Integration:
A business management must-have

End-to-end efficiency gains

As business picks up pace, and is ever-challenged by disruptive technology, integration isn’t just important to short-term profit margins, but absolutely key to medium-term strategy and planning. It will enable your business to remain competitive, continue to deliver on increasing customer expectations, and leverage new technologies.

Here’s how it can deliver that:

 

See what your business is really doing

Good business decision-making relies on having an accurate picture of the current situation across all departments – finance, sales, service, marketing and fulfilment all have essential information to contribute. Integration lets you access that crucial information instantly from a single point of truth, on any device, wherever you are. It means no more mucking around with data extraction and reconciling conflicting sources – just clean, visible data that offers better, more up-to-date information for quick and accurate decision-making.

Halifax Vogel Group (HVG) is a diversified industrial products distribution business. CEO Bruce Raument says integrating their business with a business management solution gave staff access to timely information and the benefits have been “enormous.”

“It enables us to manage our inventory better. We can analyse customers’ sales patterns, purchases, and product movements easily. It also allows our sales team to manipulate data, to judge it against various parameters, like sales revenue, budget and gross profitability,” he says.

“It provides information that enables us to make better decisions every day.”

Give your IT team more valuable work

When a company has a whole raft of disparate and even conflicting applications, their IT team spends precious time trying to manage incompatible systems.

With an integrated system, your IT team won’t need to maintain multiple systems, or drop everything to revive legacy systems that crash unexpectedly. Instead, they can focus on improving business operating efficiency, and solving real business challenges with technical solutions.

Support easier, faster growth

Improved visibility means companies can cross-sell and up-sell to existing customers.

EasiYo was hobbled by a legacy system that struggled to keep up with the business demand, and stunted company growth.

“With dairy prices spiralling world-wide, the need to constantly review margins, pricing and sales trends has become enormously important,” says David Granger, EasiYo General Manager.

With an integrated system, tasks have improved across the business. Company accounts that used to take three weeks to prepare are now generated in just 10 days. Less time is spent on budgeting and reporting, and the financial team doesn’t waste resources on inaccurate paperwork. It also comes in handy when analysing sales data from across the world – distant consumers and the buying patterns of supermarkets on multiple continents. A job that once involved an entire department is now completed by a simple tool designed to spot trends, anomalies and opportunities.

EasiYo staff can compare performances, make educated predictions and critically analyse key business signs. As David Granger explains:

“We are now able to drill down to different levels of detail, that in the case of supermarket sales data, can throw up anomalies that their integrated ERP system makes sense of.”

Create happier, more loyal customers

In the face of fierce competition, what can your company do to grow your customer base and raise your revenue? It’s no secret that providing the very best customer experience is key to getting and keeping customers. A customer who can’t get an issue resolved quickly, or who keeps finding that the product they want from you is out of stock – it’s that customer who will be off to your competitor.

Customer experience is improved by connecting ordered volumes with stock levels, providing your sales team with instant access to up-to-date availability, delivery times and customer accounts. Even just having to repeat their issue to a second person on the phone can feel like hard work to customers, so it’s crucial to solve their problems quickly and efficiently. When customers can be assured that an item is available, and it’s delivered on time, it’s that good experience that translates to increased revenue.

Griffiths Equipment credits their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning software) for their competitive edge in the supply of automotive products. Griffiths can fulfil customer orders with efficiency and accuracy, saving the company time and money through innovative inventory management processes. New goods are placed according to size or popularity, a wireless network in the warehouse runs hand-held picking devices, which also maps routes and speeds up finding products.

Managing Director Peter Griffiths estimates that the new scanners, backed by their integrated system, cut errors by up to 80% in the first month.

“Our business is a leader in the field because we’re nimble on our feet,” he says.

"Begin mapping out and documenting your business processes. How does information flow through your organisation? How does an order get processed and invoiced? What events trigger which responses?"
David Granger EasiYo, General Manager
Implement ERP software enables you to see what parts of your company have cracks or overlap.

Implementing ERP

Because implementing an integrated ERP can seem like a big outlay, it pays to really look at what your old system is costing you. Think about the expense of administration time, and of the multiple human errors that your company suffers. 

Look for gaps in your system – is your company floundering because things aren’t well connected? Do processes or data overlap, or do things fall through the cracks? Examine each department and process to see where the disconnects are. Ask your teams to record time lost due to double handling of information. Dealing with it more anecdotally can help too – ask the relevant stakeholders to estimate the time spent searching for information through various systems, or fixing an error caused by incorrect or out of date information. 

Next, calculate the cost of each of those disconnects, based on hourly rates, missed opportunities and hard costs.

Count opportunities for profit and growth

There are a number of ways an integrated system can enhance your company, beyond making your processes more efficient. Timely, accurate information will also improve your marketing, enable more competitive pricing and speed up delivery-to-market of new products. This is because your sales, product and marketing teams can work with real data, rather than running on gut instinct. It means marketing dollars are more targeted, you can hit that pricing sweet spot faster, and reduce trial and error in new product design. All of this translates to increased sales, better profit margins and enhanced customer experience.

While these benefits are much harder to quantify, they deliver the true value of a seamlessly integrated business, paving the way for growth, profit, and a pathway to securing greater market share.

Chances are, the case for an integrated business management system will be clear – here’s what to do next. 

Map your organisation

Look inside your business to understand where the new system will fit.

Talk to people at the coal face – those who talk to customers and deal with core data. Are they doing things that don’t make sense anymore? Are their basic processes taking too long? How many spreadsheets do they deal with? Could someone take over their role if they were on holiday or sick leave? And if you could free up some of their time, how could they be used more effectively to benefit the business?

Begin mapping out and documenting your business processes. How does information flow through your organisation? How does an order get processed and invoiced? What events trigger which responses?

An organisational chart is a good place to look for guidance. Who does what, and where are they? What decisions do they make? And, most importantly, what information do they need to make those decisions?

Then, look at your databases. How many of them are there? How are they structured? How accurate are they? Why were they initiated? How up-to-date are they? Who maintains them? Who has access to them and why?

With these answers, you’ll know who needs what information, and where those information resources are. The challenge then is to connect the two – and that’s where your business management system comes in. 

Think long-term

Keep in mind that you’re investing in a company asset, and you want a long-term return on that asset. If you make your purchasing choice based solely on price, you may end up with a white elephant.

ERP systems can be extremely sticky once they are implemented, and replacing one isn’t easy. Plan for the future of your company and choose an ERP system that can grow along with you – and has plans to evolve with technology.

Get everyone on board

If the project is inclusive, your staff’s views are valued and your senior leadership are sold in, they’ll help to create a positive environment for change. Without everyone on board, your implementation will almost certainly run into problems

That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be consulted about every decision. Management just needs to be seen to be involved and driving the project, and staff need to feel like their needs are being considered. 

Access specialist advice

If the project is inclusive, your staff’s views are valued and your senior leadership are sold in, they’ll help to create a positive environment for change. Without everyone on board, your implementation will almost certainly run into problems

That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be consulted about every decision. Management just needs to be seen to be involved and driving the project, and staff need to feel like their needs are being considered. 

Create your implementation team

Choosing the right size team, with the right mix of people, is critical – it can make or break the success of your implementation. It’s also important to assign leadership to one person – choose someone who’s good at getting people on board, and has energy and passion for the project.  

Gather extra resources

Your implementation team will be busy and will almost certainly need help to cover their usual work. If they’re not given space to concentrate on the implementation, it will impact on the time, cost and success of the project. 

Clearly define your objectives

Getting clear on what you want from the implementation can guide and empower decision-making. Without it, the project will drag out and lose momentum. If your strategic goals are clearly defined and your team has the time to achieve them correctly, you’ll end up with a system that everyone is happy with.

Integrate and thrive

Integrating your company isn’t just an option anymore – it’s a business necessity that shouldn’t be put off. The exact figures vary from business to business, but the reality is an integrated organisation is a more efficient one – it makes more money, stays ahead of the game, and is one step in front of competitors.

With integration, you equip your business to operate with the nimbleness and speed of a start-up, while improving the systematic, thoughtful, risk-reducing decisions more often seen in corporates. Your staff will be happier, your customers more loyal, and your margins will continue to grow. 

To gain more insight into improving reporting, talk to a MYOB consultant.