The experts are moving away from Software Answers to a new home

After several years of relaying advice to manufacturers and distributors from the Microsoft Dynamics NAV & Dynamics 365/CRM experts at Technology Management… the end is here.

Usually, the definitive end of a platform represents some form of closure, disaster or lack of content. However, we’re delighted to announce that we are transitioning the Software Answers blog to our brand-new Technology Management website.

What will you do with the content here?

We will be moving some of our very best content onto our new website. We have selected a two-part series, that detail ‘the challenges of Zoning and Cross-docking’ and ‘the demands for Traceability & Shelf-life’ in the Food and Beverage Industry.

For those of you with a vested interest in the Consumer Goods Industry, we are transferring a handful of our ‘8 reasons to change your business systems in the Consumer Goods sector’ across.

You may know that we’ve developed a range of Dynamics Additions to enhance your Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP business solution without the need for costly ground-up development. You will be able to read all about our newest Dynamics Addition: Sales Documents, which will help you to ‘streamline your sales process by managing Cases in one system.’

What can I expect on the new blog?

We will be relaying to you the latest updates on the benefits that new Dynamics Additions can provide your business. You can anticipate content specifically targeted to address software issues commonly faced in the: Building Materials, Consumer Goods, Distribution, Food & Beverage and Manufacturing industries.

Additionally, we will be producing content from a range of Dynamics NAV & Dynamics 365/CRM experts from Technology Management. Within the company, there are a host of people that specialise in different industries and areas. Each person will be able to add a varied perspective of how Dynamics NAV or Dynamics 365/CRM impacts their role.

Although these are the last words ever to be written on this platform, they represent an exciting new chapter that we hope you will form a vital part of. We aim to cater our blog to your preference, so we will hopefully see you on the other side!

Don’t be left guessing when it comes to your important business decisions

Microsoft Excel is fantastic, and has been the most popular software program to be adopted across the globe, ever. However, running your business from a series of spreadsheets might not be the best thing for growing your Consumer Goods business…

If you are running from disconnected, soiled systems, how can you make informed decisions? How do you know if data you look at is correct? And if it is correct, for how long?

To be able to quickly see trends and identify where things need changing, you need visibility across the length and breadth of your company and supply chain.

Ideally, you need to be able to spot opportunities from your retailers/supply chain as and when they appear, and take the reliance off the shoulders of your more experienced staff, far away from gut feel.

Follow the numbers.

Use Dynamics Consumer Goods to track and monitor if sales are up or down on particular stock or in specific regions, spot trends and clearly identity “one-off” occurrences so you can grow your business with every opportunity presented.

Having clear visibility also allows you to free up room in your warehouse, and not have the usual backlog of excess stock at the end of the season, as you will have the power to actively adjust your offers to retailers or even update your merchandising to suit and sell more…

To see more on how Dynamics Consumer Goods could help you sell more, watch here.

Reasons to change your business systems in the Consumer Goods sector. If you would like to view the first posts in this series, click here.

What effect are currency fluctuations having on your company profits, and what are you doing to protect yourself?

Most investors will be familiar with the concept of currency exposure, with constantly changing exchange rates affecting the cost of investing in international stocks. These same issues also affect companies that operate, import and export internationally.

If you have a business which prides itself on sourcing local products, foreign exchange is unlikely to have much of an impact on your profit margins. But if your business sources goods and services from overseas or exports products, fluctuations in the currency market can make a notable difference to your profitability. 

A double-edged sword, the foreign currency market is one of the most volatile trading platforms in the world. Exchange rates can move by as much as 10% in a matter of days; on the day the EU Referendum result was announced, the Pound dropped 12% against the US Dollar.

When even small fluctuations in an exchange rate can mean you get less of a return on your finished products, businesses with regular international money transfers to manage could find themselves seriously out of pocket if they fail to capitalise on positive foreign exchange rate fluctuations, or leave themselves exposed to negative ones.

If your business sends or receives international payments, currency moves can potentially have a serious impact on your bottom line. But there are ways you can look to protect your business from adverse moves…

The first step is to understand your exposure and the potential risks to your business.

Next time the exchange rate swings by 10%, you want to be able to quickly and easily quantify its impact on your bottom line. The best way for importers and exporters to compete is often through being competitive on price, but when things outside your control significantly undercut your margins, you need to be able to quickly establish by how much and where.

It's essential that you can easily drill down into what products, orders and/or contracts are

affected across your business so you can start making the necessary price changes. You need to know if there are items in transit that are affected that you need to address straight away or are you looking at only new orders?

With a single integrated system like Microsoft Dynamics NAV, you can analyse the impact of these tricky external factors on your business – on margins, cash flow or productivity – and make the right, corrective decisions based on reliable information.

With Dynamics NAV you can easily change your currency rates as they change, keep track of your potential exposure to currency fluctuations and also accurately record realised gains and losses.

You can register exchange rates for each foreign currency and specify from which dates the exchange rates are valid. For example, you can enter daily exchange rates, monthly exchange rates, or quarterly exchange rates for each foreign currency. You can even retain historical exchange rates for reference purposes.

Isolate, evaluate, and eliminate the impact of currency fluctuations on your business operations – and keep your margins stable with Dynamics NAV.

Inaccurate landed costs calculations eating into your margins?

Swings in currency fluctuation, most recently in the UK from the Brexit vote and general election, can have a huge impact on sterling value and equally on your profit margins.

For Consumer Goods manufacturers who export and import both materials and products, being able to estimate the final costs to your business enables accurate forecasting and helps to maintain projects.

However, for most businesses landed costs is something managed by a series of disconnected spreadsheets – which don’t hold up to date information on currencies, duties and shipping. This can leave you vulnerable when sudden changes in the market cause your overall predicted profitability to be skewed thanks to changing inflation or costs.

True visibility of all costs means less risk for your business. No matter what the currency, on any given day you might be managing product costs, transport, duty and even testing costs. Balancing the books to reflect these charges and the impact on your margins is vital to keep your business ticking over and to support growth.

One solution = fewer headaches + higher margin

Did you know you can easily improve product profitability with complete visibility of landed cost and shipping progress?

Use Dynamics Consumer Goods to record as many expected costs per item, per country of origin, shipment method, currency and date as needed and if it should be included for duty calculations. It also allows you to recalculate expected costs and automatically accrue them during the goods journey, correctly reflecting your cash flow projections.

Dynamics Consumer Goods also gives you container planning to maximise what you can fit in each container, as well as the ability to track your containers, so you never lose track of product no matter where in the world it is.

For more information on getting landed costs under control, watch our video.

Reasons to change your business systems in the Consumer Goods sector. If you would like to view the first posts in this series, click here.

Using Power BI Dashboards in Dynamics 365

In this video we talk you through how to use the Dashboards that are created as part of the free content packs available from AppSource (called Sales Analytics for Dynamics 365 and Customer Service Analytics for Dynamics 365) in Dynamics 365 as your own Dashboard or make this available for others.

This allows sales managers to get insights into their accounts, sales and opportunities. Details are given on sales performance, sales pipeline and activities. Sales performance can be tracked through metrics such as won revenue, average deal size, win rate, lead conversion rate and much more. Customer service managers can get valuable insights about the business in terms of customer service performance, activities and active cases. Metrics are provided out of the box to track service performance via resolved cases count, average handling times, % of escalated cases, CSAT scores and much more.

Even more excitingly a hybrid dashboard can be created, using the elements (Tiles) from each Dashboard that are most relevant to the person you are creating the dashboard for, you can mix and match tiles from different Power BI Dashboards along with Views from Dynamics 365 to give a truly bespoke dashboard with job role-specific information. This means that Power BI can be used by companies to manage the information views that managers in particular need, with possible cost reductions in licencing, as they may get everything they need from the Dashboard or Report in Power BI and so not actually need a Dynamics 365 licence or NAV licence.

Watch it now: https://youtu.be/0v1w6d-_jRQ 

Keep your staff happy – by letting your systems take operational control

We all know that good systems never replace good people, but good people are in short supply these days and you need to hang on to them!

The best people come to work and want to feel they have achieved something, they want job satisfaction every day and to feel as if they have contributed. For your key individuals who come to work and feel they do nothing but spin plates just to keep day to day operations going and are working longer and longer days to compensate for the lack of coordination, it’s not far into the future that they become fed up and want to move on…

To hang on to them, you need to provide a good tool to work with and take the constant pressure off. That’s where Microsoft Dynamics Consumer Goods comes in. A single, integrated system can hugely benefit your entire organisation including your key employees, and we know this for a fact as we have seen it repeatedly in businesses just like yours.

Microsoft Dynamics can free your good people up to be more strategic, less operational and feel a lot less like they are firefighting. Dynamics can help your business organise new product areas to be more effective, fine tune your deliveries and collections schedules and reduce stock with a streamlined pick, pack and ship cycle and most important help to prevent the overloading of your teams.

Ensure you work with your staff, not against them

With Microsoft Dynamics Consumer Goods, there will be no need to stress about the threat of your key people leaving over poor job satisfaction. Your systems will work for you instead of against you, which means your people can get the job satisfaction they crave and you can maximise efficiency in the working day whilst minimising the overheads.

Discover more about the issues in your warehousing and watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQ94wjlID_k

Late payments are costing SME’s in the UK more than £2bn a year

Smaller businesses in the UK are facing a total bill of £2.16 billion to chase overdue payments, according to Bacs Payment Schemes Limited.

In spite of a dramatic drop in the overall late payment debt, with new figures showing that UK small to medium size enterprises are owed £14.2 billion in contrast with five years ago when the total was double that, at £30.2 billion, late payments are still costing SME’s a lot more than they should.

Out of the 1.7 million SMEs in the UK, almost 640,000 say they have to wait beyond agreed terms for payments. 39% of companies are spending up to four hours a week chasing late payers, while 12 per cent of SMEs employ someone specifically to pursue outstanding invoices.

Almost one in five SMEs affected by overdue settlement admit that being owed between £20,000 and £50,000 would be enough to drive them into bankruptcy, with seven per cent of businesses saying they are already in that danger zone.

Of those facing late payments, some 16 per cent struggle to pay their staff on time, while 28 per cent of company directors reduce their own salaries in order to keep essential working capital inside their businesses. And nearly a third say that overdue invoice settlement forces them to pay their own suppliers late. A quarter rely on bank overdrafts to make essential payments, and 15 per cent find it difficult to pay business bills like energy, rates, and rent when they’re due.

A significant issue for SMEs is the amount of time they are being kept waiting beyond their previously agreed payment terms. Almost a third of companies face delays of at least a month beyond their terms and nearly 20 per cent are having to wait more than 60 days before being paid.

This is why keeping a tight grip on your credit control is vital.

To thrive, your organisation needs better control of overdue balances and approaching credit limits. So it’s essential to arm your business with the necessary tools to effectively and efficiently perform credit management and avoid receiving late payments.

Our Credit Management Addition for Dynamics NAV helps to remove some of the manual tasks from your Credit Control team, by automatically putting sales orders on hold if a customer has overdue balances or a particular sales order would put them over their agreed credit limit.

Get great visibility of outstanding balances by account. Assign your customers to specific individuals in your team to measure and track the performance of these accounts. Individual dashboard help your credit controllers to keep on top of outstanding balances and daily tasks. Visibility by account means you can easily identify the biggest outstanding balances and also ensure you don’t miss the smallest balances either and Views of what’s due for payment in the next x days, means a proactive approach to credit and prevents customers regularly exceeding their payment terms.

We know ourselves that ensuring you get paid on time is getting harder, so our Dynamics Addition also helps your team keep on top of chasing debt. Follow up calls/to-do’s can be automatically diarised to remind your users when to chase payments that haven’t been paid when promised, aiding your busy team with better time management and more efficient processes.

Make life simpler with Credit Management and don’t let poor cash flow kill your business.

The Power of JET – Fast, Flexible, Custom Reporting Inside Excel

Our Dynamics Learning course – Using Jet Professional – is a one day, hands on course that will equip you to create your own tailored reports.

It’s a chance to explore all the options this great reporting tool has, from the four basic functions NL, NF, GL and NP, through to all the visual tools that are available to speed things up, all mixed in with plenty of tips and tricks for the software. We will guide you from starting up the software right the way through to the final stage of scheduling your reports for distribution via email.

Our course is the full package. A full day's learning supported by a 100-page training manual, (so you don’t need to worry about making notes on the day), a video playlist to watch back and over 50 example reports to take away. So you will be fully equipped to put things into practice as soon as you get back to your desk! 

All delivered in our dedicated training facility, in our demonstration environment, working with the latest versions of both Jet and Microsoft Dynamics NAV – with the support of our in-house professional trainer.

Find out if our course is for you at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoS7gV-LINmmYy8x_Ju00EiHlTjLD6T7p

5 Reasons to move to integrated EDI with Dynamics Food

As in other manufacturing supply chains, food manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers are increasingly collaborating to enhance supply chain efficiency, reduce costs and strengthen the bottom line.

Many retailers see a direct improvement in profitability when they engage integrated EDI with their suppliers. This is why they increasingly request their suppliers communicate with them using EDI, and why they may financially penalise non-compliance with “chargebacks”.

Food suppliers, on the other hand, might view EDI as one more of the many hoops they need to jump through to work with a new client. But in reality, integrated EDI adds value to suppliers too.

Dynamics Food combines the power of Microsoft Dynamics with proven functionality specifically for the food industry (including EDI) to provide a complete end-to-end business software solution.

Here’s 5 reasons why integrated EDI with Dynamics Food puts you back in control of your food & beverage supply business:

  • Be more responsive

    Automatically import EDI orders into Dynamics Food and pass them straight through to the warehouse for picking with system directed movements. Be ready for shipping in less time than it took to print the original EDI order and assess the changes.

    And being able to be more responsive to changing retailers’ demands could just put you one step ahead of your competition.

  • An accelerated “order to cash” process

    A streamlined, electronic interchange of all your invoices and delivery notifications also means less errors, fewer lost orders and deliveries. Secure business processes and audit trails also mean faster dispute resolution when things do occasionally go awry.

  • Free up time to focus on the strategic

    Reliable, repeatable processes not only improves customer service levels with your retailers but also drives up staff productivity and means less time spent fire-fighting – so you and your team can focus on the things that matter most to your business.

  • Cost savings – working with the major retailers

    Integrated EDI with Dynamics Food drives paperless automation which means no more printing and re-keying so you save on labour, paper, forms, postage, paper disposal and more.

    By the end of this year our integrated EDI will have helped our customers process over 450,000 documents electronically.

  • Cost savings – working with your own suppliers

    According to research done by Aberdeen Group1, the average “paper requisition to order” costs a company £28.60 in EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa). With EDI, on average, this is reduced by 30% to just £20.02.

    How many purchase orders and/or purchase invoices do you raise on your suppliers per month/per year? What savings could you achieve with as a result. Or what other tasks could your staff undertake with this administrative burden removed?

Dynamics Food’s integrated EDI capabilities are already proven with all the major retailers – as well as many major food brands and third-party logistics (3PL) companies. Rest assured our EDI team will have seen it all before. They will have already worked with all the document types (from purchase orders, invoices, credit notes and ASN’s to order acknowledgements and remittance advices), all the EDI message “standards” and all your likely trading partners.

We already support our customers to trade via EDI with all these companies; 3663, Blakemore, Aldi, Amazon, Asda, Batleys, Booker, Brakes, Cold Move, Co-op, Costco, Costcutter, Culina, Iceland, Kerry Foods, Kerry Logistics, Laita, Lidl, Mace, Makro, M&S, Morrisons, Musgarve, Nisa, NFT, Ocado, Petco, Pets at Home, Sainsburys, Spar, Tesco, Tesco Ireland, Unilever, Vestey Foods, VioVet, Waitrose and Wilko.

Let us take responsibility for the initial set up of your specific combination of EDI trading partners, documents and products – and see the orders (and automation benefits) start streaming in.

Discover how integrated EDI is just one of the many benefits of Dynamics Food – a complete business software solution for your food & beverage supply business.

1Aberdeen Group 2008

The Power of JET – Fast, Flexible, Custom Reporting Inside Excel

Our Dynamics Learning course – Using Jet Professional - is a one day, hands-on course that will equip you to create your own tailored reports.

It’s a chance to explore all the options this great reporting tool has, from the four basic functions, NL, NF, NP and GL, through to all the visual tools that are available to speed things up, all mixed in with plenty of tips and tricks for the software. We will guide you from starting up the software right the way through to the final stage of scheduling your reports for distribution via email, so you can ensure you get the most out of the data in your ERP system. 

Our course is the full package. A full days learning supported by a 100-page training manual, (so you don’t need to worry about making notes on the day), a video playlist to watch back and over 50 example reports to take away. You will be fully equipped to put things into practice as soon as you get back to your desk!  

All delivered in our dedicated training facility, in our demonstration environment, working with the latest versions of both Jet and Microsoft Dynamics NAV – with the support of our in-house professional trainer.

Find out if our course is for you at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoS7gV-LINmmYy8x_Ju00EiHlTjLD6T7p