Taking Advantage of Native Business Intelligence Tools in Microsoft Dynamics GP

Experience shows that many CFO’s, Controllers and accountants don’t take advantage of the myriad of canned reports in Microsoft Dynamics GP.  

However, there are over 1,800 canned reports which include:

  • Excel Refreshable Reports
  • Management Reports
  • SmartList Designer Reports, and
  • Business Analyzer reports

These often go unused, as users don’t take the time to learn how to use them.  

Microsoft is introducing Power BI with the next release of Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016. With all the above mentioned and newer reporting tools available for use, all designed to give an end user quick access to information, users  can react quicker in this ever challenging business environment.  

We’ve heard the old adage, Knowledge is Power, but that’s not true at all, it’s the APPLICATION of Knowledge, that is power.  Learning how to use powerful Business Intelligence tools will help users become more strategic in their jobs, more valuable to their organization, rather than being purely focused on clerical tasks.   

On Tuesday, Feb 16th we will host a Lunch 'n Learn during which Rob Gillespie will be exploring how you can put the BI tools built into Microsoft Dynamics GP to work. We will be digging deeper into the BI topic with some of our vendors during a future Lunch 'n Learn so look out for that invitation.

Connect Operations And Aim For Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement-focused practices can cut waste, streamline operations, and improve both productivity and profitability for manufacturers and distributors.  In this competitive marketplace, strategizing operations can make the difference between a successful operation or struggling alongside the competition.  Measure and monitor key metrics and use data to drive improvement with a powerful enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.

An integrated ERP solution offers a feature that can’t be found when using disparate solutions – business intelligence.  You can manage all of your business operations from a single, integrated ERP solution, including financials, inventory and supply chain, manufacturing and distribution activities, human resources and payroll operations, and other key business processes.  With your data located within a centralized location, built-in business intelligence can provide the insight you need about your business, productivity, and profitability.

Today’s innovative ERP solutions, including Microsoft Dynamics® GP, offer customizable Role Tailored dashboards.  Your managers can add the key metrics that they need to monitor at the top of their screens.  For example, sales managers can monitor sales activity by representative, sales team, product, and by time, such as months or quarters.  In addition to sales, your procurement team can monitor product trends and make strategic decisions on when to stock up on raw materials, taking advantage of price breaks or shipment schedules, which can save time and money. 

Using real-time data within an ERP solution, your team can develop strategic goals and monitor the metrics that shows the business is on the right track toward meeting those goals.  You can use ERP to improve financial operations such as reducing days outstanding on invoices or protect cash flow with greater inventory control.  You can follow customer trends and identify popular products or those that may become obsolete.  Using your own business data, you can identify which areas of the business are productive and profitable, then make improvements to the areas that need it.

The business intelligence offered in the right ERP solution can support your efforts to work leaner, with greater efficiency, and nurture business growth.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. for more information about the ERP solutions that support your business and goals for continuous improvement. 

By Rob Gillespie, VP Sales at Premier Computing, Inc., a Gold Certified Microsoft ERP Partner out of Utah

Can The Warehouse Keep Up With Sales?

Successful distributors have an active, focused sales team that can match your products and services to the right customers.  However, as they are building sales, your warehouse could be slowly eroding those budding business relationships.  Inaccurate shipments, backorders, and slow deliveries can cause customers to think twice about engaging with your business.  Make sure the warehouse can keep up with your sales team by implementing a strong enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.      

Your sales team is getting the orders, yet the warehouse is scrambling to meet demand.  Disparate, specialty systems could be the reason for a big disconnection between your sales team, order processing and customer service, and the warehouse, which can soon become your downfall.  Streamline the sales process by getting everyone on the same page, including customers, with an innovative ERP solution.

Improve communication and collaboration by using a single, stronger ERP solution for all of your business operations.  Your sales team can enter orders, customer service teams can monitor customer accounts, and the warehouse can process orders faster when your data is within easy reach in ERP.  At each step your people can access real-time data and answer customer questions about available inventory, historical orders, or the status of a current order.  You can also open a secure self-service portal for your customers to access.  Not only will your customers be impressed, your people can save time from the redundant data entry often necessary when using disparate systems.

A robust ERP solution such as Microsoft Dynamics® GP also offers the ability to identify trends within your data.  You may discover which products are increasing in popularity and respond faster when safety stock levels are getting low.  Similarly, discovering items that are less popular can guide the procurement team to avoid overstocking these items so that you aren’t stuck with inventory that you can’t sell.  In addition, with a closer eye on customer needs, fast and slow moving inventory, and trending products, you can set up the warehouse to streamline the pick, pack, and ship process; improving productivity and getting products in customer’s hands with greater efficiency.

Support your sales and warehouse teams by providing stronger business technology.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. and make sure your warehouse can keep up with sales with ERP.

By Premier Computing, Inc., a Microsoft ERP Partner out of Utah

Making Small Changes Can Yield Big Results

A quick glance through the books and a short tour of your manufacturing or distribution facility may show that business is going well.  No glaring errors on paper or alarms from the production floor is a good thing, no doubt.  However, think smaller and look again.  Saving a few cents on inventory can add up to a few dollars and a few minutes saved in production can lead to improved productivity.  Identify these small changes and turn them into big results by deploying a robust enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.          

Sometimes you have to look a little harder to find what you need to make a difference.  However, if you are using disparate specialty software or elaborate spreadsheets, it may take you longer to comb through data and determine where or how to make improvements to specific business operations.  Replacing inadequate business software with an innovative ERP solution can get you started on the right path toward making big changes.

You can manage all of your core business processes within a single, integrated ERP solution such as Microsoft Dynamics® GP.  Connecting financials with your supply chain and inventory, manufacturing and distribution operations, and other core business processes can provide unique insight into the profitability of business procedures and spending.  By having a seamlessly integrated ERP solution that provides instantaneous inventory information, you can keep closer tabs on the items that are selling well and those that aren’t as popular.  Identifying fast-moving inventory, slow-moving inventory, and items that are increasing in demand can be used when making procurement decisions.  You can create forecasting scenarios and make strategic inventory purchases that save money, prevent overstocking, and reduce the chances for back-orders or stock-outs.  You can also use this information to organize the warehouse to streamline the pick, pack, and shipment process and improve the productivity and efficiency of your warehouse team.  These types of seemingly minor changes can add up over time, improving both labor productivity and profitability.

You don’t always need alarms sounding to make the changes needed to improve business operations.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. to learn how you can make small changes that yield big results with the insight and control offered in the right ERP solution.

By Premier Computing, Inc., a Gold Certified Microsoft ERP Partner out of Utah

Will New Dimensional Prices Lighten The Load Or Make It Worse?

Major shippers UPS and FedEx have rolled out a new way to price large packages.  Instead of charging boxes under three cubic feet by weight, boxes will be measured by dimensional weight.  This change is intended as a push to get customers to reduce package sizes.  However, instead of lightening the load, the new structure could cost small businesses more.

As outlined in “Small U.S. firms may struggle with new UPS, FedEx dimensional prices,” posted by Nick Carey on Reuters.com, retailers will need to multiply the length, height, and width of each shipping box and divide that by 166 to determine that box’s dimensional weight.  This extra math will determine the cost for shipping boxes with UPS and FedEx.  Carey offered an example of how this new price structure can go very wrong for some businesses.  According to Endicia, a two-pound woman’s shoulder bag that is shipped in a box that measures 19 by 15 by 5 inches will have a dimensional weight of nine pounds and cost 45% more to ship. 

In order to save money, businesses may switch to smaller boxes or send their business to USPS.  Natura is one of those businesses, according to Carey, that may shift packages away from FedEx to USPS.  Natura estimates USPS will supply nearly 50% of their shipping needs, up from 40% in 2014, since USPS still uses weight to price shipments.  USPS also announced that they would offer price cuts to attract e-commerce businesses.

Shipping could become a burden to your business unless you can incorporate these new changes into your operations.  You can use your enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to evaluate current logistics and associated costs with both incoming inventory and outgoing products to warehouses or customers.  You can then use this data to make projections on the potential future costs of those same operations and determine whether the new dimensional rate rules will impact your profitability.

A powerful ERP solution can also provide insight into your other business operations including financial activities, supply chain and inventory, manufacturing and distribution operations, human resources and payroll, and other core business processes.  Contact Premier Computing to learn more about using ERP to gain visibility and control over your business operations and protect your profit margins.

By Rob Gillespie, Sales at Premier Computing, Inc., a Microsoft ERP and CRM Partner out of Utah

Part 3: Using KEY Performance Indicators to Effect Real and Lasting Change

Key Performance Indicators are graphical representations of critical business processes.  Although there are many “status” oriented KPIs such as a Pie Chart or a geographic representation of the distribution of customers (local, national or international), time-phased graphs with included actual vs. target comparisons are the most powerful change management tools.  It is not possible to identify business process improvement opportunities unless there is an actual vs. target comparison.  As we discussed in part one, you need to ask several key questions when identifying change opportunities.

  • Where have we been in the past?

  • Where are we today?

  • Where do we seem to be heading?

  • Where should we be?

All of these questions are supported by the utilization of time-phased graphs that identify opportunities for improvement as in the example to the right.  While time-phased graphs most effectively support the identification of opportunities for improvement, that’s just the first step.  If a particular KPI graph indicates the necessity for change, the process that follows is your best chance of effecting real and lasting change.

While the objective is bringing the KPI into compliance with an established target, you need to step back a bit and create an effective improvement process that consists of the following steps.

  1. Determine the business process you want to monitor and control (e.g. average time required to process and ship a sales order).

  2. Define how often this KPI will be calculated (e.g. weekly, monthly, etc.).

  3. Define the KPI target value for each measurement period.

  4. Define how the KPI is going to be displayed (Bar Chart, Line Chart, etc.).

  5. Define who is responsible for monitoring and improving this KPI (the owner).

  6. Specify whether other people are going to participate in the improvement process.

  7. Create a collaborative platform that will give people the ability to share their thoughts regarding how this KPI can be improved.

  8. Create a link back to these process improvement notes so that people can access them in the future if the KPI falls out of compliance.

Summary

If you are going to utilize KPIs to monitor and improve business processes, you have to create a systematic method of doing so.  Displaying pictures of KPIs is but one part of the process.  The KPI has to represent a business activity that has a material effect on efficiency and effectiveness.  In addition the image itself has to elicit a response on the part of the user who is responsible for the business process.  Finally there has to be some method whereby users can track their efforts to improve the KPI value. 

Key Performance Indicators are critical Business Intelligence tools that can help users define what they need to do very well, monitor these critical business processes, analyze and improve them, and ultimately increase efficiency and profitability.

Rob Gillespie with Premier Computing, a Microsoft Dynamics reseller based in UT but providing ERP solutions throughout the Western United States would be happy to answer any questions you may have with regard to setting up the right Key Performance Indicators for your business. 

Part 2: Understanding How to Harness the Power of Key Performance Indicators

As we discussed in part one of this three part series, Key Performance Indicators are graphical representations of critical business activities.  Rather than analyzing revenues and costs as represented by GL accounts, Key Performance Indicators analyze business processes such as the time required to complete a sales order (e.g. order receipt to shipment), inventory turns, day's sales outstanding for overdue invoices, actual vs. standard manufacturing times and any other business process that significantly impacts efficiency or effectiveness. 

Underlying this analysis is one key concept.  If the efficiency of a critical business process or activity is optimized, the Income Statement will take care if itself.  The question then becomes one of determining which business activities are critical to your success and how these business activities should be represented so that you can quickly determine which activities need to be analyzed and improved.

Actually there are two types of Key Performance Indicators.  Status indicators such as the pie chart below represent information that exists at a specific point in time.  In this case the Pie Chart may represent an analysis of a firm’s top ten customers.  The second example below represents the % of support calls that were escalated during a specific time range.  Although it isn’t pictured, one additional KPI might represent the distribution of customers over a given geographic region. 

The common theme for all such displays can be thought of as a snap shot taken at a specific point in time.  This type of display may be sufficient for a presentation to senior management, but there is one significant weakness.  A snap shot does not paint a picture of a business activity over time nor does it represent where this condition should be.

The third and fourth images below introduce the concept of time and therefore help users “see” whether a KPI is changing over the specified time range.  The Bar Chart is easy to read but doesn’t show users whether the results for each time period is on target or not.  The Line Chart displays both the results for each time period as well as the target or budget for the time period.

he Bar Chart may be attractive, but the Line Chart paints a complete picture of a business activity and therefore helps users determine quickly whether the condition pictured requires their attention.  Although the Actual Results in the Line Chart are at times below expectations, the pattern over time indicates that the business activity does not require close attention.

here are literally thousands of ways Key Performance Indicators can be defined, displayed and utilized.  The key to this entire concept is the development of an understanding of the key business drivers that influence efficiency and effectiveness and ultimately profitability.  In essence you need to answer one key question. “What do we need to do very well in order to succeed?”  Having identified each key business driver, you then need to determine how the driver should be defined and ultimately how the key business driver should be represented in a graphical setting (i.e. the Key Performance Indicator).  Finally with time-based KPIs you need to establish target values that will enable you to determine whether the business activity underlying the Key Performance Indicator requires your attention.

Key Performance Indicators can become powerful Business Intelligence tools.  Rather than just jumping into the deep end, take whatever time is required for you to understand the nature of Key Performance Indicators and how they can help you more effectively manage your critical business activities.  Obviously your first step must be a thorough analysis of your business processes and what information you need to manage them effectively.  Talk to your ERP reseller.  Develop a thorough understanding of their product’s ability to support KPIs and how these KPIs can be displayed to your advantage.  Since your knowledge of KPIs may be somewhat limited, ask your ERP reseller how they can help you educate yourself and if they have clients in similar industries.  Finally as we will discuss in part three, create an internal KPI management system that gives people the ability to identify issues that need to be addresses.

Key Performance Indicators can become powerful Business Intelligence and change management tools, but you need to be careful.  Just because you can display business related information in the form of a KPI doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  Create KPIs that actually make sense to you and reflect the way you want to run your business.

For more information about the value of establishing KPIs for your business, please contact Rob Gillespie at Premier Computing, a Utah based Microsoft Dynamics reseller, who would be happy to answer any of your questions. 

 

Part 1: Key Performance Indicators as Critical Business Intelligence Tools

Everyone has heard the term Business Intelligence used in hundreds of articles, but what does it really mean and how can Business Intelligence be utilized to a firm’s advantage?  One of the difficulties is that Business Intelligence is defined in so many different ways and under so many circumstances that understanding how Business Intelligence can be utilized most effectively escapes us.

Business Intelligence implies that some form of information is extracted from the data maintained by a firm and utilized to make what can be called “wise business decisions”.  This data doesn’t necessarily have to be restricted to accounting transactions.  It could reflect the cost of acquiring and maintaining customers.  It could reflect the utilization of resources in the manufacturing process.  It could also reflect the time required to process customer orders or complete manufacturing processes.  All of these examples relate to performance and the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes. 

Since Business Intelligence covers such a wide variety of business activities, let’s switch to a more practical question.  How can we use Business Intelligence to help us make wise business decisions and therefore increase our firm’s profitability?  That’s where Key Performance Indicators enters the discussion.

If your firm is small, it may be possible to monitor your key business activities using nothing more than your experience.  Basically a seat-of-the-pants business control system might be perfectly adequate.  That’s fine since it makes no sense to make your business more complicated than it needs to be.  However, how do you control your business if you have many employees, customers, or product and service lines?  In this case business complexity may reduce the value and effectiveness of your knowledge and experience.  If you happen to be relatively new to the firm, your lack of experience has to be replaced by something else that will allow you to more effectively monitor and control business activities for which you are responsible.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a graphical representation of critical business activities that you can utilize to immediately “see” where you need to concentrate your attention.  While your experience and knowledge will certainly have a positive impact on these critical business activities, the sheer number of activities may overwhelm your ability to see the forest for the trees.  Key Performance Indicators give you the ability to quickly scan these graphical representations and determine which require your attention and which do not.

Your company's suc­cess is not dependent upon whether you have the most powerful ERP system.  It's dependent upon your ability to

  • know what the market wants;

  • identify those people who want your pro­ducts or services;

  • convince them that they need your pro­ducts or services;

  • get your products or services to them at the right time and at the right price for you and them and manage your business effectively and efficiently.

The first three objectives are allied with sales and marketing activities, while the last two objectives reflect the way you run your business.  In all cases information is the key to your success.  The more you know about the intricate details of your business and the sooner you know it, the better you will be able to generate positive outcomes.

In the past Income Statements and GL budget reports were our sole source of financial and operational information.  Now we can generate so much information that we seem to spend more time trying to figure out what’s happening rather than taking steps to effect change.  Key Performance Indicators measure the efficiency and effectiveness of critical business activities and display them in a format (usually graphical) that gives us the ability to quickly ask and answer the following questions.

  • Where have we been in the past?

  • Where are we today?

  • Where do we seem to be heading?

  • Where should we be?

If you ask the right questions, the Key Performance Indicators data flowing from your CRM and ERP system will paint a picture that enables you to quickly “see” whether you are on track.  If a Key Performance Indicator is below target, you can take steps to analyze and improve the business activity.  As these improvement steps take hold, you can view the relevant Key Performance Indicator and quickly determine if these improvement steps have had a positive impact.

Key Performance Indicators can become powerful business process improvement tools, but you need to be careful.  Too much information or the wrong information can negatively impact your ability to monitor and control your business management processes.  Part two of this three-part article will concentrate on understanding the nature of Key Performance Indicators and how they can be deployed to your advantage.  We will then discuss in part three what you should do once a Key Performance Indicator displays a negative trend.

For more information about the value of establishing KPIs for your business, please contact Rob Gillespie who can answer any questions you may have.

Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015 and Self Service for Employees

Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015’s arrival marked the exit for Business Portal.  The first major release of GP with no web portal since 2007.  That seven year run was not without its issues, but those who embraced Business Portal valued it’s relatively straight forward access allowing employees to view pay, adjust benefits or workflow requests.

Now that it’s gone, what’s next? Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015 includes perhaps the most popular features of Business Portal right in the client.  You might be concerned about the usefulness of bundling these features in the client, unless you’re also familiar with the GP Web Client which launched almost two years ago.  The Silverlight driven web engine allowing users to access the GP client from within just about any modern browser. Along with this comes a new licensing option called “Self-Service User CAL” which presents an affordable way to get these employees to the features they want and these days, expect.

Current Related Promotions:

  • “Microsoft Dynamics GP Three Free Self-serve CALs", a promotion that provides customers licensed for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 prior to December 1, 2014 three Self-serve User CALs per Full User at no charge to your customers.
  • “Microft Dynamics GP Self-serve CALs for Half", a promotion that allows you to license Self-serve User CALs for any of your customers on the Perpetual Licensing model at half the license price.
  •  “Microsoft Dynamics GP Limited to Self-serve CAL Conversion", a promotion that allows you customers with either Limited Concurrent CALs or Limited Concurrent CALs – Upgrade to exchange them for Self-serve User CALs without incurring incremental license or enhancement plan charges.

Ask Premier Computing about these licensing opportunities.

When you’re ready to make the switch, the web client is deployed to an available server, and executes a GP Client for each connected user, presenting it through Silverlight to browsers such as Firefox, Chrome and of course, Internet Explorer. Capability that Business Portal lacked, due to the need for Active X Control support which only exists in Internet Explorer. With this new interest in embracing the use of multiple browsers, Microsoft is showing a clear desire to offer their products across platform. The limiting requirements of Business Portal are surely a prominent reason it’s been dropped in favor of this new Web Client method.

Once connected to the Web Client session, employees are able to modify their own information such as, address, phone number, emergency contacts, dependents and work history. Additionally they can add and modify skillets, training and training history.

It’s a paradigm shift that springs Microsoft Dynamics GP into a more modern interface it deserves, to support the robust features and unmatched combination of capabilities which brought you to the platform in the first place.

For more information contact Andy Casper, SharePoint & Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant with Premier Computing.

Sunset for Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Portal

With last week’s release of GP 2015, Business Portal is now officially a dead product destined to remain in history with GP 2013 R2 for it’s final resting place.  This relatively complex product built on Active X, SharePoint, Web Services and of course GP will probably continue to server many of our customers and colleagues for a few more years as the transition to GP 2015 slowly marches forward.

In its final iteration we were presented with two options for installation, both in 64-bit, but built to accommodate the two supported flavors of SharePoint.  Business Portal 6.0 for SharePoint 2010 with Service Pack 2 and Business Portal 6.1 for SharePoint 2013. One caveat being that you must set SharePoint 2013 in 2010 visual mode which in my opinion more or less defeats the point of installing 6.1 in the first place.  Certainly there will be circumstances where 6.1 is required and I applaud Microsoft for making options available.

Installing BP can be accomplished in many different ways across multiple servers and in several combinations, however if simplicity is your game (and it should be since you’re not going to be using this product for long) then installing BP on your GP SQL server is the way to go.  It not only negates the need for an annoying Kerberos authentication configuration to make the KPI functionality with SRS work correctly, but also seems to side step some of the existing bugs with the Business Portal installation process.  Bugs that leave the BSS and HRM installations lacking files or configuration options in some cases.  While all of these issues have work-arounds or procedures to overcome them, how much of this kind of effort do you want to exert in the installation of a disappearing product?

Finally, there are two very helpful tips I have for you should you find yourself installing this for perhaps your last time. The first relates to the Active X control.  It’s a bugger to install sometimes on modern versions of Internet Explorer with it’s increased focus on secure browsing.  Save yourself the hassle and just make it a manual install.  The MSI is located in the installation files in PreReqs\ActiveXControl.  Typically I copy the folder on to the server and make it a public share.  Then you can either instruct your users to install it themselves or have IT setup a group policy to complete the install at next login.  The second tip relates to BSS if you’re using it.  A recent patch exists which addresses a flaw in the way BP queries the database for displaying BSS details.  Save yourself the trouble of discovering this error during configuration and just apply the patch after install.  You or your Partner can download the patch here: https://mbs.microsoft.com/partnersource/northamerica/deployment/downloads/service-packs/MDGP2013_BP60_patchreleases

Here’s hoping for successful last installs of Business Portal and for robust HRM and BSS features in GP 2015 – more on that to come.

For more information contact Andy Casper, SharePoint & Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant with Premier Computing.

Customer Service Has Never Been More Important To Manufacturers And Distributors

In today’s ‘always on’ marketplace, customers can research a product or service quickly and easily from the convenience of their smartphone or tablet.  While price, product availability, and quality are likely to remain key factors, customer service is becoming increasingly important to attracting and retaining valuable customers for many manufacturers and distributors

Response time is becoming increasingly important to businesses whether they are engaging new prospects or working with existing customers.  Lagging websites, long hold-times on customer service phone lines, and other delays can be frustrating enough for a customer to turn to your competitors.  Improve your customer service activities with the support of a CRM solution like Microsoft Dynamics® CRM.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is more than just a sales and marketing tool, it provides insight that you can use to strengthen customer relationships.  This integrated solution makes it easier for your people to enter and, more importantly, access customer-centric data.  In just a few clicks, your people can access all the information that they need about a customer to respond quickly to inquiries.  Sales and customer service teams can access current or historical data and answer questions about what customers have ordered and when delivery can be expected.  You and your team can manage every detail pertaining to a customer account and service levels, as well as develop insight as to what your customers want.

Combining data from sales, marketing, and customer service areas provides a wealth of insight that can increase your competitive advantage.  Using the business intelligence features built into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you can identify trends in product popularity or replenishment orders.  Armed with this data, you can be prepared to meet customer needs and reduce the chance for back-orders, stock-outs, or interruptions within your supply chain or manufacturing activities.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM can provide a 360 degree view of your customer which you can use to respond quickly to their needs and nurture long-term relationships.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. for more information about using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to deliver superior customer service and keep customers coming back.

By Premier Computing, Inc., a Gold Certified Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM Partner out of Utah

The 2014 User Conference was a great success!

Thanks to all of our clients, vendors and staff for making this year's user conference the best one yet! We thrive on your feedback and observations, so please take some time to review how we did by filling out our survey.  It will help us improve and grow for next year as well as provide information about what sessions are most valuable. 

 

Respond to the Survey now.

Reassessing Strategic Goals For The Nonprofit

The board of directors, key staff, and volunteers have spent countless hours discussing and planning the mission and strategic goals for your nonprofit organization.  Once the goals have been put in place, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and be confident that your nonprofit is heading in the right direction.  What happens over the course of the next month, quarter, or year?  If you aren't sure whether you are hitting targets and staying the course to reach your goals, then it may be time for a new business management software solution.       

After the excitement of planning goals and activities for your nonprofit wears off, your people may settle back into the status quo – working the day-to-day tasks with less focus on the mission.  According to “1 Year Later:  Assessing Your Strategic Plan” posted by Dennis Miller on TheNonProfitTimes.com, nearly 60% of nonprofits experience difficulty with executing the strategies in their plan, and hence, their goals.  Although Miller offers many reasons, such as resistance to change or political infighting, the larger problem is of lack of communication and the inability to manage progress.

When you invest the time and effort to make a plan, you should also invest the time and effort to measure and monitor the activities needed to achieve that plan.  Today’s innovative enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, such as Microsoft Dynamics® ERP, can support your efforts.  You can monitor all aspects of your nonprofit from this single, robust solution, including financials, grant funding, encumbrances, and other transactions.  You can also monitor real-time budgets, from the general fund or specific grant-funding, so that you can be confident that you are spending in accordance with grant restrictions and planned goals.  The audit trails and electronic signatures provide transparency, often required by governmental or other organizations that provide grant funding.

Microsoft Dynamics ERP also offers real-time insight into your nonprofit operations.  You and your team can access real-time data about the products or services that you provide to members and the community you serve, grant-funded activities, cash flow, and more.  These key metrics are important to keeping your day-to-day activities on the right track, as well as reaching strategic goals.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. for more information about using ERP to assess and achieve your nonprofit strategic goals.

By Premier Computing, Inc., a Microsoft ERP and CRM Partner out of Utah

Bridge Communication Gaps & Boost Collaboration With Microsoft Office 365

Communication can be challenging for businesses with multiple locations, as well as those with sales and field services teams that are rarely in the office.  Trying to set up meetings or share time-sensitive information with such busy colleagues can be difficult.  There is a simple, inexpensive fix to the seemingly endless email chains and empty seats at your weekly meetings – Microsoft Office® 365.

Trying to share information can be difficult when your colleagues are in and out of the office or shared between multiple offices.  Getting to information can be just as difficult for your sales and field services team.  This communication gap can create delays with entering data into your business software solution as well as keeping appraised on important business activities.  As you grow your business, maintaining direct lines of communication becomes more important which is why it may be time to introduce a new technology.

If you are pushing the boundaries of your current technology, have limited IT support, and are already familiar with Microsoft Office®, then you may be interested in Microsoft Office 365.  This affordable solution can provide access to your Office applications from nearly any location and on nearly any device, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.  Office 365 also offers features that will make communication and collaboration easier – video conferencing, shared calendars, business-class email, and the ability to share documents.  You can use Office 365 to view the schedules of your colleagues and set up a meeting time that is convenient for everyone.  You can also use videoconferencing to connect with field teams who simply can’t be at the office for your meeting.  Finally, you can use Office 365 to share commonly used forms or documents which can improve consistency within operations, as well as improve productivity.  Office 365 includes spam and malware protection, data backup and redundant data centers, as well as a 99.9% uptime guarantee.  A quick implementation process can get you and your team up and running in no time.

When your team does their best work outside of the office, you may not want to call them back in.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. for more information about improving communication and collaboration with Microsoft Office 365.

By Premier Computing, Inc., a Gold Certified Microsoft ERP and CRM Partner out of Utah

Determining When More Is NOT Better

Earning more money is great, so is having more customers, and making more product sales.  However, there can be situations when more is not better.  Home Depot has made a big switch in their retail model to focus on adding distribution centers instead of opening more stores.     

Not too long ago one of the more favored growth models was to simply open more stores.  Nearly every major retailer was searching for fertile ground to open a new brick-and-mortar store in order to serve more customers and sell more products.  As noted in “Home Depot Lumbers Into E-Commerce,” posted on Finance.Yahoo.com by Shelly Banjo, Home Depot excelled at opening new stores across the country.  They followed this model until 2008 when the most recent financial crisis hit, causing customers and businesses to close their checkbooks and halt construction projects.  Home Depot closed 15 stores and put a hold on their plans for building 50 additional stores.  These tough economic conditions, as well as a change in customer buying habits, had resulted in weak returns in new store openings.  Suddenly, more wasn’t better.

Home Depot analyzed their business data and noted that although foot traffic was down in their stores online sales were increasing.  Instead of returning to the ‘more is better’ growth model, Home Depot chose to open two distribution centers and only one store this year.  Instead of investing in brick-and-mortar stores, Home Depot invested in technology to connect their stores with their ecommerce business and a new online fulfillment center.  Home Depot expects to ship more products from the distribution centers to customer homes, job sites, and to their stores for in-store pickups.  They also anticipate that the contractors and builders that make up nearly 35% of sales will also turn to online shopping for job site deliveries or store pickup.

The economy is always changing and so are customer interests and buying habits.  Home Depot found that more stores was a detriment to growth instead of fostering it.  Keeping an eye on trending business data within your enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution can highlight these and other changes that could cause you to rethink your growth model and strategic goals.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. for more information about monitoring your business data to determine when more isn’t better.

By Premier Computing, Inc., a Microsoft ERP and CRM Partner out of Utah

Expanding Business? You May Want To Expand Your Technology Too

It’s only a matter of time before your business experiences the growth that you have carefully planned.  You may offer a new line of products or services, increase the number of customers that you service, and add to your headcount to pick up the extra workload.  You may also want to bulk up your technology and here’s why.      

Entry-level software is for entry-level businesses.  Most small businesses can get by with basic accounting software, payables and receivables for example.  Small businesses often have a low volume of simple financial activities and data to manage.  However, with an increase in business you’ll see a corresponding increase in the volume of financial data that is being produced.  Entry-level accounting solutions can’t handle large volumes of data.  In addition, there is often a limit as to the number of people that can be in that software program at the same time.  Finally, accounting software only provides limited financial insight.  As your business expands, you may want to monitor labor productivity, the cost of inventory and other business processes, and the profitability of your products and services.  At this point, you need more than entry-level software, you need an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.

A robust ERP solution, such as Microsoft Dynamics® GP, can provide the support you need for your growing business.  This business management solution was designed to handle larger volumes of data and the different types of data you need to manage your business from the front office to the back warehouse.  You can manage accounting and financial processes, supply chain and inventory, manufacturing and distribution operations, human resources and payroll, and other core processes from this single solution.  You can provide full or limited access to data and specific processes to your team and access data from nearly anywhere and at any time.  Using RoleTailored dashboards, you and your managers can monitor real-time data and activities from the convenience of your desk or from mobile devices when you are visiting customers or out to lunch.

A growing business generates data that increases in both volume and complexity.  The time will soon come when entry-level business software will simply no longer fit.  Contact Premier Computing, Inc. for guidance on moving into a more robust ERP solution that can support your expanding business today and into the future.

By Kerry Draper, Premier Computing, Inc., a Microsoft ERP and CRM Partner out of Utah

The complexity of making Microsoft Dynamics CRM Internet Facing

Today, if you want to use Dynamics CRM from a tablet there are some special considerations that have to be taken into account. Specifically the need for an additional server meant to be used as nothing more than an authentication gateway.  ADFS or Active Directory Federation Services is a more secure way to communicate your login credentials.  However, it can be frustrating to understand and even implement.  I hope I can explain some of the more confusing parts and help you get ready to deploy CRM for your mobile users.

Active Directory Federation Services.  Lets start with what it is, because while the name is descriptive, it doesn’t actually provide a full picture of what it does.  In simple terms, it allows someone to log on to a system without handing over their specific user login and password to that system.

 Here’s an example that will be very accessible to all of us.  When was the last time you had the option to “Login with Facebook?” Probably something like 5 times this week.  That’s a form of federation with Facebook.  Basically, the website making that offer will let you log in to their system on the basis of trust they have in Facebook.  When you click the button, the website fires off a message to Facebook that says, “Hey, this person wants to log in and I don’t know who they are, but whoever you say they are, I’ll trust that and let them in.”  So Facebook asks you for your login and password, generates a secure trusted token that says, “Jim Bob is a-ok with Facebook, so let him in.”  This is federation in action and there are a lot of benefits to this federation business.  Going back to our example, you just got to log into a website without having to make another account for another site.  The site gets to know that you’re a real person, from an authority they trust without you handing over any personal information.  This means all of your Facebook data is still out of reach and one login can potentially get you into a lot of places. All of this happens without that website ever having received an actual login and password.

 So what in the world does this have to do with Dynamics CRM?  Well, Microsoft, for good reason likes the idea of a token swap over you handing out your login and password.  That’s where ADFS steps in. So lets walkthrough what happens when it’s enabled.

 You type in your company URL for CRM.  Configured to use ADFS, the website immediately directs you to a secure server to capture your login.  You log in with your domain credentials, ADFS generates a secure token and passes that token back to you.  Your browser is sent back to CRM with the token and allowed access to the system.  Now if you’re paying attention, you might be just as frustrated about this as I was.  Why am I using a second server, to log in using my domain credentials, to get a token that will allow me to log into CRM, which simply proves I am a domain user?

 It’s all about security.  Now, whenever CRM might need to check your credentials again, that encrypted secure token (that’s only useful to CRM and ADFS) is the only thing that’s bouncing around the internet to identify you.  Never again during the time in which the token is valid will your user name and password be required.  This significantly reduces your vulnerability window and makes connections via mobile devices even more secure.  Which is exactly why it’s required to use the Outlook CRM add-in from outside your organization or any of the mobile apps for Dynamics CRM which are published by Microsoft.

 ADFS itself is free and included with your Windows Server 2012 software, or as a free download for previous versions.  While it will serve you best to configure a separate server for it to live on, it can co-exist with CRM if configured carefully.  Additionally you’ll want to obtain a wildcard SSL certificate if you don’t have one already.  In the end, the cost is worth the benefit.

For more information contact Andy Casper, SharePoint & Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant with Premier Computing.

Microsoft Dynamics to release GP 2013 R2 & GP 2015 by the end of year

The Microsoft Dynamics roadmap indicates two major Dynamics GP releases in 2014.  Dynamics GP 2013 R2 will be released before June 2014 and  will focus on improvements to workflow and identity management functions. It will also introduce the product's first companion apps.

Between June and December 2014, Microsoft is scheduled to release Dynamics GP 2015.  GP 2015 is said to include second versions of workflow engine and of the upcoming identity management capabilities.  By July 2014 it is expected a GP 2015 development preview.

According to Microsoft sources the development team has adopted a six month release cycle to bring value to customers on a regular basis and is designed to enhance new business proposition and bring incremental value to [Business Ready Enhancement Plan] customers on a much more regular basis.