Optimizing Sage 100 ERP with xkzero Technical Services

by Alnoor Cassim

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Some of you may only think of xkzero as the people behind the cool iSales mobile app or the creators of GetX, the mind blowing search application for Sage 100 ERP. Actually, our capabilities and talents extend way beyond these better known areas of expertise. Yes, we have a core focus of getting customers mobile, but that’s only one of the many ways xkzero helps Sage partners and customers translate their business visions into Sage 100 ERP solutions.  xkzero

As the new director of xkzero Technical Services, it is my goal to make sure you are aware of our capabilities. I’ll be using the xkzero Digest and blog over time as a forum to illustrate how we can help you. To start, here’s a list of our offerings:

  • Sage 100 ERP enhancements (ProvideX custom modifications)
  • Custom Office scripting to enhance and extend Sage 100 ERP capabilities
  • Training: Custom Office scripting (2-day intensive class)
  • Training: Connecting external apps and scripts to Sage 100 ERP using the Business Object Interface (BOI)
  • Instruction: Sage 100 ERP Premium (SQL) (classes)
  • SQL projects and services:
    • Stored procedures and views
    • SSIS/DTS packages
    • Replication and mirroring
    • Reporting through SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)
  • iOS (Apple mobile) custom apps for Sage 100 ERP
  • Advanced Crystal Reports
  • Perform Logic to enhance and extend Visual Integrator capabilities
  • Troubleshooting and debugging services:
    • Advanced technical support: Sage 100 ERP errors and issues
    • Advanced technical support: Sage 100 ERP Premium (SQL)
    • Troubleshooting and diagnostics: network and operating system issues, working with IT teams
  • Sage 100 ERP custom integrations with WMS systems, CRM systems, HRMS systems, and other applications:
    • BOI
    • SData
    • ProvideX
    • xkzero Web Services
  • eBusiness Manager expanded services
  • .NET applications and ASP web development

Please keep an eye out for invitations to upcoming events that will showcase our capabilities. We welcome your partnership, and we hope you’ll consider making xkzero Technical Services part of your solutions arsenal for Sage 100 ERP.

Contact us at info@xkzero.com or 847-416-2009.

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Introducing xkzero Digest

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Today, we launch the xkzero Digest, a periodic electronic publication designed to keep you informed of industry topics, technical updates and product and event announcements related to mobile technology for Sage ERP systems. In addition, we’ll write about custom development-related subjects, and provide information that helps inspire you to apply the best technology, at the right time, for you and your clients.

Focus: What You Want to Know

While we already have many topics and articles we’re excited to share with you, we also invite you to let us know about subjects of interest to ensure that we continue to focus on things that matter most to you.

We’re at a Technology Crossroads

As we embark on 2015, the world of ERP and accounting software systems is without a doubt at a crossroads. The world of business management systems into which many of us

Team xkzero is focused and ready!

Team xkzero is focused and ready!

entered 20 or 30 years ago—where a single consultant would sell and install the system, perhaps even set up the server as well as conduct the set-up and training—becomes more of a faint memory with each passing year.

Conversely, in today’s specialized business world, those who create the most value concentrate on a particular specialty. At xkzero, we have that kind of clear focus—it’s all about mobile ERP—and it’s our wish that this dedication benefits each and every one of you.

Pushing Boundaries and Yielding Rewards

These days, the businesses that push boundaries with technology reap the greatest rewards. Whether your clients use Sage ERP X3, Sage 100 ERP and/or Sage 500 ERP, we think xkzero can help you create new revenue streams, not to mention customer satisfaction and loyalty.

xkzero Digest Content

Our first issue of xkzero Digest introduces our new director of technical services, Alnoor Cassim, and also includes a guide to help you install and set up GetX Search so you can win more new customers and delight existing ones.

All the best for a great 2015!

Paul

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Omni-Commerce: A Customer First Approach with Mobile ERP

The greatest incentive to migrate to a mobile ERP stems from the powerful impact of creating new processes altogether. It is also a smart way to overhaul a specific business function, such as sales. It makes sense, then, that retailers are so obsessed with a new idea you might think of as “Omni-Commerce.” Marketing and selling to customers whenever—and wherever they are is no longer a nice-to-have feature. It’s an essential strategy.

Give your customer their own app and you they might give you a gold star!

Give your customer their own app and you they might give you a gold star!

To appreciate the business value of mobile technology, we need to pay attention to the way mobility has shaped consumers’ thinking. Keep in mind that carrying smart phones or even tablets everywhere has led us to expect instant gratification.

When a consumer experiences a sight, sound, or smell that triggers a need—real or perceived—mobile devices have the tools to satisfy that urge—right then, right there. To win the sale, a business needs to anticipate this compulsion, and be more immediately accessible than competitors.

Fortunately, this is possible with mobile commerce, which is well within reach for small and mid-market manufacturers. All mobile solutions are not alike, though. Users embrace a mobile ERP and specialized apps when they have a very high level of trust in the reliability of the data presented.

Furthermore, the system needs to be easy to learn and use for individuals with varying levels of technical proficiency. Ultimately, it must create a far better experience than ever before. This takes an app that is a good fit for your company’s needs, which might even found right in the app store, aka “off the shelf.”

WEB STORES FALL SHORT

To illustrate how omni-commerce might work, let’s say a consumer named Sally is driving down the boulevard and spots a billboard advertising a pair of heels that would look absolutely amazing with the dress she’s wearing to a big party the next day. She pulls off the road (of course), then uses her smartphone to do a Google search for these perfect pumps. In a flash, she finds the shoes on the retailer’s website! Sally is smiling, and so is the retailer. You, not so much. Why not? Your company doesn’t have page 1 ranking, so you didn’t get that sale.

Hold on, though. Sally hasn’t submitted payment yet. There may be another way to be the retailer of choice. Sally sees the overnight shipping cost, and can’t justify it. If your store has a good mobile app, you can enable her impulse purchase and get the sale! The app can help her find the closest location with the right color and size in stock. Even better, with a tap on a map, she automatically links to directions to pick them up now. Sally is one happy customer, and you both win!

WHOLESALE DISTRIBUTORS & THEIR CUSTOMERS CARRY SMARTPHONES, TOO.

Mobile ERP can provide similar opportunities for small and mid-sized distributors and manufacturers. Here’s an example: Suarez Brothers (a fictional name) is a wholesale distributor of beauty supply products serving approximately 600 retail and re-distribution customers scattered far and wide throughout Central and Southern California. The sales reps support their customers with a direct sales force of 8, each assigned a territory of customers who they visit on a regular basis, with the primary purpose of taking new orders.

Our company, xkzero, equipped Suarez with iSales 100, the native iPhone-iPad sales app for Sage 100 ERP a couple of years ago. iSales 100 allows sales reps to place orders on the spot, which are electronically fed directly into Sales Order Entry for next-day picking and delivery. While the mobile sales app led to increased productivity, after this process was in place, a consistent theme of business problems became apparent.

Suarez had been struggling to keep the shelves stocked with inventory demanded by customers. They simply did not have enough salespeople on the street to visit every single customer each week. Consequently, they were losing orders—and market share. (One might say they were a day late and a dollar short.) A logical solution could have been to hire another salesperson or two, forcing higher labor costs. It would have also worsened another problem—the increasing travel costs to visit customers located in remote, rural areas.

CHARTING AN OMNI-COMMERCE SOLUTION

Suarez’s goals were clear. First, hold the line to maintain customers. Then, increase customer loyalty and market share. Also, reduce costs. To achieve these goals, the owners turned to xkzero for help. We were able to solve their problems in a way that didn’t require the customer to buy any additional software.

Suarez merely took advantage of the flexibility inherent in iSales 100 and moved toward an omni-commerce approach, providing the customer with unprecedented freedom in the way they purchased goods. They could now buy product without the distributor’s assistance, and no longer had to wait for a customer sales rep to visit or even give them a call.

Here’s what Suarez did to meet their market share, loyalty, and cost goals:

  • Assigned a user ID and password to each store
  • Restricted customer information access to their own account only
  • Filtered the list of inventory items available to each particular customer
  • Changed settings to indicate that a customer cannot override calculated price (The app already follows pricing rules established in the ERP.)
  • Set preferences to require customer signature
  • Set defaults for each customer’s available warehouse(s)
  • Set a default to automatically place customer-initiated orders on hold
  • Orchestrated a campaign to orient targeted customers to the new ordering option

iSales 100 provided every necessary control to give Suarez’s customers access to the mobile app. Suarez was even able to implement everything on the back-end set up in Sage 100 ERP within a few short hours. Now, with iSales 100, customers have the independence to make purchases from Suarez directly from the store aisle, using their smartphone or tablet.

The results are restored customer loyalty and improved market share, with the added bonus of reduced travel and sales costs. These small steps make it easy for retail customers to reduce or eliminate out-of-stock situations, and keep inventory levels just right–for final consumers like Sally. Customer freedom to shop and purchase from anywhere, anytime—that is the essence of omni-commerce. That is the promise of iSales 100.

To learn more about how xkzero can help you develop a mobile ERP strategy to fit your business, please contact us at info@xkzero.com or 847-416-2009.

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Establishing Trust with Mobile ERP

Why Mobile ERP, Why Now?
blog series by xkzero

In this technology-driven society, we have high expectations for our business software. That certainly holds true with mobile apps for ERP too. We need both our systems and apps to have the capacity to handle dynamic information, the sophistication to enable analyses, and the credibility to have trustworthy accuracy.

Part of that precision comes from accessing the rich and even visceral story beyond spreadsheets with raw numbers. This means building a narrative with product images, customer feedback notes, contact information and geo-tags. Using the video chat functions native to our mobile devices, we can not only communicate but gather sights and sounds from remote locations. This data can be used, for example, to assess the source of a machine malfunction, or to walk through a store to approve a product’s placement.

Even outside the realm of business, we have enjoyed the capabilities of sophisticated technology. When driving to the airport recently, two colleagues IndicatorLightsnoticed a pair of icons were lit up on the dashboard. The passenger used her iPhone to search the manufacturer’s web site and quickly matched up these images with a list of warning signs. “This means your tire pressure is low,” she said. The car had been driving smoothly, and none of the tires were overtly flat, yet the built-in system was designed with safety in mind. Its functionality was proactive; it provided the driver a warning before she even suspected a problem.

tom-car-talk1_wide-15bb9342fed4fd6096a487f920eb216b8f590241-s5-c15

“Car Talk” Hosts Ray & Tom Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers (photo courtesy of NPR)

It’s a good thing automobiles weren’t always so sophisticated, or we may have never enjoyed “Car Talk,” the brilliant call-in show hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers. It first aired in 1978, at a time when cars were simple enough that many people did their own repairs.

Although these guys had the brains to graduate from MIT and enough auto expertise to run their own fix-it shop, their diagnostic methods were laughable. Click would answer a call like this, “Ziliak with a Z… How are things in Chicago?”

Humans making car sounds got a lot of air time. A typical caller might say, “I crank the ignition and it goes, ‘RRRRHUURRHRRRCHSHH.’”

Clack would disregard the reason for the call and impart his philosophies about deep dish pizza, and his sudden craving for a large pepperoni pie. Click, unfazed by the interjection, would inquire about loyalties to the White Sox or the Cubs. Amidst the rolling tangents, one of them would announce, “It must be the transmission!”

These goofy guys earned an impressive following in the 15+ years the show was live, and fans still tune in to listen to previously unaired episodes. They set the tone with sibling razzing, marked by the catchphrase, “Don’t drive like my brother.” They also thrived on settling bets—especially those between a husband and wife—about questionable DIY repair methods, or how to tell if the animal living in the engine is a muskrat or a chipmunk.

While people continued to call Click and Clack to get their on assessment of the auto ailment associated with their impressions of squeaks, creaks, and whirrs, the real takeaway was the duo’s hilarious spin on the problem and Tom’s infectious laugh. That said, they were actually spot-on when troubleshooting your 1980 Dodge Dart based on a few suspicious sounds.

However, cars have evolved, and so have our diagnostic methods. Today, you wouldn’t trust a mechanic with your brand new fuel-efficient European sports car who listens to your funny noises, replies, “It’s the transmission!” then pops open the hood and gets to work (on your dime).

These days, when shelling out the cash for auto repairs, car and truck owners can expect a comprehensive diagnostic process conducted with precise electronic measurements. Mechanics often use mobile devices to collect information from the car’s computer system, which gives the customer confidence that their data is scientifically based—and meant to be taken seriously.

~~~
Tom Magliozzi died November 3, 2014 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. Coincidentally, we discussed the content of this blog on that very day, before learning of his passing. We extend our sympathies to his loved ones.

NPR, November 4, 2014: “‘We have learned absolutely nothing,’
Tom Magliozzi on Decades of Car Talk”
~~~

Why Mobile ERP, Why Now?
blog series by xkzero
This article is part of a series based on xkzero co-founder Paul Ziliak’s talk at Sage Summit 2014 called “Why Mobile, Why Now?: A Decision Maker’s Guide to Business Success.”

6x6_150+aPH_PZ-WhyMobile_300714_0053b-crop

Paul Ziliak shows off his new invisible smart phone to an incredulous Las Vegas audience.

Through our blog, we bring to you some of the ideas initially shared in this talk. We will also continue to add new insights about why mobile for ERP is here to stay and how you can get the jump on your competitors by incorporating everything special about mobile technology into your business now.

We carry the auto theme into an article about mobile technology’s role in parking meter payments, “Is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel a fan of this app?

 

6 Questions To Ask Before Deciding To Invest In Mobile Business

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Best-in-class companies are much more likely (2.4 times, in fact) than less successful organizations to enable ERP through mobile devices. The most effective solutions are those tailored to meet the needs of the individual or role in the organization. These statistics were gathered by the Aberdeen Group.*

No matter if your small or mid-sized company is a manufacturer, distributor, or focuses on service, to create a mobile strategy, where do you start? Before you get to that point, it’s important to determine whether investing in a mobile sales app is right for you. Here are some questions that can help you decide if your company should take that step and move to a mobile-enabled ERP.

1. Which software and other information sources does your sales team already use?

Before Mobile

Salesperson tools: Before

Is your business using traditional sales tools such as CRM systems, price catalogues, white papers, technical spec documents, ERP/order entry and quoting systems, and proposal templates? If so, take a hard look at how responsive these tools are to customers’ demands. If your salesperson or customer service rep can only access needed information sources while seated at a desk, or if the alternative is to lug around multiple devices, then your company may not be as effectively responsive. Consider the data and images your salesperson needs.

In this fast-paced competitive world, do you want to be the ones saying you’ll get back to a customer later? No way! Your sales team needs to quickly provide current pricing, product photos, video demos, or other descriptors, and rapid quotes.

Take a good inventory of your current systems and processes. Have your top sales people explain how they use each tool. Consider doing mock presentations and play the role of customer to assess potential frustration levels with information availability. This analysis will go a long way toward determining the current viability of your sales process.

2. Which software tools are used by your industry’s best-in-class companies?

“Know that if you are not doing it, someone in your industry is.” This was the conclusion drawn in a study by Deloitte called, “The Dawn of Mobile Influence.” They also determined that m-commerce (mobile commerce) will grow by 250% through 2016, a rate 6 times the expected growth rate of e-commerce. Will your company be left behind?

What’s so great about mobile? Ask the CEO of Groupon and founder of Echo Global Logistics Eric Lefkovsky. Here are a few of the excellent points he lists in his blog article, “A Spoonful of Mobile:”

  • “It’s real time: you use it to achieve something NOW.”
  • “It’s opportunistic: technology is at its best when it’s relevant.”
  • “It’s geo targeted: knowing where you are makes it technology smarter and more relevant.”
  • “It’s social: it’s designed to interact with those around you.”
After Mobile

Salesperson tools: After

3. Would you freak out if you learned when top competitors conduct sales meetings with their prospects and customers, they provide quotes and close new business–on the spot?

In case you didn’t already know, this is happening while you read this article. The companies in your industry with mobile apps are better prepared to answer questions, record data and eliminate redundancy each step of the way. (Oh, and close those deals, too.)

In time, the fastest, best processes will cannibalize old methods, as well they should. Mobile capabilities give prospects or customers reason to gain confidence, as they receive speedy, accurate responses. Also, from a behind-the-scenes perspective, manual methods of doing business are time consuming, and require unnecessary personnel costs. Save your HR budget for more meaningful tasks and free up the hours employees devote to data entry.

This begs the question: Will you be a forerunner or can you afford to wait?

4. What is the value of mobility for your sales reps? Does your sales team count on tools only available at the office to serve the customer or prospect?

In this mobile world of quick information retrieval options, businesses can’t afford to rely on desktops and other office-based peripherals. People have come to expect answers in real-time, and from any location.

Also, the workforce culture has changed, with more employees working from home, often to accommodate a work-life balance. The line between business and personal time can also be difficult to differentiate, as we may even cultivate our most meaningful connections on the soccer field sidelines or the train platform.

In a world where business can be conducted on the fly, and opportunities arise when least expected, is having your sales and customer service reps tethered to a two foot long landline telephone cord going to cut it for you?

5. Do you pretty much have either a smart phone or tablet with you all the time?

Consider going for 12 hours without a phone or tablet. (Breathe!! This is hypothetical!) In this scenario, you are not spending the day in waders, fly fishing with your buddies in a beautiful brook, or lying supine under the Tahitian sun with the sand under your bare feet, with a cold drink while catching up on fiction.

(Re-focus!) Bring your mind back to a regular workday. How many ways do you rely on your phone or tablet throughout the course of a day? If you think it’s just frivolous, keep a mobile journal on a weekday.

Here’s an example of one morning in the life of an iPhone user:

6:00 a.m. Woke up to phone alarm. Checked work e-mail with Mail app. Calendar alert reminded of meeting at office. Grabbed documents. Turned on radio app and listened to news while making breakfast. Over cereal, checked Facebook. Exchanged texts with a loved one. Checked bank account with app, and paid a bill. Used transit tracker to check for any travel delays. On train, used blog app to edit article. Using music app and headphones, listened to uplifting song. Checked notes app to verify new office entry code. 8:30, sat at desk. Switched to laptop.

6. Can you imagine business shifting away from the smart phone and tablet technology? In other words, do you think it’s a fad?

If it works, why fix it? Smart phones and tablets are only getting more powerful, with added features, apps, and options for interaction. Even the youngest humans among us are rocking the iPads long before entering kindergarten, with educational games and art making apps.

Would it make sense to take this away when mobile technology is becoming imbedded into our culture from an early age? When mobile apps can connect more people, more quickly, and allow businesses to close deals from remote locations, would the smart people who develop the devices and apps simply bail because it’s “too trendy?” Businesses that decide not to hop on board will soon wish they didn’t think they were too cool to join the bandwagon train, as they watch the string of cars roll down the tracks and disappear into the horizon.

_________

At xkzero we’re passionate about mobile technology and making it work in your ERP system environment.  If you would like to talk with us about creating a whole new mobile reality for your business we would love to hear from you.

You can reach us at info@xkzero.com or 847-416-2009.

* Published 8/25/14 Mobile ERP: Taking ROI Into Your Own Hands