MRO Software

Microsoft Virtual Academy: Learn From The Experts

Especially developed for “born-to-learn” generations, Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) provides free online courses that cover a variety of topics relating to SMEs, cloud computing, virtualization, business intelligence, game and app development, etc. As technology is constantly changing and evolving, MVA is trying to offer new insights into the latest innovations, touching points of major interest for new generations, including millennials.

Microsoft: Next Generation Technology

We all know it: millennials cannot live without their devices and applications. It seems that these young adults have been endowed with inherent abilities to handle multiple tasks at once, build their own networks and create new abbreviations and codes for more effective communication, and adapt to new technologies and even decipher application logic with great rapidity. Considering all these, millennials promise to become the most efficient generation of workers we have ever seen, much more productive than previous workforce.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

In an effort to impress current and upcoming generations, innovators are looking into the possibility of developing advanced devices and applications, which will turn many new ideas, no matter how incredible they may seem — such as the eye- and brain-controlled devices and applications — into reality. But to be able to use such devices and applications, we need access to up-to-date information, guidelines, and tutorials. Microsoft Virtual Academy is one of the few portals that can help you keep up with technologies and develop new skills.

MVA – Is It for You?

Aiming at adding extra value to its products and services, Microsoft uses the MVA website to make available a variety of free courses, which cover different topics and meet the needs of a large number of users, regardless of their skill level. All courses are divided into multiple modules that include a variety of materials, from videos to written documentation, which can be viewed online or printed for further reference. At the end of each module, students are invited to take a self-assessment exam in order to obtain a certain number of points, which validate module completion. You can take any number of courses and retake self-assessment exams, at any time you wish.

Microsoft trainers are continually updating the database, adding new courses to Microsoft Virtual Academy. By simply browsing the materials available via this portal, you can find out:

  • How to migrate to newer versions of Office or Windows — MVA courses walk users through the steps they must follow in order to configure, update, and further administer particular software products;
  • How to move applications to the cloud — MVA provides comprehensive information about private, hybrid, and public clouds, using Microsoft Azure as a base for demos;
  • How to develop new desktop, mobile, and browser applications for the latest Windows devices — these courses also present compatibility essentials for bring-your-own-device scenarios, while offering details on managing users, contacts, websites, collaboration tools, and different applications within the same database;
  • How to make the most of JavaScript, HTML5, MVC, C#, and XAML — special courses have been developed for beginners and advanced users;
  • How to take advantage of powerful tools, such as Data Explorer, PowerPivot, Geoflow, SharePoint, Exchange Server, Office 365, Power View, and Microsoft’s suite of security features, in order to maximize existing infrastructure investments, run a highly efficient data center, and protect your infrastructure and users;
  • How to choose the right solution for your organization from available products, including Windows, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Azure, Office applications, etc.

Besides offering up-to-date information about Microsoft products and developments, MVA allows next generations of IT professionals to deepen their scientific knowledge and acquire new technical skills, while providing them with all the tools they need in order to succeed in the technology-driven world of tomorrow. The additional Windows certification programs available through this portal validate expertise in designing, deploying, configuring, and managing a variety of Microsoft products, enabling graduate students to expand their career goals.

In conclusion, Microsoft Virtual Academy is the best bet for anyone actively pursuing mentoring to advance in his or her career in the growing field of information technology services.





ERP Software

5 Things You Need To Know Before Consulting A VAR

The success of any ERP implementation majorly depends on the Value Added Re-seller (VAR) that will install or configure the system. Any good VAR knows that there is no out-of-the-box solution that will fit all organizations. The scope of your business, needs and users should guide the selection and implementation of the ERP software.

Group working

Choosing the right VAR does not have to be difficult. Ideally, you want to work with a reseller that has successfully handled multiple projects of a similar scope to yours in the past. The experience of the re-seller is crucial to avoiding down-times and rush installations that may increase installation costs and negate any gains anticipated from the ERP.

Below are five things you should know before you consult a VAR.

  1. System and Version

Know the system and version of the ERP you want installed or configured. ERP vendors occasionally update their systems to enhance security, bring new features or improve performance.

The VAR you want to hire should be conversant with the ERP system and version that you want to upgrade to. The vendor should also have experience in data management, transfer and conversion to avoid losses during the upgrade.

  1. Modules

Upgrading your ERP for the sake of getting a new system in the organization is not a prudent move. The cost of ERP implementation and the related learning curve can significantly reduce the output of your employees and bring processes to a standstill.

While there are stand-alone manufacturing software packages in the market, the best solutions are tightly integrated in a centralized ERP system. Depending on your production environment, you may require an ERP with process, discrete or mixed mode software.

Your system selection should be based on whether your production environment can be considered work-order based, repetitive, repair and maintenance, batch processing, job shop, contract manufacturing or continuous process. The VAR should offer you detailed costing information on the ERP system.

You should only upgrade if you will be benefiting from a function or module in the new ERP. The reseller should be knowledgeable and experienced in configuring the modules that will be important in your daily organization tasks.

  1. Add-ons

To get the full benefits of the ERP system, it may be necessary to install a number of add-ons from third party vendors. Add-ons extend the capability of the ERP, often enabling custom functions through available or additional modules.

The add-ons that may have to be installed directly in the ERP or may be available on the cloud. If the add-ons are coming from other third party vendors, does the VAR understand how to configure and customize them for your organizational use? Find out if installing the add-ons will increase your costs.

  1. Number of Users

You should also know the exact number of people that will be accessing and using the ERP system. The number of employees using the system may determine the licensing fees you will pay. For example, you may find that the first 20 concurrent users cost much less than the next 20.

Another metric to know is the number of concurrent users (the maximum number of users on the system at once.) The performance of the ERP can change as the volume of transactions or number of concurrent users increase.

Find out from the VAR how the number of users will alter your budget and the performance of the ERP.

  1. Sites Using System 

You should understand the costs of deploying the ERP. When costing the ERP project budget, take into account the initial implementation and total cost of ownership (TCO). For instance, a typical quote includes the ERP software, first-year support and implementation cost.

The initial costs usually include a complete ERP system for a single site. However, additional sites and modules will increase the cost. Find out from the VAR whether the contract excludes such necessary tasks as training.

Before you contact a VAR for any ERP project, you should know how to measure success in terms of saving money by increasing market share, increasing revenues, and streamlining operations. Measuring success will motivate the staff during the implementation, ensuring the project is on track and effort is put to attain important business objectives.





Dynamics AX Filters

Microsoft Dynamics AX Filters: Tips and Tricks

Do you use Dynamics AX filters every day in your operations? If so, here are some quick tips and tricks that can speed up your queries.

i) Search for record ranges using open ended filters

To search for a range of records in Dynamics AX, you can simply use “..”. However, you can go further and create a filter for everything before or after a certain value. To do this, simply skip either the beginning or end filter selection respectively.

For example, to see everything from a specific value, simply create a filter in this format “value..”. For example, 100000.. will show the values beginning from 100000.

On the other hand, to see everything up to a certain value, simply create the filter in this format “..value”. For example, ..100000 will show the values up to 100000.

ii) Create more intricate queries using filter by grid and wild cards

It’s easy to search and filter records based on a field. However, to get the right data you want, you may have to combine some searches and filter your queries based on value and field format ranges. You may also have to filter the searches based on multiple fields at once. To ease your work, you can use the Filter by Grid feature. How do you do this?

On the list page, press CTRL+G or click on the Filter by Grid icon on the title bar to bring up the Filter by Grid feature. The feature is available on a row that appears on top of the list page. On the page, you can add the filters you want to any of the visible fields.

Using Wildcards

To filter certain data from any field, simply add a ! at the point where you want the filter to begin. This will mean that any value after the ! is not wanted.

Dynamics AX filters

For fields with numeric values, the expressions < and > can be used to select all the data that is less than or greater than a certain value respectively.

You can use the “, character to combine multiple filters, but not include any value in the middle. You can combine any number of queries within a field as you would like.

You can use the ..” expression in the middle of the low and high filters to select a group of records within a specific range. You can also wild card the low and high values.

If you are searching for records that all start, end of have the same characters somewhere within the file, you can use the * qualifier to stipulate that any value before or after the point is valid.

If you want to select records that are of a specific length, you can use the “?” expression to stipulate that a character (though not defined) is required in that spot.

You can also create super filters by filtering multiple columns at once on the Filter by Grid option.

iii) Search for subsets of data within columns using filter by field

Sometimes, you may want to search for all records that match a certain criteria within a list page. You can use the Filter by Selection feature if you want to search the whole value of a field. However, for more flexibility, you can search for subsets of data within the field. The best way of doing this is by using the Filter by Field feature.

To filter the data in a column on a list page, place your cursor in the field that you want to filter and press CTRL+F. Alternatively, right-click on the field that you want to filter and select the Filter by Field option in the submenu that appears.

When the Filter dialog box opens, type in the search expression that you want the data filtered based on and press the Enter key or click the OK button. The data will then be filtered based on the selection that you specified in your search.

The above are three quick tips that will help you do more with the filters in Dynamics AX.





Wearable Technology

Does Wearable Technology Hold The Future of ERP?

Wearable technology, such as Google Glass and Epson Moverio, can be extremely useful in various medical and industrial sectors. Unfortunately, specific control-related issues prevent users from getting the most out of these devices. For instance, Google Glass can be controlled via both panel and voice commands. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. While panel commands are unable to deliver a true hands-free experience, Google Glass voice commands are not working properly, especially in noisy environments, which can lead to serious errors. On the other side, Epson Moverio can only be controlled via a touch sensitive trackpad, falling short of providing a real hands-free alternative to the Smartphone you already have in your pocket. But a new technology is about to change this.

Wearable Technology

Is the Myo Armband the Answer?

The Myo armband proposes a new wearable technology that promises to succeed where other devices have failed. Produced by Thalmic Labs, the Myo armband is able to combine gesture controls with a series of smart devices, including computers, drones, and digital glasses, ensuring the best possible outcomes in the workplace of the future.

This new device will soon be used together with different software solutions from Bridgit, Augmedix, APX Labs, and Recon Instruments in order to make possible various applications in the health care, manufacturing, logistics, construction, and gas and oil fields. It will also be used in extreme sports, complementing devices like Recon Jet heads-up display.

How Does the Myo Armband Work?

The Myo gesture armband controller is embedded with touchless gesture recognition software, which not only recognizes gestures, but also allows you to use the electrical activity of your muscles to control different smart devices wirelessly. This means that the Myo armband is a lot different from other devices, which typically use a camera to analyze users’ gestures and comply with their requirements.

Since there is no camera, Myo gives you the opportunity to control your digital environment with complete freedom of movement. Lack of restrictions has resulted from the initial concept behind this device, which focuses on allowing users to interact with wearable technologies in different environments where touch gestures or voice commands cannot be used. We’re going to see the benefits of using this device, especially in the enterprise sector, in the next coming months.

The Future of Wearable Technologies

Wearable technology applications crack open a new era, an era of endless possibilities. Imagine a heavy equipment repair technician being able to create 3D scans of different objects with Google Glass, then turning those scans by simply rotating the hand on which he wears the Myo armband. The technician may be able to identify specific problems without even testing the equipment. This not only saves companies a lot of time and money, but also minimizes the risk of workplace accidents. Myo can interact seamlessly with any devices as long as they have compatible software. This means that the worker of the future could connect to other devices and workers, regardless of circumstances.

With Myo and smart glasses, users will be able to access their PCs, laptops, or tablets to command content, videos, and presentations, make phone calls, or browse the Internet. Thus, the Myo armband offers a new, quite surprising way to interact with the devices we use on a daily basis. But what’s really great about this armband is that it detects movements so quickly that it seems to recognize gestures before even users complete their actions.

Though gesture control may be considered awkward right now, it has huge potential especially when combined with other wearable technology applications, such as smart glasses. And since the Myo armband depends upon getting the right applications built, the greatest opportunities for success lie in the enterprise field.






cloud erp

Acumatica Cloud ERP: From the Front Lines of Summit 2014

Only an hour into Acumatica’s Summit in Denver, and we see a single theme being reiterated over and over again: mobile accessibility and collaboration.

With the launch of 4.2, Acumatica has improved it’s already flexible interface to adapt to our mobile and nomadic lifestyles.   We already know the days of the desktop ERP (or, “ball-and-chain”) are long gone (if we can help it).  As many software applications have attempted to do with the cloud (or SaaS), Acumatica has capitalized on this with huge improvements in mobility and collaboration.

Acumatica Cloud ERP

Some examples that we’ve seen of Acumatica Cloud ERP in the opening keynote include utilizing tools like Azuqua and Box to streamline the flow of information between users.

In one of my personal favorites, Acumatica displayed how Box can be used in the Sales Order module to attach documents.  Though this may seem, simple,  the fact that other users can receive notifications on their mobile device, open the files and even comment on them, takes it a step further.

Additionally, we saw how Azuqua enables different cloud products to talk to each other.  Acumatica demonstrated how Azuqua allows users to directly import leads from HubSpot into Acumatica’s CRM.  Check out Azuqua, and see the other applications that Azuqua integrates with.  (We promise, it won’t be disappointing!)

However, the most exciting presentation was “What’s New in Acumatica 5.0.

Some tools and features that you will see in Acumatica 5.0:

  • Single sign-on: Single sign on supports Microsoft/Google Authentication.  Thus, reiterating the theme of ‘mobility and collaboration.’  Once you’re signed into Office 365, Exchange or Gmail, you’ll be able to directly navigate into your Acumatica  Cloud ERP portal.
  • Universal search:   Universal search is like google on steroids.  Users are not only able to pull up the world wide web within Acumatica, but you can also enter keywords like “Sales Order” or “General Ledger” where the system will pull from within your erp.
  • Customized Filters:  Just like you have multiple tabs open in a browser, these tabs allow you to create multiple user defined views and put them in tabs for easy accessibility.
  • Multi-warehouse allocation feature: Allows you to allocate instock items from other warehouses. This automatically puts a transfer request in from ‘behind the scenes’ after you choose quantity from other location.
  • Self Service Portal: B2B ordering is easier than ever before with a newly designed self-service portal for retailers. Buyers can determine which items you’d like to be available in the portal.

These are just a few of the up and coming features in Acumatica 5.0.  Sign up for our webinar mailing list to be the first to know about webinars showcasing the new features in Acumatica Cloud ERP.






ERP Software Applications

The Impact of Social Media on ERP Software Applications

Over the past years, organizations have been looking for ways to integrate social media in their ERP software applications. However, not much success has been reported. It is only over the last four years that we’ve started seeing social media elements being robustly integrated in ERP software applications.

One lesson has been clear all along: social elements should not be integrated in enterprise apps just for the sake of it.

ERP Software Applications

According to Mike Gotta, an analyst with Gartner, most of the social integration done in the past was disconnected from enterprise apps. For example, a company could start a forum or a wiki page to provide collaboration opportunities to their employees. However, after the conversations on the social platforms, employees had to leave and return to work on their enterprise apps.

The disconnect between apps and social elements prevents organizations from attaining optimum productivity. This is a clear example of integrating social elements just for the sake of it.

For maximum operational benefits and efficiency, organizations need social elements that are fully integrated in their enterprise apps. The social tools need to be part of the ERP and not separate tools.

Employees need social tools that are available where businesses processes are happening. For example, an employee in the sales department may need to get information from customer service, supply chain, or inventory department. If there is a platform that can integrate these different departments to ease communication, the organization can realize improved efficiency.

Successful Social Media Integration in Enterprise Apps

One of the first successes of social integration in enterprise apps was Salesforce’s Chatter, which launched in 2010. The app improved the organization’s efficiency by enabling employees to find information faster either by posting questions or reaching out to other users through their Chatter profiles.

SAP has also addressed the need for social integration in its enterprise apps through its Jam solution. With the app, employees can connect with other employees in “deal rooms” to discuss projects and find information they need.

Challenges of Integrating Social in Enterprise Apps

While social integration is a welcome step for organizations looking to improve efficiency and customer service delivery, there are a few challenges that must be overcome.

For example, there is the expected resistance of employees with regards to the new technology. If the management does not support and contribute to the efforts of the integration team, the organization can see lower adoption of social integrated solutions by employees.

There is also the notion that social integration will eliminate the manual work that employees usually do. While this may be true to some extent, employees are the ones that are ultimately in charge of the financial success of the company. Just because you have a social tool does not mean it can replace the work of your employees.

Community managers and senior management play an important role in encouraging employee engagement. However, as more young people who’ve grown up with social media sites enter the workforce, the need for training is practically eliminated especially for social tools that are modeled after similar platforms like Facebook.

Adding Social Media to Social Enterprise Apps

Organizations also have social apps like social CRM to consider. Social CRM tools can be programmed to provide user notifications, enable comment threads, track company mentions and so on. For instance, if a customer service agent has been chatting with a client, other agents can easily see the chat history in real time.

This capability of social CRM is important in providing customers with a better experience. For instance, a customer may rant about your brand on social media. With your social CRM tool, you can almost immediately get notified when there is a complaint about your company or product and take the necessary action.

Through integrated social CRM, customer service agents can see which customer has complained, the complaint raised and even previous communication with the client. The agents can then take steps to contact the user to handle the issues raised.

Future of Social Integration in Enterprise Apps

Going forward, social integration will become more purposeful and enable organizations to add context to elements such as profiles, conversation feeds and activity feeds embedded into their ERP software applications.






Big Data

What Big Data Means For The Future Of ERP

Every single company out there needs data for improved decision making. This actually means that organizations must handle increasing volumes of information if they want to boost their business results. The massive volumes of data most enterprises need to collect in order to achieve their goals have lead to a phenomenon known as Big Data.

Big Data

Big Data affects all of us. How? Well, considering that we’re producing more than 48 hours of new videos, 100,000 new tweets, and 200 million new email messages every minute, we’ve already exceeded our data storage and processing capacities. In a nutshell, storing and processing every piece of information is impossible, no matter how much computing power an organization has. An enterprise trying to handle too much data will encounter a series of issues, ranging from meaningless to misleading connections between different data points, which will lead to inaccuracies and poor business decisions.

How Will Big Data Impact the Future of ERP?

The main issues with Big Data isn’t only that the volume of structured data collected via ERP systems continues to grow, but also that more and more organizations must manage an onslaught of unstructured information from various sources, including machine-to-machine communication systems and social media sites.

Some factors affecting Big Data phenomenon and the future of ERP, implicitly, are social media, mobility, and sensor networks. Today, many companies are using social media websites to engage with their customers directly. While this allows organizations understand what their customers really want, most of them are unable to handle data effectively. As a result, tailoring products and services to exact customer preferences isn’t going to happen too soon.

On the other side, people are increasingly using their mobile devices for a series of activities, ranging from chatting with friends and shopping online to completing work tasks. But even the most insignificant things we do online turn into critical information for the companies that collect data to better understand online customer behavior, eventually exceeding their ERP systems’ data storage and processing capacities.

Another point that needs to be addressed is that most enterprises are currently using sensor networks to get semi-structured data, which provides insight into specific business processes, such as production, inventory, and supply chain management, allowing leaders make better business decisions.

Considering the aforementioned aspects, you can easily understand that Big Data is actually about developing new technologies to allow companies to effectively collect, process, and analyze massive volumes of structured and unstructured information.

Although the Big Data phenomenon hasn’t modified the way companies use their ERP systems yet, that’s going to change if the demand for tapping into large amounts of information will continue to grow. Traditionally, data collection and processing activities have been defined around ERP systems. Now, companies must find new ways to process the information they get. This will definitely impact the future of ERP, requiring IT specialists to transform the ERP systems they’ve developed from some basic business tools into business intelligence (BI) software solutions. One company that has already done that is Microsoft. Dynamics NAV, one of the best ERP solutions available nowadays, has recently been complemented with BI technologies to enhance its data processing capabilities.

It’s very important for your organization to view its Big Data project as a complex business endeavor, and not as a simple IT task. This will allow you to get all business and IT leaders involved in your project, which could help you accurately outline key business-specific metrics and performance indicators, make the best possible decisions regarding your Big Data project, and choose the right ERP system for your organization.

If the best Big Data decisions are made and the most appropriate ERP system is selected, your company will be able to focus on specific data points that impact its business processes directly. This will lead to better outcomes.

Big Data is going to change the future of ERP, affecting the way companies will shape their future. Fortunately, most business leaders are already aware of the fact that getting the right information instead of any type of data is a critical success factor in business. This can only be done by choosing the most appropriate Big Data technologies for your organization.






Acumatica ERP

Acumatica Cloud ERP: Real Time Integration With Excel

Acumatica is a leading provider of cloud ERP and financial software. Apart from the basic features available in most traditional financial applications, Acumatica has gone a step further to make its cloud ERP easier and more productive for users.

cloud erp

Some of the usability features that stand out in Acumatica include:

  • Real-time connectivity with Microsoft Excel
  • Parametric filtering
  • Quick Search
  • Ability to drag and drop files on Acumatica

Excel integration is one of the most powerful features in Acumatica. The feature allows users to analyze live data from the software in Excel. The integration feature is available on a number of screens, including the General Ledger Account screen.

Importing/Exporting Data To or From Excel

The process of exporting and importing data from Excel for new and existing accounts is easy. Users can accomplish this task right from their screens without having to call the IT department.

Say you want to view accounts in the General Ledger. To do this, simply go to the Finance Area –>General Ledger–> Configurations and click the Chart of Accounts. On the Chart of Accounts screen, you can export the accounts to Excel to be able to view them in the MS Office application.

When you open an exported Excel file, it shows which columns the data belong to as is outputted on the General Ledger screen. You can make any changes you want on the Excel file and upload it to Acumatica. When you import the file, the data will go to their correct columns. In case you made any changes in the columns, the  cloud ERP provides an option of mapping the columns before importing.

When you edit the data in the Excel document and upload it, Acumatica will update the records on the Ledger. When uploading edited records, there is an option on whether or not you will want Acumatica to update the Ledger records.

Real-time Excel Integration Editing

Thanks to real-time Excel integration, you can edit accounts in Acumatica and have the data updated on the Excel document you exported. This feature is possible from different screens on your cloud ERP.

For example, you can export Chart Accounts from the General Ledger as Excel. The Excel document will have the same data as is seen on your Chart Account screen. When you make any changes to the data in the Chart Account Screen, the data will also be automatically updated in the Excel sheet you exported.

After making data changes in the Chart screen, go to the Data menu on the Excel file and click “Refresh”. You will be prompted to enter your Acumatica credentials and after login, the data will be updated to match the changes made.

Benefits of Acumatica with Excel Integration

Cloud computing is changing the way organizations are doing business. There are some key benefits of Acumatica cloud ERP that you can utilize with Excel for the benefit of your business. Cloud computing makes it easy to share data between systems and business partners. The technology offers an unprecedented level of integration, allowing companies to interact in real time and exchange the exact data they want in a fast and secure manner.

Acumatica cloud ERP allows organizations to access data from any place, at any time, and from a range of devices. For example, key employees can get up-to-date sales, accounts or customer records even when they are away from their offices.

Excel is the second most popular business application, only second to email. Most organizations use Excel to compute data in order to make sense of the health of their business. You can take Excel to the cloud through Acumatica and get real time access to your organization data even when you are not in the office.

Integration eliminates the need of editing an Excel document multiple times, hence improving efficiency. In-house employees can update data on Acumatica and have the information reflected immediately on Excel. Moreover, since Acumatica is available on the cloud, multiple employees can access the ERP from different locations and make changes in real time.

Through Acumatica real time integration with Excel, any business has an opportunity to provide interested parties with real time insight on company performance and important metrics that can guide strategic decisions.






ERP Vendor

4 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an ERP Vendor

Picking an ERP solution is not something organizations do regularly. Therefore, the process can be difficult and time-consuming.

When looking for an ERP solution, most organizations tend to spend most of their time investigating how the software package will meet their business requirements. Very little time, if any, is spent on ascertaining the right vendor to work with.

ERP Vendor

In ERP selection, the capability of the solution is just as important as the vendor that will supply it. When selecting an ERP system, you are selecting both the software and the vendor. Therefore, it’s important that you have a true “partner relationship” with the vendor.

Below are key questions you should ask a potential ERP vendor to find out if they will be right for your organization.

i) What is the initial and subsequent cost of the software?

Long term maintenance revenue is a coveted thing in the ERP market. This is because if the ERP is a high quality product (i.e. has fewer systemic ‘bugs”), then the vendor will get more revenue from the maintenance contract than the installation contract. This is especially true in the first year after implementation of the software.

With most ERP suppliers, your organization will be in the software implementation phase in the first year of installation. Most suppliers charge maintenance fees ranging between 10% and 25% of the software license. If you pay a maintenance fee during the first year, you are likely to be paying between 10% and 25% more for the software for activities that are not being performed.

To get around this, you can negotiate a five-year fixed annual rate for maintenance. Alternatively, you can opt for payment for four years of maintenance upfront and get five years of maintenance for the four year price. Avoid vendors that do not define well their long term maintenance costs in their software licensing agreement.

ii) Who will offer support when we call?

Consider the type of support that the ERP vendor will offer when you have a problem. Most ERP suppliers use some form of help desk concept.

Software organizations are usually not good with offering support. The senior members, who have greatest knowledge of the software, seldom spend any time on support. Instead, the support team mainly comprises of junior members who have the least amount of knowledge about the software.

A good vendor should have:

a) Seasoned development personnel manning the support desk

b) Support person answer the initial phone call

If the vendor does not do this, you are likely to be up for a lengthy and frustrating support experience.

iii) Does the ERP come with WMS as part of it?

Most organizations do not differentiate between the concepts of inventory control and warehouse management when looking for an ERP solution. Some buyers assume that if the ERP system can make use of Bar Code and Radio Frequency (RF) equipment within their system, then they have an integrated Warehouse Management System (WMS).

When the buyers realize that integrating these technologies does not constitute a WMS, they end up spending more money to acquire and integrate a WMS into their chosen ERP system.

If the ERP you want to buy does not have a true WMS integrated as part of it and included in the price quoted, you will not be getting the full functionality you will need from the ERP. While the need for a WMS may not be obvious initially, a significant ROI from an ERP system will ultimate come from management of the warehouse.

iv) Does the software include CRM functionality as a separate module?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is important in the overall success of the entire supply chain process. Knowing and understanding what your customer wants, buys and in what quantities is a clear benchmark for the future success of your organization.

While CRM encompasses many features and capabilities, a system with CRM functionality should, on the basic, contain a complete contact management system, ability to identify customer buying patterns, ability to manage both customers and inventory in one of the facilities, and ability to track penetration with your customers.

Look for a vendor that offers CRM as part of the ERP from its conceptual design phase.





SaaS ERP

The ROI of ERP: SaaS ERP vs. On-Premise ERP

Use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) is increasingly being adopted in customer relationship management (CRM). However, SaaS adoption in enterprise resource planning (ERP) continues to play catch-up. When looking for an ERP solution, companies need to evaluate both SaaS and traditional on-premise deployment options beyond the pure cost trade-offs.

ROI of SaaS ERP

Few tools exist that can help organizations evaluate a more inclusive and accurate picture of the ROI of SaaS and on-premise systems. However, companies can build upon models for evaluating the two solutions and go beyond traditional cost approaches like total cost of ownership (TCO) to include business benefits, risk and flexibility.

Comparing ROI of SaaS and On-Premise ERPs

According to a 2014 ERP Report by Panorama Consulting Solutions, nearly 25 percent of organizations are using cloud-based ERP solutions. However, majority of respondents the organizations indicated they still prefer on-premise ERP software to SaaS and cloud options. According to the report, most companies only report achieving between 0% to 40% cost-savings from using cloud ERP.

One factors most organizations fail to consider when opting for SaaS deployment is the cost of customization. This is an important factor to be looked into, especially over the long run. Carrying out due diligence on both deployments is important to finding the right solution for an organization.

In comparing the ROI of SaaS and on-premise options, substantial differences can be identified in their:

i) Costs

Generally, on-premise solutions are costlier, especially when comparing subscription and license fees. The systems typically require support, upgrades and hardware maintenance fees on top of license fees.

On the other hand, most SaaS deployments bundle these costs into the subscription fees. Moreover, SaaS deployments avoid charges for end user support and administration, temporary business support and backfill, hardware and upgrades.

Some of the cost drivers in SaaS include fees for extra features such as premium helpdesk support, storage capacity beyond a preset limit, industry-specific functionality, mobile and offline access, among others.

In the long term, on-premise systems are less costly than SaaS options. However, theirs costs increase during upgrade cycles, which represent about 65% of the initial costs of implementation in year eight.

ii) Benefits

SaaS deployments bring immediate business benefits including shorter time to deploy, automatic updates, improved usability and independence from IT. The result is enhanced integration with other IT and operational systems, especially when real-time integration is important. On the other hand, on-premise ERP has more pronounced integration than SaaS.

Given the lack of disruption in change management, usability, implementation, and upgrades, it is clear SaaS deployments have an initial and significant advantage in achieving benefits.

iii) Flexibility

Both SaaS and on-premise deployments deliver ease of configuration, technical flexibility, and scalability. On-premise solutions deliver tailored configurations capacity, stronger tools sets for customizations and proven integration capabilities. On the other hand, SaaS systems deliver technical agility by allowing migration to on-premise, greater deployment options in bandwidth-constrained environments and reduced IT staffing requirements.

When looked at objectively, the advantages of flexibility of one solution over the other are canceled out by each other. Hence, there are negligible advantages in flexibility when comparing either deployment option.

iv) Risks

With SaaS, risk tends to center around impact risks like limited verticalization and customization capabilities, weaker integration and loss of control. On the flipside, on-premise risks tend to be related to implementation risks such as support issues, training needs and deployment complexities.

Here, the risks of on-premise solutions are slightly greater than those of SaaS solutions.

Which ERP is Right for You?

While the advantages of SaaS cannot be downplayed, the deployment is not ideal for all organizations. Generally, SaaS ERP is more suitable for smaller, less complex organizations that do not have very unique requirements. On the other hand, large organizations with more complex operations will find on-premise solutions appropriate.

Companies weighing between SaaS and on-premise options should assess ROI in 10-year periods, factor in the number of centralized users, adjust assumptions based on historical data and also consider hybrid models.

Regardless of whether an organization goes for a SaaS or on-premise solution, the advantages and disadvantages must be carefully reviewed. The two scenarios must be compared objectively against the business needs of the company to determine which would be the right option.