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ERP Implementation

The #1 Way to Make ERP Implementations More Successful

By | Cloud ERP, ERP Implementation | No Comments

If you’ve ever implemented new software, you know it can be painful. Change is hard. It takes your time, energy, and money, and frequently you come out the other side feeling like you haven’t gotten what you signed up for. What would you give to make it easier? We’ve come up with a sure-fire way to lessen the frustration and ensure success. Mentoring.

I like Wikipedia’s definition of Mentorship: Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. Interaction with an expert may also be necessary to gain proficiency with/in cultural tools. Mentorship experience and relationship structure affect the amount of psychosocial support, career guidance, role modeling, and communication that occurs in the mentoring relationships in which the protégés and mentors engaged.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentorship)

As a professional services company focused on the Enterprise Research Planning (ERP) industry, we see a variety of customers from many different market spaces. At PC Bennett Solutions, we want to empower our customers to self-service their ERP (Acumatica) system at the highest level possible to obtain maximum efficiencies while using the software. To do that, we take the approach of “teaching you to fish” through a mentoring process. This is done so that you and your team can sustain your system with minimal input from us. If we do it correctly, we not only have a customer for life, but the value we impart is tangible and the Return on Investment (ROI) is measurable.

Why Customer Mentoring? Everyone does things a little differently, and our customers are all unique. The need arises to mentor our customers on how we approach work that will be performed. This can encompass our:

  • Implementation methodology
  • Timeline and expectations
  • Go-live
  • Support
  • Billing and maintenance

…and everything in between. It is paramount to a good partnership to have these mentoring sessions. Through these sessions, the customer gets comfortable with the process and it helps disperse feelings of fear and anxiety. If you know when and why something is going to occur, you are less anxious and the potential to become frustrated because of overages in budget or extensions to the project timeline are minimized or averted altogether.

The Pain of an ERP Implementation

Let’s face it – ERP implementations are painful, sometimes ugly, and can feel like open heart surgery for a business. This is a perfect opportunity for the implementor (what we call a business partner) to mentor you through the process to achieve a successful outcome. At PC Bennett we use a proven methodology to walk through our implementation process.

We communicate with you beforehand about the challenges and emotions that will be felt as we go through the process. We always show the Kubler-Ross Change/Grief Curve, JM Fisher’s version, at our kickoff meeting as it is a great visual for showing the typical paths an ERP implementation may take. We want you to stay on the “purple path” as close as possible.

Kubler-Ross Change Grief Curve

Phases of an ERP Implementation

PC Bennett utilizes a structured implementation methodology to ensure Acumatica is configured and implemented in a manner that best supports your business requirements. We communicate this five-phase process to you from the onset of the project and all the way through to ongoing support and after:
Phases of Acumatica Implementation

Discovery and Planning

This phase is probably where we mentor the most. I always tell customers in our kick-off meetings that this is the one area they will likely get the most frustrated. Discovery usually takes the longest and is the most detailed phase during an implementation. The general rule-of-thumb is the Discovery Phase will take between half and two thirds of the total project time. As the implementors, we want to get the project right from the very start. To do this requires determining any current special processes and then lining them up with standard ones in Acumatica. We try to work as much out-of-the-box as possible and leave customizations as a last resort.

This phase can and will be an extremely frustrating time because customers don’t see anything happening, as most of the work is internal to the PC Bennett implementation team. Communication and transparency is critical during this phase. We want you to know what is being accomplished.

https://dilbert.com/strip/2006-01-29

Key Activities & Deliverables during this phase:

  1. Install or establish your Acumatica site and create your Company files.
  2. Plan and hold a series of meetings with you to establish a baseline of understanding of the company’s business structure, current operational practices and business requirements.
  3. Prepare and deliver a “Significant Business Processes” (BRD) document outlining PC Bennett’s understanding of key operational practices that may impact the project’s budget, timeline and scope, as well as the Configuration Design and implementation of Acumatica.
  4. Prepare and deliver a project Statement of Work (SOW).

System Initialization and Design

During the System Initialization and Design phase, we start the process of core configurations within the system (master records such as Accounts, Sub-accounts, Customer, Vendors, and Inventory). During this phase we typically go on-site for an Orientation session which helps us expose the customer to Acumatica. The Orientation also helps get the Project Team members engaged by going through the majority of the transaction screens and key reports.

Key Activities & Deliverables during this phase:

  1. Plan and conduct a series of Software Orientation Meetings with you and your team to establish a baseline understanding of Acumatica’s configuration requirements and impact to aid the Company to make informed decisions in its configuration.
  2. Establish and document an initial Configuration Design of key components within the application.
  3. Establish module-level preferences and validating components to be used within by the system’s master and transaction levels.
  4. Establish a Pilot Configuration you can use to test and validate the basic configuration of Acumatica.
  5. Initial Training to your personnel on processing transactions within Acumatica for the purposes of validating the Pilot Configuration.
  6. Initial Training to personnel on the configuration of areas in which your company has sole responsibility (e.g. user security, creation of Notification Templates).
  7. Obtain your acceptance of Pilot Configuration and approval for final System Configuration.

System Configuration

System Configuration is the last phase before we take you through testing and training. During this phase a pilot, or sandbox, site is created where all of the final configuration is completed. We want you to complete as many of these tasks as possible for a couple of reasons. One, to engage you in the processes within Acumatica, and the second is for you and your team to take ownership of the system.

Key Activities & Deliverables during this phase:

  1. Import final master records as applicable to modules “in scope.”
  2. Review final configuration to identify configuration gaps and provide guidance to correct these gaps.
  3. Migrate final configuration to a pilot company file for final testing and training.

Testing and Training

PC Bennett is responsible for initial preliminary testing of the setup and data converted, but the bulk of the testing responsibility will fall to your Project Team. An understanding of the data is required to test the data and processes. Therefore, the Project Team will have the majority of the work in this area.

Testing will occur through each Area Leader. Testing will not occur until the initial setup occurs and preliminary data entry has been completed. The testing environment should be as close as possible to the live environment to establish a greater level of comfort with system processes and the like.

PC Bennett trains throughout the project. For instance, the Project Team will get overall Acumatica ERP training once the system has been installed and the preliminary setup has occurred. Training will occur in the following areas:

  • General usage and module configuration
  • Transaction processing and month-end closing
  • Reporting and inquiry overview

We recommend that the Project Team understands the system as a whole and its members are encouraged to attend as many of the training classes as possible. Once the system has gone through the bulk of testing, a second training schedule will be created for users not on the project team to receive training in their functional area as needed.

Key Activities & Deliverables during this phase:

  1. Conduct “Train the Trainer” training to a company-designated “Super-user” responsible for transferring system and functional knowledge to Company personnel.
  2. Perform a mock “go-live” dry run for the purposes of validating the successful import of open documents for in-scope modules, as applicable, and a sample of Historical General Ledger Trial Balances.
  3. Obtain overall User Acceptance and make a “go/no-go” decision.

Deployment/Go-Live

Once Testing and Training has been completed, we work with you to determine a mutually accepted “go-live” date. Once that is established, the following activities and deliverables will occur for this phase:

  1. Migrate opening balances for all “in scope” modules.
  2. Assist you in the importing of historical trail balances as needed to support comparative financial reporting.
  3. Provide on-site training and assistance to personnel during the go-live transition to ensure successful use of Acumatica.

Ongoing Support – Customer Care Plan 

PC Bennett is dedicated to the long-term success of your Acumatica investment. The Customer Care Plan ensures you get the most from your system by providing expert, reliable personnel to train and advise you and your team. Our dedicated support staff is ready to solve any technical issues, and experienced, dependable software developers keep customer systems upgraded with the latest software enhancements.

Unlike traditional ERP customer support, which is billed on a per-hour or per-incident basis, PC Bennett’s Customer Care Plan is billed as a monthly subscription. This helps you budget support expenses and avoid any unpleasant billing surprises.

What PC Bennett’s Customer Care Plan includes:

Unlimited Support Tickets

  • Correcting data-related issues
  • Troubleshooting ERP processing issues
  • Solving security related issues within ERP
  • Troubleshooting and reporting issues to software vendor
  • Documenting issue resolutions or workarounds

Software Upgrades

  • One Minor Acumatica Upgrade per year (e.g. version 2018R1 to 2018R2)
  • One Major Acumatica Upgrade per year (e.g. version 2018R2 to 2019R1)
  • Unlimited software patches required for bug fixes
  • Upgrading any PC Bennett customization packages or products

Unlimited Training

  • Unlimited training on all modules that have been implemented
  • Training of new employees

Mentoring doesn’t stop after the implementation is completed. We work hand-in-hand with you throughout the year to determine areas we can improve and optimize Acumatica. We want to continually add value to what our customers are doing with Acumatica.  Our CEO, Patricia Bennett, makes it a point to see each and every customer at least once a year. This is getting to be a difficult task as our customer base grows, but it will continue because we feel so strongly about making and maintaining a personal connection with our customers. The time and expense are inconsequential compared to the outcomes of face-to-face meetings.

Because of the way we work with our customers, PC Bennett is very proud to have been recognized with two awards at Acumatica’s 2019 Summit. These awards go to the very heart of why we mentor. We start the mentoring process from the first minutes we engage with you as a future customer all the way through the lifetime of the entire engagement.

The first award received at the Acumatica Summit for work in 2018 was the Customer Service Excellence Award which is given to the partner that has the highest Customer Satisfaction score. Acumatica polls all of their customers twice a year, and PC Bennett had the highest rating out of almost 400 partners. This award goes to the very core of what PC Bennett is trying to accomplish in creating “Customers for Life”.

The second award was the Modern VAR of the Year. This award is special because it identifies a partner who continues to evolve their practice from a traditional professional service model (time and materials) to one based on a subscription model (value based – fixed fees). Acumatica likes to describe themselves as the disruptive teenager in the middle of the market cloud ERP space. PC Bennett likes to say we are the disruptive teenager in the Acumatica partner channel because of our innovative practices. The way we mentor our customers is probably the single largest contributor to why we were recognized with this award.

Go forth and mentor. Trust me, it will be a rewarding journey both professionally and in the lifetime relationships you build!

 

Tim O’Sullivan is an owner and Chief Operating Officer at PC Bennett Solutions, a Value-Added Reseller in the Acumatica partner chain. He oversees the day-to-day operations of PC Bennett including the consulting and implementation teams. He has over 25 years in the Tier 1 and 2 ERP spaces with a focus on Distribution and Manufacturing.

PC Bennett Solutions offers a personalized, full-service experience for customers by implementing business management technology. Through a hands-on approach, PC Bennett Solutions helps companies get the most out of their software system. The team provides training, implementation and customization of Acumatica. Headquartered in the Seattle area, PC Bennett Solutions is one of the largest exclusive Acumatica resellers. For more information, visit www.pcbennett.com.

 

Selecting Software for Your Business

5 Critical Considerations When Selecting Software for Your Business

By | ERP Implementation, Software Selection | No Comments

Software selection and implementation can be complicated. We can get caught up in the hype we hear. Ensuring you get the software you need, when you need it is what I’m talking about today. Ask yourself if a new software solution, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), or an upgrade to an existing solution will increase productivity and efficiency. Are there other considerations? Maybe it will help your business be more precise with its data, encourage better inventory practices or smooth out the payroll process. Let’s go through five critical considerations when selecting a software solution for your business.

1.  Make sure there is a compelling business reason to make the change.

      • Really think through the problem you are trying to solve. Talk to your staff to get their perspective.
      • Are you entering the same data multiple times?
      • Are human errors costing you money?
      • Are most of your operations being handled in Microsoft Excel or something similar?
      • Do you have inventory control issues? Are you missing sales because you are running out of merchandise?
      • Do you have trouble getting good data to make the right decisions for your business?

If you answer yes to any of these, you have a good reason to change your software.

2.  Is the timing right for your business to make the change?

Sometimes business owners don’t realize what a big deal selecting software is. Loss of productivity, employee dissatisfaction, and cost are just a few of the side effects. In order to minimize these risks, consider the following steps:

      • Set clear goals for the new software solution. Don’t rush through this step. Know what problem you are solving and what success really looks like.
      • Involve as many members of the organization as possible. More employees on board means faster adoption.
      • Business requirement gather is critical. Document your business processes as they are today and as you would like them to be. Put it in writing. Share the business requirements internally for consensus.
      • Document things that you know are unique to your business. Maybe your geography creates unique challenges. Does your product use special materials that require a specific lead time to acquire? Are the existing software solutions in your business antiquated? Whatever the issue, get it in writing.
      • Designate a superuser. This is a person that will know all areas of the solution inside and out. This will be your go-to person for help with the solution. This individual will help bring other employees on board with the new system.
      • Have the right expectations- implementations take time. It took you a long time to get to a software decision. It will take just as long, if not more time, to implement the solution. Sometimes a phased approach will give you a faster return on your investment. Get the solution provider to help you determine the best manner for you to proceed.

3.  Finding the best solution for your business.

Every business is unique and has its own issues. One thing is universal: your competition is doing something similar. What business software solutions are they using? Are they successfully running their businesses? Find out all you can about the other guy. You’ll benefit from the information. Here are some ways to benchmark what others are using:

    • Participate in industry groups. You will find others who share your challenges. These are environments where you can share information and learn. Many of these groups are free to join.
    • Use Google. Search for “Cloud ERP”, “Accounting Solutions”, “inventory control applications”, “Manufacturing” or whatever applies to your business problem.
    • Use user-based rankings and ratings sites:
    • Evaluate the Growth Potential- ensure the software you are evaluating is using the latest technology. You are about to make a big investment. Technology changes so quickly that buying old technology doesn’t make sense, even if it saves you money. Some vendors are coming up with “new products” that are really old products with a facelift. Be aware of this. Ask the hard questions to get the facts.
      • Select 3 or 4 software solutions to evaluate. Only with choices can you make a reasonable decision. You can often save substantial money when you compare solutions.
      • Spend the time to test the software and make sure it will work for you. Have your staff try to use the solution. Bring any challenges to the software provider. Find a resolution before you buy.
      • Don’t be afraid to ask for demos and guidance from the vendor. Customer success and presales resources exist in many companies. The goal is to ensure customers effectively use the solutions.
      • Check the reviews for the products you are evaluating. Most people will take the time to review when they are not happy with a solution. Less will review when they are happy. Make a balanced decision.
      • Determine how will it interact with other software you currently use.
      • Remember to ask about the hidden value. After purchase service and training are serious differentiators that can easily be overlooked.

4.  Find the right partner.

Most of the ERP systems out there are sold and implemented by technology partners. Make sure you have the right partner. You are about to have the equivalent of open-heart surgery for your business, and you don’t want just anyone to do that job.

Implementing new software is no easy task. You will be working with your partner for some time. Make sure this is a relationship you want to be in for a while. Check references. Check their website. They usually have customers listed on their site. You may recognize a name of a company you know. Give them a call. Check their social media. Maybe ask a trusted colleague or other industry reference.

5.  Look beyond the implementation.

There are many costs to consider when running an ERP system in your business. The costs aren’t all obvious. Look for the hidden costs.

      • Support
      • Upgrades
      • Ongoing Training
      • Customizations for your business

Make sure you understand what it will cost you to run your new software. Be prepared for this. Many businesses are surprised by the cost of supporting their software. Implementing your new software was a big investment — you will need to maintain it just like you do a new car so you will need to plan for it.

These are just a few points but if you need help or have a question, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Patricia Bennett
patriciab@pcbennett.com