Why do SMEs need to adopt ERP systems sooner?

82% of SMEs with less than US$50 million of annual revenue use ERP systems

The Commerce Department defines Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) as the companies with employee size ranging from 3 to 250. There were estimated to be approximately 332.99 million SMEs worldwide in 2021.

Major Statistics

  1. In the Asia-Pacific region, SMEs comprise 98% of enterprises and employ 50% of the workforce.
  2. The Middle East & Africa is the fourth largest region in the global Enterprise Resource Planning software market. It is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.3%.
  3. Adopting ERPs has become a major business practice in the UK in recent years and now 67% of businesses have adopted it. But only 30% of SMEs use it. SMEs through Funding Circle generated a £6.9 billion contribution to UK GDP, supporting nearly 106,000 jobs.

SMEs played a role in Asia's economic growth

In the Asia-Pacific region SMEs comprise more than 98% of the number of enterprises. These contribute from about 17% to the national GDP in low-income countries including India to about 40 to 50% in higher-income countries like Malaysia and Singapore.

In Asia, in general, SMEs end up playing an important role in the overall social and economic well-being of their countries. However, when companies reach roughly 100 employees or $10 million in annual revenue, it is found that they outgrow many of the processes and systems that used to work just fine. Sometimes it hits earlier, at $5 million, and sometimes it’s closer to $15 million, but sooner or later, it’s time for scalable systems.

Inventory management by clipboard and spreadsheet becomes unwieldy. Letting sales teams track customers and prospects ad hoc becomes unproductive. To maintain continued growth requires a data-driven approach to marketing. And so it goes, department by department.

In this blog post, we will further understand the reason for such a widespread adoption of ERP:

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are comprehensive software solutions designed to streamline and integrate various business processes, including finance, human resources, supply chain management, and customer relationship management.

Historically, ERP systems were mainly associated with large corporations due to their complexity and cost. However, recent years have seen a notable shift in the adoption of ERP systems among SMEs. The few reasons for such a widespread adoption are:

1. Improved Efficiency and Productivity: One of the primary reasons for the increased adoption of ERP systems among SMEs is the promise of improved efficiency and productivity. By centralising data and automating repetitive tasks, SMEs reduce manual errors, save time, and allocate resources more effectively.

2. Data-Driven Decision Making: The access to real-time data and analytics enabling informed decision-making through ERP systems provides SMEs with a data-driven approach. This helps in identifying growth opportunities, optimising processes, and responding quickly to market changes.

3. Enhanced Customer Experience: In times where customer experience is paramount for all kinds of organisations because of their contribution towards success, reputation and sustainability. With ERP systems, SMEs can better manage customer relationships, track interactions, and provide personalised experiences leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. This leads to a competitive advantage, employee satisfaction, regulatory compliance, revenue growth and cost savings all in the long term.

4. Scalability: As the years pass, a successful business grows and expands in various areas and ERP systems are designed to grow with your business. This scalability is particularly beneficial for SMEs, as they can start with essential modules and add more functionalities as their needs evolve with time.

5. Cost Savings: As an organisation willing to grow, it is important to understand that long-term goals and investments are of greater importance. Contrary to the perception that ERP systems are expensive, they often result in long-term cost savings. Reduced operational inefficiencies, better inventory management, and optimised procurement lead to significant financial benefits.

Challenges and Considerations:

While the adoption of ERP systems among SMEs offers numerous advantages, it is essential to consider potential challenges to be able to curb them in time.

1. Implementation Costs: While we understand that adoption of ERP systems results in long-term cost savings, its initial implementation is a significant investment and careful budgeting and planning can play a crucial role while choosing and considering various options before the implementation.

2. Change Management: Changes are not always welcome because they bring a certain disruption. Every new change initially is uncomfortable and adapting a new ERP system brings changes in the workflow and processes. It is vital to understand the flow of change and invest in strategies to ensure a smooth transition for their employees.

3. Training and Support: Once the ERP system is adopted in an organisation it is important to maximise its benefits as soon as possible which can be done with adequate training and ongoing support. A major step in this direction could be partnering with experienced ERP providers who make the onboarding process smooth and reduce the scale of disruption caused due to the change. Allocating resources for appropriate training is also vital during the adoption.

Conclusion

ERP systems empower SMEs and level the playing field for them to compete with larger enterprises. While there are challenges, the long-term benefits of an ERP are clear and a strategic plan to invest in them will enable data-driven decision-making and enhance the customer experience.

The statistic that 82% of SMEs with less than $50 million in annual revenue are using ERP systems is a strong indicator of the fact that there is an increased awareness in the industry about the transformative potential of an ERP system and the positive change it brings. As a result, they have adopted these systems to harness these advantages, and this trend is growing.

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Planning to implement an ERP system ?

If you’re planning to implement an ERP system but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Our team can guide you through the entire process to ensure a smooth implementation.

Power Pages Vs PowerApps Portals

Although Power Apps Portals have been available for some time, we often get asked about what it is and how Portals can be used within an organisation. At Microsoft Build in May 2022, Power Pages also joined the Microsoft Power Platform family as a new standalone product. In the following blog post we will learn about them individually and how they are different from each other. There is more description about the implications and use case scenarios for each of them and how they can make work in and outside an organisation efficient.

Power Apps Portals

Power Pages Vs PowerApps Portals blog Image 01

What Is Power Apps Portals (Platforms)

Power Apps Portals is a tool that will help you create external-facing websites, like a customer portal or a self-service site for people outside your organisation. It’s used by businesses or organisations that want to give their customers, partners, or anyone outside their company access to specific information or services.

Example: You can use it to build a portal where customers can check their account information, submit support requests, or access resources.
Power Apps offer a good amount of flexibility to design and customise how the portal looks and what it does. You can also control who gets access, making sure only authorised users can use the portal.

Power Pages

Power Pages Vs PowerApps Portals blog Image 02

Power Pages are a bit like webpages, but they’re created using Microsoft Power Apps. These are typically used internally for your organisation. It’s for people within your organisation who want to build web-style pages to display information or create apps.

Example: You might use Power Pages to create an internal knowledge base, show department-specific data, or build a tool for employees such as ‘Employee Self Service Portal’.
Power Pages are flexible and can be designed to look like a web page or app that fits your organisation’s needs. Since it’s for internal use, you can control who in your organisation can access the Power Pages.

Parameter Power Apps Power Pages
Audience
External users (customers, partners).
Internal users (organisation's employees).
Purpose
Sharing information and services with the outside world.
For creating content and tools for your organisation's internal use.
Access Control
Portals are for a broader external audience which has permission or licence to access Power Apps.
You have more control over who can access Power Pages since they're meant for internal use.

Implications of using Power Apps Portals and Power Pages

Power Apps Portals:

  1. External Engagement: Power Apps Portals allow you to engage with external users such as customers, partners, or suppliers. This implies greater exposure to external stakeholders, which can be beneficial for business.
  2. Scalability: Depending on your licensing and infrastructure, you may need to consider the scalability of Power Apps Portals to ensure it can handle the expected volume of external users and data interactions.
  3. Customisation: Portals offer a high degree of customisation to tailor the user experience. However, extensive customisation can also require more development effort and maintenance.
  4. Security: Managing user authentication and authorization is crucial to protect sensitive data in external-facing portals. Proper security measures must be in place to prevent unauthorised access.
  5. Cost: Licensing costs can vary based on usage and features. Organisations need to assess the cost implications of providing external users access to Power Apps Portals.

Power Pages:

  1. Internal Use: Power Pages are designed for internal use within your organisation. This implies that they are typically used for creating internal tools, dashboards, or content repositories.
  2. Knowledge Transfer: Power Pages can be used to create internal knowledge bases or documentation repositories, making it easier for employees to access and share information. This can facilitate knowledge transfer and collaboration.
  3. Workflow Efficiency: They can streamline internal processes by providing employees with custom tools and dashboards tailored to their roles. This can lead to improved workflow efficiency.
  4. Data Security: Since Power Pages are for internal use, there’s less concern about external data exposure. However, you should still manage access permissions to ensure sensitive information is protected.
  5. Development Resources: Building and maintaining Power Pages may require development resources or expertise, especially if complex functionality is needed.

To summarise, use of Power Apps Portals and Power Pages depend on your organisation’s specific needs and use cases. Portals are ideal for engaging external stakeholders but require attention to scalability, security, and cost. Power Pages are suited for internal use, promoting knowledge transfer and workflow efficiency, but may require development resources. Both should align with the organisation’s strategic objectives and data security policies.

Use case scenarios

When should Power Apps be chosen?

  1. When the organisation needs to provide external stakeholders, such as customers, partners, or suppliers, with access to specific information or services, Power Apps Portals is the right choice.
  2. When there’s a need to create a self-service portal where customers can access account information, submit support requests, or interact with your organisation’s services, Power Apps Portals is a suitable solution.
  3. When data needs to be shared securely with external parties, like sharing project status or product information with partners, Power Apps Portals provides a controlled environment.
  4. If the organisation requires a highly customised and branded external-facing web portal to match its specific look and feel, Power Apps Portals offers extensive customisation options.
  5. When there’s a need to manage user authentication and authorization for external users effectively, Power Apps Portals provides tools for access control.

When should Power Pages be chosen?

  1. For internal tools, dashboards, or content repositories designed to streamline internal processes and workflows, Power Pages are a suitable choice.
  2. When the organisation needs an internal knowledge base or documentation repository to facilitate knowledge transfer and collaboration among employees, Power Pages are well-suited.
  3. If custom tools are needed for specific roles or departments within the organisation to improve workflow efficiency, Power Pages can be designed to meet those requirements.
  4. When data needs to be presented in a visual and interactive format for internal users, Power Pages can be used to create dashboards and reports.
  5. If sensitive data is involved and you want to ensure that it remains within the organisation, Power Pages can be used for internal data management without external exposure.

In some cases, an organisation may choose to use both Power Apps Portals and Power Pages to cater to different user groups and requirements. The choice ultimately depends on the organisation’s goals, the nature of its interactions whether internal or external, and the level of customisation and control needed for each scenario. It is advisable to conduct a thorough assessment of the specific use cases and consult with experts to make an informed decision. By leveraging the strengths of both Power Apps Portals and Power Pages, businesses can unlock a comprehensive suite of tools to meet diverse external and internal requirements efficiently.

Planning to implement an ERP system ?

If you’re planning to implement an ERP system but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Our team can guide you through the entire process to ensure a smooth implementation.

What is RPA and how to use it in various ways to improve your business efficiency

What is RPA and how to use it in various ways to improve your business efficiency - Blog Header image

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, the leading ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Software of 2022 is an all encompassing solution. However, combining Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Microsoft Power Platform, and AI Builder with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers a comprehensive solution for process automation, data integration, and advanced analytics. This integration can drive operational efficiency, cost savings, improved accuracy, and enhanced customer experiences, ultimately leading to a competitive advantage in today’s rapidly changing business landscape.

What is RPA and how does it help your business?

RPA is a technology involving the use of software bots to automate repetitive tasks in an organisation which usually require human intervention, they mimic the human interaction with digital systems, such as data entry, invoice processing, or interacting with various other applications and systems enabling end to end automation of processes. RPA has gained significant popularity due to its potential to enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs and improve accuracy.

Let’s understand what is RPA and how it helps:

  1. Saving Time and Efficiency: Today, saving time and increasing efficiency are one of the major concerns for all small and medium sized enterprises (SME). It is crucial to automate tasks that are repetitive in nature and exhaust a lot of human time and efforts. RPA leads to considerable time saving and faster processing of tasks which increases operational efficiency.
  2. Budget cuts: Small or Medium sized enterprises are always seeking to reduce labour costs. RPA does the job by cutting the need for repetitive tasks which are usually done manually. It also reduces the likelihood of errors and the cost that comes with rectifying that error.
  3. Accuracy: Accuracy is a vital aspect for decision making, customer satisfaction, financial health and the compliance & legal issues within an organisation. Accuracy also improves the operational efficiency and improves interpersonal relations between vendor and supplier. The ability of RPA software to run with an elevated level of accuracy helps in minimising the chances of human error and thus achieving the said results.
  4. Scalability, Efficiency & Consistency: Humans have been fulfilling the task of operations and data handling manually for years now irrespective of the size of the organisation. But in today’s age it has become vital to keep a competitive edge with other organisations and industries and to provide the best to customers, which demands a digital transformation of the processes.
    RPA bots have the ability to work around the clock while minimising errors. They can manage data across multiple systems, databases and applications. They can easily scale up or down based on the volume of work and do not require added labour. They ensure consistent work with predefined rules and established procedures.
  5. Free up human Focus: Humans carry the power to think strategically unlike the bots and it would be a valuable addition to business if repetitive tasks were replaced with bots and free up human focus for more strategic, creative, critical thinking and decision-making matters.
  6. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Carrying out ethical responsibilities and adhering to legal boundaries of law is important while carrying out business. Adhering to regulations ensures that the business avoids legal penalties, fines, and reputational damage. Compliance also builds trust with customers, investors, and stakeholders, showcasing the company’s commitment to ethical practices. 
    The RPA system helps ensure that tasks are performed in a consistent and compliant manner, reducing the risk of non-compliance with regulations and policies by reducing human involvement to minimal. It can also provide detailed logs of all actions performed, facilitating easier audit trails and reporting for regulatory purposes.
  7. Better Customer Experience: A better customer experience drives loyalty, repeat business and positive word of mouth referrals for the business. Moreover, focusing on customer experience boosts employee morale, encourages feedback, and fosters adaptability in a rapidly changing market. Ultimately, prioritising customer experience is a strategic investment that fuels business growth and sustainability. 
    RPA helps in improving this experience by enhancing the order processing, billing, and customer service interactions directly affecting customer satisfaction. The elimination of error is important to avoid customer complaints, loss of trust, and damage to the company’s reputation.

To understand better how RPA functions with other tools of Microsoft, let’s understand more about them.

Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of tools that enables you to build low-code or no-code solutions for your business needs. It allows users to create custom applications, automate workflows, analyse data and integrate various systems.

One of the main components of Power Platform is Power Automate, which is a workflow automation tool that allows you to create workflows that connect various applications and services, both on-premise and in the cloud. 
Power Automate also supports RPA through its desktop flows feature, which allows recording and replay actions on your desktop applications. It allows users to create workflows that trigger actions based on specific events of conditions streamlining the business process.

AI Builder is a component of Power Platform that allows adding artificial intelligence capabilities to your workflows without the need of extensive coding or AI expertise. AI Builder provides pre-built models for common scenarios, such as form processing, object detection, prediction, and text classification. You can also create your own custom models using your data and business logic. 

By combining RPA and AI Builder, you can create powerful solutions that automate complex processes involving unstructured data and legacy systems like Microsoft Dynamics Business Central. For example, you can use AI Builder to extract information from scanned invoices / receipts, and then use RPA to enter the data into your Microsoft Dynamics Business Central. Or you can use AI Builder to analyse customer feedback, and then use RPA to send personalised emails based on the sentiment.

How Microsoft Power Platform and Power Automate enable RPA with low-code development:

Our in-house solution supports different modes in RPA Domain, Attended and Unattended. The Attended mode is set up to work alongside humans to automate tasks that require some level of human intervention. Unattended mode is set up where no human intervention is needed and can streamline a fully automated process till the end. 

An example of unattended mode is mailing document attachments to a chosen email address and Power Platform processes them from the attachment and completes the process. In this blog, we will further show the solution workflow for the Attended mode.

Power Apps (canvas app) / Power Page to upload the PDF file of Invoices

Step 1: Add correct data source (for e.g., Microsoft Dataverse, Data Lake, SharePoint, etc.).

Step 2: Add attachment control with PDF Viewer on Power Apps to allow users to upload the files.

Step 3: Use Powerapps V2 trigger in Power Automate to process the file further with AI Builder.

Power Apps canvas app Power Page to upload the PDF file of Invoices

Power Automate flows to process uploaded PDF files and uses AI Builder model to recognise it and process them to Business Central

After creating Power Apps, create a flow to process the document. This connector allows you to access your Business Central data and actions from Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents. To use this connector, follow these steps: 

Step 1: In the whole flow solution, we consumed AI builder (invoice processing), Dataverse, Microsoft Business Central, (optional components like Adaptive Card and Microsoft Teams for approval).

Get the approval on Teams

Power Apps and Power Platform is created, now you can get approvals from Manager / authorised personnel over Microsoft Teams: 

Step 1: You can use the approvals app in Teams to create, manage, and share approvals from your hub for teamwork. You can quickly start an approval flow from the same place you send a chat, a channel conversation, or from the approval app itself. Just select an approval type, add details, attach files, and choose approvers. Once given, approvers are notified and can review and act on the request. These approvals are triggered directly with the Power Automate infrastructure and do not require a flow with an approvals action.

Get the approval on Teams

Step 2: After the document is approved, Power Automate processes the document further and creates the relevant document in Microsoft Dynamics Business Central.

Solution Workflow

Below is the sample invoice which is uploaded on solution (in Attended mode) / comes as an attachment with the email (Unattended mode): 

Solution Workflow RPA Blog

Uploading the file on Power Apps / Power Portal page:

Solution Workflow RPA Blog

After approval, the document gets scanned, processed to be made available in Business Central:

The features and functions of pre-built AI Builder model and how it enhances RPA with artificial intelligence:

Text recognition

  • You can use the business card pre-built model to extract information from business card images. If it detects a business card in the image resulting in the AI model extracting information such as the person’s name, job title, address, email, company, and phone numbers. 
  • The text recognition pre-built model extracts words from documents and images into machine-readable character streams. It uses state-of-the-art optical character recognition (OCR) to detect printed and handwritten text in images. 
  • The language detection pre-built model finds the predominant language of a text document. The model analyses the text and returns the detected language. 
  • The text translation pre-built model translates your text data in real time across more than 60 languages. This prebuilt model could help remove language barriers within your company. 
  • The sentiment analysis pre-built model detects positive or negative sentiment in text data. You can use it to analyse social media, customer reviews, or any text data you are interested in.

Document or form processing

  • Document processing lets you read and save information from standard documents such as invoices or tax documents. When you automate this process, you can save valuable time by reviewing, extracting, organising, and saving the data automatically by using Power Automate and Power Apps. Train the model with different formats of documents. 
  • Receipt processing is a pre-built model that uses state-of-the-art optical character recognition (OCR) to detect printed and handwritten text and extract key information from receipts.

More Use cases where RPA and AI Builder can be applied together:

Use case 1– To ease data synchronisation and retrieval with Microsoft Business Central, front-line workers will capture an image of a product or an object that has an identifier or a price tag on it. 

Use case 2– When a customer expresses their dissatisfaction with the service on ‘X’ (previously twitter), using the service provider’s hashtag, and complains about not being able to access their account or receive any notice of site maintenance, the AI Builder Sentiment analysis model automatically detects the negative sentiment of the tweet and triggers a flow to notify a customer service representative.

Use case 3– To gain insight into how the employees feel about the new HR medical policy, an HR manager conducts a sentiment analysis on the comments they provided in the survey. The analysis shows that the overall sentiment is neutral, but there are some negative comments as well. The manager reviews the negative comments and finds out that many employees are confused or unaware of the benefits of the policy. To address this issue, the manager organises informative sessions where the policy is explained in detail and questions are answered.

Use case 4– The audit staff in charge of the front-line operations capture images of the merchandise on display. A computer vision algorithm finds and counts each item in the image. This data can be integrated with the inventory management system to reflect the current stock.

Use case 5– Using a camera device, a field agent captures an image of a product. The system finds the product and retrieves all the relevant information that was previously entered manually. 

Use case 6– One of the major operational costs for businesses is travel and expense (T&E). This cost is also challenging to manage because it involves a lot of manual work and can lead to mistakes. You can simplify this process by uploading a receipt, which will automatically extract the data from the receipt and populate the expense report fields. Moreover, you can streamline the entire extraction process, scanning receipts as they are stored in a central location, and reconcile them with credit card transactions.

Conclusion

In this blog, we understood how the union of Microsoft power platform, AI builder, and Dynamics 365 Business Central have paved the way for a transformative approach to RPA (Robotic Process Automation). These tools integrate and channel the capabilities of low-code development, artificial intelligence, and seamless application connectivity to revolutonise the operational activities for its users.

The automation of the routine-based task frees up human resources for more strategic tasks. The user interface of Power Automate helps in automating workflow without the extensive use of coding. The prebuilt and custom AI models offer intelligent decision-making improving accuracy.

When integrated with Dynamics 365 Business Central, the RPA capabilities become even more potent by improving the interactions between applications, data, and services and achieving automation across supply chains, fiscal management, customer service and beyond.  

There must be emphasis on change management and strategic planning as and when the organisations embark on their journey of harnessing the potential of RPA using Microsoft tools. The acceptance of this technology integration businesses can empower their workforce and lay the groundwork for more optimised processes.  

Learn more about our RPA solutions at Winspire Solutions. Contact our experts for a demo, licence requirements and further enquiries.

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Planning to implement an ERP system ?

If you’re planning to implement an ERP system but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Our team can guide you through the entire process to ensure a smooth implementation.

B2B Customer Web Portal

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This blog will help you understand what functions and features are necessary to make a great B2B Customer Web Portal that can improve the digital experience of your customers as world economies open their borders post-pandemic.

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