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What is ‘System Integration’?

business-process-integrationSystem integration is the process of bringing multiple systems or applications into one, allowing them to work together. The goal is so that every system that is being used at the company, be it your CRM, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Warehouse Management, B2C eStore, EDI, etc., will be using a single database. This reduces the need to constantly update different systems and resort to many hours of manual data entry. In today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s crucial that companies have management applications that can speak with one another and share information between them. This results in better visibility and accessibility of information, faster decision-making, reduced redundancies, increased efficiency and more.

Most of the time however we don’t just leave it at “system” integration but expand it to be “business process” integration. We encourage businesses to not only synchronize their internal applications but to streamline entire processes between their departments or business functions as well as connect to their external partners, suppliers and customers.

It’s no wonder that Integration Services have been on the rise over the last few years. As we see more importance being placed on technology in the workplace, business managers are taking notice of the negative impact associated to the use of multiple disconnected management systems. Today businesses are looking to have one clean data set and a complete ERP management system with an integrated eCommerce Store, WMS system, EDI module, Business Intelligence dashboards and more. The effects of such a powerful integrated management solution can bring endless potential to a company and allow employees to constantly have access to real-time business information. Tech-savvy business owners are quickly realizing how to apply technological advancements in order to play them to their advantage.

System and business process integration has been valuable in eliminating redundancies and making information that much more accessible to decision-makers. Nobody likes to waste time and money on inputting data into multiple systems or continuously updating and searching for information in Excel spreadsheets. On top of it all, with disconnected systems or several separate databases, companies sometimes struggle with poor customer service. More often than not, customer accounts are found to be incomplete, out of sync and/or inaccurate. By integrating systems and processes, your customer service team will have accurate, complete, real-time information right at their fingertips. As I mentioned before, it’s all about providing employees and key decision-makers with access to information.

Unfortunately, not all systems were made to be easily integrated with others (this is a capability our consultants urge business owners to tick off when looking to implement a new ERP solution). The older, inflexible legacy systems were made with limitations to integration possibilities. IT companies, back then, did their best to keep their customers coming back to buy their products rather than make it easy for them to switch to another ERP vendor or to integrate with other software solutions. Essentially, companies felt like prisoners to the technologies they were using.

Today, IT Providers are trying to dissociate themselves from this old way and develop solutions that are much more flexible, simple and easy to work with or integrate with. Companies should no longer feel restricted by the business technologies they are using but rather they should feel empowered by them. System integration is a must for any company looking to streamline their processes and increase visibility and efficiency.

To learn more about how our Integration Experts can help your business, contact us today for a free 1-hour consultation.

 

Common mistakes ERP softwareWe’ve all heard our fair share of nightmare stories when it comes to new software, more specifically Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), implementations. What we don’t often hear, however, are the mistakes that were made during this project that could have been avoided. In many of these stories, the blame is put on the Software Provider or on employees who resist change and the system. However, there are some mistakes that business executives make that can affect the outcome of an ERP software implementation.

Here are 5 common mistakes that business leaders make throughout a new software project;

  1. They opt out of End User Training and After-Sales Support

Before any implementation project begins, a Software Provider will approach the management team with various support plans to choose from. These discounted plans will include billable hours for end user training and post-implementation support. It is up to the customer to choose which plan they’d like to have, depending on the amount of hours they request for support and training for themselves and for all their system users. In many cases, however, in order to keep costs down, executives will opt out of any support plan (which in turn opts them out of end user training for their employees). This is a huge mistake that many business leaders make. Without proper user support and thorough end user training sessions, the chances of user resistance and low productivity increase. If employees don’t fully know how to use the system to its full potential, then companies won’t realize the full benefits of an ERP system, but rather will experience decreased individual performance and thus decreased overall productivity.

In the end, by saving on the support plan, they are losing out more in the long run. End user training and proper support can alleviate stress and combat fears of employees, associated to using a new system, and allows them to accept this big change. It also teaches them the necessary skills to prevent any problems in the system and to efficiently handle unexpected issues with confidence. Never forget that a software system is nothing without its users. System users are the key to unlocking the benefits and improvements that a good software system can bring to a company. Invest in your end users and never pass up on support and training plans. It’s an investment you’ll be happy you made in the long run.

  1. Lack of participation from business leaders

In our very own ‘Process to Succeed’ guideline that we share with customers prior to any new ERP software implementation, we stress the importance of top-level management participation during the planning process as well as throughout the implementation phase. This is a prerequisite to any of our large software implementations, in order for our customers to achieve a successful implementation. What does this participation include? We understand that business owners and executives are extremely busy with their day-to-day tasks and therefore won’t have the time to constantly be working on the implementation project (and we don’t expect them to). Normally, companies will put together a small internal team of about 5 (or less) employees, from various departments, to manage and overlook the ERP implementation project. This is great! The participation that we require from top management comes more in the form of support, motivation and encouragement. Company owners, executives and managers need to have their own confidence in using the system and share their excitement and knowledge with their team, especially when they see them frustrated or afraid of the new changes ahead. Management should remain unified in support of the project and should continuously encourage their employees to not give up and learn all they can about new processes and the new system. During the end user training periods, it would also be helpful if management can alleviate their team, for a short period of time, from regular responsibilities, in order to take the necessary time to get properly trained by the Software Provider.

  1. Leaving it all in the hands of the IT Software Provider

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again and again and again…a software implementation, especially one as large as a full ERP implementation, is only successful if ALL parties participate since everyone in a company will be affected by the change. Similar to mistake #2 above, every team member, even the leaders, needs to have some sort of involvement in the implementation project. It requires synchronous collaboration, which involves the IT team and the business team working together simultaneously and remaining in constant communication as the project progresses, to ensure everything internally is running smoothly and everyone’s needs are being met. Employees are the ones that know the business processes inside out; the IT team is there to help streamline, automate and integrate those processes. It’s important to explain to employees how their participation and role in the project will influence its success. This will give them a sense of commitment to the project and hopefully instil a positive attitude towards the system and implementation process, which is definitely welcome.

  1. Having unrealistic expectations of timelines and costs

Every software implementation is unique. During a new project, Software Providers deal with a new company, new business people, new processes, new requests and new expectations. The business as a whole may be similar to other companies but an implementation is never the exact same from company to company. It’s absolutely critical to share all of your expectations and assumptions you have of the new system and the implementation phase. This includes any timelines, costs, benefits, project roles, etc. By sharing all of this with the IT Provider, they’ll be able to set things straight right from the start. For example, if you were expecting an implementation phase to only last 1 month, the IT Provider, from experience and expertise in the field, may come back to you with a more realistic timeline of 3 months. Therefore, you won’t be disappointed and frustrated when the implementation lasts longer than your 1-month expectation. The Software Provider will also share all of their expectations from your team and of the project as a whole. Together you’ll come up with realistic goals and expectations for your specific case, allowing everyone to be on the exact same page.

Talk with your Software Provider first and get their input on timeframes and realistic expectations, as they can provide their expertise on the matter and knowledge from previous experiences.

  1. Beginning the new software project without a plan of action & workflow

It is never a good idea to start ANY project without a plan of action. So why start an ERP implementation without one? What every business leader should do is;

  • Sit down with the Software Provider to discuss and outline the complete process or plan of action for the implementation phase and create a workflow
  • Identify everyone’s role and responsibility throughout the implementation phase
  • Share the plan of action with all involved parties, along with their roles and responsibilities
  • Properly educate all employees (or users of the new system) about any change in business processes that will affect their day-to-day work life.

It’s best if companies have a well-designed plan before starting the project, accounting for minor changes, in order to avoid confusion, frustrations, increased costs, etc. Major software or process changes should all be accounted for during the outline of the plan of action. Inform all employees of the coming changes so they aren’t surprised and can have time to accept these changes.

If you’re a leader of a company, looking to implement a new software system, don’t make these common 5 mistakes. Contact us today for more information.

We know that many of you probably stick with your current IT Provider, even if you aren’t truly satisfied with them and their software solutions. What should you do then when they mention that it’s time to upgrade your existing on-premises ERP system? Should you go ahead with it or should you look into perhaps upgrading to a cloud-based SaaS ERP solution? Read more

At this point in time, I’d say that most of our readers know what EDI is. We’ve written tons of articles and continuously provide educational resources on it. If you are still unsure of what EDI is and what it can do for your business, please refer to our EDI slide presentation or download our Intro to EDI guide to get better acquainted with this business communication method. Read more

We are true ‘Cloud’ lovers here at Namtek Consulting Services! We have seen first-hand the many benefits that our customers, big and small, have realized with our cloud offerings – from our EDI2XML service to our ErpWizard system in the cloud. Read more

This post was updated to reflect current trends and information.

software-user-training

When speaking about a new software implementation, a bank of hours for end user training is typically brought up in the discussion. More often, IT Software Providers will refer to this service as optional, leaving business executives with the belief that the training is unimportant or not fully necessary for a successful implementation. This false perception associated to user training can later causes issues for the company, such as user resistance, unsuccessful implementation or not fully understanding the system benefits, as originally promised by the IT Software Provider.

Read more

This post was updated to reflect current trends and information.

We love eCommerce Stores and we love EDI services. Who knew that we’d love them both even more by integrating the two! Read more

We know the term “ERP” is still commonly associated to large enterprises and can come with some pretty bad past experiences by many business executives. Hopefully, this article will shed some light on ERP solutions and implementations in today’s small business environment, as systems and implementation processes have evolved. Small businesses are finally taking advantage […]

 

Technological advancements have truly changed the way businesses are able to backup and restore their sensitive company data. The demand shifted from simply needing a backup system to a backup AND restoration solution. This is because, in today’s fast-moving, dynamic and competitive business environment, traditional backup methods, like tapes and drives, are simply not enough. Business people need to know that: 1. Their backups are working properly and are taken at multiple times a day and 2. They can easily and quickly restore any and all lost data (be it a single file or an entire server) at a moment’s notice. Read more

Analytics and Business Intelligence (BI) are some of the latest trends in today’s business world. You may be wondering why all of a sudden analytics is such a big deal, since analyzing data, to gain valuable information, has been around for many, many years. Here’s why

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