How to Select an ERP System – Part 3 – Implementation Costs

In parts 1 and 2 of the series, we looked at the selection process and ballpark costs. In this 3rd part, I’d like to consider implementation issues and, in particular, how the user can contribute to the process and save costs.

There are some basics which are often forgotten.

First, make sure that the project team is representative of the business users. Too often the MD says “This is how we do things here” only to find later in the project that the users at the sharp end have a wholly different way of processing data.

Second, customers tend to be over optimistic about how much time and effort they can put into the project. Take a good look at things like holidays, other projects, is this the busiest time of the year… and so forth.

BUT, remember that you don’t have to wait to the start of your financial year to go live on the system. If anything, that’s a terrible time because there is so much else going on. Pick a quiet (or the quietest) time.

AND, if you have taken more time than you expected to reach that crucial decision on which system to implement, be flexible about you ‘go live’ date. It would seem obvious to all that you have less time but it’s amazing how many businesses are determined to stick to that original date.

Third, it’s YOUR project and not the supplier’s. I have blogged elsewhere about suppliers who hijack the ownership of the project, move the goalposts and end up costing you more. Stay in control and ensure any changes are your changes. This does mean that you need to stay 100% involved and don’t allow the supplier to dictate the project direction.

What will implementation cost?

As a rule of sum, expect to spend the same amount of money on the implementation as you spend on the software. But you can save money in a number of ways.

Don’t be precious about some of the requirements. Always consider the cost-benefit. Is it really that important? Most suppliers will say something can be done but a good supplier will point out the cost and question whether it’s justified.

If you have a lot of staff, consider ‘train the trainer’ as the way forward for training users i.e. a select group of staff are trained, and then pass on that training to the majority. We had one customer recently where a very large number of users were given training by viewing a webinar recording of the training. This also means that new users can be pointed to this as part of their induction.

Take responsibility for data cutover and reconciliation. We provide our customers with spreadsheets formatted with the appropriate columns for customers, suppliers, open invoices and so forth. It’s always a great way to ‘cleanse’ your data as well. Compare deleting an old customer from a row in a spreadsheet with deleting the record in an accounting system. The latter can be time-consuming or even impossible in many systems.

Reconciling financials, customer and supplier balances by checking the trial balance on both systems and comparing aged debtor and creditor reports will save cost and ensure comfort that everything is as it should be.

NAV2013 – What’s New in Reporting?

I’m grateful to Mike Glue at JustFood ERP who put together a handy summary of what’s available in NAV2013 so far as reporting is concerned. There are changes from the ‘classic’ environment but partners and users shouldn’t be too worried. Microsoft NAV 2013 will have hundreds of reports available out of the box.

Here are some common questions and answers.

Are There Any Built-In Reports?

Yes. There are built-in “native” reports that can be modified as required. These reports can be manually printed and/or be utilized within business logic. The types of reports included:

  • Documents (invoice, pick sheet, cheques, etc.)
  • Analysis (sales by customer, inventory valuation, trial balance, etc.) reports
  • Processing report – one that provides functionality but is not necessarily printable.

Is the report structure different?

No, it is unchanged. A typical report requires two pieces to be developed:

  • The data model – where you define the tables, fields, and business logic required for getting the data out of the database for the report to use.
  • The layout – responsible for the visual display that the report shows on screen/paper. (Processing reports do not require the layout piece to be developed as there is no visual output.)

Do I need to choose Classic or Role Tailored Client (RTC) report layout?

No. The Classic Client has been removed with NAV 2013, so when developing the layout for a report in NAV 2013, the only option is to create a Role Tailored Client (RTC) layout.

Is Visual Studio used to develop a report?

Yes. Visual Studio 2010 is required in order to create the layout for a report in NAV 2013. You can use the free version of Visual Studio 2010, but you must use the web developer edition (Visual Web Developer 2010 Express). Visual Studio 2010 is the only version supported currently by NAV 2013.

I’ve been creating RTC reports for a while; is there anything new for me to learn?

Yes. While the data model is still defined in the Object Designer, the way that data model is defined has been completely changed. The interface for defining the tables and fields that the report will use is an all new structure. From my own observations, though, it appears that the learning curve is not too steep for someone already familiar with building reports in Microsoft NAV.

Can I upgrade all of my existing reports to the new reports?

Maybe. If your existing reports were created with a RTC layout, then there is an upgrade process that can be performed on the report to upgrade the data model and layout to the new platform. Due to changes in the Visual Studio version, however, you may be required to perform minimal cosmetic changes to the layout after upgrade. If your existing reports were created with only a Classic layout, then the data model can be upgraded; however, the layout cannot be upgraded, and that must be further developed on the NAV 2013 platform.

What do the reporting changes mean to me as a TURNKEY customer?

Hundreds of out-of-the-box reports are still available in Microsoft NAV 2013. Although some new knowledge will need to be learned, any of these native reports can be customised as desired, just as they have been in the past. For customers who are upgrading from a previous version, you’ll need to investigate to determine the process required for moving any custom reports to NAV 2013. A certain amount of development work will be required to upgrade reports to NAV 2013.

Once again, thanks to Mike for his succinct summary!

Turnkey at Business Growth Show – Edinburgh Feb 23rd – tips and tricks for advisers

Our business software team will be attending and presenting at the Business Growth Show in Edinburgh on the 23rd February. The event is being held at the King James Thistle Hotel, at the east end of Princes Street, from 9am to 3pm. This presents a great opportunity to meet some of the people from Turnkey.

Importantly, if you’re a business adviser involved in assisting clients to computerise their business – whether for the first time or as part of an upgrade process – it’s also a chance to hear how working closely with a trusted supplier can actually help!

We’ve produced a useful guide for business advisers which takes you into the world of the supplier and explains some of the good, and not so good, practices you might encounter when seeking a new system.

So, rather than bore everyone to death about how great we are, we thought we’d use the occasion to talk about some of the things to look out for when choosing your new software and/or supplier.

The guide is free to independent consultants – just come along to the seminar. Or you can contact us directly using info@turnkey-bs.com for a copy of the guide.