Call Center Management: Tips to Improve Customer Service, Part 2

There has never been a more important time to project great customer service than today. Customer service with support calls is critical to the growth of any business. Over the years, we have learned a lot about customer service and how to handle support calls. As in the first blog the list is molded by experiences in the enterprise software industry but are applicable to any customer support call. I hope these tips in addition to those shared in the first blog on Call Center Management will help.

Did you read: Call Center Management: Tips to Improve Customer Service, Part 1

Call Center Management

1. Remember They Can’t See You

As humans, over 50% of our communication is done through body language. This, of course, is wiped out when you’re on the phone. They can’t see your smile, or your head nodding in agreement, or look you in the eye to see that you’re paying attention. You need to make up for this by verbally recognizing what they’re saying. A simple “ok” or “I understand” can go a long way in improving the conversation.

2. Fix the Problem Twice

In the case of a bug or other problematic issue, it’s always important to take care of the customer in the quickest possible manner. Get them a quick fix or workaround so they can continue with what they were doing. After that, spend the extra time to find the underlying problem and make sure it gets fixed.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Apologize

Anyone in a support role needs to learn pretty quickly to check their ego at the door. If you can’t easily apologize for something that had absolutely nothing to do with you, then you may want to choose another career path.

4. Tell Them What You’re Doing

This goes back to number 1 in this list. The customer can’t see you, so make sure to fill them in on what you’re doing to help them. Nobody likes to sit in silence or listen to a bunch of keys rattle off and not know what’s happening. Be sure to tell your customer what you’re doing so they know you’re making progress towards a solution.

5. Record Yourself

Start recording your phone conversations and playing them back to see how you fared. You’ll be amazed at the things you pick up on right away and can start improving on. If your phone system can’t record calls, then you can always put the call on speaker and record the conversation with another recording device. Be sure to tell your customer the call is being recorded.

6. What Else Can I Do

Always ask this question to two people: yourself and your customer. Ask yourself what else can be done to make the experience better. Surely there’s something you can do, even if it’s small. Maybe you can offer a coupon, or upgrade them to a higher status, or provide a link on the internet with additional information. Ask your customer what else you can help them with; there may be another issue or request they need help with. This also gives the impression that you’re in no hurry to get off the phone with them.

BONUS TIP: Ask For Feedback

Customers typically do not volunteer to tell you what’s wrong, so you may have to ask. Provide the opportunity for them to offer feedback by having them fill out a survey covering areas such as quality of service, and response time. This will help you identify and address areas that need improvement before it’s too late. It also lets the customer know that you care.

You work hard to attract new customers and do not want to have your efforts wasted or lost because of poor customer service. Evaluate your customer service procedures to see if there are areas that could be improved.

If you missed last week’s blog, I encourage you read it for 6 additional tips to improve your customer support calls.

A reminder that a great software system to handle support tickets and general Customer Relationship Management (CRM) needs is a must. It can automate processes, send notifications, track support levels, and provide valuable metrics. It’s difficult to imagine doing a job without an application.

For additional information call 713-680-2247 or request a demo.

Call Center Management: Tips to Improve Customer Service, Part 1

Have you answered your fair share of customer support calls over the years? If so, you’ve learned a lot about customer service and how important it is to conduct yourself when answering a support call. While the following list is molded by experiences in the enterprise software industry, most of the tips here are applicable to any customer support call. I hope you can glean some tips from it for your own business.

1. Be Enthusiastic About the Call

People respond positively to enthusiasm, especially when it’s about them. Set a positive and cheerful tone for the call by answering with a smile and acting genuinely excited to hear the caller’s voice.

2. Have Note-Taking Tools Ready

Always have a pad of paper in front of you and at least three pens. This allows you to jot down notes as the call is happening. This is especially important if the caller is referencing specific examples or records in their system that need further investigation. Don’t make the caller wait for you to find a pen or something to write on. It gives the appearance that you’re unprepared to help them.

3. Stop Multitasking

This one is huge and many of us struggle with this every day. Make a conscious effort to stop doing whatever it is you were doing before the phone rang. Stop typing that email, or reading that article, or working on that other customer’s request. People can tell when you’re distracted and people can tell when they have your undivided attention. Focus in on the phone call and give your customer assurance they’re being taken care of.

4. Be Human

There’s no perfect way to act during a support call. The best advice is to be yourself and go with the flow. While you want to project yourself as a competent professional, don’t be so professional that you come across as unapproachable. Take the time to get to know your customers and build rapport with them. This can lead to a long-term relationship.

5. Escalate the Right Way

There will always be times when a call needs to be escalated; the key is to escalate the call without leaving your customer feeling abandoned. You can escalate a call by conferencing in the other party (most likely a senior support team member) and explaining the issue/request to him while the customer is on the line with you. Stay on the line until the call is resolved. This allows you to interject or fill in a missing hole when needed. It also lets you finish the call with your customer, which is important since you’re the one they reached out to in the first place.

6. Mute Your Computer Speakers

Today we use a lot of different communication tools, like email, Instant Messaging, and SMS. That doesn’t mean you should be making loud dinging noises in the background of your support call. They’re distracting to the customer and they give the impression you’re doing something else.

BONUS TIP: Get Yourself Some Software

A great software system to handle support tickets and general Customer Relationship Management (CRM) needs is a must. It can automate processes, send notifications, track support levels, and provide valuable metrics. It’s difficult to imagine doing customer support calls without an application.

You work hard to attract new customers and don’t want to have your efforts wasted or lost because of poor customer service. Evaluate your call center service procedures to see if there are areas that could be improved.

Stayed tuned for next week’s blog for 6 additional tips to improve your customer support calls. For additional information on Call Center Management, call 713-680-2247 or request a demo.

Read Next: Call Center Management: Tips to Improve Customer Service, Part 2

8 FACTS THAT VALIDATE THE COST OF AN ERP

How much does an ERP cost?

ERP systems have now been around long enough that most companies are convinced and aware of the benefits they can bring. There is no denying that deploying an ERP solution is a major event in the life of a company, and the costs involved are substantial. ERP systems can be a fairly large investment; therefore, one wants to see a well-reasoned return on investment before moving forward. Not everyone understands the benefits that an ERP solution can bring.

I would like to share with you some basic facts that I think will help warrant the cost of an ERP system. Some of the benefits of the investment can be measured where others cannot.

Let’s start with the benefits that are tangible and measurable:

  • Reduction in Inventory – Because of improved planning and scheduling one can expect a 20% inventory reduction. This is a commonly achieved benchmark, plus a recurring element to it in terms of lower warehousing costs, handling and transportation and reduced damage. These can add another 5% to 10% to the savings.

Read Also: Save Thousands Using Barcoding for Better Inventory Control

  • Reduction in Material Costs – An ERP leads to improved procurement processes. Better demand forecast allows better terms from vendors which can mean a 5% reduction in purchasing costs. You will no longer have to pay for material at those premium prices because of shortages.
  • Lower Cost of Labor – Manufacturing practices will improve and your work schedule will benefit from fewer outages and interruptions. You can estimate that an ERP can bring down your direct and indirect labor costs by as much as 10%. This will reduce overtime and re-work as well as speed up the work flow on the shop floor.

Read Also: Are you making money on your projects? Job Costing is Key

  • Improved Sales and Customer Service – Better coordination and communication within the company and streamlined production leads to an increase in sales. A company running a good ERP sees fewer lost sales, an increase in overall sales and far greater customer satisfaction. Ability to manage and keep customers happy will result in repeat business. This increase can be as much as 10% of the previous sales value.

Read Also: Call Center Management: Tips to Improve Customer Service, Part 1

  • Improved Accounting and Cash Flow – Companies that run a robust ERP systems report a reduction of the number of days for their receivables. By simply reducing the days the receivables are outstanding, an ERP can improve your cash flow significantly. All result in a reduced requirement of cash. Reports readily available for outstanding invoices, delinquent accounts will help reduce those “problem” accounts. This can typically reduce the days outstanding receivables by 18%.

Besides the easily measured tangible benefits, there are other improvements that are hard to quantify but are equally important to the company. Here are three:

  • Improvement in Process Design and Production – Since the ERP uses a common database that runs through the shop floor as well as the design section, this allows for better control over process design and production. If last minute changes are needed, all persons involved in the project will be communicated with immediately allowing for a faster response time.
  • Improvement in Accounting Procedures – Since the entire company runs over a common database, there is no longer any need for duplicate files. This not only improves accuracy but speeds up the accounting process. Financial reports provide a complete and comprehensive projection in real time and can be customized to the needs of the person. Imagine how much time and money you would save simply by not having to complete manual journal entries and by being able to close month end in hours vs. weeks. Such visibility could also help you keep your jobs within budget.
  • Improvement in Management Information Systems(MIS) Functions – An ERP system implemented as a software package, a MIS is no longer required to collate information from different sources and can offer an instantaneous view into the company’s bottom line.

Read Also: How to Choose a Manufacturing ERP Software?

There is no doubt that researching and implementing an ERP solution is a major endeavor for a company. The costs involved can be substantial and will mostly depend on the type of solution you will choose. On this level, you will have three options: out-of-the-box, customizable or configurable.

3 Essential ERP Systems You Need to Compare

The search for an ERP system is a long and daunting process that usually takes a few months but it is critical to make sure you take the right decision since it will impact your business for the next few years and sometime decades. If you make the right choice, it will streamline your processes, make your life easier and take your efficiency levels to a level you never imagined.

The first step toward choosing the right ERP is to find the type that will be right for your business. You have three options here: out of the box, customizable or configurable. We will try to help you choose the right fit by presenting each system, their benefits and the pitfalls to avoid.

Out of the box

An out of the box ERP is a pre-conceived system that needs zero to very little configuration or customization. Relatively quick to install and launch, it includes vital functionalities of an ERP system that are repetitive across markets and industries. For example, a manufacturing company and a retailer will use the same standard supply-chain management module to run their logistics. Although it may be sufficient for a young business trying to quickly put a simple system in place, it can be problematic for corporations with sophisticated processes. A manufacturer of pre-engineered metal buildings with a large and complex Bill of Materials will probably not gain as much efficiency if he uses a standardized system that was built for retail vs a production module that incorporates processes developed for the metal Industry.

If it demands less customization than other systems initially, buyers have to keep in mind that an out of the box ERP is also less flexible. This means that the company will have to bend its processes to fit the ones created within the software. It can be a good option; sometimes processes are unique to a business for a reason, because they are not the most performing within the industry, and the standard process will improve efficiency. But buyers must be careful that implementing an off the shelve solution will not impact negatively their comparative advantage.

Customization is regularly required to have a better fit-solution that will truly impact a business efficiency but it will require major investments that can double or triple the amount initially invested.

Read Also: What is an ERP Software?

Customizable ERP

A customizable ERP is a solution built from scratch to fit your current processes. It requires heavy development and budget but also senior management and a team of experts in ERP implementation. Because of the amount of work that goes into, it will be the solution with the highest risk and overall cost.

Because of the very nature of customizable ERP, the budget and timeframe required are extensive which makes them complicated to estimate. Since some of the modules are created for the first time, it is not rare to need more for testing and development than anticipated; generating delays and increasing initial costs.

A good fit for this type of projects is typically a large corporation with decades of best practices and unique processes that already give them a clear competitive advantage over competition. They are ready to put together a team of experts in project management and to invest millions of dollars into a system that will reflect their unique way of doing business. This type of company will typically have the resources and such unique processes that creating a fully tailored ERP system will reinforce their competitive advantage and justify the resources invested into a brand new solution.

Configurable ERP

A Configurable ERP is a middle ground-solution between the two. Probably the most common, they still require some development but they are easier, quicker and cheaper to implement than customized systems.

Such systems are basically a list of modules that the business chooses from to create a solution. The programming phase will consist in selecting and setting up the right modules.

In this extent, configurable ERP systems are fairly fast and easy to implement. They require a lower risk management than customizable systems while fitting more of the business than an out of the box solution. Since the modules are pre-conceived, buyers must pay close attention to the functionalities offered and the way they have been developed.

Are the new processes more efficient than the ones in place? Have they been primarily designed for another industry? Do they include the best practices of your industry? There are so many configurable ERPs out there that you can certainly find the perfect fit for your business, and industry knowledge should be a major part of the selection process.

Two concerns usually rise with this model. The first one is on an economic standpoint. Vendors usually offer a rate-card per module and charge the client for each module activated. The prices presented are usually prohibitive and too often clients have to sacrifice functionalities to stay within budget. The second is on a technical level. Consider a vendor offering manufacturing, shipping and accounting modules. The evaluation team may select only the first and the last, leaving the logistics aspect to another program or the process currently in place. IT managers will be tasked to fill the gaps between the missing parts, which can not only be challenging (or worst, dysfunctional) but also annihilate the whole benefit that was sought after in the first place:  to centralize every aspect of a business and bring transparency.

Read Also: How To Calculate an ROI for your Manufacturing ERP?

The perfect fit – Configurable solution and industry specialist

Our first recommendation is to go with a system that knows your industry. We, at ABIS, Inc, specialize in Manufacturing, Metal, and Utility Industries. It is what we know, and what we have been recognized for during the past three decades.

But it is not only logical because of our industry knowledge or our experience. Every single module developed in Adjutant, our software, has been written to fit the best practices of a specific industry. For three decades, our client-partners have shared their processes and we have taken the best of them to input them into Adjutant. Today, it is a formidable collection of best practices that plays in harmony together. We called this collaborative sharing, and it is the base principle of ABIS, Inc technology.

As a configurable solution, client-partners can choose to activate the modules they primarily need. But unlike most configurable system, they do not pay each module individually: we directly offer and install the entire system. Client-partners can choose to activate the most important options now and progressively integrate new functionalities as they grow for the same price.

This is not only cost-effective for our client-partners, we also find it more ethical, because there is nothing more frustrating in our eyes than buying something without using it to its full potential. It would be like ordering a 20oz Ribeye at your favorite steakhouse and only being allowed to eat two bites out of it. Nobody would want that. So at ABIS, Inc, we serve you the 20oz Ribeye, and not only do we let you eat all of it, but we also make sure it’s the best one you will ever have because we have spent 30 years in every steakhouse and farm in the US to find the ultimate piece that will make you forget what a regular steak used to taste like.

So whether you are a manufacturer, a metal business or a utility company, ABIS, Inc has compiled into one software the best practices of your industry. If you want to learn more about us, let us know and we will schedule a personalized demo to show you the functionalities that you want. And if you happen to be in Houston and looking for a 20oz Ribeye, feel free to give us a call and we will give you a few pointers that will be worth your time.

The Next Generation of Warehouse Management

Curious about the next generation of Warehouse Management? Want to improve the management of your warehouse? Warehousing in the Metal Construction Industry has evolved over the past years. New technology has made once-difficult and time-consuming tasks much easier to accomplish. Using barcode and warehouse management systems make running a warehouse much more efficient and profitable.

Wireless warehouse, barcode technology

The wireless warehouse system allows managers to maximize their return on investment in their companies. This barcode technology has many benefits including:

  • Lighting-speed transactions
  • Greater data accuracy
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Lowered inventory costs
  • Tighter quality controls
  • Better Customer Service
  • Data in “real time”

See Also: ERP for the Metal Industry

Managers would be unmindful not to harness these substantial competitive advantages. Wireless warehousing enables managers to perform automated collection of valuable data. This means that they can precisely assess inventory which enables them to make more accurate job bids and reduce their chances of under- or overbidding. Competitors who are already using this type of data collection software can easily provide better customer response and take considerable market share away from managers who do not have these systems in place.

The use of wireless warehousing barcode technology in the Metal Construction Industry can also help to boost productivity while enhancing accuracy in the work performed. These improvements in productivity are the primary reason why so many metal construction companies are installing the wireless warehousing barcode technology. The technology increases operator motivation and management control. These easily-used barcode scanners allow users to perform their jobs more effectively and efficiently. These scanners make it almost impossible not to collect accurate, timely and useful information such as quantity on hand as well as location of the items in the warehouse.

Workers also enjoy the benefits of this barcode technology because they are required to fill out less paperwork while recording even more accurate information. They can easily locate goods and be sure that they are in the locations that are recorded.

Fewer inventory stoppages are another barcode benefit. Tracking and scanning items with a wireless warehouse system reduces the need to conduct costly stock-takes or cycle-counts. These tasks are generally performed outside of the regular working hours and on weekends, which means they can cost the company large amounts of money in overtime pay. Eliminating the need for cycle-counts and stock-takes drastically increases a warehouse’s popularity. These stock-takes are conducted on a regular, usually monthly, basis in metal construction software warehouses where wireless warehouse technology is not in use. However, the companies that do use the new technology do not need to conduct these regular stock-takes and generally record inventory accuracies of 99.9 percent. This increased productivity also has the benefit of reducing overtime pay. Less hours worked means less overtime worked.

Read Also: Save Thousands Using Barcoding for Better Inventory Control

This new technology makes it possible to provide better decision support. Making the best accounting decisions depends on accurate costing. More reliable, faster and better information also makes it possible for warehouse managers to hold less items in stock. This means that these managers can reduce the average 10 percent safety stock that most warehouses without this technology usually hold in their warehouses. Reducing this stock will free up space and dollars that can be used for more profitable uses.

Barcode technology offers many benefits to warehouse managers. The affects on efficiency and profitability are undeniable. Reducing overtime pay and improving worker accuracy are valuable pursuits in the warehousing business. Every warehouse manager needs to look into installing this sort of system. Anyone who does not institute this new technology is certain to be left behind and get quickly overshadowed by their more forward planning competitors.

For More information on ABIS Wireless Warehouse Management Software Contact Us

Save Thousands Using Barcoding for Better Inventory Control

Ever thought about a barcoding system? In any business environment it is always a smart move to look for ways to reduce cost in order to keep profits as strong as possible. In tough times many businesses look at reducing things like employee head count, advertising and marketing, but these solutions can sometimes have a negative effect on the business. Often, better inventory control is overlooked when examining ways to reduce cost. One way to have better control of inventory is by using a good barcoding system.

What is a Barcoding System?

Over the last decade or so, barcodes have become commonplace on almost all goods. The vertical bars forming what looks like some random pattern actually can tell quite a bit about the item if used with the right system.

The typical barcoding system will consist of a computer housing the inventory barcoding software a printer and a barcode reader. The barcoding software will allow the company to set up all its items in the system and will keep track of the scanned inventory. The printer will be used for printing custom barcode that convey the information required by the warehouse managers and the scanner will be the means of quickly keeping track of the inventory without having to manually write down information every time inventory is received, sold or relocated.

If used properly, a bar code can tell a company among other things:

  • The item’s origin
  • Weight
  • Color
  • Quantity in stock
  • Location in the warehouse
  • Age
  • Size

The information is only limited by the system used and information input about the product into the system.

Read Also: The Next Generation of Warehouse Management

How to proceed?

Once you have decided to move forward with a barcoding system there are a few steps that are needed. First, decide on a system. There are many barcoding systems and some have more features than others. Features vary widely and your choice really depends on how much information you want to have about each product.

Once you know what type of system you are going with, then you can begin with the set up. There will be a bit of work on the front end of the project but if you allocate the time and do a thorough set up the return on the investment of time and money will happen quickly.

Here are a few of the things you will need to do:

  • Develop a list of the items that you should have in your warehouse
  • Decide what information you want to track with your barcodes
  • Print and place barcode on your inventory
  • If you plan to track location as well, print and place barcodes on your shelves
  • Complete a physical count of the inventory in your warehouse and get those actual numbers in your system.

Once you go live with your new system, there are a few things you can do to keep your inventory in check.

  • Always scan items when they are being shipped or just moved to a different location in the warehouse
  • Never add inventory to the warehouse that isn’t scanned first
  • Make sure you have someone or team in charge of inventory and inventory procedure control
  • Make sure everything has a barcode label
  • Spot check inventory on a frequent basis and compare with printed reports
  • Analyze reports frequently to make sure you are not over stocking but that you do have adequate levels of each item on hand

How does this save money?

There are many ways that better inventory control can help save money and add to profitability. Some examples are:

  • Freeing up cash by eliminating non-moving stock
  • Reducing inventory carrying cost
  • Identifying stock that is in high demand to maintain better quantities of that item
  • Reduce or eliminate rush and drop ship charges due to out of stock items
  • Avoiding inventory mistakes caused by manual entry
  • Better customer support by immediately knowing what you have on hand

Using a well-designed barcoding system for inventory control is one of the best and most cost effective ways to help your company run efficiently. With thousands of manufacturers and industrials, you will create a next generation of wireless warehouse that save money and add dollars to the bottom line.

To learn more about ABIS Barcoding Software Contact Us

What is the Best Approach to ERP Implementation?

Over the past decade, businesses generated an unprecedented quantity of patents, products, and profit models. This trend of consistent expansion is accelerating—2015 being one of the most innovative years in history. In order to thrive in this age of explosive growth and competition, businesses must maximize resource efficiency. And, to do this, they must have tools that are in line with the pace of the 21stcentury marketplace.

Arguably the most important of these tools is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software package. Industry leaders consider ERP software the cornerstone of their company’s organizational and operational efficiency.  Yet, some business owners and executives consider ERP software cost-prohibitive due to the oftentimes shocking cost of adopting and implementing an ERP package. However, businesses can avoid many unnecessary costs, and significantly reduce their bottom line by following a series of steps.

We detailed these steps in a White Paper and broke it down in a series of articles. In the last article of this guide, we describe a method to implement an ERP System that has proven extremely successful over the years.

Chapter 8: What is the Best Approach to ERP Implementation?

Keep it simple stupid

As organizations make their transition into the age of innovation, many companies make a significant technological jump once the decision has been made to upgrade and automate. Due to factors such as cost, time, manpower, and complacency, most organizations taking on new innovative initiatives are converting from extremely antiquated business practices and procedures.  The ‘if it ain’t broke’ mentality has encouraged practices like tracking production and inventory on hand-written documents, forecasting and procurement data reactively based on assumptions and opinions (rather than true facts and figures) and analyzing company key performance indicators through manually created and maintained spreadsheets.  Over time, teams get acclimated and comfortable with these behaviors, which prolongs and widens the gap between the innovative stage of the company and its competitors.  Thus, once the company finally decides to upgrade, through the adoption of an ERP for example, they most likely want to change almost everything.

Although it is important for an organization to automate and improve all areas of their business, it is important to remember the amount of work and effort required to properly implement a platform as extensive as an ERP.  If too much is taken on during an ERP implementation, there are several risks that not only jeopardize the project but the organization as a whole.  Most ERP packages are broken up into modules. Whether the ERP provider charges by the module, or by the work involved to set up, configure and train on these modules, there is always a cost associated with each module. Taking on more modules than necessary will result in drowning of project resources and time, extended project timelines, and a possible decrease in training retention—all of which are exorbitant costs that will quickly deplete the budget.

“The ‘if it ain’t broke’ mentality prolongs and widens the gap between the innovative stage of the company and its competitors”

Favor a Phased Approached

Through close communication with the ERP provider in the initial planning phase of the project, you can develop a project plan that will help deter some of these risks, and the costs associated with them.  When first meeting as a company to analyze your company needs, qualify the benefits of each of the modules, and only plan to implement the ones that truly deliver value.  If the list of modules is still somewhat considerable in length and time, a phased project approach will be necessary. In a phased rollout, rather than implementing all of the desired modules in one single instance, small groups of modules and processes are implemented at a time.  This approach provides cost benefits including more time for users to adapt to the system as they go (avoiding re-training and inflated support costs). This approach can also develop super users for later phases (as users implement phase I, their expertise can be harnessed in the setup and implementation of later phases).

Additionally, by utilizing a phased approach, the company mitigates the risk of possible go-live disasters.  Due to the integrated nature of a fully implemented ERP, any failure in any portion of the software could affect other modules and processes.  If the implementation is all encompassing, there is an added pressure for users and stakeholders to be 100% prepared in all areas of the platform.  If the company has ‘bitten off more than they could chew’, the threat of a go-live rollback (reverting back to the legacy system and planning another go live in the future) becomes much greater.  Rolling back a go-live has immense monetary consequences—loss of implementation hours, loss of business and production due to shut downs, overtime costs from manpower, and additional costs from legacy platforms.  These consequences will inevitably destroy any hopes to stay within the budget of the implementation.  While phasing an implementation out may give the initial impression of added costs, it will most likely eliminate disastrous episodes and costs like these.

Conclusion

While ERP implementations can be intimidating to an organization on many levels, the apprehensions based on finances and costs can be removed by adhering to a proactive approach that follows some of the key areas discussed above.  With proper planning and attention to these traditional blind spots of an implementation, organizations will not only dramatically decrease the overall cost of an implementation but also likely ensure a successful go-live and deployment of the new platform.

What is the Executive’s Role in an ERP Implementation?

Over the past decade, businesses generated an unprecedented quantity of patents, products, and profit models. This trend of consistent expansion is accelerating—2015 being one of the most innovative years in history. In order to thrive in this age of explosive growth and competition, businesses must maximize resource efficiency. And, to do this, they must have tools that are in line with the pace of the 21stcentury marketplace.

Arguably the most important of these tools is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software package. Industry leaders consider ERP software the cornerstone of their company’s organizational and operational efficiency.  Yet, some business owners and executives consider ERP software cost-prohibitive due to the oftentimes-shocking cost of adopting and implementing an ERP package. However, businesses can avoid many unnecessary costs, and significantly reduce their bottom line by following a series of steps.

We detailed these steps in a White Paper and broke it down in a series of articles. In the sixth article of this guide, we will explain the role of the executive team and how their behavior will impact the entire project.

Chapter 7: What is the Executive’s Role in an ERP Implementation?

Leadership goes ALL IN

The implementation of an ERP requires feedback, cooperation, and buy-in from the entire company.  Unfortunately, whether it is derived from reluctance to change, fear of job security, or other common emotions that arise from a project of this nature, some team members are not as supportive and enthusiastic about implementations as others.  In fact, it is not uncommon to have employees completely revolt (be it directly or passively) against the implementation. In the industry, these resources have been playfully coined as saboteurs, project terrorists, or troublemakers.  A strong force that can help to eradicate the project of these negative forces is leadership and executive buy-in of the project.

Similar to most teamoriented environments, employees involved in an ERP implementation will look to leadership and management when forming their personal attitudes and opinions of the project. In most cases, team members will emulate their manager’s actions and attitudes towards a project in terms of support, buy-in, enthusiasm, cooperation and optimism. The practice of ‘top down positivity’ helps spread confidence, willingness, acceptance, and energy across the entire organization—which are all catalysts for a successful implementation. On the contrary, the same holds true for the effects of negativity from upper management – they will spread like wildfire, and most likely much quicker than anything on the positive side of the spectrum.

Synergy and Bad Energy

Although this may not directly add cost to the project, the indirect effects of low morale, lack of commitment, and an overall pessimistic attitude can result in additional costs.  For instance, in a supply chain management ERP implementation, there are many departments that must work hand in hand to provide proper data, derive operating procedures, assist in training, perform parallel testing, and roll out the software. Each department acts as a unique puzzle piece that is imperative to the overall synergy and proper functioning of the software and operation as a whole.

Let’s assume one of these departments, shipping/logistics, is governed by a veteran manager who does not support the implementation and change.  In order to prove his point and display his disdain for the new initiative, he will do whatever he can to stall, disprove, and prevent the project from success. In this case, the resources within this department have also begun to mimic the negative attitude concerning the project. Throughout the implementation, assignments, data requests, meeting invites, training sessions, and other elements of the project requiring cooperation are ignored and even in some cases rejected by the members of the department, including the manager.  Due to the collaborative nature of the implementation, the company cannot move through the project because of ‘one bad apple’.  This bottleneck and behavior eventually lead to an extension of the go-live date, insufficient data, untested processes and procedures, and a possibly cancerous attitude in the company—all of which culminate into excessive costs and overrun budgets.

“Employees involved in an ERP implementation will look to leadership and management when forming their personal attitudes and opinions of the project.”

In the same example, if executive leadership were to get involved, the culpable managers and departments would be counseled and even reprimanded in order to prevent this string of disruptive events. The best approach executive leadership can take when announcing or introducing an ERP implementation is one that conveys “We are getting on this bus. You can either hop on and enjoy the ride, or you will be left behind.”

In the last article of this series, we will detail the different methods to implement an ERP system. Taking the step forward to implement an ERP software in your company involves changes in the technology you use, but also in business practices and procedures. This makes the very nature of an implementation a complex operation that needs to be calculated and methodically planned. When the time is right, you will be offered several options to implement your new ERP System. This last article will put all of the cards in your hand to choose the most appropriate method for your business.

How To Make Sure You Will Not Miss Your ERP Go-Live Date

Over the past decade, businesses generated an unprecedented quantity of patents, products, and profit models. This trend of consistent expansion is accelerating—2015 being one of the most innovative years in history. In order to thrive in this age of explosive growth and competition, businesses must maximize resource efficiency. And, to do this, they must have tools that are in line with the pace of the 21st-century marketplace.

Arguably the most important of these tools is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software package. Industry leaders consider ERP software the cornerstone of their company’s organizational and operational efficiency.  Yet, some business owners and executives consider ERP software cost-prohibitive due to the oftentimes shocking cost of adopting and implementing an ERP package. However, businesses can avoid many unnecessary costs, and significantly reduce their bottom line by following a series of steps.

We detailed these steps in a White Paper and broke it down into a series of articles. In the fifth article of this guide, we talk about a major pitfall that affects 75% of implementation projects: postponing the go-live date.

Chapter 6: How To Make Sure You Will Not Miss Your ERP Go-Live Date

Stick to the plan

Panorama Consulting – an independent ERP consulting service – revealed the average duration of an ERP implementation is 14.3 months. Likewise, the study revealed 75 percent of implementation projects exceeded their initial estimated timeline. No matter the vendor/package, there is almost always an inevitable correlation between the timeline and cost of an implementation. If the company has properly defined the goals around timing and longevity of the implementation and conveyed these figures to the firm, a final go-live date can be set to steer the entire project.

75 percent of implementation projects exceeded their initial estimated timeline

One measure that can be taken to ensure the project and its stakeholders remain on pace is a detailed, granular project plan. Although project mgmt. in general is sometimes notorious for being a waste of time and budget, if performed properly it can actually help drastically reduce costs to the overall implementation.  An effective project plan will include not only detailed tasks/executions required to complete the implementation, but also supplemental dates, assignees, due dates, predecessors, completion percentages, and remarks sections.  If every task required of the implementation has an owner, and a commitment date, it is much easier to promote accountability for all stakeholders.  Psychologically, when a resource sees their name next to a commitment, they are much more likely to fulfill the responsibility, as opposed to seeing the task simply assigned to the project in general (without a particular member of the team being responsible).  Commitment times and due dates will help to organize the schedules and workloads of both the implementation consultants/project managers and the internal resources involved in the implementation.  Without due dates, resources (and even consultants) are more likely to delay or procrastinate in their project assignments until ‘crunch time’.  This type of behavior usually results in an overall bottleneck in the project, an extension of the final go-live date and increased project costs.

Strike While The Iron Is Hot

As the timeline changes and grows during the implementation, the project becomes more susceptible to cost drivers and risks.  In the software world (from a retention and education standpoint), it is best to take the ‘strike while the iron is hot’ approach. In an extended project, much of the training and knowledge transferred during the initial courses will be diluted and eventually forgotten, which will require additional hours and capital in the form of re-training and extra courses.

Another unforeseen effect of extending the timeline of a project is the implications of seasonal trends and how they correlate with resource availability, time restraints, cash flow, and other key factors that can smother the success of an implementation.  Take for instance a project that is slated for an April go live. In the initial planning phases, research and collaborative discussions established that April was the month with the least operational volume. Thus, resources and stakeholders would be able to roll out the new ERP during months that were more forgiving in terms of chaos, time, and volume of business.  During the implementation, various setbacks to the project plan and timeline dictated an August go-live (which happens to be the company’s peak month of volume). The risk of a problematic, both in cost and morale, go-live is much greater in this month than the original April target.

In the sixth article of this series, we will explain the role of management during an implementation. Leaders are the catalyst of an organization and their energy is decisive in the success (or failure) of an ERP implementation. The sixth article will cover how to leverage this facet of your company for the general benefit of the project.

How Can I Save Money on ERP Training?

Over the past decade, businesses generated an unprecedented quantity of patents, products, and profit models. This trend of consistent expansion is accelerating—2015 being one of the most innovative years in history. In order to thrive in this age of explosive growth and competition, businesses must maximize resource efficiency. And, to do this, they must have tools that are in line with the pace of the 21st-century marketplace.

Arguably the most important of these tools is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software package. Industry leaders consider ERP software the cornerstone of their company’s organizational and operational efficiency. Yet, some business owners and executives consider ERP software cost-prohibitive due to the oftentimes shocking cost of adopting and implementing an ERP package. However, businesses can avoid many unnecessary costs, and significantly reduce their bottom line by following a series of steps.

We detailed these steps in a White Paper and broke it down in a series of articles. In the fourth article of this guide, we will detail how companies should leverage the time associated with training and how they can set up their team for success.
Article 1 (Chapter 1): ERP Software Selection: Where Should I Start?
Article 2 (Chapter 2): How to Create A Winning ERP Implementation Team
Article 3 (Chapter 3-4): Do I Need to Customize my ERP?
Article 4 (Chapter 5): How Can I Save Money on ERP Training?
Article 5 (Chapter 6): How To Make Sure You Will Not Miss Your ERP Go-Live Date
Article 6 (Chapter 7): What is the Executive’s Role in an ERP Implementation?
Article 7 (Chapter 8): What is the Best Approach to ERP Implementation?

Chapter 5: How Can I Save Money on ERP Training?

Understand the importance of Training

The foundation and success of the entire ERP implementation rest on the end users’ ability to use and navigate the software as it was intended. This not only qualifies user training as one of the most imperative steps in the implementation but also one of the biggest cost implications. ERP firms commonly set aside a specific percentage of the project’s budgeted hours towards training. Depending on the ERP being implemented, courses are usually broken out based on modules and are either priced per course or per user. Although most implementations may include some padding for re-training, it is likely that any formal training courses that are requested a second time will be billed against the project, thus adding to the original cost forecast for the ERP training portion of the project. These unnecessary cost increases can be prevented through preparation, accountability, discipline, and cooperation from the stakeholders and end users of the organization.

EPR Implementation Training Steps

Assuming the project manager and implementation lead/super user have agreed upon a granular and detailed project plan, there is usually ample time to prepare for software training courses. It is imperative to request and familiarize the team of trainees with detailed training agendas prior to training. This practice allows for end users to brainstorm topics, determine any missing processes/objectives, and populate lists of questions specifically related to their use of the software. Pointing out unique business situations and processes (and how they will be executed in the software), and initiating conversations between the trainer and other end users will allow the team to come up with proper solutions both in process and software functionality. If these types of procedural and situational inquiries aren’t addressed in training, they will come up after the ERP has gone live, resulting in an influx of preventable support costs.

“Unnecessary costs (like re-training) can be prevented through preparation, accountability, discipline, and cooperation from the stakeholders and end users of the organization”

Prepare Your Team

Another crucial part of the team’s preparation will be to acclimate the end users with the software itself. Most ERP providers will issue licenses and user credentials in the first month of an implementation. This lead time allows trainees to begin logging into the system and exploring screens and modules that may associate with their day to day operational procedures and responsibilities. Getting to know the ‘lay of the land’ will allow users time to adjust to the general look and feel of the software. Often times, if end users are seeing the software for the first time during training, their attention is easily diverted to simply analyzing the graphics, nomenclatures, and all around the design of the software itself—which usually results in a lack of retention in the core subject matter.

One proactive measure the company can take in order to prevent retraining is to demand mandatory attendance for all assigned courses/sessions. As previously discussed, during the implementation, resources and team members experience the burden of a second workload on top of their tumultuous day to day schedule. It is very easy for a resource to justify skipping out on a training class, or stepping away and leaving a course in order to put out a fire or deal with an operational need. Although exceptional circumstances may demand this type of behavior, upper management and key stakeholders overseeing the implementation must make it abundantly clear to all resources that training course attendance is required. If a company makes new hires or does require some re-training during the final months of an implementation, a properly groomed superuser should be able to cover most of the subject matter at that point.

Although the actual training is an integral part of an end user’s adoption and acquirement of the software, documentation will go a long way in preventing avoidable support calls and inquiries—which can add very quickly to the overall cost of an implementation. Most ERP providers can provide customers with generic documentation for at least the basic modules of the platform. The most beneficial and proactive approach to documentation would be to formulate documentation and user guides specific to the company and its standard operating procedures. While generic documentation will help, end users will experience more significant benefits from the documentation that represents the activities and functions performed on a daily basis within the company.

In the fifth article of this series, we will give you pieces of advice to ensure your project follows the estimated timeline.