Businesses Get a Boost with Enterprise Resource Planning Releases
An old adage suggests that the only constant in life is change. Recognizing the truth of this statement, business owners are constantly evaluating their business processes and searching for solutions that will improve their cash flow, increase their efficiency and expand their market share.
The release today of Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 and Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 is designed to provide business owners with such features as increased business intelligence functionality, a more intuitive user interface and the introduction of structured and unstructured search, which allows a person to more easily track down important business information.
In early testing of these products, companies such as ChemPoint.com, a distributor of chemicals and services, and Moeller Design & Development, a provider of rapid product development solutions and services, have improved efficiencies, reduced training time for new employees, and increased worker productivity.
To get a better understanding of how businesses have been using and benefiting from early releases of these products, PressPass spoke with Brooke Davis, controller for Moeller Design and Development in Seattle, Wash.; Ken Green, director of IT for Clearwater Seafoods in Bedford, Nova Scotia; and Dorothy Znamiec, information systems director for Genica in San Diego, Calif.
PressPass: What business problems are you addressing with each of these products?
Green: At Clearwater Seafoods, we’re using Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 to improve the way we run our financial systems and increase our use of business intelligence.
We’ve integrated Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 to run the financial systems in each of our business units around the world. Each unit essentially runs its business on Microsoft Dynamics GP, from supply chain management to order management, all the financial reporting and other key business functions. So when we actually put an order into the system, ideally it will come back and say, “Here’s how much gross margin you’re making on this order.”
Our watchword for the next year is “real-time profit reporting,” so with the deployment of Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 we hope to increase our use of business intelligence through the product’s ability to connect to SQL Server and features in Office such as Excel Services. This will allow us to determine, for example, what was sold yesterday, the number of orders in the pipeline, and what’s going on with the financials relative to budget.
Davis: Moeller Design specializes in providing Rapid Prototype services to designers and manufacturers using stereolithography, room temperature vulcanization molds, cast urethane, computer numerical control machining and other processes. Our biggest challenges are scheduling our machine resources and materials inventory, as well as providing an accurate and timely picture of our work load and financial status.
Our goal is to streamline the entire manufacturing process by turning on more of the manufacturing modules in Microsoft Dynamics SL, integrating Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 with the third-party software that runs the machines, and also more tightly integrating it with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0.
Znamiec: As an e-commerce company, Genica is especially focused on improving the speed and performance of releasing sales batches and moving them from Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 to our custom applications for better monitoring and business planning.
We will really be taking advantage of Microsoft Dynamics SL’s integration with Microsoft SQL Server 2005 reporting services and hope to pull reports directly from Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0, as well as reports from third party vendors. With the improved performance and ability to connect the two products, we’ll be able to retrieve reports more quickly and provide management with a wider range of business-relevant information upon which to base their decisions.
In addition, we’ll continue to automate our business processes using third-party software. On this front, Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0’s compatibility with .NET will help us to implement the latest service packs and upgrades from our third-party vendors.
PressPass: What do you think of the new user interface design in each of the products?
Green: The feedback I’ve been getting is quite positive. People have definitely noticed that this version of Microsoft Dynamics GP is easier to use. One example is the Action Panes, which virtually eliminate the need to search around for what to do next and how to do it. Take the case of accounts payable clerks. Action Panes makes their job much easier and repetitive; and if a personnel change is necessary, it will be a snap to bring the new clerk up to speed in a shorter amount of time. The fact that Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 is laid out much like Excel and Outlook also provides a greater level of familiarity.
Davis: Oh, we love it. We have quite a few people at Moeller who have never used any type of enterprise resource planning (ERP) or modular system, so for those people who are a little intimidated by modular systems, the new user interface gives it such a familiar feel. With the roll out of Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 we are adding 10 new users. Couple that with the work order, bill of materials, inventory and purchasing modules that we’ll be turning on, and you have a huge potential for difficulty in training. However, we think the new interface is going to alleviate a lot of those training and adoption issues for the new people.
Znamiec: I echo Ken and Brooke’s remarks. The user interface in Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 is beautiful, it’s clear, it’s wonderful. I especially appreciate being able to assign screens to my employees based on the groups to which they belong and what role they play in the company. That’s really big for us.
PressPass: What are some of your favorite features in these products?
Green: There are several things. But again, from an overall business point of view, it’s the ability of Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 to drill down and generate financial reports using the capabilities available in SQL Server and Office applications such as Excel services. Having those all connected is a really big thing for us.
Davis: Moeller Design is especially looking forward to improvements in the electronic document delivery. Our current process for handling electronic-document delivery is pretty cumbersome, but the tracking capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 are much easier and will save us a ton of time.
The customizable menus will also make a world of difference, even for employees who are already heavy users of Microsoft Dynamics SL. Being able to have little reminders about where to go to do things has probably cut down our training by about 50 percent.
Znamiec: It’s very difficult to name one or two features. I am just overall very, very impressed with this release. This newest version is so easy; it just works.
One example of this is the Visual Basic tool application upgrade utility, which has been working flawlessly. We have numerous custom applications at Genica, so it was very important that I be able to convert all the customization and custom screens to Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0. The Visual Basic tool application upgrade utility allowed me to easily and comfortably convert all my applications. In a matter of minutes I was able to render them compatible with Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0.
With Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 we can apportion pre-payments to multiple vouchers, or easily reverse a pre-payment. We can also use the electronic document delivery to easily send purchase orders and other related documents to the vendor.
PressPass: What’s the number–one reason you’ve chosen Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0/ Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 over going to another ERP vendor?
Green: Clearwater Seafoods initially went with Microsoft Dynamics GP a number of years ago. We really think Microsoft is headed in the right direction with Microsoft Dynamics GP, and we’re pleased with the product’s ability to integrate with Microsoft Office, and the rest of the products in our IT portfolio.
Davis: A lot of the products on the market are split between project management and manufacturing – either oriented to repetitive manufacturing or really focused on project management and professional service. We went with Microsoft Dynamics SL because our environment at Moeller Design is unique in that it’s split between both these worlds. Because it has all these different modules that work together, and with third-party modules from companies like Sandler*Kahne Software, we were able to make Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 fit well within our environment.
Znamiec: There are several reasons, actually. Specific to the product is how quickly Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 allows us to update the database and only those tables and those objects that have changed. It’s awesome because only the changes that have occurred from one version to another will need to be updated. Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0’s support of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 also provides us with the latest and greatest in terms of flexibility and supportability.
Bottom line: Right now, we have US$150 million in sales and would not change Microsoft Dynamics SL for anything else. Besides that, I have 250 employees and we absolutely love it.
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