Cloud ERP system | Saas ERP for order and inventory management: a buyer's guide
Cloud ERP system and Saas ERP are both hosted in the cloud. A Cloud ERP system has two options, self or vendor-hosted. Saas ERP means a cloud ERP system offered as a subscription service.
How to efficiently evaluate, buy and implement a Saas ERP for order and inventory management.
Cloud ERP system | Saas ERP guide: Who's it for, whats it for, and what's in it for you?
Choosing a Cloud ERP system | Saas ERP specifically for order and inventory management is time consuming and difficult.
You want to make the right choice, get your Cloud ERP solution implemented, and move forward with a better way of working.
If you’re looking for:
- A stress-free, painless, and short implementation.
- Immediate benefits in ALL of your key business functions.
- Worry-free ongoing operation.
- A system that adapts quickly and easily to allow you to make adjustments large and small which continually improve and fine-tune your operations.
This guide is for you.
It’s a necessity, and honestly should be not too much to ask of ERP software for wholesalers | distributors in the 21st century.
I’ve time and time again seen the pain of choosing, implementing, and operating a traditional or cloud ERP system for order and inventory management.
I came to the realization of the need for an easy to read, overarching, and comprehensive guide which could be used by folks who own or work in wholesaler or distributor to achieve the above outcome.
The goal of this guide is to help you time efficiently:
- Get an overall view of a Saas ERP, and review all of its core parts/functions.
- Drill down to details and check the features of each function.
- Watch a short video of how each function, feature works in concert in your workflows.
- Learn enough to use the cloud ERP system to try out any feature or task.
- Set up the application to match and model your key workflows.
- Create a vision for your cloud ERP solution.
- Craft a ‘blueprint’ for implementation/data migration.
- Set up your cloud ERP software for live operation.
- Engage and get your users comfortable with the new system.
- Develop a better culture for using information.
- Go live.
- Adapt and fine-tune your cloud ERP to support continuous improvement.
I offer no apologies for this being a BIG document. You’re making a BIG decision which I know will result in a better way of working.
What’s in here is my presentation of the knowledge and answers I’ve curated from years of experience of working with folks like you.
The lessons of failure and success are all here to help you.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with email@example.com or use the Contact us page to get a personal appointment. We want to help, whatever the question.
If you feel something has not been included, or should be excluded, then please please let me know. I promise you I’m genuinely interested.
If you are just starting out, my purpose is to make it as simple and as straightforward as possible to get the knowledge you need to make an important decision which will transform the way in which you record and use the information to run your business.
If you are at any point in the journey, you can quickly dive into this document to get your bearings or the knowledge or advice you need to solve problems or move you forward on the right course.
One more thing, continuous improvement is a necessity of life. This guide will continually change. We can only make it better for you with your input.
Everything matters, from typos and grammar to difficult to understand or perform stuff. I honestly do care about making things better.
So please don’t hold back or spare my feelings. Give me your feedback and questions. My team and I will make every effort to respond and adapt.
Thank you for coming here, reading my stuff and I wish you well.
Let’s do it!
Founder and CEO
Cloud ERP | Saas ERP for order and inventory management
Part 1 - Overview
It's all about SKU tracking and management
The key purpose of cloud based ERP software for order and inventory management is to join up, manage and track the lifecycle or journey of a SKU and its financial outcomes.
Sales, Purchasing, Warehouse and Accounting transactions are the vehicles that progress the SKU from source to its final destination and conversions from and to cash. e.g. Purchase Order to Purchase Invoice, Sales Order to Shipment, Sales Order to sales Invoice, etc.
The order to cash journey for a SKU can be logically divided into three joined up stages:
A cloud ERP system is a transaction processing system. It allows users to create, store, and manipulate transactions.
A cloud ERP system sits on top of one database from which users can pull reports.
For this genre of cloud ERP software for distributors | wholesalers, competent native or practical integration with Ecommerce is mandatory.
Similarly, real time access for buyers to product (SKU) information, especially product availability should be a given.
The key features a Saas ERP for order and inventory management should have
Shameless plug, I’m going to use the Salesorder.com Saas ERP, order and inventory management platform as the example. Right here, right now, I’m just providing a check list of features.
Once you have an overall and top level view, in Chapter 3 I’ll drill down through detail of each function. In Chapter 4 I’ll show you how functions work in concert as the foundations of your workflows.
10 things you must check before you go to far
I hope you’ve now got a ‘big picture’ understanding, together with a list of features and functions. As I said we’ll get into more detail on each function in Chapter 4, and how they work together in Chapter 5.
But before I go any further, I want to share with you some more things I think should definitely be in your choice of Saas ERP to streamline wholesaler or distributor operations.
If you overlook ANY of these, there is a very high probability they will eventually turn into showstopping and probably quite costly gotchas.
It's one system right?
It’s such an obvious question, I nearly didn’t include this one. Consider the entire journey of a SKU you keep in stock from say quote to cash (sales, fulfillment, accounting;-).
- The SKU is purchased using a Purchase Order.
- The Purchase Order containing the SKU is received and put away in the Warehouse.
- The Accounting (general ledger) is updated by the Item Receipt.
- The SKU is inherited from the Sales Quote by the Sales Order.
- Stock of the SKU is allocated to the Shipment.
- The Shipment is picked, packed, and shipped to the Customer.
- A Sales Invoice is sent to the Customer.
- The Supplier sends the Purchase Invoice.
- The Customer pays the Sales Invoice.
- The Supplier Invoice is paid.
Ten steps, approximately thirteen transactions all of which are related. In the above diagrams, the colors:
- Red = Sales transactions.
- Orange = Fulfillment transactions.
- Green = Accounting transactions.
If you want to streamline and accelerate this workflow and reliably track every stage, one system that joins up sales, fulfillment, and accounting makes it easier than doing it in a software Frankenstein from multiple vendors.
If you want one reliable truth (in one database) about the SKU journey, so as everyone in sales, order management, the warehouse, purchasing, and accounting has accurate and real-time visibility, you need one system right?
A cloud-based ERP for order and inventory management must have all of the parts, and they must be joined up and perform in concert. And they ALL must be working on the same database.You simply cannot reliably scale or adapt without this.
Make sure you check the entire feature list of any cloud ERP solution or Saas ERP you evaluate.
Cloud ERP vendors have a sneaky habit of relying upon third party software vendors for vital components of an order and inventory management system. This is a ticking time bomb for data integrity.
The best example is the most obvious component, is Accounting. The most common problem prospects approach us with is “Quickbooks has become unsafe, we have database capacity and integrity issues”.
The cause is the sheer size of the ‘Company file’. How big is your’s? If it’s over 1 Gb, then you should consider an exit plan.
Avoid integration with accounting software
If the cloud ‘ERP’ vendor’s solution does not include accounting, in other words they’re recommending you stay with or purchase QuickBooks then steer well clear, regardless of how seductive the demo or price tag.
An order and inventory management system ‘integrated’ with Quickbooks or any other accounting software e.g. Xero, Intacct means you will inevitably suffer from issues caused by data duplication.
Avoid ‘add on’ third party warehouse management software
If the warehouse is not included, then tread extra carefully and exercise extreme due diligence. The add on warehouse management system will have its own database.
Stock is money, errors caused by data duplication or synchronization will lose you time and cash.
…one more thing related to accounting (data migration)
Don’t let the prospect of moving your data from one accounting platform to another hold you back, it’s actually very straightforward. I’ll cover this in Chapter 5.
Connectivity to customers and suppliers?
All software, especially ERP is connected (eventually). Network connectivity collapses time, it makes things happen faster and more efficiently 24/7 365 days a year.
For this reason, your Customers expect to be able to connect with you online, and you expect to connect to your suppliers.
Connectivity comes in many formats, the key ones you need now (or will do if you grow) are:
- B2B ecommerce
- Shipping vendor ‘proxies’
- B2C ecommerce marketplaces i.e.Amazon Fulfillment,
- B2C Shopping carts i.e. Shopify
Customers prefer online, they just do (note 1). It’s ingrained in our culture. Customers want the quickest and easiest route to finding information or making a purchase.
However, the majority of customers won’t ask you if they can buy from you online. They’ll just silently go elsewhere. This is a hard fact, we all do it eventually. The Internet is an ocean of choices.
You need a cloud ERP system with out of the box B2B ecommerce ‘connectivity’.
Note 1: OK there are a few that don’t. But they are a diminishing minority. What are they worth to you? How much does it actually cost to stick with them? How much would you lose or gain if they went away?
B2B ecommerce is in a phase of rapid adoption. Now vendors like Shopify, Big Commerce, Magento who historically focused on B2C ecommerce shopping carts have B2B ecommerce solutions.
These follow in the footprints of SAP Hybris and Salesforce ‘Commerce Cloud’ (formerly Demandware).
So it follows that ERP software which is the ‘back end’ transaction processor must have B2B ecommerce capabilities.
But wait, again there are perils here. Integrating your cloud based, or on-premise ERP with third party B2B ecommerce software will mean two databases.
There is no way around this. If you choose this route, you are inviting Frankenstein software back into your business. It will not scale, it might do for a while but eventually, it will become a show-stopping, costly impediment.
Two databases mean data duplication, enough said.
You absolutely must choose a cloud ERP system | Saas ERP with native B2B ecommerce. ‘Native’ means it’s built into the software.
This is a CRITICAL point. You are buying a cloud based ERP to futureproof your business. There’s a high probability you’ll not change your cloud ERP solution for at minimum five years.
Online shopping B2C or B2B is de facto, it’s not going away. Even if you are resisting it now, or you cannot imagine it will ever fit into your business model, if you are in wholesale or distribution you will eventually need B2B ecommerce capabilities.
Check the Saas ERP | Cloud ERP system you’re evaluating has built-in B2B ecommerce capabilities. And check it can be easily customized, not just at the front (web page) end, but at the back end as well.
EDI is mandatory if you serve customers who are large retailers or in some cases marketplaces. Also if you intend to scale your fulfillment operations by partnering with 3PLs – third party logistics providers, the chances are for efficient service they’ll ask you to connect to them using EDI.
Electronic Data Interchange. Enables software applications typically ERPs to exchange standard business documents such as purchase orders, invoices, inventory levels, and shipping notices.
EDI endpoints, specifically customer or supplier ERP systems are referred to as ‘trading partners’
EDI documents are identified by three digits. The most common EDI documents are:
- 850: Purchase Order – sent by a customer, to auto-create a Sales Order in your Saas ERP.
- 855: Purchase Order Acknowledgement – confirmation from your cloud ERP to your customer.
- 856: Advance Ship Notice – confirmation you have shipped your customer’s purchase order.
- 810: Sales Invoice – presents your invoice to your customer.
- 846: Inventory Advice – tells your 3PL about stock levels and changes.
- 940: Warehouse Shipping Order – tells your 3PL to ship a Sales Order.
- 945: Warehouse Shipping Advice – your 3PL tells you they have shipped your Sales Order.
There are two types of EDI connections:
- via an EDI gateway provider i.e. SPS Commerce.
- via a virtual private network owned by you or your trading partner.
If you intend to or are already scaling you will need ‘out of the box’ EDI functionality in your Saas ERP | cloud ERP system. Go check!
API, an Application Programmers Interface enables software developers to connect one to one, or one to many software applications together to allow them to communicate and exchange data and transactions.
The fastest way to check if the Saas ERP has an API is to search the cloud ERP vendor’s website for a link to ‘API’ or ‘Developer’ documentation.
APIs come in different formats. The most popular and useful is REST. REST is an abbreviation for “Representational State Transfer”. REST harnesses the flexibility of HTTP requests.
REST is a set of rules that developers follow when they create their API. One of these rules states that you should be able to get a piece of data (called a resource) when you link to a specific URL.
Your web browser sends an HTTP request every time you access any web page, hence the syntax http://www.salesorder.com, which you’ll often see in your browser’s address bar, or at the foot of your browser when you hit the Return key after typing in or going to a web page.
An API is mandatory, believe me, it just is. I’m sure whatever cloud ERP system or Saas ERP software you’ve looked at, or are considering has got an API.
Go check. If it has not, then avoid.
Shipping Carrier Software 'proxies'?
These are a must-have (obviously).
There are a multitude of shipping vendor ‘proxies’. By proxy I mean a software application, cloud based or on-premise which provides one to many connections between your Saas ERP and a crowd of shipping vendors ie. UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.
These shipping integration solutions enable you at a minimum to:
- send requests for shipping rates based upon weight or cubic volume.
- order shipping i.e. UPS Ground.
- receive tracking numbers.
- print shipping labels.
If you are using your customer’s shipping vendor accounts to charge shipments you need to check the shipping software supports this.
Many customers I’ve worked with have overlooked this. For example, Easypost Shipping API supports this, whereas Shipstation does not.
This one small oversight can cost you time in a busy warehouse.
Shipping is expensive, customers and you don’t like paying for it. In order to save costs, you should look hard at each solution.
For example, does the shipping software support with carriere who provide:
- Zone skipping?
- LTL (less than a truckload)?
Zone skipping is a method used by shipping couriers to offer customers lower costs. Shipping carriers consolidate many individual packages or orders into a single shipment to a distribution center.
Shipping carriers assign rates, in part, based on distance and how many “zones” a package travels through.
With zone skipping, packages enter the carrier’s system in the final delivery zone, avoiding the high cost of multi-zone moves.
LTL is often cheaper than ‘big-brand’ shipping carriers however, the number of LTL proxies is much less than those which support the bigger carriers.
For solutions that provide Zone skipping and LTL support, explore shipping software vendors like TechShip from Techdinamics.
You should check the list of carriers supported by the shipping software, as it’s often the case they’ll support many but not all of your preferred carriers.
Check your Saas ERP has connectivity to shipping software.
SKU tracking? Lots, Batches, Serial numbers
Depending upon your business model and what you sell, your choice of a cloud ERP system must be able to provide stakeholders with the appropriate level of visibility of aspects of a SKU profile and status. For example, if you track Lots, Batches, or SKUs with serial numbers.
If you need to track any aspect of a SKU beyond quantitative values, such as Free, On Hand, Back Order stock movements, or sales and costs performance indicators, you’ll need SKU instance tracking.
SKU instance tracking means having the ability to track each stock item at an individual level.
For example, a forklift truck might have a model / SKU code, but will probably have aspects you need to track like warranty, service record, when it was purchased, or who it was sold to.
If you require this type of SKU tracking method then the minimum functionality (data model) you should seek out in your choices of cloud based ERP is the system should give you visibility of the transactions relating to an individual SKU, specifically the directly related Purchase and Sales Orders.
Ideally, the data model of an instance should be extensible, so as you can add custom values (fields) for specific SKU tracking.
Check how the Cloud ERP system tracks SKUs i.e. Lots
If you use any type of computing, you’ll be aware of relentless updates and new versions of the software or hardware. I believe business is no different, you need a steady stream of ‘revisions’ to improve and grow your business.
A cloud ERP system by its very nature is the business core information ecosystem. More information leads to more knowledge.
More knowledge leads to more actionable insights. Actionable insights mean changes to processes, which in turn mean changes to your cloud ERP software.
This Kaizen or continuous improvement is essential to a healthy and growing business.
Implementing a core information system that constrains you from adapting your business because it’s too expensive or simply cannot be done is like going to a gunfight armed with a stick.
Choose a Cloud ERP system that is both customizable and can be done quickly and at a low cost.
Ask the vendor to show you examples of customization, including costs and timescales.
As a minimum you should see:
- DIY customization: Users with the right permissions can add fields to to the system. These fields should be immediately visible in the Lists and Reports. Fields can be connected. See the video below for a better understanding.
- Scripting and Plugin scripts: The vendor or their partners have access to a scripting programming language. This development environment can be used to develop add on functionality e.g. automatons.
DIY customization demo
Ease of use, low learning curve?
If you’ve seen or explored first hand the user interface or documentation for ERP software of any type, you’ll confirm they are intimidating.
It’s critical you focus on the user experience. It’s a high probability you’re intent on buying a cloud based ERP because you realize you need one system to scale and manage growth. As you grow you’ll add more human resources.
To contribute and be effective, your new team members will need to learn and use your core system. The faster they can do this the better.
An easy to use cloud ERP system gives you a strategic advantage in as much as you can hire talent with no prior experience of a specific technology.
This flexibility is really advantageous in situations where your business goes through peaks and troughs where you need an interim headcount.
There are multiple, and arguably critical advantages of selecting an easy to use cloud based ERP software. Tread very carefully here.
Spend 15 minutes maximum getting familiar. If it feels hard, then it is hard and is going to be a hard journey for your team.
Mission critical support?
Your cloud ERP system is mission critical right? Your entire source of business information and your ability to transact is on your ERP.
It goes without saying it has to be reliable and secure. But what about the values and behavior of the solution vendor’s people?
Does your cloud ERP vendor have the words ‘mission critical’ in its content or vocabulary?
Don’t be wrong-footed here, this doesn’t just mean the response from the cloud ERP vendor’s support team is rapid and always on. It means much, much more than this.
You’re choosing a cloud ERP system and going on possibly a five to ten-year journey with the vendor.
From 15 years of experience, I know a cultural fit and mutual understanding are paramount. You need each other, and therefore have to really get to know one another. After all the technology is connecting the two organizations.
Mission critical support to me means, the cloud ERP vendor really understands your business, what it does, how it works, and who does what.
This can only translate into a different type of support to what you might have experienced with other software.
When you have an issue or a question, you need to be able to connect with someone you know, and who has a good working knowledge of how you work.
When you’re in a crisis, you don’t need delays or misunderstandings due to the support team not being educated, or in possession of the right context.
The bottom line here, ask the vendor about how they retain an understanding of your business, and obviously, look for the words ‘mission critical’ or a semantic thereof in the cloud ERP vendor’s vocabulary.
Get to know your cloud ERP system | Saas ERP vendor’s support team.
Elasticity means the vendor can deliver sufficient computing power and storage beyond your current and normal day to day requirements. Your cloud ERP system runs on one database. Over time this database will gradually fill with stored transactions.
The bigger the store, the longer it’s going to take to run reports. Equally, if you’re in the ecommerce business and you run remarkable promotions, then your ecommerce channels ingesting volume spikes of orders into your fulfillment process can place significant demands on the hosting infrastructure.
If the hosting infrastructure is not elastic, response times will rapidly decrease and every one of your users will be affected. Not the sort of situation you want to find yourself in when a great opportunity to make money is in play.
Ask your cloud ERP system | Saas ERP vendor about elasticity.
Cloud ERP system | Saas ERP for order and inventory management
Part 2 - Functions
The Salesorder.com cloud ERP system has a native b2b self-service portal. This Trade Acceleration Portal or TAP is fully customizable.
Native means part of the architecture and therefore needs no integration.
The objective of the TAP is to enable wholesalers | distributors to deliver a frictionless and remarkable customer experience.
Wholesalers | distributors can deploy multiple TAPs to:
- serve the needs of individual or groups of customers.
- serve the needs of Sales agents (commission-only salespeople not directly employed).
There is no restriction on the number of TAPs that can be deployed.
- Can be adapted to manage Suppliers.
- Web pages can be incorporated into existing websites.
- Is responsive, it will work on Tablets and Smartphones.
- Is secure and provides 24/7 access.
TAP customer features:
- Role management: TAP ‘administrators’ can configure TAP roles to enable users to set up permissions e.g. Approve a Purchase Order.
- Real-time product catalog: Media rich product information eg images, datasheets, video presentations.
- Real-time SKU status and availability: Stock levels by location, backorder, and replenishment purchase order status & ETAs.
- Customer-specific pricing: the customer only SKU pricing and products specific to them.
- Order capture: Customers can create and submit Sales Orders and include Purchase Order references and attach PDF copies.
- Order status: Customers can track the entire order lifecycle e.g. approval, allocation, pick, pack, ship, including tracking information.
- Review Sales Invoices: Present Sales Invoices for review and payment.
- Customer statements: See Accounts Receivable transaction history.
- Make payments: Customers can pay by card or ACH.
TAP Sales Agent features: The TAP can be configured to enable Sales Agents/Dealers to log in, list their assigned customers. This gives Sales Agents/Dealers:
- Real-time product catalog: Media-rich product information eg images, datasheets, video presentations.
- Real-time SKU status and availability: Stock levels by location, back order, and replenishment purchase order status & ETAs.
- Customer-specific pricing: the customer only SKU pricing and products specific to them.
- Order capture: Sales Agents can create and submit Sales Orders and include Purchase Order references and attach PDF copies.
- Order status: Sales Agents can track the entire order lifecycle e.g. approval, allocation, pick, pack, ship, including tracking information.
- Track Commissions: the TAP can be adapted to calculate and display commission value on Sales Order entry.
The Salesorder.com cloud-based ERP contains a comprehensive ecommerce order management solution.
These shopping carts (ecommerce endpoints) can be connected:
- Magento 2.0
- Amazon Seller
- Amazon FBA
The purpose of the solution is to enable third-party shopping carts to transmit their incoming customer orders into the order management solution (OMS) within Salesorder. Orders arrive in the OMS with a status of ‘Pending’.
Where appropriate the OMS can send a signal back to the shopping cart to change the status of the cart order e.g. ‘processing’ to ‘completed’.
Where required Stock levels can be sent from Salesorder to the shopping cart.
If the shopping cart is connected to a payment gateway or processor, specifically Authorize.net, Paypal, or Cybersource, and uses a two-stage payment process e.g. ‘authorize’, ‘capture’ payments, Salesorder can signal the card processor to capture payment.
Sales tax can be imported on Sales Orders, and recorded in Salesorder.com’s General Ledger.
Whatever online and offline Sales Channels you adopt, at the heart of your sales operations you need comprehensive customer relationship management to allow you to track and manage your customer’s experience.
A customer experience is a feeling. You customers need to feel confident in your ability to solve their problems and deliver their orders. Rich, real-time information about every interaction and transaction should be at the fingertips of everyone involved in the sales to cash process.
The Salesorder.com CRM for wholesale distributors has a comprehensive box of tools to enable you to deliver and improve your customer’s experience.
All of the functions below are built into the cloud ERP system’s CRM:
A walkthrough of the salesorder.com Saas ERP CRM for wholesale distributors. You can track every interaction and transaction.
Connect and use your Gmail, Outlook, etc. Send and review email from the Customer master. View and send email by Contact.
EDI is mandatory if you serve customers who are large retailers or in some cases marketplaces.
Also if you intend to scale your fulfillment operations by partnering with 3PLs – third-party logistics providers, the chances are for efficient service they’ll ask you to connect to them using EDI.
Electronic Data Interchange. Enables software applications typically ERPs to exchange standard business documents such as purchase orders, invoices, inventory levels, and shipping notices.
This automation removes the need for manual order entry.
Consider this example:
In a customer-supplier relationship, the customer ERP mimics the real-world dialogue and sends the purchase order to the supplier ERP.
The supplier ERP receives and transforms the Purchase Order to a Sales Order. When this is complete, and the customer’s order has been shipped, the supplier system sends back a notification to the customer.
The supplier ERP sends their Sales Invoice to the customer, this is transformed into a Purchase Invoice in the customer ERP.
The transmission of these EDI documents between trading partners (EDI endpoints) is carried over a private network.
These networks are either operated by EDI gateway providers i.e. SPS Commerce, TrueCommerce, B2b Gateway, etc. or by large logistics operators i.e. DSV.
EDI gateway providers transform the Documents in the exchange to a ‘standardized format’ per endpoint.
The advantage of this to users is once this ‘trading partner specific’ and the standard document is produced, it takes very little time to connect to another trading partner already in the same network.
EDI documents are identified by three digits. The most common EDI documents are:
- 850 Purchase Order: sent by a customer, to auto-create a Sales Order in your ERP
- 855 Purchase Order Acknowledgement: confirmation from your ERP to your customer you
- 856 Advance Ship Notice: confirmation you have shipped your customer’s purchase order.
- 810 Sales Invoice: presents your invoice to your customer
- 846 Inventory Advice: tells your 3PL about stock levels and changes
- 940 Warehouse Shipping Order: tells your 3PL to ship a Sales Order
- 945 Warehouse Shipping Advice: your 3PL tells you they have shipped your Sales Order.
For users wishing to sidestep the big name EDI gateways, the Salesorder.com cloud ERP system has integration with EDI2XML.
Adaptable Price Lists
Wholesalers, Distributors, and anyone trading B2b need to be able to adapt their pricing.
The Salesorder.com Saas ERP enables wholesalers to preset custom pricing on the customer master. This pricing is automatically inherited on Sales Documents.
Similarly, Salesorder users can preset custom input costs, for example on a supplier catalog., on the respective Supplier master.
Salesorder’s adaptable Price Lists enable you to specify:
- Price Lists for ‘trading partners’ i.e. Customers, Suppliers, or both.
- Price Lists for any given Currency.
- ‘Global’ price discounts i.e. 10% off every Item.
- Global and Item specific quantity discounts.
- Pricing formulas based upon Item, Classification, Customer, etc.
There are multiple considerations when you specify a Price List:
Which Currency are the Prices?
Where will it be applied?
On Sales or Purchasing Documents, or both?
How will it be presented on Documents?
Is the normal unit price is displayed as a reduced figure?
Is the discount value i.e. -10% is displayed in a column on the same row as the discounted Item?
Which parameters(s) trigger its application?
- Specific Item
- Specific Item Category
- Specific Item Class
- Specific Customer or Supplier
- Specific Customer or Supplier Class
- Qty of Items quoted or Ordered
What calculation is applied?
For example 10% off all Items for this Customer, 30% off if the quantity of this Item exceeds 1000.
Leads turn into Prospects. Prospects convert to Customers. Prospects mean Sales Opportunities. Sales Opportunities convert to Sales Orders.
To make sure Sales Opportunities are prioritized so they get the right focus, and if they result in Sales there is sufficient inventory, it’s essential a cloud ERP system has Sales Forecasting, as well as Lead and Prospect management tools.
The Salesorder.com Saas ERP has a comprehensive set of functions that enable Sales teams to manage and track Sales Funnel activities. These are:
- Lead capture
- Prospect Capture
- Sales Opportunities
- Sale Forecasts
Lead capture: Leads can be captured by users, from a web page or imported via an upload template. The Lead list enables users to sort and prioritize Leads by properties such as ‘Rating or Score’, Source, Campaign, as well as geographical data.
Like all other trading partner and transaction screens in Salesorder, users can add custom fields that can be inherited by Prospect masters when the Lead is converted.
Prospect capture: Leads can be converted into Prospects, or if appropriate Prospect masters can be created. Sales users can create and email Sales Quotes from the Prospect master.
Sales Opportunities: Sales users can create Sales Opportunities from Prospect masters. Sales Opportunities enable Salespeople to:
- Record opportunity detail and value at the Line Item
- (SKU) level.
- Set the probability and weighting (see below).
- Submit their forecast ‘up the line’.
- Track their progress against a period target
Opportunity Stages apply the weighting to the entire Sales Opportunity.
Opportunity stages represent the sales funnel stages and their respective probability. The basic idea is, as an opportunity progresses through a series of stages its probability of converting to a sale increases by a percentage.
For example, a stage describing the prospect as being ‘engaged’, meaning they are actively seeking information and repetitively asking for your attention might indicate a probability of 50%, therefore the deal is weighted at 50%, and the deal value is forecast at 50% of its total value.
Sales Forecasts: Sales opportunities appear in Sales forecasts. Sales forecasts can be constituted at the individual, team, or company level. The Salesorder Saas ERP enables Sales Forecasting users to create, track, and ‘commit’ Sales Forecasts.
Sales Forecasts are linked to the main Cash Flow Forecast tools. The Cash Flow forecasts provide a summary and timing of cash movements in and out of the general ledger.
Users can drill down on cash flow balances to the transaction level and review contributing documents i.e. Sales Opportunities.
Saas ERP for inventory and order management should as a minimum be able to underpin and manage these common order delivery methods:
- Sell from stock
- Just in Time
- Cross Dock
- Build to Order
The Salesorder.com cloud ERP system supports and provides levels of automation for all of the above order processing methods. These methods can be used together.
Sell from stock
Depending upon the number of SKU lines and the volume of stock you keep on hand, Salesorder.com has two options for SKU management:
Without the warehouse management system: This simple option relies on your stockroom being small and your team knowing where stock is kept. This option enables users to pick, pack, and ship SKUs from the main UI of the Salesorder Saas ERP.
Pick, pack and ship without a Warehouse management system
With the warehouse management system: This option is for traditional warehouse operations. Salesorder.com has a built in warehouse management system (WMS).
At no extra cost and with no integration you can deploy as many WMS as you need to model your physical or even virtual warehouses. A virtual warehouse might be your Amazon FBA stockroom, or a Container in transit.
When selling from stock the Salesorder.com cloud ERP system enables you to manage and track the entire SKU journey from purchasing to delivery to your end customer.
The Salesorder.com Saas ERP can automate the entire Dropship Quote to Cash to Cash workflow.
Dropshipping automation demo
Just in Time
JIT or Just in time means purchasing the minimum amount of components or raw materials to meet demand, or for a Sales Order that needs immediate fulfillment.
The Just in Time automation in Salesorder.com is identical to the Dropship automation apart from the Shipping address to the vendor on the Purchase Order reverts to one of your company’s addresses.
Cross-docking is a Just in Time (JIT) shipping process. Cross-docking minimizes handling and use of storage space. SKUs literally arrive in the Goods In Loading bay and are immediately picked to the Goods Out Loading bay.
With or without the warehouse management system Salesorder.com users can organize and manage cross-docking.
Build to Order
Depending upon what you are going to build and how you are going to build it you’ll probably need a bill of materials (BOM). In most ERP systems you’ll find an Assembly Item.
An Assembly Item is a SKU with BOM. The BOM might be constituted from other BOMs (sub assemblies), quantities of individual SKUs (raw materials?) and costs (overheads, labor etc).
When you build the Assembly you’re doing a stock transformation. In other words a group of SKUs you stock are being used up, and a new SKU Assembly is being created. It’s a Stock adjustment plus the inclusion of some other costs.
If the manufacturing process is a network of interrelated tasks involving different departments and processes, then you’ll most probably need MRP software. MRP software helps streamline the manufacturing process through production planning, scheduling, and inventory control.
If your manufacturing process is simple, then your business model probably falls into the category of ‘light manufacturing’, and there’s a good chance a Saas ERP with of course Assembly Items and inventory management, will be good enough to do the inventory control.
However you’ll need to ask yourself, do you need work orders. Work orders do what they say, just like a Sales Order they track the work. They’re found in MRP and Cloud ERP Production Management Software. You can try using a Sales Order to do most of what a work order can do.
If you’re tracking time for the purpose of labor costs, then you’ll need a Saas ERP with rudimentary timesheets.
Salesorder.com has Assemblies and Timesheets. If you need to track the individual SKU components as instances eg Lot numbers or Serial numbers, this can also be done in Salesorder.
Wholesalers need a flexible model to track different types of inventory items (SKUs). Saas ERP for order and inventory management should as a minimum have SKU tracking for these types of Inventory:
- Stock units of measure
- Non-Stock Items
- Serialized Items
SKU instance tracking
Stock tracking or instance tracking enables users to track stock at an individual item level. This is specifically useful if you are tracking the origin and final destination of any individual SKU, for example, a SKU that is part of a Lot, or has a unique serial number.
SKU instance tracking
Stock units of measure
A SKU can have different units of measure. For example, you might purchase in cases of 12 units, stock the same SKU in single units, and sell the units in packs of six.
You might purchase, stock, and sell SKUs as single units, but for the purposes of handling and moving stock efficiently, you might package the single units in packs of 12. When you are receiving the stock, picking or putting away you might assign a SKU code that represents a multipack of 12.
When you handle the stock and use barcode scanners to track movement you would scan the multipack barcode to count 12 units, as opposed to scanning the individual barcode of each unit.
Assemblies are composed of an assembled bill of materials or a BOM. The BOM contains SKUs and non-stock Items (see below). Non-stock items are used to model and track costs such as a predetermined labor cost associated with the assembly of the BOM.
Assemblies are built and sometimes broken. In the former case, the inventory management function would perform a stock adjustment.
The stock adjustment would decrease the stock levels of the BOM components (raw material). The result would be an increase in the number of assemblies in free stock.
When you break an assembly you would reverse the assembly. The number of assemblies would decrease and the stock of the BOM components would be increased.
Kits, often referred to as ‘bundles’ are SKUs grouped together and sold with a single Item code. The SKUs in a Kit can be sold separately.
Kits differ from Assemblies in as much as the SKUs in a Kit are allocated when a Kit is added to a Sales Order. Whereas BOM components are in the Assembly, and the Assembly is allocated as a single SKU to the Sales Order.
These can represent different types of Items. They are not SKUs because they are not stocked. You might use Non-stock Items to represent a physical Item you drop ship, or a service you provide, or even a fee you charge.
Serialized Items and Lots
Both of these are similar in as much as you need to track them at the individual item level. To do this effectively your cloud-based ERP needs a function the same as, or similar to Stock Instance tracking (see above).
SKU master anatomy
Versatile SKU master functions. Inventory tracking, preferred suppliers, dropship, replenishment, and accounting.
Kits and Assemblies 1
Kits and Assemblies, what are they, what’s the difference? How to use them in the Salesorder Saas ERP.
Kits and Assemblies 2
How to build Assemblies and Kits in the Salesorder cloud ERP system WMS.
How to evaluate a Cloud ERP system | Saas ERP
Hello and welcome,
It’s good to have you here. We’re here to help!
A hands-on trial is definitely the best way to determine the benefit and value our cloud ERP solution will deliver to your business.
The most efficient way to get to know the platform is to begin by modeling your core workflows.
The trial will help you discover what you don’t know, and what you need to ask us before you make a decision.
Here are the four key steps you should follow to conduct an informative evaluation and give you the insights you need to make a decision.
On behalf of everyone here, thank you for giving us the opportunity to provide you with a solution.
Lets, get started!
Nick & Co
You can keep and use your trial for as long as it takes you and your team to get to know us and our Cloud ERP order management software.
We know this is a considered purchase. If you choose our system, we know you’ll be with us for years to come. Making sure Salesorder is a good fit for your business is as much as a priority for us as it is for you.
However, regardless of the shape and size of your business and decision timescales we’re confident you should be able to reach a level of comfort as to whether or not our system feels right for you in less than a day.
To help you get to this point, here is a roadmap which we hope will provide you with the foundation knowledge you need in approximately 5 to 8 hours of your time.
1. Settings and data
2. User basics
3. Key Workflows
Depending upon your business model there are going to be key workflows you’ll want to evaluate. In this part of the roadmap, we’ve listed about 25 workflows you can choose from.
This list is not exhaustive, if there are workflows you need to see and they don’t appear in the list, then please tell us by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our Solutions engineers will be happy to either work with you to model the missing workflow(s) or direct you to content which matches your needs.
Once you’ve completed a few walkthroughs of your core workflows, you’ll be more than ready to explore further without too much help from us.
4. Live Q&A
How to implement your Saas ERP
What's in this implementation Blueprint?
This guide summarizes the journey from the point you realize you need a better system through to post going live with Salesorder.com. You really do need to understand this journey for your project to succeed.
Please read this whole guide carefully, make notes, and ask us questions. The stupid questions are the ones you were too embarrassed to ask We’re nice people here.
The Blueprint is about designing a solution, the solution is defined by your needs, the problems you want to solve, and the improvements you want to make.
You’ll get the most out of this guide if you read it in its entirety. It will help instill your ability to identify and understand how the business works, translate it into a Blueprint design for your cloud ERP system, and present useful information to people in the business.
This guide will give you actionable insights into how to think about creating your Blueprint.
The Blueprint defines the design of the solution, how it will be built, and how your cloud ERP system will be implemented.
The Blueprint is both the design and the plan. The design describes both what the solution will do and help you discover the benefits it will deliver.
The plan defines the tasks to ‘build’ the solution and who will do them. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘scope of work’ The timelines and amount of effort required are determined in the Build phase.
The output of the Blueprint phase is:
- Solution Vision: A top-level view in a document or a slide deck.
- Solution Design: The Salesorder platform, its configuration, and any ‘must-have’ enhancements (Plugins).
- Scope of Work: To build and run the Solution
There are three phases in the journey of your system from project initiation to live operations:
Takeaway: One piece of wisdom
Your project will last significantly longer and cost more than it should if you rush any part of the Blueprint phase.
Every journey we’ve been on consistently proves one critical point, thoroughness and diligence in the Blueprint phase is the key to a successful and stress-free project.
We urge you to take your time. Don’t assume or guess anything, continually question what you see and what stakeholders tell you.
Get them to write it down. Get them to write it down. Get them to write it down. It will make them think deeper about the details. Point made?
Be ready to go Live, before you need to go Live
You are implementing a mission-critical system, probably spending tens of thousands of dollars, making hundreds of decisions and investing months of hard work.
You’re doing all this to adopt a platform that will help you grow your business over at least the next ten years. We urge you to take your time (again).
Getting a new system in by a specific date calculated at the start of the journey is a tough ask and very unlikely. You do not have a crystal ball, everything is a guess.
The specific date becomes an expectation and a promise. Don’t begin to forecast or communicate the live date until the planning stage of the
Build phase is complete, and ALL of the activities required to fill the gaps have firm end dates, then add another more time as a contingency.
Start a LOT earlier than you guess (or think 😉 you need to. Aim to have a system ready to go before (not at) a month-end. Make sense?
The truth about costs
No one wants to get this wrong. At the outset of the project, any prediction about costs is going to be inaccurate.
No two organizations and therefore no two projects are the same. All people are different. Their abilities, work rates, and availability will vary. Unforeseen events and distractions will disrupt timescales.
The immense amount of intricate detail makes software projects highly complex. The amount of detail, its discovery, and comprehension will drive the duration of the Blueprint phase.
The Blueprint phase is about robust design, good design takes time. The debates will be iterative. Sometimes designs will have to be torn up and redone. It’s the nature of good design.
The Blueprint phase is critical. As an example, this can take up to eight weeks for seventy to one hundred person organizations. This is a pessimistic estimate.
The output of the Blueprint phase is a scope of work. The scope of work defines what has to be done. It contains sequenced lists of tasks and their inter-dependencies.
The elapsed times of each task list is going to be difficult to determine in the Blueprint phase. This is simply because the data about who can do what when is incomplete.
The scope of work is a list of tasks. When all the stakeholders have agreed on the details within this list of tasks, you can now turn your attention to working out how much effort each task will realistically require.
Remember, this equates to the task, not the elapsed time. You need those who will own and undertake each task to comfortably succeed.
This is a negotiation. Don’t set anyone up to fail. The consequences are obvious. This negotiation happens at the start of the Build phase.
There are going to be third parties, the standout examples are barcode hardware supply and software development. You need to nail their timescale and costs and add reasonable contingency time.
Get their commitments agreed and written down.
The result of the Build phase is a ruthlessly pragmatic plan that everyone is comfortable committing to. Everyone knows what has to be done, and what is expected of them. The tasks drive the costs.
We’re now left with two things, resource availability, and contingencies. Add up the amount of effort required from each stakeholder at an individual level to calculate how much time is required from them.
Using this number look at the elapsed time this could take. Now interrogate each stakeholder about their availability. The resources within your organization have full-time jobs fulfilling their roles in your business.
Factor this into your calculation, watch out for holidays and personal events. Check for events in their business calendars.
Whatever you determine, add a few weeks of contingency.
Sum the costs, build in a buffer or margin for error. Explain them to whoever needs to know. Get the costs approved.
For mapping analyses, workflows, processes, and plans out use Mindmeister. For listing and managing tasks, specifically in the scope of work, use Monday.com. Alternatively use Excel.
We’ve created templates for the latter. Both apps are in the cloud, so it goes without saying you can encourage everyone to get on the same web page(s).
A summary of the Journey
The objective of the Blueprint phase is to design the solution, define the scope of work to deliver it, and plan who is going to do each task.
Leader: Appoint one, give them full authority to lead and manage your and our sides. Your project will definitely fail without a leader who is in the detail (I mean it). It does not matter who’s payroll the leader is on.
Team: Identify and engage key users (and external stakeholders). Who will participate, who are the domain experts, and who can manage? Confirm who will approve what. Check if you have the right resources. If you think you don’t, reach out to us.
Scope: Divide the solution domain into high level, logical strategic functions i.e. data strategy, sales operations, fulfillment operations, accounting operations, reporting, etc. Be aware of dimensions like order volumes, the number of users, trading partners, product lines and third-party technology.
Objectives: Identify, prioritize and document key objectives for each strategic function. Include opportunities to be exploited and problems to be solved within each strategic function.
Business analysis: Document the design of your business processes, workflows within each strategic function. Identify areas for improvement, obsolescence or automation.
Reporting: Identify by strategic function, a list of frequently used reports, their structure, format, and filters. Create a first draft of the Classifications you think you’ll need. Create a Monday ‘Board’ for Reporting and Analytics.
Data analysis: Decide what data is required where and why. Identify what static and transactional data is where and in what state, how accessible it is, and what format it’s in. Consider a data warehouse strategy.
Modeling: Identify the data, features, and configurations you need to underpin each workflow. Using a ‘sandbox’ with a minimum data set, try out and validate workflows and features. Identify, document and prioritize any gaps to be considered and addressed (requirements capture).
Planning: Document and plan a list of tasks to be undertaken in the ‘Build’ phase (the scope of work). Leave out the ‘Go live’ planning. This should be done with the users after they have completed training and testing (Build phase).
Ownership: Determine task owners and accountability.
Timescales: Approximate timelines, DON’T GUESS be realistic. You cannot rush this and you can’t guess the end date until timelines based upon the availability of Key users, the amount and complexity of what they have to do, and the speed at which they can work is absolutely clear.
You’ll refine and get close to an accurate plan in the ‘Build’ phase when you work with key users and stakeholders to estimate the due dates of their respective task lists.
Communicate the Vision: As this Blueprint phase concludes you should have a ‘first pass’ vision of the solution. Depending upon your situation you can use this to secure approval to proceed to the ‘Build phase’.
Preparing and communicating the vision and a summary of its key functions, how they are going to be achieved and what stakeholders (users) can expect when (and what is expected of them) should be done before the end of this phase.
You should tell everyone you keep an open door (and mind) to encourage feedback.
The objective of the Build phase is to set up the ‘go live’ system, train the users and perform testing. You’ll complete your detailed plan with due dates and costs.
Assign key user tasks: By now the key users should be firmly (and enthusiastically) engaged and have a clear vision of what each function of, and the overall the solution is going to look like.
Based upon their ownership, accountability or relationship with the strategic functions you should explain and assign ‘Build’ tasks from the scope of work to each key user.
Get key users and stakeholders to estimate due dates: The project leader should work with each key user and review their list of tasks and dependencies to get them to forecast a date they are comfortable with delivering their part of the solution by.
Make sure you include delivery timelines for any customization, deliveries of Barcode hardware and changes to the warehouse layouts and labeling.
Go live planning: You should start working with the key users on identifying the key tasks for the ‘go live’ transition.
Setup: This is an ordered sequence of tasks resulting in your Salesorder system being almost ready for operation. We provide setup instructions and a Monday template.
User training and testing, plus the migration of the dynamic and updated data still has to be done. To commence this workstream you’ll need a ‘go live’ instance of Salesorder.
Clone Sandbox: At an appropriate point in the build phase you should ask us to make a copy of your ‘go live’ instance. This can be used for training and experimentation.
Test plan: A test plan is a dynamic document. The more immersed you become in testing, the more you will discover needs testing. Use the workflow/process description documented in the Blueprint phase to design the test plan.
Training plan: Two types of users, key and the ‘rest’. The key users should write the training plans. The training plans should align with the test plans for each strategic function. The training should be a joint delivery.
Milestone plan: Bring all of the tasks and their respective timelines together into a single timeline. Communicate the plan and milestones to all stakeholders.
Training: Deliver training to users
Testing: Complete test plan
Create and agree go-live plan: Finalise a detailed task list with the time and resources required to go from where you are now to live.
Your users should know enough about the new system to give practical and detailed input about what detail from their perspective should be in the list of tasks and who does what in which order in the cut-over.
Decide a go-live date: A date your teams will start entering transactions and new data into your new system.
Your go-live plan, resource availability and awareness of upcoming events that might get in the way and time to complete task detail will determine your live date. Be realistic.
Dynamic and updated data migration: You’ve got to create a baseline/start line from which you can start operating with the new system. This means you need to bring the data in the ‘go live’ system up to date.
There are two categories of data to be updated, accounting and master data, specifically:
- open purchase and sales orders, open purchase and sales invoices, any other open accounting transactions that affect the AR and AP
- opening balances for the P&L and Balance sheet
- stock levels – free and on hand
- new customer and supplier master data
Support, feedback and exception handling: This is a mission-critical application. There will be teething problems. Users will spot opportunities. Unforeseen issues will emerge. You need to be prepared.
Together we will determine points of contact, support windows and the process to report and if necessary escalate challenges. The decision as to who the master administrator should have emerged by now.
The ‘Master admin will be the key contact between Salesorder support and your business. Communicate the process and its stakeholders to all of your users.
Master Admin processes: We’ll work with your Master Admin to help them with day to day user management. We’ll agree on the support processes and Salesorder points of contact.
Review meetings: We’ll agree on a consistent and recurring review meeting to monitor how things are progressing and identify new tasks to address gaps in functionality and skills.
Your success is our success, our vision is you will still be our customer in ten years’ time. We’re both investing in a long term relationship, and together we are building a mission-critical foundation for your business.
A data and automation platform to support the long term growth and future prospects of your business.
The Blueprint, Build and Run journey involves hundreds of decisions and a significant investment in the time and costs of key people on both sides. Thoroughness, diligence, and pragmatism are essential.
Adherence to the accuracy of costs and timescales is critical. Overruns do happen. Logical and clear explanations justifying these are paramount.
Technology constantly presents unforeseen opportunities and challenges. So be prepared!
Return on your investment is the overriding objective. Every change has a cost. So before making any changes, take a hard look at the impact on productivity and calculate the returns.
Make notes and ask us questions about this guide. We have over ten years of experience building our Saas ERP and watching and helping folks just like you implement it. We are here to help you succeed.
Continuous improvement in our approach and your operations is key to your and our success. We’re excited about working with you.
Decide Project Leader
Getting the best out of everyone, and the best result for everyone should be foremost in the project leader’s style and approach. Soft skills as well as maintaining clear and timely communication are both critical.
Your project leader should be comfortable with; accountability, choosing, focusing and motivating the team, planning tasks, and setting and negotiating timescales.
The project leader should be given full management and financial authority to drive the project to a successful conclusion. They have to have outstanding attention to detail and patience.
Your project leader must be proactive and a completer finisher. The project leader should be a quick learner and have experience with relevant technology.
Remember this is a software engineering project, so a solid appreciation or experience with software systems, especially CRM, eCommerce, Logistics and Accounting is essential.
A sense of humor is mandatory….
Decide Project Team
If you work in or have worked with the business, or in a similar business you’ll know who the key players are in each strategic function of the business. They should be leaders, better still experts in their respective functions. These are your key users.
Remember you are creating a team, not an autonomous collective.
In these types of projects, there’s nothing more exciting than working with a group of talented people who proactively and openly communicate with each other and stakeholders to ask and answer the right questions.
It goes without saying, your team should be able to convince and enthuse other stakeholders.
When you’ve completed the Blueprint, communicate the vision and all the details you have to the entire team in one session.
Listen to feedback, and refine…
Divide the solution into strategic functions
The Salesorder.com Saas ERP enables joined-up thinking by empowering your teams to manage your sales, fulfillment and accounting operations in concert. It brings together all of the key parts of your business in a single system.
The objective of our cloud ERP system is to go beyond joining up the key parts.
Our system was deliberately designed to drive continuous improvements in productivity in each of the key parts. This is achieved by tuning and automating workflows.
Most of this is ‘out of the box’ and can be quickly extended or refined by customization. Salesorder.com is built from the ground up to be customized.
In the Blueprint, you’re starting with the vanilla Salesorder.com platform. Your objective is to confirm if the vanilla version is the solution to the majority of your needs.
Almost a minimal viable product if you will. Any additional functionality you need are ‘gaps’. These can be filled with customization or by third-party software.
The key parts of your business are sales, fulfillment, and accounting.
To simplify the challenge of identifying the needs of each of these parts, the sensible approach is to further divide these top-level parts into ‘strategic functions’.
At Salesorder.com we focus on business models that sell physical products business to business (b2b) and business to consumer (b2c).
These businesses either build/source stock, or don’t. Businesses that stock inventory either have their own warehouse or use 3rd party logistics (3PL).
Businesses that don’t stock inventory drop ship from vendor partners.The efficiency of the inventory’s journey from customer order to customer delivery is a target for continuous improvement.
Depending upon your business model this ‘inventory journey’ is underpinned by these strategic functions:
These strategic functions of your business have these common elements:
- Workflows: Processes
- Software functions: Components to manage the
- Reports: To track and measure the results of the processes.
The strategic functions, their key features, and respective elements are the place from which you begin your thinking about what you want to achieve from the design of your solution.
Here are some examples to ignite your thinking, let’s start with Inventory:
Stock levels and the velocity at which the respective stock is sold and replenished directly affects your working capital.
If this is something you want to improve then you could define a strategic function of your design that focuses on ‘Inventory optimization’.
Similarly, if the accuracy, coherence, availability accessibility of the data about your product set is something you want to improve then you could define a strategic function that focuses on ‘one truth inventory’.
Inventory has now become two strategic functions for you to focus upon. These are both headlines for communications and projects in their own right.
I hope you can see they have a lot more meaning than just ‘Inventory’.
Here are a few more strategic functions you will probably want to consider:
- customer self-service
- order capture
- tracking SKUs in the supply chain
- warehouse optimization
- shipping automation
- accounts payable automation
- data warehouse
- reports and analytics
Defining and focusing on well-defined strategic functions make the overall challenge easier, more interesting, and ultimately intellectually and commercially more fulfilling for you and your team.
You should set simple and clear objectives for each strategic function. Focus on problems and explore every opportunity.
Use a SMART template (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), to help you write objectives search Google, there’s an abundance of information on SMART.
To help you think about measurable objectives here are some examples:
- Turnaround Time
- Service Level
- Order accuracy
- Invoice accuracy
- Response Time
- Risk Management
These are all measurable 😉 One or more of them will be strategic thoughts i.e “Every Little helps”.
By 1995, as intended, “Every Little Helps” had become the driving philosophy that steered every initiative that Tesco made. “The challenge for us all is to make “Every Little Helps” second nature in everything we do. It’s more than just a line at the end of an advert.”
This is a legendary quote from Sir “Terry” Leahy, a British businessman, previously the CEO of Tesco, the largest British retailer and the third-largest retailer in the world measured by revenues.
Give each strategic function a simple title and unique identifier i.e ‘OC’ for order capture, SHA for shipping automation. Use these as suffixes on requirements tasks and their associated documents i.e. OC-1 ‘Set Freight terms’, where set Freight Terms is the title of the gap.
Discovering and evaluating the approaches and options for each strategic function will fine-tune your thinking. The result will be clarity about what you need and what you need to do to get it built.
The sum of the thinking about each strategic function will define what your business must have and the benefits it will realize from the design of the solution.
Every little helps. Every improvement adds to the overall sum of improvements. In each strategic function, there will be key features you should think about targeting for improvement.
You may already have some in mind (and probably the reason(s) that brought you here ). You might have a process or a strategic function in your business that’s working well. You’ll want to confirm you can incorporate this into your design.
Strategic functions: Define Tasks and Owners
The most efficient method for defining the tasks in a strategic function is to begin by creating visuals.
A good example of visualization is the user story. The user story is a tool to capture and describe a software feature from the user’s perspective.
The user story describes the type of user, what they need, and why they need it. (who, what, why).
Another example from a different perspective is the workflow. It makes it much easier to think about a workflow if its steps are visualized as opposed to being written out.
One more example, rules can easily be visualized with the right tools. Ideal candidates are order capture, shipping, and commission rules.
Tools you can pick up, and start using to create visuals will both simplify and accelerate the process. They’ll also make it easy for you to communicate and share your thinking.
The easier it is for your audience to understand and give you their thoughts, the higher the probability of success.
For mapping analyses, workflows, processes, and plans out we use Mindmeister. For listing and managing tasks, specifically in the scope of work, use Monday.com.
We’ve created some useful templates for the latter. Both apps are in the cloud, so it goes without saying you can encourage everyone to get on the same web page(s).
Gather information and create Tasks
Begin by creating a list of the core workflows in each of the strategic functions. This won’t be complete, as it will probably grow when you engage the key users.
Here are some examples to get you started:
Work with the key users and stakeholders to gather and visualize information about the current workflows, rules, and stories.
Use a Mindmeister mind map. Get all of the details into or linked to the map. Create online folders to organize and store documents. Link to these from the map.
As you go create high-level granularity task lists. Don’t be afraid of doing these on the maps. It’s probably easier to work around one screen. Talking of screens, get the biggest display you can to share the maps whilst you’re creating them.
One other trick, show the stakeholders how to use Mindmeister. Honestly, it takes five minutes. Then get them to do the mapping work.
Run the results by other stakeholders to validate or get more contributions.
Get into Monday.com, get your boards sorted. One board per strategic function. Keep your columns simple like this:
Look out for “I’ve always done it this way” (I’m not going to change or think ‘outside the box’). Tricky one this, you’ll need to get them on side eventually. Whether you do it now or in the ‘Build’ phase is your call.
Focus on getting into the detail of what they do now. If they don’t offer any initiative to improve things, get the current detail, and move on. Be prepared to have to sell the new way to them.
Read ‘It’s Human to sell’ by Daniel Pink if you’re intimidated by selling a better way to folks.
If you’re fortunate to get a ‘wise one who welcomes change’ then extract every last drop of value out of them. Ask yourself, is this a key user? However, don’t take them at face value.
Get to know them in this phase, work with them for a while then decide at the start of the ‘Build’ phase if they are going to be one of your ‘Key users’.
Quiz what they know about the big picture. Where else have they worked in the business, how long have they been there? Where did they work before? What did they work on? What skills and knowledge do they have?
We’re honestly surprised how many folks we work with don’t know how useful they are until asked.
Prepare to model your workflows
If you have already set up and used a trial system, you may not need to do this step.
If you have not had a trial, then go back to Chapter 4 – How to evaluate a Saas ERP.
Users and stakeholders need to see and touch functionality to build their knowledge and confidence. Whilst you’re working through your analysis the first priority is to educate the Key users.
Before you take this step you should have mapped (documented) and made a task list of the key workflows in the respective strategic function. You’ll need to refer to these as you prepare to show them anything.
You should begin by showing Key users’ Salesorder’s core generic workflows in the context of their respective roles. To do this you need a sandbox instance.
We can create this for you in a few minutes, just ask. To make the sandbox useful you’ll need to import some data from their current data sets.
Don’t overthink this.
Just make sure you accurately set the user’s expectations. Explain you are setting up and going to use a sandbox or ‘demo’ system to walk them through core workflows relevant to them.
Be clear there will be ‘gaps’.
For the core workflows, you will need the following settings and data types in the sandbox. Import or enter them manually in the following order:
Keep the sample data to a viable minimum (see below). See the Build documentation for instructions on creating or importing sample data.
Walkthrough the workflows
Before you engage with the Key users, refer to the relevant map and work through the respective core workflow by yourself in Salesorder, just to make sure everything you need to demo the core workflow is as it should be.
All good? Engage one or more of the relevant Key users. Keep in mind Key users are new to Salesorder, so encourage questions. Remind them, “the stupid questions are the ones they are afraid to, or ask”.
Based upon what you know so far about how they currently run this workflow, make sure you are prepared for the “What about?” or “Where is?” or “How does?” questions.
The ideal place to begin is the core workflow, Sales Order capture to Payment (order to cash).
As you walk through each step of the workflow, record key questions and answers, you’ll need these for training the wider audience of users.
Identify Gaps, gather Requirements
As you model and walk through each workflow, you may discover what we refer to as a ‘gap’. A gap is a need for additional functionality.
Debate each gap with the Key users, and record the key points. You’ll need these to write up the description of the requirements.
Create a group on Monday.com for the requirement. Give the requirement a prefix and meaningful title i.e. OC-1 ‘Set Freight Terms’. (OC = Order Capture).
We’ll work with you to make sure the requirements have all of the detail we need to address the gap.
There are at least seven possible solutions to a gap. It can be:
- An undiscovered or alternative method or workaround,
- An existing plugin which exactly fits the need,
- An existing plugin which can be modified to address the need,
- A new plugin can be developed,
- Integration with third-party software,
- On our engineering roadmap,
- A custom report.
When you describe a gap, write down the problem (what you need solved, why and the impact). Describe or refer to the way you solve this in your current systems. Include screenshots or videos.
Whatever it is, we’re a software engineering business and can most probably devise a way to fill the gap.
List key reports and curate samples
Before you begin, it will save you a lot of work to know Salesorder has a List as well as Reports. Keep this in mind. We often find a significant portion of the current reporting activity can be done in the Lists.
You should have created a Monday.com board ‘Reports and Analytics’.
Reports are common to most strategic functions and will be produced by the same set of reporting tools.
List all of the key reports as in their respective strategic function Groups on Monday.com. Make each report a Group. Start the Group with a requirements task.
Your objective must be to create effective reports which answer business questions clearly and concisely.
As you work with key users modeling the core workflows for each strategic function, ask them to give you a list and samples of the reports they use or need or a regular basis.
Ask key users about what answers they get from the reports, add these answers to the infobox against each report requirements task.
Make notes about the key purpose and parameters of each report. Pay attention to the classification of data.
Good examples are the segmentation of Customers by their lifetime value to date, or a parameter commensurate with their location.
If your old system’s reporting uses any forms of classifications (a.k.a Classes) in Sales, Inventory, and most probably Accounting, then record and review these.
Look out for any unusual filters, structures, or formats and note them down. Use the ‘info boxes’ section on each Task to record your notes.
Use the ‘Add files’ control to upload/attach the report samples. To access these, simply click on the Task to open the sidebar window.
Consider how many Excel spreadsheets are in use in your business and why? Make a list and gather them into a folder. Now, look at how you can reduce these, what can be done in reports, and what you can learn from their users.
However, keep in mind:
You can export all reports and Lists (from Salesorder) to Excel.
If your business has multiple legacy systems, make sure you list both the source and the method (commands/actions) you used to generate each report. This is really important as it will save time when you and others do deeper analyses or comparisons.
Data migration: What data where and why?
Migration data from your old system to your new cloud ERP system can seem confusing and difficult. This is further impacted by the volume of different and interrelated transactions, and the unavoidable fact that your business has to remain in motion.
The most practical approach is to divide the challenge into smaller and therefore easier to manage portions. You can then understand and work out a strategy to address each one individually.
As you complete this segregation, you can identify the interdependencies and deduce strategies to include in your overall data migration plan.
The Salesorder Saas ERP is a transaction processing system. It processes and stores transactions between your business and your trading partners (Customers and Suppliers).
These transactions are created by users (workers), by your sales channels, or by the system itself.
Every transaction relies upon, collects, and generates specific types of data. Each transaction is an ‘event’ in your business.
In your legacy system and Salesorder there are broadly two types of data; Master and Transactional:
To accelerate and simplify the user’s journey to understanding and using Salesorder, we call ALL transaction and master records ‘Documents’.
The most common strategy for migrating data from a legacy system to Salesorder.com or a similar cloud ERP system is as follows:
1. Categorize and review legacy data
2. Migrate Master 'Trading Partner' Data
Importing the Master Data is done using import templates. These are preformatted .xlsx sheets. In the Salesorder.com Saas ERP these can be found in the ‘Import data’ section under ‘Setup’.
Master Data is the majority of the standing or static data recorded about your Trading Partners (Customers and Suppliers). You should review All of the data types associated with the Trading partners in your current system. By data types I mean, names, profile data, preferences etc.
If you need additional fields, Salesorder has DIY customization tools which enable you to add new Tabs, Sections and Fields of different types i.e. dropdown, free text, mandatory etc.
Fields on related but different screens can inherit from one another. Keep this in mind when you add new fields.
Your overriding objective should be to establish ‘one truth’ for all of your Master data.
There is no doubt you’ll find duplicates, If you have been storing Trading Partner data in more than one database i.e. Accounting and CRM then you should take extra care to identify mismatches, especially in billing and shipping addresses.
As you work through reviewing your Master Data use this opportunity to consider the better organization of your Trading Partner data. Explore using Classifications to segment your Trading partner masters.
When it comes to importing your Master data, stick to the golden rule of ‘rope across the river’. What I mean is initially just import a few records just to test if the data is correct. If you’ve used inherited fields, run a few related workflows, just to check all is well.
2. Migrate Master Inventory Data
After all, it’s all about the journey of each SKU from origin to its final destination with your customer. The Item master is at the center of everything you want and need to track.
So it’s key you approach and work through this exercise with due diligence.
Every SKU has multiple perspectives:
- How it’s sold
- How it’s purchased or manufactured
- Where it’s stored or sourced from
- How it’s turnover affects working capital, profit, and
- service levels.
- How it’s described and presented.
- It’s real-time status, what’s allocated, what’s available, and what’s coming when.
I’m sure you can think of many more.
The care and accuracy you apply to data about the SKU will reflect in both it’s presentation and reporting. It’ll also be reflected in the motivation of your salespeople, customer service team, folks in the warehouse and purchasing, your accounting team and in some cases your Bankers.
Importing the Item Master Data is done using import templates. These are preformatted .xlsx sheets. In the Salesorder.com Saas ERP these can be found in the ‘Import data’ section under ‘Setup’.
At this stage you’ll be focused on the Item detail, as opposed to the dynamic data such as stock levels etc. If you are using the warehouse management system, you’ll need to sort both the creation of Locations and if applicable the Location to SKU mappings.
As you set up the Warehouse Locations you’ll need to decide their individual configurations.
For the Salesorder.com Saas ERP study the Setup guide for Items and the Warehouse management system.
Classification and Reporting
As you work through reviewing your Master Inventory Data use this opportunity to consider better organization of your SKU data. Explore using Categories, Attributes to and Classifications to segment your SKU masters.
You’ll need to pay attention to taxation with respect to how and if the item is taxed. If you did not cover this in your evaluation, now is the time to check your SKUs are obeying tax regulations. Set some time aside to work through a few examples.
If you have a SKU which needs imagery presented to your order takers or through your B2B ecommerce channel, then make sure you source and include images for your imports.
If you have datasheets, attach these to the Item masters.
When it comes to importing your Master data, stick to the golden rule of ‘rope across the river’. What I mean is initially just import a few records just to test if the data is correct. If you’ve used inherited fields, run a few related workflows, just to check all is well.
3. Migrate historical non posting transactions
Benefits for Sales and Marketing Teams
“Get them, know them, keep them”. Insight into each customer’s buying pattern, profitability, and lifetime value (LTV) is essential to driving sales focus and productive selling behaviors.
If the common and recurring questions from salespeople are “What sales of what products did we forecast from them, what products did we quote them, what products did they order?” then historical non-posting data should be in, or within easy reach of Salesorder.
These insights can be used to drive the design and timing of marketing campaigns, pricing decisions, and product development.
The aggregation of your entire sales history can be used to decide planning and budget assumptions.
The benefits of purchasing and inventory optimization.
Stock purchases make demands on your working capital. The timing, quantities, and values of your stock purchases are driven by current and forecasted demand.
Apart from product lead times which are driven by three factors; vendor’s current stock availability, time to manufacture, and transit times. The data you need to feed into your predictions is in your sales and purchase order history.
These obvious benefits justify the case for storing your historical non-posting data in a place where you can slice, dice, and analyze the data to find answers to what are arguably your most important questions.
Importing Transactions is done using import templates. These are preformatted .xlsx sheets. In the Salesorder.com Saas ERP, these can be found in the ‘Import data’ section under ‘Setup’.
When it comes to importing your Master data, stick to the golden rule of ‘rope across the river’. What I mean is initially just import a few records just to test if the data is correct. If you’ve used inherited fields, run a few related workflows, just to check all is well.
Where to put historical non-posting transactions?
4. Migrate historical posting transactions
You should as far as it is possible to try to mitigate the need to move historical accounting data. The easiest and most risk-free option is to preserve the accounting data in your old / legacy system.
You should carefully consider what types of retrospective views of your financial data you need going forward. Make a list of who needs them, what type they need, why, when, how often, and to what level of detail.
You should also decide how far back in time you want to go.
Get down to the fine grain on this, pin stakeholders down on the questions they will need to ask of the historical data.
Imagine the cut-over to a new system happened in December 2019, examples might be:
- Show me a comparison between June 2019 Sales and July 2020 sales.
- Show me the gross margin on this product since July 2019.
- Show me sales by-product over the last three years
You might be surprised how short your list of questions like the ones above becomes. A very short list should signal you to carefully consider just how much thought and effort you really need to put into organizing the future of your historical posting data.
You could ask the question, could you get what you need from non-posting data? For example, Total Revenue for a period, and Revenue by customer could be derived from historical Sales Orders with any Status of ‘fulfilled’ being migrated to the new Salesorder system.
You could also get Sales by Line Item (SKU) from this data set, and report on historical profitability if you pursue this approach.
The answers to the above questions will help you decide what data you need, where it should reside, and how much effort and cost you should expend.
If you decide to pursue a strategy of relocating any of your historical accounting data, you should give the following points serious consideration:
- Accounting databases have at least three levels of complexity, their schema, the data stored in them and how careful the users were who put it there.For example, records of explanations about extraordinary transactions. Keep in mind accounting is about explanations.The foundation of a good explanation is a set of facts. In accounting, the facts are the accounts and the transactions against those accounts.
- The task of extracting, transforming and loading (ETL) to a new system can easily exceed by a significant order of magnitude the time and costs of other parts of your project.
- How far back you’ll want to go with historical reports and analysis will drive the volume of data you need to move. The volume you have to move and check will be significant.If you’re moving from Quickbooks you will probably know the bigger the company file, the higher the probability it will have corruptions.
- The risk to the eventual integrity of the accounting data.
- The ROI. How often will this data be referred to?
- The real and actual level of ‘regulatory risk’ you could expose the business to if you don’t retain a copy of or access to the old system. For obvious legal reasons, you should avoid being in this position.
Depending upon your ongoing reporting and analysis needs, and the type of your legacy system, there are options for preserving access to historical posting data.
This is an ordered sequence of tasks to configure and set up your system. It focuses on the Master Data and Settings.
When you’ve finished completing each of the relevant tasks you will have a system you can use to train users and perform testing.
To complete the transition to a live system refer to the Run phase guides.
The Implementation Checklist is a read-only Google Sheet.
To save an editable version in Excel, after clicking on the link above, go to:
File > Download > Microsoft Excel.
Alternatively, you can sign in to your Google account and save a copy of the Google worksheet. Go to:
File > Make a copy.
A data warehouse is designed to answer the questions being asked throughout the business every day, questions not focused on individual transactions but on the overall process.
A data warehouse is always subject-oriented as it delivers information about a theme instead of an organization’s current operations. A data warehouse can be organized as a federation of subjects i.e. Sales, Inventory.
This strategy gives users a clear perspective within the boundaries of a specific theme by eliminating data not required to answer the user’s questions.
In order to meet this requirement, the design of the data warehouse must directly reflect the way the teams in your business will look at the business. If it does not, it will not be easy to answer their questions.
This characteristic lies at the heart of the data warehouse. It distinguishes the data warehouse from the transaction processing system and requires a design based on an entirely different set of principles.
If your previous (legacy) systems consisted of a number of databases, then you can see combining these in a single data warehouse would serve the ‘joined-up thinking’ requirement.
As previously stated, avoiding transforming accounting data from one proprietary schema to another is high risk and difficult.
Rather than attempting to transform the accounting data in its entirety, it’s a lot easier to take sections of this historical data set into a data warehouse.
What sections you take are wholly driven by the questions you’ll need to ask of this data and its non-posting counterparts.
What was the value of the balance sheet on a specific date, is not a question you would ask of a data warehouse. Neither would you ask “Show me the profit and loss for the business over a specific period?”.
Accounting software is complex and designed to answer these accounting specific questions. We do not contend that this complexity is unnecessary, only that it complicates the analytical tasks of business.
Sorting out and simplifying the contents of the accounting system is a worthy goal for a data warehouse.
Accounting is just one part of the overall order to cash process. Focus on the sections that you need for the questions.
For example “Show me the converted or lost sales for a particular product category in a given region, or to a specific customer or show me what is profitable and what is not are better suited to the data warehouse.
Where can you read more: https://learning.oreilly.com/library/view/data-warehouse-design – love this book.
Where to create your Data Warehouse?
This very much depends on the volume of data and the frequency and complexity of analysis. This coupled with how comfortable you and the business are with the nitty-gritty of database design is going to determine your strategy.
These are your options:
Build a data warehouse within the Salesorder database system (software stack) but outside the Salesorder database schema.
- If simple, it’s quick to build, and therefore cheap. It’s a great starting point.
- We’ll help you qualify if it’s the right approach and if it does it for you.
- Not scalable (in terms of complexity) and therefore has a short horizon of practicality if your needs expand.
- Contention for system resources
Build your own standalone data warehouse using a suitable platform i.e. AWS or Azure. Both software stacks optimized for Data Warehouse applications.
- A well-trodden path, plentiful user experiences, and lessons in the vendor’s ecosystems.
- Will scale
- Not expensive to get started (if you know what you’re doing)
- Documentation is like reading a book through a straw because it’s aimed at developers.
- Steep learning curve, even to deduce your options and where to start.
Cost of verified skill-set & real experience
Use a third-party data warehouse application i.e. Snowflake.
- Very focused solution
- Vendors will have relevant working examples and knowledge
- Inexpensive ‘pay for what you use’
- Availability and cost of verified skill-set & real experience of the newest platforms.
Fast track visible results to build confidence
The overall purpose of implementing a new system is to make everyone’s life better and increase business performance. The system will solve old problems and introduce new opportunities.
The system is a tool. People have to use it to understand, extract and apply its value. You have to carefully expose them to it, get them engaged and build their knowledge. Knowledge creates confidence.
The people involved and affected by the project, are used to the way it is before the project begins. Every individual will have their own perspective on what they or the business needs.
Use the Blueprint phase to gradually educate everyone.
Before you begin showing folks the system or talking about the solution, take time to get to know people and get to know and understand what they do in detail. Master their dictionary of terms and their meanings.
Look out for quick learners and individuals you ‘connect’ with. Observe how they connect with others. The ones who do this positively and consistently are probably good candidates for your Key users.
You need at least one evangelist. Don’t compromise or be biased by their seniority or lack thereof. You need individuals who are already well versed in selling to or getting their way with their co-workers.
Engage Key users as quickly and as early as is possible. Share this Blueprint with them.
Then let them play and explore. Get them to send their questions to us, if you can’t provide answers.
Make sure you precede their exploration with this reassurance :
And of course “Salesorder.com is a software engineering business (not a product company with commission-hungry salespeople)”. Honestly, we‘re here to listen and think.
Like you, we’re looking for a long term, intimate and complementary relationship with mutual benefits. This takes time…
Regardless of how simple it looks, or what vendors promise, it’s so easy (and common) in any software there are going to be hurdles.
Incomprehension, unexpected behavior, inconspicuous controls, vague instructions. All of these lurk in the shadows waiting to frustrate or halt users.
These ‘speed bumps’ coupled with the user’s expectation that the app will work like they are used to working are the realities of introducing a new system. We’re biased of course, but in our experience, Salesorder is up there with the easiest to use of apps in its class.
Patience, one and all, learn the conventions; List, Document, Action, Inheritance, you’re at least halfway there in minutes.
Encourage, encourage, encourage; Key users to show and share their learnings and results with their coworkers.
There’s a lot to think about, a lot to decide and a lot to do. You’re deploying a solution that will underpin the strategic functions of the business for arguably and at least the next 5 to 10 years.
Take your time. Talk to us as often or for as long as it is practical. Run your ideas and your Blueprint by us.
If you’re struggling, or stuck or would just like to hand the whole thing over to us we’re ready to help.
When you and your team are happy and you have completed your Blueprint, the next step is the ‘Build’ phase. We’ll see you there.