May 19, 2020

Why businesses must bite the bullet and upgrade their legacy ERP systems – the rewards are huge

Columbus UK
ERP systems
Sally Howell
Sally Howell, Enterprise Accou...
5 min
Why businesses must bite the bullet and upgrade their legacy ERP systems – the rewards are huge

Changing your business software can be a significant challenge, with the worry of probable pitfalls along the way. Sally Howell, Enterprise Account Manager at Columbus UK, discusses how ERP software has changed dramatically since the late 1990s from simple ERP systems to end-to-end business management solutions and explains that now could be the optimal time to change. 

Although ERP systems involve lengthy implementation times and decades-long lifespans, when a new generation of solutions offers a significant leap forwards in capability and convenience, there are few reasons to remain tied to a legacy system. Take Microsoft Dynamics as an example – Dynamics 365 has arrived on the market in full force in late 2016, and many Dynamics AX users are already actively looking to shift away from a solution that originally came into existence in 1998.

Although Dynamics AX and 365 have many similar functionalities, Microsoft’s significant investment in R&D is now delivering a variety of new features within the upgraded Dynamics 365 platform. Here’s six key reasons why a shift away from legacy systems to Dynamics 365 could significantly transform operations in businesses of all sizes.

Ease of access

First and foremost, user accessibility has been greatly enhanced through web and cloud-based solutions. Platforms such as Dynamics 365 offer a simplified software structure and now support remote access across various employee devices. This level of accessibility also enhances external relationships as suppliers, partners and vendors are now able to remotely access selected data, helping businesses reduce their on-premise footprint and achieve a positive ROI.

Did you know that continuous AI advancements are often also built into the cloud? This means that optimising your cloud usage helps future-proof your business for the new common standard. But of course, this doesn’t suit all organisations due to data and compliance regulations so, for example, Dynamics 365 can still be deployed locally with restricted features and services.

No more manual update woes

It is important that a business is always using the most up to date software, making operations far smoother and reducing lingering security concerns around outdated or unpatched software. Microsoft’s continuous monitoring and updating of the Dynamics 365 software reduces the IT department’s overall maintenance responsibilities for the solution, providing ease of mind for IT staff and business managers alike.

These ongoing changes and fixes mean that Dynamics 365 delivers progressive incremental updates – a far cry from the major alterations released by Dynamics AX which required significant effort on the user side to test and implement. 

Emerging tech is no longer out of reach

Businesses will also benefit from updated user-centric interfaces of new business solutions which encourage greater individual and collaborative experiences through personalisation.

Dynamics 365 features enhanced Business Intelligence (BI), harnessing the power of AI, and is driven by analytical services and extensive data-sets to give the solution superior capabilities which improve business reporting potential.

Bringing it all together…

Simple integration functionality with platforms such as CRM contribute to delivering on the vision of truly end-to-end solutions. Dynamics 365 provides even more operational advantages with the easy adoption of Microsoft cloud products – such as Office 365, Power BI and additional CRM apps – to provide users with major business management capabilities.

…And at a better price

Changes in the licensing model now allow customers to buy what they want, when they need it and easily scale up or down based on evolving requirements. Microsoft is offering existing Dynamics customers on a maintenance plan a 40% discount to move to Dynamics 365 in the cloud! 

To help legacy ERP users transition to an advanced solution such as Dynamics 365 in the cloud, many Microsoft partners offer dedicated workshops. Gaining this knowledge before making the switch is vital to ensure minimal operational disruption, and many organisations find the process isn’t as complicated as first thought. 

Truly supporting all business processes

Microsoft is a software supplier that is continuing to both strengthen and enrich the solution on an ongoing basis by updating its software with new features. Moving forward, users should expect to enjoy broader options in software functionality, such as Dynamics 365 Commerce built on Dynamics 365 Retail capabilities. This is designed to deliver a complete omni-channel solution – unifying call centre, back-office, in-store and digital experiences. 

Dedicated retail business management solutions allow retailers to build brand loyalty through personalised customer engagements, increase revenue with improved employee productivity, optimise operations to reduce costs and drive supply chain efficiencies – ultimately delivering better business outcomes. Users can also take advantage of connecting the Project Service Automation App, which allows users to sync project and resource data with project accounting. This improves access to vital business data, making it easier for users to govern accounts more effectively.

Beyond this, more employee-orientated integration is on the horizon with closer integration to Dynamics 365 Human Resources – previously known as Talent – and LinkedIn. Digital transformation of HR practices helps optimise ongoing HR programmes, enables workforce insights and allows businesses to more effectively attract, hire and develop talent through LinkedIn – building winning teams where people can flourish.

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​​​​​​​Don’t delay

As mainstream support for many legacy ERP and business management systems – such as Dynamics AX – comes to an end, businesses of all sizes must look to an advanced alternative that can stay future-proof through continuous development and updates with minimal operational impact.

With so many Dynamics AX users already in the process of addressing this by making the switch to Dynamics 365, business leaders should ask themselves – are they ready to make the leap, or instead willing to take the risks of being left behind on outdated systems? 

For more information on all business in Europe, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief Europe.

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May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Automation
UiPath
technology
repetitivetasks
Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.

Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.

Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.

When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”

And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.

Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work

By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.

“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”

These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.

Repetitive tasks that can be automated

Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”

These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.

“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”

Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.

Five business areas that can be automated

Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.

  1. Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
  5. Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.

“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”

 

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