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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) with Microsoft Dynamics AX

October 21st, 2015 Sandeep Walia No comments

Microsoft Dynamics AX provides a great foundation for customers with its Product Information Management (PIM) capabilities to get light PLM capabilities for a business. In this article, I’ll cover some of the features that provide for good PIM, basic PLM and Product Data Management (PDM) capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. While some customers will need specialized PLM software many light manufacturers and assemblers may find the integrated functionality built into Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP sufficient to manage their business.

Product Development and Planning: Microsoft Dynamics AX provides the ability to build a complete product development plan from ideation, prototyping, modeling, tooling, product manufacturing to product release. An example product development plan is shown below.

Product Development and Planning

Product development planning can be done within Microsoft Dynamics AX using its Project Management features. Planning can be at a summary level or detailed level.

Product Mastering: Microsoft Dynamics AX supports a global product master that is common across companies. The product can have multiple product attributes and when released to a company takes on an item number.

Items can have multiple Item Variants through the use of dimensions such as Size, Color, Configuration/ Style. The Item Variants could be considered the equivalent of a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU).

Product Mastering

Product Information Management within Microsoft Dynamics AX allows for a global product master which can be released to companies and have Items and Item Variants (SKUs)

As an example:

Product – Summer Doll

Items: USA Summer Doll, Canada Summer Doll

Item Variants for USA Summer Doll: USA Summer Doll – Pink color in Claudia Style, USA Summer Doll – Purple color in Claudia Style, USA Summer Doll – Pink color in Sylvia Style. USA Summer Doll – Red color in Sylvia Style.

What’s the business benefit of doing this? There are several – let’s start with a manageable product master and Item master. For example if I had a baseball bat in 4 colors, if I don’t use dimensions, I would need to create 4 Item as shown below

Product Mastering Example

Instead look at the example of the warm up pants where I just have one item with over 40 variants with different colors and sizes. I’m able to keep a manageable size product master by artfully using the dimensions.

Product Dimensions within Microsoft Dynamics AX

Product Dimensions within Microsoft Dynamics AX such as Size, Style and Color help make the product master manageable

Product Segmentation and Reporting: Microsoft Dynamics AX allows segmentation of a product with the use of Product Attributes. For example the Cool girlz doll product below is targeted to 6-10 year girls and is launched in Fall 2016 for the USA market. If I needed to analyze my revenues by product s for age segment (6-10 years, 11-15 years, 16-19 years..), I can use the Customer Segment attribute to drive reporting in this example

Product Segmentation and Reporting

Product attributes can be used for reporting and product segmentation

Product Costing with a Bill of Materials: Microsoft Dynamics AX provides full Bill off Material capabilities along with ability to do a cost roll up to get the true cost of manufacturing an item so that product profitability analysis and pricing analysis can be done.  An example of a BOM of the Cool girlz doll referenced before is shown below

Product Costing with a Bill of Materials

In summary, Microsoft Dynamics AX can establish a cohesive ERP-based platform for product management to:

  • Optimize relationships along the product lifecycle and across organizations
  • Set up a single system of record to support diverse data needs, so that the right people see the right information at the right time, and in the right context
  • Increase full price sales
  • Generate savings through re-use of original data
  • Provide a better picture of your true margins
  • Ensure quicker and more reliable quoting with accurate product information
  • Drive top-line revenue through repeatable processes

For more information on product mastering, PLM and comprehensive product data management please email us at dynamics@ignify.com

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is winner/finalist of the Worldwide Microsoft Partner Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010, and offers eCommerce, ERP, CRM, Order Management and POS solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for seven years in a row by Inc. Magazine and Deloitte in the FAST 500 from 2008 to 2013.

5 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You about Retail ERP Software

October 16th, 2015 Chelsea Cole No comments

We all know competition is a fact of life. One of the biggest aspects of running a successful business is knowing what your competitors are up to. As a company it is important to try to stay one step ahead. In order to compete with a greater impact businesses should be looking to the best and newest forms of technology. Unfortunately, due to hesitancy, competitors can often times get ahead of the game. Read on to learn 5 things your competitors can teach you about the benefits of Retail ERP Software. (And want proof? Read the successes that retailers have experienced firsthand from Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail here: http://bit.ly/1G7Z4SN).

1. Time Management is Crucial

When it comes to competing with other businesses, the sure fire way to rise to the top of the heap is by saving time. Time and accuracy are the main attributes that contribute to efficient business practices. No company wants to be spending their time manually entering information, often times on multiple different systems. This can lead to frustration and annoyance. Not only does this waste time, it can lead to inconsistencies and inefficiencies in decision making and planning. An ERP software can solve this issue by providing a single, unified view of all business information. With an ERP system like Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retailers your competitors are avoiding redundant data entry and manual tasks. Reduce manual data entry and other tedious tasks and make a difference in company growth by investing in a Microsoft ERP solution.

Reduce manual tasks by introducing a completely connected ERP system that covers all areas of retail.

Figure 1. Reduce manual tasks by introducing a completely connected ERP system that covers all areas of retail.

2. How to Support Future Growth

Don’t fall so far behind that it becomes impossible to catch up with competitors. Watching other companies in your industry expand as their business easily grows larger and larger can be frustrating. With a Dynamics ERP system, smooth business growth becomes increasingly more efficient and feasible. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail enables managers to implement predictive analytics, which helps efficiently introduce new products and target new markets. If your company wants to grow globally it cannot operate on out of date or heavily modified systems. Instead, move faster with more confidence and allow your company to grow and expand with no headaches. Whether it’s transitioning from a mom and pop shop to brick and mortar, moving from a production based organization to a sales driven one, or simply expanding locations. Microsoft Dynamics AX can help you easily operate your business across geographies and locations with deployment options that are flexible enough to support new sales channels and keep up with a continually changing industry.

3. Visibility is Essential for Real Time Market Changes

What cannot be seen cannot be improved. Visibility is a key factor in guaranteeing a successful business practice. Only with full visibility into your company’s workings can a business react to real time market changes. Microsoft Dynamics AX allows for full visibility into business events that might not be entirely apparent, such as fulfillment rates and inventory movement. Making sure all aspects of business are completely transparent allows for faster and better decision making. Competitors are reacting to market changes in a timely manner making it important to adapt quickly to changing business requirements with POS add-ins and extensible headquarter software that can be tailored to meet specific retail needs. Achieve greater visibility and access information to ensure your organization is operating in the best way possible with Microsoft Dynamic AX for Retail.

Purpose-built POS components provide inventory visibility and efficient checkout processes.

Figure 2. Purpose-built POS components provide inventory visibility and efficient checkout processes.

4. Everything Starts with Inventory and Warehouse Management

When it comes to any type of retail business, the exterior cannot work without a smoothly functioning internal system. This starts with the warehouse and inventory. Inventory management is a critical component of a smooth operation. If the inventory is off than the whole system is off. ERP solutions help manage existing inventory as well as enables future products to integrate smoothly. The fulfillment and warehouse management systems in Dynamics AX provide a solution that is able to meet complex and unique requirements allowing you to manage the warehouse inventory, improve store replenishment cycle, and satisfy customers need at the fastest rate possible.

5. Create an Omni-Channel System for Optimal Success

There are so many building blocks that make up a successful business. In order to effectively compete in the market place there has to be clear communication and smooth flow between all channels. The more channels a customers has to choose from that better the business opportunity, and the more likely they will choose your business over a competitor’s. Dynamics ERP systems work to easily connect complex multi-channel systems. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail enhances the customer experience by providing the ability to the mix and match payment providers, leverage support for shopping carts, buy online and make returns to a physical store, and much more.

Microsoft Dynamics AX, built from the ground up, cohesively acts as the core to complex omni-channel retail businesses.

Figure 3. Microsoft Dynamics AX, built from the ground up, cohesively acts as the core to complex omni-channel retail businesses.

If you would like more information on Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail, please email retail@ignify.com.

Chelsea Cole is a Proposal Writer at Ignify. Ignify is Worldwide Microsoft Partner in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010, and offers eCommerce, ERP, CRM, Order Management and POS solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Inc. Magazine and Deloitte in the FAST 500 from 2008 to 2013.

The Top 6 Things that Undermine Customer Loyalty

October 14th, 2015 Chelsea Cole No comments

The main aspect that any retail business should be concerned with is customers. The goal is to attract new customers and retain the old ones, however customers today have so many choices it can be easy to make mistakes when it comes to retaining their loyalty. It is important to keep meaningful relationships with customers across multiple channels that will keep them loyal to your business. Ignify’s Loyalty Management Solution can give you insights into better understanding your customers that will prevent you from making the major mistakes that retailers often make. Because a retail business lives and dies on what their customers think of them, here are the top 6 things that undermine customer loyalty – and how the Loyalty Management Solution prevents them:

1. Focusing on the Wrong Customers

When it comes to marketing strategies and business processes, many companies strive to gain new customers. And while gaining new customers is important and good for business, it is also important not to neglect those customers that already exist. With a loyalty program, you can reward the customers that shop in your store and guarantee their continued patronage. Ignify’s Loyalty Management Solution enables businesses to offer different types of incentives in their loyalty programs, such as a points based program where customers earn rewards for money spent, or frequency of transactions. You can also offer special deals only for loyalty customers like BOGOs or discounts on birthdays. These personalized offers help create better relationships with existing customers and motivate them to make repeat purchases.

Key Functionalities Offered.

Figure 1: The key functionalities offered by Ignify’s Loyalty Management Solution.

2. Not Paying Attention to the Individual

Another way to give customers an experience guaranteed to please is by making it tailored specifically for them. The best way to show a customer that their loyalty is important is by having access to a 360- degree view of the customer so that you can be in tune with their individual needs. A fully rounded view can provide a next level in-store experience that shows you care about them as individuals. Ignify’s Loyalty Management Solution provides easy access to customer’s past purchase history, their profile and product preferences, their specific wish lists created online, and the specific products they might have browsed online. This information helps equip store associates for giving customers an unmatched, attentive shopping experience that will strengthen long-term loyalty.

3. Leaving Employees Out

Although customers are the main focus of a successful business, it is crucial to remember what makes a customer’s interaction with the business work: the employee. A company cannot prosper unless the employees are competent and happy. The quickest way to cultivate a disgruntled employee atmosphere is by making them work with out of date, complicated system software that they do not understand. Negligent employees will only lead to bad customer service and unhappy customers. Offer your employees an easy to use, helpful system that will allow them to convey the best possible customer service experience. The Loyalty Management Solution provides a full view of the customer and the tools employees need to leverage that view. Putting this type of knowledge and the right tools into your employee’s hands will inspire them to provide that best customer care possible. They will work better if they understand how to use an easy solution that exists in order to help them be the best that they can be.

Easy Access Using Tablet Devices.

Figure 2: Tablet devices allow Employee's easy access to customer information.

4. Incongruent Channels

What’s better than giving customers one channel to access your company? Giving them multiple channels. As customers’ tastes and preferences change they often want to seek out interactions across a multi-channel platform. While a multi-channel system is great for business it is even more important that all these channels are connected and in sync with one another. Disparate systems for each channel create a fragmented view of the customer. A CRM system helps consolidate all customer information and records. This way, if a customer that typically shops online decides to come into the store, representatives can still access their records and transaction history. A unified loyalty program that merges all channels will make sure that customers are receiving the best service and will help retailers have easily accessible customer information for any scenario.

Key Customer Service Functionalities.

Figure 3: Key customer service functionalities include case management, automated service process, and dialogs.

5. Inconsistent Communication with Customers

The best way to keep customers coming back is by making sure you are keeping up constant communication. If your business is on their mind, it will be the first place they look to when shopping. Ignify’s Loyalty Management Solution keeps a database with customer information and contact info so that you can give special treatment to loyal customers such as birthday greetings, reminders on sales, access to downloading apps, or special offers and deals. With this system, employees and representative have customer related information at their fingertips. It also provides a case management system with integrated knowledge base, call guides, escalation functionality, and more features that will provide better quality service and will allow you to keep in touch with those customers that are most loyal to your brand.

Create App to Track Customer Rewards.

Figure 4: Create an app for customers to track their rewards.

6. Fear of Advancement

All of the ways in which customer loyalty can potentially become undermined can be improved by talking one simple step, which is investing in your business by investing in technology. By simply implementing a loyalty solution you can improve customer service and loyalty be leaps and bounds. Even though this seems like a no brainer, many retailers can be hesitant about systems they don’t understand. Don’t let yourself fall behind and lose customers to your competitors. The Loyalty Management Solution is simple and helpful while resembling the Microsoft products you are already used to. The benefits of a loyalty system, and thus this particular solution, far outweigh the small effort it takes to implement this new solution.

Customer Profile Analytics and Reports.

Figure 5: See costumer profile analytics and reports.

Ignify’s Loyalty Management Solution strengthens relationships with customers, reduces total cost, and make disparate systems and channels come together as a well-oiled machine. For more information, please email us at loyalty@ignify.com.

Chelsea Cole is a Proposal Writer at Ignify. Ignify is Worldwide Microsoft Partner in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010, and offers eCommerce, ERP, CRM, Order Management and POS solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Inc. Magazine and Deloitte in the FAST 500 from 2008 to 2013.