Gathering realistic requirements for ERP

erp requirements

How to gather requirements for ERP

The ultimate success in ERP software requirements gathering is not only to capture everything that the current business process does today but also to compile a list of realistic “should-be” changes. The term “realistic” is important, because if the should-be list is largely compromised of the wishful thinking of a few dreamers, then no ERP vendor will touch it. But if you can capture changes that are reasonable, and would improve the process, then you can simultaneously ask, “And how much would that be worth to you, if we could do that?” From that point, financial benefits begin accruing, and you are starting to compile the data required for a justified and proven ERP ROI.

Quantifying the financial benefits from ERP software has always been a dicey position. There is no accounting entry for “improved efficiency”, “better decisions”, or “greater understanding”. So if your ERP requirements gatherers are good, they will coax along the thought process using those intangible phrases to try to get to things that are, in fact, tangible. “Where will improved efficiency show up? How can you recognize improved efficiency?” (Side note: No rumor will insert more negative energy into ERP software requirements gathering than the perception that ERP is going to ‘put a bunch of people out of work’.)

When it appears ERP would, in fact, be able to eliminate non-value-added work, the discussion should be in terms of re-assigning people, not eliminating people. Every organization has a turnover that requires backfilling jobs. “What is the cost of bad decisions today?” may lead to some quantifiable discussion about inventory obsolescence costs, lost sales, or poor choices in product development.

Expect Tension

Typically, the tangible benefits side of ERP software requirements gathering will result from reduced working capital and associated carrying cost, reduced manpower, reduced obsolescence cost, greater material, and product yield, and service improvements leading to revenue increases. Expect some tension at this point, as ERP requirements gatherers push for every possible benefit dollar, and the business unit pushes back on commitments they may be called upon to verify, and that they may live to regret.

Relative to its eventual importance, requirements gathering is the most under-appreciated yet tactically critical step in the ERP selection process. The ERP requirements list will serve as the basis for all ERP vendor discussions., for the eventual ERP software contract language, and for the basis of your vendor relationship going forward. Get it right, and you have a common language for holding vendors accountable, for realistic ERP product comparisons, and for guiding configuration decisions. Get it wrong, and you will spend inordinate amounts of time trying to unravel what was really meant by ambiguous requirements.

After you have been through the ERP software requirements gathering phase, you will pretty much know whether you have a compelling business case or not. If you do, it’s time to sell the case to your leadership and get project approval so you can begin talking with ERP vendors in good faith.

If your business is considering an upgrade from outdated legacy systems, it’s time to start building a list of requirements for an ERP system. We can assist in identifying key problem areas within your organization and help you make the right decision on which business solution will be best for you. Contact allonline365 on or  +27 (21) 205 3650.

Resource Credit | ERPFocus

Optimizing Time to Market in Fashion

time to market

K3 Technologies Optimizing Time to Market

Getting fashion merchandise to market with greater efficiency is not a matter of fixing one facet of the supply chain or another. Success requires a holistic, end-to-end approach. Learn how business process transformation and integrated ERP technology can help.

There is tremendous pressure to shorten cycle times and get fashions to market much faster. This need to optimize time to market impacts almost every link of the supply chain, from design to delivery.

For too many apparel retailers, inefficiencies are eating away at their competitiveness. Executives recognize that decisions made closer to the market are bound to bring stronger results, and they are looking for solutions that are fast and easy to implement. These solutions need to address multiple pain points where time and money are lost, from pre-season planning and design through production, logistics, and allocation to end-of-season markdowns and liquidation.

Aided by the latest integrated ERP technology, there is an opportunity to squeeze time out of traditional processes and perform tasks much more efficiently. By doing so, fashion companies can streamline the concept-to-consumer cycle and book sales at the highest possible profit margin.

Within each supply chain segment, an end-to-end IT solution can help apparel brands and retailers to:

  • Execute activities concurrently instead of sequentially
  • Standardize processes and data
  • Automate communications
  • Integrate and centralize information so that there is one version of the truth.

Pre-Season Business Planning: Greater Visibility into Reliable Data

During the critical planning phase, many apparel decision-makers have had to make commitments without the benefit of current trend information or reliable forecasts. They often have had to pull historical sales data from separate wholesale, retail and e-commerce systems to forge the best-laid plans they possibly can. But by the time they are creating sales orders for the upcoming season, there could be business factors playing out that would materially change their current course – if they only had clearer visibility into those factors.

To combat this problem, companies can utilize ERP technology to more fluidly compare plans to forecasts. As pre-season planning progresses, the business can evaluate forecasts, which will change based on actual sales, customer behavior and market information. They can see how forecasted results affect gross profits, volumes, and sourcing. Then they can adjust their future business plans accordingly and take steps to mitigate issues that may be building up during the current season.

An accurate forecast may only be available weeks before a season starts, whereas the business plan typically is in place months or a year in advance. When fashion professionals can truly leverage both, they can better see the best mix of product types they need to stock and sell to hit their gross margin targets.

For example, after one week of pre-season spring sales, there could be a new forecast showing a 10 percent decline in sales vs. a planned increased of 5 percent. The business can then take action to try to address this discrepancy, both for future seasons and the spring season. Planners and salespeople can look into their ERP solution to see the margin made on sales orders by both the order line level and the overall order level. This provides helpful clarity into where orders might be adjusted during this forward-sales phrase before garments are actually produced. The fresh insights from the forecast also can be used to make adjustments in material procurement and production capacity commitments for future seasons.

Putting greater emphasis on planning and leveraging stronger data can help companies enhance product lifecycle management, says Sonia Hernadez, and associate partner with The Parker Avery Group, a strategy, and management consulting firm focused on the retail industry. “Many fashion firms are struggling with the high rates of change in collections and assortments,” she says. “Customers want season change more frequently than twice per year, and assortment planning tools and processes are not keeping up with the desired amount of change needed.”

By using technology to get a better read on the business, companies have a chance to get the product’s lifecycle, beginning with the plan, off to a stronger start. “Some firms focus on the front-end (product sourcing), and others focus on the back-end (markdowns and end of life), but too many are missing a good plan that is data-driven for end-to-end product lifecycle management,” Hernadez says.

In his blog post, “Predicting Buyer Journeys and Inventory: Retail Future in a Nutshell,” Sabir Anand, vice president of research and principal analyst, EKN Research, also addressed the missed opportunities when plans are built without the latest insights. “A sizeable volume of inventory is not based on customer science, reliable forecasts or likely demand scenarios related to prospective shopping patterns or sales trends,” he said. “These problems exist not only due to lack of reliable and timely customer insights but also due to legacy ERP, business intelligence, demand forecasting, and inventory management systems.”

With newer technology, such as predictive analytics, “retailers can analyze customer and marketplace information that can be used to triangulate demand forecasts with merchandising plans and to respond to changing market dynamics in real-time,” he said.

Design and Pre-Production: Standardize for Faster Speed

One of the greatest time-to-market challenges facing fashion enterprises is a lengthy design/development process that starts very early, long before designers can see which trends are hottest. This traditional calendar drives huge volumes of work on styles that may never see the light of day. By some estimates, only about 30 percent of early concept sketches make it into final collections.

Product design often begins nine to twelve months before styles are due to land on the retailer selling floor. Multiple fashion businesses study the same sources of trend information while trying to maintain unique looks targeting their consumer markets. Of the initial designs they create, companies may drop half of them as they get closer to the market and decide some styles are not winners. Yet before that happens, weeks if not months could be spent developing samples, conducting fittings and making revisions.

This problem can turn into a crisis as companies face intensifying pressure to turn out more frequent collections. Demands mount on teams as they are forced to manage more products without automation to help them or meaningful market data to guide them. “Commitments on end products are made six to twelve months in advance of demand, sometimes longer,” Hernadez says. “Many companies are still trying to get closer to demand signals with little in the way of data intelligence tools and/or teams with product and customer analytics skills. ”

When the information that helps creative teams know what to design is significantly better, there is a major reduction in workload and incurred costs. To buy time and wait for clearer market insights, companies must reclaim precious hours, days, and weeks (or more) currently being drained by production-intensive processes, such as sample making, and rounds of unstructured communications about specifications and product details.

“The bottom line in all of this – the necessity to get it right the first time and build and protect the brand for the long term – requires a holistic, end-to-end approach to brand-related requirements management, as anything less than results in suboptimization, continued inefficiencies, and islands of disconnected automation and information,” said PLM consulting firm CIMdata in its paper “Delivering the Brand…and the Business: Can Your Current Processes and Tools Support Today’s Complexity?”

There are integrated ERP solutions with robust product development capabilities geared to help fashion businesses standardize their pre-production processes and communications. For instance, newer systems allow technical design teams to work on perfecting pattern blocks and developing standard fits separate from the regular flow of seasonal design work. This approach is much more efficient than trying to finesse the fit of every single new style.

These solutions also provide standardized libraries for materials, colors, and artwork, plus standard technical pack reports to capture details for suppliers as they build samples and ultimately production orders. In addition, suppliers can access all product information through cloud-based portals, which serve as gateways for sharing details, bidding on projects, and exchanging production progress updates between brands, suppliers, and service providers. For designers and planners, pre-defined choices, drop-down menus, and aggregated views enable efficient handling of multiple product dimensions.

When this front-end PLM functionality is integrated with downstream business processes, it also allows teams to easily access and apply historical sales data and the current financial metrics, such as gross margin and recommended retail pricing, to their line plans.

The sooner businesses make the transition to this type of integrated technology, the better, according to CIMdata, which stated: “The key point is to not delay, as every product developed and launched from within your current environment is probably leaving money on the table as well as carrying a high risk of failure.”

Managing the Product Lifecycle: Pre-Season to End-of-Season

While the acronym PLM often gets associated with pre-production activities, the work of product lifecycle management never really ceases until the product or collection reaches its true end of life. As collections fall into place, companies enter a whole other realm of decision-making – one in which integrated technology is more important than ever.

With a single system of record, companies cut down on confusion over calendar management. When teams access a shared calendar, they gain a much greater understanding of the overall business and how decisions and delays affect workflow and work pressure. “Holistic calendar management is a common challenge,” says Hernadez. “Historically and even today, many fashion firms have a merchandize or planning calendar, a marketing calendar, and possibly a separate sourcing calendar. Without the ability to integrate all components, and align the key milestones, there will always be obstacles in understanding and improving time to market.”

To streamline and reduce complexity in pre-season planning, some apparel brands are pre-allocating products based on rules. With this practice, they can increase customer satisfaction and reliability by pre-allocating future stock to a customer early in the planning process based on order and/or customer priority. Advanced ERP solutions can automatically alert the brand if there will be any issues in actually allocating the promised goods, at which point the company can immediately update and change sales orders, possibly replacing some products with available goods to ensure delivery. Throughout the season, this automated allocation based on rules continues, and teams only have to deal with exceptions or situations in which the planned product distribution is not possible.

In planning for the optimal stock, fashion businesses also can institute more pre-packs into their portfolios. Instead of selling “open sizes”, which allows customers to pick and choose any size assortment, the fashion brand can offer pre-packs with relevant size breakdowns based on their knowledge of regional markets and the customer’s target consumers. As a result, apparel manufacturing runs can be more predictable and profitable because the company can optimize fabric utilization. Then the expense of producing sizes that have less demand, such as XXS, is spread evenly across more orders.

In addition to helping optimize manufacturing efficiencies, the use of pre-packs minimizes human intervention and manual handling when products reach the retailer. Cross-docking and bonded warehousing also can reduce the need for manual handlings, such as unpacking sorting, repacking, by the retail customer. Both cross-docking and bonded warehousing require solid administration and clear instructions, all of which can be systematically and centrally controlled within the enterprise solution.

The centralized nature of an end-to-end ERP solution also is critically important for managing end-of-season planning, logistics, and markdown modeling. Retail teams need access to a single version of the truth and clear rules and guidance on when to adjust prices and move merchandise from store to store or to off-price outlets. All of this ties back to the core margin planning tools so instrumental in setting optimal stock to begin the season. The ERP solution helps guide managers as they try to sell the most merchandise within the target time window and quickly act on overstock situations. These decisions and tasks need to be managed centrally so as not to burden retail store personnel, increasing costs and consuming time.

Resource Credit | K3 Technologies

Building the ultimate Sales Dashboard

sales dashboard

We all know that data is the key to actionable decision making. In a fast-paced job like sales, you are surrounded by it. From gathering customer data to monitoring sales status to tracking goals, salespeople are collecting and using data at every possible minute.

The challenge with having all of this data at your fingertips is organizing it. Without the right strategy and business intelligence tool in place, you are not able to derive meaningful insights from the data you work so hard to accumulate. This is where sales dashboards have proven to be highly effective.

In sales, dashboards play a huge role in managing day-to-day operations, measuring performance, and adapting quickly to changing conditions. With a well-organized dashboard designed to meet a specific goal, a sales manager can take a glance at key metrics on a single screen and make speedy decisions based on facts.

If you’re looking for a better way to track your sales team’s progress and meet your revenue targets faster this year, Jet Global can help. Business Intelligence (BI) is our specialty, and we have had a lot of experience working with top-performing sales organizations and ambitious teams looking to get more value from their data.

To set you up for success in analytics, we have created a quick guide on how to create the ultimate sales dashboard. Keep reading for more insight on the sales metrics you should be tracking and the dashboards you should be using.

Pinpoint the purpose of your sales dashboard

It may seem a little bit simple but the first step to building a great sales dashboard is to identify who will be using this dashboard, how they will be using this dashboard, and what information they want to see. A sales rep might want a graphical dashboard that they can check daily to help meet their weekly goals. A sales manager might be after a more detailed dashboard to check top-performing sales reps every week. On the other hand, a sales VP might need just a simplified dashboard to show high-level revenue and sales every month.

Generic dashboards are not as effective as specific, tailor-made dashboards so make sure you are clear on the purpose behind your sales dashboard before diving in.

Sales metrics you should be tracking

A day in the life of a top salesperson orbit around meeting sales targets and quotas. From tracking phone calls to nurturing prospects to closing deals, sales teams are in a constant state of flux. Before building your sales dashboard, you need to identify your top goals and narrow down what KPIs and metrics are most important in reaching those goals.

Sales goals depend on who you are and what you do. A sales manager is going to have different goals from an inside sales rep. A go-getting sales manager might set a goal of increasing sales by 5% this quarter, and therefore needs to monitor both individual and team performance to track progress and identify their top performers. An inside sales rep’s goal is to reach a target of 200 cold calls per month, so they are focused on tracking sales activities and completing tasks: two very different goals, two very different dashboards.

A golden set of sales metrics and KPIs doesn’t really exist, as measurements differ from department to department. The general rule of thumb when choosing your KPIs and metrics is to tie back to your goal. If it gives you useful information and identifies areas for improvement, you should track it.

According to an informative article by HubSpot, sales metrics typically fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Activity Sales Metrics (Ex. # of calls made, # of meetings scheduled)
  • Pipeline Sales Metrics (Ex. Average length of the sales cycle, total closed opportunities by month/quarter)
  • Lead Generation Metrics (Ex. Average lead response time, % of qualified leads)
  • Primary Conversion Metrics (Ex. % of opportunities closed/won)
  • Chanel Sales Metrics (Ex. Revenue by the partner, Average deal size by partner)
  • Sales Productivity Metrics (Ex. % of time spent on selling activities or creating content)
  • Sales Process, Tools, and Training Adoption Metrics (Ex. Average  cost of training by salesperson)

The bottom line is that the ultimate sales dashboards need to be designed for a specific person with specific goals. A dashboard that tries to include all of these sales metrics is not going to be effective or particularly useful to anyone. It needs to be relevant, and easy to adjust.

Build your sales dashboard with business intelligence software

Once you have your goal and metrics identified, you’re ready to start building your sales dashboard. You may have these capabilities built into your CRM or ERP solution, but most of the time, they are not the most user-friendly tools. There are a ton of separate dashboard solutions out there to choose from, but we usually recommend you stick with a business intelligence solution that integrates with your current software, a for a few reasons in particular:

  1. BI software is designed for self-service reporting and analytics – that means you shouldn’t need a developer every time you want to build or alter a dashboard.
  2. Data consolidation will be automated, ensuring real-time information from multiple data sources. This is super important.
  3. BI software comes with lots of great pre-built dashboards and chart options to choose from.
  4. BI software gives you the ability to drill down into key information and apply calculations within the tool itself.

Once you have your BI solution implemented, you will be able to automatically pull any data into your dashboard and use it for decision making. You can create dashboards and reports to track sales performance, identify sales opportunities, create sales forecasts, analyze your pipeline, and more.

If you decide against a BI solution or separate solution that syncs with your ERP system, this will be a more manual and time-consuming process. This option means you have to build reports and dashboards from scratch and constantly update them, but there are Excel templates out there for that.

Create, visualize, and share your sales data

The purpose of a dashboard is to be able to make decisions at a glance. That’s why the most useful sales dashboards are easy-to-read and understand. Bi software includes a wide range of templates to choose from and charts to visualize your data. Pie charts, bar charts, line charts – any kind of chart you can think of – will help you customize the tiles on your dashboard to your personal preferences. That being said, you don’t want to overwhelm your user with too many fancy charts and clutter.

There are a few design conventions to keep in mind before diving into your dashboard. The first is simplicity and usability. Color, images, buttons, fonts, charts, numbers – every element of a dashboard should look and feel consistent with the user, so there is no confusion or issues with navigation. Another thing to keep in mind is that most of us read from left to right. You want these dashboards to lead to quick interpretation and fast responses, so putting the most pertinent visuals on the left will help. Just remember that everyone is different, so it’s a good idea to experiment a bit with these options to find what colors and charts work best for you and your team.

The other thing to keep in mind when building your dashboards is how you will access and share them. If you’re creating a sales leaderboard dashboard, for example, you want every member of the team to be able to view this dashboard from anywhere with an internet connection, easily. 

Resource Credit | Jet Global 

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