05 Apr 2018

Sell online? Start with data integration from your ERP system

As a retail outlet, you may already sell online to increase the distribution of your products and services to a wider network of customers and to keep ahead of competitors. But does it work effectively with your internal systems. Is it integrated with your ERP system?

Setting up an effective order processing and distribution system in-house that can then integrate with your web store is the most necessary first step before setting up business online or, if you are looking to reimplement your systems. This ensures your ERP system is the foundation for your online store.

This integrated link between the two systems ensures the pricing structure and order calculations modelled specifically to your business can be automatically transferred to your web store environment. Likewise, all relevant ERP integration means that your web store software uses your ERP data as the foundation for your web store information. Likewise, all relevant data entered within your web store environment will automatically appear in you ERP system.

By setting up your web store in this manner it uses your ERP system to execute the required calculations, pricing and orders — all from one source.

The result is streamlined sales processes, an optimised customer experience and a wider access to a global client base.

So before you set up your retail web store, read our ten reasons why you should establish your ERP system first!

1. Get your data from a single source

Operating with a single source of data ensures all areas of your business uses the same information. This ensures accuracy across your entire organisation, as fewer errors can be made in mapping and interpreting information.

Not only does integrated e-commerce use your ERP’s master database, it also actively ensures that newly created records, such as orders, are instantly available at the source. What’s more, it does so without replicating, synchronising or mapping any data. This validation is performed by the same system, which ensures data accuracy.

You can create your web store to sell online with classifications and categorisations defined in your ERP system. This gives you a much more efficient way to build the navigation structure for your online store.

2. Accurate online order processing and improved efficiency

An integrated e-commerce platform minimises mistakes by only processing orders from within the ERP system. Because information from your ERP is available to share online with clients — including their past and recurring orders — you can also expect more repeat sales and increased efficiency.

3. A better customer experience

One of the biggest advantages of deploying the right integrated e-commerce is that your ERP processes the online orders immediately. This is opposed to the delay that would come with scheduled synchronisation in an interfaced system.

Using this synchronisation, your employees will always see what is actually available when they take orders by phone or email. Your customers benefit too: they see real-time inventory availability in the web store and can access the information around the clock without having to call or email.

This is because all your inventory information is stored in your ERP system. This data contains a lot of important business logic that relies on current inventory availability, inventory location, and projection of future inventory levels based on planned production and/or purchase orders.

4. Quickly launch multiple web stores

In our global society, many businesses are keen to sell internationally. An integrated e-commerce and ERP solution makes it possible to roll out multiple web stores based on multiple companies.

For businesses with multiple web stores, whether it’s for localisation purposes or to divide product offerings among multiple storefronts it’s important to be able to easily assign your products to the correct store(s). And, you only need to define your product assignments once, in your ERP system!

5. Add faceted search functionality for even more details filtering

An integrated e-commerce solution makes it possible to retrieve details related to faceted searches and browsing directly from your ERP system.
By setting up your ERP system first, you can select the attributes of the item you’d like to use in your web store, and your clients can search, filter and refine their product results in detail.

6. Tracking and recording Bill of Materials (BOM) / kitting and assembly

Industrial and technical wholesale and manufacturing companies know all about the complexity of composite product structures. These are products that are built from a Bill of Materials (BOM), or through kitting and assembly. These complex products can then be easily broken down into their respective parts in the web store. This lets your clients order individual parts and have them listed as separate line items on their invoice. Make sure your e-commerce software and ERP system can do this TOGETHER!

7. Share product images and information from your ERP in your web store

The biggest advantage of setting up your ERP system first is the ability to fully leverage the data already present in your ERP system and then integrate it into your web store, rather than the other way round.

By setting up your system this way, and then choosing the right web store system, you can display the product images already stored in your ERP in your online catalogue. There’s no need to upload photos to multiple systems, and your web store will always feature the most recent versions of your product images as they appear in your ERP.

Many distribution businesses and wholesalers are starting to look at not just promoting their business online but actually selling their products online too. With an ERP back end system already in place, many e-commerce systems are designed to bolt onto the ERP system and integrate directly into existing processes to quickly provide a front end online store ready to go. Read our blog: Six Benefits of Setting up a B2B e-commerce Store

 

8. Always display inventory availability in real time

It’s essential that you can sell the products offered in your web store as promised. However, keeping your inventory availability current across systems can be complex. With an integrated e-commerce platform, mistakes such as selling out-of-stock items just don’t happen. Inventory levels can then be checked directly from your ERP system during the order process, and inventory levels are updated instantly in your ERP when a client submits an order online.

9. Product export to marketplaces (add-on)

Another benefit of integration is the option to export detailed product information to marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Google. By deploying the right web store solution this will allow product sets to be defined and exported using extensive ERP filtering. Combining product master data from your ERP system with semantic enrichment for improved web descriptions and images results in a powerful combination that helps you publish professional catalogues in large marketplaces.

So set up your ERP system first, and make it easier to sell online, in more than one place!

10. Display product customisations directly in the web store

ERP systems are designed to suit a wide range of businesses and industries. Sometimes, however, it is still necessary to create custom product attributes or user-defined fields to store and process the catalogues for a specific business or industry. Integrated web stores can easily process these custom product characteristics because they share the same product database as your ERP system.

Choosing Dynamics NAV as your ERP system “The Microsoft functionality makes it more straight forward for our website developers working behind the scenes between the website and NAV. It’s like we are all singing from the same hymn sheet!” Mike Hendon, Leisuretec Distribution. Read the full case study

Working with Dynamics NAV ERP system

ERP systems are designed to suit a wide range of business and industries. Dynamics NAV has been specifically designed to support client specific enhancements that work alongside its standard functionality and can be tailored by developers to suit a wide range of requirements and is ideal as the ERP system behind your web store. Development work can cover integration between Dynamics NAV and third party add-ons or modules including e-commerce, and creating sophisticated reporting systems that combines data from several systems linked to Dynamics NAV.

Read our blog on ERP bespoke development for further information.

Your Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system lets you bring together all your product information and business logic. This is an invaluable resource for your sales department – so why not use Dynamics NAV as the driving force behind your online store? Synergy Technology is an accredited Microsoft partner with specialist Dynamics NAV consultants that can develop your ERP system, and advise you of the most suitable e-Commerce solution for your business.

Coupled with Sana e-commerce you will be ready to sell online.

Getting started and sell online

There are many more reasons why you should consider setting up your ERP system first. For further information on Dynamics NAV and Sana e-commerce systems or to receive a detailed whitepaper on e-commerce please contact Synergy Technology

Information provided to help compile this article is kindly supported by our partners Sana Commerce specialists in e-Commerce systems.

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19 Dec 2017

What we love about Dynamics NAV 2018

With the release of Dynamics NAV 2018, Microsoft has focused on the development of the Web client and ease of use as well as smoother back-end work to help benefit developers and programmers.
Synergy Technology’s Dynamics NAV specialist Michael Gibbs identifies some of the highlights of NAV 2018, the latest release from Microsoft, released in December 2018.

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07 Sep 2017

Spread joy with your Christmas email messages not computer viruses

With the Christmas season upon us again, protect your business. Do not click on Christmas messages and links and attachments received by email unless you are totally sure of their source. You may inadvertently download a virus onto your business system. As an extra precaution do not forward or share any received Christmas emails received to your work email address without checking its source. If your organisation does not have an email policy to cover this type of issue, perhaps it’s time to implement one!

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09 Aug 2017

Have you got a feeling that your business is outgrowing its accounts package?

For most businesses, it makes good sense to get started with a standard accounting software. Then, as financial and customer service requirements increase you might need to add plug-ins, add ons and further modules, and at some point seriously consider moving to a more sophisticated extensive business system.

Accounting systems first implemented by SMEs may have been perfect at the time but it is only a matter of time before the signs start to show that your business is outgrowing its system.

If you are finding that your accounts package is no longer providing the functionality to meet with future needs, or not delivering higher levels of reporting and is not incorporating functions required by other departments within your business, it may be time to think about changing systems.

The challenge is in recognising the right time to make the switch and then making the switch to the right system. When you are immersed in day to day operations, it’s easy to ignore the tell tale signs of trouble ahead.

These may include:

  • Unstable systems and slow performance – which greatly affects the efficiency of your team’s performance and overall productivity.
  • Inaccurate cost calculations – time wasted trying to calculate the actual costs of production.
  • Employees manually creating reports – allocating considerable time to reporting.
  • Errors tracking time and equipment – using outdated paper-based systems to manage stock control.
  • Document delays and slow month end – restricted by closed period accounting systems.
  • Cash flow and project profits – with delays between completed consultation timesheets and invoicing.

Download the white paper

Read real life examples and be inspired

The are based on real companies.
Real people, just like you who were having problems because they kept their entry or legacy accounting system a little too long.

As your business grows, you need to build on technology that supports your business model and delivers the levels of service that your customers expect. Just as you planned from the start.

Synergy Technology is an accredited Microsoft partner and delivers a hosted solution of Dynamics NAV on the secure Citadel platform as a perfect solution for businesses that have outgrown their accounting software. InSpiredNAV is suitable for businesses that a looking to move from accounting systems including: SAGE50, QuickBooks, Access Accounts, Pegasus Opera, Sun Systems and Xero and looking for a wider range of business functions all from one secure system with access from anywhere even using mobile devices.

15 Red Flags: Is your accounting software hurting your business? is a white paper produced by Microsoft using real life case studies to see what inspired these companies take the next step. Contact Synergy Technology for further information on 0345 456 0050 or send us your enquiry today.

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15 Apr 2016

Top 10 Technology and IT Trends predicted for 2016

It’s 2016 – a year to celebrate some of our favourite quadrennial events: we get to welcome back the leap year, and cheer on Team GB at the Summer Olympics in Rio. There will be great rejoicing among bean-counters everywhere, as the UN has designated 2016 the International Year of the Pulses. Where we will see the greatest impact and innovation will be at the intersection of the current major waves of technology. 2016 will be all about confluence. Here are Jonathan Woodward’s, (Business Lead – BI & Analytics) top ten technology trends for 2016:

1. We’ll have more networked devices

We, as consumers and business people, continue to accumulate more devices. Ironically enough, a decade ago, the vision was to combine everything (e.g., Blackberry, Palm Pilot, mobile phone & pager) into a single device. And for the most part we did. But now there are multiple “single devices” – many mobile options for how we communicate and work. More than half of information workers report using three or more devices for work, and that number continues to grow. In 2016 this will take the form of cross-category devices: laptops that act like tablets; phones that work like desktops; wearables perform like smart phones, and so on. It’s no wonder that by 2020 the average person can expect to have seven networked devices.

Because of the cloud, our phones, tablets and wearables have access to a vast amount of processing power and information. This raises the questions of how we, as individuals, integrate and work best across all of our devices, and how our organisations manage and integrate these devices to maintain security (a different trend discussed later) and maximise productivity.

2. These networked devices will “see” and do more

It’s not just that we’ll have more things. As computing power gets faster, cheaper and smaller, the existing features in your things will continue to improve, new features will continue to be added. For instance, think about how much better the photos you take with your mobile device today are than the photos you took just three years ago. The capability already exists for immersive 3D holographic experiences with your phone. In 2016 developers will make more devices within this medium, and apps that explore this medium.

While 2015 was the year that smart wearables became mainstream consumer devices, 2016 will be the year that developers fight it out to become dominant players for “share of wrist”. Because more and more of these devices will make their way into the workplace, it’ll also be there year that developers seek to turn wearables into productivity devices. This competition means our wearables will be more powerful with better sensors, monitors, accelerometers and GPS tracking tools to help make our experiences while wearing them more personal and more productive. For instance, your wearable will be able to interpret your heartrate and breathing to let your colleagues know if you’re feeling fatigued or productive, stressed or creative. The challenge will be finding ways, across our things, to utilise even a fraction of the capabilities in our things.

3. Our things will have more things

As it becomes easier (i.e. cheaper, faster, smaller) to add more features to our networked devices, it also becomes easier to add more features to previously unconnected things. It is now economically viable, for instance, for laundry services to add sensors to bedsheets to reduce loss and better anticipate when they need to be replaced. Farmers can now monitor livestock with sensors similar to those in our smartwatches that can diagnose disease or help optimise feed, growth and yield. Assisted living facilities can monitor residents based on a number of sensors in their rooms to determine, for instance, if a resident has had a fall or is a risk of causing a fire. The real value in connecting these things to a network comes from how these things then communicate and coordinate with each other without human intervention.

4. All these things will create a lot of data

Of course, the natural bi-product of a) having more networked devices that do more, and b) creating networked devices from previously unconnected things is data. Loads and loads of data. Expect to see the trend of exponential data growth continue in 2016. Mobile data traffic will continue to keep pace with the 57% CAGR predicted through 2019. And should pass the that’s zettabyte (that’s 1,000,000 terabytes) threshold for global IP traffic by year’s end. For perspective, that’s over 80 times the data created by the sum of all human-created information before the year 2000. By 2020, that’s expected to reach 44 zettabytes – roughly the data storage required to record every word ever spoken by humans throughout history.

But it’s not just about the amount of data we produce, but also in the types we produce as well (new sensors, new or newly-networked devices, new social platforms, etc). We’ll also have to manage the speed with which new data is being produced (and therefore processed) and the speed (some say voracity) with which business decision-makers want to turn that data into insight. And we’re not doing a particularly good job of it. Depending on whom you ask, we’re only able to analyse about 0.5% the data we produce. That percentage goes up a bit if we look at the ability for companies to analyse the data they have – but only up to about 12%. Which brings us to the next prediction for 2016.

5. The skill gap for turning that data into insight and business process will separate winners from losers

The gap between our demand for data (or for insight from data) and the supply of talent that can interpret it isn’t new for 2016. It’s been a high priority among CIOs for at least the past five years, and it’s the reason that Data Scientist has been dubbed the Sexiest Job of the 21st century. It’s also the reason why companies have been willing to shell out loads to find top talent. What’s new for 2016, though, is the impact that early investments in analytics will start to pay off as the use of data becomes a competitive differentiator.

This isn’t just due to the creation of the data scientist role within an organisation, but rather because these individuals have had an opportunity to impact other parts of an organisation helping to turn data sceptics into data evangelists. As data scientists (or power BI users, business analysts or whatever other term you call them) have helped to familiarise other business decision-makers with the benefits of data-driven decision-making, the tools used to interpret data have become easier for non-data scientists to use. These factors, among others, help to create data winners and losers. At the worldwide level, those winners (i.e. leaders) will capture £1.1 trillion more in value from their data and analytics investments over the next few years than the losers (“others”).

6. The winners will be the ones who create the algorithms that turn that data into insight and process

It isn’t enough, though, for this data to drive business decisions. Even the most sophisticated predictive analytics rely on users within an organisation turning that insight into action. The next logical step (and the next big thing for 2016) is to develop proprietary algorithms that allow companies to turn data into autonomous action. Or as senior Gartner researchers describe it “how you do something with data, not just what you do with it.” Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. The machines aren’t rising up.

Rather than Terminator, think of algorithms from Netflix used to serve up movie recommendations, or from The Associated Press used to curate information into articles and reports. But the algorithm economy isn’t just about serving up digital content. The algorithm for Google’s driverless car incorporates data from the physical (internal sensors and systems, readings of physical surroundings, GPS data, etc…) for an incredibly complex autonomous action – driving. Norway’s eSmart system collects a huge volume of data from previously non-networked meters, building sensors and a variety of other sources (a true example of big data). But it’s what it does with that data that sets it apart. Their algorithms enable their automated demand response solution to automatically control power load to buildings or other infrastructure to prevent outages.

7. Machines will understand how we work more

These algorithms aren’t static things, though. As they make their way into more systems, and are programmed to learn more about the data they process, the smarter they become. The better they become at anticipating our needs, as individuals or as organisations. Take Clutter, for instance. This feature in Office 365 utilises machine learning to understand your organisational relationships and prioritise your inbox by importance to you. Microsoft has made the underlying machine learning that enables features like Clutter available to the developer community to create their own machine learning applications to everything from rating one’s Movember moustache to predicting customer churn.

Because of this availability, machine learning applications will take off in 2016 – both in terms of volume and sophistication. Nowhere will that growth be more evident than with the increased importance of virtual personal assistant technology such as Cortana, which will help to curate the many disparate productivity apps we currently use. For instance, machine learning will allow the product marketing manager of a consumer packaged goods company to ask “Why is there a spike for laundry soap in Leeds?” The right machine learning app would be able to understand contextually who within the organisation would be likely to have the answer and help her find the territory manager for West Yorkshire. The app would also be able to evaluate known sales influence models using the context of Leeds, against relevant data sources to try to identify the reason for the spike.

8. Machines will understand our businesses more

The same technology that will enable virtual personal assistants to curate information for individuals’ productivity in 2016, will also power smarter interactions between organisations. As more data is managed in the cloud, it becomes easier for companies to securely share information with each other, and turn that information into action/business processes.

Expect 2016 to be the year we begin to see machine learning applied to massive datasets across organisations. This could be from sectors (e.g. pharmaceuticals and medical research sharing information on human genomic data) or complementary supply chains (e.g., an aeroplane manufacturer applying machine learning in partnership with airlines and parts manufacturers).

9. Each new networked node creates new vulnerabilities

While we’ll see increased data sharing and automation of the way we make sense of our data across industries, we’ll also see increased vulnerabilities. For each new node we add to the cloud – for each previously non-networked device that gets “smart” or for each bit of shared data across organisations, we exponentially increase the risk to the overall network. In 2016, expect to see successful companies refining their data security strategy to account for these threats. Interestingly enough, a few of the previously mentioned trends – machine learning and advanced algorithms – will be key to maintain security.

10. I will be wrong:

Granted, the above is a fairly predictable set of predictions. The four big mega-trends of the past few years (IoT, Big Data, Machine Learning and Cyber Security) will continue to drive the majority of the technology discussion, I’m almost certain that there will be a breakthrough trend in 2016 that isn’t discussed above. Adoption of a nascent technology will be faster or the big strides expected within the above trends won’t materialise as expected. For instance, interactive headsets such as HoloLens or Oculus Rift might gain widespread adoption through a major commercial breakthrough. Conversely, the dearth of data scientists may limit the degree to which the algorithm economy takes hold.

Are you ready for 2016?

However these big trends shake out in 2016, though, the one strand that runs through all of them is data. How prepared are you make the most of your data? Have you thought through all the sources of data your organisation will come in contact with? Do you have the right people and systems in place to take advantage of the algorithm economy and machine learning? Have you thought through the security and vulnerabilities around your data? Synergy Technology can help you determine the ideal complete business solution for your company, call us today on 0845 456 0050.

Article from Microsoft: Authored by Jonathan Woodward,
Business Lead – BI & Analytics on January, 2016
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