7 ways retailers have thrived by moving their ERP to the cloud

During times of crisis and increased competition, a business’s digital capabilities become key to its ability to survive and thrive.

Market intelligence firm IDC found that in 2020, actual market performance was stronger than predicted. They attributed this success mostly to cloud computing. Companies that run their IT in the cloud are more ready to pivot and support new requirements, such as remote work or eCommerce sales.

As more retail leaders acknowledge the critical role the cloud plays in speeding up transformation, here are 7 examples of the positive changes a retail business experiences by moving to a cloud-based ERP – for example, going from an old on-premises version of LS Central to LS Central on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

1. Get reliable, real-time data from all the stores and eCommerce.

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When the retail management system runs in the cloud, your entire team can access the real-time business data they need, even if they are operating remotely. The cloud makes it easy to instantly share data, reports, and dashboards, enabling every employee in your company to take action exactly when it’s needed.

Eye Couture is an eyewear wholesale and retail chain in South Africa whose employees work in stores and home offices. Moving to LS Central SaaS has provided the company with reliable data that every employee can access, which has increased productivity. “We are now getting information when we need it, with one centralized view of our wholesale and retail business. Our sales reps, our employees at the head office or at one of our retail locations, they can all access stock availability, customer orders, as well as any other touchpoints we have with either our retail or wholesale customers,” says Gregory Nichles, owner and manager of Eye Couture.

2. No need to worry about security.

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When you run your software in the cloud, all the security obligations move from your in-house team to the cloud provider. In other words, you can stop worrying about data legislation, security protocols, privacy requirements, and keeping up with the latest threats – someone else takes care of it for you, included in the price tag.

And if there’s an outage or a breach, you don’t need to run and turn off (figurative) fires in the middle of the night. The highly specialized Microsoft staff is there for it, 24/7, 365 days a year.

“As I move data to the cloud, I’m automatically improving my security posture versus what I could’ve done with my limited IT budget,” says Marc Kermish, chief information officer at Red Wing Shoe Company, whose IT runs in the Microsoft cloud. “I’ve got identity and access management, plus data loss protection capabilities and protection from phishing attacks—all inherent in Microsoft 365.

3. Cut both costs and time required to manage IT.

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When you run your IT on-premises, at some point your servers and data storage hardware start to age. Next time that happens, take a moment to reflect: should you invest in replacing them? Or should you move to the cloud, and never worry about running and maintaining servers in-house again?

Luxury brand Serena Whitehaven sells its made-to-order women’s shoes and bags in stores across different continents. When they decided to update their IT, they prioritized convenience, service and ROI. Moving to a SaaS solution was the obvious choice. “The fact that we don’t need a dedicated server greatly reduces the implementation costs, and gives us the benefit of being able to work on multiple devices at the same time,” said Ignacio Pancorbo, Managing Partner and founder.

4. Move quickly, and stay ahead of trends and competitors.

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In traditional IT environments, adding new functionality can take months. In the meanwhile, businesses risk losing competitiveness. To stay on top of trends and consumer behavior, retailers need to be able to see and analyze data in real time, activate plans rapidly, and deploy mission-critical applications or innovative technology with minimal preparation time.

When you are running your systems in Azure, you can get this speed of action. Norwegian retail company Komplett reports how, now that they are on the Azure platform, they can spin up new proofs of concepts or projects in one to two days. In the past, a new IT project used to take months, with hardware purchase and installation alone taking 2-3 months.

5. Add intelligence to the business.

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One of the biggest benefits of moving to the cloud is being able to take advantage of advanced computational power. Businesses can leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)-powered technology, which can help them better understand their business data, improve productivity, make smarter decisions, enhance personalization and increase competitiveness. In the cloud, advanced insights become highly accessible to any business.

Walgreens Boots Alliance’s (WBA) retail pharmacies serve millions of customers every day. To better use their data and understand their customers, WBA moved to the Microsoft Azure cloud. “Now that we’re in Azure, we can take advantage of the cloud-native tools that Microsoft has built, like Power BI, to be the data-driven company we’ve always aspired to be,” says Dan Regalado, Vice President of Global Technology Transformation and Strategic Partnerships at WBA. Microsoft Azure Machine Learning helps the company understand the details of how customers use the loyalty program, while Azure Bot Services are used to provide 24/7 virtual healthcare service and answers to customers.

Yue Hwa Chinese Products runs a chain of stores selling authentic Chinese products in Singapore. The company moved to LS Retail software running in the Azure cloud, and plans to use intelligent tools to deliver personalized experiences. “We are keen to explore new ways technology and intelligence can help shoppers find and buy the products they desire quickly and easily,” Mr. Jacob Yu, Managing Director at Yue Hwa, told us. The company is also looking at AI to optimize inventory availability and decrease returns.

6. Scale, easily.

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Some retailers won’t move from their on-premises IT environment while it still works. But what does “work” mean? Does your outdated IT really support your ability to grow and take on new projects? If you want to expand to new regions or countries, how much time and money will you have to invest?

Fashion and apparel retailer Africa Lifestyle Limited is a truly international business, with a chain of stores across West Africa plus offices managing operations and financials in the UAE, India and several countries in Africa. Fashion demands speed when launching new collections and product ranges. Africa Lifestyle’s on-prem system made supply chain and fulfillment management extremely complex and tedious. Even worse, they missed out on opportunities for growth because their POS solution couldn’t expand alongside demand.

By moving to cloud-based software, the company can now run its business as one from all its locations, and grow at will, catching all the opportunities the market presents.

7. Ensure business continuity using a hybrid setup.

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Poor connectivity is a common roadblock for retailers considering moving their ERP and POS to the cloud. They worry that when the internet goes down, they won’t be able to sell, and might lose customers.

They need not worry. While it’s true that many cloud-based retail POS don’t work without an internet connection, with LS Central the POS also work in offline mode. This means the business can always be operational, selling products and serving customers even when there is no network.

Verkfaerasalan is an Icelandic hardware chain specialized in tools and machines for the construction industry. The company knew the dangers of being left without a sales software, unable to serve customers and close sales. When the company decided to upgrade their IT, LS Central SaaS was selected also because of its offline capabilities which enable the company to always be operational. In case of loss of internet connection the system stores the information from all transactions, and then uploads them to the cloud once back online.

The time is now

With LS Central now available purely in the cloud in several regions across the world, this is the perfect time to consider a SaaS retail solution that runs on the highly reliable Microsoft cloud.

Article written by Giada Pezzini for lsretail.com on 24 August 2021.

For further information on LS Retail please contact allonline365 on +27 (21) 205 3650, or email us on info@allonline365.com, or visit our website www.allonline365.com

 

What is an ERP system, and why do you need one?

What is an ERP system, and why do you need one?

Operating a retail business has grown increasingly more complex through the years. Today, consumers expect to shop in physical store locations, on their mobile devices, and on the web via your e-commerce site, and to get a smooth experience whichever of these channels they decide to use. These added outlets and increased demands add extra complications to your daily operations. The world is changing, but many businesses are not keeping up. Too many retailers still use multiple IT systems for different aspects of their business. As these system often don’t fully communicate with each other, they make retailers’ jobs even harder. If your inventory management system software isn’t talking to your Point of Sale (POS), your eCommerce system or your accounting software, chances are you and your customers regular have to deal with outdated information. You’re also probably wasting time and money getting data from one system and inputting it into another, hopefully without too much delay and too many mistakes.

ERP systems: a definition

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An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a software that is implemented throughout the business to improve the flow of data and facilitate business processes throughout the organization. With the implementation of a quality ERP system, you will be able to streamline operations in your business, reduce costs, increase productivity and deliver an improved overall customer experience.

Included: in-store, product and inventory management

Your ERP system will make back-office work a breeze by simplifying the processes related to adding, categorizing and grouping new items, implementing special offer campaigns, stock counting, replenishment of inventory and much more. Your system can be customized to meet the specific needs of your operation.

Included: staff management

With a comprehensive retail management software solution in place, you can easily manage your staff rosters, oversee work schedules and keep your staffing costs under check. The ERP solution can automatically calculate sales commissions, and can help to prevent losses by detecting suspicious activity in your Point of Sale (POS) transactions.

Included: personalized customer service

An ERP system can collect customer data, enabling you to gain valuable insights about your customers’ buying habits. You can then use this data to create special offers tailored to their tastes and preferences, based on their previous purchases. You can also offer a loyalty program that rewards regular customers.

Cloud and on-premises ERP

In the past, most ERPs were on-premises, that is, they were hosted on the retailer’s hardware and on in-house servers. The retailer’s internal IT team was responsible for system updates, upgrades, maintenance and security.

Today, however, ERPs have moved massively in the cloud. Cloud-based ERP (also called SaaS ERP, with SaaS meaning “software as a service”) has several advantages over the traditional on-premises one:

  • It is automatically updated by the ERP supplier. The retailer doesn’t need to do anything – aaS software guarantees that you are always automatically on the latest version, with all the functionality that comes with it.
  • The ERP provider takes care of security and compliance with legal requirements.
  • Capital expenditure is lower: there is no need for hardware and servers, and the cost of running and maintaining the system, is included in the subscription price.
  • It’s easier to plug in new functionality or deploy extra applications.

POS: a definition

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Point of Sale (POS) is the name for the new generation of cash registers. However, unlike old cash registers, POS are electronic, and can do much more than just process sales. They can also handle various types of payment forms, record and track customer orders, support special promotions like buy-one-get-one offers, connect to other systems and manage and update inventory. On top of providing retailers with a more integrated way to manage their business, a modern POS offers a large number of tools to give customers better and faster service.

POS terminals can be stationary, on a fixed till, or run on mobile devices or tablets. With a mobile POS, retailers can empower their staff to serve customers, search for product information and even complete transactions anywhere in the store, or even in the yard or parking lot. Mobile POS are especially useful in temporary and outdoors stores, as well as in very large stores (for example, a garden center, or motorhome trader) where sales associates need to roam wide areas.

For a retailer, it’s paramount to select an ERP system that is seamlessly integrated to a POS system. Your ERP and Point of Sale systems must be able to communicate without disruptions and delays: otherwise, you risk mistakes and lots of time wasted aligning data.

The bottom line

An ERP system offers unbeatable opportunities for efficiency, data reporting and analysis. You can measure and track how you are performing against your KPIs, uncover ways to improve profitability, and keep track of how well your business is doing – all in real time.

As a retailer, make sure you select an ERP system that also comes with all the retail-specific functionality you need, or which can easily integrate to a retail management system. After you have implemented a retail enterprise planning solution, you’ll wonder how you were ever able to get things done without one.

Article written by Giada Pezzini for lsretail.com on 23 September 2021

For further information on LS Retail please contact allonline365 on +27 (21) 205 3650, or email us on info@allonline365.com, or visit our website www.allonline365.com

 

Why Good Data Management Is Essential to Data Analytics

Businesses today have access to a greater volume of data than ever before. Organizations that can effectively leverage data as a strategic asset will inevitably build a competitive advantage and outperform their peers over the long term. In order to achieve that, though, business managers must bring order to the chaotic landscape of multiple data sources and data models. That process, broadly speaking, is called data management. As the volume of available information continues to grow, data management will become an increasingly important factor in effective business management.

Lack of proactive data management, on the other hand, can result in incompatible or inconsistent sources of information, as well as data quality problems. Those issues will limit an organization’s ability to benefit from data-driven insights, identify trends, or recognize issues before they become bigger problems. Worse yet, poor data management can lead managers to make decisions based on faulty assumptions.

Data, Data, and More Data

Much of this challenge arises from the proliferation of systems, such as ERP, CRM, e-commerce, or specialized industry-specific software. Add web analytics, digital marketing automation, and social media to the mix, and the volume of data grows even further. Pile on external data from suppliers and external service providers, and it begins to appear unmanageable.

Many companies recognize the value of externally sourced third-party data to enrich and expand the context of the information they already have. It’s hard to imagine taking that step, though, without first getting a handle on the organization’s existing data.

Reining in all of this complexity is a critical first step in the process of creating a strategically relevant data analytics program. From a high-level perspective, that is a twofold process. First, you must make all of those data available in a centralized repository. That includes filtering, transforming, and harmonizing data such that they fit together to make up a meaningful whole.

Second, you must make that information accessible to users throughout the organization so that you can put it to meaningful use creating value for the business. In other words, you must put mechanisms in place that make it possible to access that information easily, quickly, and with sufficient flexibility that users throughout the company can analyze and innovate without extensive IT training or experience.

You must define and deploy these two elements of data management separately to ensure efficiency. Responsiveness and ease of use are a direct result of a well-built data management process and workflow; the sooner you corral and clean up the data, the sooner the data can start working to create value for the business.

Extract, Transform, Load

The challenge of data management begins when organizations are running multiple systems. As noted, that may include ERP, CRM, e-commerce, or any number of other software systems. It is also common for many organizations to rely on multiple systems that serve the same function. Different divisions or corporate entities that operate under the same corporate umbrella, for example, may be running different ERPs. This is especially common in the case of mergers and acquisitions.

Many companies would like to run reports against historical information held in a legacy database that is no longer operational. Because it is not always practical to migrate detailed transactional information when moving to a new ERP system, many businesses make do with a workaround or simply do without, excluding valuable legacy data from their current reporting systems.

When you involve multiple software systems, multiple data models are inevitably present as well. For example, if one ERP system contains separate tables for customers and vendors, but another combines them into a single table (using a single field to designate them as customers or vendors or both), then a simple report listing all of the company’s customers gets to be a somewhat complicated matter.

You must extract and transform the data from those two different ERP systems, then load them into a centralized repository in which there is a common definition of “customer.” That process must include a kind of translation, in which conformity to a common data structure and semantic model occurs.

This process of extracting, transforming, and loading data into a central repository is commonly known as “ETL.” It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of a data warehouse, and for companies that wish to provide robust, flexible, and comprehensive reporting, ETL is invaluable. The end result of a well-designed ETL process is a data warehouse that supports an “apples to apples” view of data from across the enterprise, regardless of which system they came from.

This process also links records that span multiple systems to one another. For example, designating master records with unique identifiers that are not necessarily consistent across two or more systems is common. In the ERP system, for instance, you might designate a customer a unique 10-character alphanumeric code (e.g. “JSMITH01”). In the e-commerce database, the same customer might be uniquely identified by an e-mail address such as “jsmith@sample.com.” To build reports that provide a complete picture of that customer, the central repository must connect those two records and identify them both as the same person.

Sources of Data Imperfection

Dynamic data can also create challenges. Dates and calendars, for example, can distort information that appears on financial reports. Easter falls on a different date each year, making year-over-year comparisons difficult for some businesses. Similar examples abound.

Currency conversions and calculations, likewise, are always in flux. Hundreds or even thousands of transactions coming through each day, even with small discrepancies, can add up. Good data management practices provide a framework for factoring that into the process so that data analytics can respond intelligently to those changes.

Human error introduces problems as well. This is especially true when systems are dependent on manually keyed information or data copied and pasted from external systems. ETL is an automated process, so it generally prevents a good deal of human error from ever happening in the first place. Nevertheless, if human error occurred further upstream in a source system, then the ETL process may provide an opportunity to test for data quality issues and alert the appropriate personnel, or potentially even correct such errors on the fly. Although ETL tools are not intended to replace a comprehensive data quality program per se, they can provide a very good starting point for improved data quality along with data harmonization.

Self-Service Reporting and Data Visualization

The second key element of good data management is to make information easily accessible to users throughout the organization with tools that empower them to innovate and create value for the business. Data visualization tools, in particular, have become a powerful force for informing, aligning, and persuading leaders throughout entire organizations. Today, data visualization tools are easier than ever to deploy, manage, and use.

A few years ago, deploying and managing a data warehouse required a substantial commitment of highly specialized technical resources, as well as investment in a robust computing infrastructure that could handle the required workloads. Legacy tools required a deep understanding of the source data and careful advance planning to determine how to use the resulting information.

Today, data visualization tools are extraordinarily powerful and flexible and have grown far less dependent on specialized IT expertise. Frontline users who interact with the data on a day-to-day basis can now perform much of the work involved with creating dashboards, graphs, and other visualizations.

Using Jet Analytics for Data Management

Jet Analytics from insightsoftware provides both components of the data management process as defined here. First, it provides a powerful platform for building a data warehouse and for creating and managing the ETL process such that it brings together data from multiple disparate systems under one roof for clear, meaningful reporting and analysis. Second, Jet Analytics provides a comprehensive suite of reporting tools that make it possible for virtually anyone in the organization to develop powerful visual dashboards, reports, and ad hoc analysis.

Jet Analytics comes with pre-built integration to Microsoft Dynamics and other powerful business management software, making it possible for virtually anyone to create a sophisticated data warehouse in just a few minutes. Users can seamlessly connect and consolidate multiple data sources, bringing information together under one roof, for filtering, transformation, and normalization. Dynamics customers can handle all of this in-house without depending on expensive third-party resources to create and manage their data warehouse. Jet enables you to build and share dashboards quickly and easily, extracting valuable business insights from your business data.

Article written for insight software.com on January 20, 2021.

For further information on Jet Reports please contact allonline365 on +27 (21) 205 3650, or email us on info@allonline365.com, or visit our website www.allonline365.com 

 

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