We were recently invited to contribute an article about the transformative power of technology to the Timber Trades Journal. The piece focuses on the technologies which are enabling smaller business (in this case timber merchants) to compete against much larger competitors.
The cost of setting up a website equipped with shopping cart functionality has dropped in recent years, as had the price for integrating front and back office systems such as CRM and ERP software. Some web platforms such as the community edition of Magento are free…ecommerce is more accessible to smaller business than ever before.
The ubiquity of smartphone use is also a game changer in terms of how people research products before they make a purchase and this is also covered in the piece. Click here to read the full article.
We’re very pleased that Boating Business magazine have published an article about us which talks about the business benefits that one of our customers – Norfolk Marine – have seen by using Encore.
To read the article, please click here:
If you would like to read a more detailed case study, please email: email@example.com
As a business grows, it’s inevitable that the administrative workload will increase. Unless proper processes for managing transactions and information are implemented early on, there’s a risk that personnel will become overwhelmed. As a result, cracks can appear and despite everyone’s best intentions, a business can suffer; it’s the old adage of a rapidly growing company becoming a victim of its own success.
These days, most companies will invest in accounting software to automate otherwise time-consuming manual financial management, using these systems alongside spreadsheets to manage other areas of operations, such as sales and customer services.
When a business is small and the number of transactions that need to be managed is relatively low, there’s no doubt that the use of both accounting systems and spreadsheets is key to effective management. It’s when a business grows, however, that using multiple applications can cause problems that become a major headache for team members throughout an organisation.
The next step up from basic accounting systems is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which centralises all aspects of business operations within a single system. ERP software includes functionality designed to automate different business areas and improve the flow of information between everyone within a company.
By enabling personnel with different job roles to access and share accurate, up to date information, the likelihood of effective collaboration is increased significantly.
Here are six of the signs that indicate that it could be time for your business to invest in ERP software…
1. The software systems you already have in place don’t talk to each other
Many businesses use a number of different software systems to manage different areas of operations and this frequently expands as a company grows.
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’ – which appear as a result of departments using software applications that hold information related solely to their particular area of business operations – are commonplace in growing companies.
Much like grain in a silo on a farm is closed off from outside elements, ‘data silos’ remain under the control of one department and are isolated from the rest of the organisation.
For a business to operate as a single entity, it is essential that data can flow freely around all departments.
By investing in ERP software and holding all information in one place, ‘data silos’ are eliminated at a stroke, ensuring that that everyone has access to the same pool of accurate, up to date information.
2. Financial management is increasingly time-consuming and complex
As a business grows and the number of individual transactions increases, ensuring these are quickly and accurately recorded can become progressively more challenging. 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.
If a member of your accounts team, for instance, has to repeatedly remind sales staff to provide up to date figures, or prompt buyers for information about purchases, efficient financial management can be hindered to the extent that is grinds to a halt.
Although most businesses have dedicated accounting software these days, a lack of integration with the applications used outside of the finance department can make accurate accounting unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming.
A fully integrated ERP system makes life easier for financial management personnel by automatically drawing together information about all department’s incomings and outgoings, updating accounting ledgers without the need for additional data entry. This means financial managers have everything they need to produce reports required by third-party organisations such as HMRC or internally by senior managers.
3. Sales and customer services are suffering
In a business’ early years, when the volume of product sales may be relatively low, stock control is easily manageable. Many companies can get by with the basic stock management functionality included in accounting software or by using spreadsheets.
As sales grow, however, there is a potential risk of customer demand outweighing stock availability, resulting in disappointed customers and a damaged reputation.
A sales team may be using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to record customer enquiries and orders. Their colleagues in the warehouse may be using a separate inventory management systems to maintain details of stock levels and plan buying. The purchasing department are using a different system altogether.
If these systems are not integrated, the sales department have no idea of what stock is available for shipment. Meanwhile, the warehouse and purchasing team are unaware of orders and the dates by which goods needs to be shipped to customers.
If you implement ERP software which includes stock control and CRM functionality, your sales team can view stock levels before making promises to customers and warehouse. Purchasing staff will have complete visibility of what products, parts or components are required and by when. This is particularly important for manufacturing companies who need to manage production planning in order to fulfil orders and meet deadlines.
If customers receive orders on time, as promised, they are obviously more likely to become a source of repeat business than if shipments are received late.
4. 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. If the information you need is located by different people in multiple applications it can be almost impossible to find. By consolidating and centralising all information within a single repository, however, ERP software makes it much easier to gather the data you need.
A sophisticated system will also include reporting functionality and data visualisation tools designed to make it easier for you and your teams to analyse information.
5. 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 (such as stock availability) as well as electronic marketing collateral which they need in real-time when they are speaking to customers and prospects.
Your senior management team also need access to data when they are out of the office–perhaps when they’re travelling between meetings – and easy access to up to date information is key to their decision making.
Many ERP software developers – but not all – provide functionality designed specifically for field based staff which ensures they have everything they need at their fingertips. Ideally, you should look for a system that is accessible to people via a range of different devices including smartphones, laptops and tablets.
6. Managing IT systems is increasingly 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 license and support contract renewals are costly and you may also find yourself spending money on hardware upgrades (e.g. servers) 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, you can remove the need for multiple systems, hardware costs and the need to employ more IT staff than necessary.
Click here to read our May 2017 newsletter.
This month’s highlights include:
– Our thoughts about ransomware, security and cloud computing.
– A brand new case study – how James Chambers Timber Merchants have used Encore to improve business productivity
– News about HMRC’s postponement of their Making Tax Digital (MTD) scheme
– An invitation to participate in one of our new focus groups
This month, the government published a report which revealed that just under half of all British businesses were victim to at least one cyber security breach last year.
Commissioned by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, the report found that 46 per cent of all businesses discovered at least one cyber security breach in 2016, with the average cost to firms ranging between £1,570 and £19,600.
The report, which is part of the government’s National Cyber Security Programme, also warned that costs could come from the loss of customers, data or assets, handling customer complaints, and dishing out compensation, fines or legal fees.
In the last twelve months, we’ve seen a number of our customers fall victim to cyberattacks and this is one of the reasons why we are now offering managed hosting in secure ISO 27001 datacentre facilities.
Our managed hosting service provides businesses on limited IT budgets with access to state of the art facilities which are ring-fenced by powerful security applications. These ensure that our customer’s software systems and data are secure at all times.
Ensuring on-premise hardware is regularly updated to ensure it is invulnerable to attacks can be time-consuming and expensive. Our service includes updates and backups as standard in addition to enterprise level firewalls to prevent intrusion and theft.
In addition to hosting Encore in the cloud, we can also accommodate other software applications and websites, providing a ‘one stop shop’ for managed services.
If you’re concerned about the security of your systems and data, we would be pleased to provide you with more information about our managed hosting offering and secure datacentre facilities
We would be very happy to provide you with access to a demonstration version of Encore in the cloud. If you are an existing Encore user, we can also upload a clone of your own deployment so you can compare the speed and performance a hosted version of the software versus your on-premise deployment.
The feedback we have received from customers who have migrated to the cloud has been highly positive with many business reporting that Encore is running faster than it was as an on-premise deployment.
The government report can be accessed via this link.
The March 2017 edition of our newsletter – Encore in Focus – is now available!
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 softwareFor 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 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.
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.
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.
Contact us to learn more Encore
If you would like to see Encore in action or if you have any questions, please contact us via the form below. We’d love to talk to you about ways we can potentially help your business,
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.
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.
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.