Specialists in IT Strategy and ERP.

March, 2009

This month's features.

ERP Strategies for Lean Times. When money is plentiful ERP projects and initiatives have no trouble getting traction, but what do you do when we're in lean times? Find out how to use the current environment to benefit your organzation and position it for future growth. And in our TIPS column, John Pellegrino talks about the basic building blocks of software implementation - "Chunks" as he calls them!

This month we continue with our guest column spotlighting our Strategic Partners and Associates. Mark Edwards of DataReport Consulting continues with a look at the Innter Workings of Crystal Reports. In case you missed Mark's introductory column, An Intro to Crystal Reports? click HERE


ERP Strategies for Lean Times. By Paul Sita, Principal, Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. Paul can be reached at 631-549-1685 or psita@innovativeitc.com.

It's the Ideal Time. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no better time to pay attention to ERP than in Lean Times! How can this be? I can hear you saying right now - We have no money, no budget.

Call Me Crazy. OK. Call me crazy. But those of you who follow this column know that one of our recurring themes is that ERP benefits are generally realized POST IMPLEMENTATION, based on knowledge of the new system, understanding and examination of business processes, and continuing efforts to improve metrics and KPIs. Do the hard work now that you have the time.

When times are good, there is a rush to move on ERP implementations. The problem is that implementing ERP is a process that can’t be rushed and produce good results. Most often what gets squeezed or eliminated are the very things that ERP is supposed to help with – Business Process Enhancement, Elimination of Redundancies, Eliminating paperwork, Phasing out duplicate systems.

However, when times are lean, your staff has the time to participate in these very time intensive but Critical Process Improvement Efforts. NOW is the time to put together a cross-functional team to look at efficiencies. This will have several benefits:

    1) Identify many savings and efficiencies that can be implemented now.

    2) Improve morale and get people focused on a goal.

    3) Position you to take advantage of ERP upgrades or replacement when conditions change.

In short it’s WIN, WIN, WIN.

What are some of the things that your team can focus on?

    1) Benchmark. Benchmark key operational parameters and processes against others in your industry.

    2) Review. Review your list of key user requests for enhancements, new functionality. See what can be achieved with the least expenditure of resources.

    3) Objectives.Incorporate management objectives for key operating ratios and KPIs.

    4) Goals. Review your list of original ERP goals that were not met.

    5) Fix Current Problems. Identify your 5 most problematic routine processes. Set quality targets and work toward hitting them.

    6) Reorganize. This is a great time to reorganize departments that aren’t working well.

    7) Training. Look for opportunities to fill in training gaps – improve the overall understanding of the system throughout your organization, and turn more users into Super Users.

    8) Add functionality. Take advantage of additional functionality that you already own or license.

    9) Processes. If you feel the system is inadequate in certain respects, start working on what an improved flow or process would be in that area.

    Do it now. In short, Lean Times are the perfect time to do the kind of reflective assessment that should be part of your ongoing ERP Process, but usually isn’t. Lay the groundwork, reap the benefits. Now’s the time!


    Tip of the Month

    Implementing ERP - Seen One, Seen Them All
    By John Pellegrino, Principal, Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. John can be reached at 631-549-1685 or jpellegrino@innovativeitc.com.

    I have been implementing enterprise class business systems for over 30 years, big ones, small ones, all shapes and sizes - home grown systems, packaged systems, and hybid systems with a lot of customization. And while I have seen a huge change in the technology used to create them, I haven't really seen big changes in the process to implement them. Over time, I have heard the overall process called a roadmap, a methodology or a plan. The major parts of the implementation may be phases, stages or milestones.

    Enter the "Chunk"! Without any slight to you, your staff or your particular software vendor’s way of implementing an ERP system, let me state that there isn’t that much difference between all of these ways and it hasn’t changed in 30+ years. For me there are 4 major “chunks” of work (I’ve never heard them called that officially). I call them Design, Build, Test, and Install. Over the next few months I will discuss each of these in more detail. This month I will discuss a couple of general tips to get started.

    There is no "i" in Team. Put together a team of capable people from all major disciplines within the business community of your organization. Include some people from IT, as appropriate. This team will grow and/or shrink as you progress through the “chunks”. The amount of work for the team will depend on the “chunk” you are doing, as well as the size and complexity of the project.

    Follow the Leader. Although the major work will follow the aforementioned 4 step path there may be some slight variations in the sub-steps within any given “chunk”. For example, some vendors suggest using a subset of master data (e.g., customers, vendors, products, etc.) at the beginning of the project and other vendors suggest starting with as full a set of data as possible, if not all of it. Do what the vendor suggests unless there is a compelling reason to deviate from their standard approach. After all, they have done the implementation of their software before and have some reason to do it that way. And, just as important, their people are familiar and comfortable with that way.

    Stay tuned for more "Chunks" of wisdom in the months ahead!

    Business Intelligence and Reporting.

    A Look into the Inner Workings of Crystal Reports.
    By Mark Edwards, Principal, DataReport Consulting. Mark can be reached at 908-565-6059 or contact@datareportconsulting.com.

    This month’s article continues where last month’s left off. Last month I gave a general overview of Crystal Reports. Now we’ll look a bit at what it can do, and how.

    The core of Crystal Reports is the Crystal Reports Designer. It is how you create your reports.

    Crystal Reports Designer Once this is opened, you connect to your database. Connectivity options include such things as ODBC drivers (the usual standard), OLE drivers, etc. Most likely, the driver will already be set up and configured on your PC if the database application you are using exists on the same PC. Once connected, you can see all the tables your database contains and the fields within each table. You will also have access to views and stored procedures.

    Tables and Relationships Now utilizing these tables and the data within requires some understanding of your database and its structure. Usually databases are relational. So Customer information would be found in a Customer table. Item information would exist in an Item Master table. Transactions, such as Invoices, usually consist of a HEADER table (containing customer and general Invoice information) and a TRAILER table (containing the information for each item on the invoice). Often times there are more than two tables.

    Add the tables you need within Crystal Reports, and link them by their key fields. How does linking work? Let’s say it is an invoice related report. You would link between the Invoice Header and the Invoice Trailer tables using the INVOICE NUMBER field. If you want to get more Customer information than is contained in the Invoice Header, you would link to the Customer Table using the CUSTOMER CODE field. Once you have the tables inserted into the report, you can then add and arrange fields to the REPORT DESIGN screen. Anything placed here will appear on your report.

    Grouping and Totaling. You can do a variety of things with the fields. You can group by Item #. For numeric fields, you can insert totals. You can create formulas that combine or calculate multiple fields from the database. You can set parameters, so that you return only records for a certain time period, or for a certain customer. Once you have some fields in your report, you hit PREVIEW and the report will return the data for the fields requested.

    This is only the beginning! Once you have that done, there are many advanced features to utilize. There are additional ways to utilize the data within the report, and ways to export and distribute the report when you are finished creating it.

    We’ll look at those aspects in subsequent newsletters. See you in April!


    Word Scramble Time.
    The phase when most ERP benefits are achieved. (2 words).
    _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    N E T I O O S M P M T T I E L P A N

    Answer to last month's word scramble.

    “ The de facto standard for corporate reporting and Business Intelligence. (2 words). " (CRYSTAL REPORTS)


    A Look Ahead To Next Month

    We continue our look at ERP benefits and values. Stay tuned!!  

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    Innovative IT Consulting, LLC
    (631) 549-1685