Newsletter – March 2017

Admin —  March 21, 2017

The March 2017 edition of our newsletter – Encore in Focus – is now available!

Business GrowthHighlights include…

A case study about Norfolk Marine, a company which uses our ERP software to manage an inventory of 35,000 products.

ERP software defined – a new article in on Pro Portal that’s ideal for people who are new to enterprise business management systems.

Opinion – why embracing omnichannel marketing is key to engaging with today’s tech savvy consumers.

Warehouse management – news of Encore’s new module for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors.

Partnership news – we’ve joined forces with Global Payment to help businesses process Chinese UnionPay transactions.

To read the newsletter please click on this link.

 

Defining ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software

For many business managers who are making their first foray into researching ERP software, the subject can see daunting. Search the internet for ‘ERP software’ and you’ll be inundated with dozens of pages of information and opinion; it’s a big subject and there is no shortage of commentators, experts and marketers, all vying for your attention and, of course, a share of your IT budget.

The good news is that despite the technical acronym, the basic principles of ERP software are easily defined and once understood, a business manager is in a solid position to begin considering the different options available to their company.

A single, centralised database

The central feature of all ERP systems is a shared database that supports multiple functions used by different business units within an organisation. As opposed to using multiple software systems to manage different areas of a business, ERP software centralises all information within a single system. This means that whatever job function a user happens to perform, they and their colleagues are working with a single source of data, as opposed to multiple databases created using separate, disparate software applications.

Using multiple systems – especially as a company grows –can cause major problems and affect the flow of information around a business. If each department in a business uses their own software application and these programs have not been configured to talk to each other, there is a high risk of ‘data silos’ emerging and these can wreak havoc. Data silos are essentially different versions of data held by different people within an organisation. Information may differ widely in terms of its accuracy and this can disrupt operations and hinder supply chain management, potentially undermining customer relations as a result.

For example, someone in a roofing supplier’s sales department closes a sale, emails her colleague in accounts who raises and posts an invoice. The customer makes a payment for the products they have ordered and this is recorded using the supplier’s accounting software. So far, so good.

Someone in the purchasing department, however, has overlooked an email with details of the products they need to buy to fulfil the order. Ten days later, the salesperson receives an angry call from the customer asking why their order hasn’t arrived and complaining that they’re unable to complete the job for which the products were required. Not a great start to a new business relationship.

This is a simple example, however, hopefully it illustrates that’s its very too easy for information to become lost if communications channels between departments and people are anything less than seamless.

By implementing and using a single ERP system that is used by all personnel within an organisation, there is far less risk of information going missing or being overlooked because everyone is using a single application to manage operations. Going back to the example above, an ERP system could be configured to automatically alert the purchasing department once a sales has been registered. The margin for error created because the process was based on someone having to remember to send an email is removed.

The Business Value of ERP

By automating processes, a business can achieve more than mitigate against the risk of personnel losing or overlooking information. Automation goes a long way to eliminating time-consuming manual processes and this is key to helping people become more efficient and productive.

Relieving a salesperson from their administrative burden, for example, means they have more time to spend focusing on speaking with customers and growing sales.

Automation is key to effective supply chain management and ensuring complex work flow processes related to production planning, manufacturing and inventory control. Step back to think about the different elements that need to come together in order to produce an item and the number of different businesses units involved in the overall process.

Sales and purchasing personnel need to be in close contact to ensure that promises can be kept. Staff in the warehouse need to know exactly what they have in stock and plan for deliveries. Production staff need to carefully plan what they need to buy and when. The accounts department need to control and record all incomings and outgoings. Management need complete visibility what is happening at any given moment alongside the business intelligence that is necessary for strategic planning.

Using a single system to produce accurate reports is also key to the business intelligence with is central to joined-up decision making. If a senior manager has to hunt around different systems to find the information they need to produce a report, and there is no guarantee that this information is up to date and accurate, there is a real risk that the document will be fundamentally flawed from the outset.

ERP systems are key to providing high quality customer service. Sales and customer service people can interact with customers better and improve relationships with them, through faster, more accurate access to customer information and purchasing histories.

Even though the ‘E’ in ERP stands for “enterprise”, an ever increasing number of small and growing companies are adopting ERP systems as the benefits become more widely understood.
Although is ERP is regarded as a complex subject – and there is no doubt that a successful deployment demands careful thinking and planning – its major benefit is that it enables businesses to streamline performance by simplifying processes and operations.

ERP systems have become more affordable and the fact that many are available on a monthly subscription basis via the cloud means they are accessible to small businesses with limited budgets.

Once an ERP system has been deployed and is being used fluently and confidently by personnel within an organisation, it will pay for itself many times over.

Cloud Computing and Business Growth

Cloud Computing and Business Growth

Cloud computing brings many benefits to a business. Above and beyond cost savings, it can free up your IT staff, providing them with more time to work strategically and utilise new technologies that genuinely add value to your business… 

Cloud computing – the practice of storing and accessing business management systems and data over the internet, rather than via a local server or a personal computer- is on the rise as more business directors become aware of the benefits.

According to the latest research for the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), 78% of UK businesses are already using cloud services and this is predicted to increase to 85% by 2018. 63% of UK enterprises are now planning to move their entire IT estate to the cloud in the near future.

By migrating to the cloud many businesses see an immediate reduction in the costs involved in maintaining and supporting their own IT estate.

Another major benefit is that by outsourcing routine maintenance tasks to a managed hosting provider, your  own IT personnel can spend more time working strategically, helping your business utilise technology to improve performance and productivity, helping you sharpen your competitive edge.

In the new digital economy, ensuring technology is a valuable business asset and not a drain on resources is essential. Increasing the involvement of your IT personnel with projects to help refine business processes or utilise new technologies to improve performance could provide a major boost to your company.

Just as with every department in an organisation, your IT team members wants to make a meaningful contribution to your business. Harnessing their expertise to help define strategy and identify the tools which will help you achieve your goals changes their role from ‘keeping the lights on’ to something far more meaningful – and valuable.

So what technologies should your IT staff be exploring?

One of the most common problems that arises from using multiple systems alongside spreadsheets is that these create ‘data silos’. A data silo is a repository of data that remains under the control of one department and is isolated from the rest of the company.

A lack of integration between the different systems makes it far harder than it needs to be for your teams to share information and collaborate effectively.

Many businesses benefit from fully integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems that bring together different business areas all within a single system. Consolidating all information within a single repository eliminates the need for multiple systems and improves the flow of accurate, up to date information around a business.

By involving IT staff and tasking them to find and recommend solutions that meet the needs of everyone in the business, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to find and deploy the right system.

For example, with increasing numbers of people working from home or from locations other than the office, it’s essential that they have access to the information they need and when they need it.

Cloud based ERP systems like Encore from Anagram Systems can be accessed from wherever a user can find an internet connection and via smartphones and tablets as well as laptops and PCs. This can significantly improve efficiency and productivity, making it easy for your teams to collaborate effectively from wherever they are working.

By freeing up your IT team from routine maintenance and giving them greater responsibility to work with all department to find new ways of working utilising technologies like ERP software, incredible things are possible. If, however, your IT staff spend their days patching and propping up elderly servers and creaking PCs, you’ll never know what they’re truly capable of achieving.

Migrating to the cloud could be the fresh start you and your IT staff need to help your business grow.

Ecommerce and ERP Software – the Key to Growing Web Sales

Ecommerce and ERP software

Ecommerce and ERP software

These days it’s relatively easy for a company to sell their products online via platforms such as eBay, Amazon and niche (but popular) sites such as Not on the High Street. These platforms are designed to be accessible to non-technical users and make it easy to create product listings, upload images, videos and other sales and marketing collateral. These platforms are also optimised to make it very easy for potential buyers to find and buy products from retailers.

In recent years, it has become easier for companies to sell products via their own websites using dedicated ecommerce platforms such as OS Commerce and Magneto. These provides online merchants with a flexible shopping cart system linked to their own website which can also be used to process payments.

For many businesses with their own ecommerce website, the greatest challenge – especially as the volume of online product sales grows – is inventory control. A rapidly growing company can very quickly become a victim of its own success if online sales can’t be fulfilled because items have been allowed to drop out of stock.

Real Time Inventory Management

Having to contact a new customer to tell them that their order can’t be shipped- despite the fact that their payment has already been processed- is embarrassing at the very least and can easily jeopardise repeat business. Social media means it has never been easier for disgruntled customers to voice their frustration about a retailer’s failures and this can damage a growing business’ reputation very quickly.

SMEs need to be aware of what stock is available in real-time and also safeguard against the likelihood of customers placing online orders that can’t be fulfilled. For this, online retailers need to integrate their website and shopping cart system with dedicated stock control software.

In its early days, many businesses can probably get away with using spreadsheets to monitor and manage stock levels but if they are processing multiple orders on a regular basis, the level of manual data entry required can becoming highly time-consuming. It’s also prone to human error.

The alternative is to manage stock using accounting or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software with dedicated inventory control functionality which is integrated with a company’s ecommerce website.

This ensures that product lists are updated after an order has been placed and also alerts an SME’s users when stock numbers have dropped to a pre-determined level and long they have reached zero. This means managers have complete visibility of stock levels and can place repeat orders with their suppliers in good time.

Improving the Flow of Data Around Your Business

The most sophisticated ecommerce and ERP Software software will bring together web sales order processing and inventory control with reporting and financial management. By centralising all transactions and processes within a single system, information can flow freely between an SME’s team members, ensuring everyone has access to the same, accurate and up to date information.

In practical terms this means that once an online order has been placed, stock levels are updated automatically. The back-office section of the solution can be used to produce a sales invoice and despatch note. The system’s cashbook is also updated automatically, meaning that finance staff don’t need to enter the transaction manually.

Reporting is another key benefit or using a fully integrated ecommerce and ERP software system system. Data can be analysed to spot buying trends such as seasonal order spikes. This helps users anticipate future demand. This is essential in terms of effective inventory control and management.

There are many accounting and ERP systems on the market but not all are equal. Some basic bookkeeping systems, for instance, will allow users to maintain a basic list of stock items and numbers but will not integrate with a website or ecommerce platform. It’s essential that SMEs look carefully for a fully integrated ecommerce and ERP software system.

Conclusion

Although integrated ecommerce, stock control and financial management might not seem particularly important in a business’s early days, it is key to future-proofing operations and ensuring that online sales order demand can be met no matter how quickly the business grows. This provides the foundation for effective ecommerce and most importantly, for ensuring new and repeat customer are happy with their shopping experience.

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Summary

Encore ERP Software for Jewellers

Jacobs of Reading

Jacobs the Jewellers (Jacobs) has used Encore from Anagram Systems (Anagram) to manage its business for nearly ten years. The system was implemented to help Jacobs become more efficient by automating many long-established manual processes which were becoming increasingly time consuming. Encore has since been successfully used on a day-to-day basis for financial management, stock-control, sales processing and, most recently, to manage online sales and support ecommerce.

Company Background

Jacobs the Jewellers is a multi-award winning luxury independent jewellery and watch retailer based in Reading, Berkshire. Now in its third generation, the shop was established more than 65 years ago. Jacobs specialises in diamond, precious and coloured gemstone jewellery, prestigious watch brands and associated services. These include repairs, valuation, engraving and purchasing services for jewels and gold. Jacobs regularly receives awards that recognise the outstanding quality of its products and services.

Business challenge

Jacobs is well known for its commitment to providing exceptionally high level of customer services. Adam Jacobs, company owner and managing director, recognised that by automating time-consuming manual administration via a computerised system, his team would be able to spend more time looking after customers.

Finding a simple to use system that could be used to manage the business as a whole was essential. Adam recognised that deploying a single system (as opposed to multiple software solutions designed for different areas of the company), would improve the flow of information between everyone in his team.

A fully integrated system

Having evaluated a number jewellery business management software systems, Adam Jacobs chose Encore from Anagram Systems. He was particularly impressed with the system’s fully integrated functionality and the fact that it is an intuitive solution that is easy to use.

Encore is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system which brings together accounting, stock-control and purchasing with sales and marketing. Industry specific features enable jewellers to manage repairs, appraisals, valuations and inventory tickets.

Anagram itself is a leading business management software provider with extensive experience of developing systems for jewellery sector companies including retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers.

Adam Jacobs comments: “We needed a comprehensive system that not only fulfilled our requirements from a retail management point of view but that was also easy to use. We wanted a solution that would very quickly make a difference to the business by reducing time spent on administration, improving our overall efficiency and productivity.”

“We also wanted a system that could grow with us and support our use of ecommerce and web-sales as a route to market. The fact that Encore is a modular system that could be expanded in terms of features and functions as and when required was very important to us.”

Encore is available in three editions; Essentials, Premier and Premier Plus, providing retailers with different options to suit their needs and budgets. Many businesses – like Jacobs- begin with the Essentials edition and build on this as their business grows.

Key business benefits

Encore’s Electronic Point of Sales (EPOS) functionality ensures all product sales are recorded quickly and accurately. Stock level information is automatically adjusted at the same time as a sale is processed. This eliminates the need for manual stock updates.

All sales are recorded in the system’s cashbook. Weekly, monthly and quarterly sales figures are included in management reports that form the basis for management decision making.

Adam and his team can record detailed information about every customer; their buying history, preferences and information about anniversaries and other special occasion which can be used for marketing purposes. Encore includes dedicated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality designed to support marketing and communications.

Encore provides a full audit trail of information, including invoices, credit notes, contact lists and histories, and product availability. All information is immediately accessible to Adam and his team and there is no need to search through paper based records.

In recent years, Jacobs the Jewellers has adopted ecommerce and offers its products via the company’s website. Encore includes a web sales module that is fully integrated with Jacobs’ website. This automates online sales processes, stock adjustments and financial records.

Over the years, the team at Jacobs have benefitted from the expertise of Anagram’s helpdesk who are provide ongoing support and training.

Adam Jacobs comments: “The support we have received over the years has been excellent. Anagram’s support team have an in-depth knowledge of Encore and have helped us make the most of the system. The support team are highly knowledgeable and really know what they are talking about.”

Building for the future

Jacobs will soon be deploying Encore’s jewellery and watch repairs module in order to develop and support this side of the business. This module will enable Adam and his team to maintain job sheets and lists, enquiries and reminders to manage all in-house and external repairs.

Adam concludes: “The module will enable us to record the details of all items brought in for repair and track them through every stage of the repair process. As a result, we will be able to provide a highly efficient service to our customers. We are confident that Encore will help us grow this particular business area as effectively as it has enabled us to manage sales, financial management and stock-control.

 

Is it time for you to invest in ERP software?

As a business grows, managing processes and information can become a major challenge. Companies often invest in different software systems to simplify management. Although these can initially be useful in terms of reducing the complexities of running a business, they are often only a short to medium term solution and can even cause problems in their own right. Read on to see if your business has outgrown its existing management software and if it’s time to consider an ERP software system…

  1. The software systems you have in place don’t talk to each other

Many businesses use a number of different software systems and this frequently increases as a company grows and the need to automate processes and gather information increases. Although a single software system may be sufficient for managing the department where it is used, the information it holds may be invisible to the rest of the business. ‘Data silos’ – where different departments and personnel can only access information related to their business area – are commonplace in growing business and are a source of misunderstanding between different teams.

For a business to operate as a single entity, it is essential that business can flow freely around all departments. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like Encore from Anagram Systems holds all information in one place eliminating data silos at a stroke.

  1. It’s difficult to analyse information about your business

Effective business intelligence is all about analysing information to make informed decisions but if you can’t gather data in the first place, you and your team members will remain in the dark. Encore consolidates and centralises all business information within a single repository, enabling you to view information relating to any area of your business quickly and simply.

Encore includes advanced reporting functionality which enables you to visualise data, making it easier for you and your teams to understand.

  1. Financial management is increasingly time-consuming and complex

As a business grows, the number of individual transactions can grow substantially and with this the challenge of ensuring they are accurately recorded. Effective bookkeeping and accounting is only possible if your financial management team have complete visibility of all incomings and outgoings and are not reliant on other teams to provide this information to them. Encore ERP software enables accounts team to gather the information they need to maintain accurate financial records and provide the reports provided by senior management and third parties such as HMRC.

Although most businesses have dedicated accounting software these days, a lack of integration with other business applications can make accurate accounting unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming.

  1. Sales and customer services are suffering

In a business’ early years, when the volume of product sales may be relatively modest, stock control and inventory management is something that is easily manageable. As sales grow, however, there is a risk that customer demand can outweigh stock availability, resulting in disappointed customers and a damaged business reputation. Although a sales and warehousing team may be using software systems that automate record-keeping and order processing, a lack of integration between them can be highly problematic.

The alternative is an ERP software system like Encore which consolidates all information within a single repository. This means sales personnel can view stock levels before making promises to customers and purchasing staff have complete visibility of what products and components are required and when. Effective resource planning enables a business to plan ahead for the future and avoid any nasty surprises.

  1. Lack of mobile access to software

These days, it’s key that your teams can access the software they need to manage and drive your business from wherever they are working from. This is especially the case for sales staff who need to be able to access and update prospect and account information when they on the move. Their ability to close new business and spot upsell opportunities is underpinned by access to data as well as electronic marketing collateral which they need on demand when they are speaking to prospects.

Your senior management team also need access to data when they need it – often at times when they are travelling between meetings – and easy access to up to date information is key to their decision making. Encore is accessible via a range of devices – including smartphones and tablets – from wherever internet access is available.

  1. IT Management – time consuming and expensive

Running multiple software systems is expensive and puts pressure on your IT infrastructure, including the people who manage it. Annual software and support contract renewals are costly and you may also find yourself spending money hardware upgrades and having to employ more IT staff.

Reducing the number of software systems you use frees up IT resources and reduces the costs related to running multiple solutions. By adopting ERP software like Encore, you can remove the need for multiple systems, hardware costs and the need to employ more IT staff than necessary.

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