Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

How the MVP Methodology Allows Your Business to Quickly React to Change

There has never been a greater example of the importance of being able to adjust, change and adapt quickly than the disruptions caused by COVID-19. In a matter of days and weeks, businesses were forced to send employees home to work remotely, close their doors temporarily (or in some drastic cases permanently), and get creative on how to serve customers virtually. With so many unknowns about the future of our economy and workforce, making the decision to drastically change business operations, or pivot existing offers is scary, however, this is where MVP methodology thrives.

You may have heard the term MVP referenced in sports, which stands for Most Valuable Player. In the business world, however, MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product and describes a development technique in which a new product is developed according to the least amount of functionality required by the end customer. In other words, the idea is to quickly develop the most basic version of a working product. The final version of the product and additional features are then developed after testing the product in the market and considering feedback from users. The point of following the MVP mindset is to focus on the core objectives of a product and to quickly get it to market, without wasting time developing additional features. In the case of MVP, the speed in which you can get a product to market is more important than creating the perfect product, with the goal of establishing a product roadmap to evolve over time. A great example of a company using the MVP mindset in action, is Bulk Barn. Bulk Barn, a traditional brick and mortar retail store selling bulk food products, was deemed a non-essential business, and was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19. In an effort to remain open for customers, the company made the quick pivot to selling online – in less than 48 hours.

Bulk Barn: A MVP Success Story

Bulk Barn is a traditional retail business, selling bulk food products such as candy, baking items, nuts and more to customers through a self-serve model. Although prior to COVID-19 Bulk Barn had an online presence, the company’s website acted strictly as a retail store locator, pointing customers to the closest store in their geographic area. Not deemed an essential business, Bulk Barn was forced to close its doors to the general public to help flatten the curve. This is what led the company to start considering ways in which it could still serve customers. In order to provide options for online sales, the company used the MVP methodology to quickly set-up a functioning eCommerce site with curb-side pick-up.

MVP Approach to eCommerce

Unlike traditional eCommerce stores, which take months to develop and cost thousands of dollars, Bulk Barn was able to provide enough functionality to sell to customers online within 48 hours. The site was transformed with functionality for customers to choose their location and then fill out a simple online order form with information about product and order quantities. Following the MVP development technique, this online form was simply that – an electronic form not integrated with any database and with no real-time inventory management. Once a customer submits the form, an email is sent to the appropriate retail location where an employee can pick the order for customer pick-up. This approach to eCommerce allowed the company to achieve its goals in a very short period of time. And even though the website does not include any bells or whistles (or even any features), it still allows customers to place orders and is therefore helping to keep Bulk Barn open for business.

It’s easy to get caught up in features, advanced functionality, and the aesthetics of developing a new product. However, following the MVP methodology allows you to first and foremost come up with a working product that customers actually want and need. This helps set you up for success down the road, without wasting valuable resources and delaying time to market.

As Charles Darwin famously said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” In these uncertain times, learning more about the MVP technique and how you can apply it to your business products and services can help you quickly adapt to market changes.

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HDA Webinars and ARCOS Reporting

During the week of April 14th, the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) held a free Distribution Management Webinar Series to present some of the sessions that were scheduled for this year’s 2020 HDA Distribution Management Conference but canceled due to COVID-19. The series of 9 webinars educated participants and introduced them to a wide range of topics online instead of in-person, as the DMC was canceled due to COVID-19. These webinars brought up some very interesting ideas and raised some very good points on the current struggles the industry is facing due to the virus. A long list of topics including a DSCSA FDA Activity Update, Saleable Returns Verification Industry Update and a Controlled Substance Legal Panel were presented.

These HDA Webinars are a very valuable tool, and a great way to stay up to date and informed on important aspects of the industry, and will be available online for your viewing pleasure on April 24th, 2020. Plus, if you’re interested in finding out more, you can browse their website for additional webinars that are taking place during the first week of May.

As everyone in the industry is aware, there are many different and important factors to keep track of as changes brought forth by the virus come into effect, so it is good to be informed on those by an industry professional. So, with the HDA giving the opportunity, it was definitely worthwhile to take part.

The HDA Webinars gave an update on the potential changes to the schedule of enforcement of Verification of Saleable Returns to the DSCSA – which is November by the way – and introduced some valuable information on importing pharmaceuticals and rules that might be set in place for importing to Canada from the US. Though these are just a small sample of topics discussed.

Taking a step away from the HDA, we at Blue Link have some information to share with you all regarding ARCOS Reporting. ARCOS, or Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, is a drug-monitoring system that was developed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. ARCOS enables the government to monitor the movement of controlled substances from manufacturing through point of sale. This is something that is well known in the pharmaceutical industry and is an integral part of Blue Link ERP’s Pharma Application.

All controlled substances in Schedules I and II and all narcotic controlled substances in Schedule III must be reported to the DEA, who must receive the report by the 15th of the month or else a company can be flagged as failure to report. This reporting gives the DEA a better insight into which substances are going where, and how each company is handling its product.

By having ARCOS Reporting within Blue Link’s Pharmaceutical Distribution system, Blue Link customers are able to easily provide accurate information about the movement of controlled substances throughout the supply chain, and automatically provide the DEA and other governing agencies with the electronic paperwork that is required to do business and operate within the pharmaceutical space.

As Blue Link continues to grow, we develop new features for our software based on current and future trends within the pharmaceutical industry, as well as by learning from our knowledgeable customer base. It is important that we not only look at current trends, but that we also look to the future, so that we are always one step ahead, and are always able to give the best and most feature-rich software to our customers.

Blue Link’s pharmaceutical distribution software helps your business reduce manual work, automate processes, and remain compliant with industry regulations so that you can focus on what really matters: growing your business.

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How to Track Sales Prospects with Contact Management Software

Contact management software as the name suggests, allows you to manage your business contacts – customers, suppliers, partners and prospects. Many software systems, such as the accounting system QuickBooks, will include built-in tools for managing your contacts. However, this type of functionality is different from true contact management software which is commonly referred to as CRM, or Customer Relationship Management. While contact management features allow your business to track information such as name, address, bill-to and ship-to, it lacks advanced functionality for managing advanced sales funnels. This is why true contact management software in the form of a CRM system is a better solution when you have a long and multi-step sales process. Instead of looking for standalone CRM software, consider ERP with built-in CRM tools. The benefit of this type of system is that it allows you to maintain information about a company once they turn from a prospect into a customer – such as tracking sales history and quotes. Once you decide what type of system is best for your business, it’s time to start mapping out the information you need to manage according to existing processes and potential opportunities that the new software can provide.

When do you enter lead information?

The first step to tracking sales prospects with contact management software is to enter information about your lead into the system. However, this is easier said than done. You need to decide WHEN to enter information about a lead. Do you enter information about every single lead you speak to? Do you enter information only when a lead has been qualified by someone on your sales team as a legitimate opportunity? It’s important to determine exactly what type of lead you decide to enter into your CRM – for example, you may decide to only enter Sales Qualified Leads.

The difference between a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

What additional information do you want to track?

Aside from basic information such as address, phone, email, currency, ship-to address(s) etc. robust contact management software provides you with the opportunity to track additional information to improve your sales process and for reporting purposes. With CRM software such as Blue Link, not only are you able to track information such as industry, lead source and sales rep, you can also track industry-specific information through User Defined Fields (or UDFs). This allows you to choose the information you want to track based on what is important for your business. For example, for each prospect, you can track information about company size, annual revenue, type of company, seasonality impacts etc. You can then automatically report on this information to help direct your sales and marketing activities.

How do you determine next actions?

Most contact management systems provide tools that allow you to set-up next action dates. This is useful for moving sales prospects through your sales funnel. You can track what steps they have already completed, what needs to happen next and when, and who is responsible. Sophisticated systems can automatically populate certain fields based on specific changes. Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you choose Demo from a list of actions under the column header Next Action. You then set a date for this Demo in the Next Action Date column. Then, once you have finished the demo on the set date, you choose Complete from a list of drop-down options under the column Result. By choosing Complete as the Result, the system will now automatically set a new Next Action item and associated Next Action Date such as Send Pricing Information set for 3 days after the Demo is marked as complete.  

What happens when the lead becomes a customer?

The biggest benefit of implementing ERP software with built-in CRM tools is that you have one system to manage sales leads and customers. When a lead turns into a customer, you can simply change the status and start interacting with the customer maintaining a history of all original contact. This allows you to immediately start creating quotes and orders for the customer, utilizing the information you already know about their preferences – such as shipping and billing.

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Tips to Keep You on Track While Working from Home

Staying focused on the task at hand isn’t always as simple as it seems. Your mind wanders, email alerts keep popping up, deadlines draw closer, and you just keep jumping from project to project. You’re pulled in ten different directions, and it’s seriously having an impact on your process. Just as you seem to get a grasp on one thing, an unexpected email takes you in another direction. You’re frustrated, and it’s becoming apparent in your work. Plus, with what seems like a neverending stream of bad news in the air, it’s probably a little harder than usual to stay focused on the task at hand. You can always try to go radio silent, and turn off your phone, the tv, or even your wifi, but even then it’s hard to not think about what’s going on in the rest of the world. So, what do you do? How can you stay on task and make things run a little more smoothly? Well, here are some tips to keep you on track while working from home – hopefully they help.

Start with the Easy Stuff
If you have a long list of things to do, you might feel a little bit overwhelmed, because you’re unsure of how to start. Some people will say to start with the most difficult task, as that’s the one that will take the longest, but I see it the other way around – start with the easy stuff. If you have a list of 10 things, and 9 are easy and short, and one is very difficult, it’s a lot easier to bang out some of the easy things, which will not only shorten your list, but you will end up feeling very productive as you knock tasks off your list. Start easy, cut the list down, stay productive.

Learn to Communicate
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you need a bit of support to help accomplish a task, or maybe you need a bit of extra information to be able to wrap up that project in the best way possible. It’s better to ask and get the help you need from your team, rather than trying to figure it out on your own and wasting valuable time. Your team is there to support you, and if they’re a good team then they’ll be happy to help. A team that helps each other is one that produces the best work, and does it most efficiently. So, don’t be afraid to reach out with an email or a message on Teams, or even a quick call over Zoom, and get the support you need to do your work and keep you on track while working from home.

Make a List
One of the best ways to help keep you organized is to make a list of what you need to do each day. A nice list helps you figure out which task needs to be taken care of first, and what can be pushed to later. Having things laid out visually for you will help you have a better grasp on how to handle your work, and its always revitalizing to cross an item off the list.

Take a Break
This might be the most important one. Sometimes you just need to recharge, whether it be for five minutes or a half-hour, sometimes your brain just needs a bit of time to relax and refocus before getting back into things. There may be times where you get on a roll, and your fingers dance across the keyboard with ease, and you’re pumping out work for hours that seem to just fly by, and that’s great. Getting to that point is especially helpful when you have a lot to do. Though there are times where you just can’t seem to stay productive for more than 10 minutes, and if that’s the case, then sit back, relax for a minute, take a breath, and get back to it. Your brain will appreciate it.

Hopefully, these tips help keep you on track as you try to stay focused during these uncertain times. Though at the end of the day, if what you really need is some time to yourself to recoup, then that’s OK too. We need to be OK with people being stressed or not being able to focus. It isn’t always about putting on a positive face and cracking down, it’s about actually feeling good – because if you’re not, then the work won’t be good either.

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Supporting Each Other During a Crisis

A Message from Blue Link ERP President, Mark Canes

Just like almost every other company during these past couple of weeks, Blue Link ERP has had to make some changes as we continue to navigate the ever changing COVID-19 crisis. As I write this, I am sitting in my makeshift home office. All Blue Link employees are now working remotely to help flatten the curve as part of the social distancing efforts recommended by our governments and health care professionals.

Facing an unknown future, it can be scary to think about the impacts COVID-19 will have on individuals, communities, businesses and the world economy. During this time of instability, it is inspiring to see people helping each other and the community at large in a selfless manner. We can also take some positives from the creative ways in which people are staying connected and businesses are continuing to help customers. Thankfully, today’s technology makes it possible to communicate around the world, maintain relationships and foster new ones. Supporting each other during these times will help us to come out stronger and more connected than ever before. We’ve already started to see good examples of retail businesses focusing efforts on online sales, and gyms, schools, art classes and other in-person businesses live-streaming and creating video content for customers, as well as businesses changing their manufacturing practices to focus on those essential medical, household and safety items in high-demand.

The truth is, some SMBs will have to close their doors, but hopefully, we can all play a part in limiting the numbers. Consider supporting a local company, small business, new brand, friend or neighbor these next couple of weeks in whatever way you can, and actively support the businesses that have temporarily shut their doors when they re-open again in the future.

As we all experience history in the making, our thoughts are with the world as we collectively try to navigate through this very challenging period. While some of our normal business operations have changed, our commitments to our employees, partners and customers have not.  We have been providing other SMBs with the tools and software they need to be successful for the past 28 years and Blue Link will continue to do so as we remain open for business. The relationships we have with our partners and customers run deep and we will continue to provide services and offer help in any way possible to get through this together.

To those around the world suffering from the impacts of the virus, our hearts are with you and we wish a full recovery. We believe that together, with some creative thinking and open minds, we will not only survive this crisis, but thrive again in the future.

 

 

 

Mark Canes, President

Blue Link ERP

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The (Technology) Times They Are a-Changin’

The famous words of Bob Dylan perfectly describe the world we live in as it learns to adapt and adjust to the massive changes that are brought upon it by advancements in technology. Our lives are constantly changing, and every day new forms of software and hardware are introduced in ways to make our lives easier and more focused. There’s an app for everything these days, and every real-life action has its own online counterpart. With the world forced to adjust due to a pandemic, we are finding new ways to continue to operate our businesses and shift even faster to an all-digital world.

Back in 2010, our founder and president, Mark Canes, wrote a blog post about how the newly introduced iPod Nano featured a camera and video capabilities, and that we should be prepared for what seems like a never-ending onslaught of people sharing every moment of their daily lives. That was 2010, and in 2020 it almost seems strange if you aren’t posting even the most private aspects of your life online. What a difference 10 years make.

(Image: apple-history.com)
If we look 10 years before that, the year 2000, just coming off the Y2K scare, we have a population that is unfamiliar with technology and the internet as a whole. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, and no YouTube. How did we survive without YouTube and Netflix? This was a time when Blockbuster thrived, when Amazon wasn’t the main supplier of, well, everything. Apple’s iMac seems completely archaic compared to their latest iMac release. That was 20 years ago, but with how fast things change and how much technology improves, that seems like a lifetime ago.

(Image: http://www.designandtech.net/)
With shows like Stranger Things introducing a large percentage of people to what the 80s looked like, we get an even crazier view of the world before tech. Kids on bikes, people hanging at the mall all day, people going to the drive-in. When you really think about it, the 80s weren’t that long ago at all, but 1980 was 40 years ago. Forty years. We live in a completely different world than the world of 1980. In 1980 the Atari 2600 practically just released, giving most Americans their first taste of video games at home, and don’t even get started in cell phones, which the only ones available at that time were the size of a brick. Today, we have phones that are approaching the thinness of a piece of paper, and video games that are difficult to separate from real life. What a difference 40 years makes.

We can go back further, but at that point we might as well be looking at Old West. It’s crazy to think that there are people that have seen it all, a World War, the first rocket launch, the moon landing, color TV, the list goes on. These people have seen the world at it’s worst, and at it’s best, and are now journeying into the unknown. We are a world full of endless possibilities, and we really don’t know where we’ll end up. All we can do is hope for the best and hope for a bright future. The world has changed so much in such a short time, and it looks like that won’t be stopping any time soon. As the present now will later be past, for the times they are a-changin’.

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Tips for Working from Home with Cloud-based Software

As we continue to monitor COVID-19, it is more important than ever for people who can work from home to do so. Thankfully, due to cloud-based software solutions, video conferencing apps, and other pieces of software and technology, more and more businesses can be just as productive from the safety of their own homes as they can at the office. For those who can work remotely, such as the Blue Link team, we’ve shared some tips on how to work productively. For those who aren’t able to work from home, there is a lot of great information available on how to stay safe and healthy while minimizing your interaction with the public. For those in the middle of the pandemic, people in the health care profession, people helping travelers get home safe and those keeping their doors open to provide necessities, we are very appreciative of your hard work and want to thank you for doing your part.

A quick refresher. Cloud-based software allows users to connect to remote servers to access data and perform tasks. Cloud-based is sometimes referred to as SaaS (software-as-a-service) or hosted and implies software that physically lives on the vendor’s hardware which users can then remotely access via the internet. For those people who are currently at home in self-isolation watching Netflix and unable to work, guess what? Netflix is a perfect example of a cloud-based solution. Users pay an on-going monthly fee to access software and data hosted on servers and computers owned and managed by Netflix. For people working from home, cloud-based software such as Google Drive, Slack, Zoom Meetings, HubSpot and Blue Link ERP all enable users to continue business as usual as long as they have an internet connection. Having access to the right systems is just one way to remain productive from the comfort of your own home. Below we’ve outlined a couple of others.

1. Get Dressed Like You’re Going into the Office

This one seems to be a recurring theme. By getting up every morning and getting dressed for the office, you’re maintaining your normal routine and getting into the work mindset. According to a study from Northwestern University, certain clothing can influence the wearer’s psychological processes. The influence of clothes will depend on wearing them and their symbolic meaning – for example, wearing business attire for important discussions.

2. Create a Comfortable Workspace

If you’re like me, you might not have an extra room for a full office in your house, especially when your actual home office space is currently being used by your partner who is also working from home. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a comfortable workspace. Make sure you invest in the proper equipment such as a good chair and headset, and enough monitors. Try to set yourself up in a room that is not associated with relaxation and has minimal distractions (such as your dining room, and not your TV room).

3. Video Conference Whenever Possible

To foster a team atmosphere even when working from home, try to video conference with your team whenever possible. Make sure to dedicate a few minutes at the beginning or end of each meeting for some cooler talk and make a point of video conferencing whenever you can – even if sending a quick email is easier. This helps keep employees engaged and involved.  It’s also a good idea to check in with your team often. Consider having regular morning meetings to discuss what’s happening that day and to keep the lines of communication open.

4. Communicate Expectations with Anyone Who Will be Home with You

If you are not the only one home during this period of self-isolation, make sure you set clear expectations with other members of your household. Consider designating specific times where you can take breaks together or implement strategies for scheduled interruptions. For example, make it clear that there will be certain times during the day when you can’t be interrupted, but others when your door is open to some interaction.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Breaks

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to take breaks. Don’t let the guilt of trying to be as productive as possible keep you from recharging. Just like you would at the office, it’s important to get up from your desk to stretch your legs or chat with coworkers while working from home. It’s ok to take a break to do a load of laundry, as long as you’re not distracted to then sit on the couch and turn on the TV. Consider getting outside for a walk on your lunch to clear your head. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when interaction with the outside world needs to be limited. Although you shouldn’t be going to the gym, you can still safely take a walk to get some exercise. 

COVID-19 Resources:

Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html 
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 
Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html 

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The Benefits of Blue Link

The sun peaks over the horizon, and your alarm blares. You turn over, staying in bed as long as possible, dreading the day ahead. Work is a slog, and no matter what you do to make the process easier, everything comes crashing down. The reports are full of errors, the system always crashes, half the day is spent troubleshooting and it’s affecting your business. What’s the fix? What will make your life easier? Well, we have an answer, and that answer is Blue Link.

You get to work and you do some quick research, a simple Google search for “ERP”. There are too many results and it’s getting hard to navigate. Replacing your entire system isn’t the easiest or quickest process, so you try to spend a significant amount of time researching. Eventually, you land on Blue Link ERP – and you’re in the right place.

Blue Link ERP is an all-in-one inventory management and accounting system that accommodates a variety of industries and unique business needs. Our software is purpose-built for wholesale and distribution with additional features and components for retail and eCommerce operations. Blue Link eliminates the need to manage multiple, standalone solutions, therefore, eliminating double-entry and the errors associated with manual data entry, helping your business become as efficient as possible.

You’re impressed by what you’re hearing. No more errors? No more manual entry? Automatic reports? All of this sounds like a lifesaver. You’re right. It is. Your business processes will be simplified, and you’ll have more time to dedicate to aspects of the business that really matter – but this isn’t enough, let’s hear from someone who made the switch.

“My company, Carr McLean, had to move from an in house Unix ERP system due to the retirement of the only programmer for the software. From talking to other companies that have switched ERP systems we were all very nervous about the transition risks. Met the Blue link ERP at DX3 and quickly found them to be friendly and helpful. Before deciding on which software to choose we were able to meet with Mark, Darren, and Jordan who really made us feel like we made the right decision. We worked with Mike on our transition. He could not have fit in better with our company. Even during the most stressful times, he brought a great attitude and humour that relieved a lot of the anxiety we had switching systems. Since the initial implementation with a quick email, the support staff has always quickly helped with any questions or problems we have encountered. Blue Link has helped us improve our software automation which has increased our speed and service level. I am very confident in recommending them.” – PJ Barclay

They were in the same position as you, using an out of date software with no support, and needed to take a chance on change. They made the move, and today they’re operating better than ever, completely satisfied with their new software with Blue Link. Maybe you think it’s not enough, that you can stick it out and just keep chugging along with your current software. Maybe you’ll eventually go crazy with how frustrating it is. Maybe you’ll eventually run off into the woods just to avoid working with that system. Anything is possible. Or, you follow in the footsteps of dozens of satisfied Blue Link customers, who have had their businesses improve year over year since switching to Blue Link. Their lives are better, and their work is easier.

“After using Syspro ERP for the past 18 years, we made the painful but necessary transition to a new ERP system. After a thorough review, we decided on Blue Link Associates hosted offerings.

To say the prospect of this change evoked trepidation and anxiety for our management team would be an understatement. Having used our old ERP system for so long, we had created an enormous database of information, luckily both systems utilized SQL but the data conversion added an additional layer of apprehension…

But Darren and his team, first remotely and then over a week on-site achieved a near “flawless” conversion to their Blue Link Elite ERP platform and had us working in the new system almost immediately. This was an incredible feat only made possible through experience and knowledge, both of which I can attest they have an abundance of.

Now after six months working with the product and the Blue Link team, our only regret is that we did not make this move years ago. Over the past few months, we have been “tweaking” the product and adding customized changes that have been a real asset to our specific operations, best of all without “breaking the bank” to do so.

No matter how big or small the issue or inquiry, Blue Link’s support team has been the most welcome component of this upgrade. They are extremely knowledgeable, professional, prompt and courteous, they are also “very fair” when it comes to billing for these extremely important services, they have held our hand through this entire process (and still are).

All members of the company/team are readily available and accessible which has also been of comfort during this entire process. In my 35+ years in the computer industry and as an IT Admin, their support on a daily basis had been, and by far, the most professional, competent and efficient process that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

Lastly, the software… It is without hesitation (or any type of influence) that we can recommend to anyone in the market for a robust & powerful ERP system with “old school support from people who truly care”, that they give Blue Link Associates a call.” – Ross.

Blue Link customers are always satisfied, and we always try to do our best in making sure our customers are happy and that everything is working beyond expectation. So, pick up the phone, make the call. Let’s make things easier for you – you deserve it.

Need more convincing? Read what more of our happy customers have to say about Blue Link.

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World Wildlife Day 2020

Earth is our home, and it is the only home we’ve got, so we must do what we can to save it. World Wildlife Day reminds us that there is an urgency when it comes to preservation and the fight against climate change. Our time to act is now, and every moment we have is precious, and we must treat it as such. Humans have been the cause of massive environmental loss and population reduction, so now we must fix it.

The same thought crosses through all of our heads, “if this problem is so massive, then what can one person do to fix it?”, and you’re right, one person can’t. This problem requires all of us to do our part, to join together and make the right choices that result in positive change – and adjusting our habits so that we can contribute something good to the world. We are at a point where even the smallest bit of change can have an impact. So, where do you start? Easy. At Blue Link, we have completely eliminated plastic waste, which means no more single-use plastics, no plastic bottles, no plastic bags, nothing that can’t be recycled. You can follow this example by switching to a reusable water bottle or dropping plastic shopping bags for a reusable shopping basket. It might not seem like much, but you are helping. It really is that easy to start making a difference.

Over the past 40 years, around 60% of global wildlife populations have been lost. A staggering number. The cause? Us. It hasn’t been our intention, but it is the direct result of our actions and the changes we have made to the environment. Within the past few years, we have lost the West African Black Rhino, the Baiji White Dolphin, the Pyrenean Ibex, the Tasmanian Devil, and that’s not even scratching the surface of what else has been lost. These animals have gone extinct, not due to natural selection, but due to environment loss and poaching. So what can be done to prevent more animals from being lost? There are many things that should be done, but the easiest thing for you to do is not support companies that are directly responsible for destroying these environments and changing your diet. Think about how much meat you consume on a weekly basis and try to reduce that number. Go vegan a few days a week, or try being a vegetarian. The food culture has changed to allow plenty of options with any type of diet, so a vegan diet no longer consists of only leaves, but a wide range of food. Experiment. Try something new, you might like it.

Water is our greatest resource, and it is home to millions of forms of life and gives life to billions more. Every hour over 900 tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans worldwide, and is greatly affecting sea life and the animals and species that thrive there. We need water to live, so why are we poisoning our greatest resource? Over the last 10 years, we have produced more plastic than during the entire last century, and most of that plastic ends up not being recycled, and if it doesn’t end up in a landfill somewhere, it ends up in the ocean. We need to stop this and act quickly to clean up the waters of our world. How can you help? Stop using plastics, even if they are recyclable, it’s better to just stop using them altogether. That means no plastic water bottles, no plastic bags, no plastic cups. Be like us here at Blue Link and remove plastic from your life. It’s a small change, but it makes a big difference.

World Wildlife Day presents us with an opportunity to take a better look at the world we live in. The animals that live among us, and the changes we’ve made to the world. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with nature, to find some peace in the beauty of earth. We don’t often spend the time to admire just how amazing nature is, and all the incredible things that are part of it. We’re too busy with our phones and our work and everything else that runs through our heads, but a moment in nature can feel like a burden has been lifted. A minute of peace and quiet on a short hike can do wonders for your mind. Reconnect. Remember that the earth is our home, and it is our job to protect it.

Every day we have the chance to make a change. To decide to walk to the store instead of driving, to throw that wrapper in the garbage instead of littering, to eat locally grown produce instead of supporting a polluting megacorporation. Every day you have dozens of choices to make, and no matter how small, they all have an impact, so make sure it’s a positive one. Make your choice one that will make this world a better place, because it’s all we’ve got.

At Blue Link, we try to do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint, and to make the world a better place. Some of the things we do are small, but that’s the point, because even the smallest things matter, and some of the things we do have a wider reach and spread to our customers too. With Blue Link, our built-in support of handheld scanners reduces the use of pick slips in warehouses, and DocuWare eliminates the need to print and mail documents resulting in less paper waste. Our cloud-based software eliminates the need for in-house servers, reducing power use and minimizing e-waste. Plus, our partnership with 2Ship allows our customers to consolidate their shipping which can not only save them money but reduce the number of shipments, meaning fewer trucks on the road and fewer emissions being sent into the atmosphere. So, try something new, change your diet, change your habits, recycle, clean up a park, take a walk through nature. Everything counts, and everything helps.

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ERP Software Implementation: A Cost Breakdown

ERP software varies significantly from introductory inventory or accounting software (such as QuickBooks) in that it provides functionality across all business operations. This includes inventory management, accounting, order entry and processing, warehouse management, contact management, eCommerce integration, barcode scanning and more. If your business has become frustrated with managing multiple, standalone solutions, if you’re looking to start selling through new sales channels or have reached user and data limits within your existing system, it’s time to consider ERP software. However, it’s important to note that with this decision comes an increase in costs – and rightfully so. With more functionality, more automation, robust reporting and integration opportunities, the costs associated with using and setting up ERP are not comparable to QuickBooks and can vary significantly from one vendor to the next and from one company to the next. Most software systems include costs for software licenses and implementation costs.

What are software implementation costs? Software implementation costs are the one-time fees associated with setting up a new software solution and typically include the cost of training employees on how to use the new software, the cost of moving data from any existing systems or spreadsheets into the new system (also known as data migration) and the cost of actually setting up the server environment and configuring the system for your specific company needs. Let’s take a closer look at how Blue Link ERP breaks down its software implementation service costs.

Training

Training costs tend to make up a significant portion of implementation costs. At Blue Link we estimate these numbers based mostly on users, however, other factors that can have an impact on costs. For example, training a large number of people at the same time tends to require more time and effort (for fielding questions etc.), and how quickly training goes will also depend on how familiar your team is with using software, and whether they can dedicate time to focus solely on training (as opposed to getting caught up with day-to-day tasks and pulled into other meetings). To make the training go as smoothly as possible, employees must have the time to dedicate to learning Blue Link without other distractions.

Data Migration

Data migration is the process of moving company data from your existing systems (accounting, inventory, eCommerce and spreadsheets) into Blue Link ERP. At a minimum, you should consider migrating the following data:

Customers with outstanding balances
Outstanding AR balances
Vendors
AP balances
Active inventory items
Pricing information
General ledger balances
Opening entries

You can read more about Blue Link’s specific process for migrating data here, but essentially our team will review your existing data, extract it from existing systems and map it to the appropriate fields in Blue Link and then move the data into our system. However, the actual process is a bit more complex and this is where additional costs come into play. If your data is stored in multiple systems or multiple formats, or if your data needs to be cleaned up, this takes additional time and requires additional import procedures. For example, do you have a lot of duplicate customer records? Are you happy with existing product codes? Depending on your internal data entry processes and the restrictions of your current system, there may be a lot of areas for improvement with your existing data. Although this can take additional time and impact overall costs, it’s always best practice to start with good, clean data. Alternatively, for new companies with only a small amount of historical data, the migration process is simplified.

Cost Considerations

Data migration quotes can vary by thousands of dollars because many software vendors low-ball quotes and ignore the massaging process and can sometimes put the onus on the customer to extract the data or manually enter it themselves. Although the data migration process may seem easy for individuals who have the skillset, even these people often face several issues such as the ones below:

How do you update the data already migrated on the day you switch over “live” to the new system? How quickly can you get this done when doing it yourself?
How do you get the opening balances, unpaid payables, uncollected receivables, etc. across at go-live?
What if you want to change product codes, categories, etc.?
Sales history and payment history – do you have the necessary skillset and knowledge to retrofit the old system’s extracted data so that it works and makes sense in the new system? Will you be able to reprint an invoice?

Having all important data migrated fully by the ERP vendor is always the best option and more often than not, any company that decides against this in the beginning quickly changes their mind as they start to work with the new system and realize the power of their data. 

Customization

Major customization is typically identified during Blue Link’s consultative sales process and therefore built into the initial software costs. However, many customers will also identify new custom during the implementation based on existing processes and habits. In this situation, we strongly recommend that any custom requests get added to a Wish List for future review. This is because many existing processes can be improved or replaced with the implementation of the right ERP system and therefore these custom projects will quickly become obsolete. If necessary, this Wish List can then be revisited in the future.  

Configuration/Installation

The last cost included with the implementation process is for configuration and installation. Blue Link’s cloud-based software is hosted on our servers and each customer will have its own server environment configured for your specific company needs. Therefore, time is required by our IT team to provision this server environment and configure your version of Blue Link ERP. The time and costs associated with this step will depend on the complexity of your business processes, number of locations, number of business entities, sales structure etc.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, many variables impact software implementation costs. Because actual costs can vary so significantly from one company to the next, Blue Link always provides a wide range of cost estimates to account for all the different factors. These estimates act as a starting point and are based on historical data of companies of a similar size. Blue Link will then bill based on the actual time required for each activity mentioned above. This is also why it’s impossible (and even dangerous) to provide a set cost for a software implementation. We have designed our sales process to include an in-depth analysis of your operation so that as we learn more about your company during these discussions, we can provide a more granular and accurate range of costs. It’s important to dedicate the time and resources to a proper software implementation as it will have many positive benefits to your company down the road. Properly trained employees will be more confident completing tasks and taking advantage of the automation opportunities Blue Link ERP provides, clean data reduces the number of inventory, accounting and customer errors, helping with company financials and customer service and the right system configuration provides checks and balances to further automate your processes.

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