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Friday, October 30, 2009

Congratulations to the Fall 2009 Virtual Tech Fair Show Prize Winner

The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group would like to congratulate our show prize winner for attending the Virtual Tech Fair on October 14 and 15, 2009. Suzanne M Lomas from The R.M. Wright Company Inc. received a Nikon CoolPix S630 Camera, Camera Bag, and 2 year warranty.

Suzanne first heard about the Virtual Tech Fair event from an email sent by the Consulting Group and decided to register after a partner suggested it. Their company had recently implemented a system and was curious about other software that is available to the industry. Suzanne said, “I like the idea of Virtual Tech Fairs and the setup. I was able to easily familiarize myself with the format. I think chatting and networking with others will become a common venue for these types of events.”

Suzanne found the industry experts and topics at the Virtual Tech Fair to be interesting. Educational presentations available to attendees included “Using Best Practices to Accelerate Business Performance” presented by Barry Lawrence (Texas A & M University), “Top Technology Trends Transforming Distribution and Manufacturing” presented by Corbin Ball (Corbin Ball Associates), “Value of Strategic Pricing for Distributors” presented by Dan Kaminstein (Activant), “Software Selection Studies” presented by Steve Epner and Jeff Gusdorf (Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group), “Information Technology in Today’s Distribution Environment” presented by Rodney Winger (Epicor), “Enterprise Explorer Overview” presented by IFS, “Leading the Changing Distribution Industry” presented by Gary Rippen (Infor), “Sustainability for Business Sake” presented by Larry Negrich and Jennifer Pollard (Microsoft Dynamics), and “How to Reduce Material Levels and Manage Production Schedules More Effectively” presented by Pete Zimmerman (VAI).

Not only did attendees like Suzanne enjoy learning more about industry topics but they were able to interact with leading software companies. Companies who participated included Activant, Epicor, Infor, IFS, Microsoft Dynamics, and VAI.

Even if attendees did not have the time to attend the event the two days it was broadcast live, they still have the opportunity to view the booths and presentations through the archive. Suzanne felt like an event like this helps in the research of different software packages. If you would like to learn more then visit

About The Author
Sara Nelson is a senior consultant and marketing coordinator in the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group. She is responsible for developing content for the software distributor website, generating leads and traffic, writing articles for industry publications, and creating marketing materials. She has experience in web development, customer relations, coordinating marketing campaigns, and designing print materials. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing.

About The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group
The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group has been serving the distribution community for more than 20 years through the publication of the Distribution Software Guide, speaking at industry programs, giving free telephone advice to distributors, and providing fee-based consulting services to companies who need help selecting the best software packages for their business. For more information visit

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SAVE THE DATE: Virtual Tech Fair October 14 and 15, 2009

The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group will present their fourth virtual trade show on October 14 and 15, 2009. The show will be staffed from 8am to 6pm central time. For more information on the show or to register visit

The Virtual Tech Fair® takes the most successful elements of a live trade show and translates them into the virtual world of the Internet - - all at no cost to the attendee from the comfort of their own office or home.

Participants will be able to explore best practice advice from industry consultants, application experts and vendors. The Show features a floor dedicated to the leading software solutions. Attendees can stop by and see the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group booth for thirty minutes of free consulting.

The Virtual Tech Fair education sessions are designed to provide information on a variety of topics and will include keynote presentations with live Q & A sessions starting each day at 12:00pm central by Barry Lawrence and Corbin Ball.

• Dr. Barry Lawrence leads the Supply Chain Lab at Texas A & M University and is the leader in supply chain research in the U.S. His program titled “Using Best Practices to Accelerate Business Performance: Optimizing the Results of Your Sales Effort to Maximize Profits” will help attendees get more out of their sales force, improve profitability on a customer by customer basis, and use pricing as a competitive weapon.

• Corbin Ball will present on “The Top Technology Trends Transforming Distribution and Manufacturing.” His program helps attendees to understand the important technology trends and learn steps to prepare for these changes to be able to work more efficiently and effectively. Corbin Ball is an international speaker, consultant, and writer. His articles have appeared in hundreds of national and international publications.

For samples of education sessions visit

About The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group
The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group has been serving the distribution community for more than 20 years through the publication of the Distribution Software Guide, speaking at industry programs, giving free telephone advice to distributors and providing fee-based consulting services to companies who need help selecting the best software packages for their business. For more information visit

Friday, August 7, 2009

Everest Software Announces Acquisition by Versata

Everest® Software, the award-winning provider of a fully integrated business operating system for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), today announces their acquisition by Versata Enterprises, a leading provider of enterprise software solutions.

Founded in 1994, Everest Software developed the first all-in-one small business management solution for small and mid-sized businesses. Designed specifically for retail, wholesale and distribution companies, Everest automates all operations of a growing business including Accounting, Inventory Management, eCommerce, Services, Sales Force Automation, CRM and Point of Sale. Everest Software is the winner of numerous awards, including the SIIA Codie Award for “Best Business Software Product.”

At the direction of Edwin Miller, President & CEO of Everest Software, Everest placed a high emphasis on a customer centric focus and customer outreach, resulting in an expense reduction of fifteen percent and a top line revenue growth of twenty percent to profitability.

“In the past two and half years Everest has achieved remarkable results in both growth and profit, even in a recessionary market. This was accomplished by differentiating models, through sales and marketing and by adoption of agile development methodologies and a keen focus on the customers. Customers enjoyed the release of a market leading eCommerce platform and the first ever Everest World user conferences with hundreds of customers participating. Everest World will continue as planned this fall,” said Edwin Miller, President & CEO of Everest Software.

Under the acquisition, Everest will operate as a stand-alone entity with a dedicated customer service and product team. With a strong focus on customer success, the integration will begin with the implementation of Versata’s Customer Success program, focused on creating and maintaining successful customer relationships by aligning product development with customer priorities.

“Versata’s Customer Success program demonstrates a relentless focus on the customer. It will provide dramatic expansion to the Customer Outreach programs that Everest began in 2007. This is an exciting opportunity for our customers and employees,” said Paul Gallagher Vice President of Marketing.

Everest investors have been instrumental in the success of Everest Software. John Burton, Managing General Partner, Updata Venture Partners; Tim Guleri, General Partner, Sierra Ventures; Andy Jones, General Partner, Boulder Ventures and Donald Peck, Managing Director, South Asia, Actis Capital LLP are all respectfully recognized for their firm commitment to Everest Software and for their astounding vision for the SMB Market. Burton’s unwavering commitment and thoughtfulness coupled with his keen business insight has allowed the company to grow and prosper, even in the current economic climate. Guleri’s focus on the technology behind Everest led to the next generation platform behind a market leading eCommerce platform. Jones’ financial model drove Everest to become a profitable business. Peck’s early support for the company vision was key to enabling Everest’s start.

Bijal Mehta and Sanjay Shah are respectfully recognized for their contribution as founders of Everest Software (formerly known as iCode), and for their vision, passion, and hard work in building the company and its products, as well as their assistance facilitating this monumental merger.

Ali Jani is respectfully recognized for his contribution as the founder of Everest Software (formerly known as iCode), and for his vision, passion, and hard work in building the company and its products, as well as his assistance facilitating this monumental merger. Jani’s dedication to the customer and to the product has been unwavering in his thirteen year tenure with Everest. Without Ali’s vision for the product and insight into the SMB market, Everest Software would not be the market leader that it is today.

Everest Software would like to formally recognize several employees that have been key to the growth and success of the company. Mike Berry, Shubhradip (Sean) Chatterjee, Anita Vettickal, Dhiren Chhapgar, Diana Hess, Steven (Phillip) Kennedy, Nayan Mansinha, Rashmo Mehra, Anand Panchamia, Murali Rajendran, Kim Seiger, Jay Vanikar and Ryan Brown are all to be commended on their commitment to the company and product.

About Everest Software
Everest® Software enables companies to manage every function of their business more effectively. This single solution, fully-integrated business management software application addresses the challenges of growing small to medium businesses (SMBs), primarily in retail and wholesale. Customers can dramatically increase their efficiency and profitability with a solution that provides a remarkably rapid return on investment. Everest Software was a finalist for a 2006 American Business Award in the category “Best New Computer Software Product” and is the proud winner of numerous awards including the SIIA Codie Award for ”Best Business Software Product.” For more information, please visit, e-mail us at or call us at 1.800.382.0725.

For More Information Contact:
Lindsay Barrett
(703) 234-6697

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Activant Solutions Introduces Prophet 21 version 12.0

Enhanced User Interface Drawing Rave Reviews

Activant Solutions Inc. announces the availability of Activant® Prophet 21® software version 12.0.

"Before we began writing code for Prophet 21 version 12.0, we did an in-depth analysis of industry trends, including having extensive conversations with our customers, to determine what features to include," said Kevin Roach, executive vice president of Activant. "Our goal with this release of the Prophet 21 software is to help distributors increase efficiencies in their business, helping them through this recession so they will be positioned to take advantage of the opportunities expected to arise during the economic recovery."

Currently more than 1,500 distributors have invested in Prophet 21 software, making it a leading enterprise software solution for the distribution industry. Prophet 21 version 12.0 builds upon existing functionality and is designed to further assist distributors increase sales, improve customer service and reduce operating expenses. Among the many features in Prophet 21 version 12.0 is an enhanced user interface.

"There are a lot of great features in Prophet 21 version 12 that allow us to streamline our processes," said Michael Dean, IT Manger for Power & Pumps Inc. in Jacksonville, FL. "The search bar and my menu options improve our workflow and make it easier to move through the system."

Jennifer Buschmann, president of EA Buschmann Inc. in Lewiston, ME, agrees: "The updated user interface has a lot of potential for the user to customize screens to fit the individual user’s specific needs," she said. "The extended description view and field chooser features are two features we are extremely excited to have."

Many Valuable Features

In addition to the enhanced user interface, new customer relationship management (CRM) tools provide ready access to information, allowing users to streamline their day-to-day processes while improving customer service.

Attributes of the Prophet 21 software's production order and secondary processing functions have been combined into a labor tracking, job costing process that provides true light manufacturing capabilities. Distributors may assign technicians, track labor costs, and issue necessary material through a series of processes that manage the entire production process, whether the manufacturing stages are completed by the distributor or a third party.

The Wireless Warehouse Management Solution (WWMS) Workbench capability is designed as a tool for the warehouse manager/supervisor to dynamically manage the flow of transactions within their warehouse operation. The workbench is a dynamic list of transactions ready to pick that can be sorted, grouped and moved about in an ad hoc manner. Transactions at the top of the list can be quickly pushed to an available employee. Other warehouse tasks are also displayed and sorted by a user-defined hierarchy and can be pushed to the employee in the warehouse in accordance with that hierarchy. Also, the workbench feature has the capability of dynamically creating group pick tickets, providing a command and control tool for dynamic management of the warehouse picking workload, and providing the capability to push higher priority tasks to available “picking” employees while organizing and balancing usual pick loads. This feature increases the visibility of pickers' tasks, their progress, and their overall performance.

Further enhancing the international capabilities of the Prophet 21 software, Activant has added multi-lingual functionality which allows users to dynamically translate terms used throughout the application. This feature helps increase user productivity by enabling them to use the system in their native language.

To find out more about the Prophet 21 software, visit, e-mail, or call 1-800-776-7438, press 1.

About Activant Solutions Inc.

Activant Solutions Inc. ("Activant") is a leading technology provider of business management solutions serving retail and wholesale distribution businesses in three primary vertical markets: hardlines and lumber; wholesale distribution; and the automotive parts aftermarket. Founded in 1972, Activant provides customers with tailored proprietary software, professional services, content, supply chain connectivity, and analytics. More than 30,000 customer locations use an Activant solution to manage their day-to-day operations. Activant has operations throughout the United States and Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Translating Strategy into Action

This webinar presented by Jeff Greenberg, CEO at Ergility Smart Process Solutions, on July 29, 2009 at 2:00pm EST, will discuss both how a strategy guides operations and how an incomplete strategy misguides operations. It will also cover developing an operational strategy, setting strategic priorities, and embedding strategy into EVERY operation and task.

To learn more about this free webinar, go to

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Value of Working Together

A unified business strategy will push results to the bottom line and provide advantage over the competition by strengthening ties to customers and suppliers and promoting efficiency and cost prudency by replacing manual and paper-based processes with digital counterparts.

Exact Software's Gary Chervitz was recently featured in Supply & Demand Chain Executive where he discusses four tips to building a collaboration strategy:

  • Corporate culture and behavior must reflect collaborative principles
  • Use integrated technologies to revitalize ERP
  • Reinvent the paper trail and increase accountability and visibility
  • Monitor, measure and manage

Read the full article >>

Collaboration projects successfully help companies do more with less, work leaner and greener with fewer resources and lower operating expenses. Becoming more collaborative is truly a process, and keeping an eye upon continuous improvement efforts is essential. By combining these basic principles with the right collaborative technology, an organization will definitely find itself working together more effectively.

For more information about Exact Software, please visit: or contact us: 1-800-468-0834, ext. 2650.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teche Electric Supply Selects Infor to Foster Future Growth

Infor ERP SX.enterprise to Improve Inventory Management and Transparency for Electrical Distributor

Infor announced Teche Electric Supply, a Lafayette, La.-based wholesale distributor of electrical appliances and equipment, has selected Infor ERP SX.enterprise, a robust enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution with powerful warehousing capabilities, to manage growth and operations across 17 distribution centers in the southeastern United States. ERP SX.enterprise will provide the company with greater transparency to manage inventory and improve supply chain management, forecasting and workflow.

Teche Electric selected ERP SX.enterprise because the solution’s supply chain coverage capabilities, including order management, planning and inventory visibility functions, will help the company manage its growing customer and supplier base. The Total Warehouse Logistics (TWL) module within ERP SX.enterprise will supply Teche Electric with heightened visibility across its multiple warehouses and real-time data management for workflow elements including shipping, receiving and inventory adjustment.

“Our inventory is our number one asset and it is important that our ERP system improves forecasting by providing full transparency across our all inventory, from the warehouse to the yard and the dock,” says Tommy Hayes, senior vice president, Teche Electric Supply. “Infor has proven itself as an innovative and reliable software partner to companies in the distribution industry, and we know that ERP SX.enterprise will give our company the ability to access and manage data more easily. The solution’s flexibility and Infor’s product direction ensure that the solution will be a powerful asset to Teche Electric for the future.”

After reviewing a host of possibilities, Teche Electric determined that the industry specific functionality offered by ERP SX.enterprise was the ideal fit for its anticipated growth and emerging business needs. The solution’s flexibility and Infor’s roadmap for future development was key to Teche Electric’s decision to implement ERP SX.enterprise.

The decision to move from Teche Electric’s previous software vendor to Infor came after consulting with the firm Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group, a distribution industry software selection specialist. “The Teche project team utilized our very detailed 35-step project plan in order to conduct a thorough search for new software. Infor did an excellent job of demonstrating the required business process functionality and satisfying all of the due diligence requirements,” said Jeff Gusdorf, managing consultant for BSW.

“Electrical distributors today must improve their visibility and workflow, inventory management and customer service to increase productivity and remain competitively viable,” says Gary Rippen, director, distribution solution marketing, Infor. “Infor ERP SX.enterprise’s end-to-end inventory management and supply visibility replenishment provides electrical distributors with the tools necessary to manage their intricate business environments.”

For more information on Infor ERP SX.enterprise please visit:

About Teche Electric Supply
Teche Electric Supply was founded by brothers Magruder "Mac" Hays and Pete Hays in Lafayette, LA in April of 1962. Over four decades later, Teche Electric Supply is still locally owned and operated and now occupies a 52,000 square foot building on five and a half acres. Since its humble beginnings, this company has added 16 branch locations.

Teche is now operated by the second generation of the Hays family, and carries a full line of electrical products for the residential, commercial and industrial market places. Teche also provides a number of value added services including local deliveries, 24/7 emergency services, convenient credit options, wire cutting, full service lighting showrooms, convenient hours, unmatched inventory, and 100% dedication to customer service.

About Infor
Infor acquires and develops functionally rich software backed by thousands of domain experts and then makes it better through continuous innovation, faster implementation options, global enablement, and flexible buying options. In a few short years, Infor has become one of the largest providers of business software in the world. For additional information, visit

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Hands Off" - Keys to Reducing Inefficiencies to Improve Profits

Battered by consistent reports of bad economic news? Winning distributors and manufacturers are seizing opportunity in the downturn by optimizing operating processes and investing in their business as others cut back, expanding while their competitors shrink.

In this educational Webcast, sponsored by Microsoft Dynamics and Industrial Distribution Magazine, learn some ways distributors are gaining traction in tough times while preparing for the eventual upswing. Join industry experts for this Webinar and learn:

* How optimizing the "front office" pays dividends for the entire business
* How reducing reliance on paper orders & manual reviews saves costs
* How a "No Touch" business environment can benefit your business
* How "role-based" systems are helping to maximize employee time
* How one small distributor increased profitability without hiring more labor

To view, visit:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Distributors Must Embrace Change and Activant Is Ready to Help

Activant Summit Attracts More than 1,300 attendees

"Shift happens," announced Kevin Roach, executive vice president and general manager of Activant Solutions Inc., at Summit 2009, Activant's annual conference for wholesale distributors.
Quoting Alvin Toffler -- "Change is the process by which the future invades our lives." -- Roach told the more than 1,300 professionals assembled in Nashville, TN, in early March that there has been a major shift in the United States from manufacturing to a more information-centric economy, which directly impacts wholesale distributors.

Officially kicking off three days of educational and networking sessions, Roach encouraged the crowd: "Don't let shift [change] happen to you. Make shift happen. It's particularly important in these tough economic times that we are not insular -- that we look outside of our industry to understand how others are using shift to their advantage."

Pointing out that the time it takes the economy to recover from a recession is historically much faster than the time it takes to slip into one, Roach encouraged distributors to position themselves for the future.

Hard Realities
Roach didn't shy away from telling distributors the truth about the lagging use of technology in their industry. "The hard reality is that pervasive EDI adoption among wholesale distributors is only about 12 to 18 percent... as compared to nearly 100 percent of manufacturers and suppliers," he pointed out. "A recent survey revealed that only 39 percent of wholesale distributors can accurately track operating profit by customer and that only 30 percent can track the profitability of fee-based services.

"The lack of access to this kind of information -- in real-time and in actionable form -- effectively leaves you behind the wheel with no dashboard, no windshield -- just an accelerator and a brake to manage your business," Roach continued. "In an environment where change is occurring more rapidly, more dramatically, and more frequently than ever before, you can no longer afford to drive your business the same way and expect to get the results you're aiming for."

Roach cited the example of CC Dickson, an Activant customer in attendance at the conference. "Only seven years ago they were running a $115 million operation on paper alone with more than 800 employees and 112 locations. Now the company uses an Activant ERP solution, streamlining their entire business. That's some crazy shift."

Citing figures that demonstrate a loss of more than 200,000 wholesale distribution businesses in the past 10 years, Roach urged distributors to adapt.

"Adaptation means you constantly modernize your processes to meet the competitive watermark," he told the packed room. "What you were doing a few years ago isn't going to cut it today. Improvement is not an event, it's a process. In today's economy, you must reinvent yourself constantly."

Promising that Activant will continue to do all it can to help distributors succeed, Roach concluded his comments: "We are your partners. Our success as a technology partner is 100 percent predicated on your success as a distributor. We want you to strive... to compete on a higher level... and to ultimately succeed through solutions that help your business run more flexibly, efficiently, and profitably."

Distributors gathered in Nashville to participate in three days of educational sessions and networking events designed to help them maximize the use of their Activant solution. Classes were lead by Activant technology experts as well as well-known industry consultants, including David Bauders, Bill McCleave, Dr. Barry Lawrence, Bill Muehlbauer, and Jon Schreibfeder.
Daron Brown of South Central Company, an HVAC distributor located in Columbus, IN, raved about what Summit 2009 did for his business: "There is no doubt in my mind that with the tools we brought back [from Summit], we will get ROI from this trip. It was potentially a company changing week for us."

Aaron Pace, of EVCO House of Hose, a Salt Lake City-based fluid power distributor, agreed. "Our company has sent people to Summit every year for the last four years." commented Pace. "It is ALWAYS worth the money! Not only is the software education top-notch, the general business training is certainly a cut above the rest. As far as training and networking dollars go, Summit, by far, offers more bang for your buck than almost anything else out there."

Summit 2010 is scheduled to take place March 10 through 14, 2010, in Washington, D.C.
To find out more, visit, e-mail, or call 1-800-776-7438, press 1.

About Activant Solutions Inc.
Activant Solutions Inc. ("Activant") is a leading technology provider of business management solutions serving retail and wholesale distribution businesses in three primary vertical markets: hardlines and lumber; wholesale distribution; and the automotive parts aftermarket. Founded in 1972, Activant provides customers with tailored proprietary software, professional services, content, supply chain connectivity, and analytics. More than 30,000 customer locations use an Activant solution to manage their day-to-day operations. Activant has operations throughout the United States and Canada , Ireland , and the United Kingdom.

For more information, please visit

Monday, April 6, 2009

Get Inspired By St.Louis' Unsung Business Leaders

By Jeremy Nulik, Small Business Monthly

Many people believe that there is no such thing as true altruism. To those folks, this year’s Heroes in Business present quite a quandry. Refusing to buy in to the laws of scarcity, this pack is changing the business profile of our region by selflessly giving their time and talent to other businesses.

These unsung heroes create the environment necessary for growth. After reading their stories, it will be difficult to figure out how it is that St. Louis has been as successful as it has, since characters like them are so rare. Prepare to be inspired to be a hero.

Read on about how Steve Epner from the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group and Saint Louis University is "Inspiring Others With Imaginative Thinking." Download the PDF by visiting

Thursday, March 26, 2009


No signal of a recovery yet:
Various forecasts continue to project reduced spending on IT initiatives for 2009. A survey published by Computer Economics ( projects IT operational spending for 2009 to be at 1.5% of revenues which is the lowest level since the 2001 recession. Another survey conducted by SearchCIO ( reports that 1/3 of the companies survey will reduce the IT budgets for 2009 while another third will hold the line at last years’ levels. BSW Consulting conversations with distributors indicate that many projects have been put on hold waiting for some indicator that it’s safe to spend money on new technology. For the most part, they are still waiting for the signal.

Even though many sectors of the industrial marketplace are in recession, distributors need to invest in new technology or upgrade existing software and infrastructure to remain competitive. This is especially true for businesses that have legacy systems (systems that are based on technology, languages or hardware platforms that are generations out of date) or heavily customized their software packages and haven’t been able to move to the current version for many years.

Typically, distributors will postpone technology investments during difficult economic times as they don’t have the cash to invest in new hardware, software license fees, and implementation services. However, if those investments are delayed for too long, when the recovery comes along and demand increase, those distributors are at a disadvantage while they try to catch up.

There are several alternative approaches to acquiring technology that you should consider:

The traditional approach to managing the cash flow of your technology purchase has been to use leasing to spread payments out over a 3 to 5 year period. This approach is still viable but more difficult given the condition of the credit markets. If you can obtain this type of financing it allows you to continue to purchase hardware and software. Hardware, software, and consulting can all be leased. You will need to work with a leasing company that has a history of financing technology transactions to make sure that all the details are handled properly. Be sure to ask for references so that you can verify this.

Alternative financing models:
We recently were involved with in a software selection project where one of the software vendors selected as a finalist proposed some pretty innovative financing. This approach has been used in the Tier 1 market (companies of $1B in revenue) for quite a while but is now appearing in the mid-sized company market.

The typical software purchase requires a significant investment at the inception of the project for licenses, hardware and implementation services. Over an average 9 month period your project team and software vendor will install new hardware, install the software, convert data, configure the software, train your users, conduct conference pilots, and finally go-live on the new software. Over the next several years the investment generates costs savings justifying the investment.

Economic Business Alignment Inc. ( develops a customized payment plan that matches payments for the technology with the return generated. Every financing deal is individually underwritten since EBA assumes the financing risk. If you can put a deal together this eliminates much of the reason for postponing your project.

A new approach to making technology investments that has been gaining momentum for several years. Instead of making an up-front purchase of user licenses you sign up for a subscription and pay a monthly fee to use the software. You’ll need to be familiar with the following terms:

Cloud Computing:
Cloud Computing refers to computer processing resources (services, software, services) that exist at some remote location that can be accessed over the Internet. Google created massive data centers to host the equipment they needed to create the indexes of everything on the web that was need for their search business. The latest data center is located in Oregon along the Columbia River where they can get cheap hydro-electric power to operate and cool the center. Microsoft and Yahoo have similar facilities.

The centers represent “the cloud” where users access services. An example of these cloud based services would be Google Maps: enter the “to” and “from” addresses and get driving directions and maps. You aren’t concerned about the servers, the network, the user interface – it “just happens.”

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS):
Software-as-a-Service refers to programs that operate in the cloud that are paid for on a subscription basis. The number of these web-based services that you or your kids might be using at home have exploded in the last several years – hosted email like AOL, Gmail or Yahoo, social networking like Facebook, Myspace or Linked In, photo editing software like Picasa or photo sharing sites like Flickr. This list goes on and on. All of these services are available for free or at a nominal cost. If there is a cost it is normally in the form of an annual subscription.

There are a similar set of free or nearly free services available for business that you can use to improve productivity or streamline costs. Travel expenses can be reduced by holding meeting on line. Services such as GoToMeeting, Webex, or Live Meeting are low cost ways of hosting on-line meetings with integrated audio services the ability to share powerpoint presentations and other exhibits over the Internet. If you’re conducting any type of email marketing to your customers you’re most likely using services such as iContact or Constant Contact. These are very low cost tools that allow you to be very productive with no initial investment and little training.

SaaS for Business:
This approach to computing is also being used for serious business purposes from single purpose applications to enterprise software. You may want to think about how these types of applications can integrate with your existing ERP software or be used to upgrade your capabilities:

Function-specific application – Example: E-Mail SaaS

The vast majority of e-mail traffic is spam. At our office, our IT staff maintains a hardware device that is used to filter out the spam so that only “good” emails are delivered to our Outlook Exchange mail boxes. When the filtering device fails or is overwhelmed by an increase in traffic we are flooded by the Spam. If the traffic increase is permanent, our IT group has to determine when to invest in a bigger device that can keep up with the amount of traffic.

We could purchase our e-mail filtering from a SaaS provider. We wouldn’t have to invest in hardware as it is runs in “the cloud” and has an almost infinite amount of resources and redundancy. The staff time to monitor and maintain the device would be used to monitor the service but with less time devoted to the task. The amount we would pay would depend on the amount of traffic filtering that we needed.

Process-specific application – Example: Salesforce automation

One of the earliest success stories for a process-specific application delivered as SaaS was Founded by an ex-Oracle executive in 1999 Salesforce was an early innovator of what was then called “on-demand” computing. The product provides a fairly long list of functionality including sales force automation, customer service & support, marketing campaign management, etc. If your ERP vendor doesn’t offer a CRM package and you’ve been wanting to add this capability, consider this option. Other SaaS companies are providing application-specific products that include Business Intelligence, Demand Planning, Supply Chain planning and more.

Enterprise-wide application –Example: ERP software

Full blown ERP packages (order processing, inventory management, accounting, etc.) that are delivered using the SaaS model was introduced by NetSuite ( in 1998. Originally perceived as an accounting only application it now includes a full range of functionality. Software companies that have their roots in the Wholesale Distribution world are joining in: IBS ( recently introduced IBS Enterprise Online. This solution is hosted at IBM’s datacenters and provides the same distribution-centric functionality as their on-premise solution. As with any ERP selection, a rigorous evaluation of functionality is required to ensure that the product will satisfy your business process requirements.

Ask these questions:

Like any flavor of new technology, Saas isn’t without questions and concerns. When considering whether to utilize SaaS application you need to consider the following:

· Does your ERP vendor already provide that functionality?
· How would you integrate a SaaS application with your current ERP package?
· How would you customize or personalize the SaaS application?
· If your network access was lost for 2 or 4 or 6 hours or longer what would you do?
· If the SaaS vendor went out of business could you continue to use the application? And much more important, who owns the data and how would gain control over your data?
· What are the economics over the long-term? (At what point is renting the application more expensive the purchasing it?)

All companies are looking for ways to conserve cash during this downturn while staying competitive for the long-term. These ideas may help you to do so.

The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group is a Saint Louis-based consulting firm that specializes in researching software and technology topics for the wholesaled distribution industry. Their Distribution Software Guide has been published since 1991 and helps the STAFDA member evaluate, compare and analyze software to determine which packages best fit your operation. Learn more at As a member of STAFDA, contact Jeff Gusdorf, CPA (314-983-1208) for a free 30-minute consultation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Standing Up in a Down Economy:Six Strategies for Improving Operations and Profits

By Steve Epner

These are difficult and unprecedented economic times. For the vast majority of businesses, the economic downturn will be painful, but not fatal. Success will depend on being able to respond proactively to the many regulatory and market changes that are coming. It will require the ability to take successful practices from the past and adjust them for new realities. The successful distributor of tomorrow will need to build on what has worked, be willing to shed things that no longer work, and be open to new ways of doing everything.

The good news is that there are a number of techniques that a distributor can use to increase productivity and lay the foundation for a more profitable future. These "fixes" are not untested or unproved. Some are from other industries and some have been around but unused. In high growth times, many opportunities for efficiency may have been delayed or overlooked as not necessary or of a high enough priority to allocate resources. Now the world has changed and it is a good time to consider how some of these capabilities may be used to improve operations.

Consider the current downturn as an opportunity to change the way things are done. Customers and suppliers are all open to new ideas and are willing to try new things. The leaders in each industry will take advantage of the environment to modify what is being done, to streamline operations, and to establish new realities that will have long term effects.

It is a good time to think about redirecting investment of time and effort to create a sustainable future. The ownership of our companies must lead the way to make sure management and employees do the right things. In the following pages, trends and the status quo will be examined. Processes will be questioned and replacements suggested.

A realistic and honest appraisal of each organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is required. Then direct and deliberate steps are needed to take advantage of technologies and techniques that will propel the operation into the future. That is the secret for surviving the current downturn and laying the foundation for future success.

To read more click to this website:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Increasing Industrial Distribution Profitability by Segmenting Customers, Suppliers and Products

By Steve Epner

In the current tough economic times, Industrial Distributors must use every advantage to improve operations, reduce costs and ultimately increase returns for stakeholders. Organizations that have access to and are willing to make better use of specific ERP applications can integrate the concepts of metrics and segmentation into the business for outsized results.

An important element in management theory is the simple concept:”If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.” By examining how to make information more visible to the distributor, it is possible to increase their ability to take charge of and manage their environment.

Once the metrics are available, then the use of Segmentation becomes a viable option to better manage the assets of an organization. Using measurements of “value” and profitability” it is possible to divide groups (customers, suppliers, and products) into subcategories which can be individually managed to provide the greatest benefit to the operation. Industrial distributors can use this concept to provide an objective basis for increasing the return on all assets.

For many Industrial distributors, the greatest hurdle will be learning how to develop, track and report the information hidden in their automation systems. Information collected and stored within a modern and properly configured ERP system combined with applications (such as Business Intelligence) can be used to fine tune pricing, inventory, purchasing and customer service levels based on objective measures of value and contribution to profitability.

Companies who make more effective operational decisions based on metrics and segmentation can outperform the competition in all aspects of business.

To read more click on this website:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Economic Conditions Affect Business

By Tim Reynolds
President, Tribute, Inc. and President, COSE (Council of Smaller Enterprises - Cleveland)

Well it’s official. Our economy is in a recession. Of course, economic conditions will affect different businesses in different ways and some of you may be having a great year. But for those of us that have seen our business volume turn down, it’s time for some clear thinking. This will be my third major recession as a business owner and I thought I’d share just a couple of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

First, denial is the enemy. If your business needs to be smaller for a time, bite the bullet and make it smaller. Failing to take the steps you need to preserve your capital and match your business expenses to achievable revenues is the reason businesses fail.

Only then are you in a position to take advantage of the opportunities recessions have always provided flexible business owners. For example a competitor may stumble, or perhaps a vendor may lay off a talented employee that can take your company to a new level. You may have to lay off employees of your own. That’s painful of course, but it also gives you the opportunity to rethink important business processes. What you do now will lay the foundation for profitable growth thereafter.

Fortune's Feb 18, 2008 issue has an article written by management guru and Wharton faculty member, Ram Charan, which is still timely and offers some useful advice to weather the recession. I found a couple of his tips relevant:

1. Keep building. When the top line looks shaky and the bottom line worse, the temptation is to go after discretionary spending. Fine - but do not consider product development, innovation, and brand building optional. Sacrificing your future for a slightly more comfortable present is not worth it. If you keep building, you can come back strong.

Tribute continues to offer our customers new tools to streamline their business and cut costs. Our users determine the innovations most beneficial to the group as a whole and we implement those tools in our regular releases. We’ve partnered with WarehouseTWO to offer our customers an easy and convenient method to do inventory-sharing, enabling them to get rid of excess inventory and provide another means to fill backorders.

The "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" has extended the Section179 tax expensing limit to $250,000 and boosts the overall investment limit from $510,000 to $800,000, so this is the year to invest in making your company as efficient and profitable as possible.

2. Communicate intensively. Get information from where the customer action is, and get it to the operating people - fast. Companies should do so routinely, of course. But they don't. It's counterintuitive but true that when the economy slows down, the pace of decision-making has to speed up, because you can't put off the tough choices anymore. The companies that are readiest to act on solid information are primed to shoot ahead of the business cycle.

Partnering with Rubber Tree Systems, Tribute now offers TrulinX Mobile and Tribute Mobile, a business intelligence and sales force mobilization system that extracts the data from our Tribute & TrulinX systems and shares it with any mobile device. In this economy, access to up-to-the-minute data is a must.

Clear thinking and an open mind are critical to small business success. Tribute is ready to help you take a hard look at your business processes, compare them against the best standards in distribution, and show you how our software can help you achieve Best Practice. We continue to invest in product development and innovation to best serve your needs. We can help you keep the “blinders” off and streamline your business so you can be ready for the good times to come.

To find out more, visit or call us at 800-874-2883 and press “1” for sales.

About Tribute, Inc.

Tribute, Inc. is the leading provider of enterprise-wide distribution management software to the pneumatic & hydraulic, power transmission, belting, sealing products, automation & motion control, instrumentation and hose distribution marketplace. We specialize in providing superior tools combined with personal and knowledgeable customer support for this specific niche. Our customers are more than just a number – they are partners with valuable input that drives the direction of our product. Tribute has provided a comprehensive management solution for industrial distributors for 28 years and is an active member of FPDA, ISD, NAHAD and NIBA.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Increasing Profitability Through Waste Elimination in Food Manufacturing and Distribution Operations

Food and Beverage manufacturers and distributors face complex challenges that few outside the industry appreciate – inconsistent raw materials, quickly changing demand patterns, and intense regulatory compliance just to name a few. And while you’re meeting all of those challenges, you still have to produce and deliver top-quality products.

On March 11, 2009 at 2:00pm EST, Evan Garber and Jeff Greenberg will be speaking in the webinar, Increasing Profitability Through Waste Elimination in Food Manufacturing and Distribution Operations. During the webinar, you will learn the five common types of waste, how to identify waste, tips and tricks for eliminating waste, and what tools to use to track and measure your results.

To learn more about this free webinar, go to

Monday, January 12, 2009

Maximize the Value of Your ERP System by Jeff Gusdorf

ERP packages cost a lot of money - not just the initial investment but ongoing expenses for support, maintenance, training, new modules and consulting services. Every executive who is considering buying new software should have a plan for maximizing the value generated by their ERP package. The plan should recognize that the risk of failure exists and create the appropriate safeguards. This article provides an overview of the entire process and provides tips for promoting success and guarding against failure.

The typical ERP project takes three years. Some smaller or simpler projects will go faster and some more complex business will take longer. Regardless, every ERP project will go through five phases to arrive at the point where their new software system is stable and providing the anticipated benefits envisioned when the purchase was made. Those phases are:

Phase 1: Build the Foundation - Draft a project charter, identify benefits, build the business case, identify metrics, establish the steering committee and project team prepare the project plan, and assign roles and responsibilities

Phase 2: Software Selection - Determine the business requirements and conduct a defined process to identify and purchase the “best package”

Phase 3: Implementation and Go-Live - Implementing the software involves planning, installation, data conversion, process configuration, training and go-live

Phase 4: Stabilization - Resolve problems, make process and procedural changes, retrain and get additional training

Phase 5: Improvement - Implement 2nd phase modules, assess the implementation, continuous improvement

I. Building the Foundation:
Just as you wouldn’t start a construction project without blueprints and engineering drawings you shouldn’t start a project of this size and complexity without the appropriate plans in place. This is one of the most common mistakes we see – companies start a selection project by looking at software packages instead of formally defining the scope of the project.
  • Draft a project charter: This brief document provides a high-level summarization of the project. It outlines the business reason for conducting the project, defines the goals, objectives and some high level deliverables. The charter should also include a preliminary schedule, any budget constraints that have been established and any constraints or risks that have been able to be identified.

  • Identify benefits and metrics: Benefits realization is the process of ensuring that the ERP project produces the expected benefits after the system has been implemented and stabilized. Documenting this at the inception of the project keeps the project team focused and accountable over the life of this project while giving the steering committee the means to determine that the project has produced the benefits beyond successfully implementing the package, which can be a difficult enough challenge.

Without a formal planning process it is easy to lose track of the expected benefits and the ability to determine that the project actually produced those benefits. This process also clarifies that the responsibility for the realization of the benefits is typically the business process owner not IT. The Safe Quality Food Institute administers the program in the US and is responsible for managing the many components of this process. They publish the codes, train and license the SQF consultants and auditors, maintain the centralized database of certification and compliance records and provide on-going training.

Benefits can fall into the following categories:
1. Strategic

  • Support business growth/acquisitions
  • Build linkages to customers and/or suppliers

2. Organizational

  • Support change in structure
  • Decentralized management

3. Managerial

  • Improve decision making

4. Operational

  • Reduce costs
  • Improve customer service

5. IT infrastructure

  • Increase capacity
  • Reduce obsolescence risk

After identifying the benefit you will need to document the following information so that in the 1 to 2 years that it will take to achieve this benefit you will be able to determine if the benefit was realized. The benefits document needs to answer these questions:

  1. What is the benefit to be realized?
  2. Who will be responsible for producing the benefit?
  3. How is this process being measured (headcount, items, cost, etc.)?
  4. What ERP process has to be implemented to achieve this goal?
  5. What metric will be used to determine if the goal was achieved?
  • Establish Steering Committee and Project Team: The steering committee will consist of a small number of senior management who will approve the selection decision and approve the expenditure. This committee will review the work of the project team. The project team will consist of 6 to 10 department heads that understand the functional needs of their business units and departments and will ensure that the software selected will satisfy those requirements. During implementation the roles of these teams will expand and become more complex.

II. Software Selection: With the foundation in place for the project, your project team is ready to start the software selection process. The goal of the selection phase is to select package that “best” fits your business. “Best” is a blend of business process functionality without being so complex that implementation success is at risk, vendor knowledge in your vertical market, fit between your team and the vendor team, technology fit with your IT staff’s capability and price.

  • Project Initiation: Get this phase of the project off to a good start by conducting a formal kick-off meeting. The kick off meeting should be hosted by the senior management sponsor or the steering committee for the project. This meeting serves to introduce the team to the project charter and project benefits developed during the foundation stage. Review of the project plan and responsibilities helps team members incorporate this project into their schedules. Communicating the progress of the project to the organization is important throughout the project. Take a proactive approach to letting the organization know the status of the project. Developing a formal communication plan helps to create the discipline now which will pay off during the implementation.

  • Requirements Definition: Identify all business processes and process owners and users and involve those users in the discovery process. Interviews with those process owners to understand their needs, concerns and hopes for a new system are very important to prepare a complete set of requirements and to promote involvement and support in the user community. We use business process outlines to guide those interviews to ensure that we cover every process and every step of those processes. We will prepare process flowcharts where useful. Much of this work can be re-used during the design step of the implementation phase.

It is critical when defining business requirements that you review all processes and capture all information about the current state of these processes. It’s easy to overlook some of those processes if you aren’t careful. We have developed business process outlines to guide those interviews. These process outlines reflect what we believe to be standard process flows in most distribution companies. These outlines ensure that we cover every process and every step of those processes. Analyze the following areas when conducting discovery sessions:

  1. System Tools
  2. Productivity Tools
  3. Product Management
  4. Supplier Management
  5. General Ledger
  6. Accounts Payable
  7. Accounts Receivable
  8. Commissions
  9. Treasury
  10. Fixed Assets
  11. Budgeting
  12. Payroll & Expenses
  13. Inventory Management
  14. Procurement
  15. Product Management
  16. Customer Management
  17. Channel Management
  18. Marketing Materials
  19. Campaign Management
  20. Manufacturing
  21. Lead Management
  22. Sales Force Automation
  23. Quoting
  24. Sales
  25. Retail/Counter Sales
  26. eCommerce Website
  27. Customer/Supplier Portals
  28. Service
  29. Warehousing
  30. Logistics
  • Long-list to Short-list to Finalist: The horse-race component of this process involves identifying a large (7-12 is large enough) group of software vendors who have the potential to supply the software solution for your business. Use the requirements to determine which vendor can satisfy them the “best”. “Best” will be different for every business; we determine best by looking at the mix of process functionality, vendor knowledge in your vertical market and their stability and strength, technology and price.

  • Finalist Due Diligence: Once the finalist has been selected you still have to negotiate an agreement. Conduct reference phone calls and client site visits, negotiate final price discounts and negotiate the contract. We strongly suggest that you conduct a pre-implementation meeting prior to signing a contract so that you fully understand the implementation methodology your selected vendor is going to use.

III. Implementation: You have probably devoted 6-9 months to get to this point and are confident in your selection of the software package and the vendor that will help you implement the software. Now - the real work begins. This phase of the project has the greatest risk and requires that the steering committee is paying close attention. We have seen projects with services estimates of $200,000 become $500,000; or estimates of $1M and 1 year become $2.5M and 2 ½ years Watch carefully to make sure your project doesn’t wander off course; it can happen quickly. You may want to have an independent party provide project monitoring since the project team is so busy with the actual implementation.

  • Plan: The vendor implementation team will work with the project team to put the implementation plan together. This will seem a lot like the planning done in the Foundation stage. Make sure that the sales team hands off everything that they have learned during the software selection stage; you can reduce your costs by doing so. If they haven’t made a good hand-off, alarm bells should go off!

  • Assess/Design: The vendor team will develop a detailed understanding of your business processes to be used when configuring the software. They will develop a data conversion plan; don’t under estimate the value of cleaning up your master file data. Don’t spend the money to convert transaction history; just keep your old application available. Review and decide how modifications that you identified earlier in the process will be prioritized. Review and decide how any other software products will be integrated with the new ERP system. Make sure the benefits statements and the metrics are incorporated into this process otherwise you will not maximize the return on your investment.

  • Build/Test: This is the critical phase where the software is configured for how your business wants the software to work and testing is done at a departmental level and in the conference room pilot for all users. User training occurs during this phase so users are prepared to test the software. Your team will conduct multiple conference room pilots where the software is tested. The quality of your go-live experience is dependent on how rigorous you are in this testing. Don’t short-cut this and repeat it until your satisfied.

  • Go-Live: This is the big moment when all of the hard work is put to the test. Usually starting on a Thursday, all transaction processing is stopped. All data is converted following the scripts created previously. End-users, with support of the vendors’ consultants and the project team start to use the new system to process real business. This is always a challenging period but if you have done your homework you’ll make it through.

IV. Stabilization: Congratulations! You have survived the go-live process and the first few months of using the new system.

  • Project team transfers responsibility to every-day user: The project team has lived with the new system and has worked to get to this moment. The team will be disbanded and members will return their focus to their own functional responsibilities. Reliance on outside consultant will be reduced or eliminated. All users must now operate without their hand-holding. It’s important that users have accepted the new system. Be on the look-out for users that need more training or re-training so that they can use the system with confidence.

  • Process changes: During this period it will become apparent if any of the process decisions that were made were incorrect. The configuration settings will be changed to adjust the processes. Data entry screen layouts, inquires, reports can be modified to make the user more efficient. Users will also personalize their interaction with the software.

V. Improvements: With the new system stable, this is a good time to bring out the benefits document again and audit the benefits of the new system. This is a very valuable exercise to conduct. It will reveal where benefits are being received and where they are being missed. It will also reveal if certain departments fell short of the goals and need more training or help in using the system. You may also embark on implementing second phase modules that you didn’t have the resources for in the initial implementation of the software.

A Final Thought: Buying and implementing software is expensive, time-consuming and risky. Technology related products and companies change at a rapid pace. To access more information and resources about software selection and our consulting services check out our website

About The Author: Jeff Gusdorf, CPA is a Principal in Brown Smith Wallace’s Consulting Group. He is the managing consultant and is responsible for IT strategic consulting, software research and evaluation. Jeff has more than 20 years’ experience as a financial manager and technology consultant in the manufacturing, distribution and service sectors.

About The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group: The Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group has been serving the distribution community for more than 20 years through the publication of the Distribution Software Guide, speaking at industry programs, giving free telephone advice to distributors and providing fee-based consulting services to companies who need help selecting the best software packages for their business.

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