Thursday, August 19, 2010

Does ‘Over-the-Top’ Customer Service Really Work?

In a recent article by Harvard Business Review titled: Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers; we found some interesting theories in regards to what is actually necessary when it comes to customer service. The authors examined situations in which customers either return or banish companies and came to the following conclusion:

“Loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be.”

Therefore providing over-the-top customer service may not build loyalty, but reducing the effort your clients and/or customers have to do to get their purchase made, or problem solved – will. Ultimately taking deliberate steps in this direction – rather than trying to find new ways to spoil customers may help you improve your customer service ratings, and reduce costs.

To read a partial view of this article, click here. (Note: Full article requires subscription).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Improving Logistics, Inventory Control and Supply Chain Management

For food and agribusiness companies it is now more important than ever to have the proper logistics, inventory control and supply chain management in place. Why? Because it ultimately leads to cost savings, and improved customer service – providing a much needed competitive advantage.

In order to create the appropriate strategy, your company should understand the nature of product demand, inventory management and supply chain capabilities. We recently came across a great article titled, Logistics, Inventory Control, and Supply Chain Management, written by Frank Dooley that covers these items in depth. However, some of the key points in the article were as follows:

Inventory Management
There are three general approaches used to manage inventory.

  1. An inventory control approach which is typically used by retailers.

  2. Production Scheduling and Flow Management used by manufacturers.

  3. And a non-active approach which involves keeping large inventory quantities on hand at all times, commonly seen in agribusiness companies.
Types of Demand
Inventory management is influenced by the nature of demand, including whether demand is derived or independent. Which is more applicable to your business?
  • Derived demand arises from the production of another product.

  • Independent demand arises from the demand for an end-product.
Customer Service and Inventory
The availability of inventory provides customer service. The Item Fill Rate (IFR) measures how often a particular product (often called a stock keeping unit or SKU) is available. A common metric of customer service, IFR is expressed as the percentage of time that a customer can obtain the item they seek.

To avoid shortfalls or stockouts, some companies may carry extra inventory known as safety stock. As more customer service is provided, you can expect sales to increase. However in some cases as you attempt to improve your customer service levels, some logistical costs may increase.

Inventory levels are affected by customer service expectations, demand uncertainty, and the flexibility of the supply chain. For products with relatively certain demand and a long shelf-life, it can be much easier to maintain the desired customer service standards and inventory levels. However for products that have unpredictable demand, a short life cycle, or product proliferation, a more responsive supply chain and larger buffer inventories may be necessary in order to maintain the desired level of customer service.

Consumers are demanding more customer service from companies throughout the supply chain. Those with a higher level are more likely to gain the much needed competitive advantage over those that do not have the supply chain capabilities in place or the ability to manage them. If you can study and gain a good overall understanding of your demand, recognize stock-out costs and carry the right levels of inventory – you’ll be more likely to manage it effectively. As industrialization affects agribusiness and agriculture in general, the importance of customer service and competitiveness becomes more and more important.

To read the entire article, please click here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Importance of a Good Disaster Recovery Plan

Having a disaster recovery plan is like an insurance policy for your business, helping you get back on your feet as quickly and cost effectively as possible. Whether natural or man-made, disasters of any magnitude can strike at any time. Severe weather, technological viruses and crashes, as well as fire, and flood can all strike occur without warning. While it may seem like a hassle up front, a good disaster recovery plan can save your business should you need to call up on it.

A great example of this is the recent BP oil spill. Had they had a plan in place they may have been able to recover much quicker, saving not only themselves large quantities of money, but the surrounding industries as well. With damages estimated in the tens of billions, not to mention the PR nightmare they’re now facing – we’re sure BP wishes they had thought ahead.

The First Steps
First, make sure top-level executives within your company are on board and involved in the process. Their support is vital to the creation of a good plan. Step two is the creation phase. This is a slow methodical process and requires that each department be broken down into its smallest units, separating the function of each and analyzing it for its importance to your business. If this sounds like something that might be too much for you to handle internally, fear not. Many companies choose to outsource this task to an expert who has the experience and perspective necessary to come up with a comprehensive plan for your company. If you choose to do it in house however, the first thing you’ll need is a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). A BIA collects all of the information relating to your business and ranks it in order of importance. Then each function should be assigned a process of continuity.

Next, you will want to design an emergency procedure. This should include contact information for all employees, vendors, and partners as well as a comprehensive list of all equipment for all departments. These lists should be kept up to date and reviewed often.

Next Steps

  • Designate and prepare an alternate location that can be used as an alternate workspace should you need it.

  • Set up all data back-up and recovery processes. These should be kept on hard disks and stored off-site or uploaded to a 3rd party server. All data should be backed up regularly. The frequency depends on your business – some choose to do this in real time, some weekly, and others monthly.

  • Provisions should be added (if not included already) to the Service Level Agreements (SLC) with your suppliers, vendors, and other businesses you engage with. This reduces liability risk if you fail to deliver due to a crisis.

  • Hold regular ‘disaster drills’ to check the viability of your plan and backup systems. It is crucial that you do this prior to experiencing a disaster. So many companies (roughly 76%) never test their systems. The very damaging downside to this is that when and if it comes time to use it, they find that their plan is inadequate and/or incomplete, resulting in huge financial losses and downtime.
Adapted from How Disaster Recovery Plans Work, Dave Roos posted here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

EDI: How Low Can Your TCO Go?

Register Now!

See how Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Transaction Manager for Sage PFW ERP, powered by TrueCommerce, can save you up to 60% on your EDI Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). (1)

Painless, Easy and Affordable! EDI is a widely adopted form of electronic commerce and is required by many large enterprises. EDI Transaction Manager, powered by TrueCommerce, is a painless, easly, and affordable way to:
  • Import purchase orders with the click of a button
  • Reduce data entry mistakes and save on administration costs
  • Export and send invoices directly from Accounts Receivable

Backed by free and unlimited support services, (2) EDI Transaction Manager comes with no annual maintenance fees and free software updates.

Your invited to a free Sage Webcast:

"Reduce Your EDI Total Cost of Ownership With TrueCommerce Integrated with Sage PFW"

See how other companies have lowered their total cost of owning EDI by up to 60%!

August 4, 2010

  • 12:00-1:00 PM CT
  • 3:00 - 4:00 PM CT

Register today!

(1) Compared to other EDI providers. TrueCommerce does not charge annual subscription or maintenance fees, or AS2 license fees, mailbox fees, peak hour surcharges or delimiter conversion fees. EDI software updates are free as is support. No annual contract is required and there are no early termination fees.

(2) Free and unlimited support on EDI Transaction Manager is provided by TrueCommerce and is not applicable to any Sage product or upgrade.

The Scoop on Windows 7

Now available, Windows 7 is the upgrade from Windows Vista and XP. In the near future XP will stop supporting this operating system so migrating to Windows 7 is inevitable. However, before you install it, here are some points to consider:

  • New PCs can be ordered with Win7 already installed.

  • Upgrades from Vista to Win7 can take a long time and may be difficult.

  • It is faster than XP, and can work on older PC’s, but you cannot upgrade from XP.

  • Win7 offers scheduled backup / defragmentation routines.

  • Microsoft no longer supports XP.

  • New installs only take about 30 minutes and it will find most device drivers, or you can use XP/Vista drivers.

  • Upgrades will take a few hours, you can only upgrade from Vista, and you’ll need to do some system clean up after.

If you have questions or want help installing or upgrading to Windows 7, call our office.

FRx Replacement - Sage Intelligence

Sage Intelligence will soon be introduced as the ideal FRx replacement product for Sage PFW and Sage MAS 90/200/500. On target to be released by the end of this year, Sage Intelligence offers powerful and easy to use graphical financial reporting capabilities to access business-critical information, and makes complex reporting easy using a new report designer. Going beyond General Ledger reporting needs, Sage Intelligence will provide Business Intelligence across the entire Sage PFW and MAS system. Sage will discontinue shipping FRx with new license sales by the end of 2010, and will not include FRx in future releases of their products.

With Sage Intelligence you will be better able to:

  • Quickly identify and respond to trends using sophisticated, customizable dashboards.

  • Empower your staff with timely, meaningful information and trend reports.

  • Easily create in-depth financial, operations, customer, and vendor reports.

  • Efficiently view, manipulate, analyze, and distribute reports in a familiar Excel format.

  • Extract up-to-the-minute high level summaries, account groupings, or transaction details.

  • Effortlessly consolidate data from multiple companies, divisions, and databases.

  • Streamline customized work in Excel.

Sage PFW and MAS customers on plan will be provided with a trade-in option for existing FRx licenses. Details on this program will be provided very soon.

What’s New in Microsoft Office 2010?

Microsoft Office 2010 has many new features that allow you to get the most out of your software. Some of the new aspects include:

  • A new preview before you paste feature.

  • Enhanced navigation, search tools, new page versions and wiki linking.

  • Improved Navigation Pane to find documents easier and faster.

  • Co-authoring capabilities allowing multiple people to open and edit the same document simultaneously.

Media & PowerPoint 2010

  • Improved picture and media editing.

  • New artistic effects and a background removal tool.

  • Open Type typography.

  • Easily trim, add fades and effects to videos.

  • Broadcast Slideshow instantly via the web.

Excel & Access 2010

  • New visualization tools.

  • Dynamically filter data in a PivotTable or PivotChart to display only the relevant details.

  • Design your own database using Application Parts, adding prebuilt components with just a few clicks.

Outlook 2010

  • Improved Conversation View and Management tools.

  • Perform multi-step tasks such as reply and delete within a single click.


  • Easily post files to SharePoint or Windows Live SkyDrive and then access and edit them from virtually anywhere.

  • New powerful tools for Windows phones.

  • SharePoint Workspace 2010 enables offline updates to documents.

The most important piece of information you should know is that Microsoft will no longer support Office 2003. We encourage any that are still operating on the older version to upgrade to 2010.

If you have questions or need any additional support with transitioning to Office 2010 please let us know. We would love to help you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

PivotTables: What are they and how do I use them for my business?

Register today!

We are thrilled to announce that PositiveVision is offering monthly lunchtime webinars. Join us on Tuesday, July 20th to learn about the little-known, yet powerful, Microsft Office Excel PivotTable feature, which organizes, summarizes and analyzes your data to recveal its meanings.

Excel's PivotTables feature is one of the most powerful, yet least used features in Excel. Join Excel expert Bob Baran for this 45 minute lunchtime webiar as he demostrates numerous features and shortcuts that will save you time and allow you to see data transformed into valuable information.

Date: Tuesday, July 20th
Time: 12-12:45 PM CT
R.S.V.P. Although this webinar is complimentary, registratin is required. To register click here or contact our office at: 800.559.1323.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Strategies for Recovery: Streamlining Document Management

*Adapted from Document Management Strategies & Keeping up with the Times, by Cassandra Carnes

For decades, companies have relied on paper hardcopies to carry out their business processes. However, change has been on the horizon for the past several years. Natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and growing environmental trends such as going green, are beginning to shed light on the disadvantages of paper-based document archive, management, and storage systems. Additionally, the increase in telecommuting, advancements in electronic document management solutions, and popularity of portable computers has introduced a digital workflow to the business industry. From internal communications; business-to-business; and business-to-consumer, advancing document management technology is helping businesses streamline operations, eliminate paper filing, and reduce data input. Studies show that the document management sector grows nearly 20 percent annually, making it an area of interest for all companies.

Data is the driving factor behind almost every organization. Therefore the proper management of that data is crucial to success and growth. In a study done by Coopers & Lybrand, they found that 90% of critical business information exists only on paper and that 70% of today’s businesses would fail within three weeks if they suffered a catastrophic loss of their paper-based records. Additionally, more research done by Delphi Group noted that 90% of typical office tasks revolve around the gathering and distribution of paper documents, 15% of all papers are lost, and 30% of our time is used trying to find them. Furthermore they found that companies spend an average of $25,000 to fill a typical four-drawer filing cabinet and about $2,000 a year to maintain it. With statistics like these, a document management solution makes obvious sense for those looking to improve their company operations.

Document management providers are looking at the technology, and ensuring their solutions account for emerging trends, new compliance regulations, and support for a diverse range of document types. Advanced networking and document management integration allows users to scan to email, document management systems, or a shared folder on a network. The files are then printed on demand.

Benefits of an integrated document management solution include:

  • Elimination of paper (and the costs that go with it) from your office.

  • The ability to archive, process retrieve and research document transactions from your desk, increasing productivity and enhancing communication at the same time.

  • Automated processing of documents, reducing redundant data input.

  • The automatic capture, transformation and delivery of enterprise transactions to recipients in a variety of formats and distribution methods.

Adopting a document capture and management strategy is vital to a business’ competitive strategy. The value of a document management solution is limitless as organizations will find themselves improving business processes, administration of information and reducing unnecessary costs and workflow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Integration Strategies for Using ERP

Drive efficiency and revenue growth in 2010

An ERP system that is properly integrated with the rest of your business operations will improve productivity, increase efficiencies, control costs and unlock visibility across your organization. Recognizing how your company can deploy and use ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software effectively to improve performance and consistently put the right information into the hands of decision makers is a must.

Rebuilding business after the recession

Times have changed in the business world. To drive business in 2010-2011 organizations need to be effective and efficient in their market. There is a different set of economic rules and our ERP strategies need to meet those changes.

Some companies are inefficient, duplicating efforts and wasting time, money and resources however, they are not aware this is happening. Surely to make it through the recession you had to cut costs, but as we look at cost cutting, how much is too much? With an upswing the in the economy, your perspective should be on growing revenue rather than cutting costs. This is a big leap but ERP will help you do this.

Flexibility is going to play a large part in building business in 2010. Agile companies that can meet customer needs and demands will have the maximum ability to grow. Most companies are running lean, but sometimes you can cut efficiency which will bring business to an inefficient nightmare as business picks up. Consider inventory, distribution, production lines, logistics and balancing forecasts with sales. If looking at these processes is difficult because of a lack of data, you need to consider how to get that information and use it most effectively.

Are your business processes integrated today?

By the end of 2010 business efficiency and the value of integration is going to make a difference for your business. The biggest issue with an un-integrated environment is the lack of transparency. When logistics are poorly handled or shipping errors are made due to rushing, etc, this is a result of disparate systems. Transparency within your organization allows visibility across your organization so decision makers can see all aspects of your business tied together for one complete picture.

If you want data automatically updated, alerted to staff or uploaded to multiple reports you need to integrate your system. Some companies look for the one person on their team that has an idea of how software applications work and give them the responsibility of integration. This do-it-yourself approach is bound to result in increased expenses and rarely works. Or maybe you are using multiple excel spreadsheets that are manually updated to make business decisions. When your data is being entered in multiple places human error is bound to happen causing you to see data that is not in the same format. When spreadsheets reflect information that contradicts itself you know you are in trouble. For example, when a customer on one report shows up as a vendor or not at all on another report, you are making decisions without mission-critical information.

2010 is the year of integration

When you’re looking at business applications you need to say no to manual processes or band-aid fixes. Every time you have redundant data entry you will have errors! Business requirements today include having real time information. You need to know what you want to know, when you want to know it, and you need that data to be current. You need to be able to see everything in your organization and provide decision makers transparency between all parts of the business in addition to seamless workflow and real time data. Implementing these requirements will result in increased agility, tighter management, decreased error rates, lower waste and improved margins.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Importance of Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) is a broad category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data to help executives and end users make better business decisions. It refers to the logical analysis of business information to drive business action. By using financial and non-financial metrics to assess the present state of a business, you are better equipped to decide upon an acceptable course of action.

Some of the key terminologies and tools related to BI fall under the category of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This term describes the financial and non-financial metrics used to help an organization define and measure progress toward organizational goals.

Understanding which KPI’s are appropriate to monitor can be different for each organization but when carefully selected and monitored, KPI’s can be a valuable resource for your business.

Event Triggers and Alerts are in essence “Super” exception reporting. The benefit of alerts and triggers is real-time or near-real-time notification, enabling managers to take immediate action as necessary.

Alerts are a notification generated only when specific, pre-defined conditions are met. This could be when a customer accounts receivable exceeds a specific amount or is past due, number of days in inventory exceeds predefined targets, cash balances are below minimum levels or when internal control procedures have been violated.

Event Triggers are actions that are taken when a specified event occurs such as automatic notification to a customer that an order has shipped or automatic notification to internal audit staff that transactions meeting specific criteria have occurred.

For more information on Business Intelligence, click here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bold Moves that Separate Great Companies from the Rest

Every great business owner or management team knows that making bold strategic decisions can help them differentiate themselves from the competition. Whether the moves they make are as simple as being honest with the public regarding their company or desires; or as complex as changing technology to protect their corner of the market – they are taking risks and therefore creating their own destiny.

A new weekly publication on ChannelWeb’s is profiling 10 such companies each week that ‘Came to Win’, by documenting the bold or sometimes more strategic moves businesses are making. Some of those listed include: Apple, Google, Cisco, Verizon, Dell, IBM and HP. There’s no doubt that these are all leaders in their respective industries and there’s good chance that others can learn from their strategies.

We chose our top three favorites from the list:
Apple: In what some would call a ruthless move, Apple changed the terms of its iPhone Developer Program license agreement to prohibit cross-compilers, which previously allowed outsiders to develop iPhone apps. This notably excludes other companies such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft among others from making money off of Apple.

Verizon: Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg chose to be transparently honest when he came right out and said that they want the iPhone, and that their network is plenty capable of handling the increased traffic iPhone users would bring. This move could cause some iPhone buyers who love their Verizon network to hold off on switching to AT&T in hopes of an agreement between Apple and Verizon.

HP: While there’s no proof that the HP Slate (the rival to Apple’s iPad) comparison slide came from HP, many believe it was ‘leaked’ from them. The slide shows a side by side comparison of HP’s Windows 7-powered Slate and its apparent advantages over iPad in terms of processing, graphics, connectivity and cameras. This ‘leak’ managed to take some of the spotlight away from Apple, which is no small accomplishment.

To read about the rest of the 10 companies profiled, click here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crystal Reports Training Opportunity

Are you in the process of growing your business? Do you need more quality information out of the data you put into your system? Do you need to cut costs and make better use of your resources? PositiveVision has a solution.

Our Crystal Reports training classes are designed to help you get quality information out of your accounting system. From identifying specific report types needed for writing and designing reports, our training program will give you the tools needed to see the inner workings of your business.

If your business has experienced any changes, or you simply want to move to the next level of visibility within your organization, please give us a call – we’d be happy to help!

Multiple Solutions for Multiple Needs

PositiveVision has been helping businesses in the Greater Chicago Area as a software consultant for more than 8 years. Having installed countless applications and supported dozens of companies, the principals of PositiveVision remain the same, continually offer the best software applications, ones that provide our clients with the integration capabilities and efficiencies to meet their needs.

With that said, we are very excited to announce our newest product offering, Microsoft Dynamics GP. This solution has proven itself as a flexible, powerful business management solution. But despite its long track record, it still sets the standard for innovation, with powerful tools for creating insight and efficiency across your business.

This addition to our current product offering helps complete our tool box, offering a solution for every business including:

- Peachtree by Sage
- Sage PFW ERP
- Sage MAS 500 ERP
- Microsoft Dynamics GP

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing represents a fundamental change in the way consumers and businesses are using their computers and mobile devices, and it is a trend that small businesses cannot afford to overlook. “Cloud” is just another name for the Internet, and thus cloud computing really refers to any services and applications that are hosted and accessed via the web. In the software world, this is also commonly referred to as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS.

Cloud computing allows small businesses to remotely manage and store information, and access software or services from virtually any device with Internet access. Small businesses can also use cloud computing technology to boost their storage capacity via online storage services and create online backup and archiving accounts.

Cloud computing allows small businesses to save on expensive hardware, software, and maintenance costs since data and applications are being held on remote servers. Users can access their business services and applications through almost any device with an Internet connection including laptops, mobile phones, and PDA’s. It is also easy to add new users to the system when you need them.

As more and more software developers are offering “cloud” versions of their products, we wanted to breakdown pros and cons of cloud computing. Visit our blog, to read the pros and cons and to determine your next step.

Getting to Know Nicole Sherman

Nicole is a Computer Consultant and Network Specialist for and has been on the PositiveVision team since 2004. Prior to joining the company she was an Operations Manager responsible for Purchasing, Order Processing, Inventory, Internet EDI, and managing local and remote access networking. Nicole has over twelve years of experience working with business software systems and is considered an expert in her field.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a vocal instructor and singer.

How does doing what you do now, compare to what you wanted to be? In many ways being a consultant is similar. I help people learn how to improve; sometimes it’s their workflow or their processes. I provide our customers with knowledge and help them grow, much like a teacher does with a student.

How have you grown professionally over the past year? I was certified on Peachtree Quantum 2010, and successfully deployed Microsoft Steadystate on a network to manage one of our clients’ internet and program access through group policies in Active Directory.

What lessons did you learn in 2009? Last year I learned to look deeper into challenges and recognize that a path that once appeared the best route, may not remain so as we begin to take it. I continue to keep my eyes open and look for new options that may become available even once a plan has been set.

What are you most looking forward to in 2010?
Professionally I look forward to seeing the economy improve. I also always look forward to learning new software and programming. Personally I look forward to my eldest son graduating into high school, and my youngest getting out of diapers! And I’m looking forward to being tapped out for Order of the Arrow at Boy Scout summer camp!

What is your favorite thing in life and why? I’d have to say my family and friends; they are what make everything else in life enjoyable.

Bernard Foods Keeps Health Food Costs Low

A referral is worth a thousand words. It says that you value our expertise and that you can entrust your friends and colleagues to us for assistance with their technology needs. We don’t take this lightly and want you to know that we appreciate every single referral you give us.

Likewise, we greatly value our clients products and services and wanted to refer one of them to you!

As a family owned and operated business, Bernard Foods has been providing high quality food products since 1947. Of the sequence of events that led them to where they are today, Steven Bernard, President and CEO of Bernard Foods reflects, “When my dad first started the business the customers loved his products. It wasn’t long before dietitians were asking him if he could make certain foods without sugar or salt to accommodate those with dietary restrictions, and that was the beginning of our eDietShop.”

Publishing their first catalog in 1982, and opening their online store in 1996, the primary mission of eDietShop has been to serve those who, for medical reasons, must restrict their intake of sugar, sodium, fat, carbohydrates, cholesterol and calories. As people lean more towards healthier lifestyles, eDietShop is able to provide the finest options in nutritional gourmet foods. The best part is consumers can purchase these foods at wholesale prices. Steven explains, “When we cut out the middle men, the consumers win. Supermarkets can’t compete with us because of the availability and great prices we are able to offer.”

If you’d like to see what health food and gluten free options Bernard Foods has available, visit their website at

Credit Card Compliance: What You Need To Know

Regardless of size or industry, all companies that accept credit cards must adhere to the safeguards mandated by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard—referred to as the PCI DSS. While most companies are aware of PCI, many are unsure what it means for their businesses. As well, companies that use a third party for clearing and remittance often incorrectly assume that PCI compliance does not apply to them.

So, what are the risks of noncompliance? Beyond exposing your customers to fraud or identity theft, your business can be held responsible for the credit card company’s losses. In the event of a security breach or lack of PCI compliance, credit card institutions can assess your company higher credit card processing fees and levy fines of up to $500,000—or even bar your company from processing any credit card transactions at all. Keep in mind that this applies to all companies that accept payment by plastic—even if they don’t store any related data.

Acquirer audits, which can be carried out at any time, cover the 12 areas of mandatory compliance. The failure rate for PCI certification audits is high; according to recent research by VeriSign in “Lessons Learned: Top Reasons for PCI Audit Failures and How to Avoid Them,” fewer than 30 percent of companies pass these examinations on the first try.

To learn more and even take a self-assessment questionnaire to evaluate your risk visit:, or visit the Sage
PCI Compliance Webinar library packed with a ton of great information.

Friday, April 30, 2010

What You Should Know Before Entrusting Your Data to the Cloud

Cloud computing or Software as a Service (SaaS) is the process of using the internet to warehouse data and information rather than on on-site hardware and software. In what is becoming an ever increasingly popular choice for both individuals and businesses alike, we wanted to point out some of the risks involved with choosing to store your data in the cloud. While moving to SaaS reduces the amount of hardware and software you need to purchase and maintain, as well as provides a lower operational cost; you may end up paying in another way altogether.

The most common risks involved in cloud computing include difficult customization, loss of data, and most of all lack of proper security.

Customization Challenges
Most cloud vendors only provide one version of an application to multiple end-users. If your business requires something specific in the way of data input, reporting, or in-depth analysis to meet regulatory compliance, it may not be the best answer for your organization. Unlike on-site software which can be customized to work with your business, cloud servers take more of a one size fits all approach. With every company having its own processes and requirements it is impossible for the off-site application to cater to everyone. And unfortunately, unless many companies are asking for the same thing – it is unlikely that the vendor will implement a change to meet the need.

Data Loss
Once you move your data out of your own hands and into someone else’s you are encountering risks in two areas:

  1. While some cloud application providers will tell you that you can get your data back out should you decide to move it back on-site at some point in the future – this may not be the case. Over time, many cloud subscribers find that the service provider has taken ownership of their data and processes and getting the information back out can be much more difficult than previously anticipated. This could stick your company with an application that isn’t working well, and that may not be the most efficient answer for your company – forcing you to allocate unexpected time and resources in order to continue to remain operational.

  2. Doing business in the cloud also puts your organization at risk of the possible deletion or alteration of records without backups to restore the data. When you are not in physical control of the data you have no way to ensure its recoverability should something go wrong with the service provider.

Lack of proper security is the biggest threat your company faces in the cloud. Four of the main areas where security is threatened include:

  1. System Infrastructure. Due to the use of a multi-tenant architecture, users are at risk of guest operating systems gaining unwanted control or influence of their platform. Not all cloud applications maintain strong compartmentalization of accounts to ensure that individual customers are not impacting the operations of others.

  2. Service provider employees. There is no rule that states a cloud service provider must share their hiring practices or employee access policies with subscribers. This opens you up to access into your system from unknown and unwanted intrusions from people you wouldn’t want in your system.

  3. Spam, phishing and fraud. Unfortunately, any internet activity will put you in danger of being the victim of a spammer or malicious code writer. Unfortunately in the cloud this is increased. Passwords are not usually as secure as they could be and there are many ways for an attacker to determine the passwords of your company and its employees. This leaves you vulnerable to exploitation, data manipulation, and more. To make matters worse some cloud service providers offer an anonymous registration process allowing anyone with a credit card number to get up and running. This increases the threat from spammers and criminals to businesses on the same service.

Ultimately if you are looking for more efficient ways to run your business and cut costs, be sure to fully research any possible options before making a decision. Protecting your company’s data should be of the utmost importance, and doing business in the cloud may or may not be right for you.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

IT Helps Manufacturing Companies Weather Economy

IT investments have given manufacturing companies the ability to respond quickly to the turbulent economic conditions over the last several years. Access to true data visibility allowed them to make quick decisions based on facts, rather than a ‘gut feel’. This has resulted in greater financial success for these companies and poised them for a smoother transition into a recovered economy.

A recent article by Emily-Sue Sloane on details this success from a report from analyst firm IDC Manufacturing Insights. Vice President of Research, Bob Parker noted that, “Technology has changed the game for manufacturers in fundamental ways.” The article goes on to note that,

In the past decade, technology trends such as virtualization, ERP consolidation, and business intelligence/analytics contributed to business’ agility and helped to bring down the cost of IT as a percentage of revenue, from 3.7% at the end of the last decade to 2.3% now, on revenue that doubled over those 10 years. IDC anticipates a progression to other economical technologies, such as cloud computing, virtual ERP, and something IDC calls “socialytic applications”, a combination of collaboration technologies and analytical tools.”

IDC expects to see new strategies gain momentum, including strategic outsourcing, shared capacity, and collaborative innovation. IDC also anticipates that manufacturers will turn to more sophisticated sales & operations planning processes to better balance supply and demand.

Below are the top 10 predictions for Global Manufacturing:

#10: Armed with metrics, manufacturers will move from sustainability reporting to intelligence.

  • #9: Smart services and the need for persistent assets will create the inflection point for RFID, sensors, and M2M.

  • #8: Firms will create intelligent fulfillment capabilities networks.

  • #7: Manufacturing companies will see factory assets as part of a fulfillment capabilities network.

  • #6: Manufacturing companies will become more mature in their use of enterprise PLM applications.

  • #5: Manufacturers will look to better align innovation with business strategy.

  • #4: “Dynamic optimization” will dominate capability investment to support redefining the supply chain.

  • #3: Manufacturing companies will begin the process of fundamentally rethinking their supply chain structures, evolving from a fixed-cost-driven supply network to a variable-cost-driven value network.

  • #2: IT organizations will look for cost structures that are more variable as they assist in making technology a focal point of business strategies.

  • #1: Companies will transform business models to better meet the needs of increasingly demanding customers.

  • To read more about this topic click here.
  • Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    The 'Paperless' Office - Document Management System Must-Haves

    A recent study by Fujitsu Computer Products of America and the AIIM Board found that 46% of small to medium sized businesses have experienced a decrease in annual revenues, and 38% have seen their profitability fall flat. This trend has challenged businesses in this economy to come up with creative ways to give their company a competitive advantage. Two main options for success include; expanding your market and growing your business despite the downturn or cutting costs and streamlining operations in order to encourage profitability.

    A document management solution is one of the most cost effective ways to take your office into the ‘paperless age’ and reduce expenses. Statistics show that the amount of discarded office paper each year is measured at 4 million tons. On average each office worker will go through about 150 pounds of paper a year… now consider how much that is unnecessarily costing your company. It can add up quick. Couple that with the costs of filing, storing and retrieving paper within your organization – especially if you are required to store records for any length of time.

    Documents can be electronically captured in several different formats, and can then be easily retrieved. Storing documents on your hard drive greatly reduces costs in the areas of administrative support, print, mail and storage. You’ll help the environment by using less paper, and you will be better able to streamline your business by automating document distribution, and greatly reduce the need for duplicate data entry. Reducing paper usage makes sense all the way around and benefits everyone involved.

    The right document management and workflow solution will do the following:

    • Integrate with your ERP solution
    • Reduce data entry steps
    • Improve accuracy
    • Strengthen accounting controls
    • Keep track of your important documents in a secure location

    More than just a document repository, document management solutions now have electronic workflow modules, the ability to automate to your specific business rules, and automatic distribution to the appropriate people within your organization. This provides you with faster invoice processing and smoother annual audits. Ultimately, this kind of solution can help you reduce overall operating costs, increase efficiencies so resources can be applied to other areas.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Remain Competitive by Leveraging Business Data

    Challenging economic times can encourage businesses to take a serious look at their processes, products and services to determine how they can grow most effectively. These times also provide a unique opportunity for the innovation and development of competitive advantages. Tapping into those opportunities requires insight into your internal processes in order to make your organization stronger, faster and more resilient.

    One of the biggest issues today is that companies have vast quantities of business data making it impossible to identify and act on the information in a timely manner. With these insufficient resources important information is often identified and acted upon only after it is too late. By automating data and information, companies can identify, deliver and act on critical business information in real-time.

    In 2009 we published an article explaining how the concept of Business Intelligence (BI) is a broad category of applications and technologies each used for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data in order to help enterprise users make better business decisions. BI applications include the activities of decision support systems, query and reporting, online analytical processing, statistical analysis, forecasting, and data mining.

    While the benefits of BI tools are numerous, we wanted to provide a summary of the ones we think will have the most significant impact on improving ROI.

    Increased sales.
    • BI Tools can automate new information as it is entered into the system, giving immediate enterprise-wide access to applicable data. When sales representatives have the right access to information, they are better equipped to serve prospects and clients quickly and professionally. For example, once a new order is placed, the BI application can send an email alert to the sales representative and automatically schedule follow-up. This furthers the sale in the process and ensures it does not fall through the cracks. The end-result is improved customer service and retention not to mention the opportunity for increased sales.
    Improved inventory management.
    • Business Intelligence applications can be customized to react when a particular situation occurs. For example, if inventory items near re-order levels, an automatic PO can be issued. This can help avoid an out of stock and/or back order situation resulting in more effective inventory management.
    Efficient and effective collections.
    • BI tools can assist companies in avoiding uncollected debt. For example, the system has the capability to note an invoice that is 90 days past due and subsequently send an email and/or a copy of the invoice to both the client as well as to the finance department, flagging the client to be put on hold for future purchases until payment has been received.
    Reduced data entry.
    • When a new order is placed, your BI application can automatically send order confirmations and update financial databases – streamlining operations, and reducing repetitive data entry and the potential for errors.
    System reminders.
    • As office machine leases near their expiration dates or when an order quantity is changed, alerts can be sent out to the appropriate people avoiding errors and downtime.
    BI tools are useful in connecting team members to key business information and simplifying the process of collaboration and information sharing. In addition, they can help managers and executives gain better insight into the overall health of their business by analyzing the fundamental operations and improving the alignment of organizational goals with individual activities. Ultimately, companies are able to increase profitability based on revenue enhancements, expense reductions or both while improving customer and employee satisfaction. Not to mention, organizational risk is reduced as a result of stronger internal control structures caused by increased monitoring of data and results.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Sage Online Educational Symposium

    On March 18th Sage will be holding their Online Educational Symposium. This is a virtual conference that you can attend from the comfort of your own office, and it’s free! This is a great opportunity to network with fellow software users and product experts, attend breakout sessions to learn more about your Sage product, and learn about business topics from keynote speakers.

    The agenda for the Online Educational Symposium is as follows:

    11am Eastern - Tradeshow / Networking

    11:30 am - Welcome / General Session: “Momma Told Me There’d Be Days Like This: Finding Stability in Stressful Times.”

    12:30 pm – Product-Specific Educational Sessions –

    • DacEasy: “Getting the Most from the DacEasy Business Center.
    • Sage BusinessVision: “Increasing Profitability with CustomPack.”
    • Sage BusinessWorks: “Put Your Personal Touch on Your Business Forms.”
    • Sage PFW ERP: “Best Practices for Reconciling your General Ledger.”
    • Sage Pro ERP: “Creating Great Reports with the Report Customization Wizard.”

    1:30 pm – Tradeshow / Networking

    2:00 pm – Product Specific Educational Sessions

    • DacEasy: “Customizing DacEasy Business Forms.”
    • Sage BusinessVision: “Enhanced Analysis Using Microsoft® Excel ®.”
    • Sage BusinessWorks: “Quick Answers to Everyday Questions.”
    • Sage PFW ERP: “Quick Answers to Everyday Questions.”
    • Sage Pro ERP: “Maximizing your Data for Better Reporting.”

    3 pm – General Session 2 / Closing Remarks: “Can I have a Side Order of Bad Service with That? Creating Dazzling Customer Service.”

    4 pm – Tradeshow / Networking

    For more information or to register visit:

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    The Truth About PCI Compliance

    If you are using software to process credit card charges, you are processing someone's personal financial information, and you need to ensure that this information is safe from any attempt at compromising it, internal attempts as well as external attempts. Fines of up to $10M have been levied against fairly small businesses.

    The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a mandatory global standard established by the major card associations to ensure the protection of cardholder data. Based on twelve guidelines, the PCI DSS requires merchants to make their physical and virtual environments secure to ensure protection of cardholder data. As a merchant accepting credit cards as a form of payment, you are required by the card associations to adhere to the PCI DSS. The PCI DSS encompasses the security programs from Visa and MasterCard, Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) and Site Data Protection (SDP), respectively.

    The PCI DSS sets technology requirements such as the use of data encryption, end-user access control, and activity monitoring and logging. It also includes procedural mandates, such as the need to implement formal and documented security policies and vulnerability-management programs. They were developed to ensure that cardholder data is protected throughout the transaction process. Compliance with the standard applies to all types of merchants, retail, Mail Order/Telephone Order, and Internet. All merchants need to follow best practices for storage and destruction of all paper or electronic records containing account numbers or cardholder data. Additionally, merchant service providers processing credit cards need to be PCI compliant.

    The more credit card transactions a merchant processes, the more stringent the compliance procedure. For most merchants, compliance consists of passing quarterly or annual network scans and completing an annual self-assessment questionnaire. If you process more than 20,000 e-commerce or 6 million total V/MC transactions per DBA (doing business as) annually, you will need to provide evidence of certification from a V/MC certified vendor. Penalties for failure to comply with the PCI requirements, failure to rectify a security issue, or failure to report a compromise are severe:

    • Possible restrictions on the merchant
    • Permanent prohibition of the merchant’s participation in card association programs
    • A fine of up to $500,000 per incident
    • Violation of applicable federal or state laws
    • Fraud losses perpetrated using the account numbers associated with the compromise (from date of compromise forward)

    To read more on this topic, click here.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Small Business Loan Amounts Increase

    A new senate bill has been introduced to aid Small Businesses by increasing the guaranteed loan limit, and extend fee eliminations due to expire under the Recovery Act, for one year. With 64% of all new jobs in the past 15 years created by small businesses, and 85% of those lost belonging to the same sector, Senators Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine introduced a new legislation to provide more capital for small businesses.

    Senate Bill S.2869, the “Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act of 2009 would increase the small business loan limit to as high as $5.5 million. Both President Obama and SBA Administrator Karen Mills have come out in support of the concepts of the bill, and there is hope of it passing in early 2010.

    To read more about this topic, click here.