Why Your ERP Provider Should be Your Trusted Business Advisor

Well implemented ERP systems are the lifeline of successful businesses.  Their reach should be vast, the data should flow quickly and they should push insightful performance metrics to stakeholders in a timely manner.  Getting your ERP to meet these lofty objectives is a challenge that many businesses face.

When we think back on the many projects Joesoftware’s team has completed, we see common threads woven through the best projects and we seek to repeat these positive outcomes as often as possible.  One of these success threads is the relationship between our team and our customer.  As we analyzed the culture of our best projects, it became obvious that these were very complimentary relationships based on mutual respect, open, honest communication, a focus on achieving a unified goal and an awareness of the complimentary expertise each party brought to any discussion.  The result of this culture manifested itself in many ways and always ended with innovative solutions.

Unlike other vendors, your ERP partner should be one of the few companies welcomed into your inner circle of trust.  Similar to your board of directors, accountant or lawyer, they will be exposed to the most intricate details of your business ranging from your financial health to employee remuneration and business policies.  You will be openly sharing some of your secrets such as competitive advantages and internal weaknesses to mention a couple.  As the project advances, their knowledge of the nuances of your business will grow and their ability to match system functionality to business challenges will increase.  As your project evolves, the level of trust between the parties needs to be mindfully nurtured and is best accomplished when both parties see it as an intentional objective rather than an unexpected benefit.

Once the initial implementation is finished and trust is established, the best companies recognize and leverage this symbiotic relationship.  Business leaders realize they have gained access to highly specialized and experienced resources who have intricate knowledge of capabilities of their software systems that is complimented by operational and financial insight into their company.  Using these specialists selectively on teams provides a perspective unmatched by any internal resource at a fraction of the cost of adding similar skills as a full-time employee.  Decisions become more robust when they are considered by a team with diverse, complimentary expertise and your ERP partner is a simple addition.

This approach may seem obvious when considering options to change payables processes for increased efficiency; however, it is equally valid when discussing union negotiations to provide perspective on magnitude of complexity on each proposed contract change, to provide insight into team readiness/implications on prospective new business activities or to assist with infrastructure vendor selections.  As someone who has broad insight into your business, information systems and IT best practices, your ERP partner can provide unequaled value when you see them as one of your trusted business advisors.

Supercharging Your Dynamics GP With Add-On Solutions

One of the most important benefits of Microsoft Dynamics GP is the large customer base.  This attracts Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) who have developed a wide variety of software solutions that “Add-On” to Dynamics GP.

In most cases, clients come to Joesoftware with a specific need, and we research ISV solutions we know will best meet their requirements.  But why wait until a process becomes painful to look for ways to get more out of your Dynamics GP solution?

GP Optimizer Magazine, by Rockton Software, is a tremendous resource to keep up to speed on Dynamics GP Add-On products.  Rockton, a long standing and reputable ISV provider, recognizes that there is an abundance of ISV Partners that should take a role in educating the industry on available solutions.  As Mark Rockwell, President of Rockton Software states, “Each article focuses on making your investment in Microsoft Dynamics GP more worthwhile by addressing issues that you may be experiencing, and providing ways to remedy them.”

GP Optimizer Magazine is a free quarterly publication and you can sign up for easy delivery here.  Not sure you want to commit yet?   You can check out the latest edition without having to sign up and decide for your yourself.

Joesoftware is a Microsoft Certified ISV offering a range of products including Penny and Spencer.

Learning About Financial Performance From A Sculptor

What can a sculptor teach you about making net profit and cash flow?  A lot.

Think about how a sculptor does their work.  Obviously they start out with a block of stone.  But no matter how beautiful the stone may be, it does not mean the sculptor will end up with a pleasing statue.

The stone is nothing more than the raw material – the potential – for the sculptor to create the desired end result.

To create the statue they want, the sculptor uses a variety of tools to remove only what is necessary – things that don’t contribute to the end result they want.

And that’s where you can learn from the sculptor.  Because you are a sculptor too – a sculptor of net profit and cash flow.

In your case, your raw material for sculpting net profit and cash flow is your revenue.  This is your starting point.

Like the sculptor, your raw material does not guarantee a pleasing end result.  In your case, simply having revenue is no guarantee that you will end up with financial performance that you will be pleased with.

By taking three lessons from our sculptor friend, however, you can give yourself much better control over how you transform your block of revenue into net profit and cash flow that you will be pleased with.

 

Lesson 1

Start with a clear vision of what the end result should look like.  The sculptor knows in advance what they want their finished sculpture to look like – what it should do when it is complete.

In your business, you need to clearly define your target financial outcome – how much net profit and cash flow your business needs to create in order to meet your goals.

These goals should include defensive goals (making enough money to help you weather economic rough patches), offensive goals (making enough money to build a war chest to take advantage of opportunities that may arise), and hygiene goals (making enough money to allow you to execute on your current strategic plan).

It is the process of carefully defining your targeted financial outcome that allows you to deduce how big a block of revenue you need to start with.  You can decide if you need to get a bigger block, and how much, and where, you need to carve away to create the net profit and cash flow you want.

Avoiding this fundamental step is like the sculptor starting to chip away at the block of stone without a clear picture of the end result.  They could chip away with all the positive intentions, all the optimism, and all the energy they can muster, and STILL wouldn’t end up with the finished sculpture they really wanted.

 

Lesson 2

Get familiar with the necessary tools and be able to use them effectively.

Imagine our sculptor’s performance if they only knew how to use one tool – let’s say one a one-inch chisel.

They might have a crystal clear vision of their sculpture.  But having just that single tool available would result in a sculpture that would, at best, be an approximation of what they envisioned.  And producing that rough approximation would be so much more difficult, less fun, and require much more effort than it needed to.

In your business, the tools you need to be familiar with and be able to use properly are things such as pricing plans, profitability analysis, product margin analysis, customer profitability mapping, breakeven analysis, and scenario planning.

If you aren’t familiar with these tools, don’t worry.  You will be receiving training opportunities to learn about these tools in the near future.

 

Lesson 3

Control who has access to your studio.

The sculptor would NOT allow anyone to walk into their studio and randomly chip away at their sculpture.  If they allowed other people to randomly chip away at the sculpture, there would be no way they would end up with what they wanted.

All the vision, effort, and knowledge would be wasted because they would end up with a worthless lump of stone.

You need to control who is allowed to remove chunks of your “stone” (your revenue).

Don’t simply add expenses to your business on the assumption that “it will pay for itself.”   That’s like letting anyone into your studio to chip away at your sculpture.

Do some analysis and decide if removing that piece from your revenue is necessary to accomplish your envisioned end result – the net profit and cash flow that aligns with your target financial outcomes.

So art and business do intersect.  You now have three lessons learned from a sculptor that you can start to apply in your business and create net profit and cash that aligns with your strategic financial targets.

 

About Steve Wilkinghoff

Steve is a leading global expert helping private companies, and their owners, managers, and teams find, unlock, and leverage hidden financial performance.

He is a bestselling author of two books – Found Money: Simple Strategies to Uncover the Hidden Profit and Cash Flow in Your Business, and Found Money Roadmap – The Small Business Owner’s Guide To Making More Profit, Cash Flow and Fun.

Using a combination of unique processes, tools, software and systems, developed by over 25 years of experience working with thousands of private companies around the world, Steve makes the guarantee that ANY business has hidden financial performance, profit, and cash flow just waiting to be unleashed for good into the world.

He delivers his consulting, training, and tools through the company he founded, BizDogGroup.com

 

Interested in learning more about how to better use Dynamics GP to help Sculpt your business.  Register now for Steve Wilkinghoff’s free webinar on July 26th, 2017.

 

Transforming your ERP from Good to Great!

When taking on a new project, you don’t always understand the scope until you jump in.  Remember the first time you watched a program on how to reno a bathroom?  You saw the end-product and it looked so simple.  Weeks later you were stuck and frustrated with a barely functioning bathroom amidst debris and unfinished details.  This is a great metaphor to the way an ERP implementation can feel, and customers often wonder why.  There is so much behind the scenes preparation and planning that goes into every implementation.  “People need to understand that a great ERP implementation is strategic and should be viewed as an ongoing business activity to truly get the best value”, says Gord at Joesoftware.  When companies start looking for a new system they are often looking to solve some immediate pain points.  They see some slick features during a demo and get excited about the possibilities but fail to get to the finish line.  This blog post is intended to help understand the evolutionary nature of an ERP so you can turn Microsoft Dynamics GP into an oasis of information flourishing with insight.

 

1 Seeding

It all starts with an air of optimism and anticipation when you decide to undertake the project.  You jump in only to realize you may have bitten off more than you can chew.  Picking a competent contractor allows you to benefit from their expertise; however, they don’t fully perceive your vision for the final product.  You point out your immediate pains and some major features you desire, and you anxiously await your new bathroom to appear in a few moments.  As the project takes flight, you are excited until you realize the extent of the reno.  Suddenly, your house is turned into a construction site with dust and supplies everywhere, and people all over the place.  Your world has been turned upside down, but somehow you manage to get through it.  Some months later you have a finished bathroom that fixed your major pain points, but it’s not what you expected.  Your finished product looks quite different than the one you saw on TV.  It has everything you asked for but somehow the wow factor just isn’t there.

 

When you implement an ERP system, it can feel like that bathroom reno.  As the project starts everyone is excited for the possibilities ahead but in no time this feeling evaporates.  Your business struggles with the stress of running the day to day processes on the old system while learning how to run the new system.  Your staff feel inundated with a million decisions and details.  After months of implementation, the new ERP system is finally up and running and most of your major pain points have been solved but your team is exhausted and you don’t see any bling.  As you reflect on the process, you can clearly see benefit but rather than feeling excited you are just relieved to be back to processing transactions again.

 

2 Cultivating

Sometime later, as the memory of renovation pain fades you start to assess where you are at, questions like, “Am I really that much better off?” and “Why am I not ecstatic?” cross your mind.  You have achieved a bathroom that is functional, but now you have new peeves.  As the emotion subsides and you think critically, you can clearly see a few details you simply overlooked at the time.  The bathtub faucet is in the wrong corner to see the sun set and the door brushes the towels off the rack when it is opened.  You realize that through the change you have introduced new, unintentional annoyances.  You can choose to live with the annoyances or you can push to overcome them as the effort and cost is low but the value is high.  Once you have this mindset you begin to believe the time, effort and money was worth the trouble.

 

Typically, this phase in an ERP implementation occurs after a few years.  Your company has been functioning on the new ERP system, but things just aren’t as you imagined.  As time goes on, you start to notice some new quirks.  It is crucial to explore these to make sure you are getting the most out of your ERP.  You are efficient at operating the system, but now you are wanting more.  You can clearly envision how the system could transform your business because you have become knowledgeable about its capabilities and you better understand how to work with your implementer to get meaningful results.  Your implementation partner has become more intimately aware of your business nuances. Both parties can contribute ideas for meaningful tweaks.  Your system now has a few years of data to trend on and leveraging this information can create better business processes that empower growth.  At this point you start to become excited again as you fully appreciate the capabilities and possibilities for your company.

 

3 Harvesting

Finally, as you reflect on your reno, you can truly sit back and enjoy the bathroom you created.  Your vision has evolved over the process and every detail has purpose and precision that effortlessly compliments your priorities.  When your bathroom needs an update, you can see how a few small adjustments will make the bathroom just as relevant then as it is now.  Your bathroom now resembles the one you saw on TV.  Regularly updating the paint colors or the towels adds significant change to the space, while keeping the costs low. These minor tweaks have substantial value that allow you to update your space with ease.

 

After a few iterations of the Cultivating phase, you feel invigorated by your ERP.  Although the breadth of change has diminished, the need to step back and seek improvement should not change.  Your business has evolved whether in activity, size, geography or service lines, and any of these can create new system bottlenecks.  Your ERP maker understands the potential of new functionality to enable your business; this is the trademark of the most profitable companies.  Your expectations continue to evolve, although in this moment your overall satisfaction is high.  During this phase, you should periodically check back in with your implementer to do a BPO (Business Process Optimization) or an analysis of your ERP to ensure it is still efficient.  These regular minor tweaks and updates keep your system relevant.  As your company grows, changes and evolves, it is important to allow your ERP to evolve with it.  This approach allows your system to support and drive your business longer.  It is in this phase where you have the ERP system you were shown in the demo, and you feel like you received the best return for your time and effort.

 

Falling in love with your ERP is easy.  The success is a direct outcome of strategic evolution.  If you think an ERP is a one time or cookie cutter exercise, you won’t be happy with the results and your ERP will limit your success.  If you treat ERP improvement as an ongoing business activity, it becomes a tool to re-envision your business and one that drives competitive advantage.  With continuous reviews of your system you can guarantee your ERP will continue to empower your business, and you can guarantee you will love your ERP.

2017 Dynamics GP Latest Enhancements and Roadmap

For the second year, GP User Group (or GPUG) has run their Amplify 2017 conference from March 21st to 23rd.  This conference is dedicated to Dynamics GP only, so the content is very focused. Although GPUG is not a Microsoft company, Dynamics GP employees have a significant contribution to the conference content.

The much-awaited Microsoft Dynamics GP Roadmap provides guidance on what is planned for the next release, GP 2018, slated for late 2017 release.

Key developments for GP 2018 include more workflow updates referred to as “Workflow 4.0”, additional document management enhancements, finance and HR optimization, and new functionality called Power Suite.

The following Opening Keynote video from the conference includes the presentation of the Roadmap, together with demonstrations of some of the newest functionality in GP 2016 R2 and a view of some of the features already completed for the GP 2018 product.  If you are interested in the advances in GP, take about an hour to go through this presentation to see how these updates and new features could benefit your operations.

 

 

The key takeaway is that Dynamics GP is still a very important part of the Microsoft Dynamics solutions and they remain committed in their investment to continual improvement.  This is important for those who might question Microsoft’s commitment to GP, as this reinforces Microsoft’s intention to continue developing it long term.