Read more on "New Report Finds Most Canadian Businesses Still Relying on Spreadsheets for Data Analytics" »
A new report by the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation has found that a majority of Canadian businesses still use spreadsheets as their primary data analysis tool, despite the wide variety of software solutions available to integrate and automate this function.
The report, Data Analytics in Canada, offers some excellent insight into the behavior of companies across the country, from where they struggle most to where they feel they’re strongest. Above all, these findings highlight the fact that most companies are not taking advantage of options to improve the quality of their data and reduce the risk that comes with maintaining disparate data sets.
Here are a few initial findings from the report. We’ll be posting more about this in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!
Spreadsheets remain the most popular tool used for data collection and analysis even at large companies.
The report found that 70 percent of companies that have more than 500 employees still rely on spreadsheets as their primary data analysis tool, while the same is true for 50 percent of companies with revenues of more than $1 billion.
This is somewhat surprising, considering the amount of data that large companies typically rely on.
By using simple spreadsheets, not only are these companies wasting huge amounts of time on manual data analysis. They’re also most likely maintaining disparate data sets from different departments.
This opens up several problematic issues. For one, this approach fragments a company’s data and makes it impossible to see the whole picture. This in turn makes it much harder for executives to make the best business decisions for the company.
For another, companies that operate this way are also opening themselves up to risk. There’s the security risk inherent in using spreadsheets, which lack features like approval rules and workflows and are therefore accessible to anyone who can access your server.
Then there’s the risk of human error. With any manual process, there’s always a chance that users will mis-enter or mishandle the data, and when you’re dealing with multiple spreadsheets that may be consolidated, one single error can easily multiply.
Many companies are using redundant methods of data collection and analysis, still relying on spreadsheets even when they use ERP systems or other software solutions.
Most of us assume that companies employ ERP systems, business intelligence (BI) suites, or accounting software as a way to get away from the manual processes involved in using spreadsheets.
However, an example found in the report makes it clear that this isn’t always what happens. One software solution provider quoted in the report says that one of his clients maintains one million active spreadsheets that are used to backstop their accounting and ERP software. The amount of redundant and manual effort that this represents is staggering.
Companies are aware of the problems with using spreadsheets as a primary tool for data analysis.
Even those companies that use spreadsheets exclusively or primarily seem to be aware that using spreadsheets results in greater potential for error and wasted manual or redundant effort.
Despite this, many companies are reluctant to let go of their current system, whether because of simple familiarity or because they don’t believe software solutions represent the best investment of their resources.
This can, of course, change – a number of respondents quoted in the report said that their company’s reliance on spreadsheets and multiple data sets was a recognized weakness within their organization. Other respondents said that they wanted to get their analytics and business intelligence up to their true potential, but that it wasn’t a company goal at the time.
What this means is that the will to improve data analytics is there. The issue may be convincing executives and business owners that ERPs, BI suites, and other data analytics tools can be not just helpful when it comes to making better business decisions, but actual game-changers.
Read more on "After Your Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 Upgrade: Next Steps" »
Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 was officially released last month, and if your company has made the decision to upgrade, then chances are you’ve been hard at work preparing – or implementing – your own system upgrade.
If you’re not sure whether an upgrade is right for you, contact us and we can help with your direction and analysis in regards to your financial system.
Upgrading can be a rather lengthy process, requiring a big investment of time, money, and human resources. However, GP 2016 offers some very exciting new features, most notably a much improved web client that may be beneficial to your company.
First, ensure that you’ve completed every facet of the upgrade.
Upgrading is a big job, so you want to make sure you haven’t forgotten any department databases, modified reports, or forms. Run through your checklist one last time before you officially declare the upgrade complete.
This will prevent any compatibility issues from arising – the last thing you want is to launch GP 2016 and find that you forgot about a major database.
Once you’ve verified that every piece of your system has been upgraded, you can move on to the next step.
Make a backup.
When you have your new system up and running, make a SQL backup of your databases for safekeeping. You’ll also want to back up your modified reports by logging in to GP 2016 and exporting them to package files.
Start upgrading your add-ons and third-party applications.
Once your GP upgrade is complete, it’s time to shift into the next phase: focusing on your third-party applications and add-ons.
If you’re using GP’s web client, you’ll want to upgrade to the new version. This version offers a much better mobile experience for users, as it runs on HTML 5 rather than Silverlight, which is what previous versions used.
If you have add-ons or integrations for the web client, make sure to test all of these once you’ve finished the upgrade.
Switch to the new Management Reporter.
The upgrade to GP 2016 means that FRx is not supported any longer, so you’ll have to switch to Management Reporter. If you haven’t done this yet, you’ll need to access the service pack for Management Reporter, and test all your Management Reporter reports after the upgrade is complete.
Test your system!
This is a vital step in completing a successful upgrade process. Microsoft recommends creating checklists for your users to go through, so they can test out all the modules in use. Have users test these modules in both the test and live upgrade systems. This includes everything from reports, to data entry tasks, to daily, weekly, and monthly routines.
The goal here is first, to ensure that everything works properly, and second – and just as important – to ensure that your users are comfortable with the new system and any process changes that it will require of them. After all, a software system can only give you value if your users are using it.
Read more on "How an ERP Can Help You Grow Your Financial Services Business" »
In the financial services industry, data security is always a major concern. Above all else, your customers have to be able to trust you and your organization – otherwise, they’ll quickly take their business elsewhere.
In today’s online world, digital security is constantly evolving. ERP software providers know this, and they release regular security patches and software upgrades in order to maintain that security. Two of the ERPs TGO works with, Microsoft Dynamics GP and Sage X3, are both known for their strong data security.
One of the security advantages inherent in implementing an ERP is that it brings all your data together into one system. This means you have fewer systems that could be breached, as well as a lower potential for loss of data control through outside systems.
If you’re using a cloud-based ERP, you can further increase your security. Cloud-based services are quickly overtaking on-premise ones due to their lower price, quicker implementation time, and mobile accessibility, and they’ve got very high security standards, too. Many ERP providers offer various options for data encryption that can further increase your data’s safety.
Improving customer service
Financial services companies must offer great customer service if they are to succeed in today’s competitive economy. Now that so many facets of the industry are moving toward customer self-service, financial services firms have to truly stand out if they’re going to make an impression on customers.
An ERP system can help you improve your customer service by improving your capabilities in reporting, data capture, and forecasting, among other functions. When your salespeople and marketing departments have access to better information, they’ll be able to give your customers more of what they want, when they want it.
In addition, because ERPs bring all of a company’s departments together in one software system, communication and transparency are automatically improved. This allows your customer-facing departments to respond more quickly and accurately to customer inquiries or complaints.
Financial services companies often have complex and lengthy back-office procedures. Take a mortgage provider, for example. While a loan officer works directly with the customer, there are multiple people behind the scenes checking credit scores, verifying personal and business information, calculating interest rates, and more.
The improved inter-departmental communication that an ERP provides means that your back-office staff can coordinate their work with each other better, reducing the time it takes to go from an initial customer inquiry to a finalized loan.
Fewer redundancies, lower instances of error, and a more efficient back-office staff will all ultimately result in happier customers – which, in turn, means growth for your business.
Gain more time for data analysis
If you want your business to grow, you’ve got to have a strategic plan. To build that strategic plan, you need to be able to not just gather data, but analyze it, too.
ERP solutions can help you do this by providing excellent reporting options. Users can pull almost any type of report they can think of, either on demand or on a regular schedule. Armed with useful, actionable data, you’ll be able to plan more strategically for your company’s future growth.
Here are 5 tips for making your systems training more effective.
Use a trainer or training company with expertise specific to your system. This no doubt seems obvious. However, it can be easy to end up choosing a company that advertises its budgeting expertise, for example, but doesn’t actually have experience with the specific budgeting solution you’re using.
Make sure your training partner offers an objective statement as well as a benefits statement. Good trainers will include a clear objective statement outlining what the trainees will know or be able to perform after the training.
Different objective statements may be presented for each section of the training, and this can be helpful as well. Giving participants an idea of the end-goal for the training as a whole, and for the separate sections can help them focus and give them a sense of direction.
Benefits statements are similar to objective statements, but they can be even more important when it comes to motivating your employees. If an employee isn’t able to see how the information being presented will benefit them, then they’re likely to tune that information out.
Offering a concrete benefit in clear, concise language – “Employees will be proficient in managing Microsoft Dynamics GP’s SmartLists” – can help show how the training material’s practical application.
Consider offering different training options for different employees or departments. We’ve all heard about the different ways young people learn and how that can affect their school performance. Well, those differences don’t suddenly disappear once we become adults. If resources allow, consider offering different training options for different departments or employees – classroom and online, for example.
If you go this route, your training partner should be proficient in various types of information delivery so that your employees are receiving uniformly great training no matter what format they choose.
Build in reflection and processing time. Experienced trainers know that the mind needs time to absorb new information. This is especially true when teaching technical lessons on software systems, as these systems aren’t always intuitive for non-technical thinkers.
Make sure participants receive some time to ask questions, work through hypothetical scenarios, reflect on their own, or break into small discussion groups throughout the course of the training. This will help the new information sink in, and improve your return on investment.
Keep the learning mentality active in your workplace after the training is complete. If you really want your training to be effective, you must maintain that learning mentality throughout the workplace. You don’t want to invest lots of money in a great training program only to have employees who didn’t quite understand the information go back to using less productive workarounds.
One way to prevent this is to institute a peer coaching program. This will give employees who need a bit of extra help the chance to work through any questions or problems they have with a peer who already has a good grasp on the information. This will help you continue to gain value from the training after it’s finished.
Another good post-training idea is to offer chances for your team to give feedback on the training. You can ask for this feedback at various intervals – one week, two weeks, a month, etc. – to see how the training has actually impacted their work habits and determine whether or not it was truly effective.
Read more on "How TGO’s In-House Support Team Provides Value for Our Clients" »
There’s a reason that so many businesspeople often see calling tech support as a dreaded last resort. Too often, calling a helpdesk means going through automated menus, answering lots of seemingly insignificant questions, and ultimately spending hours on the phone – sometimes only to hear that the problem will require a technician to be sent out.
This is why we decided years ago to offer an in-house support team for our clients. Our financial systems support specialists are experts in Microsoft Dynamics GP support as well as Sage X3 support, in addition to many other products.
The advantages of this in-house service are many, and help reinforce our commitment to giving our clients the personalized, individualized service that they can always expect from TGO.
How TGO’s in-house support team works
Any software system, however well-maintained, is bound to run into issues that require systems support at some point. Maybe an upgrade isn’t running properly; maybe a user accidentally locked himself out of an important database; or maybe the system simply ran into a glitch.
When this happens, the protocol is usually to call your software provider’s tech support team. This works fine in some cases, but it does usually mean that you’ll be spending a longer time on the phone as you wait for one of dozens of support staff to answer your call.
For TGO’s clients, however, things are a bit different. When a situation arises with one of our clients’ systems, all they have to do is call TGO. We recognize the urgency of these problems, and we immediately document your call.
Then an experienced support specialist will contact you to get more information about your issue and work with you to quickly and efficiently resolve the problem.
Advantages of working with our in-house support staff
You’re calling someone who knows you. One of the biggest advantages of being able to call an in-house support team is that the people you’re talking with know you, your business, and your financial systems. TGO builds close relationships with our clients – our entire methodology is based on understanding your specific needs and then delivering the results that will give you the most value.
In other words, we’ve established a history with you. That means we’ll be better equipped to understand your issue, and to help you achieve a resolution that works for you and your company.
You have access to our financial experts’ knowledge pool. When you call our support team, you’re not just calling tech support – you’re calling TGO, comprehensive financial systems specialists. Because of this, you’ve got access to our financial experts’ collective knowledge in addition to our technical support expertise.
This can help bridge the knowledge gap between IT and Finance, helping each side better understand their roles in making the financial software system successful.
You receive personalized recommendations on how to avoid future issues. Because we possess unparalleled current knowledge of your financial systems, we can offer you practical and relevant suggestions on what you can do to avoid issues in the future.
These aren’t just standard recommendations you’d receive from an outsourced helpdesk. Instead, these are recommendations tailored to you and your business specifically, based on our deep knowledge of your company and the close relationship we’ve built with you over our consulting engagement.
You gain the best of both in-house and outsourced IT support. Companies with in-house IT staff reap certain benefits: in-house staff know your system, they’re easily accessible, and they can address problems within the context of your overall system.
However, there can be major costs that come with this approach. Maintaining an adequate IT staff yourself can be costly in terms of salary and benefits. It can be difficult to find and keep good technicians. And finally, nearly any in-house IT team will still face gaps in knowledge that necessitate outside help.
With TGO’s in-house support team, on the other hand, you can maintain the aforementioned benefits without having to worry about the associated costs. There’s no knowledge or skills gap to worry about, as our technicians are experts in their fields.
If you have a question that needs input from one of our financial systems experts, that’s available to you as well. As mentioned earlier, we already have deep knowledge of your system.