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What Wandering Bovines Have in Common with Keeping Your Software Up to Date

Cow standing in my backyard

There are some things so unexpected that they are shocking.  One morning many years back, I got up just like any other day. Stumbling into the kitchen to make coffee, I wandered to the front window, just to see the weather. What I saw stopped me cold in my tracks and left me silent! There, laying right beside my white lamppost, beside the front walkway, was one LARGE Black Angus heifer.

For a few seconds, I thought I was still asleep! Once I came to my senses, I realized what I saw was real, I had only one thought: “WHY is there a cow in my front yard?” I stood there in amazement, wondering how it got there. There were no cow pastures around us at the time, or at least none that I knew about. It was as shocking as finding a penguin in the Caribbean! And exactly how do you move a cow out of your yard, and where do you put it if you do manage to get it moved?

I tell you this because of how shocking it was. Now, at least 25 years later, I still remember that day and that moment.

Changes in your business can come about so fast sometimes that they are as shocking as that cow was in my front yard. I recall back in the mid 1980’s a specific incident when I worked as a system operator for a sock manufacturing company. It happened overnight it seemed. One of their largest clients, a nationwide department store chain, decided to begin using E.D.I. to communicate their orders and invoices. At that time, I didn’t even know what E.D.I. was (Electronic Data Interchange)!

We were in a world of hurt because we were not prepared for such a change. We didn’t have the proper communications lines to receive the E.D.I. transmissions, or the proper hardware. We also did not have the software needed to read the transmissions, nor the understanding of E.D.I. to proceed on our own. We were just not prepared for our customer’s demand, and we had to react quickly. We had one month to be live and able to accept their electronic orders. Saying ‘No, thanks’ is not an option when it’s one of your two top customers requesting the business change. 

We moved fast! We worked lots of long days and nights to get everything in place and began receiving our first set of orders…only to find that our antiquated computer system did not have adequate storage for the full transmission to process. (This is back in the day when a 1GB hard drive would take up floor space, and lots of it!) It was one problem after another. I often slept on a cot in the computer room to be sure the transmission did not fail, and to restart them when they did. We were in continuous react and recover mode for months.

I tell you all this so you can learn from our mistakes. In those days, we looked at our ERP system as an expense, a necessary burden. It just sat there, heating up the office, being noisy, eating up funds for licensing subscriptions, requiring maintenance, needing continual development changes, and so forth. But we quickly realized that was the wrong way to look at it. When your ERP system determines if you can or cannot continue doing business, you realize just how important it is.

Once we were able to accept E.D.I. orders, we were then able to make that an offer to another top customer, which not only made processing orders faster, but enabled us to react faster to their orders. We were able to calculate missing inventory during the weekend the orders were received, print packing lists for those we could ship, and create purchase orders or production orders to meet the needs of those that were backordered. What started as an ERP nightmare ended up being one of the greatest advantages to our business.

Your ERP system is the core of your business. A good ERP system, if properly maintained, will support your business well in all seasons of growth. You’ll be able to expand your processes to meet your customer’s needs. That is why I have great passion for Microsoft Dynamics NAV. It has flexibility to meet business needs through its standard functionality and that of the many Add-On applications available for NAV.

Do you need to start taking credit cards? With NAV, you can do that.

Do you need to start shipping internationally? With NAV, you can do that.

Do you need to provide E.D.I. services for a customer, or vendor? With NAV, you can do that.

Do you need to create inventory lots with expiration dates? With NAV, you can do that.

Do you need to forecast your cash flow? With NAV, you can do that.

Yet, if not maintained, even good ole NAV can give you a “cow in the front yard” moment! I recall one client that let their licensing expire and could not upgrade without a significant cost. When their shipping software vendor updated their FedEx communication tool, it was not compatible with their current operating system. Yet, their current software version of NAV, which they could not upgrade, was only compatible on that operating system. Their hands were nearly tied! They ended up installing virtual machines running on the FedEx-compatible operating system, and then transporting the data from the shipment to an import for NAV. This was not only costly, but added time to their daily shipping process.

The key to having a great ERP system is keeping it up to date. Add-On vendors do not create new software for old versions any more than my iPhone apps would work on my old flip phone. If you want to stay current with business demands, you need to keep your ERP system current as well.

While there are many reasons why businesses do not upgrade when they should, I think the majority suffer from the same syndrome we did back in the mid-1980s. We see the ERP system as a burden—just a dirty little wrench of a tool that we must have—when in fact, your ERP system can turn your company into a well-oiled machine, churning out more than you expected. There are new features with each release.

Did you know that the newer versions of NAV allow for bank reconciliation with the top banks without requiring an add-on software?

Did you know that handling of document approvals is now built in to standard NAV?

Did you know the common routines in NAV are now faster – even since version 2013 – to process?

Did you know the latest versions are available as an app on your smartphone without mobility software?

The time to upgrade is before you MUST upgrade.

In retrospect, if I had known that cow was coming to my yard (or the one that later came and knocked over my lamppost), I would have built a fence to protect my yard. Is it time for you to build a fence around your business, and upgrade your ERP system?

Talk to the experts at ArcherPoint about upgrading your ERP system.

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