Feeds:
Posts
Comments

newinnavToday’s post will be primarily of interest to users of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, particularly those who haven’t upgraded in a few years.  Since the introduction of the first Role-Tailored Client (RTC) in NAV 2009, Dynamics NAV users have seen additional functionality from later upgrades to versions 2013 and 2015.  And with NAV’s recent and strong commitment to ‘agile development’ (i.e., rapid deployment of new features), users of NAV can probably expect to see more, and more rapid development of features and functionality in the future.

Following are some of the key enhancements we’ve seen over just the last two versions (specifically, 2013-R2 and 2015).  Some of the advances made in the 2013-R2 release included:

  • One unified Microsoft experience with additional Office 365 productivity and rich Microsoft Dynamics NAV business insight.
  • Helps customers collect cash faster with new capabilities for electronic payments and automated account reconciliation.
  • Provides a tablet and touch-optimized user experience enabling you to access company data and processes regardless of location and device.
  • Faster access to information with personalized home pages that let users view their most important business data at a glance.
  • Sophisticated color coding and live data helps user prioritize actions.
  • Simplified invoice design through interoperability with Microsoft Word.

With an eye towards Microsoft’s new embrace of a “mobile-first, cloud-first world” enhancements released in NAV 2015 included:

  • Tablet and touch-optimized user experience enabling users to access their company data and processes regardless of location or what device they choose to use. With this release, new Microsoft Dynamics NAV tablet applications are now available from the Windows, Apple, and Google app stores.
  • Faster access to information that matters with personalized home pages that let users view their most important business data and key performance indicators in a glance.
  • Sophisticated color coding and “live data” help users prioritize actions and stay productive.
  • Simplified invoice design and production through new interoperability with Microsoft Word. Power users can now create customized, branded invoice templates on their own in Microsoft Word.
  • Additional optimization to deploy in the cloud on Microsoft Azure to help lower costs and increase flexibility.
  • Deeper interoperability with Office 365 to boost employee productivity. Improvements include single sign-on and consolidated views of business data, documents, business intelligence, and collaboration tools.

NAV continues to grow in capabilities and we’ve found it to be an ideal platform for small to midsize businesses, particularly those engaged in manufacturing and distribution, upon which to optimize their workflows with an extremely strong and flexible accounting foundation, especially well-suited for growth oriented firms.

people first tech second imageIn an article entitled “People First, Technology Second” author Eric Kimberling points out that while the technological (and technical) landscape of ERP have changed much over the past twenty years (or in my experience, 30 years…), the basics have not.  People still matter most.

You might not know this by the emphasis sometimes placed on ERP implementations where it is sometimes placed highly on the software, less so on the people involved.  But that has it backwards.

While there may be a dizzying array of choices in ERP solutions these days, it’s the people issues that are most likely to make or break your implementation.

Too often, executives overlook this simple fact.

As Kimberling points out in his article: “The end-users of your ERP system are still going to either buy-in or resist the changes based on pretty simple and predictable criteria. Regardless of whether you were implementing ERP systems 20 years ago, you’re starting your implementation today or plan to 10 years in the future, the effectiveness of your impact and management of people during this business transformation will determine whether your project succeeds or fails.”

He goes on to tout therefore the importance of an oft-repeated mantra on the need for “organizational change management.”  It’s the critical component, he notes.  All the bells and whistles of the technology are for naught if your people don’t embrace, use and build upon the solution to improve business operations.

From not understanding the changes to be made… to not being a part of the process change development… to insufficient training in the software or the processes at hand… to processes not properly defined… to office politics… all of these “people” issues can lead to frustrated implementations that can be late on time and over-budget because management did not give proper time and consideration to the needs of the very people who will implement and use the system they’ve bought.

In the end it comes down to a key point, notes Kimberling: Don’t confuse activity with efficiency.  While technology is helpful to the cause, invest the time and resources in organizational change management necessary to train your people.

We would add to Kimberling’s comments by noting from our own experiences that it’s all about the basics of course: Communicate clearly.  Identify specific business processes and how they will be managed.  Map the software to the process.  Train the people, and listen to them.  Do the little things right.  And lastly, take ownership of your system.  It will all add up to a far more successful implementation in the end.

 

nav2015 imageAn article just published on April 9th by Linda Rosencrance, a freelance tech writer who writes often about Microsoft and Dynamics, highlights the importance Microsoft has placed on the Small to Midsize Business (SMB) marketplace in its future growth plans for the Dynamics NAV product line.

In Microsoft’s view, the SMB market includes clients in a wide range of sizes and types and includes, according to Rosencrance, companies of one to four employees, and companies of 250 or more employees, according to Marko Perisic, Director of Program Management, Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

Quoting Perisic further from the article…

“This market segment of SMBs is extremely varied. There are so many different layers, so many different requirements, so many different solutions,” he said. “We’re not limiting ourselves and the product to a specific industry or vertical. If we want to win in SMB, we have to win all up and all down.”

Perisic said Microsoft has to ensure that the companies that start with Dynamics NAV when they’re small can grow up with NAV. Additionally, Microsoft has to ensure that companies that deploy NAV in multiple countries in large hub-and-spoke deployments also have the capabilities to deploy Dynamics NAV in their startup offices.

“So we are building this platform with a focus on SMB. But within that market segment there is such a variety of scenarios and company sizes that we don’t want to limit the NAV platform and the product itself as a whole not to be able to satisfy this very, very large number of addressable business entities worldwide.”

The article goes on to note that Microsoft recognizes the importance of using mobile as a part of its BI (Business Intelligence) strategy.  As Jonathan Davis, a Microsoft Program Manager noted:

“We are very mindful of the fact that mobile is central to our ability to deliver our BI services and almost all of the investments we are making in the BI space are mindful of the fact that we need to have some kind of mobile capability,” Davis said. “As you’ve already seen with our tablet client, they represent the some of the operational BI features like the Enhanced Cues very beautifully in the mobile client.”

Power BI “will be our path forward,” Davis added, noting that when it comes to integrations with other parts of the Microsoft BI stack and other BI features that Microsoft will be shipping, they will also be fully mobile compliant.

And finally, Perisic adds these comments about “shared solutions” to fill some product gaps which are sometimes fulfilled by Microsoft and sometimes by partners, pointing to a future, yet-to-be-announced sharing strategy:

“These gaps are incrementally filled by us, incrementally filled by our partners, and I don’t think there is an opportunity there to differentiate based on filling commodity gaps – something that’s just expected to be in the solution,” he said. “I don’t know exactly how we’re going to achieve that. I have some ideas, which I’m not yet ready to share. . . . There’s a very good [case] around having that built once and shared with everybody in some sort of economic model that’s attractive to the customers, partners, and Microsoft.  That’s one of the key things that we should accomplish in the next few years.”

We’ve excerpted most of the key comments from Rosencrance’s article, which can be found here.

 

 

 

roiOnce again, Eric Kimberling of Panorama Consulting has penned some good tips about achieving a fair return on investment on your ERP implementation.  In this case, he touts five ways to achieve it, and a post you can read here.

Kimberling starts by noting that most CEOs are so hung up about simply making sure their initiatives go live reasonably within budget and time that they sometimes miss the larger goal of ROI.  We’ll condense the gist of a recent post by Eric here for you today.

  1. Set the bar high for your ERP implementation. It’s okay to shoot for the stars. Rather than operating out of fear – whether it be fear of the project failing or fear of losing your job – try aiming for something even higher, such as delivering a set of business processes and related ERP functionality that will take your business to the next level. This mentality can and should affect every aspect of the project.
  2. Focus on people and processes, not technology. ERP vendors invest billions of dollars per year in R&D to make those cool bells and whistles, but at the end of the day, the success (or failure) of your project won’t have anything to do with these technical features. Instead, it will come down to how well you handle business process reengineering and organizational change management – the two most important success factors for any ERP implementation.
  3. Don’t underestimate the cost, time and effort required for your ERP implementation. While it is important to not become too focused on implementation time and duration, you also have to remember that you will never achieve your expected business benefits and ROI if you don’t make it through your ERP project alive. Setting realistic expectations early is the first step toward a ROI-driven and successful ERP implementation.
  4. Understand where the finish line really is. Successful ERP implementers know where the finish line really is. Most organizations go into their ERP implementations with the expectation that they are going to implement everything that their new ERP systems have to offer but, due to time and budget miscalculations, end up quitting the race early and never realizing that expected functionality.
  5. Focus on the long-term alignment between your business and your new ERP system. Successful organizations don’t ever really “end” their ERP implementations. Instead, they focus on ensuring that their businesses evolve over time.

We find Kimberling’s points above to be good standards for helping to ensure that clients achieve desired ROI and view their systems as a cog in their ongoing pursuit of continuous improvement.

 

mint-jutras-2015 graphAccording to the “2015 Enterprise Solution Study” recently published by Mint Jutraswhich bills itself as “an independent research-based consulting firm that specializes in analyzing the business impact of enterprise applications,” there are a handful of key criteria that most businesses use for ERP implementations.

According to the study, buyers tend to select from two ‘troughs’ – one from the Hot Features category of ERP offerings and (more importantly, one suspects) one from the Features That Matter To Buyers category.  Among the latter, key criteria reported by buyers include:

  • fit and function
  • completeness of the solution for all enterprise functions, and
  • the quality of built-in reporting and analytics

Clearly, features and capabilities dominate the list.  According to the survey, at the bottom of the list was ‘social capabilities,’ with mobile access and rapid deployment ranking just above it.

Jutras concludes that while some of these newer features (i.e., social, mobile) are potentially important offerings, they apparently are not as important as those key criteria above, and customers are not willing “to give up the mainstay criteria in order to get them.”

They conclude their post – and we quote directly from it – as follows…

“In the end… the top two goals remain reducing inefficiency in doing business and monitoring and improving KPIs.  Whether they are operational measures like cost management, inventory costs, and cycle times or customer-facing factors like on-time delivery and customer retention, ERP should be a key tool for achieving improvements.  If your organization is not seeing adequate benefits, now is always a good time to start asking why.”  As Jutras writes:

“If you have not realized [world class] results, it is either because you ignore the potential (we still find a disturbing number of companies that don’t measure results), or because your ERP implementation isn’t living up to its full potential. Ask yourself: Is that because of your ERP solution or because of you?”

The study comments can be found here.

 

 

 

7 mythsAs ERP consultants we frequently and regularly preach to our customers and prospective customers the value and importance of analyzing their processes before an ERP implementation (and sometimes during when revisiting those processes in greater detail).  The result of a business process analysis (or BPA in our parlance) is usually some form of business process reengineering.

So we’re always interested in other consultants’ opinions about the process of both BPA and BPR.  Recently, the CEO at Panorama Consulting suggested 7 Myths of Business Process Reengineering, which we thought worth reprising in today’s post.  Here then, are Eric Kimberling “7 Myths” along with an abbreviated synopsis of his comments.  (You can access the full post here.)

  1. Business process reengineering doesn’t need to happen on ERP projects. Perhaps the most misguided of all. Every ERP system will wreak some sort of havoc on your business processes. Most of these changes will be positive improvements, but will still require some effort in defining your operations in the new system environment.
  2. Simply implementing a new ERP system will drive process improvements. The most pervasive myth. Today’s ERP systems are extremely robust and flexible, meaning even the simplest business processes can be performed in a wide variety of ways. This leads to a need for pre-defined business processes so the software can be configured and/or customized accordingly.
  3. ERP project teams should focus on “to-be” rather than “as-is” processes. If you are the organization making the changes or the employees doing the work every day then the current processes absolutely DO matter.  It is thus critical that you assess the current state of your processes to help you obtain the future state as part of your business process reengineering and optimization efforts.
  4. Business process improvements can be done without organizational change management. Too many executives think that they can simply redefine and implement business processes without organizational change management. This is a misguided view. The most effective business process reengineering efforts succeed largely because of the way organizational change is addressed – not because of how well the processes were defined on paper.
  5. You can’t reengineer business processes before knowing which software you are going to implement. It is typically more advantageous and efficient to both evaluate and improve your business processes prior to selecting and implementing a new system.
  6. All business processes need to be overhauled before selecting and implementing a new ERP system. Not true. Typically, the most successful organizations focus on improving their core areas of competitive advantage or differentiation as part of their ERP implementations, while letting other non-core business processes follow the lead of the software’s out-of-the-box functionality.
  7. Business process reengineering will cause my ERP implementation to take more time and money to implement. The Achilles heel of many failed ERP implementations is that they assume that “doing things right” will cost more time and money than if they cut some corners along the way. While it may look good on paper to strip out any extensive business process work, the reality is that your project will most likely take longer to implement and proceed to fail at go-live if business processes are not adequately addressed as part of your implementation. Remember that it is much less expensive to do things right the first time than it is to do clean up after an ERP failure.

We couldn’t agree more with Kimberling’s points, and urge all companies embarking on their own ERP initiative to take them to heart.

 

cube-photoWe’re borrowing from a Product Manager by the name of Steve Little at Jet Reports today to talk about a powerful tool that many are just beginning to understand.  “Cubes,” sometimes referred to as “OLAP (or Online Analytical Processing) Cubes” are a handy way to organize, extract and report upon the many dimensions of your company’s stored data.  Today, we’ll keep it simple, but we hope illuminating, by following the Little’s comments from the Jet Reports Blog.

(Jet Reports, by the way, is a powerful reporting tool that acts as an extension of Microsoft Excel.  It allows users of full-fledged ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics to build, save and update reports of data that resides inside the databases and tables of their ERP system.)

In his original post (found here) Little starts with a simple hypothetical question one might ask: “How much profit did we make selling Sno-cones to Icelanders last year?”  In a Dynamics NAV database you might need to combine data from 6 or more tables (Customer, Region, Item, etc.) to deduce the answer.  Then you’d have to “mash up the data and extract the data to get the information that you need.”  That can be a slow and resource intensive process, Little points out.  What you really want is a fast and easy process – and that’s where Cubes come in.

Cubes make it easy to answer questions like this by reorganizing a copy of the data so that it’s easy and fast to get information out.  They are a multi-dimensional way of organizing data – which means they offer a near instant analysis of large amounts of data.

A few term definitions may help, as you ponder the illustration above:

  • Dimension: a category used by which to slice your data (say, by Company, Salesperson or Item)
  • Measure: a calculated numeric value (like a sum, count or average)
  • Level: a grouping within a dimension (like Customers by Salesperson, or Territory)
  • Hierarchy: a group or organizational level (like date by year, quarter or month)

Our three-dimensional cube illustration would be an example of a way to view sales and profits of products and territories over a period of years, for example.

Cubes such as those utilized by the Jet/Excel combination allow ERP system users to use a tool like Excel to extract data from their ERP databases and thereby improve and maximize their reporting capabilities.  If you’re handy with Excel, you can learn to master cubes.  In the Jet Report Blog, Little closes by dispelling 3 common myths about cubes:

Myth #1- Cubes require months of planning and implementation before users can get value out of them.  As of maybe three years ago, this myth was probably true. It would take months or years to get any value out of them. With Jet Enterprise, it’s typically installed and running in two hours or less for Dynamics customers. With pre-built Cubes, it’s easy to go in and get that done without the months and months of planning.

Myth #2- Customizing cubes is slow and difficult.  The Jet Data Manager, which is included with Jet Enterprise, allows you to customize or create Cubes in a simple drag-and-drop interface. You can add dimensions, measures, or create unique measures on the spot and apply these into the Cubes – often in minutes, with no programming.

Myth #3- Cubes are a luxury, applicable only to large companies with BI development teams and large budgets.  This is no longer true. Jet Reports has over 600 customers currently running Cubes.  You no longer have to have a large company with a BI development team to be able to get value out of the Cubes.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 101 other followers