business performance.

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of my client projects and business experience, when a business problem or need arises, the immediate thought is, “If only we had XYZ ERP system, everything would be fine.” In my experience, in 80%+ of the cases (with the 20% typically being merger and acquisition scenarios), not only would a new ERP system not resolve the business problem or address the need but it also typically results in significant added cost and anguish without a commensurate benefit. Thus, instead of throwing out your flat screen TV because the remote is not functioning as you desired, consider adjusting the remote.

In my experience across multiple industries and globally, companies typically are utilizing 20% of their ERP systems capabilities. Thus a better option, which doesn’t require capital investment or major disruption, is to leverage your ERP system. I’ve found three keys to success in leveraging ERP systems: 1) Begin with a focus on data integrity. 2) Develop reports and metrics for effective decision-making. 3) Focus on leveraging your ERP system with your key business drivers.

Begin with a focus on data integrity: Interestingly, I find that the majority of business problems which result in thoughts of dumping the ERP system have nothing to do with the ERP system; instead, their root cause is in a lack of data integrity and process discipline. Garbage in. Garbage out. Improve data integrity and process discipline and there will be a direct, immediate impact on results.

For example, in one client project, we had an inventory accuracy issue. Although leveraging the ERP system (by implementing cycle counting and bar coding) was part of the optimal solution, the main cause of inventory inaccuracy was a lack of process discipline. In this case, there were physical inventory movements (such as warehouse transfers) without completing the system transactions in a timely manner. Thus, no matter how expensive and fancy the system, it would have no idea where the inventory was located.

Develop reports & metrics for effective decision-making: One of the easiest and quickest solutions is often overlooked. Yet, once process disciplines are in place, any ERP system will contain base data (shipments, receipts, inventory etc). As I said in a quote in December’s Industry Week magazine in an article on optimizing supply chain systems, the key is to leverage the system by utilizing system data in the format of reports and metrics. This provides information for effective decision-making.

For example, there are several critical reports that are key to any business such as the following: booking report (measures orders booked), shipment report (measures shipping performance and trends), inventory report (shows inventory quantities and dollars), cash report (shows changes in cash position), etc.

Focus on leveraging your system with key business drivers: Instead of trying to utilize the 80% of the system you typically are not using, FOCUS your efforts on your key business drivers. In other words, if revenue growth is critical in your business, focus on understanding and leveraging the functionality associated with sales. Or, if your #1 cost driver is materials, research how to utilize your ERP system to better track waste/scrap levels. In essence, this prioritizes your attention on those areas that will have the most significant impact on your bottom line. Put together a team focused on these areas, bring in system experts, involve IT (consider IT as a business partner), and put together a plan to leverage your system.

Those companies and people who thrive during the “new normal” will be those who figure out how to combine their people, processes, and systems in the optimal way to achieve results. Why not get ahead of the crowd and think about how you can leverage your system to derive a competitive advantage?