How ERP Software Can Help Your Business Achieve GDPR Compliance

-December 18, 2017

As we reach the end of 2017, you’ll hopefully be well aware that Brexit or not, the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will apply in the UK from 25th May 2018. The regulations represent the biggest shake-up in existing personal information protection rules for more than twenty years, and the penalties faced by businesses who fail to achieve compliance, or are found guilty of data breaches are substantial.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will have the power to impose fines of up to 2% of a business’ global turnover or up to €20 million. According to analysis by NCC Group, fines from the ICO against UK companies in 2016 would have been £69 million rather than £880,500, had the GDPR regulations had been in place at the time.

One of the key aspects of GDPR is that of “Privacy by Design” along with “Privacy by Default”. In essence, companies will now be obliged to consider data privacy during design stages of all projects, along with the lifecycle of the relevant data process.

In this article, we will be looking at a number of ways in which centralising personal data a company holds about its contacts within an ERP system like Encore from Anagram Systems can help a business as it works towards GDPR compliance. If you are new to GDPR, we recommend visiting the ICO’s website and reading their policy guidance documents about the subject.

Effective Data Security Management

First of all, it’s important to emphasise the fact that GDPR compliance is, in essence, not so much an IT or software project but something much wider – a legal business regime which demands that businesses think carefully about data management, policy and processes. No single piece of software will enable a business to become GDPR compliant, however, the way in which a system is used by operatives to access and manage data can help an organisation develop its internal policies and achieve its compliancy goals.

The importance of developing an internal data security policy before GDPR becomes law cannot be overstated. In addition to appointing a dedicated data protection officer, businesses must document what personal data it holds, where it came from, how long it has been held, and how it is shared. In order to achieve this, many companies will need to organise an information audit.

A high proportion of businesses are reliant on multiple systems and spreadsheets to manage their contacts’ personal data. The greater the number of systems in place, the harder it will be to manage an information audit. The use of multiple systems also increases the risk of data breaches.

For example, if a salesperson uses a smartphone on which customer data has been stored and the device is left on a train, this could constitute a breach. Similarly, if a memory stick used by the accounts department containing spreadsheets which includes information about suppliers is lost, this too is an infringement. If the marketing department fail to update a contact record or delete it altogether if an individual requests it is removed, this will also breach the new regulations. The ICO’s website will provide you with many more examples.

To make it easier to manage an audit – and regulate the use of data within an organisation – implementing a single ERP system like Encore to store sensitive information can help mitigate against the risks that come hand-in-hand with using multiple applications, thereby reducing the likelihood of a data infringement occurring.

It’s far easier for management personnel to see and control who in a business has access to data using a single system. Encore, for example, includes data access management functionality that ensures that data users do not have unauthorised access to information that is not relevant to their role. It’s far harder to achieve visibility of who is accessing data if it is stored in multiple repositories on different devices, some of which may well be invisible to a business’ management team.

Put simply, the smaller the number of data sources that a company has in place, the easier GDPR compliance will be.

Managing Consent and “The Right to be Forgotten”

One of the most significant aspect of the new regulations is the issue of consent, and the implications this has as far as marketing is concerned. Businesses will now be required to obtain explicit consent to contact individuals for sales and marketing purposes. Companies must also delete information about a contact as and when requested. The regulations stipulate that it must be as easy for someone to withdraw their consent as it was to grant it. This has been termed “The Right to be Forgotten”.

Consent notices need to be written in plain English and explain exactly how a contact’s details will be used. Notices that rely on contacts to uncheck boxes to agree or disagree with terms and conditions are disallowed, as are agreements which contain easily overlooked small print.

Furthermore, a business must be able to demonstrate – if challenged – that a contact has provided consent to be contacted. Many businesses will need to amend the consent notices that appear on their website and any forms they use for collecting data.

Encore includes dedicated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality for managing contact records and histories, enabling users to maintain an audit-trail of all contact touch points, including email correspondence and details of calls and meetings. Consent notices can be downloaded into the system from a company’s website. Scanned paper forms can be uploaded into Encore and stored within contact records.

Similarly, details of all communications are stored alongside details of the Individuals to whom they have been sent, adding an additional layer of governance and traceability.

Under GDPR, all infringements need to be reported to the ICO within 72 hours of having taken place. By using Encore as the single, central repository for all contact information including consent notices, a company can very rapidly access and provide any information required by the ICO.

Safeguarding Data in a Secure Environment

Hardware is also a factor to consider in terms of working towards GDPR compliance. If a company is still using computer operating systems and server infrastructure that is approaching end of life, there is a high risk that it will become unsupported.

It’s only practical for hardware and software vendors to support current products and support is nearly always withdrawn for older, legacy products. This means vendors cease to issue patches and updates which ensure their technology is secure.

If a software system is hosted on an unsupported server, it is vulnerable to attack. If software and data is compromised as a result, the ICO may well find a company culpable of negligence and impose a fine.

Businesses therefore need to make sure their hardware is fit for purpose and properly supported either by its own in-house IT personnel or third party support providers.
The alternative – which may be more practical and affordable for many smaller businesses – is to migrate to the cloud to ensure that software systems and data are maintained in dedicated data centre which has been professionally accredited and certified. Many software developers – like Anagram Systems – are able to provide secure hosting facilities for their software.

GDPR as a Business Opportunity

Although achieving GDPR compliance may seem onerous, it is actually an opportunity for businesses to rethink the way in which they interact with prospects and customers. As the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) recently put it:

“UK businesses should seize upon GDPR as the catalyst to transform their businesses into human-centric ones. They should use the GDPR framework as the foundation for an authentic and transparent relationship with their customers.”

In many cases, better data governance will also help businesses improve their understanding of their prospects and customers. In this respect, GDPR should be seen as a business opportunity for improving data driven marketing.

The ICO website address is:

Making Tax Digital – a summary

-November 1, 2017

On 13th July 2017, the Government announced Making Tax Digital will commence in April 2019 for VAT purposes for businesses with turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) and will be delayed until at least 2020 for all other businesses.

Under the proposed timetable:

• Only businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold will have to keep digital records, and initially only for VAT purposes from 2019

• Businesses will not be asked to keep digital records, or to update HMRC quarterly for other taxes until at last 2020

This means that businesses and landlords with a turnover below the VAT threshold will be able to choose when to move to the new digital system.

As HMRC already require quarterly returns, no business will need to provide information to them more regularly during this initial phase than they do now.

All businesses and landlords will have at least two years to adapt to the changes before being asked to keep digital records for other taxes.

HMRC has already begun piloting the Making Tax Digital services and will continue to do so, testing the service with a variety of businesses.

HMRC will start to pilot Making Tax Digital for Businesses (MTDfB) for VAT by the end of the year, starting with small-scale, private testing, followed by a wider, live pilot starting in Spring 2018. This will allow for well over a year of testing before any businesses are mandated to use HMRC’s new system.

Making Tax Digital and Encore

As members of the Business Application Software Developers Association (BASDA), we are monitoring all MTD developments closely to ensure that once the service has been rolled out, Encore will enable our customers to submit information to HMRC in the required format.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

The top six signs your business needs ERP software

-September 6, 2017

These days, many small and medium sized businesses use accounting software systems, such as Sage, Xero or Quickbooks. These applications are often used alongside spreadsheets which are used to manage processes outside of the finance department.

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 systems 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.

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.

To help businesses owners identify if they have outgrown their existing software, we’ve written an article called ‘The top six signs that your business needs ERP software.’ Published in Business Computing World, the article is available by clicking on this link.

Timber Trades Journal article – the transformative power of technology

-August 1, 2017

Timber Trades Journal

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.


New Boating Business Article

-June 30, 2017

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:

The top six signs that your business needs ERP software

-June 14, 2017

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.

Newsletter – May 2017

-May 26, 2017

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

Government report reveals that cyberattacks hit half of UK business in 2016

-May 1, 2017

Cloud computing can help improve data security

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.

Newsletter – March 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.

An introduction to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for small businesses

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.