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What is ERP? A guide to enterprise resource planning systems (via CIO)

ERP, upgrade system, business, strategy

A very interesting and in-depth article about ERP and why you should consider using it.  A very good read that gives a lot of good information.

The Article

ERP combines software systems from departments like finance, human resources and warehouse management.  It combines it into a single, integrated software program running off a single database.  This way the various departments can more easily share information and collaborate. It’s a tall order, but that integrated approach can have a tremendous payback if companies install the software correctly.

Source: CIO

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3 Roles for Information Systems in Business

business, business information systems, data, upgrade, competitive advantage

Purpose of Information Systems

Information Systems (IS) are to help you and your company to find new strategies in order to gain competitive advantage in your industry. One way to do this is through adapting IS in your business. IS helps the organization to use its data, reduce workload and assist compliance with mandatory regulations.

3 Roles for IS

Information Storage and Analysis

Companies now use more advanced databases that contain all types of data about what they do. IS can store, update and analyze the information. From all the information that the agency has, they can figure out new solutions to both current and future problems. Information can also be integrated from different sources both in and outside of your company. This allows you to keep the company up to date with both internal performances and external opportunities or threats.

Assist with Making Decisions

Information Systems are all about helping you to make strategic plans for your business. The management team uses the information gathered to create plans and decisions for longevity and making more money. You use IS to measure and test all the information gathered from all sources. The analysis and comparison of market trends helps you to decide if your strategic decisions made are both adequate and are good quality.

Assist with Business Processes

IS helps businesses to create more value based systems for your company. Information Systems are integrated anywhere to measure out where tasks will make that department run better and for less money. Or it can make sure that everyone follows whatever regulations each department needs to follow to stay in compliance with government laws. It both simplifies business processes and gets rid of unneeded activities. They also add controls to employee processes. This in turn makes sure that only the ones who need to know have access to certain tasks. IS gets rid of repetitive tasks, increases accuracy and leads to better project planning and implementation.

Some Considerations

Implementing new systems costs a lot of money. It includes not just the installation but also employee training sessions. Some employees might even resist the changes being brought on. This in turn can hinder your operations and employee turnover could increase. Just make sure to have strong leadership in place when doing this. It will help guide employees and managers through the transition while weighing cost against benefits to see if you would really like to do this.

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9 BI Software Upgrade Mistakes

BI, upgrading, upgrade, buiness intelligence, business

Types of BI

Business Intelligence (BI) is extremely popular and is a top focus. There is the traditional software, cloud services, mobile apps and social media. What type do you need for your business that will help and not hinder progress? Choosing the wrong software to fix your business problem(s) or having end users who don’t understand the new programming will cause failures.

BI Mistakes

  • Not defining the business problem(s) – Don’t jump the gun until you know exactly what you need. Buying for general capability is the worst mistake you can make. Look for defined problems that need solving.
  • Not getting commitment from end users before choosing the BI solution – Make sure to get people’s opinions of the selections available as they’re the ones who will ultimately use it every day. Otherwise, the tools will be ineffective as no one will use the upgrades. They have to approve of what might become the new initiative, or they will never use it. Don’t tell them they have to use it, help them to understand why they’ll want to use it when it’s up and running.
  • Not considering security or legal requirements – Follow data governance when selecting new solutions. It protects both your company and customers.
  • Don’t get swayed by features and forget legacy systems and integration – Most companies look and rank BI software by the features available. This is wrong. You need to look and see which app will be able to integrate with what system you use already. There has to be an ability to work with all your other business systems or it won’t work correctly.

More BI Mistakes

  • Not choosing a program that can scale and adapt to change – Choosing a solution that isn’t flexible is one of the worst things you can do. Self-service analytics are now the norm, where they can work well with new data sources. The ability to scale is necessary is as the system grows, the software has to keep up. You don’t want to have to buy new software every time the business grows.
  • Not considering the mobile workforce – You have to consider mobility. Being able to use the new BI solution on a smart phone is a great advantage and allows for more productivity.
  • Rushing implementation – Never rush the upgrade. Mistakes are going to be made with possible cost increases.
  • Insufficient training and underestimating costs of training – A few weeks of training isn’t going to cut it with today’s BI systems. The systems in place now are very complex. End users need a lot more training to work them. There’s also the need for ongoing training to keep the end users in the loop for changes to the programs.
  • Not leveraging intelligence and reporting – If you’re going to collect all this data, then make sure to share, analyze and act on what is found. It’s a waste to buy the new BI solution if not used properly.

Uses for Upgrades

This software is used in many ways. It is used to build reports, find risks and opportunities and forecast trends. Don’t become complacent with pre-defined sets of reports. You’ll miss changes that are occurring in the business world.

 

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3 Challenges to Business Intelligence and Analytics Adoption

big data, challenges, business intelligence, BI, analytics

Business Intelligence and Analytics

What is the biggest challenge today for upgrading your business? You’ll find the answer through using tools enabling business intelligence (BI) and analytics strategies. It seems that businesses are looking to adopt BI and more advanced analytics to achieve bigger gains. Upper management needs to explore more information to gather key areas that they feel need improvement.

The Biggest Challenges:

  • Data Preparation – The ability to complete data management in putting together and cleaning data before compiling reports and analytics.
  • Skills and Leadership – Is there a structure focused on needs of both BI and analytics along with more complex methods?
  • Ease of Use – Can those who are less technically inclined be able to use the system?

Preparing Data

The biggest gaps are in data prep. It is more difficult and more complex than it seems. The size of the company and how they are using BI and analytics doesn’t matter. They all see big gaps in how they filter, transform and prepare their data. Good data gathering and compiling is completed. It helps find both relationships and potential outcomes quickly. The information found here will help improve your company’s productivity and build competitive advantages. Consider automation and self-service also for those in the agency who are less technically inclined. Analytics are behind BI. Improvements are needed to be able to prepare, augment and explore the data gathered. This will help your agency to find root causes and trends. You can then build and update predictive models through using machine learning.

Skills and Leadership

Skills and leadership are key too. Agencies strong in these areas still say that there are many challenges in innovation, creativity, and leadership. Shown executive support enforces the need for upgrades or change just will not happen. If there’s no strong vision and support at this level, the initiatives will fail or underperform. A leader needs to make sure that they openly show the value of success from the new initiatives.

Ease of Use

Overworked data scientists or analysts already in your company because of changes being implemented need help. In this case, it’s better to create self-service and interactive tools where everyone can find them. Nontechnical users will need the guidance, and instead of overworking your data scientists and analysts, this can help. There’s software built to aid building systems that can detect relationships, correlations, segments, and outliers. It could use natural language to create queries. It could present context-based narratives of important findings. All sorts of things could be created with the new software to help the organization.

Increasing adoption of BI and Analytics

  • Invest in data and data prep
  • Nurture culture, skills, and leadership
  • Keep self-service and Ease of Use in the Forefront

Conclusion

If the challenges of gathering and preparing data are not addressed, it will become more difficult to find a use for BI and analytics. If strong leadership isn’t used to make the employees excited to use the new technologies, the initiative will be a failure. And if ease of use with smart/automated capabilities isn’t used, it’ll hinder adoption of BI and more advanced analytics. Consider these things before upgrading your systems.

 

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What is Unit Oriented Architecture?

system architecture, computer architecture, system, UOA, unit oriented architecture, systems,

Definition of UOA

UOA is an business method of performing tasks based on the hierarchical composition of different units of software. These units give support to both operational and actions completed in technological systems. UOA creates groups of software fully supporting purpose, function, behavior, and structure of these systems. It helps clarify and strengthen architectures through finding right places and owners for assets. Included are web applications, mobile apps, web services and business processes to name a few. The unit then becomes both a construct and micro-platform that allows other components plugin.

Key Points of UOA

  • Creates digital constructs for actions completed and operational support
  • Views companies as a Composite (control) or Leaf (functional)
  • Unit software has to be comfortable and work in the unit assigned
  • Every unit has to have formal software boundaries. They represent contracts between assemblies both in and out of the agency.
  • All units have to run operations implemented as business processes that are executable. Every process is owned by one section only.
  • There is particular emphasis on control units. It causes a weakness in the company as only a few personnel will know how to run it.

What Does UOA Do?

UOA uses Systems Thinking to define problems. It uses Organization Design to configure enterprise and composite units. SOA uses constructing unit boundaries, and Business Rules to govern the system to name a few.

UOA allows practical and natural approaches to satisfy the needs of users. It completes this through unit orientation and clarity of what the system is supposed to do. Hierarchical unit structure helps define roles and spreads responsibilities between all the units. It creates a stable system where it can adapt, develop and grow fast. Process-centric (inside) and event-driven integration (outside) is where processes pass through the units to complete work.

Differentiation between functional and control units is defined here. Functional (leaf) units don’t contain other groups. They provide services and products, all digital. Control units have more entities in them. Actions are directed, coordinated, measured and controlled to ensure best means to get the bottom line. There’s a clear understanding of what everyone is to do in the company and delegates decision making to the right people.

Supported are operations interactions. The direction of vision focuses towards products and services instead of the process is itself. The quality of communication between system parts is considered more important than the quality of parts. The character of interfaces measures effectiveness.

The Possibilities

If a company’s units support strongly built digital constructs that entirely concentrate on the customer, everything will grow. Effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy will improve. New capabilities initiate with further development. Growth through cloned abilities will occur, while agility will increase speed. There are numerous opportunities abound.

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10 ERP Upgrade Mistakes to Avoid

ERP, strategic planning, business, upgrade, IT, information technology, information systems, competitive advantage

What Is ERP?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has to be considered part of the plan when upgrading your system. In this information technology (IT) has to be combined with the business process to help bring a competitive advantage to others in the same industry. It is anything from reading an e-mail to updating records of procedures. An ERP is an application that uses a centralized database to run the entire company. This medium allows data from one department for viewing in other branches of the same company. It can be bought either as modules for different parts of the agency, or a subset. ERP systems are there to enforce processes that your business will adopt.

Upgrade Mistakes

  1. Not explaining what new systems means to users before starting the project – If the users of the upgrades don’t know why it’s happening and are in agreement, the update will fail.
  2. Not load testing systems with scripts and end users – How do you know if your file loads are typical? Load testing with scripts and users will complete real tests in this area to make sure that the process will work or not.
  3. Not performing tests of the new process to see if it works or not – Will everything work as planned?
  4. Not taking change management or testing sincerely – Know everything you need to know about the change and regression tests beforehand, so you aren’t surprised by “new opportunities.”
  5. Assigning internal personnel as project managers – Get a consultant project manager as they will focus on the upgrade only. They’ll catch the mistakes made and keep things on schedule and budget.
  6. Not telling others of changes before they happen – End users don’t like change so make sure to communicate before so they aren’t caught off guard.
  7. Giving classroom training only – Allow for video training that the users can find and use if they come across a problem they can’t fix. Create a Knowledge area that they can access to see before elevating.
  8. Not moving components to open business standards – This speeds up future upgrades that will happen. Try to change reports and interfaces to open business standards. It will help a lot in the future, and possibly save money with more completed upgrades.
  9. Not archiving before upgrading and keeping up security during – Archiving before upgrading will save you time and money. It speeds up queries on large tables, and table conversions as they are will run quicker. Security wise, upgrades are to be need-to-know only. There’s no use in upgrading if spies find a way to get the information out to your competitors.
  10. Assuming internal tech personnel will pick up years of experience in weeks – Keep the consultants around for a while after the upgrade is complete. Enhancements aren’t easy to learn, and someone has to be there who knows how to run the system. Or at least until the first workers understand the system as well.

Impact of IT on Business

IT has a significant impact on how companies design, build and support their business processes. Information systems have a considerable effect on how these methods work. Agencies improve effectiveness and quality of products and services through empowering their employees. Something to consider.

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Digital Transformation – 5 Identifiers

digital, digital transformation, upgrading systems, upgrading business systems, business systems

What is Digital Transformation?

Numerous changes happen where digital economy of business is connected real-time due to new technologies. Digital transformation is directly related due to this. Just about all small and midsized firms have some sort of resources in place. It can be anything from newer and more powerful software and/or computers, new forms of communication or cloud computing. The company has to ensure good implementation and integration of programs to increase performance. How to do this is:

5 Identifiers

  1. Hyper-connectivity – Anytime/Anywhere communication
  2. Unlimited Computing Power – Caused through diverse platforms
  3. Cloud Computing – Easy access to hosted software/services
  4. Numerous Sensors and Mobile Devices – Supply continuous streams of information and ways to access them
  5. Cybersecurity – Lessen internal/external vulnerabilities

Why Buy At All?

Faster growing companies look at ways to drive revenue growth, increase productivity, and get new customers. This is supported through the use of advanced technology. The question becomes what is the best approach to get and use new technology in order to support objectives? Most are buying advanced software applications to help grow their businesses. Buying collaboration software, CRM and ecommerce all help growing businesses through helping internal productivity and efficiency. When one application is updated, they all are. This improves performance of the agency as a whole.

Causes to Upgrade

Most upgrade due to partner and/or customer needs. Their main focus is to improve internally.  External influence is also taken into consideration though. Who wants to chase away potential clients due to not listening to their needs too? This is key in order to keep up with competition and the environment that they work in. Effective coordination of technology brings in greater performance results.  It is greater then the sum of the parts bought to improve the system as a whole.

Benefits

The departments that benefit the most from these improvements is sales and marketing. Everyone from services to manufacturing to wholesale and retail benefit too. Internal processes is also up there, but externally faced business is considered more important. This is the rank from highest to lowest in importance:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Production / Operations
  • Commerce / Ecommerce
  • Customer Service / Call Center
  • Finance
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Manufacturing
  • Strategic Planning
  • HR

3 Takeaways 

  1. Leverage Technology
  2. Digital transformation is a continuing process
  3. Direct / Continuing participation and support of senior management and executives. If there is none, or it is perceived as none, then changes will be hard to implement.

Key Questions to Ask

Key questions to ask yourself and those involved in the process of beginning the changes are many. Where are you falling short compared to other companies? What is the competition doing that you are not? Do you have a strategic plan in place that supports digital transformation? Some things to consider…

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5 Steps for Strategic Business Upgrade Planning

upgrade, system, planning, business planning, business upgrades, company, work, upgrade system,

A very exciting time in your company might be when you realize that you have to upgrade your systems to keep with the times. It can be very frustrating and can take some time too depending on what needs to be updated. There’s a lot that has to go into the thought process before starting…

Two Approaches

  • The company in question always has to have the latest and greatest, who change their systems as soon as upgrades become available.
  • The company in question goes through more traditional means. Why change what they have when it’s working perfectly fine? These companies upgrade only when forced to do so.

The upgrade plan has to focus on future growth and changes forecasted by the company. The question that needs to be asked when looking ahead is, how will the changes affect upgrade needs in the future?

Five Steps to Planning Upgrades

1. Categorize and Prioritize: Categories include

i. Client Computer Systems
ii. Peripherals
iii. Client Software
iv. Server hardware and software
v. Security
vi. Network devices
vii. Network Infrastructure

Here items can be picked and chosen as to what the organization decides to upgrade. In this if needed subcategories can be created in order to create a more organized plan.

2. Set Priorities: Prioritize based on the costs and benefits ratio. What items need to be upgraded first? Is it an urgent need or a want? Make sure to not upgrade needlessly, make sure that it’s really needed.

3. Consider Dependencies: When the company is upgrading their systems they need to take into consideration what might be dependent on others. This might create more upgrades in order for the system to work with the new equipment. Or if applications are being upgraded, the system might need to be upgraded in order to work with them.

4. Phased Rollout: Don’t rush it. Testing and discovering of bugs need to be worked out before starting to use the new system. After the tests are completed use small groups of employees to test the upgrades in the production environment. If there’s a learning curve use the fast learners first as they can then learn the new system and assist/teach the others when it rolls out.

5. Keep it Scalable: Write out the plan. Get input from other departments and different levels to help create the plan. Plans for expansion of the company and any restructuring needs to be taken into account here too.

Proper Planning

If the organization follows proper planning with scalability included in the process, it can create a very smooth upgrade environment for the company. It would help immensely as upgrading systems can be very costly and stressful if not done correctly. Never rush the process and take time to consider all options before jumping in.

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3 Phases of Business Analysis Verification Testing

test, work, , business analysis, business, complete, system, strategic planning, software

The first thing you should do after buying a product for the business analysis solution is to verify if the software will work with your vision.  Will it do what it is supposed to do?  When it is being verified the testing team who can be anyone from developers, QA and business analysts work with the software to make sure that it really works for what it was bought and/or created for.  There are many phases to be completed in order to ensure the new product will work well with your system.

The Test Phases

The Smoke Test comes before anything.  It’s a pretest to find out if full testing can begin.  This test shows simple failures that could keep further tests from being executed in the next 3 phases.

  1. Unit Test: Here every unit is tested separately to find any possible bugs before moving on.  It’s another name for the smoke test.  Don’t just have the development team test it here, but others to so there will be unbiased testing completed.
  2. Integration Test: This part makes sure that all the individual parts can work together; either as a subsystem or linked units.  Here you would want to find problems with how components will work together in the software architecture design.  This includes multiple levels of integration where subsystems might be brought in to see if they would work, then attached to larger subsystems when in compliance.  The development team and possibly business analysists work here.
  3. System Test: Here is where problems are found with how the new system meets users’ needs.  It’s ran through the entire system, auditing everything from linear perspective’s.  It’s the last chance before turning over to a user acceptance test, and verifies if the software meets original requirements.  The business analyst works here for the most part.

Other Tests to Be Completed

There are numerous other tests that have to be completed during these 3 phases.

  • Requirements validation test: Verifies system logic, making sure that it supports system analysis.
  • Regression Test: Retesting to ensure changes don’t break what is working.  There’s usually more than one test completed to make sure all the applications work.
  • Dynamic Test: Testing of the software in different circumstances.  There are 3 tests completed here:
    • The Performance Test: How fast can the system complete functions?
    • The Stress Test: Push the software to its limits to see how it handles levels of users, rates of input and speed of response.
    • Volume Test: Can the new software handle growth projections?
  • Security Test
  • Installation Test
  • Configuration Test
  • Usability Test

Why Test and a Way To Help Implement

With all these tests completed it will help you to not have problems down the road.  There’s a need to make sure that everything will work before turning it loose for everyone to use in your company or sell online to your customers.  Click here to get an awesome partition assistant from AOMEI to help maximize disk space and improve the performance of your computer(s).  This will be needed when growing your system, implementing new programs and applications.  The best part of this is that it has the Windows to Go Creator which would help immensely in the long run too.

 

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4 Elements of Information Systems

customer, system, business, information, process

The use of information technology (IT) has dramatically increased in the business world in the past decade.  It has been acknowledged that information systems (IS) is a very important step to compete and grow.  There are four elements of IS that new systems need to work correctly.

4 Elements

  1. Customers – The main function of IS is to be able to better support the end user or customer. This is both internal and external.  Externally it could be an online shopper who wants to buy from a website.  Internal customers would be something like employees or one department in a company who needs supplies from another department.  IS was developed in order to better support external customers.  Also something to focus on is flexibility supporting internal customers.
  2. Products and Services – This deals in data transformation. The IS has to work well in any industry.  It helps prepare many types of services and/or products based on design.  Customer expectations have to be satisfied in order to be considered successful.
  3. Business Processes – Improvements to processes directly influence performance. It provides relevant information to the company.  This improves said company’s processes by adding or removing steps as needed.
  4. Communication Technology and Computers – This is the central piece of the information system. They have to be able to deliver efficient business processes and make the customers happy.  This is done through either delivery of product or services rendered.  Technology helps to improve communication through email and chat internally.  Externally it provides a good website that people will enjoy visiting.  Information can be accessed much more quickly which increases the competitive edge.

Why Use IS?

Information systems helps improve relations between customers and the business, or business to business relationships.  The question is, which type of system does your company need?  A lot of questions to consider before making the leap to upgrading