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How many clicks should entering an order take? – Web Based Order Entry for Microsoft Dynamics

February 15th, 2012 Pankaj Kumar No comments

We recently launched Order Entry for Microsoft Dynamics as a web based solution that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Dynamics CRM & ERP solutions. An obvious question – why another Order Entry solution offering in the Microsoft Dynamics world where a variety of Order Entry options already exist? There are several reasons -

  1. There are no solutions that offer a Microsoft Excel-like web-based user interface for quick Order Entry that is powered with Microsoft Dynamics ERP backend for taxes, discounts and shipping charges.
  2. There are no solutions that work with all the browsers. It becomes an irritant for those odd cases when you happen to be in a meeting or conference working off a shared PC environment and wanted to accept orders. Right from all flavors of IE on Windows to Safari on various Mac flavors – Order Entry for Dynamics works exactly the same way.
  3. There are not many options for entering Orders for Dynamics on tablet devices like Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy.
  4. Seamless access to data within Dynamics ERP or CRM – Right from address book to customer specific prices, invoices, A/R Balance or historical order lines seamlessly offered to help a salesperson focus on preparing a competitive Quote or Order for the Customer.
  5. Electronic Payments – Credit Card, ACH, Paypal and more – all supported seamlessly with the Order Entry Process.
  6. Integration with Microsoft Dynamics – If you are currently using a Microsoft Dynamics CRM or ERP system, customer and order edits flow through systems to allow different teams to continue using their current system.

So much about the features, let’s talk about clicks. Most sales folks and customer service reps would like to see lesser clicks. How many clicks should an Order really take? We thought through this question and drew less than 10 clicks as the target for entering a simple Order.

Let’s see how this is all done in 10 clicks. Given below is the sequence of entering an Order right from the point you click on a New Order link to submitting the Order for processing. This could be a call center rep accepting orders in a retail call center, or this could be a sales rep on a field visit accepting an order, both stand to gain –

Click 1 – Clicking on the New Order link launches the New Order form and auto launches the Customer Lookup. The lookup offers various search tools for finding the right customer.

Clicking on the New Order link launches the New Order form and auto launches the Customer Lookup. The lookup offers various search tools for finding the right customer

Click 2 – Enter the search criteria and Search.

Click 3 – Select the Customer from the lookup.

Click 4 – Customer with default ship to address + default contact + other defaults get populated.

Customer with default ship to address + default contact + other defaults get populated

Click 5 – Click on OK to generate the Order.

Click 6 – Use the SKU Type Ahead or SKU Code Lookup to select the Item. Item Selection would default the Quantity to 1 and lookup prices that apply to the customer in the chosen currency. Workflows take care of applying relevant taxes.

Use the SKU Type Ahead or SKU Code Lookup to select the Item. Item Selection would default the Quantity to 1 and lookup prices that apply to the customer in the chosen currency. Workflows take care of applying relevant taxes

Click 7 – Apply Shipping Charges. Quotes are directly calculated using FedEx, UPS or USPS Services. Markup, Markdown can be done to create a custom shipping quote.

Apply Shipping Charges. Quotes are directly calculated using FedEx, UPS or USPS Services. Markup, Markdown can be done to create a custom shipping quote

Click 8 – Now the order is ready to be submitted for processing. Submission has a configurable workflow that acts as a checkpoint before Orders are processed.

Now the order is ready to be submitted for processing. Submission has a configurable workflow that acts as a checkpoint before Orders are processed

Click 9 – Enter the payment details (credit card, ACH or others), edit Order Confirmation Email that would go to the customer. And you are done!

Enter the payment details (credit card, ACH or others), edit Order Confirmation Email that would go to the customer

There were two guiding principles while designing Order Entry:

  1. Allow Order Entry with minimal clicks on a web-based platform.
  2. Provide Excel like experience when Editing (Order Lines, for example) or Searching (SKUs, for example) on the browser for order entry.

For example, if I have several Order Lines where I need to override the price, I would select the price cell (as shown below), double click or Press F2. Edit the price and press Enter. The price change would trigger the underlying business workflows to alert me if needed.

Order Lines

Given below is how the SKU Lookup works. Facilities similar to Excel filters with a multi-parameter search to find needed SKU quickly.

SKU Lookup

Are 10 clicks the minimum required for Order Entry? – No, there are other options that can help place an Order or a Quote in less than 10 clicks. These options are:

  1. Copy an Existing Order or Quote
  2. Import Quotes or Order.
  3. Use Quote or Order Templates

So you can certainly go less than 10 clicks if required!

Pankaj Kumar is the Chief Technology Officer at Ignify. Ignify eCommerce is the only PCI certified eCommerce solution in the market that integrates with mid-market ERP systems including the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Sage ERP. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine, and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.

Reporting Credit Card and Merchant Payments on your Income Tax Return with Microsoft Dynamics AX

February 13th, 2012 Sandeep Walia No comments

Starting Jan 1st, 2012 businesses now need to report Merchant Card and Third-Party Payments on a separate line. Effectively the gross receipts or gross sales on the Form 1120 (Corporate Income Tax Return) is now two lines

1a – Sales where payments are received from Merchant Card and Third Party Payments

1b. Gross Receipts or Sales not reported on line 1a

Form 1120 (Corporate Income Tax Return)

This is a simple requirement but can be nightmarish to get if your business is not setup to collect and report on this information separately from total sales. Microsoft Dynamics AX enables your business to effectively collect and report this information.

Essentially you would do this by setting up the Payment Methods correctly – typically you want to setup a different payment method for Credit Card, Gift Card, Check, Financing, Cash etc. You may have more than this of course.

Each payment method is then mapped to a GL account. By using a separate GL account for Credit Card and other Merchant card payments e.g. Gift card – you can review the transactions on that GL and easily meet the new income tax reporting requirements.

For example, the screens below show that the Credit Card Payments (method of payment CRED) are posting to a GL Account Credit Card Receivable while the Check Payments are posting to the Bank Sub-ledge account (as opposed to a GL account) USA operating Account.

Credit Card Method of Payment in Dynamics AX mapped to a GL Account allows you to track Merchant Card payments separately and comply with the new Corporate Income Tax Reporting format

Credit Card Method of Payment in Dynamics AX mapped to a GL Account allows you to track Merchant Card payments separately and comply with the new Corporate Income Tax Reporting format

Check Payment Method in Dynamics AX mapped to Bank account

Check Payment Method in Dynamics AX mapped to Bank account

While you can get the information from this GL, there are also several reports in Dynamics AX that can help get you this information. In the Accounts Receivable area in Dynamics AX you can also run the Customer Posted Payment Journal (AR > Reports > Transactions > Payments > Customer Posted Payment Journal). You can filter this report to only show lines that have come in through Merchant Card payments. For example, the screen shot below shows the report filtered to show transactions where the Method of payment is Credit Card (CRED in this example).

Customer Posted Payment Journal Report in Dynamics AX allows you to see all posted customer payments. By filtering to the relevant payment method e.g. Credit Card you can get details of the payment method

Customer Posted Payment Journal Report in Dynamics AX allows you to see all posted customer payments. By filtering to the relevant payment method e.g. Credit Card you can get details of the payment method

In this example, the report shows that I have received $65,000 through credit card payments via two transactions.

Payments received by Credit Card in the Customer Posted Payment Journal Report in Dynamics AX

Payments received by Credit Card in the Customer Posted Payment Journal Report in Dynamics AX

With this approach you can ensure you get the information you need to report effectively on your 1120 Corporate Income Tax Return This blog article is not meant to be tax advice. Please consult with your CPA / Tax Advisor for any tax advice.

Sandeep Walia is CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a leading provider of Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions to mid-market and Enterprise businesses. Ignify has been ranked as Microsoft Partner of the Year Winner in 2011 and 2010 and in the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle, Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009. Ignify has offices and team members in Southern California, Northern California, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois, Washington, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Philippines.

Better Budgeting with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012: Part II of Excellence in Financial Management

February 8th, 2012 Sandeep Walia No comments

I presented a session on budgeting capabilities with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 at the AXUG (AX Users Group) Summit in Las Vegas and I was surprised at how many users were not aware of the powerful budgeting functionality within Dynamics AX. While earlier versions of Microsoft Dynamics AX had base budgeting functionality with ability to import and load budgets and run budgets Versus Actuals – the latest version Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 has significantly enhanced the native budgeting functionality allowing it to become both a budgeting as well as financial control solution to keep expenditure within budgetary limits. This blog post talks about budgeting functionality in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 in a comprehensive fashion and is not limited to just the enhancements. However, I will point out areas of significant enhancement but this post will provide someone new to budgeting with Dynamics AX the knowledge to use it.

The functionality with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 includes

  • Budget Development with Zero base budgeting and Historical Budgeting
  • Rules to define budget control
  • Budget Control at a Transaction level to prevent overspend

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 provides comprehensive budgeting functionality to develop budgets with flexible configuration and adaptable rules with budgetary controls at a transaction level to ensure expenditures are aligned with budgetary limits

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 provides comprehensive budgeting functionality to develop budgets with flexible configuration and adaptable rules with budgetary controls at a transaction level to ensure expenditures are aligned with budgetary limits

Budget Development:

The budget development process includes creating a budget, optionally approving a budget and tracking any revisions to a budget. Let’s start with budget creation.

Zero Base Budgeting effectively is the ability to build a budget from the ground up. There are 3 ways to do this

  • Budget Register Entry: Enter line by line into a budget register entry . Budgets can be set at a GL Account and period combination or GL Account, Financial Dimension and Period combination.
     
  • Enter with Recurrence: Instead of manually entering a number for each period, you can set a recurrence so that for a GL or GL Account and Financial dimension combination you can create multiple entries for different financial periods. The recurrence can be uniform i.e. same number across the periods or follow some sort of curve and be allocated using a period key and have different budgeted numbers across different financial periods. The automation with recurrence significantly reduces the manual data entry required to create a budget.
     
  • Import from Excel: Often the favorite of Dynamics AX users the new Excel Add in for Dynamics AX allows you to import a budget within Dynamics AX efficiently.

Historical budgeting is typically when you are basing a budget on prior period numbers e.g. a prior month or prior year. Microsoft Dynamics AX provides functionality to build budgets based on historical numbers. This is achieved by

  • Export/ Import from Excel: The new Excel Add in for Dynamics AX allows you to export numbers, make changes and then import them back into Dynamics AX.
     
  • Transfer Balances: This allows you to transfer balances based on actual transactions within a date range or for an entire fiscal year into a budget with the ability to use a factor to adjust the numbers brought in.

Transfer Balances is used in this example to bring balances based on actuals from the fiscal year July 2009 to June 2010 into the July 2011 to June 2012 budget. The numbers are multiple by a factor or 1.20 to forecast a 20% higher budget over the actuals

Transfer Balances is used in this example to bring balances based on actuals from the fiscal year July 2009 to June 2010 into the July 2011 to June 2012 budget. The numbers are multiple by a factor or 1.20 to forecast a 20% higher budget over the actuals

The historical based budgeting functionality allows you to quickly develop a budget and then modify the numbers to get to a final form

Budget created through Transfer Balances shows budget numbers created based on Historical balances. Budget is created for different combinations of GL Account and GL account and financial dimensions.

Budget created through Transfer Balances shows budget numbers created based on Historical balances. Budget is created for different combinations of GL Account and GL account and financial dimensions

Budget Approvals: Budget approvals are managed through the workflow framework in Microsoft Dynamics AX. The framework allows for multiple approval steps with approvers being defined by any combination of department, cost center or other organizational dimensions and hierarchy. The workflow tool has a graphical editor with drag and drop functionality so that users can easily create the rules through configuration of the system.

Budget approvals are managed through the workflow framework in Dynamics AX. Multiple approvers can be setup based on configuration rules

Budget approvals are managed through the workflow framework in Dynamics AX. Multiple approvers can be setup based on configuration rules

Budget Revisions:

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 has multiple budget types to differentiate between the original budget and revisions. For example the screen shots below show original budgets and revisions and then the corresponding budget report showing the summary of the original and the revisions.

Original budget entry in Dynamics AX for the 601300 GL Account – Advertising expenses with a uniform $5,000 budget every month

Original budget entry in Dynamics AX for the 601300 GL Account – Advertising expenses with a uniform $5,000 budget every month

The various types of budget types are listed below

  • Original budget – Use when you are creating an initial budget amount for an account.
     
  • Transfer – Use when you are moving a budget amount from one account to another.
     
  • Revision – Use when you are changing the budget amount for an account. Use this budget type after you have posted an original budget register entry for the account.
     
  • Encumbrance – Use when you are manually creating an encumbrance, which is an obligation to pay a vendor. Use this budget type to reserve budget funds so that actual expenses do not exceed the budgeted amount for an account.
     
  • Pre-encumbrance – Use when you are manually creating a pre-encumbrance, which is an obligation to pay for a purchase that is likely to occur in the future. Use this budget type to reserve budget funds so that actual expenses do not exceed the budgeted amount for an account.
     
  • Carry-forward budget – Use when you are moving budget amounts from one fiscal year to the next.
     
  • Fixed assets – Use when you are transferring fixed asset budget forecasts to the general ledger.
     
  • Demand forecast – Use when you are transferring demand and sales budget forecasts to the general ledger.
     
  • Supply forecast – Use when you are transferring purchase budget forecasts to the general ledger.
     
  • Preliminary budget – Use when you are creating a preliminary budget for an account when the actual budget is being reviewed and approved.
     
  • Apportionments – Use to show the difference between budgeted amounts and amounts that are approved for spending. For example, a public sector organization might have an original budget of 10,000.00 for an account and use this budget type to approve 5000.00 for spending. Only the amount that is apportioned can be spent.

Budget Adjustment of $55,000 made through a Revision Budget Register in Dynamics AX on GL Account 601300 – Advertising Expenses for the month of December 2011

Budget Adjustment of $55,000 made through a Revision Budget Register in Dynamics AX on GL Account 601300 – Advertising Expenses for the month of December 2011

Budget Report showing the Original Budget and revised budget for the GL Account 601300

Budget Report showing the Original Budget and revised budget for the GL Account 601300

Budget Control:

Now the fun actually begins. We’ve created the budget and can put into place controls that ensure expenditure stays within the set budget limits. The budget controls functionality is entirely new in the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 version.

Budget control can be setup on the transactions that you desire to put in budget controls on. The Budget control configuration allows you to select through check boxes which transactions types you want to enable budget control on. Budgetary control can be setup at the consolidated transaction level or at a line level on the transaction. I prefer having this on the line level as on entry of the line you will immediately get a warning that the particular line is over budget. The transaction types are listed below

  • General Ledger Journal
  • Allocation Journals
  • Purchase Requisitions
  • Purchase Orders
  • Vendor/ AP Invoices
  • Travel Requests
  • Fixed Asset
  • Expense Reports

Budget Control can be setup on selected documents on a transaction level or line level

Budget Control can be setup on selected documents on a transaction level or line level

In a step above most ERP systems, Microsoft Dynamics AX allows you to define with a few clicks the calculation that determines the budget fund available. For example, you can choose to compare only against the original budget or against original and revisions. You can also select whether you want to include only posted expenditures or also include unposted expenditures, budget reservations for encumbrances and pre-encumbrances etc. The formula is dynamic and can be updated at any time.

Calculation for Budget fund available is easily defined by users by selecting what elements are included in the budget and what elements are included in the expenditures and budget reservations

Calculation for Budget fund available is easily defined by users by selecting what elements are included in the budget and what elements are included in the expenditures and budget reservations

Now let’s execute a transaction and put our budget control to test. I’ve entered a Vendor invoice of $5,000 for the period and it the budget check allows it through as the Budget funds available are over the amount as shown below.

Figure. Dynamics AX Budget Control on an AP Vendor Invoice showing that the invoice is within the budget funds available

Figure. Dynamics AX Budget Control on an AP Vendor Invoice showing that the invoice is within the budget funds available

Now let’s raise the amount to $70,000 and we get a warning that this transaction will take us over the budget funds available and the budget check has failed

Figure. Budget Check has failed since the invoice is over the Budget Funds Available

Figure. Budget Check has failed since the invoice is over the Budget Funds Available

Finally – we end with an Actual Versus Budget report. The report can be run on a net change basis where it compares period by period or by an accumulated basis where it calculates the rolling total of expenditures over the period and the rolling total of the budget over the same period. As a business owner, I prefer the accumulated as I could have period to period fluctuations and really care most about the big picture and how we are doing on an YTD basis.

Actual Versus Budget report

I trust this blog arms you with enough information to use the budgeting functionality in Dynamics AX 2012. If you need more information don’t hesitate to write to dynamics@ignify.com.

Sandeep Walia is CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a leading provider of Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions to mid-market and Enterprise businesses. Ignify has been ranked as Microsoft Partner of the Year Winner in 2011 and 2010 and in the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle, Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009. Ignify has offices and team members in Southern California, Northern California, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois, Washington, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Philippines.

Make Your Business the Standard for Customer Service Excellence with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

February 5th, 2012 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

Customer service horror stories – I have them, you have them, and I’m pretty sure any other person you ask off the street has one. There are the never-ending calls on hold, the representatives who don’t have a clue about either the product you purchased or your order history, and the ever-present feeling that you’re going around in circles trying to solve a seemingly easy and straightforward issue.

And when you have to deal with extremely frustrating, and sometimes useless, encounters with customer service representatives, it’s not very likely that you’ll hold that particular store in high regard, or that you’ll be in a hurry to return any time soon. And this can cause some serious problems for the business in concern.

According to a 2009 study conducted by Genesys, research firm Greenfield Online, and Datamonitor/Ovum analysts, poor customer service that results in abandoned purchases or defections to other companies costs U.S. companies an estimated $83 billion annually. People have no problem going elsewhere: in the U.S., 71% of consumers have ended a relationship due to a bad customer service experience, with survey participants stating that when they end a relationship, 61% of the time they will switch to a competitor.

These statistics show hard proof that good customer service isn’t just something that businesses should strive for – it is a business requirement. Given the importance of providing high quality customer service, companies need to look at any tool that enables them to more effectively work with, as well as manage, their customers. With the rich features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, companies offer their customers the premium service that results from having a comprehensive insight into customer activities and histories.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides an instant overview of customer accounts, enabling representatives to quickly identify customers and view past history

Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides an instant overview of customer accounts, enabling representatives to quickly identify customers and view past history.

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the ability to instantly access crucial account information allows representatives to get a quick understanding of customer needs. Providing good customer service means getting the right information at the right time. For example, If a representative is scrambling to find a customer and that customers order history with a long hold time – you take a bad situation and make it worse by the time the conversation starts. By establishing a basic information framework from which a representative can build on, Microsoft Dynamics CRM improves question and problem handling and offers the ability to address issues quickly.

A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that the biggest obstacles to productivity growth are too much time spent on administrative tasks and lack of customer understanding (See graph below). By providing centralized information and a 360 degree view of the customer Microsoft Dynamics CRM drives up both agent productivity and customer satisfaction. The creation of different types of workflows enable specific service processes to be consolidated and executed across a company, and also allows customer service reps to manage their work more efficiently. By creating either personal, workgroup, departmental, or federated workflows, organizations reduce their reliance on IT and gain a clearer understanding of the tasks and assignments associated with different job roles within the company.

The top two indicators for customer satisfaction are First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Call Handling time/ Resolution time

The top two indicators for customer satisfaction are First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Call Handling time/ Resolution time. Contact centers that have FCR of greater than 80% have a much higher degree of customer satisfaction than contact centers that have an FCR between 60 – 80%. Anything less than a 50% FCR is a recipe for customer churn. Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s robust case and incident management functionality, a customer service representative can easily create, manage, and resolve cases through many different communication channels – such as by phone, email, chat, Web, or in-person contact. Dynamics CRM automates the assignment and supervision of customer issues by routing, queuing, and escalating support incidents based on the specified rules ensuring that cases get to the agents that are qualified to handle the issue. In addition functionality to get Export on Call assistance provides the ability for an agent to get help while online with the customer. With this automation, representatives speed up first call resolution and better serve their customers.

With the in-depth case management capabilities, representatives are able to get an at-a-glance view of each customer’s information, case history and service contracts and deliver appropriate service fast

With the in-depth case management capabilities, representatives are able to get an at-a-glance view of each customer’s information, case history and service contracts and deliver appropriate service fast.

After planning and completing case activities, a representative can record in the customer account the issue raised by the customer and the representative’s actions in resolving the issue. By saving a record of the entire case resolution process, representatives have information that can be referenced in the future in case the same issue pops up, or if a similar one does. Keeping that information on-hand and using it when it’s needed shows a company’s commitment to maintaining and updating their clients’ data, which in turn proves to the customer that their needs are a first priority of both the representative and the company as a whole.

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s all-encompassing customer service functionality, companies benefit from a system that delivers customer information, order and case history, sales information, case management, automated workflows for assignment and escalation quickly and efficiently. With this detailed knowledge right at their fingertips, customer service reps are better equipped to provide excellent support to clients by quickly and efficiently resolving any problems or issues.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, software solutions to banks, insurance and financial service institutions. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.