Benefits of Automated Test Platform (ATP)

In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of incorporating the Sage X3 Automated Test Platform into your system.

As Sage X3 continues to deliver new functional and technical enhancements in V12 via biannual patch releases, keeping up to date with the latest patches is now more important than ever in ensuring your system remains secure, supported, and able to fully utilise the latest Sage X3 functionality.

Undertaking system patching requires comprehensive regression testing in order to ensure system continuity and stability. For a lot of businesses, at best this is often a time-consuming, costly and outright arduous manual process which drags key people and resources away from other value-added tasks. At worst, manual testing can often lead to inconsistent results and a reluctance to embrace further change, leading to outdated systems and increased cybersecurity risks.

The Sage X3 Automated Test Platform (ATP) offers a simple, scalable solution to minimise manual testing and bring the following benefits to your business:

  • Mitigate cyber vulnerabilities
  • Stay up to date with the latest patches and functionality
  • Low-cost compliance documentation
  • Standardised testing and reporting of SOP
  • Greatly reduced human intervention
  • Early detection of issues
  • Increased system confidence

The introduction of the Sage X3 Automated Test Platform into a Sage X3 environment can bring numerous benefits to your business; such as: increasing the speed and consistency of testing, visibility of reporting, maintenance of compliance and cost-savings. 

Sage X3 Automated Test Platform (ATP) achieves this through a combination of the following features:

End-to-End Process Replication

 Automated Test Platform (ATP) allows you to automate processes specific to your business whether that be within one function, such as creating a new product, or a complete end-to-end process such as order to cash.

It does this by allowing a complete replication of the user’s data entry – incorporating things such as selecting entry transactions, searching for values, using the left list selection, drilling through into different fields and navigating past various pop-ups and warning boxes.

Automated Test Platform screenshot number one

Pre-Built & Easily Customisable Scenarios

Out of the box, the Automated Test Platform (ATP) features over 100 pre-built scenarios, from simple steps such as logging in, to advanced end-to-end end processes such as procure to pay. The platform features ready-made templates that can be quickly fine-tuned to suit your specific business processes.

ATP 3

In Application Script Assistant

The Automated Test Platform (ATP) also features a plugin to Sage X3 for creating your test scripts, allowing users to conduct their processes directly within a function in Sage X3. With just a few clicks, their actions can then be exported to form the basis of a new testing template which can be easily modified for further test scenarios.

Automated Test Platform Screenshot 2

User-friendly natural language for non-developers

Automated Test Platform (ATP) test scripts are written in Visual Studio, which will be an environment well-known to most developers. These scripts however are written in a natural, user-friendly language called Gherkin.

Unlike your stereotypical snippet of code, Gherkin is written in plain text sentences which describe what the line of code is doing, making it easy for non-programmers to be able to understand, modify and build scenarios themselves, ultimately allowing test scripts to reflect Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)’s and be written by those most familiar with the business process.

ATP 5

Easily run 100’s test cases with a click of a button

The Automated Test Platform (ATP) is installed along with Jenkins, an industry-leading automation server, on which you can build testing ‘pipelines’. 

Specify which scripts are to run, when and in what order, allowing simultaneous and repeatable testing without diverting resources away from the business.

ATP 6 lite

Easily modify, re-run and maintain test cases

The scripts also contain parameters, both system and user-created, which can easily be set either within Visual Studio or Jenkins. The use of parameters makes re-running and maintaining your scripts simple.

If you wish to test the same script across different sites, you can simply set the site as a variable, change that one parameter and you can instantly switch all of your test cases to run on that site. 

The parameters can also be used for things such as users, so tests can be replicated under different function permissions, and to store the value of newly created information – such as a sales order number created on a previous test, to avoid the need for constant tweaking of scripts.

Holistic reporting

Through Allure, the Automated Test Platform (ATP) provides holistic reporting of your testing pipeline, every step of the way.

High-level reports of test timings and script failures can be set up and each script can be drilled into to provide detailed information on the test/failure or each testing step, accompanied with screenshots.

Test failures can be categorised to ensure standardization across the testing process, and previous information on previous tests can easily be stored and recalled, which is essential for high-compliance industries.

ATP 8 lite

Minimise Repetitive Manual Testing & Maintenance

Easier Incorporation of the latest functionality, security and support enhancements

Maximise Efficiency & Effectiveness of Testing

Time / cost / resources savings

Summary

Using testing automation, as we have seen above, can provide a wide range of application and business benefits.  For businesses looking to stay up to date, and those operating in high-compliance industries (such as food and beverage, pharmaceuticals & chemicals), adopting Automated Test Platform (ATP) is likely to provide extensive benefits and rapid ROI.

Mysoft x Digital Humani

As part of Mysoft’s TREE initiative, we want to explore ways of tackling climate change and planting trees was an obvious positive action we could undertake. Beyond helping to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere over their lifetime, trees have other environmental benefits, such as helping to restore biodiversity and ecosystems that have been damaged by humans, as well as reducing soil erosion & degradation. 

As a Sage Business Partner, we wanted to do more than just commit to planting a limited number of trees in an ad hoc fashion. Instead, Mysoft wanted to integrate tree planting right into Sage X3, allowing our successes as a business to instantly translate into successes for the environment.

 

Selection of Tree Planting API Providers

 

Upon starting this project, our team was very aware that the tree-planting industry has been tainted with multiple examples of greenwashing. With that in mind, we started our evaluation of tree planting API providers with a set of criteria in mind. We discovered quickly that there are many options available, and through a narrowing process we ended up shortlisting three for comparison: More:Trees, Digital Humani and The Good API.

APIs

For comparing these different options, we established a few important criteria:

Based on these criteria, Digital Humani stood out as the strongest contender

Additionally, they have some other benefits outside of our criteria such as being able to get certificates for trees planted if the project partner is OneTreePlanted, and they are a registered charity in Canada.

 

Development of the Tree Planting API with Sage X3

 

Having decided on the API provider we began to familiarise ourselves with their API, running tests of tree planting manually to ensure we understood the technology and process using the sandbox.  Once we were satisfied that the API would be appropriate for our use case we began the process of creating the Sage X3 integration. 

After discussions with the internal team at Mysoft, we decided it was best to calculate the number of trees to be planted based on what was invoiced, so when we succeed as a company the environment succeeds too. For invoices, we came up with three different options for the criteria – total invoice value, quantity of certain products, and value of certain products. We also decided to include formula fields to give us more flexibility on what triggers the tree planting. We already, at this stage, had it in mind that other Sage X3 users might be interested in this API; so we specified it with the flexibility for both Mysoft and the potential other businesses. Once this decision was taken, we set to work on the development tasks to make it happen. 

The goal was to amend as little of standard X3 as possible to help keep the integration simple – making it easy to roll out and support.

 

The Complete Solution; From Sage X3 to Tree Planting

 

At the end of Phase 1, our solution has 4 new Sage X3 functions: Projects, Campaigns, Campaign Groups, and Process Tree Planting:

 

API Projects

Digital Humani Project imported into Sage X3

Projects

Projects is a simple table view that imports all the tree-planting projects currently available via Digital Humani from the list of providers; the projects are tied to a planting partner and a location round the globe – giving people the choice of where to plant and with whom.

 

 

 

Tree Planting Campaigns & Groups

API Campaign

Tree planting campaigns

The campaign screen includes all the criteria for planting 1 tree. We can set the sales-to-planting ratio here, for example, 0.1 of a quantity will plant 10 trees for every 1 unit.

All campaigns are tied to a planting project with Digital Humani.

Campaigns are organised into Campaign Groups which are applied to the customer.

 

 

Tree Planting Triggers

Tree planting requests are generated when a new sales invoice has been created where the customer has a campaign group defined. The number of trees to plant gets updated if the invoice is modified up until the invoice is posted.

 

API PT Function

Manually process tree planting requests

Process Tree Planting Requests

 

Finally, we have to plant the trees. For this, we use our Press Tree Planting function. This is a simple tick box with an ‘OK’ button to process all outstanding tree-planting requests.

Typically, this will run on the X3 Batch Server (Scheduler) and will not need to be run manually but is useful to have the option to run it manually from the menu. We created a Batch Task that processes all planting requests at the end of the day.

 

Digital Humani Dashboard

 

The dashboard created by Digital Humani is a great place to view all the planting done so far. In this example, you can see two days where we pushed a bulk set of manual plant requests. 

API Dashboard

 

Mysoft’s Future with Tree Planting

 

Having built the integration, and proven that it works, we have begun to appreciate the potential for this solution. There are approximately 7,000 Sage X3 sites around the world today; if one in ten sites installed this and set the API up, we would have added another 700 companies to the tree planting project. If each of these planted 1,000 trees per year, we could plant 700,000 trees per year via Sage X3! The potential for this solution to scale and affect meaningful change in the world is startling. 

If you use a Sage X3 and are interested in using our Tree-API, please get in touch and we will gladly make it available to you. 

Mysoft looks forward to growing together with you!

Nowadays, it’s incumbent on us to look beyond our own personal financial responsibilities and consider the global imperatives that face us all.

 

We’re familiar with the idea of “Re-use, Reduce, Recycle”; we’re all becoming more careful about how we deal with packaging and recycling; sometimes we choose where we shop or who we bank with based on that company’s attitudes to global matters. Hardly a day goes by without some news story that shames organisations that pollute waterways or send waste to landfill, about countries that are facing uncertain futures as a result of environmental decisions taken decades ago, or about those who look to put pressure on governments and organisations to rectify the situation. Whichever way you look at it, in our personal lives we’re more aware of the world around us and our own ability to move mountains and shape opinions.

It’s much the same when looking at it from a business perspective.

Negative implications of different companies environmental actions have already been exposed which has meant many are getting their houses in order, setting sustainability targets and restructuring their operations.

Within Mysoft, we’re talking about the Sage X3 community and how companies can use ERP systems like X3 to control, monitor and optimise the inputs and outputs of their operations on a daily basis. Thus achieving an efficient sustainable process.

 

How Sage X3 can achieve sustainability within industries

Product expiry and repurposing

In industries such as food & beverages, pharmaceuticals and other process manufacturing operations, monitoring product expiry is key. With Sage X3 you can set expiry rules and warnings by product, stock that is approaching expiry can be highlighted using workflows and reporting, so that it can be reclassified if it’s slow moving. Being able to identify batches of stock close to expiry, and planning for how to deal with that eventuality over and above mere disposal and writing it off, is just one way Sage X3 can help to keep costs down and warehouses adequately stocked while meeting sustainability objectives.

 

Packaging

The decision of how  to classify packaging often varies from company to company: should it be treated as a cost of production or cost of sale or simply as an overhead? Monitoring volumes and weights of packaging can be crucial in ensuring that a company keeps its costs down and its waste to a minimum.,   How many times have you ordered something that has arrived in grossly oversized packaging? If you’re selling samples of wallpaper, it makes sense to ensure that you’re using the right sized envelopes., This is where Sage X3 comes in, recommended packaging for a product can be defined, so that the right type of packaging is used for products of different sizes. This can, in turn, prevent companies being overtaxed for plastic bags and ensuring the exact amount is used and invoiced for. 

 

Waste tracking

In many manufacturing environments, there will always be an element of scrappage, which is generally anticipated as a by-product of production. You can define expected percentages of scrap as part of a Bill of Materials, or cater for these when making purchasing decisions, so why can’t this scrap material be put to good use? One of Mysoft’s customers, a manufacturer of personal protective equipment, recycles the left over plastic from their production of hard hats. When volumes of waste material can be anticipated, companies can plan what to do with that material.

Reporting on waste is critical, in certain countries it’s a legal requirement to provide a European Waste Code declaration. The data for this appears in the ERP, both from a forecast and actuals perspective, therefore making it  possible to automate this and circulate the result. This allows relevant stakeholders to be kept informed about how their company is performing against its targets.

 

Purchasing and stock management

For a business involved in distribution or manufacturing, maintaining optimum stock levels is a critical element in keeping costs down. Optimising the supply chain can have multiple environmental benefits around minimising wastage (as discussed above) and facilitating stock availability through efficient order management (optimal order quantities) thus reducing multiple shipments. To that end, solutions that offer multi-site inventory forecasting models, or that minimise transportation costs by enabling consolidation of purchasing to reduce shipping and haulage costs (and their associated emissions), must be seriously considered.

 

Supplier Management

Sage X3 has the  ability to rank suppliers based on criteria such as performance against lead times, product quality and delivered quantities – this information can be used to inform purchasing decisions. One metric that could be added to these along with many others  is a supplier’s ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) rating, which is increasingly being used by investors and can also be used by companies as another decision factor. 

 

Reducing Paper Waste 

The easiest way for companies to improve their sustainability, almost overnight, is to reduce the flows of paper circulating between departments. Digital copies of paperwork are now becoming the sustainable norm,  therefore, functionality that allows for documents to be stored digitally direct from emails, is becoming a necessity. One Mysoft customer is taking the sustainable step of discarding mountains of paperwork (mostly historical) in favour of a solution which enables sales documentation to be stored electronically, including email correspondence which would previously have been printed out and stored in a physical archive!

Our insights from  X3CloudDocs tells us that over 90% of suppliers invoices are being sent to customers electronically, so why print these out when electronic approvals are available at your fingertips? This is just one of many examples of how paper waste can be minimised and switched out for the digital way, improving efficiency as well as increasing sustainable actions!

 

Why choose Sage X3 as your ERP? 

 

As the world embraces a greater focus on creating a more sustainable future, businesses must also play their part in driving sustainability. The use of an ERP system like Sage X3 offers significant opportunities for companies to control, monitor, and optimise their environmental impact in various areas. By leveraging X3’s functionalities, businesses can efficiently manage product expiry and repurposing, monitor and reduce packaging waste, track and utilise scrap materials, automate waste reporting, optimise purchasing and stock management, and even minimise paper usage through digital documentation and streamlined processes. 

 

Get in touch now if you’d like to chat about your businesses next steps!

Download the Mysoft guide to ‘Upgrading to Sage X3 Version 12’ to explore some of the primary reasons that businesses upgrade their Sage X3 environments.

Upgrading to Sage X3 Version 12

Upgrading to Sage X3 Version 12

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So you’ve got Sage X3, but are not sure you’re making the most of it? Here’s a simple checklist we have put together to ensure your business capabilities are working with maximum efficiency across every department. 

 

  1.  Conduct a system health check and post-implementation review

A system “health check” is a great way to assess both your ERP system and your business, this will help you evaluate the gaps and ensure you are getting the most out of Sage X3.  ERPs are really just the digitisation and systematisation of real-world business processes, so when looking at the “health” of an ERP it needs to be reviewed in context of the business as a whole.   A common challenge with systems is that they are implemented and then left largely unchanged for long periods of time, while the world changes around them.  When this happens it means processes and ways of working become out of date, or new functionality isn’t adopted.  Undertaking a system health check will allow your business to evaluate what still works, what needs updating, and what needs a total change.

A great ERP system health check will cover the following areas: 


a) Consider each functional element of the current solution – what’s working well, or, conversely, what needs attention in order to optimise the benefits being delivered?

b) How well is the system performing? Has the system and its environment been correctly configured and sufficiently updated to address your critical business, legal and regulatory requirements.

c) Do users need additional training in order to achieve the anticipated benefits of the solution?

d) Has the system been adequately documented? Do users know what to do and where to look if they need help.

e) Are appropriate internal and external support arrangements in place? Not just for the business in its current state, but with the future desired state in mind.

f) What additional development work or configuration might be required to enable the business to improve and grow? You might need to circle back to this point once you’ve been through the rest of the checklist, below…

 

2. Review business processes to find efficiencies

Once a health check has been performed and the areas for change have been identified, then it’s time to get into the details – analysing what’s going on and how can it be improved is another way of ensuring you are getting the most out of Sage X3.

A logical way to approach this is by breaking this down into the different business areas. Looking at the activity within each department is great to see what does and doesn’t work well and then speaking to other businesses, or a business consultant, about what best practice looks like for businesses of your type.  Be careful, though, as this can risk the process becoming a bit siloed, so make sure that this is viewed in context of the whole business. End-to-End business process scenarios (“day in the life”) are an excellent way to adopt a holistic vision of a business process. 

Then it’s all about efficiency – can the current process be simplified or further systematised in order to obtain the same results (while adopting best practices where possible) or can certain tasks be automated in order to expedite them or generally save time when dealing with large volume activities? 

Automation can have the knock-on effect of making your staff more productive as they then get involved in more valuable activities. Barcode scanning, rather than manual entry, can speed up the process of booking in stock and then picking and delivering orders. Batch processing your invoicing can help your credit control team spend more time chasing payments, or developing their customer relationships in general. Finally, using business intelligence tools to produce reporting packs can help to slash days off the time it takes to produce those packs at month end. Indeed, maybe people around the business simply need to be better informed about significant business activity, such as a major new order, customers hitting their credit limits, and so on, using workflow emails.

 

3. Identify core functionality that might fit your needs

It might be that in some cases, as identified above, it’s not a matter of fixing an existing process but instead putting a new one in place.   As with all things ERP, we want to start with “standard” – assessing the core, standard, functionality of the system is always the first place to start. This is usually the most cost-efficient and lowest-risk approach and makes sense to be the starting point.  Take time to explore areas of the system that you’re not currently using – you might want to engage with a consultant, or be able to share their own experiences in that area, or who should be able to help you to determine if certain functionality might be available for internal evaluation. 

Some easy examples for system improvement that are really common in Sage X3 sites tend to be around digitisation and automation – we’ve broken the list down below by business area to ensure each department utilises Sage X3 to full capacity and gets the most out of it: 

a) Finance – bank integration, reconciliation, group consolidation, intercompany recharges

b) Supply chain – order to invoice processing and despatch, automating the procurement process, barcode scanning in the warehouse

c) Manufacturing – new product implementation, implementing MRP, production scheduling, shop floor data capture

d) General –  introducing workflows and notifications, audit trail reporting, and landing pages to enhance user navigation and experience.

If you then come to the conclusion that you have key requirements not fulfilled by standard system behaviour, then there are a couple of avenues we can explore,  such as incorporating other software to fulfil your needs or developing modifications around the existing system. 

 

4. Still gaps? Look at Independent Software Vendors

Sage X3 has been designed to be flexible and suited to the requirements of most product-centric businesses, with a vast array of configurable parameters and other settings. However, every business is different, and so there may be functionality that doesn’t quite fit the bill as far as you’re concerned. X3 has therefore also been designed with integrations in mind, and a growing community of independent software vendors, or ISVs, are now endorsed by Sage as providing value-add solutions that can integrate seamlessly with your X3 solution.

Here’s a list of just some of the ISV solutions that Mysoft has previously worked with (although please note that others are available):

  1. Budgeting and Forecasting – Prophix
  2. Reporting and BI – Sage Enterprise Intelligence (also known as Nectari), Sage Data & Analytics (also known as Zap BI)
  3. EDI – Cindercone Magma, OpenText
  4. eCommerce – TrueCommerce
  5. Stock forecasting – Sage Inventory Advisor (also known as Netstock)
  6. Complex warehouse – Datalinx

 

5. Let’s look outside the box for options “off the shelf”

A number of our customers have engaged with us to develop integrations with third-party solutions in areas such as CRM, warehouse management, financial databases, PLM and manufacturing solutions and others. Talk to us about what other customers have done and we’ll see if we can help.

Mysoft is also the author of X3CloudDocs, a cloud-based solution for your AP automation, document management and workflow needs. Alternatively, a number of other complementary solutions to Sage X3 are available on Sage’s Marketplace.

a) What can Mysoft develop/bespoke for you?

If you still need help with some specific functionality, then you can rely on Mysoft’s experienced team of consultants, backed by our unrivalled team of X3 developers, to provide you with efficient, cost-effective solutions to cater for your needs.

We have also developed a range of plugins for Sage X3 covering areas such as exchange rate management, credit card integrations, credit control diary notes, interfaces with carrier solutions and much more.

 

6. Technology check

a) On-premise? Then consider if the cloud is right for you

Increasingly, Mysoft’s customers are considering “cloud” as their hosting option of choice. With Sage offering Amazon Web Services and Azure hosting, and external providers also available, then, depending on your budget and level of solution complexity, Mysoft can help you to make the right choice.

b) Worried about falling behind?  Look at a patching service

Always stay up to date with a patching service from Mysoft. We can help you to ensure that you’re always on the latest recommended version of Sage X3, plus any ISV solutions that you choose to employ. Contact your Mysoft Account Manager for details.

c) Tired of testing?  Check out the ATP solution from Sage

Speed up the time it takes to test new patches with Sage’s Automated Test Platform (ATP). With ATP you design tests that can be easily repeated from one patch to the next, saving you man hours in set up and testing. You can also add further tests to take account of your own bespoke developments and ISV products.

d) Are you secure? Explore MFA options

With each new patch of X3, Sage also provides updated technical specifications, keeping up to date with essential third party software designed to keep your data, systems and environments safe. Our team of technical experts can review your environment against the Sage recommended standards and let you know where you might be falling behind.

 

 

If you’d like to know more or explore any of these options, check out our quote calculator or get in touch with us.

With the benefits of a standardised delivery model in mind, Mysoft has adopted a two-stream delivery approach to ERP projects: Kickstart & Toolkit. Both of these follow a standardised process at their core, with Toolkit building on this standardised framework to deliver more sophisticated, and bespoke, solutions. 

 

Kickstart

Kickstart is a framework methodology:  A method of delivering ERP using an existing project template as a framework to provide structure and control to a project, but allowing for a degree of variation, based on business needs. 

This is an “off the shelf” solution, pre-configured with industry best practice settings and ready to get going quickly.  This approach works fantastically for businesses which may not have established formal business processes, are looking for a more efficient and streamlined approach to business, or simply a return to a more refined business management solution. 

 

Toolkit

ToolKit is a more traditional methodology to implementing ERP, building on tried and tested processes and standards to navigate a more “bespoke” form of implementation.   Taking the starting point of Kickstart and reviewing each key business process, amending the process or reproducing it in Sage X3, and adding layers of automation and auditability. 

This takes the “off the shelf” solution as a starting point and allows you to dive into the details in every area, allowing for more extensive configuration and a solution which more closely matches what your business looks like today. 

 

What does a typical Toolkit project look like?

Toolkit projects are typically longer-running than a simple, totally standard, Kickstart project; this is due to the more detailed scoping, the likelihood for modifications and non-standard processes (and therefore increased testing) and the generally broader scope of the delivery. 

The core activities are similar to Kickstart; however, there is an increased volume of scoping and workshops early on, in addition to the parallel track of development and integrations likely to be underway.  An increase in data migration and User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is also to be anticipated with a deliverable which is further away from the standard.

 

Implementation Phases

Initiate: This is the project launch phase characterised by establishing governance & alignment for the project, commencing technical pre-work (installations, etc.) and the formation of a unified project team from both businesses.  A high level project plan and stakeholder map is one of the key deliverables from this phase.  Key user training also typically takes place here. 

Design: As the name would suggest, this is a key block of activity for the project in terms of definition of the target system and allowing all parties to fully understand key business requirements and process flows. If it is needed, bespoke development is likely to surface here as core processes are reviewed and challenged. Change control from this point on requires a clearly stately objective for the system and set of mutually understood project deliverables. 

Build: Herein the core configuration us underway.  Typically this phase is less of a draw on the customer, and therefore often data migration can commence on the customer side while configuration is underway. Workstream leads and subject matter experts (SMEs) will continue to be actively involved in reviewing and validating system set up as it is deployed. Extended training will commence here, alongside customer documentation of workflows and SOPs.  Test plans will be established in preparation for validation. 

Validate: This is the phase in which the team begin to appreciate the fruits of their labours, migrating test data into the system and running end to end testing (including that of any bespoke modifications.  This phase allows for an entrenchment of training and the execution of real-world scenarios in the new environment. 

Deploy: This is the final “core” phase of the project; go-live.  With suitable training, clean data, pre-go-live activities and hypercare after the event, this should be a smooth transition from one system to another. Mysoft dedicate consultant and support resources around all project go-lives in order to ensure the confidence and success of the project team. 

Adopt: The project doesn’t really stop after go-live however;  first month-end, first quarter-end, and first year-end activities all go more smoothly with some assistance and collaboration with the partner; as a result Mysoft offer services around these as part of our standard delivery.   Hereafter we are into the realms of continuous process improvement and the “forever project” of improving business efficiency, with phase two projects and beyond. 

 

How long can a project take to deliver?

One can adopt, as a rough rule of thumb, a reasonable metric to estimate project timelines, using some of the following guidelines for both Kickstart and Toolkit: 

 

a) What is concurrent activity vs. what is sequential?

Project management, which typically accounts for between 15% and 25% of a System Integrator’s time spent on an ERP project, is a concurrent activity.  It continues throughout the project and takes place alongside other services. 

Applications Consultancy (scoping, workshops, design, build, etc.) is typically delivered in a sequential fashion; with the component activities forming a ‘natural flow’ within a single subject (e.g. Finance, distribution, manufacturing, etc.) taking place from end to end.  This may run in an interspersed fashion with the other subjects, in order to ensure a holistic vision is appreciated of the operation, however typically each sub-phase will be completed before commencing the next (i.e. build is complete before testing can commence).  Therefore it is prudent to plan this as a sequential volume of days.  Applications consultancy makes up the bulk of any ERP project. 

Development typically takes place parallel to the project, running in its own stream; but will be contingent upon core system build for implementation to be completed. Therefore must be viewed as a “complexity factor”.  There is no metric for this, as is is based on a case-by-case requirement. 

Training typically takes place in waves throughout a project, and while other activities can theoretically take place at the same time it is traditional that training takes place at phases of the project which are lighter on other service provider activity (early days and pre-UAT) – therefore this is best planned sequentially. Training volumes range from project to project, but let’s estimate ~10% of a project is training.

 

b) How many service days can your business absorb in a month?

Most businesses are trying to actually continue to run a business around an ERP project, not just engage in a systems deployment; and in many cases, the project team is not purely dedicated to the deployment of the project, but rather taking the project on alongside their core role.  As such, most businesses cannot absorb 20+ days of consultancy and training in any given month.  One may expect a load of around 10-12 days per month may be reasonable for a business to accommodate. 

 

c) What state is your data in? Who will migrate it? How much are you migrating?

Working on the basis that some data will need to be migrated over there will inevitably be a data cleansing exercise, which is always best performed by the business rather than the partner.  

If you have adequate resource to clean and format the data for migration in parallel to the build phase of the project then there is no reason for this to extend or delay the project.  However, high-quality data is required not only for go-live but also for UAT, therefore it is imperative that this is undertaken from as early a stage as possible in the project.  If large volumes are being migrated, inevitably longer activity times will be associated with this and therefore this has the risk of elongating the project. 

Therefore if a project is, say 220 days of core services + 80 days of development (+PM).  We can apply the following logic:

Concurrent: 40 days project management

Parallel: 80 days development, 15 days development PM. 

Sequential:  180 days Consultancy and Training, Business performs UAT, Business performs data migration.

If the above estimates are correct, and using 12 days of PS absorption per month, then we would project a 15 month run of professional services. 

Once we take into account User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and any contingency then an 18 month project for this volume of days would be a reasonable, and logical, supposition. However, working collaboratively and to a timeline, with adequate resourcing on both sides and a realistic change control process can accelerate this by up to 50% in some circumstances.

In conclusion, customers will naturally select the appropriate implementation method for them (with the guidance of their delivery partner); understanding whether the software meets their requirements “as standard” or requires modification is the starting point for this.  Mysoft help our customers to identify whether modifications are required, or whether adopting best practice is sufficient, through a detailed and thorough discovery process;  in this process a business analyst will review the business systems and process “as is”, and also the desired state, in order to determine the right approach – guided by timelines, budgets and internal resources.

 

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Budgeting for an ERP project can be a daunting task, due to the various activities involved in the delivery of an ERP and its multiple moving parts, as discussed in a previous article ‘What is an ERP Project?’. In this article, we will delve into the process of scoping an ERP project. To start off with, it is important to know the scope and scale of the system – this can be very top-level or more detailed and refined.

 

Using broad brush strokes we can take a view of the estimated cost of a project by selecting modules of the software to cover functionality, selecting user numbers and the business geography that will be included along with the hosting options. As mentioned, this is a broad estimate but is useful for indicative figures.

It is important to consider whether the software will be required to manage the following areas:  Finance, CRM, Sales, Purchasing, Inventory, Manufacturing, Quality, and eCommerce.

Each of these will add the additional cost of licence and configuration of the solution with varying degrees of influence.  Controlling a wish list and implementing functionality in a phased manner is a way of controlling project costs.

 

A single-entity organisation is very different in its requirements to a multiple entity because of its additional ledgers, sites, processes, and reporting consolidations. These all add up to the complexity of a solution. Whether there will be operations in a single currency or multiple currencies will affect the inter-ledger activity and the overhead of reconciliation within the system.

 

Operating in the UK is a known quantity, with flexible account structures, simple tax rules and detailed reporting functions which most businesses are familiar with. When operating in multiple legislations a multitude of tax rules, reporting standards, fixed asset treatments, charts of accounts and other variables can come into play.  Each additional legislative area can add intricacy to the project and overhead to the implementation.

 

Quite simply, some software is based on named users and some on concurrent licences. Named users are non-transferable licences which are assigned to an individual and concurrent licences are transferable licences operating in a ‘pool’ for use as required.  This makes comparing 2 systems’ costs somewhat challenging as their licencing structures may vary and without a clear concurrency metric, it is difficult to ascertain which is providing better value.  However, despite this, generally, a vendor can provide a licence cost of the software based on the number of users.

 

There are many choices available for ERP hosting and these each affect the solution available.  Likewise, they each have associated cost implications, with on-premises being the most capital intensive and a traditional ownership model, while both the hosted and cloud options are revenue costs in the form of a subscription, typically annual.

 

The above information will provide an ERP implementation partner with enough data to provide a ballpark figure, but this will be highly speculative and will include a good bit of guess work. In order to provide more accurate proposals a partner will need to undertake significant investigations, usually referred to as a ‘deep dive’ or ‘discovery’ phase. These will involve investigations into the following:

 

Without the above information it is not reasonably possible to propose a solution, nor is it reasonably possible to qualify or disqualify the suitability of the solution for the prospective customer.  The discovery phase of the purchasing cycle is vital to ensure that the project is scoped adequately, information is captured and all parties are aware of what is being proposed as included and excluded. A proposal for an ERP solution should be accompanied by a detailed document of specifications to which all parties agree.

 

To summarise, trying to estimate the costs for Sage X3 can be a bit of an art; however with an open, transparent line of communication between buyer and vendor, it is possible to reach “ballpark” figures relatively easily, and really hone down in terms of precision once more of the nuance is established.

 

 

Download the Mysoft guide on Buying ERP for insights and guidance on effectively selecting an ERP system, addressing the challenges of navigating choices, frameworks, stakeholder involvement and long-term impact. Topics covered:

• Where to start – external consultants or internal team?
• Shortlisting process
• The demo process
• Key requirements and wish lists
• Making financial decisions

 

Buying ERP

Buying ERP: Navigating the Systems Channel

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Discover the Full Power of Business Intelligence

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According to an IDC report reviewing digital transformation and ERP systems within the Food & Beverage industry, only 10% of respondents stated that their ERP is used the way it was intended.

 

This leaves 90% of businesses with an ERP system either not being used correctly or not fit for purpose, leading to “work arounds”.

 

To drill into this in more detail, the top 3 ERP weaknesses mentioned were:

  1. The system is transactional and does not offer “real time” information.
  2. It does not support the company’s growth strategy.
  3. It lacks collaborative features, and this hinders productivity.

The key take-aways here are that the ERP systems being used today do not help Food & Beverages operations tackle their business challenges due to lack of “real time” intelligence, siloed activity or information, and functional misalignment.

 

Challenges for the Food & Beverages Industry Today

The most notable challenges for F&B operations according to this report are:

It is clear, on a superficial level, that the failures of legacy ERP systems are preventing the above objectives being achieved. We will look at how addressing these shortfalls can assist with the top five challenges.

 

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Solutions Offered By Modern ERP

Firstly, “real time” information means different things to different businesses. Most operations do not require to-the-second latency of data for the majority of tasks, although in some cases it is relevant.  For example, WIP (work in progress) costing doesn’t need to be accurate to the instant (2-3 times per day might be sufficient), whereas stock movements need to be immediate in order to ensure that sales are controlled and stock-outs are avoided or managed.  There are operational challenges which preclude true real-time data, most typically those processes that require human intervention, and therefore, expectations must be tempered.

There is a combination of processes and reporting mechanisms that will come into play to enable “real-time” information and by virtue of this unlock many of the benefits of modern ERP:

The autonomous processing of operational activity to reduce the points of manual intervention (e.g. intercompany back to back purchase & sales orders, stock movements etc.). Sage X3, being a natively multi-site & multi-company system, can support automation of this nature. The removal of manual (human) intervention is a key step in maximising the efficiency of the ERP system and modern ERPs, such as Sage X3, making use of full system integration to automate as much as is viable; allowing for straight-through processing of key business processes, such as from sales order to shipping, with minimal human intervention.

Enabling the smooth hand-to-hand processing of tasks that must be undertaken manually.  Workflows with email notifications can play a key role here in avoiding delays, which thereby enables closer to “real time” data and increased operational efficiency. Using the Sage X3 workflow engine, and Mysoft’s enhancements around this, can significantly accelerate activity turnarounds and increase process visibility.

In order to take advantage of this new “real-time” data, it must be accessed in “real-time” too, in an integrated and intuitive UI/UX. Interactive business intelligence (BI) and reporting solutions will assist with this at the level of reporting, and solutions such as Sage X3 have been developed (and undergo constant review and enhancement) to ensure that the end-to-end user experience is streamlined and as accessible as possible. In X3 we implement solutions such as Sage Enterprise Intelligence or Sage Data and Analytics to open up the possibilities of data management and “real-time” reporting, tailoring the ERP interface by each business role to maximize the efficiency of the system for end-users.

Aligned to the above point on access, there is a consideration for technology also. As the events of 2020 and 2021 have shown us, the working environment is no longer limited solely to the office, warehouse or factory. Being able to access business-critical systems remotely is not a “nice to have” but is now essential for ensuring business continuity – moving to a Cloud-native solution such as Sage X3 can provide business resilience to allow for seamless continuation of activity with a distributed workforce and market shocks.

For a Food and Beverage distributor or manufacturer, having “real-time” information in the system allows for more accurate FEFO (first expire first out) stock management and increased sales agility, which can contribute to resolving challenges around waste while enhancing compliance and traceability. When used in combination with integrated processes it will, as the IDC report notes, help with cost control, highlight inefficiencies and have an impact on consumer trust at a macro level.  Access to “real-time” data and having a holistic view of a business allows for increased business agility; this enables an operation to pivot to new market opportunities and maximize growth potential.

The IDC report places modern, innovative, cloud-based ERPs at the heart of the business ecosystem; while not claiming that it is a panacea for all business requirements (there is still a case for some best-of-breed applications) the IDC report highlights ERP as a focal point for business systems and processes. Leveraging emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain, cloud, etc. can transform the relationships businesses have with their ERP, from a point of contention to a source of operational intelligence.

To learn more about how the future of ERP could affect your business, please read the IDC Report and contact us about our (and our customer’s) experiences.

 

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