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Risk Management Suite Questions

Merit Solutions has spent a lot of time over the past couple of months demoing our Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite and its capabilities to new prospects while providing training to existing clients looking to upgrade. In both situations, two questions always seem to pop up:

  1. How do we make sure that we get (got) the roles and users right?
  2. How do we make sure we don't create a burden with tracking too many changes?

Interestingly enough, the answer to both is very simple. The implementation - not so simple.

  1. The first thing that each client has to ensure is that their business processes are efficient and that their ERP system is setup in a way to support those processes. The Risk Management Suite will comply to any set of rules you require - helping you increase your efficiency while making sure you comply with regulations. To receive the maximum value, efficient business processes have to be in place - and, often, that is not an easy task to complete.
  2. As for the second question, we recommend that tracking changes should be limited to business critical fields, tables, and processes, as that will make the system easier to implement, changes easier to track and will help a company meet compliance regulations.

On occasion, companies tend to track everything, including tables with high volume of transactions. While this is possible to do with Audit Trails, as with any other Microsoft Dynamics GP table, this is not recommended, as it will affect performance of your SQL Server, which will in turn affect all users and systems that use it.

In order to generate the highest value from the Risk Management Suite, we suggest that companies craft a smart tracking plan prior to implementation with procedures and policies in place that limit adding new tables to Audit Trails tracking without a strong business reason why.

Windows 8 development - Process Lifetime Management

If you are a developer, starting to work on a Windows 8 application, one of the really important things to understand is the Process Lifetime Management or PLM. Even if you're not a developer, understanding what really happens when you run a Windows Store application or navigate from it could help you use the app better.

PLM is actually one of the major differences between a Windows 8 application and a desktop application. Unlike traditional Windows applications, which will continue to execute in background, Windows Store apps execute only when they are in the foreground. Windows 8 focuses on the apps in the foreground, keeping them responsive and providing excellent performance by allowing the app to use all of the available device resources. Applications that are snapped are running in foreground, too.

Once a user navigates away from the app, the operating system puts the application in the suspended mode to preserve battery. The application remains in memory but all of its thread are suspended. When the user navigates back to the app, it resumes execution where it stopped and you as a developer can't change this behavior. You don't even have to implement any code to make it happen.

This all seems easy and straightforward, but there is a catch. The operating system cannot guarantee that the application will stay in memory until a user decides to use it again. While the app is suspended, the OS can terminate it to free up additional memory. When an app is terminated, all state that has not been saved is lost. As a developer, you cannot allow for this to happen. Since we are not aware whether the application will be terminated, we must ensure the state is saved when the app is suspended and restore this state in case termination occurs.

But do not despair, Visual Studio 2012 does much of the heavy lifting for you. If your app is not complex, the VS project template takes care of this for you, completely. In the Common folder of your Windows Store app you will find the SuspensionManager.cs. VS added the OnSuspending method and following code to existing OnLaunched method in the App.xaml.cs to save and restore the app’s navigation state if the app was terminated by the operating system after it was suspended.

private async void OnSuspending(object sender, SuspendingEventArgs e)

{

var deferral = e.SuspendingOperation.GetDeferral();
await SuspensionManager.SaveAsync();
deferral.Complete();

}

protected override async void OnLaunched(LaunchActivatedEventArgs args)

{

if (args.PreviousExecutionState == ApplicationExecutionState.Terminated)
{

// Restore the saved session state only when appropriate await SuspensionManager.RestoreAsync();

}

}

In case your application requires anything more sophisticated than this, you will have to implement it yourself, but at least you have a decent starting point. To test how your application behaves when terminated, start the app from Visual Studio and select Suspend and shutdown from the Debug Location toolbar (to activate it, navigate to View > Toolbars > Debug Location).

GP Risk Management Suite Earns "Certified for Microsoft Dynamics" Distinction

Merit Solutions, a leading IT services company that helps clients transform their business, announced today that its Risk Management Suite is now Certified for Microsoft Dynamics, which signifies that the solution has met Microsoft Corp.’s highest standard for partner-developed software. By successfully meeting all certification requirements, the Risk Management Suite can now carry the distinct Certified for Microsoft Dynamics logo. It is the first Microsoft Dynamics GP-based Audit Trail and Electronic Signature application to achieve this distinct certification.

Solutions that are Certified for Microsoft Dynamics have demonstrated development quality and compatibility with the Microsoft Dynamics product on which they run by passing rigorous software testing for Microsoft Dynamics performed by VeriTest (a service of Lionbridge). In addition, the Microsoft Dynamics partner must have customers who are successfully using the certified solution and are willing to recommend it and be a Gold Certified Partner in the Microsoft Partner Program.

For customers, Certified for Microsoft Dynamics helps identify Microsoft Dynamics solutions that have been tested for compatibility, meet high quality standards, and are successfully used by existing customers. This certification represents a significant step in elevating the standard for partner-developed software solutions for industry-specific business applications. By highlighting these solutions, Microsoft also creates new opportunities for partners to expand their reseller channel and to better promote their packaged Microsoft Dynamics solution for customers.

“This milestone demonstrates Merit Solutions’ commitment to delivering leading solutions and expertise for our customers,” said Doug Kennedy, vice president, Microsoft Dynamics Partners. “We congratulate Merit Solutions for meeting Microsoft’s highest standards of software quality and earning the CFMD distinction.”

The Risk Management Suite from Merit Solutions enables companies to manage financial, operational, and reporting risk to protect assets and maintain compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Audit Trails deliver strong tracking, tracing and reporting capabilities for business process changes that may result in risk. And with Electronic Signatures, preventative authorization controls can be activated at any place in the system where data is changed.

“Merit Solutions has always been committed to software excellence, and achieving Certified for Microsoft Dynamics status is a reflection of that commitment,” said Bill Burke, President, Merit Solutions. “This milestone also validates our dedication to providing regulated companies with the highest quality software solutions based on the Microsoft stack.”

Official Risk Management Suite Transition Update

Don't be fooled by the speculation going around about Merit Solutions' Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite. Hear directly from Microsoft Dynamics Director of Product Management, Errol Schoenfish: Please Read: Official Risk Management Suite Transition Update

“All SMB products are going through a Pricing and Packaging simplification process to better meet the demands of the customers that we serve. Part of that process is identifying the functional elements that are best served by Microsoft and those that are best served by our broad and healthy partner ISV ecosystem through the Dynamics Marketplace. Microsoft has had a valued partnership with Merit Solutions for many years. The Risk Management Suite has been a great product for us and with Merit Solutions driving the product forward I am confident that it will continue to give customers value now and in the future. Merit Solutions is also just completing the CfMD process for GP Risk Management, and now represent the first GP based Audit Trails and Electronic Signatures products that are certified at this level of quality assurance.” Errol Schoenfish - Director Product Management, Microsoft Dynamics

I am thrilled to take this opportunity to welcome the 500+ customers who currently license the Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite to the Merit Solutions family!

Merit Solutions is the original developer of the Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite (Audit Trails and Electronic Signatures). Microsoft acquired the product from Merit Solutions back in 2005, and since then, they have included it as part of their core Microsoft Dynamics GP offering. However, Merit Solutions has always been the company developing new releases and upgrades for Microsoft.

In an effort to simplify packaging and pricing, Microsoft has decided to remove quite a few OEM products from their core Microsoft Dynamics offerings (official announcements will be made Sept. 1). However, Merit Solutions is thrilled to have this opportunity to further enhance and improve the Risk Management Suite with a better focus on our partners' and customers' needs - enabling us to keep moving the product forward and get newer versions to market quicker. As noted above, Merit Solutions has already made the investment in getting the Risk Management Suite Certified for Microsoft Dynamics (CfMD) - the first GP based Audit Trails and Electronic Signatures products to receive such recognition.

Merit Solutions is committed to keeping all customer experiences with the Risk Management Suite consistent with previous Microsoft engagements, and all partners and customers can count on Merit Solutions to provide the same level of support, quality, and reliability that was experienced with Microsoft in the past. View our Customer Satisfaction Scores and check out some of our Customer Quotes online to learn about our satisfied customers!

If you have any questions at all about the future of the Risk Management Suite, or our commitment to your satisfaction, please don’t hesitate to contact Merit Solutions at any time to get the truth and learn more about the future of your product!

Life Sciences Materials Control Management Software

As a Life Sciences Manufacturing or Distribution organization, it is your responsibility to track and trace all products from the time they are received or manufactured through delivery to your customer. At any given moment, you can experience a material or quality non-conformance incident that requires you to investigate further.

The bottom line: you don't want to be one of the companies caught without an adequate Materials Control software system! You need to have the prevenative tools and controls in place to quickly and effictively perform investigations and measure the potential impact of any quality incidents. Unfortunately, many companies today do not have adequate systems in place and are putting their company at risk.

Benefits of the MAXLife Materials Control Workbench:

  • Improve efficiency by removing manual or paper-based processes.
  • Adhere to regulatory compliance requirements.
  • Forward and backward traceability for all material lot / serial numbers.
  • Streamline and automate product traceability processes.
  • Improve quality control and customer satisfaction.
  • Quickly notify Customers, Vendors, or employees of potential quality incidents.
The MAXLife Materials Control Workbench enables Life Sciences companies to access and view any material lot and / or serial number, the status of that material, and all of the locations of that material - at the click of a button! And, if you need to notify vendors, customers or internal team members of a potentially adverse situation or investigation, you can quickly send out an email within the MAXLife Materials Control Workbench notification center.

With the MAXLife Materials Control Management Workbench, Life Sciences companies can minimize risk, maximize product safety, and deliver greater value to their customers.

Learn more about MAXLife Life Sciences software.

Food Safety: How Can ERP Make A Difference in a Recall?

Last month, I published a blog article entitled “The Food Safety Modernization Act: One Year Review”. In the article, I talked about the profound impact this historic legislature has had on food producers and processors in the past year.

This month, we want to discuss how a food industry-specific ERP system can help make a difference in a recall or alert situation.

Food safety recalls are not predictable - they can happen at the best of times, or the worst of times. At any given moment, food companies must be able to quickly and effectively recall products that have been deemed unsafe for the market. How a company responds to these situations is critical: failure to handle a recall successfully (either voluntary or mandatory) can have serious economic and legal consequences. With the ever increasing levels of press and public backlash associated with Food Safety and Food Recalls, it is becoming even more important for Food companies to have the proper Recall Management processes in place. Unfortunately, few Food companies today are ready to handle a recall, and are putting their company at risk.

This is not to say that all food companies must have end-to-end food safety ERP or recall management systems. In fact, there are more food companies running on spreadsheets and manual paper processes than on industry-specific ERP. However, as these companies grow, as their business processes become more complex, as top retailers become more demanding, and as food safety protocols like GFSI and SQF keep increasing process standards - it will become more difficult for these companies to manage the two key requirements for a good recall process:

  • Recall Accuracy - Companies need to be able to respond to recalls intelligently, pulling 100% of the tainted product and 0% of products that pose no danger to consumers.
  • Recall Response Times - Companies need to be able to perform recalls and notify clients, vendors, and government agencies in the least amount of time as possible.
So how can food processors solve some of these issues with an industry-specific ERP and recall management system, like MAXFood ERP?

A good recall response requires the right mix of business tools, processes, and employee training. The correct tools (like end-to-end ERP and recall management systems) will make it easier for employees to do their job quickly and accurately. They will enforce workflows and controls that ensure the proper business processes are being followed in accordance to FDA, GFSI, SQF, and other regulations and standards. A lot of legacy systems and paper based systems don’t enforce the correct business processes, and therefore make it extremely difficult for companies to perform accurate, timely recalls. Companies using these systems want to adapt best practices and run their business more efficiently - but they don’t have the systems to support those business process changes. And personnel responsible for identifying failures or food contamination need to have a background of education and experience, or a combination thereof, to provide a high level of expertise necessary for the production and distribution of clean and safe food.

MAXFood ERP and its Recall Workbench streamline and automate the recall process, enabling companies to not only perform effective product recalls, but to provide concrete documentation and proof that your company followed all FDA recall procedures. By using MAXFood ERP, companies are given full transparency into the recall process, allowing them to better track the status of a recall, confirm that all of the recalled product was pulled, and quickly notify the customers affected by the recall.

Choosing an industry-specific ERP solution with comprehensive, end-to-end recall management functionality positions a company to plan their entire recall process in advance, to perform mock recalls proactively or at a customer / regulator’s demands, to constantly measure and improve the recall process and, most importantly, to respond rapidly, accurately, and thoroughly if an actual recall is required.

Recalls are expensive - both in terms of product cost and brand / reputation damage. Having the right ERP and recall management system can enable food processors to minimize the costs of a recall, and prevent further damage.

Microsoft Dynamics AX and Agile Methodology

Recently, we completed a full cycle implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX while using many aspects of the agile methodology.

Overall, the project had over 20 team members located at more than 3 locations spread across different time zones, and here are some of our best practices:

  • Daily meetings help - especially if the expectation is set properly on the purpose and structure. The remote team members can be part of it as long as they are minority.
  • The end result has to be the focus - the end game has to be known and talked about during the planning and review meetings (at least).
  • TFS is a great tool, and having trained folks who know how to get the most out of it helps with transparency and many other aspects of the project.
  • Smaller project teams can have independent sprints. Such approach does carry higher risk and it takes extra knowledge and experience to assure the end game alligment.
  • Celebrating smaller wins is a must and alligning them with the sprint end can be a natural fit.

An agile project management approach is not for each project, but certain aspects can and should be considered, especially when an experienced team of consultants is working with knowlegable, IT savvy end users.