For every business organization, the world is changing exponentially. To ensure long-term survival
and
maintain competitiveness, the business organizations need to exhaustively understand their
customers and stakeholders for example, what
are their behavior, actions,
lifestyles, preferences and most importantly their expectations.

In the case study of a motorcycle distributor based in Indonesia,
the CEO has preferred
Acumatica over RetailSoft as an efficient
CRM software and used it to gain a competitive advantage since now
their month-end closing process can be conducted faster than before and any mismatches in the financial reports can be easily traced which in turn also helped them streamlining their order process, better  manage
 their  prospecting  and  new  client on-boarding
 process  and better  handle
 their scheduling of projects. In this way,
being a CRM software,
Acumatica has gained a valuable
competitive edge over RetailSoft by providing greater efficiency in streamlining the business functions and processes.

Computime provides the Acumatica Customer Management module which delivers a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to automate sales processes. Our guest, Mr.  Angelo
Pickard, is a solutions leader at Computime software.   For the past twenty years, he has been occupied in several positions within the IT sector. His main focus was always on Business Application Implementations.  
Mr. Pickard has been participating in the University’s ERP discussions for four
years.

 

The Team

 

·        
Aashish Goyal (Team
Leader):
Questions for discussion, Abstract (Report), Fit Gap analysis, Cloak Room BPMN,
Brainstorming on BPMNs

·        
Andrew Saliba: Questions for discussion,
Analysis and Learning Outcomes (Report), Brainstorming on BPMNs

·        
Karl Fenech: Questions for discussion,
Abstract cont., Introduction and conclusion (Report), Airport Lounge BPMN,
Brainstorming on BPMNs

·        
Neha Goyal (Event Host): Questions for discussion,
Abstract (Report), Fit Gap analysis, Cloak Room BPMN, Brainstorming on BPMNs

·        
Rikki Greco: Questions for discussion,
Notes (discussion with expert), Discussion (Report)

 

 

Introduction

 

The idea of ERP solutions arose in
the early 1990s when large-scale companies and
businesses
wanted to remove all the separate modules scattered in various departments and substitute all of them using a single solution which is able to function in all departments.  This ‘new’
solution would integrate all the business processes and functions (finance, sales, procurement, production, etc.)
together so that the business is able to operate in a smooth and efficient way. This would be
advantageous to the companies adopting these types of solutions,
since now they will have a centralized database which contains all the information which is needed by the company to operate
(customers, suppliers, orders, etc.). This will also minimize the risk of having wrong or irregular data, since with the older separate modules it would have been easier to have data which does not match since the systems would not have been synced together.

A typical ERP solution
has an integrated Customer Relationship Management module within it. CRM helps
to capture and maintain customer relationships and also facilitate the overall
customer experience. Ideal examples of CRM solutions integrated within
businesses can be seen in various E- Commerce websites such as Amazon and
eBay.  From the moment that a customer
places an order, he/she is immediately informed via email that the order has
been placed.  From then onwards, the
customer is immediately informed of any progress that the order makes (for
example when the order is being packed or being shipped).   Besides providing customers with information
regarding their orders, CRM extends to customer support and feedback since this
is another vital part of customer management.

 

Acumatica is one of the
‘modern’ and ‘new’ era ERP solutions. 
Founded in 2008, this cloud-based system is already a leading ERP
solution within this market since it caters for the new businesses which are
more technologically-advanced. It also offers more flexibility since it can be
run on most platforms and only requires an internet connection.

 

Questions

 

Questions which were asked by the team
during the group activity:

 

1. How does a company decide on which ERP system
to
use? (not only based on
requirement/cost/market ratings)

 

2. How do you convince your customers to switch from many singular systems to a centralized ERP
solution?

 

3.
What are the major challenges to switching
from
single systems to a centralized ERP? (CURRENT and UPCOMING)

 

4. How can we make switching to ERP systems more efficient, less time consuming, etc.?

 

5. Do ERP solutions provide significant improvements with regards to data safety, backups/recoveries and security? (for example, for banks)

 

6. What is the next big thing in
CRM?

 

7.
Why did you opt to choose Acumatica to offer as a solution for your customers?

 

8. Can you mention some advantages that Acumatica has when compared to its competing
ERP

solutions?

 

9. How does Acumatica integrate CRM in itself?

 

Discussion

 

The discussion took place on the 6th of December 2017 with Angelo Pickard a solutions leader at Computime software, the format of the discussion was mostly question and answer where the team
prepared a list of questions for Mr. Pickard beforehand.
After the Q unstructured questions were
asked and a more free-flowing discussion was held.

 

Mr. Pickard started off by telling
us
about how he got introduced to ERP on the client side as he was
the IT manager for Coca-Cola in Malta. Mr. Pickard then went on to describe the process in which most companies go through before switching to an ERP solution. Most companies start small and
along the years they start to
accumulate a lot of data in which a lot of satellite applications start being
used from different departments in the company, these satellite applications tend to be small databases with inconsistent data between the departments. At some point the company realizes that
it is not being efficient and that their competitors have an advantage, these satellite systems have
hidden costs and an ERP solution would help to streamline the business process.

 

The next question was regarding how Mr. Pickard
would approach clients and convince them to
switch from satellite programs to a centralized system. His first step would be to ask the client what its main points are and what they would expect to gain from having a centralized ERP solution, these
would
then
become the objectives of the company and if
these objectives could be accomplished through ERP then the client definitely would need a centralized system.
However sometimes clients
are not ready to switch to an ERP solution, this is because the company might not have the resources
since a lot of time and money is required.

 

The group then asked what
the major challenges of switching from satellite systems to ERP are. According to Mr. Pickard convincing people is the hardest challenge since people could cut corners
easily with manual systems, he gave us an example of when the Maltese government implemented
palm scanner time clock systems in their offices to
track when workers would be in the office however the system did not work as the workers would not use the scanners.  Another major
challenge faced with implementing ERP’s is scope creep. This happens when
a company’s goals are poorly defined and documented, it is also very important to check the requirements of the system when implementing it to check if the system satisfies all requirements. Managing expectations is another problem faced when implementing systems, Mr. Pickard says he has encountered companies that believe implementing an ERP solution would solve all their problems and could increase profits
by
a large margin, however ERP solutions are designed to increase a company’s productivity and
efficiency and not
completely change the way the company is run. Suppliers must understand the requirements of the customer, they must
also
be true to their word and tell the client
about any weaknesses present in the system.

 

According to
Mr.
Pickard there are three aspects of implementing an
ERP
project, these are time,
money and quality, and managing these three elements is what makes the difference between a
failed project and a successful one. Projects can fail for many reasons, requirements could have not
been documented properly before designing the system, clients could not allocate enough resources towards the project however one of the most important aspects is user acceptance testing before
going live. This is because if a system is
not
tested it could have major bugs
and
not function as
intended or at all.

The group then asked Mr. Pickard what he thinks could make switching to ERP solutions more efficient and
less
time consuming. In
his experience he has seen many clients struggle with maintaining two systems at once when switching systems therefore he believes that most of the time a ‘big bang’
approach where users switch from one system to another entirely tends to
work better than a
phased approach where users switch to the ERP gradually and have both systems running at
once. Mr. Pickard then told us about some important points to keep in mind when switching to an ERP. Having a backup plan is very important because if there is none and something goes
wrong whilst implementing the system then the company could lose a lot of profit and negatively affect customer
and
supplier relationships. In the first few days of the implementation it is important to keep manual
records since the system is unproven and unpredictable even though
testing has taken place, however he has never encountered a situation where he has had to revert to the old system. Mr.
Pickard believes that it is very important to approach different companies
in their own unique way since no company has the same requirements and expectations.

 

Our next topic of discussion was regarding Acumatica’s advantages and disadvantages.
Acumatica is relatively new to the market and it is growing
at a
fast rate. It was designed for the cloud and this is
one
of the main advantages it
has
over competing software where the software is adapted to work on the cloud. Advantages of it being built
to
work on the cloud are that it is a very lightweight
program and it can be run in the web browser of any computer, it also integrates well with other systems. Another advantage it has over customers is that is requires a single license for the company
and
not a license per individual user as required by some other competing
software.

 

CRM is given a large importance with Acumatica and it can integrate with other aspects of the ERP
such as Sales and inventory easily. CRM can be split into two aspects,
new
customers and existing
customers and these are both taken into consideration with Acumatica. Customer history is available
with this ERP and it could be useful since it can give information such as when the last time the client called and what the topic of the
phone call was. The system can also be programmed to send emails automatically for example it can send a customized email to a client when a sales order is confirmed. It
is functions like this that improve customer relationships efficiency. Acumatica also has a user
portal
where clients and suppliers can login to see all
the information they would need such as past
orders or the status of their current order.

 

Analysis & Learning
Outcomes

 

In the first question, Mr. Pickard showed us that an ERP system, although costly to install, would actually be saving you money. This is due to the fact that the ERP system would be eliminating what we
call hidden costs. These might not be direct money costs, but rather disorganization which leads
to many misunderstandings, inefficiencies and waste of time. All these in turn make the business
process difficult
to
manage and co-ordinate,
especially if the company is not
of
a small size. The
learning outcome is that as soon a company’s start to
experience symptoms of these difficulties,
one
should consider adopting
an ERP system as soon as possible, before it is too late.

 

Hard-headedness is common
trait amongst business owners
especially ones
who started the business themselves and aren’t just a manager. They tend to be overly cautious and suspicious when it comes to changes things in their business model.
Due to this, ERP solutions might need a little bit
of
extra convincing in order to sell. So,
it is important that the business owner knows what are the benefits of making the change to a centralized system, and how will this new system of work help his business grow into a better and more successful company.

 

So, what does it take to make an ERP a success in a company? According
to Mr. Pickard the reasons are threefold. The first is time. Time is needed to make sure that the system is is running correctly
and
without any flaws. Also, time is needed to make sure that the company’s employees fully
understand how to operate the system to the extent that they can handle any difficulties they might encounter on
a daily working basis. The second thing is money. ERP systems are quite expensive
and
in order to have the best system for your needs quite some money is needed.
Just as they say, you get what you pay for. Lastly, quality.
The quality of the system
is very important.
This will
avoid
certain mishaps like crashes,
freezes and loss of data. If the element
of
quality isn’t present,
the
ERP’s inefficiencies makes the entire system seem worthless since it will be failing its main aim; to streamline he business process.

Switching between two
systems can be quite stressful for an organization
due
to the confusion caused. We
learned that the best way to minimize this is through the use of what
Mr. Pickard called a ‘Big Bang’. This the opposite of the phased approach. In the phased approach the new and the old systems work simultaneously for some time and gradually removing the old system. Mr. Pickard’s
experience advises against this, and recommend that the old system is cut off as soon as the ERP is
fully implemented. He also mentions that during implementation it
is as important that the old
system
is still at work to ensure a backup plan, should the system fail.

Computime’s Acumatica stands out when it comes to ERP even though it
is relatively new on the market. This is because of its cloud based technology.
What does this mean for the system? Acumatica’s cloud technology entails the
advantage that it can be integrated. For example, it can be used in conjunction
with the popular website survey monkey and this could be a very good aspect of
CRM where the company could automatically collect information from its clients
which would be entered into the ERP.

 

Customer relation can be enhanced through the use of Acumatica. This
is due to its complex customer relation management system. It makes sure that
no customer is forgotten or left with any unanswered questions or unresolved
problems.

 

After our discussion with Mr. Pickard we outlined 4 important points
which would then be discussed with the rest of the class.

 

1)   The importance of overcoming the resistance
to change

2)   Defining customers objectives are very
important for a successful implementation

3)   2 systems running in parallel are not
recommended

4)   Having a set of CRM
functions integrated directly into Acumatica can greatly improve customer
relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

During our discussion with Mr. Angelo Pickard,
we were able to discover and better understand the
process of switching to and
implementing an ERP system.
 Speaking with
a professional was very
advantageous for us team members since besides the theory-based learning that we do in class, now we
can also relate to best-practices which are used in the real
ERP
market.

 

As mentioned in the previous section,
the key learning points throughout this debate were the
importance of overcoming the resistance to change, correctly defining the customers’ objectives, two systems running in parallel are not recommended by professionals and having a set of CRM functions integrated directly into Acumatica can greatly improve customer relationships.

 

Overall this has been a great experience for us since through Mr. Pickard and the other guests,
we have managed to learn a couple of tricks of the trade and better understand the concepts behind ERP
solutions.