With the current cold snap covering so much of the country and the extreme temperatures…I am happy to be living in Florida, even though it is currently 40 outside. But I am not a stranger to cold weather.

I do remember cold weather, freezing pipes, and downed power lines well. I even remember a winter so cold the sap in the pine trees froze. That caused a simple wind to snap the trees in half.

A neighbor of mine was driving out of the neighborhood when a tree snapped and fell across the road in front of him. Backing up, another snapped and fell across the road behind him. He tried to turn onto a side road when a third tree dropped across that road, trapping his car between the 3 trees. He walked home.

Stay warm.

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A large number of customers have well schooled IT departments and these departments often take on the task of performing the upgrade.  The larger the site, the greater the tendency to have third party products.  Third party products each have their own install and upgrade processes and these need to be investigated completely.


Some third parties want their upgrade file to be installed before running GP Utilities.  Some want GP running first and then their upgrade performed.
Make sure to get the latest version of the manual for all third party products and read the upgrade section of that manual.  Make sure to follow all of the instructions in the correct sequence.


I have found it helpful to develop my own set of instructions for upgrades for complex sites.  I start with the MS Dynamics instructions in Word or Excel and then read each of the third party manuals.  I add their instructions to the document in the proper sequence.  Once all manuals have been read, it is time for test upgrades and adjustments to the script.


When everything works in the test upgrade, we are ready for the live upgrade.

One of the important factors to record during the tests is the time to convert.  When test upgrades are run against copies of your live db, accurate timings are obtained.  These timings will enable you to project the time required to perform the live upgrade and to know if it can be completed over a weekend.

I strongly suggest working with your partner during the testing and upgrade process.  Partners have solid relationships with the ISVs that they recommend and often can get action faster that someone performing a “test” upgrade.

Please note that Accolade has a manual on testing software.  It is called Conference Room Pilot and is highly recommended.

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By Elizabeth Whaley

General Electric Co. manufacturing engineer Ken Hislop got an urgent text message one night in New York.  The message was from a machine in the shop that makes massive batteries for cell phone towers and power plants.  The machine has sensors that alert Ken when something goes wrong.  This time a storm had knocked out power to the plant.  Ken could then grab his iPad and pull up a map of the facility to see what was going on as it was happening.  He could access the roof camera and watch a storm coming.  The power flicked off for only a moment but even then the damage could have been extremely costly.  This new technology gives a real-time account of the goings on without an actual person needing to be in the room.

This is the New Industrial Revolution.  For big companies, it means newer tools for smarter factories.  For smaller companies, it now means that they too can have access to better, cheaper equipment.  The changes in manufacturing today are just as significant as the introduction of interchangeable parts.

Where you once had to have many people doing all the different parts of putting together items, you now have a machine doing all jobs.  What used to take hours to produce can now be done in minutes without mistake.  You now have machines making other machines.  However, manufacturers are now faced with a new problem, intellectual property theft.

Still, now that items can be created by machines, the need for outsourcing is reduced.  Factories can now be moved to the company’s home country, with items produced closer to the customer and delivered faster.  Boston Consulting Group estimates that by the year 2020 30% of America’s exports from China could be produced domestically.

This could also provide a boost in the jobs market.  Not the old fashioned way of employing them in factories, but by thinking of new ways to make old things more efficiently as, well as coming up with new things to create.

The article goes on to talk about things like 3-D printers and how even this one item can revolutionize the manufacturing world.  This is true; they even had one 3-D printer that printed another 3-D printer.  New technology has made factories more efficient in the recent years.  It used to be that it would take more time to create cars because each part had to be made individually.  Now you can just mass produce what you need and things are done much faster.

They talk about how 3-D printers are able to print something in one piece rather than in 20 that then needs to be put together.  It can even create human tissue replicas for testing purposes.  One day these could be in homes around the world.  When you need something specific, instead of ordering on the internet and waiting days or weeks for it to come in, you would be able to print it out instantly, right in your own living room.

The GE plant is so connected that it is more like one big factory by the way everything is interconnected.  They say that the plant was so big at one point in time that it even had its own zip code.  Now with the way technology has evolved you don’t even need to turn on the lights at some plants because the whole factory is automated that the plant will run itself.  Now the machines will even tell you if something goes wrong.  You’ll never have to go in to check on things.

These are changing times and companies that don’t change with them will not make it in the long run.

 

Footnote:  Elizabeth Whaley is the General Manager of Accolade Publications, Inc. and is studying business at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.  This is a paper she completed and turned in for one of her courses.

 

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This morning I sent a email to an ISV (that shall remain nameless).  The subject line read “Thanks for Ignoring Me Again”.  I had sent an email to the support team for this vendor over 10 days ago with a simple question.  I heard nothing back.  NOTHING!

Most ISVs are great.  They have a well organized team with good products and a good support team.  They understand that having a good product is not enough, you need to be able to help their customers and their partners to keep those products running.

ISVs MUST understand that support for their product is paramount.  When they ignore customer and/or partner calls for help, word gets around.  Between Convergence and Summit and local user groups springing up everywhere, customers are talking.  Reputations are made and destroyed by these conversations.

I, unfortunately, am not the only person complaining about this particular ISV’s responsiveness.  I have talked to other consultants, other partners, and a number of customers that are likewise not happy with the support.  Don’t get me wrong, the product and the people at the firm are both great.  I believe they just do not have enough people supporting their product and this will hurt them in the long run.  And hurt bad.

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I remember the days when we counted bytes in the computer individually.  It was so great when storage reached the KiloByte size!  Well we have rushed through the years from MegaBytes, to GigaBytes, to Terabytes and now….Zettabytes?  And Yottabytes??

A yottabyte is simply a thousand zettabytes or 1,000,000,000,000,000 gigabytes. Some of people like to refer to them as “alottabytes”.   While, according to Wikipedia, in 2006 the combined storage of the world was only 160 Exabytes (that’s 10 to the 18th) of storage, the federal government is now building a storage facility in Utah for what is rumored to be several thousand Yottabytes.

I wonder if I could find a copy of DOS3.3 in there?

For reference…in case you are wondering, here are the current storage size words.  I wonder, if I had a file 3 petabytes in size… would it be a petafile?  Sigh

Multiples of bytes
SI decimal prefixes Binary usage IEC binary prefixes
Name (Symbol) Value Name (Symbol) Value
kilobyte (kB) 103 210 kibibyte (KiB) 210
megabyte (MB) 106 220 mebibyte (MiB) 220
gigabyte (GB) 109 230 gibibyte (GiB) 230
terabyte (TB) 1012 240 tebibyte (TiB) 240
petabyte (PB) 1015 250 pebibyte (PiB) 250
exabyte (EB) 1018 260 exbibyte (EiB) 260
zettabyte (ZB) 1021 270 zebibyte (ZiB) 270
yottabyte (YB) 1024 280 yobibyte (YiB) 280
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Years ago there was a TV show called Kids Say the Darndest Things hosted by Art Linkletter.  On this show, a guest panel of 4-6 year old kids were asked questions.  Their comments were delightfully funny.

I was wondering what would be said on such a show today if Art asked kids to comment on cloud computing.  With apologies to Art, here are a few things that come to mind.

“Daddy, If you are computing with the clouds, are the dark clouds ones and the light clouds zeros?”

“Mommy, If the sky is full of clouds, are you out of memory?”

“Daddy, Daddy, If there is lightning and thunder, is the cloud computer crashing?”

“Is rain what you mean by output?”

“Mommy, Does Linus have his own personal cloud computer and can I have one?”

 

If you have your own child’s viewpoint of cloud computing, send it to me and I will post it and give you credit.

 

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During the past few weeks, many firms have announced layoffs or cut-backs in employee hours.  Whether you agree with the program or now, Obamacare and other new government regulations and taxes are placing a heavy burden on businesses across the USA.  Businesses must react to remain profitable by cutting expenses, keeping under thresholds that trigger new costs, and/or raising prices.

It is definately an interesting time to be supporting businesses.

One of the trends I have noticed over the past 44 years is the cycle that business automation follows, when do businesses spend more or less on automation.  The observation is rather different than expected.

Consider that business cycles have four parts:  improving, peaked, declining, bottomed out. Most people expect business to automate during prosperous times when the business cycle is peaked.  This is NOT correct.  There are two parts of the business cycle that drive firms to automate.

When the business cycle is at it’s peak and firms are producing and shipping/selling product hand over fist, no one has time to automate.  Yes, money is coming in and profits are there to be taken, but time is not available.  When the business cycle has bottomed out, there may be plenty of time but firms tend to hold on to their resources, trim costs, and wait for the next move.  However, when business is getting better AND when business is getting worse, businesses automate, but for two different reasons.

When business is improving, the business problem that management faces is figuring out how to satisfy their customers demands in the most efficient manner.  Having just been through bad times, they are cautious about hiring recurring cost assets like employees.  But by automating their operations, improving delivery and resource management, firms can deliver quicker and more efficiently with a one time expense.

On the other side of the curve, when business is tanking, a well managed firm looks for ways to reduce recurring costs and maintain the ability to serve their customers.  By automating certain processes, they hope to reduce employee expenses, reduce the cost of expediting materials, and maintain profitability during the low points in the cycle ahead.

Now is the time to upgrade the automation of your business.  With the release of GP Version 2013, remote operations become easier through the web interface.  Employees can work at home, sales reps on the road can enter their own orders and check on their status, management can review the status of the firm while making those important trips to major customers and suppliers, all of these reducing the cost of operations.  With the inclusion of Payroll in the basic package, firms can bring this function in-house and, with less than 45 employees, avoid the cost of Obamacare.

It is going to be an interesting few years and the country re-tools for higher costs.  Optimization of operations is a vital part of this re-tooling.

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Version 2013 is a feature filled upgrade!

Frequently, past upgrades have included a handful of user features and lots of system features.  This includes the new security system, the new document printing scheme, et cetera.  This version also has a number of system features (new Content Pane, web interface, multiple installation/tenant ability, et cetera) but also includes a large number of user centric features.

Reason Codes on inventory transactions allow users to record why a transaction is being entered and allows accounting to change the credit account number.  The consolidation of sales orders onto one invoice simplifies billing and payment receipts.  Consolidation of drop ship sales orders on Purchase Orders simplifies purchasing and the ability to track serial/lot numbers on drop ships is now easier than ever.  Allowing users to substitute SSRS reports for common GP report printed from the printer icon in windows provides greater flexibility in obtaining the information you need.

There are hundreds of such enhancements, many I cannot list here until the product is released.  As soon as the release is final, get a copy of our Version 2013 Unleashed book and look at all of the wonderful things added to MS Dynamics GP.  The are worth upgrading for!

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One of the interesting things about writing books like GP Version 2013 Unleashed, our new book on the new features in GP, is finding all of the features in previous versions that you did not know about or forgot about.

No one consultant can know everything about a product as robust as the collection of MS Dynamics ERP products.  It certainly takes a team of consultants, each versed in different portions of the product, to complete a proper implementation.

As I sit here and write GP Version 2013 Unleashed, I find so many “new” things that actually exists in prior versions.  It is a natural problem as, through the years, we each continue to focus on specific areas of a product or two.  We work on what we know.

Partners and consultants need to continue their education in the products they support to reinforce their knowledge of the product in areas not frequented by them.  Users need to review materials that talk about all of the features available, not to try to implement them all, but to avoid purchasing a different product when you have what you need in your MS Dynamics ERP product.

That’s what we try to do…help you keep up.  I think it’s fun.

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I have been watching the continuing push to move applications “to the cloud” and the newest technology advance.  It tickles me to know that this is a return to a computing paradigm, yes using newer technology, that was abandoned about 30 years ago.

During that time in our industry when main frames, those giant collections of electronic equipment required to perform computations and store information, costs hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, larger firms looked for ways to spread their investment in the equipment while smaller firms (not small firms but firms that could not afford the total investment) looked for ways to “get their foot in the door”.   Data centers were formed.

In a data center operation, one firm made a major investment in hardware and software and leased time on their system to other users.  Those firms that could not invest big bucks in computer equipment used the hardware of the data center and depended on the staff of the data center to host their software and data.

Sound familiar?

In today’s paradigm, the communications costs are lower, the hardware costs are lower, and more and more hosting services can be found.  Once again, small firms (now the really small firms) that cannot afford their own hardware and support teams can subscribe to the hosting service provider and get instant access to high end software features.

The question is:  is this a sustainable paradigm?

In the data center age, issues included communication costs, subscription costs, data security, and customization of the installation.  Today, communication and subscription costs are down and more and more hosting providers are making customizations of various types available.  The issue of “who owns/holds/has access to my data” still exists and the hosting service has physical if not legal ownership of the data.

The major issue to cloud computing is cost.  While costs are down, they are not at this point insignificant.  At an cost of $50 to $150 per user per month (depending on features needed), the cost of operating an IT departmet over the cloud can quickly exceed the costs of an internal implementation.  The cost battle will not be quickly settled as hosting providers lower costs, the cost of internal implementations continues to drop.  Which paradigm wins is till “up in the air”.

The strangest thing I have read recently on the progress of cloud computing is an article asking “will cloud computing kill ERP?”  That’s kind of like asking “will TV kill acting?”  One is a set of features or skills while the other is a delivery method.  I was wondering whether the author thought that cloud service delivery would prevent ERP services from being delivered?  This will not happen as firms that need ERP (full accounting plus product management and planning) will always need ERP.  More and more full ERP systems, including manufacturing and project management are being delivered across the cloud.

I am beginning to believe that the concept of cloud computing, at least in the short term, is a great marketing tool for firms like Microsoft.  Products like GP, AX, and NAV require a significant investment to install locally.  While in my opinion, local is the best installation, where the owners of the data are the holders of the data, use of the cloud concept allows smaller firms to bring up an AX, GP, NAV, CRM installation at a significantly lower initial investment.  Later, as the firm grows and economies of scale allow, an internal installation/conversion can be performed, reducing costs and increasing data security.  But until the firm gets to that point, they can still enjoy the benefits of large system software that is needed by their firm.

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