Megaventory Blog - Online Inventory Management Software, Order fulfillment and Control System
This is the company blog for megaventory, an online software that helps small businesses that buy, sell and manufacture physical products to manage sales, purchasing, manufacturing and inventory. We blog about new features and updates but also about enterprise software, small businesses, cloud computing and the industry in general.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Customer perspective: how tombarrington.com benefits from Megaventory

This is the second in the series of posts where we present our customers and talk a bit about their business and especially how running our Megaventory ERP improves their business cycle.

We’ve already done nevadaseal.com and next up is tombarrington.com.


At first glance, tombarrington.com, seems like an ordinary eshop - but look deeper and there’s quite a bit more.

For one thing, the merchandise is both mainstream but also quite unique: special leather smartphone cases, wallets and keyrings! And by special we mean cowhide, pony, talapia (!), ostrich and stingray leather!

In a sense, this e-shop is a textbook case of how to target an appropriate market in e-commerce. Pick something popular and common (like a smartphone case or a wallet) and combine it with something niche (main material of the product are exotic leathers) while at the same time offering something not in the market (e.g. additional colors for the smartphone cases)

For another thing, marketing wise the e-shop is another typical example of how things are done in e-commerce. The site is carefully optimized for search engines (e.g. comes first when searching for “talapia phone case”), there is an open newsletter/email channel with prospective customers, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and of course a blog informing possible customers about its products and its industry. Presumably a pay-per-click ad campaign is also running in certain geographies too.

Furthermore, handling materials and finished goods across the entire product range - even if in the case of tombarrington.com it is just a couple dozens - in order to be done properly needs a minimum amount of organization.

Add to this, the more than one location the company needs to handle and the right business software is a necessity:


"I was looking for an inventory management cloud solution to be able to monitor and maintain my product inventory among a variety of locations. I needed to have a solution that was intuitive, comprehensive, reliable and affordable. Megaventory filled the bill and more."

Overall, if a successful, even if simple, typical online business like the tombarrington.com eshop is a nice fit to a business software solution like megaventory.com, it’s very likely to be a fit for a wide range of other similar businesses - perhaps even yours.

And again, if you are a customer of us and would like your story to be told contact us and we’ll arrange a post on this blog.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Choosing an ERP consultant: Pemeco Consulting

This post is the first of a series of posts aimed primarily in helping small businesses understand how to better pick a consulting company for their ERP, Inventory Management, Order management or Sales software implementation. We’ll be doing this by discussing with a different consultant or consulting company in each post.

First up is Pemeco Consulting, via the words of Jonathan Gross, Vice President and Corporate Counsel.
 

Tell us a few words about you or your company and your personal role in it. 

Our firm, Pemeco Consulting, has been in business since 1978. Over this period, we have transformed from an IT service bureau into a pure IT consulting/advisory firm. Though the service bureau and consulting business models are very different, our evolution happened quite naturally. In the 1980s, manufacturing and distribution organizations came to us looking for help selecting and implement sophisticated software for material requirements planning (MRP) and production scheduling functions. In the 1990s, software vendors began to extend MRP software functionality to other business functions. And, we correspondingly expanded our range of services. We’ve been in the ERP consulting space long before it was called ERP.

Personally, I joined the firm in 2009. I’m lawyer, an MBA, and a part-time MBA professor of Systems Analysis and Design at the Schulich School of Business at York University (ranked #9 worldwide by the Economist Magazine). I advise clients on IT/ERP strategic planning and project manage their selection projects. 

Do you have expertise in a particular brand of ERP software or are you totally brand-agnostic when it comes to your consulting? Why did you make such a choice? 

Pemeco Consulting is 100% vendor-agnostic. As an advisory firm, we’re in the business of filling our clients’ expertise gaps in the areas of IT strategy, ERP selection, ERP implementation, and post-implementation optimization. Our clients need to trust that the recommendations we make as trusted advisors are in their best interests. The only way we can maintain this trust is if we shun benefits offered by software vendors and resellers. In other words, our business model is built around the principle that our advice and services are un-conflicted.

Do you specialise in a particular part of the total spectrum of ERP functionality (CRM, inventory, manufacturing, distribution, financial, project management etc.) or do you offer a broader service? 

As a firm, we specialize in the project management of all things ERP – including strategy, selection, implementation, and post-implementation optimization. Our objectives are threefold, to deliver projects: 1) on-time, 2) on-budget, and 3) according to defined performance expectations. To do so, we generally build teams that include personnel from our firm, the vendor, and the client. 

Do you have certain tools and/or approaches you use when working with your clients? 

We rely on proprietary project management methodologies that we’ve designed specifically for complex ERP-related projects. For example, our ERP implementation methodology – Milestone Deliverables: The Hands-On Approach to Implementing ERP Projects - is published, and our book sells in more than 40 countries. The underlying premise is that teams are more effective if they work towards small, tangible, and achievable targets.

Our clients trust us to bridge the gap between its business needs and an ERP-optimized future state. To successfully bridge that gap, the client has to buy-in to the proposed changes. However, it should never do so blindly. Therefore, it’s critically important that the client’s people be appropriately involved in the projects – both to make effective decisions and to undertake project-related work.

One of the ways we do this is by setting up an appropriate organizational structure and communications mechanism. For example, we establish an executive-level steering committee that we report to periodically about project status – such as budget, schedule, and progress. We also establish a core team comprised of departmental leaders. This team is generally responsible for assisting in day-to-day project execution. In the case of an ERP selection project, for example, the core team would participate in software demonstrations. Under the leadership of the project manager, the members would be responsible for evaluating the extent to which a proposed software solution is capable of handling the company’s business processes. In the case of an implementation project, a core team would be responsible for mapping the business processes, testing the software, and training the end-users, among other things (again, under the leadership of the project manager). 

Do you focus on particular industries? 

Over the past 15 years, we have largely served businesses in a broad array of manufacturing and distribution sectors. On the discrete manufacturing side, we serve hi-tech/electronics, aerospace, automotive suppliers, home furnishings, industrial equipment, durable goods, among others. On the process side, we largely serve paints, chemical, plastics, and pulp and paper companies. 

In what ways is your role changing due to the broader cloud adoption for business uses and the abundance of online ERP vendors? 

The emergence of SaaS and cloud ERP software as mainstream doesn’t change our services delivery model. We have to stay informed about the technologies, risks, and business case implications of the various forms of software. Moreover, our advisory methodologies don’t change either. On an implementation, for example, businesses have to focus on organizational change management, data migration, and system testing regardless of the platform. 

What is the role of the ERP consultant when it comes to helping a small business which is on the market for an ERP solution? 

Small businesses – like any sized business – have typically embedded sub-optimal processes into their operations. As these businesses grow, the detrimental effects of the sub-optimal processes become manifest. Common warning signs include: increasing delivery delays, increasingly undetected product defects, and increasing turnover of long-standing customers. An ERP consultant who is assisting with software selection should, first and foremost, be able to advise a small business on how it can improve its business processes using ERP software. This typically involves defining core non-negotiable processes as well as proposed business process enhancements. This is what we mean when we say “define your requirements”. Once the requirements are well defined, a consultant should be able to manage a due diligence project aimed at finding a software that fits those requirements.

If there is one key takeaway for a small business, it is this: choose a consultant that focuses on defining your business’ unique requirements and matching a system to those requirements. Avoid using canned templates and specifications lists. These templates weren’t built for your business and, consequently, the results they yield might not match your business’ requirements.

What do you think are the major problems/challenges in the ERP consulting industry? 

The price of ERP is dropping, and the array of alternatives available to small business is widening. In some respects, the availability of choice is a good thing for small business. In other respects, it complicates the selection process.

The ERP consulting space generally struggles to effectively service the small business community. There is clearly a need, particularly given the high failure rates associated with ERP selection and implementation projects. Though ERP software is becoming commoditized, the supporting business services are not. Selecting ERP, implementing ERP, and optimizing business processes are still high-value services. The challenge is convincing a small business of this value before it makes a mistake.

How do you see the business software evolve? What should a small business keep in mind and expect in the next 12 months? 

Enterprise software and peripheral technologies are rapidly evolving. Innovations in the areas of cloud, mobile, analytics, human capital management, and sustainability are providing opportunities reflect evolving business needs. To build a better business, it’s important to understand the scope of these technologies, and whether there is a supporting business case given their particular circumstances and needs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Customer perspective: how nevadaseal.com benefits from Megaventory

Yet another short series of posts is starting in this blog in which we’ll be presenting some of our customers who talk about their small business and what they do. In addition to promoting their work we’ve asked them to give us a hint how or why the inventory management and order management capabilities of megaventory.com are indispensable for them.

First up is nevadaseal.com, a US-based company which sells and services mechanical seals and pumps for industrial applications in Nevada state. The industries they take projects in are related to mining, geothermal, water and waste-water treatment and manufacturing among others. The company has two locations and five staff, at the time of writing (making them a perfect example customer for megaventory).

The core component of their business is hardware sales and this component covers a large variety of seals and sealing mechanisms, pumps, valves, coatings, fluids and polymers used in the industry (cleaners, de-greasers, lubricants etc), to name a sample of the product range.

In addition to sales of hardware, they offer service & repair of respective parts as well as expert opinion on existing equipment and infrastructure.

Nevadaseal.com offers a wide and broad range of products and services and so, the complexity and management overhead the company faces on an everyday basis is significant. In particular, forecasting of the needs and next business steps is an important issue they have to address regularly - and one megaventory can help with:


"Our biggest challenge is being able to forecast and budget for future plans. Megaventory is helping us track the info that we need to we can take the next step.", Ricky Turner, Sales / Office Manager

Generally speaking, business reporting and business intelligence is something that’s both valuable to have and easy to obtain - once a management system is in place. And although many businesses ignore it relying primarily on the instinct and experience of key employees, there’s only so many times you can get away with just that. The minute you’re starting to cooperate with other professionals (e.g. vendors, suppliers etc) - let alone regulatory, or public sector institutions - issues like the following also need quick resolution:

"We had a last minute drop in by one of our vendors that needed information on our previous quarter sales. I had no time to prepare but was able to get the information that I needed out of Megaventory quickly so that I had information to show when they arrived.", Ricky Turner, Sales / Office Manager

These two basic examples outline how a small business ERP, such as megaventory, can directly address business needs in a typical, multi-location small business.

If you are a customer of us and would like your story to be told feel free to contact us and we’ll post it on this blog in a similar format as in this post. In addition to this, we’ll be forwarding it to all the communication channels we’re active in (as appropriate Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, online communities, fora) for some extra exposure for your business!

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to employ a consultant to implement ERP for my business?

Assuming you’ve been hooked up with our latest ERP related posts and you actually want to implement one in your business, you may start to wonder, “OK, so how do I actually do it?”

Broadly speaking, there are two ways to go about doing it.

The first is to bite the bullet, do the research, google it, read fora, speak with friends and associates and eventually pick a solution. Then you should start the real work of migrating your existing system to the new way of doing things - and that includes changing your software -possibly some of your other infrastructure as well- and of course training your colleagues or your employees. And once most of this work has been done, hopefully you’ll be seeing the first signs of improvement.
 

-OR- 

you could hire specialized experts or consulting companies to handle the entire process for you. Although this may seem to involve an additional overhead (in terms of extra cost, time and administration), given a consultant’s experience and the best practices they follow, a business is most likely to benefit in the long run from employing one.


 

So, how would you choose a consultant or a consulting company? We collect here a number of questions you should ask yourself or them: 

1. Define the scope of the collaboration. Basic parameters of their work will obviously be set from the beginning such as whether they will be helping you select a solution or implement it (or both), whether they will provide training to your staff, whether they will be handling the transition period and offering support during and after the change.

2. Obviously, find out as much about the consultants as possible. Things like the type of clients they’ve worked with in the past, their general experience and their high points so far all paint a picture you want to know a lot of detail about. Contacting the manager of a company the consultant has worked with, is always a good idea.


3. Make sure you know of any affiliations they have with certain ERP software and whether they offer only that. Certain consultants specialize in offering services related to particular business software choices. Although that’s not a bad thing in itself it’s important to know you’ll be adopting a solution based on your needs and not just because that’s the only thing a consultant knows about - or, even worse, benefits from.


4. Do the consultants specialize in a particular part of the total spectrum of ERP functionality? Some consultants may not be as knowledgeable in certain aspects of a business - they are quite a few after all: CRM, inventory, manufacturing, distribution, financial, project management etc.). Consider the possibility of employing more than one or simply hire someone who has experience in all aspects you need.

5. Which tools and/or approaches they will be using when working with you. In practical terms how will you be collaborating? What software, what methodology, how will progress be measured and how will the entire project be managed? These are questions that should be addressed before starting.


6. Do the consultants focus on particular industries? If they have a proven track record e.g. in apparel or food and beverages, they might actually be a poor match for you if your industry is hardware. Despite if the other indications are favorable it might be good to go with someone with experience in the industry who’ll speak the same language as you.

7. Make sure you are offered a cloud solution too. Rather obvious these days, but we should mention it as certain consulting companies still only offer on-premises solutions only for a number of reasons (mostly associated with their profit margins). Make sure they know of (and are willing to use) the latest technology; it is going go get you further along the road.


8. Size matters. Take a look at the consulting company’s portfolio. If they’ve worked only with large companies and you’re a small business, they’ll probably be applying approaches that will not work as well in your case. Cost will also be prohibitive most likely and will not correspond to quality. Stick to similar scale consultants as you.

9. Don’t get your expectations too high. Or you will be disappointed. About 50% of ERP change projects go off budget and a similar ratio goes off schedule. Be prepared for this but also for the fact that there should be improvements in the way you do business but not miracles...
 

These are a few of the things you should keep in mind - others can probably be added on the list too, so feel free to add them in the comments.

Overall, choosing a consultant is not a commitment to be taken lightly (as with any other collaboration). Of course, as with any business decision, there’s always the danger of ‘paralysis by analysis’, so once you’ve crossed at least some of the above items with a candidate, take the plunge and start!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Study: ERP trends for 2012

Panorama Consulting, one of the consulting companies we keep an eye on, recently published a study regarding the trends for 2012 in the world of business software which holds some interesting results.

(credit)


They based their study on a survey running for the entire year of 2011 on their website and have managed to aggregate data from 246 participants from 64 countries. The full version of their study can be downloaded here (registration required) - but here are the basic takeaways:


The specification work prior to selecting an ERP solution is very important. Right after selecting the ERP to implement most customers felt satisfied with their choice (81%). However, when looking at the specifics of the implementation and how well the ERP and its vendor actually performed approximately 25-30% on average were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied.

More companies change their business process to accommodate the ERP solution (41%) instead of the other way around (27%). This is both somewhat alarming but also common: the new solution requires people in the business to start doing things differently. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (maybe the new process cuts costs or follow best practices) but it’s important to know what will happen in advance. To do that you need to map your business processes - a very instructive and insightful exercise regardless of the ERP change.

Needless to say, most companies (63%) found it difficult to manage the change. So if you’re planning a (new) ERP implementation be ready for some road bumps - or if you’re just doing or finished one, don’t be disappointed things aren’t going according to plan; that’s the rule. There are things to do to make it easier though: the previously mentioned business process blueprinting, thorough training material creation and commitment to the change coming from the top.

Only a third of the companies performed the change all in one go. The rest either phased it by time, module, geography, business department or a combination of the above. Also of note, slightly more than half pulled the plug on the old system when going live with the new. Almost 40% kept them both going for period of overlap so that employees could get used to the new way of doing things.

Budget-wise, more than half (56%) of the projects went over budget (some by more than 50%). Again plan ahead for that and don’t be discouraged if you need to pour money than expected. The same study reveals that 94% of companies which took the plunge saw measurable benefits. So if done at least decently, it’s worth it.

This is confirmed by 71% of the companies which do recoup the costs of implementing an ERP. Having said that, when the costs will be recouped is an issue - it can vary from less than a year to more than 5 years - but that’s usually ok. It’s a marathon not a sprint after all. It’s important however, to be able to measure costs in order to know when they’ve been recouped. Planning ahead & having detailed specifications for the change is crucial for that matter.

Perhaps surprisingly, only 54% of the companies run off schedule with the time it took to get the new ERP running. Taking into account that the same figure was worse last year, it would seem that companies are realising the value of doing their homework

And as for the type of software, 37% is off-premises (either traditional ERP hosted off-site or SaaS), a number we expect will increase next year.


We think this Panorama Consulting report asks most of the right questions and provides helpful answers to issues that concern any executives who are considering implementing or upgrading their ERP for their business. While you're at it, you may want to read how we think the future of ERP will be shaped.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Customer survey winner of Kindle Wi-Fi e-Reader

As some of you may know we've recently undertook a survey of our customers in order to better understand their needs and the market we're trying to serve in the best possible way.

All participants would participate in a lucky draw for the chance to win a Kindle Wi-Fi e-Reader and out of those who filled out the entire questionnaire we selected in random our winner using a process which was entirely controlled by the 3rd party survey tool (read on).



So without further delay - congratulations to Ricky Turner from www.nevadaseal.com - the Kindle should be on its way! Happy reading Ricky!


The survey as well as the draw was conducted entirely using surveymonkey.com. Stay tuned as we'll be posting the survey highlights in following posts.

And last but not least, a big thanks to all who took the time to participate - your feedback is invaluable to our growth and we will definitely be putting it to good use!

PS. by the way, Ricky -and all of you- should download and read our on-line ERP guide e-book!