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6 Steps to Improving Supply Chain Visibility

Nothing affects a company’s ability to compete more than the agility of its supply chain, but supply chain agility is dependent on visibility. Supply chain visibility is something that everybody talks about, but they seldom give you concrete information on how to achieve it.

Follow these six actionable steps to increase visibility in your supply chain and you’ll see major improvements in your key metrics.

  1. Bring customers and suppliers into the forecast process
  2. Adopt EDI or another rapid communication method
  3. Open a portal
  4. Treat outsourced operations like in-house work centers
  5. Eliminate middlemen and non-value add processes
  6. Foster a relationship of open partnership
Continue reading "6 Steps to Improving Supply Chain Visibility"

Considerations When Selecting an ERP System

Most companies live with their ERP systems for 10 years or more, so it’s important to select the system wisely in the first place. Many companies focus on identifying the current methods and procedures they use to complete day-to-day tasks, and then they select the system that best matches those procedures.

In reality, it is even more important to evaluate the application platform, system architecture and the consultant's reputation for customer service and support as well as its ability to stay current with any future business changes. These factors will have more impact on the company’s ability to use the ERP system for many years - and to continue enjoying a positive ROI for all of those years.

Why should users and management outside of IT care about the application platform and the system architecture? The architecture affects the system’s ability to add new locations, capabilities, or functionalities to support future business process and operating changes.

Continue reading "Considerations When Selecting an ERP System"

Microsoft Dynamics AX: Helps You Work Better, Faster, and Smarter

Welcome back to our series on the "Top Reasons to Invest in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Merit Solutions” blog series. In our first article, we kicked off the discussion with a look at how Microsoft Dynamics AX is more than just ERP - it is a complete business solution that goes beyond what stand-alone ERP or accounting software can do.

(Just a reminder, over the next several weeks we will be providing an overview of why Microsoft Dynamics AX is a great choice to help you gain greater insight into your business, so you can drive profit margins and ultimately grow your business.)

Help You Work Better, Faster, and Smarter

When you think about the most successful businesses today, you’ll realize they all have something in common: passionate employees who are engaged, committed to their company’s success, and working at their maximum potential.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is an innovative, flexible, end-to-end solution that helps makes your people more proactive and productive by giving them personalized, agile tools based on the familiar, interoperable Microsoft technologies that they work with every day. Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers on the promise of productivity – by offering unsurpassed usability, easier collaboration and communication, and comprehensive business insight capabilities. Microsoft Dynamics AX was designed with people in mind – making it easier for them to work, collaborate and make informed decisions more efficiently.

The solution also features a RoleTailored user interface, designed to help your employees uncover the information and tasks relevant to their specific job functions, right on their home page. This interface maps tasks to key roles in your business, so your employees can take advantage of a tool that matches their preferences and work styles. As a result, they can work smarter, faster, and more efficiently than ever.

Check out our Microsoft Dynamics AX Demos to see how you can benefit from Microsoft Dynamics AX!

Technology to Differentiate Your Business

Merit Solutions believes that many organizations are at a point of profound transformation that won’t be sufficiently addressed via a patchwork of business solutions. That's why we are committed to helping your business be ready for what’s next with the most comprehensive range of integrated solutions today and the most complete vision for the future.

Empowering Your People

For your people, we offer an unparalleled range of integrated, connected solutions that help provide a seamless experience across people’s personal work lives. Our approach is to deliver solutions that are integrated by design across devices and services. From productivity, collaboration, and business apps, to devices and security, our goal is to deliver a connected experience that works together seamlessly and naturally, the way people expect it to work. The result? Get more done, faster, without limits.

We live in an amazing time for technology. At home, when we use our personal devices, we’ve become accustomed to a highly connected experience where all of our apps and information are at our fingertips and the experience has become highly intuitive. It’s easy to watch movies, read books, play games, and share photos and documents. We also know that people consume information in a different way depending on the device they are using—tablets, PCs, or even business whiteboards. In each case, the Microsoft business platform makes it easy to personalize the experience and get it just right. By choosing the Microsoft platform, your company's devices and applications will truly work together - and these connected devices will give you the same version of the truth regardless of the device you are using.

Maximizing IT Flexibility

Our IT customers are entering a new era - a new era for the way they manage and deploy applications and devices. Between the consumerization of IT and the move to the cloud, a lot of what IT provided, from deployment to systems integration, is being radically revised and simplified. Throughout this transformation, we are here to help our customers maximize the return on your IT existing investment and best position you for the future. Our goal is to enable people to use the devices they want to use in the places they want to work - while also enabling enterprises to protect corporate information.

At the same time, we know that you will have more than just Microsoft solutions in your business, and so we are experienced at building bridges across technology. We believe this builds choice, drives innovation, and creates opportunities.

Accelerating your Business

Finally, we’re committed to helping you maximize the return on your investments in Microsoft solutions. Whether that means saving money, growing revenue, attracting and retaining customers, or driving innovation.

In today’s business climate, people expect the technology they use at work to be as simple as the technology they use at home. Today’s technology is expanding the possibilities for connecting people and helping businesses be more proactive and dynamic to change. For example…

In summary, Merit Solutions offers companies an unparalleled experience across today’s devices, while maximizing IT flexibility and providing the business platform and process optimization services that can truly accelerate your business.

Please comment below if you have any questions or comments as we’d certainly like to continue this conversation and find more ways that we can continue to help companies differentiate their business.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is a Next Generation ERP Solution

A while back we discussed some global business and IT trends that are slowly but steadily reshaping the ERP landscape. With our emerging economic climate, these trends are posing additional challenges for business and IT professionals who are struggling to improve profitability and retain IT agility.

Global market trends are creating the need for businesses to:

At the same time, shifting IT trends are creating the need to:

  • Increase ERP adoption and access to ERP data across a broader subset of the workforce.
  • Reduce IT operational costs by investing in systems that are more flexible and scalable, and simpler to configure, maintain, and upgrade.
  • Put solutions in place that enable broad business strategies, and that enable IT to respond quickly to specific line-of-business (LOB) requests and industry needs.

When you frame this discussion with the research conducted by Forrester in 2010 detailed in our article, Key Challenges Companies Face with ERP Solutions, you can see how the needs produced by market and IT trends are affecting customers’ expectations of their ERP application.

Today’s world is increasingly flattened by technology, global complexity and new global competition - making it critical for a business to be able to rapidly see and react to signals, threats and opportunities. Going one step further, in this world where the pace of business accelerates, imagine being able to anticipate rather than react to those signals. Success today and tomorrow increasingly depends on information insight and efficient business processes.

So what would the next generation of ERP look like? See for yourself!

Adapt Quickly - And Grow Your Business

You and your employees share a common aspiration - to grow your business. To reach this goal, you need a solution that can support changing demands along the way. Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers the flexibility you need to accommodate new business processes and scale as your business grows without significant increases to your original investment—or your payroll.

  • Conduct business internationally. Use international trade and multicurrency capabilities to maintain your general ledger in different currencies – enabling you to manage customer and vendor accounts in the appropriate currency.
  • Connect your remote and roaming employees. Empower your mobile workers with direct access to enterprise resource planning (ERP) data and local resources over the Internet using a rich RoleTailored interface—and get even more from your investments.
  • Choose the right solution for you. With flexible deployment options, you can choose the solution that works best for your business—and increase IT flexibility without increasing costs. Microsoft Dynamics AX supports both on-premises and Cloud ERP deployments.

With a Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP enterprise business platform, your people will have the innovative, flexible tools they need to be proactive and productive—keeping you ahead of the competition. As a result, your business can move forward instead of standing still.

Microsoft Dynamics AX for IT Professionals

IT teams are responsible for the computers, networks, and software applications that manage a company’s operations, track financial transactions, and enable people to communicate and collaborate throughout the company. Without a smooth flow of information through a company’s IT systems, operations would not be efficient or even possible in some cases. IT managers need to monitor the day-to-day health of complex systems while simultaneously tracking innovations in technology that might create competitive advantages.

Microsoft Dynamics AX makes the job of connecting systems and exchanging information easier for IT professionals, and in many cases, it happens automatically. Microsoft Dynamics AX enables your end-users to access information by themselves, so IT professionals can concentrate on higher-value tasks.

  • Reduced costs. Microsoft Dynamics AX is built on a standard Microsoft platform, which helps your company reduce costs. You may already use many of the supporting technologies, such as Windows, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office, or Microsoft SharePoint. If so, you won’t need costly, time-consuming retraining to benefit from Microsoft Dynamics solutions.
  • Familiar user experience. Microsoft Dynamics AX operates like other familiar Microsoft applications, such as Microsoft Office. The RoleTailored user interface provides access to the data and insights needed for individual roles or departments, making Microsoft Dynamics easier to learn and use and helping to reduce IT support requirements.
  • Responsive to change. With a flexible and standard architecture that takes advantage of Microsoft .NET components, Microsoft Dynamics AX enables you to quickly and easily respond to changing business conditions. This helps ensure that your business software is adaptable to your changing business needs.
  • Simpler end-user reporting. Microsoft Dynamics AX helps make important business information more widely accessible in your organization, giving the right people access to the right information at the right time. By using Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft SharePoint, you can provide straightforward access to information via a Web browser. And because Microsoft Dynamics AX is built to work with familiar Microsoft Office programs such as Outlook and Excel, your people can use familiar tools to perform additional analysis.
  • Flexible deployment. Microsoft Dynamics AX is available either on-premise or in a Cloud ERP model, providing you with flexible and cost-effective deployment options.

Microsoft Dynamics AX helps you gain more value faster with a single, powerful solution that supports industry-specific and operational demands across your global enterprise. It's unprecedented agility adapts and grows with you, allowing you to expand business operations, modify processes, and differentiate your business. Microsoft Dynamics AX is simple to use, deploy, and manage - and delivers real-time access to the data and processes needed to drive your business forward.

How the Right BI Solution Can Help Drive Success

There’s plenty of incentive for overcoming today’s business information challenges. Although it can be difficult to put financial values on faster, smarter decisions, the ability to make them is still widely recognized as critical to success in the highly competitive global marketplace. Moreover, it’s not hard to identify organizational dissatisfaction with the relevance, availability, and accuracy of the information people currently do have at their disposal.

Fortunately, new solutions are emerging to help solve these problems. Today, the right BI solution can:

  • Provide self-service convenience for the average user, with immediate, out-of-the-box analysis capabilities, while still helping to maintain a secure environment and offer the depth and power necessary for sophisticated analysis.
  • Improve business agility with a range of flexible options for generating, viewing, analyzing, and distributing BI.
  • Integrate and connect disparate legacy systems and business applications, information sources, departments, and locations to provide comprehensive, one-stop BI for the entire organization that’s optimized for the capabilities of the ERP system.
  • Expand in reach and capabilities as the organization grows and its BI demand increases. Ideally, this growth can take place as an integral component of a scalable enterprise-wide solution that also adapts and extends readily as needed.
  • Offer a quick return on investment through initial cost efficiency, long-term scalability, and a low total cost of ownership.

The following steps provide a guideline for incorporating BI into your organization. By following these steps, you can identify key business considerations prior to deploying a new BI solution.

Step 1: Replace complex user interfaces with intuitive, convenient self-service

Ease of access is a primary consideration. An inquiry, analysis, or reporting solution that is too complicated may be powerful but sit mostly unused. On the other hand, a solution that’s too simple may not be robust enough to serve the business decision-makers who need it most. But when the BI solution is easy to use right out of the box and users can access information via familiar interfaces, applications, and tools, everyone in the organization can achieve greater insight without relying on costly IT resources to generate reports or run time-consuming analyses. The ideal solution works the way your people want to work. A self-service–focused user interface also minimizes training costs and startup times and enables team members to work with information in a collaborative environment. At the same time, managers can control information access based on functional roles or individual authorization to help protect sensitive information and prevent inappropriate or unintended modifications.

Step 2: Expand options for analysis, transportability, and dissemination

To turn information into actionable business intelligence, people must be able to extract and analyze the specific information they need, in the order they need it, and with the detail that addresses their interests. Tailored functionality is critical, both for customizing the solution to industry and organizational needs and for adapting operationally to the interests of diverse functional roles. Finally, the right solution can make it easier to share, present, and distribute the results of analysis, not only within the organization but also with trade partners. Therefore, solutions that incorporate Web services, portal compatibility, or other measures to ease communication across platforms provide a definite advantage.

Step 3: Integrate disconnected information and systems into the knowledge base

A strong BI system must be able to incorporate information from across the enterprise while also connecting with line-of-business applications, including document repositories, and the desktop productivity tools employees use every day. The ability to access and consolidate information from multiple production management and manufacturing control systems, warehouses, distribution channels, and companies or subsidiaries is also valuable for providing managers with comprehensive, enterprise-wide insight.

Step 4: Scale to fit changing business models and needs

A BI system is only good while it fits. Given the rate of change in today’s business environment, it’s imperative to find and implement a solution flexible enough to adapt to business growth, whether that growth comes through acquisitions, vertical integration, international expansion, or shifts into entirely new lines of business. To continue supporting personal, team, and organizational BI needs, solutions must be extensible to new users and locations as the company grows. Such scalable solutions, when they also accommodate add-on or tailored functionality, offer strong cost efficiency, consistency, service, and fit over time.

Step 5: Deploy cost-efficiently and with long-term adaptability for a low TCO

For a business solution to be implemented at all, it must be cost-efficient to license, deploy, and maintain, while remaining accessible across the organization. Ideal solutions give all people responsible for strategic, tactical, and operational decisions access to the information they need at a low total cost of ownership (TCO). An effective BI solution can quickly provide a strong return on investment while retaining the flexibility and scalability for future growth to provide long-term performance that maximizes your investment.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is an end-to-end business management solution for enterprise and mid-market organizations, including manufacturers, distributors, retailers, service organizations, and firms with diverse or vertically integrated operations across the global supply chain. An ERP system with an intuitive user interface, robust analytics, and flexible, familiar information delivery capabilities, Microsoft Dynamics AX serves a wide range of business intelligence needs right out of the box. And because it builds on the Microsoft technology stack, including Microsoft SQL Server® and SharePoint technologies, and is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office and other Microsoft desktop productivity solutions, it is uniquely positioned to help you solve today’s most pressing BI and performance management challenges.

Gain Simplicity, Agility, and Value with Microsoft Dynamics AX

Microsoft Dynamics AX is designed to empower your people to be more productive and your systems to last longer, with the ability to scale to accommodate growth while delivering the insight you need to respond quickly in an ever-changing world of business.

Simple to Learn and Use
Simplicity is at the core of Microsoft Dynamics AX. It is easy to learn and use because it works like and with other familiar Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft Office. And Microsoft Dynamics AX works the way you work, so it’s easier for you and your employees to make better decisions and get more done. Simplicity is built into every aspect of your experience—from initial purchase and deployment to ongoing maintenance and upgrades.

Delivers Agility in the Face of Rapid Change
Today’s business landscape is changing at an ever-increasing pace. To stay ahead, you need a business management solution that is designed to help you meet evolving demands. Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers the agility you need to adapt new business processes and extend functionality quickly, making it easier to enter new markets, add capabilities, or reallocate existing investments. In addition, Merit Solutions offers Microsoft Dynamics AX Cloud ERP to give you flexibility to expand or contract as business conditions change.

Drives Value for Your Business
Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers value for your business in three important ways. First, you can increase your return on investment as you boost productivity and create new ways to control expenses, helping to drive profitability. Second, Microsoft Dynamics AX offers interoperability with the other technologies you already use in your organization to help lower your total cost of ownership. Finally, you can achieve maximum benefit from your technology investment through improved time to value, especially when you don’t want or need an extensive IT infrastructure.

Whether you choose an on-premises or a cloud ERP deployment model, Merit Solutions RapidOn Implementation Methodology can get you up and running quickly with tools to accelerate installation, set up and extend core functionality, and migrate data from your legacy systems. And there’s more. Microsoft Dynamics AX is backed by a commitment from Microsoft that includes a 10-year support life cycle for each major release—combined with an ongoing investment in research and development—so that you can grow your business with confidence, knowing that your business management solution can keep up with your ambition.

Respond to Changes with Agile ERP

Inflexible ERP systems hamper process change. In addition, implementation often involves large, multi-year projects that carry the risk that business processes and supporting IT systems will be obsolete by the time they come on stream. Expand business opportunities, modify processes, and differentiate your business with an ERP solution that provides unprecedented agility.

Here’s how Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 provides business agility:

  1. Adapt to changing process and regulatory requirements with model-driven methods: First, improve business visibility with virtually unlimited views on the business via financial dimensions that let you earmark transactions based on system and custom entities. When your business needs changes to business processes, you can configure these with a graphical workflow editor without heavy dependency of IT. In addition, improve product planning and execution flexibility by unifying process, discrete and lean manufacturing operations. And, foster innovation with a unified business process repository. Configure the capabilities supporting generic or industry-specific business processes that you need from a single repository. Lastly, the organizational model help you change your organization structure more easily. For example: a manufacturing organization can implement lean manufacturing for one of the product lines by simply configuring these processes while running the same solution for more classic process or discrete operations.
  2. Improve responsiveness to demand: The manufacturing capabilities include a range of capabilities that improve responsiveness to demand. For example: manage customer demand spikes by rapidly onboarding vendors. Or, increase utilization and responsiveness through flexible resource deployments across multiple routings. Fulfill customer demand with the constraints-based product configurator.
  3. Enable a green and efficient enterprise: Track waste, water usage, energy consumption, carbon footprint, and related costs with the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard. Gain efficiencies through the “5 R’s” (reduce, recover, reuse, recycle, and renew). Reduce waste and streamline production using lean manufacturing techniques.

Expand business opportunities, modify processes, and differentiate your business with comprehensive ERP software that provides unprecedented agility.

  • Natural modeling to continuously plan, visualize, and change your processes.
  • Flexible deployment options (such as two-tier ERP, or cloud deployment) that can change as you grow.
  • Agile technology that makes it easy to change and differentiate your business.

Learn more about Microsoft Dynamics AX.