Tags: Advisory

November 3, 2015

Poor Accounting Practices, Not the Skill of Thieves, Results in Financial Losses

Cyber Theft

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled ‘Hackers Trick Email Systems into Wiring Them Large Sums’ discusses losses estimated at $1B over the last two years from email hacking schemes. The gist is that thieves get control over email accounts and then direct company employees to pay possibly legitimate invoices to fraudulent bank accounts controlled by cyber thieves. The article goes on to say that these small companies have suffered these losses because they do not have the budget of larger companies for security and investigation.

It’s always frustrating to hear about legitimate businesses that suffer losses as result of a security breach. But, I would assert that poor accounting practices, which are an affordable necessity for businesses of any size, are the primary culprit. Consider the two cases noted:

In the first case, the targeted company received an email purportedly from a vendor to give wire instructions for a shipment that was legitimate. The company then proceeded to wire $100,000 to the “vendor” which was later identified to be cyber thieves hacking into their system.

In the second case, the CFO received an email, purportedly from the CEO, instructing her to wire $169,000 to a company for an investment. In this case, the CFO happened to speak with the CEO prior to sending the wire, which saved the company from a potential loss.

Both of these scenarios could have been avoided completely if they would have had proper accounting practices in place. Let’s take a minute to discuss a couple of simple accounting practices your company could implement to avoid email hacking losses. You can also refer to our checklist, Six Accounting Practices Companies Can Use To Avoid Email Fraud.

Set up bank payment information regarding where and how to pay vendors

At setup, your accounts payable department is dealing directly with the vendor that you want to contract with (so banking information given is provided by the legitimate vendor representative). Make sure you set up the vendor routing and bank account number in your accounting software as well as the legitimate vendor contact information.

When vendors request payment for legitimate purchases, never use wire instructions from an email. Go back to your accounting software and pull the authorized banking instructions you received from the vendor at vendor setup. If you have any questions or concerns about an email request for payment, use the legitimate vendor contact information from your accounting software to contact the vendor and verify the payment request. Again, if the request is legitimate, make payment to the account recorded in your accounting software; never make changes to vendor payment information without verifying it directly with the vendor contact listed in your accounting software.

Never make a payment based upon an email (only) from a higher authority

In the example with the CFO and the CEO, the CFO should have phoned the CEO, or gone to them in person (if proximity permits), regarding the payment and supporting details required before any payment can be made. Unfortunately, executives often believe the rules do not apply at their level, but because the losses can be so much greater at the executive level (due to the higher authority limits), rules should be enforced just as stringently for executives (perhaps more so).

Final Thoughts

Proper procedures govern sending payments of any kind, especially wire payments for which there is limited recourse to get funds back. Implementing proper procedures is a cheap and easy way to safe guard your company from cyber theft. Hiring a certified accountant to review your company’s accounting processes would cost only a few thousand dollars and would have completely prevented both of the above cases. Remember, emails do not send wires. People do.

For additional information on this topic, download the ‘Six Accounting Practices Companies Can Use To Avoid Email Fraud’. And to stay In The Know, connect with us via social media or check out more posts on our blog.

October 16, 2015

Retail Merchandising Decisions: Art versus Science

ThinkstockPhotos-479303426

Choosing which products to purchase and in what quantities is one of the biggest decisions any Chief Merchandising Officer will make. These decisions can make or break a company’s seasonal sales (and, given the thin margins many retailers operate on, can make or break a company financially). Retail systems now provide a wealth of item-level data, enabling complex calculations of expected demand for an item if such demand can be based upon a known trend or comparable item.

An ability to measure the ROI of products more reliably, as transactional tracking being tied to analysis systems has been enabled in the last 10+years, has raised expectations that product performance can be completely predicted based upon data. However, remember that science will never enable us to spot a product that is at the leading edge of a trend using pure data, because the analytics to forecast the demand have not yet occurred.

Have we reached the point where science should completely replace the art of merchandising? Ironically, from a financial perspective, I would say ‘not yet’, though science should certainly be center stage.

While there are many articles on marketing as an art versus a science, a reasonable and productive approach to merchandising might be a blend of science and art, with more weight on the science side but an allowance for some art to be injected. This would give weight to all the ‘interested’ groups: the data geeks, the accountants and the pure (art-based) marketers. Here is how this might work:

  • Set demand forecasting budgets based upon science, but also allow for creativity and judgment in merchandising decisions.
  • Agree that ‘X’ amount of the merchandising decisions will be based upon data (science), not art or gut feel.
  • Allow some part of the merchandising budget, say ‘Y’, to be based upon recommendations from the merchandising team, which may not (yet) be supported by analytic data. This defined limit will force only the products outside of data that the merchandisers feel most strongly about to be selected, which would hopefully be the ones with the highest potential (assuming that the merchandiser’s gut feel has some accuracy).
  • For the finance types, the limit on the ‘art’ decisions should limit risk and down side, while also allowing some intuitive decisions, with potential for unexpected upside.

The key take-away is this: while you should arm your merchandising team with the tools to allow them to fully analyze their purchase decisions, also consider giving them the autonomy to make some decisions based upon their gut instinct. If you give them the option to use their intuition and also provide robust analytical tools to supplement the process, then your company should be able to benefit from both schools of thought.

Without a doubt, data analytics tools have made our lives much easier when it comes to making purchase decisions, but it has also hindered our ability to listen to our instincts. These instincts are important to the decision-making process and cannot be completely replicated by technology. So, finding a balance between art and science is essential when it comes to making superior business decisions in a timely manner.

To stay In The Know, connect with us via social media, or check out more posts on our blog.

September 18, 2015

15 signs that it might be time to reevaluate your ERP solution

Outdated ERP Software

Implementing a new ERP solution is a decision that most companies choose to avoid until it becomes absolutely necessary. This is understandable when you take into consideration the sizable capital investment and time commitment that goes along with it. Not to mention the potential risk that companies are exposed to (unexpected delays & costs) during the implementation process.

However, ERP software eventually becomes obsolete, and running outdated ERP software can end up costing your company more money in the long run, than it would to just implement a new ERP solution. That’s just the hard costs. The ERP system is the informational brain of your company. The soft costs of having an outdated ERP system might be business decisions that are made based upon outdated or erroneous information, resulting in less profitability than expected.

With that in mind, below are 15 signs that indicate it might be time for you to replace your outdated ERP solution:

1.) If you’re still using a “green-screen” user interface

Most companies have moved away from the “green screen” user interface, but there are still companies that are reluctant to make a change. If you are one of the few still using an outdated ERP solution with a “green screen” interface, it’s time to upgrade your solution. Don’t get stuck in the past just because “it works well enough for now.” Think about the future and whether or not that solution is going to continue to scale with your growing business and if, in fact, your system might be impeding the growth of your business

2.) If the majority of your reporting is coming via Excel

Technological advancements, in terms of ERP reporting capabilities, will only continue to get more and more powerful. Take full advantage of the real-time reporting tools that are available on the market. These tools will ensure that your company has the most up-to-date information when you need it most, while also reducing redundancy and freeing up your IT resources to work on more value-added tasks.

3.) If your ERP solution is heavily customized

There is generally always going to be some level of customization when implementing a new ERP solution. However, there is such a thing as too much customization – Especially when there are new ERP solutions available that can meet most of your needs out of the box.

Looking at newer ERP solutions should give your company the opportunity to analyze your current business practices, to see if you’re adhering to industry best practices. This should eliminate the need for most customizations when the time comes to implement a new solution.

4.) If you have more integrations than users

Don’t get me wrong, integrations can be great thing! They can help extend the capabilities of your ERP solution, and fill in gaps that your current ERP solution may not offer. But, when you have too many integrations it can lead to unwanted complexity, higher maintenance costs, and difficulty upgrading to the latest solution version. A new system could eliminate some of these integrations with base functionality out of the box and that is worth evaluating.

5.) If your ERP solution is no longer supported (maintenance, patches, etc…)

This one may seem obvious, but I know there are still companies running on ERP solutions that are no longer being supported  or no longer being invested in. If you’re one these companies, it’s time to make a change. Look for a new solution that’s heavily investing in R&D, and also releasing patches and updates. You want an ERP provider that’s dedicated to the longevity of their product.

6.) If your ERP maintenance fees are becoming cost-prohibitive

Many of the larger ERP providers will increase maintenance costs, annually, by as much as 6-7%. This adds up over the years and can eat up a large portion of your annual IT budget. If your company were to add up those maintenance cost increases, over a 7-10 year timeframe, it will often justify the implementation of a new ERP solution with lower annual maintenance fees, effectively lowering the annual IT cost run rate.

7.) If your ERP solution is not providing the KPI’s you need to make more informed business decisions

If you implemented your solution 5-7 years ago (or more), it’s likely that the information you are looking to get out of your ERP solution is not easy to find, or not available. Not having this information readily available for your executive team can make it a lot harder for your company to make solid business decisions based upon real data.

8.) If your legacy ERP processes don’t match up with your current business processes

Let’s face it, your company’s business processes have changed significantly over the past few years (at least I would hope so). So the question becomes: did your ERP processes change along with your newly implemented business processes? Sure, maybe you customized / reconfigured a few aspects here and there, but, does your current ERP solution align with the way your company does business today? If not, is it flexible enough to change with you in the future?

9.) If your IT infrastructure is “sun-setting”

This should not be a surprise, but having an outdated infrastructure can end up costing your company more money in the long-run. Finding IT resources that are knowledgeable about your infrastructure will become much harder to find as your system ages. If you are able to find these resources, they will likely charge a premium price for their services. Having an outdated infrastructure can also make integrations and customizations more difficult and costly.

10.) If you have outsourced solutions that a new ERP solution would allow you to bring back in-house

Bringing your outsourced software solution(s), in-house, will give your company more control of your data and can also be a lot more cost-effective. These applications might include payroll and HR. Outsourced HCM often looks good on paper, but once you get dinged for additional costs on every ‘custom’ report and tax interface, the total cost of the solution may not be as attractive as you expected. If you control the database and your infrastructure is updated, your internal developers can write custom reports as needed, without an ongoing add-on cost.

11.) If your ERP solution does not allow for electronic payments out of the box

If your company is still cutting physical checks to make payments and cannot accept electronic payment receipts, then it’s time to consider implementing an ERP solution that supports electronic payment functionality. It will make payment processing a lot easier for your end-users, and also allow your company to leverage ACH or direct debit functionality. Most importantly, electronic payments are more secure and eliminate the float on receipts, which can make a huge difference in your cash flow.

12.) If your ERP solution does not support sales and use tax compliance

Implementing an ERP solution that supports sales and use tax compliance is essential functionality, not optional. Your company could potentially get hit with penalties for not complying, which, in and of itself, could justify the cost of a new ERP system.

13.) If your approval process in controlled by paper, not electronics

Processes controlled by paper are more easily falsified and prone to inefficiency. Internal compliance teams love the traceability of electronic signatures and approvals. Newer ERP systems offer workflow functionality for common approval functions out of the box.

14.) If your company’s financial close process is impeding timely business decisions

If it takes longer than a week to give critical feedback about a period’s financial performance, your company runs the risk of repeating the same mistakes in the following period. Having  short month-end close processes allows for critical feedback to be communicated to the company. Timely reporting should be a business priority and if your ERP system gets in the way, it’s time for a change.

15.) If you have not upgraded in 5-7 years

Some ERP solutions, if implemented correctly and properly maintained, can last much longer than 5-7 years. But in most cases, solutions that are older than 7 years, don’t have the functionality and capabilities necessary to scale with your business. You could be missing out on business process functionality, based on industry trends and best practices, which have been implemented into the latest version of your preferred ERP software solution.

Also worth noting, you should annually monitor the ROI of your ERP investment to ensure that your solution is meeting your desired goals and objectives, both financially and operationally speaking. For a more in-depth discussion regarding the ROI calculation of your ERP investment, please refer to our recent blog post ‘Calculating the Post-Deployment ROI of your ERP Investment: 3 Step Process’.

if your company is looking for guidance during the evaluation process of your outdated ERP solution, feel free to contact us at info@itksolutionsgroup.com. And to stay In The Know, connect with us via social media and check out more posts on our blog!

September 10, 2015

Tips to “Lean-Out” the RFP Process for Software Selection

Create a more effective RFP for software selction

A crucial step to any software selection process is the creation of the Request for Proposal (RFP) documents. These documents help companies identify which product(s) / vendor(s) will be the best fit in terms meeting their pre-established requirements. However, most companies are not doing their due diligence when it comes to gathering requirements, which is big reason why software implementations tend to fall short of expectations.

Typically, companies will start with an RFP template which covers some of the basic requirements (end-user training, security, cost structures, basic functionality, etc…). Then maybe they’ll add some more questions / requirements from team members in terms of what features they’re looking for in a new system. Unfortunately, this RFP development method is incomplete, and can lead to unexpected costs / delays when it finally comes time to implement the new software.

If you want to ensure that your company is selecting the best possible solution / partner, then the tips below might help you create a more effective RFP for software selection.

Ditch The Spreadsheets & Word Documents:

Tracking requirements for Enterprise Software products can be a lot to handle. There’s literally thousands of requirements that need to be accounted for, and tracking them with Spreadsheets and Word documents can become a nightmare. Instead, look to implement a system built to manage requirements for software purchasing. This will help reduce errors and also acts as a live document.

Be As Thorough As Possible When Gathering Requirements:

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Going beyond the standard requirements of any software evaluation is critical to a successful implementation. Meet with your team and discuss which requirements they are looking for in a new software product, and also have them rate the importance of each requirement.

After that, you’ll want to draw requirements from the software products being considered. Look at all the additional functionality each product has, rate the importance of each one, then add those to your list of requirements. Also, make sure you’re being as detailed as possible when specifying your requirements. It will help your company be more prepared and organized throughout the entire software selection process.

Attach A Value To Each Requirement:

There is definitely some opinions out there that would suggest not overcomplicating things by adding ratings to your requirements. And I’ll admit, there is validity to that argument. But, I think there’s a lot more upside to rating requirements than downside. Especially when it comes to complex software products like ERP and CRM.

Look at it like buying a house. For most of us, we’ll start with our list of “must-haves” and slowly begin to realize how unrealistic our expectations (requirements) really are. This is where rating requirements, before-hand, comes in handy. You can refer back to the items that were most important to you at the start, and then make a more informed decision based upon your previous rankings.

Focus On What’s Really Important:

Try not to overload your RFP’s with unnecessary / redundant requirements. Too often, companies will include requirements from team members that are more of a “want” rather than a “need”. Make sure your team members define which features they “need” and which features they “want”. Ask the important questions up-front, and make sure those needs will be met by the software / vendor, first and foremost.

Also worth noting, you may be missing out on the perfect candidate(s) if your RFP documents require a large time commitment to fill out. Keeping your RFP structured and lean will garner more quality responses, and give your company better visibility on the potential software products / services being considered. Plus, your internal team will thank you for reducing their workload when they finally have to sift through the digital stack of RFP’s submitted by potential vendors. If it’s time consuming for vendors to fill out, then imagine how your internal team will feel when they have to read through all those responses.

Attach Ownership To Each Requirement:

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning. Including a name, or names, along with each requirement will help your company keep track of who wants what, and why. This will come in handy later down the road when you need to reevaluate your requirements against each software product and during the demo process, as well.

Conclusion:

RFP’s are a critical step in the software selection process, and they have the potential to make or break your software implementation. Take your time with your RFP creation. Focus on what’s truly important. Make sure it includes all pertinent details, and ditch the rest. Both for your internal team, and the vendors responding to it.

 

If your company is looking for guidance during the RFP creation process, feel free to reach out to us at info@itksolutionsgroup.com. And to stay In The Know, connect with us via social media or check out more posts on our blog!

August 28, 2015

Calculating the Post-Deployment ROI of your ERP Investment: 3 Step Process

Last week we discussed the importance of Calculating the Pre-Deployment ROI of your ERP Investment, and also gave some insight into how to begin that process. For some of you, it may already be too late to calculate the pre-deployment ROI of your ERP solution. So this week, we’ll go over the steps necessary to calculate the post-deployment ROI of your ERP investment, and give you the core costs / benefits your company will need to consider when calculating your post-deployment ROI.

Calculating the actual ROI of any investment is never an easy task. Especially when it comes to ERP software. There are so many variables that need to be accounted for, and some of those variables, just cannot be measured (monetarily). So how can you get an ROI calculation that’s 100% accurate? The short answer: You don’t. But, following these three steps should help you get close enough to determine if your ERP implementation appears to have been a prudent investment.

Step 1: Calculate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

First, take a step back and look at what it cost you to implement the software. Keep In mind, you should plan to look at your investment over a 3-7 year time frame. Review initial expenditures and also quantify what it’s costing you to maintain / run your ERP solution on an annual basis. This will include all costs (both direct & indirect) incurred over a 3-7 year timeframe.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER:

+ Initial license costs + additional licenses + Annual software maintenance
+ Hardware + Hosting costs (if applicable)
+ System operation, personnel & Infrastructure + ISV costs: Implementation, Training and Maintenance
+ Helpdesk (if applicable) + Additional personnel / consulting needed
+ Training costs, initial and on-going + Implementation services

Incorporating the elements above, a sample TCO calculation might look something like this.

Sample TCO calculation

Sample TCO Calculation

Step 2: Calculate costs eliminated from legacy system

Next, look at the costs that were eliminated due to the implementation of the new ERP solution. This step should be a good (or bad depending on the circumstances) indication as to how well the new ERP system is doing in terms of meeting your desired goals and objectives.

FACTOR TO CONSIDER:

+ License fees eliminated + Planned system costs saved (to upgrade / maintain old system)
+ Hardware costs reduced / eliminated + Hosting costs eliminated (if applicable)
+ Hours of labor eliminated + Planned training costs eliminated (upgrade)
+ Personnel eliminated + Annual software maintenance eliminated
+ Specialized helpdesk + Training costs eliminated (on-going)
Costs Eliminated Sample

Sample calculation of costs eliminated from legacy system

 

 

 

 

 

 

The savings of system conversion are (cost eliminated from legacy system) – (cost of new system). If the number is negative, a cost saving has resulted. If the number is positive, the new system has cost more than it’s saved. The example below shows a cost savings.

ROI Calculation - Steps 1 & 2

Interim ROI Calculation – Steps 1 & 2:

Step 3: Factor in Operational Impacts

This last step is probably the most difficult for companies because the benefits / cost savings can’t always be tracked monetarily (as mentioned above) or might be difficult to measure. Keep in mind, operational impacts should be wrapped into project objectives so that project success can be measured and tuned in areas where the project is falling short (allowing realization of full ROI potential).

To help your organization with this final step, reference the three sample calculations below.

Increased Manufacturing Capacity:

“The US production line is slowed or stopped for approximately thirty minutes three times daily (at the change of each shift) to enter machine data. Easing entry of this data (or capturing it electronically) could result in an increase in manufactured goods of approximately 2% (at a -0- labor increase).”

Calculation: 1 hour saved/24 hour production line = 4.2%. Note the conservatism in the estimate of savings.

Client manufactured goods = $108M. Impact = $2.2M

Out of stock reduction:

If out of stocks run 10% of all transactions and management estimates that half of those out of stocks could be converted to sales with better inventory integration and metrics, the expected increase to sales would be about 5% (if the new system fully realizes the potential).

Even a 50% realization of the potential capture would result in a 2.5% increase in sales, which would often fully fund a retail ERP project.

Sales = $160M. Impact = $4M

Reduction in discounting through better purchasing:

Discounting too deeply as a result of poor purchasing. How many items are sold at clearance for 50-75% off that should never have been purchased in the first place? Choosing styles contains some human judgment and art (rather than science), but a good system can increase the science side and improve the buyer’s chances of nailing down the art side.

If inventory is sold at 70% of suggested price, on average, and the new system could increase that to 75% by better anticipating demand flows and seasonality, a 5% increase in sales could be realized. Again, half the estimated benefit is used.

Sales = $80M. Impact = $2M

Final ROI Calculation

Final ROI Calculation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your company is looking for a seasoned partner to help you calculate the post-deployment ROI of your ERP investment, feel free to contact us at info@itksolutionsgroup.com. And, to stay In The Know, connect with us via social media, or check out more posts on our blog.

August 21, 2015

Calculating the Pre-Deployment ROI of your ERP Investment

Calculating the Pre-Deployment ROI of your ERP Investment

When the term ROI is brought up in relation to ERP investments, it’s often assumed that an ROI calculation can’t be derived until a solution is selected and implemented. But, according to Nucleus Research’s ‘The ROI for ERP: An Overall Approach’ calculating an estimated ROI, before-hand, can help establish a solid baseline for comparison with the actual ROI of your ERP investment. It will also give your company a more realistic appraisal of the ERP solution(s) being considered. So, where should you begin?

First, Establish Goals & Objectives

This will require your organization to establish measurable goals and objectives that the proposed ERP solution will ideally fulfill. Establishing these goals and objectives, ahead of time, will provide monetary indicators as to how well your ERP investment is working to achieve your desired outcomes. Now, there may be some goals and objectives that you can’t measure in terms of dollars and cents, but a good majority of your goals should be relatively easy to attach a financial value.

For example, let’s say one of your objectives is to improve the overall visibility of your on-hand inventory – across all sales channels – and one of your goals is to reduce clearance stock by 20%. You can see how that particular goal / objective can easily be tied back to a monetary value and measured over a 3-5 year time period.

Tactics should also be attached to your goals and objectives. In other words, how you plan to monitor progress. You’ll find that building reports around your goals and objectives is likely going to be the most efficient tactic for measurement.

Listed below, you’ll find some basic goals and objectives to help your organization think through, what specifically, you’re looking to get out of your ERP solution.

+ Reduce the number of integrations & customizations + More accurate demand forecasting
+ Decrease maintenance costs by 5% annually + Reduce infrastructure costs by 12%
+ Faster order entry and enhanced order fulfilment + Real-time reporting capabilities
+ Upsell / cross-sell capabilities to help sales staff maximize profit + Improved inventory visibility

Next, Construct the Worst & Best Case Scenario

Once your goals & objectives have been established, you’ll want to implement “what-if” scenarios, which will require you to make some assumptions regarding the worst / best case scenario. For the best results, try to be more conservative with your estimated ROI calculation and lean more towards the worst case scenario (highest costs and the lowest upside). This will allow your organization to go into the sales process with eyes wide open, fully understanding the potential obstacles that lie ahead, so that you can better mitigate the risk involved with a complex ERP implementation.

ERP vendors / partners can be valuable assets when trying to calculate the pre-deployment ROI of your ERP investment. Especially those vendors / partners that have implemented ERP solutions for companies similar to yours. They can provide valuable insight as far as what to expect, and help you attach realistic metrics to your desired goals and objectives.

If your company is looking to calculate the pre-deployment ROI for your upcoming ERP project, and you need an experienced partner to help you through the process, feel free to contact us at info@itksolutionsgroup.com. And to stay In The Know, connect with us via social media, or check out more posts on our blog.

August 13, 2015

The Ultimate Goal Of Omni-Channel Retail

Omni-Channel Retail

The word “Omni-channel” has rapidly become a common buzzword amongst the retail community, and rightfully so. It’s a powerful way for retailers to connect with their customers on a deeper level, and deliver a shopping experience that’s custom-tailored specifically around their personal tastes and preferences. But, keep in mind that being a “true” Omni-channel retailer is subjective by nature, and can be interpreted differently depending on which retail sub-vertical you operate in. The ultimate goal of any true Omni-channel strategy is, and always should be, centered on exceeding your customers’ expectations. If you invest in your customers, then they’ll invest in you.

Take Best Buy for example, they were losing market share, year-over-year, to retailers that operate purely online – Amazon being the obvious example. Consumers were able to find the same products that Best Buy carries, online, for far cheaper than Best Buy’s physical stores were able to offer. This eventually lead to a large population of consumers using Best Buy as a showroom; to test products out and make sure that’s what they want before buying it online. In response, Best Buy now offers consumers a price match guarantee, a robust customer loyalty program, and also started selling open box / refurbished items (both online and in-store).

They also provided their customers with more options, in terms of how they choose to shop / purchase their products online, as well as at their brick and mortar locations. Offering customers the ability to shop online and ship to a store of their preference, shop a specific store(s) inventory online, and even return online purchases in store. So why is this so important? It’s important because they connected ecommerce shopping with brick & mortar locations, which is the epitome of Omni-channel retailing.

Best Buy adapted to the changing tastes and preferences of todays tech savvy and price conscious retail customer (at least for the time-being). And that is what it takes to remain competitive against retailers that operate purely online. You have to give your customers a shopping experience that simply can’t be offered solely online.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that Amazon is in a league of its own, but when it comes to strictly online retailers versus click and mortar retailers I look at physical store locations as a competitive advantage more than a burden. And, yes, I know that physical store locations can be quite costly. But if you can find a creative way to connect your physical retail channel(s) with your ecommerce channel(s), while offering an in-store experience that can’t be replicated online, then your brick and mortar locations can become more than just an overhead expense.

To stay In The Know, connect with us via social media, or check out more posts on our blog.

July 23, 2015

How to Fix RDP Full Screen Bug while Connected to a Projector

Often when we connect to a projector AND a Remote Desktop (RDP), the display / resolution settings force us to slide around the screen to access the entire desktop when in ‘full screen’. We’re used to seeing the slider bars below despite being in Full Screen.RDP Blog Post 1The reason for this error is due to a bug in the RDP Display settings. When you connect a projector, your system does not update the ‘full screen’ resolution within the RDP settings. Below is a way to trick the RDP Display settings to re-register the correct ‘full screen’ resolution for the projector.

Close any RDP session open. Connect to the projector so that your local computer screen is displayed. Right-click on the RDP icon and click Edit. Select the Display tab. Move the slider to small. Move it back to Large/Full Screen. (Seems silly, but this will correct the bug – you have to slide it all the way to the left, then back to the right). Finally, Click Connect.

How to Fix RDP Full Screen Bug

To stay In The Know, connect with us via social media, or check out more posts on our blog.

July 15, 2015

Vendor Price Protection in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

Overview: Vendor Price Protection is a topic Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Retail Customers often ask the best practice method using standard AX processes. Vendor Price Protections are agreements between the vendor and customer where in the event the on-hand inventory is devalued, the vendor will reimburse the customer for the loss of value. This is also referred to as a Funded Markdown. Inventory devaluation may occur for a number of reasons. One example would be, the new xPhone 7 is released today, which instantly reduces the value of any on-hand xPhone 6s. Another example would be inventory that did not sell as well as expected, which over time will hold a lower value than the original cost.

The first step is to provide the vendor a report of the on-hand inventory for the given item(s). The vendor or customer will calculate the adjustment total and generally take this amount as a vendor credit.

In the AX 2012 product, the Moving Average costing method is the best to accommodate the required transactions. The process is outlined simply as: Record Vendor Credit, CR to account defined as ‘Cost Revaluation for Moving average’ in Posting Profile. And adjust on-hand value of inventory, resulting in an automatic DR entry to ‘Cost Revaluation for Moving average’. The result is a reduced inventory valuation by means of a vendor credit.

Process: Together, we’ll walk through the end-to-end process including the following steps:

  1. Creating a new item
  2. Create a Purchase Order for the item, Receive, and Invoice Update
  3. Create Sales Order for item
  4. View remaining inventory
  5. Enter Credit for Vendor Price Protection adjustment
  6. Review Item Posting Profile for Cost Revaluation GL account
  7. Adjust the moving average value
  8. Review GL posting

An example of the end-to-end process for applying a Vendor Price Protection adjustment follows.

Adding a new item

Moving Average 1

Select the Item Model Group that has Moving Average defined as the costing method.

Moving Average 2

Next, we’ll enter a Purchase Order for 100 units @ $20.   Additionally, we’ll allocate $100 in freight to the lines.

Moving Average 3

Freight entered and allocated to the line.

Moving Average 4

The Purchase Order is received and invoiced. By viewing the On-Hand details for Item #9898 we can see that the inventory value (cost price) is $21 each.

Moving Average 5

We’ll now sell 10 of the items at $59.99.

Moving Average 6

By viewing the on-hand details, we can see our remaining physical inventory is 90 units at a value of $21 each.

Moving Average 7

Before we proceed with making the adjustment, let’s review Item Posting. Navigate to Inventory management > Setup > Posting > Posting). The Cost revaluation for moving average account will define the posting for any adjustments to the value of inventory. Notice the account defined as 510610.

Moving Average 8

Item 9898 has not been selling well. We have a Price Protection Agreement with the Vendor. The vendor has been notified of our on hand inventory is 90 units at $21. The terms of our agreement allow a $10 credit per unit on hand.

Moving Average 9

The vendor has approved the credit of (90 units @ $10) = $900. First we’ll record the vendor credit by entering an AP Invoice Journal. The vendor credit should be posted to account 510610.

Moving Average 10

The resulting entry will post a CR to 510610.

Next, we need to post the adjustment to the inventory value. Navigate to Inventory management > Periodic > Revaluation for moving average. Use the Select criteria to choose the item number and site.   Enter the new unit cost of $11.00.   The resulting entry will display in the Edit now field.

Moving Average 11

Post the adjustment which will result in an automatic DR entry to 510610. The net effect in account 510610 will be zero. We can confirm this entry by navigating to the GL account.

Moving Average 12

In summary, we have demonstrated in AX 2012 how to process a Vendor Price Protection adjustment using the Moving Average inventory costing method. For more information on this topic, a free whitepaper from Microsoft is available here for download.

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July 8, 2015

Personalizing the Customer Shopping Experience

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Today’s retail customer, demands a custom-tailored and consistent shopping experience, regardless of the sales channel. That’s nothing new, right? Right. Then why are so many retailers choosing to ignore this shift in consumer buying habits? Does it have something to do with mitigating risk? It’s not easy to be the innovators and early adopters. Accepting new technologies based upon consumer buying trends can be a risky endeavor. But, I think it’s safe to say that we’re far beyond the infant stages of adoption when it comes to tech investments that better serve the individual customer. And trust me, I get it, you can’t tackle every issue at once, but you can proactively analyze and prioritize which technological investments will best address the vast changes occurring in todays’ retail landscape.

So what’s the best way for you to start that process? Well, the truth is, there’s numerous ways to approach this type of situation. But, I think benchmarking the competition is a good place to start. With that being said, let’s take a look at what technology investments leading retailers are leveraging to create a more personalized shopping experience for their customers.

Connecting Inventory Management Applications Across All Sales Channels: “According to EKN’s “State of the Industry Research Series: The New Cost Retail Structure of Retail IT” – “68% of retailers (In the next two years) are planning an initiative to connect inventory management applications across both physical and online channels.”

Seeking POS Hardware / Software That Operates As A Unified Transaction Engine: “According to the RIS News “11th Annual Store Systems Study: Stores Reinvented” – 30% of retailers will be looking to purchase POS hardware or software (In the next 12 months) that will create a unified transaction engine.

Investing in Mobile Applications to Enhance the Customer Experience: “According to EKN’s “State of the Industry Research Series: Mobility in Retail” – 76% of retailers plan to invest in mobile applications to further improve their customers shopping experience.”

Upgrading Order Management Systems: “According to the RIS News “24th Annual Retail Technology Study” – 14.3% of the retailers surveyed, are planning to start a major tech upgrade (in the next 12 months) to their order management systems. In that same study, RIS News also found that only 32.8% of retailers have next generation order management systems in place.

Obviously, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are several other tech investments that could be considered a higher priority depending on which retail vertical / sub-vertical you’re in. Some may say that they’re more concerned with finding tools that help them analyze consumer site search data, or maybe its real-time reporting tools that allow for better product search conversion. Whatever initiative your company considers to be of the highest priority, it’s imperative that you to start planning and prioritizing which initiatives make the most sense for your company to tackle first, and most importantly, which of those investments will best address the needs of your current / future customers.