Project-driven companies must manage project estimates and resource schedules along with complex billing and time and expense management. We represent several ERP systems and integrated third party applications to create the best possible professional services automation (PSA) solution for your specific business needs.
Most small ERP consulting shops don’t have a support staff. Instead, you will have to call the consultant who initially worked on your implementation and you may have to wait for them to be available to you because they’re likely working on several customer projects at the time. That’s not how we operate.
E2b teknologies has a fully-staff and dedicated ERP support department. New supports may be logged in the ERP ZenDesk support portal which also provides online access to our extensive ERP knowledge-base anytime and anywhere. Further, installers for custom modifications are available online and customers can chat live with support agents or share screens directly from the support site.
Further, the support site includes an online user community where customers can share best practices and ask questions of each other and our support staff.
Support agents review new support tickets and attempt to recreate the issues. They work hand-in-hand with our consulting and development teams in cases where incidents require training or custom modifications. Further, support agents participate in quality assurance testing of all e2b products and customization’s ensuring that the support team has familiarity with the software your company uses – even if it’s heavily customized.
The support team also provides technical assistance including installation and configuration of your business software as well as system upgrades which may entail lengthier projects due to customization’s, integration dependencies, and other factors.
Sometimes shrink-wrapped software just doesn’t meet your needs. You may have a special customer or vendor requirement, or maybe you’re in a niche industry with few technology options. That’s why you need to harness a custom software application to improve your business. e2b is more than just a business software developer. We work with you to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and if it makes sense, we address your needs by developing custom business software to satisfy them. Your custom business software will be designed and approved before we ever start developing the custom application.
We have made significant investments in our virtualized development environment, which includes dedicated ERP development servers, daily back-ups, disaster recovery procedures, and source safe – to control changes made to customer applications. Each development project is planned down to the last detail with high-level functional specifications and detailed specifications available for customer review and approval to ensure that the product is what you expect and what you need to improve your business processes.
We are able to provide you with custom business software that is available to anyone inside or outside of your organization, and it can operate stand-alone or can be integrated with your other critical business applications. Example Business Applications:
Test Equipment Portal – Online database of meters, gauges, and test equipment for a local calibration services company. Leveraged Microsoft .NET to provide a secure portal for customers to track assets and to access documents such as calibration certificates.
WMS Middleware – A large personal computer distributor needed a more sophisticated warehouse management system (WMS) than the one available for their core ERP business software. e2b developed middleware software to integrate a tier one WMS application with the existing ERP system to manage inbound, outbound, and internal stock movement.
Rental Software – A large rental company contracted a company to develop a custom rental system that would seamlessly integrate with their accounting software. The company failed to deliver a solution that was functional. e2b picked up the product development, fixed hundreds of bugs and design issues, and successfully implemented the custom rental software which is now the core of the company’s business.
Custom Software Upgrade – A large metal broker had a custom system developed by another company. The company changed its business and discontinued custom software development services. Over time the software and the underlying technologies become dated limiting the company’s ability to serve its ever-changing customer and supplier base. e2b upgraded the company’s software and added additional features to ensure that the system would be able to adapt to future technologies and business needs.
There are very few companies that use a single application to manage every aspect of their business. Many ERP systems offer integrated solutions through their own organizations and third parties but often times you find yourself using a separate product because it’s the best possible option for your business. But it’s not integrated and the manual processes associated with the disparate system is costly. We can help. We specialize in developing bidirectional integrations to move data from one system to another paying special attention to the processes involved to ensure the data transfer is seamless, timely, and accurate.
You can implement entry level accounting software without a project plan but you will experience an epic failure if you try to implement a true ERP system without a project plan – guaranteed! So what is a project plan and how does this fit into your ERP product? A project plan outlines timeframes, task assignment, task status, resource constraints (such as holidays and vacations), and provides insight into installation, data conversion, configuration, training, testing, pilot, go-live, and other major phases of the project. Project plans are typically provided by the ERP publisher or consulting organization. No two project plans are alike because no two companies are alike. However, project plans typically start from similar canned templates which are custom tailored based on your company’s needs, modules purchased, available resources, timeframes, and other factors.
Project plans come in various flavors and formats ranging from simple plans in Excel or Microsoft Projects to more complex plans managed in project management systems like BaseCamp, Microsoft Projects, or other platforms. SMB ERP systems typically take about 300-600 hours (8 to 15 weeks) to implement for a standard manufacturing project. Double that for SME ERP to 600-1,200 hours (15 to 30 weeks), and upwards of 2,400 hours (60 weeks or more) for most Tier One projects.
Note: You will find very different numbers available online from various consulting firms and analysts. Many will be much lower than the estimated numbers provided on our website. Our estimates are based on REAL WORLD experience implementing ERP for manufacturing businesses. These are real numbers – not pie in the sky hopes or marketing estimates designed to win you away from competing firms who are more than happy to undercut service estimates because they know at the end of the day that you will come back after you’ve exhausted the hours they estimated for you up-front.
We’d love for these estimates to be lower but the truth of the matter is that implementations are complex and cannot be rushed. There is no magic “fast track” and canned implementations simply don’t work. Ranges vary so much because requirements vary greatly from business to business.
ERP OPTIMIZATION CHECK-UPS
According to many studies, most companies use only a small percentage of the functionality available in their ERP systems. Why? Because they plan to implement additional features but the initial implementation drags on and is always more complicated than expected. At some point you simply have to cut over and go live on the new application and plan to go back and implement additional features in the future. But that rarely happens. There are also many companies that prefer a phased implementation where certain features are setup for the initial go-live and other features are intentionally left for future phases. But again, more often than not the future phases are never completed.
There are other reasons why companies use so little within their ERP systems. They may not know what features they own or how to use them. You are going to make a considerable investment in your ERP system – both in terms of time and money. Or perhaps they only implemented particular features for part of the business. For example, an ERP system often has built-in alerts that can notify users when things occur in the database. It’s not uncommon for companies to implement alerts for high priority items such as large invoices that are late or late shipments but most companies never go back and setup additional alerts for lower priority items that could be just as valuable.
You made a huge investment in your ERP system – both in terms of money and time. And you should get the most out of your investment. Here are some tips to help you optimize your investment and truly get the most out of your ERP system:
- Upgrade: Most ERP products provide new versions annually (or more frequently). Stay current with the latest releases and understand what new features are available. Assign authority for upgrade analysis to someone in your organization so that someone is looking at new features and determining how they can benefit your company.
- Training: Invest in continuing training for employees. Often times we implement ERP and then stop training. Over time the original employees forget what they were trained on or they leave and we never invest in training for new employees. Further, our business processes change over time and we must be willing to change our processes as well.
- Assessments: Pay for an annual assessment with your consulting partner. This should occur at least on an annual basis. Have them come in and spend a day (or two) with each department in your organization to discover what they struggle with and how to resolve those issues with training or potentially through customization, integration, additional modules, or third party products.
- User Conference: Most ERP vendors have user conferences with educational sessions and a trade show where you can discover complimentary add-on products to go with your ERP system. Attend annually and have a plan when you go so you optimize your time in sessions, connect with other users, and see all of the exhibitors.
- User Communities: Different than user groups, user communities exist online in various platforms including independent groups on LinkedIn and other forums. Join and participate in as many as you can.
- Internal RFP: Conduct periodic business requirement review with departments just like you did when you selected your ERP system to ensure that your software is still meeting your needs (more information available in Software Comparison).
- Read The Manual: Well, most ERP companies no longer provide printed manuals but they should have electronic documentation available. Read it. You may be surprised at what you can find out about your system.
- Share Best Practices: Have you ever sat and watched someone using Excel or using Word and saw a shortcut to do something that you never knew existed? The same is true with your ERP system. Every single user in the software will undoubtedly discover new and better ways to utilize the system. Meet frequently and encourage users to share best practices and tips with others.
Managing your ERP software isn’t that much different than managing manufacturing operations – it’s all about continuous improvement. Create teams to identify broken or cumbersome business processes and work with your technology partners to identify solutions. When you knock out one solution, move on to the next one on the list.
We recommend using our ERP RFP requirements template as a tool to evaluate your existing ERP system. The RFP template has a built-in grader to score each area of your existing software so you have a clear understanding of what’s working well and where you may have functional gaps that need to be addressed.
Selecting the right ERP vendor, product, and consulting organization is not easy. You have a lot to consider. It’s fairly easy to document requirements and check-off whether the product supports your high priority business requirements but as they say, the devil’s in the details. Most ERP systems do about the same thing. In fact, we estimate that most ERP systems offer about 80% similar functionality. But the difference is how they do it and how you will address the other 20% of the functionality you need. For example, you’re going to need access to reports. Every ERP system on the planet can give you reports but lower-end systems probably have fewer reports with less data while a more expensive ERP application probably has more reports with more data and tools to quickly create new reports with options to automate report creation and delivery. And this is just one example of thousands that you need to consider. You also need to consider the underlying technology platform – is it stable, is it easy to find people who can work in the toolset, and is it easy to integrate to other systems.
Pick the best overall solution. We’ve seen it time and time again where a company selects a product because it has very strong accounting features but they implement it and quickly realize the manufacturing system is absolute crap or vice-versa. Make sure that you’re selecting the best overall product for your business keeping in mind the requirements of every part of your business.
Consider the availability of third party products. Smaller niche or industry-specific ERP products typically have very limited third party options meaning that your choices will be very limited for products to extend your core ERP system. In fact, you may be completely dependent on the publisher to extend your system through costly customizations or integration projects. Conversely, most popular (and more general) ERP systems have large developer communities with hundreds of integrated applications. These systems may be a better fit given the variety of options available to you even if they don’t have all the bells and whistles you think you need that only the industry specific applications provide.
Our ERP Software Matrix may help identify potential products to evaluate based on the number of users you think you’ll need or the approximate total budget you anticipate for the ERP project. You may also find other useful resources for comparing ERP vendors and systems in the ERP Tools section of our website.
You may consider developing a scorecard from the RFP results to help your team to evaluate each potential vendor and product using a standard system rather than relying on personal preference. For example, a scorecard will help identify which products meet the majority of your required features. You can then reference this scorecard prior to the ERP software demonstrations and have each vendor show how they resolve the high priority business requirements.
We can help you with all aspects of your ERP evaluation and selection process even if we aren’t the partner you choose and you’re considering ERP products we don’t represent. Let us help you narrow down the list of potential ERP products for you. We can also help you prepare the request for information (RFI) and request for proposal (RFP) documents to ensure that your business requirements are clearly documented for potential vendors you choose to engage in the process.
Our ERP consultants are some of the best in the world. We maintain certifications for Sage 100, Sage 500, Sage X3, and Epicor ERP as well as other business applications. We’ve achieved the ‘Highest Customer Satisfaction Award’ presented to us by Epicor and similar awards from Sage and other vendors for our expertise and success implementing and training companies on ERP business applications. Our in-house consultants are fully accessible by your team so that you can be involved with your project every step of the way. Consulting services are provided for initial implementations and on-going training on ERP and other business applications including business intelligence, human resources, customer relationship management, and more. Implementation services include all phases of new product implementation from discovery through to installation, configuration and setup, data conversion, and training for administrators and end-users alike.
We conduct small and large business process reviews (BPRs) to help companies map business processes to their use of ERP and other business applications. BPRs are conducted by a mix of our consulting and engineering teams with a document outlining what we learned during the discovery phase of the BPR and our recommendations to improve the business process which often includes additional training, implementation of new modules or third party applications, development of new features, and integration or customization of existing business applications.
We’ve worked with companies across almost every conceivable industry segment including construction, real estate, mining, agriculture, communications, and so many more. We’ll help you find the right technology applications and will even recommend leading competitors if they happen to have a compelling solution based on your needs.