Generic Inquiry Changes in Acumatica 5.3 explained

Generic Inquiry Changes in Acumatica 5.3 explained

In Acumatica version 5.3 you may have noticed some mysterious warnings appearing on your generic inquiries. I could not find any documentation on why this started showing up. After a little digging this is what I discovered.

Problem

Let’s start with a simple test generic query.

Just use the SOOrder table

1

On the Results Grid add OrderNBR and CustomerID_Description and you will see the warning.

2

Generic Inquiry has automatically joined to the BAccount table to get the Account Name (customerID_Description – BAccount.AcctName) to be displayed.

Acumatica created the following SQL Statement to retrieve the SOOrder records. Not so easy to understand, lots of things going on.

SELECT TOP (33)  [SOHeader].[OrderType] [SOHeader_OrderType],  [SOHeader].[OrderNbr] [SOHeader_OrderNbr],  [SOHeader].[CustomerID] [SOHeader_CustomerID],  [SOHeader].[NoteID] [SOHeader_NoteID],  (SELECT TOP (1) [NoteText] FROM [dbo].[Note]  WHERE ([dbo].[Note].CompanyID IN (1, 7) AND 32 = SUBSTRING([dbo].[Note].CompanyMask, 2, 1) & 32) AND [Note].[NoteId] = [SOHeader].[NoteID]) [SOHeader_NoteText],  (SELECT TOP (1) COUNT(*) FROM [dbo].[NoteDoc]  WHERE ([dbo].[NoteDoc].CompanyID IN (1, 7) AND 32 = SUBSTRING([dbo].[NoteDoc].CompanyMask, 2, 1) & 32) AND [NoteDoc].[NoteId] = [SOHeader].[NoteID]) [SOHeader_NoteFiles],  [SOHeader].[CuryID] [SOHeader_CuryID],  [SOHeader].[CuryInfoID] [SOHeader_CuryInfoID] FROM SOOrder [SOHeader]  WHERE ([SOHeader].CompanyID = 7) AND ([SOHeader].BranchID IS NULL OR [SOHeader].BranchID IN (5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13)) ORDER BY  [SOHeader].[OrderType] ASC,  [SOHeader].[OrderNbr] ASC OPTION(OPTIMIZE FOR UNKNOWN) /* 00.00.00.00 */

To simplify, we can manually create a simplified SQL statement that will provide what we need to see to understand what is Generic Inquiry is doing.

First it returns all of the SOOrder header records.

Select OrderNbr, CustomerID From SOOrder Where CompanyID = 7 Order By SOOrder.OrderNbr

3

Next, it then loops through each of the customer ids and retrieves the AcctName. It caches the results so that for each name it only does the BAccount look up once.

Select AcctName From BAccount Where BAccountID = 2470 And CompanyID = 7

From BAccount Where BAccountID = 260 And CompanyID = 7

Select AcctName From BAccount Where BAccountID = 262 And CompanyID = 7

Example of this in SQL

4

With bigger record sets this can get very inefficient.

Solution

So how do we improve the performance and get rid of the warning. Easy!

We add the BAccount table to the Tables tab on the generic inquiry.

5

Create the relations between the Tables  (join).

6

Replace the default customerID_Description with AcctName from the BAccount Table and warning disappears.

7

Now when Acumatica executes the query it runs the equivalent of:

Select SOOrder.OrderNbr, BAccount.AcctName

From SOOrder Inner Join BAccount On SOOrder.CompanyID = BAccount.CompanyID

And SOOrder.CustomerID = BAccount.BAccountID

Where SOOrder.CompanyID = 7

Order By SOOrder.OrderNbr

A much more efficient SQL query. Mystery solved.


Distribution Software Features You Need to Get Ahead

Distribution

To stay competitive in today’s distribution market, it’s almost a given that you’re going to have to use modern software and process automation. This is especially the case if you have a small operation and operate in multiple channels. Tools such as distribution software can specifically help your business successfully compete with larger ones. Here are some features to look for inside of distribution software to remain competitive in your day-to-day operations.

Integration with e-commerce Services

If you run a business that handles multiple different distribution channels, one feature that you absolutely need to have is integration with your e-commerce services such as your on-line stores, eBay and/or Amazon.

The important thing is to try to ensure that any item purchased online through any of your online stores is properly recorded in your ERP software. This is why integration is a such a necessary feature. A one-click solution to integration in a disparate number of online storefronts is exactly what you need to process your orders efficiently. With integrated systems, your inventory and orders can be maintained in one master locations and won’t need to input all of your information twice. The automation will take care of it for you allowing for quicker response to your customers and a complete view of all your sales operation statuses in one system.

Point of Sale Options

Another useful feature to use in areas where it’s applicable is the point of sale integration. Integration will be particularly salient if you have a brick and mortar operation, or if any aspect of your business has you selling to your customer in-person at any time. This could even work for much smaller operations. Integrated point of sale systems with distribution and inventory systems is of particular importance to such operations. Again, you really don’t want to have to input the same thing multiple times. Additionally, inventory allocation and updating can be handled automatically in these cases as well.

Another aspect of this that’s important is the fact that having point of sale integration with distribution services is critical if you have multiple sales happening across different mediums all simultaneously. So, if you have an online portal and a brick and mortar location that are both processing sales at the same time, having an integrative software tool that can handle this kind of multi-channel point of sale approach is an absolute necessity in order to make sure that you’re properly keeping track of the distribution process

 

Multi-Location Integration

Once again, this is a feature that will matter more depending on how large your operation is and how many physical warehouse locations you have. Stocking the right amount in the right location is always a complicated issue. This can be solved by using the right combination of demand planning and distribution requirements planning software. These software solutions will help you determine the what, when and how much to replenish your inventory at the most optimal levels.

Supply Monitoring

Having a systematic way to order, monitor and expedite supplier orders is also a necessity. By automating standard supply chain order process, planners and buyers will be allowed to focus on the exceptions and better buying deals. It is important that accurate lead time be maintained at all times.

Mobile Compatibility

To make sure that you fit your customers and employee expectations, compatibility with mobile platforms is often a must. This includes smartphones and tablets. IBM reported in February 2016 that almost half of all online traffic for this year Valentines’ Day season was done on mobile devices. Without mobile support you would miss out on almost half of your potential customer orders, can you afford that?

For more information about distribution software services, please contact us today.


The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Demand Planning

It is no secret that demand planning is a process that many businesses go through to remain successful. It allows for the creation of forecasts that will help the business manage their inventory levels. This is beneficial because the business can then use this information to align their inventory levels along with the fluctuation of demand that is placed on a particular product.

Because it is so important, there are multiple strategies that businesses can rely on when it comes to demand planning. As with all other types of strategies, some are better than others. There are also those strategies out there that wind up working against the company instead of for them. When you are choosing your strategy, be sure to avoid these instances of bad advice.

You should use one Strategy for all your Products

There are actually several factors that go into deciding the best strategy to use for any given product. Business leaders should examine things like geographical location as well as the industry in general. While this information may be consistent between some products a company offers, there are also times when each product should be treated individually.

Trying to place all your products into a one size fits all kind of model is dangerous and will not provide the right type of information that is truly valuable. Instead, you should always look at your products individually in order to determine what the true demand for the product will be in the near future.

You should think of Demand Planning as if it were a Program

This is a trap that many businesses fall into. Oftentimes, we tend to look towards the future and wish that we could speed to success instead of going through the process. This is the same issue in some companies that are looking to implement demand planning. They are focused on getting it up and running quickly.

Instead of taking this approach, it is always best to focus on creating a demand planning project that is ran well. While we all want to begin being successful quickly, demand planning is something that should take some time to implement. It is not a program that has certain steps that you must follow in order to be completed. Take the necessary time to carefully analyze the information that you are receiving so that you can gain the best amount of quality data. This will allow you to make the best decisions in regard to your inventory.

If you Plan correctly, you won’t have Surprises

Planning is an important part of the entire process. But, no matter how well you do plan, there will always be something that occurs unexpectedly. To help balance this, you should always have a backup or contingency plan. The most important thing to remember is that there will be surprises and that you must plan for every scenario possible.

In order to plan for surprises, always make sure that you are in a position that makes you flexible. For example, you may find that you need to have a plan to find alternate materials than what you normally use to create your products. Having this plan in place and being able to execute it quickly can help you to manage the times when supplies are out of stock or limited from your traditional supplier.

Don’t Put your Faith in Statistics

Statistics aren’t really all that exciting. However, they definitely have their place in the business industry. In fact, most businesses out there aren’t really using statistics to the best of their ability. Instead, they simply glance at the numbers and carrying on with their daily lives.

Statistics are very powerful. Businesses who have the ability to drive the company towards improvement are those that are the most profitable and successful. Also, when you rely on statistics to make changes to your demand planning strategy, you will find that it is extremely easy to measure the value that is added from your changes. So, along with your forecast information, be sure to review statistics that are related to your industry and your products when making changes to your strategy.

Your Plan should be complicated in order to provide the most Value

Some mistakenly believe that in order for something to work the best way that it must be complicated. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, demand planning will work much more efficiently if you are able to keep your processes and strategies simple.

The most important thing with any demand planning process is that the strategy that you choose is geared towards your specific company. Take a look at the amount of support that you will need as well as the amount of information that is already available. You can then choose a strategy that will help work with your company in the best capacity.

Focus on only one Product at a Time

It is true that you should look at each product individually. However, it is also true that you should focus on all your products rather than just one or a handful of your most popular items. You never really know what you are missing with other products when you choose to rely on this method. When a company only focuses on certain products, they may find that their success is not as great as they had expected.

Instead, you should take more of a 360 approach when it comes to demand planning. Look at the various elements of your entire business and look for changes that you can make to improve each of them. Some companies have found that by making some simple changes with some of their lesser performing products that they were able to greatly improve the success of the entire company.

Final Thoughts

Demand planning is critical for companies that are looking to create historical sales information. With this type of information, forecasts can be created that reflect the company’s customers as well as statistical information about the company as a whole. This information can then be used to collaborate with the customers in order to create products that will appeal to them and that will be available when demand is high.

There are plenty of things that a business can do incorrectly when it comes to demand planning. For this reason, it is always best to rely on a specialist to help with the goals that your company has in place. Choosing a partner for this venture is something that you should consider if you are looking to truly gain control over your inventory and the demand for that inventory.

When choosing a company to help you with this mission, be sure to choose one that has experience within your industry. You should also look for a company that takes the time to learn about your company and what is most important to you. This type of company will be the best option when it comes to receiving the value that you deserve to receive.

To learn more about MaxQ and what we have to offer to our customers, be sure to contact us. With our solutions, you will find that your business is able to receive all the information that it needs to rise to the top.

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The Latest Supply Chain Planning Trends: A Round-Up of Recent Industry Changes

Supply Chain Planning

 

Depending on who you ask, the global economy has hit a bottom, and it’s on the way up or it has already peaked and it’s on the way down. No matter which view you have of the macro-picture, one thing is certain in the finer details of supply chain planning: although there’s a striking mix of the very good and the very bad, depending on the industry, everyone is being forced to adapt. As the actions of these adapting companies become clearer, noticeable trends are beginning to develop.

A Trend Toward Urban: Fulfillment Centers Moving to the City

Real estate developers in the logistics arena have seen some good times lately. Demand and imports in the US continue to grow, and e-commerce continues to fuel activity.

What’s interesting, however — and what has been exciting for them — is the growth in urban sectors. While the huge fulfillment centers in the remote locations far from cities are still critical, retailers and distributors are supporting the rural locations with smaller fulfillment centers in urban areas. Research reveals growing demand for locations under 200,000 square feet in dense urban areas.

Amazon has been a textbook example of this new trend. As this September 2015 article from Supply Chain Digest explains: “Amazon and others often find space in old industrial and warehouse areas within a city, and generally need few of the amenities companies look for today in traditional DCs, such as high ceilings and modern layouts. Location is the chief attribute these distributors are seeking to support so-called ‘last mile’ delivery.”

In the case of Amazon, they began this small service center experiment in London in 2013. It worked exceedingly well, and they launched the same strategy in the United States soon after. As noted in the Supply Chain Digest article above, Amazon already has 19 such urban centers as of June 2015 with more on the way.

Crisis in the Publishing Industry and How Publishers Are Switching from In-House to Third-Party Logistics Providers

Publishing has been wading through a crisis ever since the e-book hit the markets and redefined what “book” means. Now that years have passed since the late 2000s when the sea-change began to take form and noticeably affect publishers, what this crisis means for the supply chain has taken a more observable form. The new publishing paradigm has emerged. Publishers have realized that the usual fixed pricing model and the familiar system of publisher owned and operated warehouses is no longer ideal. The use of variable pricing models and, as bound paper inventories diminish, the switch to third-party logistics providers are rewriting the supply chain story.

McGraw-Hill Education is a recent example of this new dynamic as a recent August 2015 white paper from Supply Chain Management Review observed. The publisher worked with a third-party provider (GENCO) to accomplish four major goals:

  1. Mitigate risk
  2. Transfer assets
  3. Establish a variable pricing model
  4. Build a flexible platform

 

  1. Risk

McGraw-Hill’s risk was two-fold: a large supply chain workforce and excess warehouse space for an ever-shrinking inventory.

What was heartening for the employees, however, was that they didn’t lose their jobs. Their positions were transferred to the third-party logistics provider — same job; different boss. The transferred employees were then placed in a consolidated warehouse system that used Lean principles to obtain the highest efficiency.

  1. Assets

McGraw-Hill’s long-term leases were near their end dates. The third-party provider transferred the real estate assets, took over the leases, and made more efficient decisions with the excess space.

  1. Variable Price Model

McGraw-Hill, through the third-party provider GENCO, needed to change to a variable pricing model that could bring in new streams of revenue. GENCO’s solution was surprisingly simple: re-purpose the excess warehouse space by leasing it out to tenants, even if those tenants were competing publishers. Instead of unavoidable losses, the unused space became strengths that helped stabilize McGraw-Hill.

  1. Flexible Platform

The third-party provider had a large network of distribution centers that McGraw-Hill could use. This flexibility and access to large amount of resources without taking the risk was exactly what McGraw-Hill needed.

To summarize all of it in one sentence: today’s publishers must trim the excess weight of fixed, in-house systems and transform themselves into lean, agile operations that can turn on a dime as the industry continues to change rapidly.

How China’s Decline Will Hurt Asian Parts Suppliers

Asian electronic-parts suppliers are nervous, to say the least. And there are three reasons for that: China’s devastating downturn, the evolving smartphone industry, and the frighteningly volatile market.

In a recent September 2015 article from The Wall Street Journal — as quoted by Supply & Demand-Chain Executive — a severe slowdown in China’s smartphone market is sending ripples through the supply chain: “World-wide sales of smartphones grew at their slowest rate since 2013, research firm Gartner said this month, with sales in China falling for the first time in the second quarter.”

Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. will certainly feel the burn. Many smartphone devices use the memory chips of these companies to store data. And other companies higher up in the supply chain, like Fanuc Corp. and Tokyo Electron Ltd., have already lowered their sales forecasts for the fiscal year that ends next March.

Aerospace and Defense Supply Chains Still Trying to Figure Out Wearables, Analytics, and the Internet of Things

As Supply Chain Quarterly noted recently in a September 2015 article, digital technology is still in its infancy in supply chain planning. It’s ironic, really. As covered in the fascinating new report from Accenture — “Are You Playing Ramp Up Roulette With Your Suppliers?” — industries with incredibly advanced technology (aerospace and defense) are still rookies in their use of digital technology in supply chain planning.

Upon first look, the numbers in the report seem promising, especially in the use of analytics:

Three-fourths of respondents [in aerospace and defense] say they have either implemented or plan to implement analytics for supply chain execution…The use of mobility tools, such as tablets, wearables, and other personal devices, is also increasing, with half of respondents planning to use or already using them for supply chain execution. Cloud-based technology, currently used or planned by 34 percent of respondents, also shows great potential for the aerospace and defense industry.

But the report makes this conclusion: the aerospace and defense industries are “still challenged by a lack of transparency and weak collaboration.” There is still great potential for improvement, and Supply Chain Quarterly suggested a few great ideas to start: “analytics and simulation of products could be used during development and testing, and wearables could help companies conduct virtual production inspections.”

Meanwhile, other industries are already finding powerful ways to use digital technology. Take the Internet of Things, for example; as InboundLogistics.com writer Udaya Shankar explains, companies are using RFID chips in pallets that are linked to a device integrated in the shipment vehicle to provide crystal clear in-transit visibility. This sends vital information to the company — GPS coordinates, weather conditions, traffic conditions, departure and arrival times, the driving behavior and speed of the driver — that adds many new capabilities to supply chain planning.

As Shankar observes: “Combining real-time sensor data with environmental data can provide intelligence of higher order to all the stakeholders in the ecosystem.”

Contact us for more helpful insights about the current trends and future of Supply Chain Planning.

 


Statistical Forecast for Better Demand Planning

Using a statistical forecast as a starting point often proves to be a solid start to a collaborative Demand Planning process. First, why do companies forecast? There are several benefits of more accurate forecasts;

 

  • Improve customer service levels.
  • Increased sales.
  • Reduced cost of carrying inventory.
  • Improved cash flow projections.
  • Production smoothing (level loading).
  • Reduced employee costs.
  • Increased return on investment.

In basic terms, all manufacturing/distribution companies want to do the same thing. They wish to have the right stuff in the right place, at the right time. So then is it better to use a statistical forecast or one made by a person? Well, a statistician would call this a choice between statistical and empirical estimate. The statistical forecast gets generated by software that calculates that forecast strictly by applying statitical techniques to the sales/booking history while an individual or a group of people uses judgment to formulate a collaborative forecast.

So then, how does the statistical forecast fit in a collaborative process? Some experts recommend using a statistical estimate as a starting point rather than asking someone such as sales person, to create a forecast from scratch. This statistical forecast, should not be the final answer; rather it is the starting point of that collaborative forecasting process. It’s a great input to start cross-functional demand planning.

Another question that people ask is; are there other cases where we should not use a statistical forecast? And the answer there is yes.  Any product that its history is not indicative of the future cannot use statistics effectively. Items that can be considered fads are particularly hard to predict. Many companies that have forecast increasing sales based on past sales trends for items that were a fads. They get stuck with inventory that can possible bankrupt a company. Remember the Atkins diet craze from a few years ago, Atkins Nutritionals went bankrupt after being to force to throw away millions of dollars of inventory.

New products, for example, pose a challenge for statistical forecast in that there’s no history, in this case, we suggest using a similar or like product, to model the projections for that new product.

Short life cycle products can also be a challenge because there’s a little history, and little history does not yield strong statistical forecasts. In other cases, volatility of historical demand can result in unstable or unusual trends that do not have any statistical correlation. And finally significant changes in demand patterns caused by acquisitions or other either company or external events can drive unreliable forecasts.

In summary, a statistical forecast can be an excellent tool but should not be the only method used to create an accurate forecast. Need more information and help? Then contact us and we will give you the best advice.


7 Great Benefits of Vendor Managed Inventory

 

Vendor Managed Inventory

Vendor Managed Inventory, or VMI, is a business relationship where a manufacturer or distribution business takes over management of inventory for a retail or wholesaler. Using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or other electronic methods for communication, the vendor of the product will manage orders and fulfillment for those further down the distribution chain.

VMI: Managed vs Consignment

There is significant difference between managed and consignment sales types of VMI, and some similarities/differences which merit further discussion before we look at the benefits of VMI management. Consignment is where the vendor retains ownership of the product until the time when it is sold to the end user. When the inventory is sold, the retailer takes a commission of the price and sends the rest of the money back to the vendor, as payment.

VMI can be used with consignment products, but does not have to be. VMI can as be used as “Managed”. In this case, the goods are sold to the retailer at the time of shipment, but the vendor manages the inventory levels at the customer’s sales location. The Vendor does not wait to receive a purchase order to restock; the vendor handles replenishing the inventory to maintain optimal sales. In some VMI relationships, it means the vendor creates and maintains the displays at the sales location and stocks them to make certain they are full.

VMI is dependent upon having the right software and the right relationships with customers. Since communication between customers and vendors is essential to a successful VMI system, the right software will need to facilitate communication via the cloud to increase access and communication.

 

Increased Customer Service

Perhaps the most important aspect of VMI is the improved channel communication. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers/wholesalers have to build communication systems utilizing advanced software.This provides both you as the vendor and your customers with information necessary to operate a VMI system. Additional results from increased communication and cooperation are better customer service, improved quality, reduction of costs and increased sales.You improve your customer service by accurately and swiftly responding to your customers’ needs.

Better Planning

To establish a proper VMI relationship, you must have access to a significant amount of data from your customers, including POS and inventory adjustments. This data provides you the information necessary to create an optimal inventory management plan. Additional uses for this information include order management, income planning, parts and supplies planning, HR and more.

Rather than guessing how much product a customer will need based on intuition or limited information, VMI gives both parties the right information needed to optimize the supply chain.

Strategic Business Alliances 

VMI benefits business relationships between more than just you and your customers. Distributors often take part in a VMI relationship, increasing the accuracy and efficiency of your inventory management while decreasing the costs. Often a distributor will receive the same sales data the vendor does and then optimize the inventory at the customer site to reduce costs to the vendor and to decrease turn-around time when the customer needs new inventory.

Additionally, the same system of communication built with your customers can be used to build relationships with your suppliers to increase your use of JIT inventory in your manufacturing processes. While any business relationship needs to be entered into with caution, the systems that businesses need for VMI facilitate much stronger business alliances across the entire supply and distribution chain.

JIT Inventory

JIT stands for Just-In-Time. JIT, focuses on only ever having enough inventory on hand to meet current needs. The amount of inventory needed depends on your product type, how fast it will move off the shelves to consumers and how long it will take to produce more. Because of the complicated management systems required, JIT inventory management has only recently become affordable options for businesses because of the advances in the cloud, IT speed and storage and business systems.

Your customers want to utilize JIT inventory to get the most out of their physical space and reduce costs to their business. With VMI, you establish JIT inventory levels for your customers and produce according to that need. You see their sales and inventory levels and now have a better insight into their need.  This has tremendous advantages for manufacturers and warehouses as well as for their customers. Leading to much better forecasting for the vendor, inventory levels can be really optimized for both parties.

Variation from Franchising

For many businesses, the advantage of franchising is maintaining control of parts and inventory down the distribution chain. Napa Auto Parts has consistent pricing, inventory and displays for all their manufactured goods, no matter the location. This is just one of the major advantages of franchising. With the increased communication with your customers through VMI, you have the opportunity to build quality control into your relationships with your customers. This means that you can have a hand in marketing your inventory to the end users of your product, not just the other businesses in your distribution chain.

Advanced Forecasting

Accurate forecasting requires data. The more data you have about sales results, the more information you can infer about customers, about seasonal trends, about the demand curve and your product life cycle. With historical data and an understanding of the causes of trends through common sense and experimentation. A spike in car parts from May-September could be caused by summer travels, for example. With the large amounts of data gained by using a vendor managed inventory system, you can improve accurate forecasts of the most likely scenario for increases and drops in demands. This aids long-term strategic planning and short-term order fulfillment.

Reduction of Sales Costs

Storage adds significantly to the costs of your product.  You incur costs to store inventory waiting for an order, your customer also incurs costs storing inventory waiting for a sale, you have collectively added significant costs to each item sold. Whether this cost is visible or not, it is there.

These 7 benefits show that with the right IT and communication, Vendor Managed Inventory is an excellent way to increase your customer service offerings, whether you are a manufacturer or a distribution company. Integrate VMI to build relationships, improve quality of product delivery, increase income and decrease costs.

We offer complete warehouse management solutions that integrate well with any VMI system you may put in place. Contact us today to see if our WMS will work for your business’s needs or for more information about business systems to improve your bottom line.

 


Debunked: The 6 Most Common Myths About Cloud Computing

To the surprise of almost no one, cloud computing has arrived. In the past few years, storing data and running software in the cloud it went from a relatively new and unusual trend to a reality for some of the biggest software providers in the world. Companies from Microsoft (Office 365) to Adobe (Creative Cloud) now base their core products on data that’s stored on remote servers.

But despite its rapid spread, the concept of data stored remotely, on servers not under your control, is still a scary proposition for many business owners. We’ve sung the praises on cloud computing repeatedly on this blog, but that matters little if you’re worried that your data unsafe or difficult to reach. So we’re here to alleviate your worries: if any of the below 6 most ideas about common cloud computing have crossed your mind, we’ll tell you why they’re myths.

Myth #1: In the Cloud, Your Data is Unsafe

Let’s start with the most common factoid of them all: the idea that when stored remotely, your data is less safe than on your servers. This may have been the case early on in the trend, when providers were still figuring out just how to use the service and keep data secure. In 2015, however, the idea of data insecurity is just that: an idea that’s not based on reality.

Of course, it’s easy to feel worried. Storing your data remotely means giving up control, which almost automatically increases the perception of a lack of safety. The reality, however, does not support that perception.

Statistics show that only 2 percent of businesses experience breaches in their cloud data, a number that’s almost identical to on-site data or software hosting. The difference is that your cloud provider and your own company share responsibilities for data storage and safety, meaning that breaches are more easily accounted for. Looking at it from this perspective, that means your cloud data is actually more secure than it would be on your own server.

Myth #2: Your Data Will Become Public Knowledge

Closely related to the first myth is the idea of many that storing your data or running your software remotely means it will be more easily accessible by the public or government. This idea gained momentum in recent years, as a number of government-related scandals showed the extent to which agencies like the NSA store private information.

Without getting into too much of the legalities involved, it’s important to note that this is not true. In the cloud, your data will be subject to the same privacy laws as it would be on your own server, the only potential difference being the jurisdiction of the data center on which it is stored. So while you may want to check into just where your data will end up, rest assured that it’s no less private than it would be on your own server.

Myth 2: Cloud Computing Harms the Environment

Another common belief among business owners is that cloud computing harms the environment. It originates from organizations like Greenpeace, who are worried about the carbon emissions emanating from data centers, which are significantly more harmful than the ability to store your data and run your software on your own computer. Even large publications like Time Magazine picked up this narrative last year.

Again, though, the idea of environmental harm is not quite in line with reality. As it turns out, studies have consistently found that these same data centers cut energy costs by almost 90 percent. A single data center may burn significantly more energy than your company’s server, thus making it seem like you’re harming the environment. But in reality, that same facility also hosts data for countless other businesses and software solutions, making it ultimately almost twice as energy-efficient as the non-cloud alternative.

Myth 3: Cloud Computing Costs Jobs

Here’s another popular idea that keeps businesses from taking advantage of the ability to store data and run software remotely: analogous to the manufacturing industry, the increasing automatization of data processes means fewer jobs for IT professionals.

If you’re been reading this far, you won’t be shocked by the following statement: the reality is far different from this myth. In fact, IT jobs are set to rise significantly thanks in large part to the increase in cloud-related jobs. Almost 4 million professionals work in these types of jobs today, and that number is expected to grow 22 percent by 2020.

Myth 4: Migrating to the Cloud is a Hassle

Next, let’s address a more practical concern of many business owners. You may not be concerned that cloud decreases the safety of your data, harms the environment or costs U.S. jobs. Instead, you simply think that it would be too much of an effort to move your data to the cloud, or to begin using cloud-based software instead of your own servers.

We won’t deny that the initial transition is an effort. But it’s well worth it: we’re willing to bet that the increased accessibility and decreased server responsibility means that within a short amount of time, your gains will begin to outweigh your efforts.

This is true both for moving data to the cloud or beginning to use cloud-based software. After a short transitional phase, you’ll begin to appreciate the fact that you can access your data or use your software no matter where you are, while at the same time not having to spend valuable resources on server management. Instead of turning into a hassle, the initial effort will pay off sooner than you think.

Myth 5: Cloud Computing is Just Getting Started 

Another reason you may shy away from the cloud is that you want to wait until the technology has reached maturity and its infancy-related bugs are ironed out. Newsflash: we’re already there. As we alluded to in debunking the first myth, cloud computing is far from a new concept.

Depending on which event you want to call the definite starting point, the technology began as many as 30 years ago, and the term “cloud computing” was first termed in 1997. A 2012 study determined that cloud computing is at least close to maturity. If you’re waiting for the technology to become more mature and iron out its kinks even further, you may be waiting forever.

Myth 6: “The Cloud” Is a Definitive Entity

We’ll end with the most convoluted myth, and one that we admittedly perpetrated in this blog post. It’s tempting to talk about cloud computing as a single entity, which is the same no matter for which purposes it’s used. In reality though, “cloud computing” simply stands for the concept of storing data (or running software) remotely. Everything else entirely fluid, with different rules and regulations applying to your specific use of the cloud.

So whether we’re talking about cloud-based subscription software or remote data centers makes a significant difference when determining just what “cloud computing” actually stands for. Only one thing remains true unequivocally: cloud computing is no longer a trend; it’s a reality, and your business will be better served by ditching the myths above and considering it to increase your success.

For more information about cloud computing and how your business can benefit from the technology, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d love to help you debunk myths, while at the same time taking your business to the next (remote) level.

 


SaaS Tips: Five Ways to Reduce Churn

SAASChurn is a dreaded word for SaaS managers. Simple put, churn is the rate at which your customers cancel their recurring SaaS subscriptions. However, effectively measuring and coming up with a strategy to reduce churn is not so simple. It involves a strategy that permeates the entire digital life cycle. From the moment a prospect becomes a customer, a strategy must be in place to keep them on board, and hopefully upgrade or upsell them down the road. SaaS success hinges not only on customer retention, but generating new revenue as well. Churn, however, is at the center of both success metrics. Consider five ways to reduce churn in your SaaS company.

 

Identify Who is High Risk

A key to decreasing churn is to identify high risk customers. The best place to start is with your customers that are leaving. Create an exit survey to collect data. Ask why they are not renewing. How often did they use the software? How many employees used the service? Combine this data with demographic information you should already have, such as the type of business, number of employees, geographic location or age of company. This demographic data will help you create a profile of a high risk customer. Going forward, when new customers subscribe with a similar profile, you’ll know you need to act fast and give them a little more attention to keep them around. Or, you may be able to develop a specific feature tailored to that demographic. If small businesses in a certain niche industry tend to drop, consider their exit surveys and focus on the development of a new feature that might earn their loyalty. You may even discover that a certain age demographic is most likely to drop. Trending these factors will help you develop communication methods aimed at that specific group.

Focus on Education

To instill loyalty, customers must feel like they are getting more than they paid for. Exceed their expectations. Instead of focusing on upselling existing customers, focus on educating those clients to ensure they are getting the most from the bucks they are already spending. Specifically focus on education tools for your high risk customers. Create weekly blogs or e-newsletters that feature how-to guides or FAQs. Offer online videos or live video training classes that feature your product or tips and tricks for their industry niche. For example, if your SaaS product features an engagement or social media module, walk your small business owners through this tool. Show them how easy it is to engage their customers. Go beyond the simple functionality of the product. Feature general marketing or engagement tips they will find beneficial too. Use your educational tools to become your client’s trusted advisor. If you sell a product that features a social media tool, you should be an expert on all things related to social media marketing. Get your customers excited about the future by organizing webinars that discuss new features that are in development. It’s a great way to build anticipation and get valuable feedback.

Make Upgrading a Natural Process

Upgrades are an integral part of growing and expanding your SaaS business. It’s much cheaper to upgrade an existing customer than to recruit a completely new one. However, to upgrade you have to keep your existing customers first. A customer that has upgraded is more invested in a product than a customer with the most basic subscription. An upgraded customer has seen the value and has moved out of the “high-risk” zone. Thus, upgrading your customers is critical to reducing churn.

An effective upgrade strategy involves helping customers get all they can out of their current plan. You are helping them grow into needing the next. One huge pitfall among SaaS providers is not including enough value in the basic subscription. They mistakenly feel like they should withhold the truly valuable features as an incentive for the customer to upgrade. This faulty reasoning leads to increased churn rates because customers don’t see any value. Conversely, when a customer sees incredible value in the product they’ve purchased, they naturally will see the value in upgrading to the next level.

Encourage Interaction

Be proactive about engaging your customers. Reach out to them. Offer incentives for them to communicate their thoughts. Here are a few ways to do it.

  • Surveys:Surveys aren’t just for your customers that are leaving. Keep them short, 10 questions or less. Carefully draft questions that will give you insight into how your customers are using the product and what improvements they would like to see. If the user chooses to not remain anonymous, contact them with a thank-you e-mail and follow-up with their specific concerns or requests. Make sure they know their feedback is valued and used. Be sure good and bad feedback is acknowledged. Remaining silent leaves a very bad impression.
  • Social media:Include social media in your branding campaign and in your education strategy. Draw attention to blog posts, how-to guides and industry trends through your social media feed. Utilize social media polls to gather feedback from past and present customers. Set up contests with free product giveaways for participation.
  • Feedback bar:Include a feedback bar or forum directly within your product so users can quickly be heard. It’s a great way for users to interact with each other and get tips from their peers. However, be sure an employee monitors the dialogue to ensure all questions are answered accurately. This will also give you insight into what features may need improvement. If customers constantly have issues with the same feature, maybe it needs to be more intuitive or customers need to be better educated.

Offer Rewards

We already talked about giving your high-risk customers a little added attention. However, don’t overlook your most-valued, loyal customers. They need to feel your love too. The most basic loyalty reward is to offer customers buying an annual subscription a reduced rate compared to those that are billed monthly. Go a little further by giving your annual renewals a free add-on to try. Show personal interest by making it something specific to their industry. Ask your loyal customers to try a new beta product and provide feedback. Give them some free usage for their time and insights. Other rewards to consider are those related to a referral program. Integrate with your social media campaign by offering clients a free add-on for sharing their positive feedback with their social media followers. Ask a long-time user to be a guest blog writer. They will get added visibility and so will you. Get creative. Think beyond simple discounts or giveaways.

In a nutshell, SaaS businesses grow by increasing revenue and decreasing churn. Understand your customers. What services are most valuable? How do they prefer to be billed? What is their level of technical expertise? Analyze who they are. Build a strategy for education. Help them see the value in upgrading. Communicate effectively and offer rewards. Max Q Technologies understands that to do this successfully, you need the infrastructure to manage billing, recognize revenue and and track customer engagement. Our highly experienced team works closely with clients to customize their subscription management strategies. Track billing, renewals and effectively forecast future revenues throughout the digital life cycle with our solutions.  Contact us to learn more.

 


Signs Your Business Should Switch to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing isn’t just for people on the cutting edge of technology anymore.  These days, many businesses are opting to switch to cloud computing.  In general, they’re finding that it’s a more efficient way of doing business.  Still on the fence about whether or not cloud computing is right for you?  Check out these signs that it’s time to make the switch for your business.

 

Your Employees Work from Multiple Locations

Do you have more than one location for your business?  How is information shared across those locations?  If files are regularly emailed back and forth or your employees often have to contact the other location for vital information, you’re losing time and money.  Cloud computing, on the other hand, can make all the information at either location available to everyone who needs it, which means that you’ll be able to cut down on the time spent actively seeking out information.  This will save time and effort on both ends, leading to a smoother, more streamlined ability to share information.

What about mobile employees–that is, those who are on the road, but who still need to access files from the office in order to conduct business effectively?  Not only does cloud computing provide employees with access to all of those files, even the ones that they might have forgotten to add to their laptops or mobile devices before heading away from the office, it permits them to access updates as soon as they’ve been saved to the cloud.  This means that changes in documents can be shared quickly and easily no matter where your employees might be.  Have multiple employees working on or with the same document?  Cloud computing makes it easy for all of them to access the latest version.

You’re Experienced an Increased Need for Security

Is maintaining security within your data infrastructure one of the most difficult challenges for your IT team?  If so, cloud computing might be the ideal solution.  The cloud computing system is set up from the beginning with all of your security considerations in place.  Once you’re ready to implement the cloud solution, all you have to do is move the data over.  It’s already protected with all the security you need that was designed by security experts to ensure compliance in your industry.

Your Business is Experiencing Rapid Growth

Your technology has to be able to keep up with the growth of your business–including your storage space.  When your business experiences rapid growth, it can be difficult to adequately manage the growth of your technology, as well.  Cloud computing, on the other hand, can be easily adjusted to meet the needs of your growing business.  It’s easy to add in virtual machines or virtual storage space as needed.  Experiencing a downturn in business or downsizing your technological needs?  Cloud computing will allow you to easily adjust your technology without having unused equipment sitting around.

It’s Been a Long Time Since You Last Updated Your Technology

Often, your IT department is one of the most-ignored parts of your business.  As long as everything is going smoothly, you don’t want to put more money or effort into your technology needs than is absolutely necessary.  Unfortunately, problems tend to crop up when you least expect them–and in many cases, those problems can cause huge expenses when the time comes.  Consider the time lost if your system goes down or can no longer support the demands of your business.  Think about what could happen in the event of data loss.  Now, ask yourself when the last time you updated your technology was.

If you don’t have a good answer to that question, cloud computing might be the best possible option for your business.  You’ll be able to easily update and modify your technology needs without overspending in an effort to make up for past mistakes.  Even better, cloud technology is often very cost-effective, making it the perfect choice for your business.

Your Software is Often Out-of-Date

Updating software in your company sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.  After all, your existing software is working just fine; and training end users to use new technology can be extremely difficult.  Unfortunately, while you’re clinging to outdated technology, your competitors are moving forward with the latest advances, giving them advantages that you didn’t even know they could gain.

Through cloud technology, you’ll be able to quickly roll out software updates and keep on the latest edge of available software.  Not only that, the shared resources utilized through cloud technology will cut down on your software costs.  That means that updating will be easier than ever.

Your Business is Unprepared for the Possibility of Data Loss

Virtual data is often the driving force behind many of today’s companies.  Customer information, sales data, and other information specific to your company need to be available to all of your employees at the flip of a switch or the touch of a button.  What happens, however, if that data is lost?  What if your servers stop working, the computers on which specific information is stored crash, or a power blackout causes your information to be inaccessible?

Through cloud computing, your information is always available.  It’s backed up automatically, so you never have to worry about important data loss.  Not only that, it’s always accessible.  Even if your power is out, employees at another facility or on the road can continue to access relevant information.  Mobile devices will still be able to connect to the cloud, enabling your business to keep functioning.  Lost data means lost time, but cloud computing works to streamline the process and make it easier for your business to keep functioning.

Cloud computing is the answer to a variety of potential technology problems for your business.  While it won’t magically solve all of your problems, it will enable you to streamline operations, reduce cost, and increase the time that your employees are able to spend conducting business instead of searching for data.  If you’re looking for a firm that will provide a quality cloud computing experience, contact us for more information.