That’s the Best We Can Do

“That’s the Best We Can Do” is not what you want to hear someone say when you are asking him or her for professional help. It’s not quite throwing in the towel but it is an admission that even if there is a better solution, he or she cannot do it. The recipient of this response then needs to evaluate the situation and decide if not getting the best or even a better solution is that important. They also have to decide if it is worth it to find someone else who can do better.


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A Good Project Manager Knows His Software User

We were on the phone talking to the project liaison for the company that was installing a new accounting system for my client. We were both looking at the same order entry screen on our respective computers. I asked the fellow if he thought that the prompts display for the input fields made sense. I suggested that there should be better field labels that more clearly defined their purpose. All it did was confuse the user.

He responded that he had no opinion that in all the years he programmed he never got involved or thought about the user’s perspective. He had assignments or tasks to complete and he did what he was told. And this was the man who was the liaison between my client and the programmers on his software company’s staff.

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Investigate Before Switching Software

When considering switching to a different accounting system, investigate all aspects. One minor item on the negative checklist shouldn’t kill a deal but one should be checking that there are not too many negatives.

We recently came across a client committed to switching to another system and then found out that the software did not allow for entering a non-stock code line item into a sales order. Every line item had to have a code that exists first in the item master file. This was a hardship as the client sold many items as one-timers. The software purveyors told them it was too difficult to make the necessary changes to permit it. The client was stuck with a work-around that made clerical action more involved but they had already written an initial payment to the software vendor.

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It’s Your Business Culture

Call it what you want- your culture, policies, practices. It’s yours- not someone else telling you how it should be. Unless, of course, you ask for advice.

You go to the barber. He says it’s his policy to always cut sideburns short. You want to keep the long sideburns. So you realize this guy is not the one you want to cut your hair.

You go to a supermarket and see ten people standing in a winding line waiting to be taken care of at the checkout. There are no other checkouts open. It’s the store policy to only hire one checkout person regardless of customer traffic. You make a note as to whether you ever want to return to this scene or shop elsewhere in the future.

You sit in the driver’s seat of your car the way you feel most comfortable, set the steering wheel position, lock in the push buttons on the radio dial to stations you prefer. When you go to buy a new car, you don’t want the salesman to tell you that you can only listen to certain stations and that the buttons have been preset. That you must keep the steering wheel at a certain tilt, etc.

We can go on with examples- the point is that businesses establish their own culture. Sometimes they are willing to adjust, sometimes they say take it or leave it to the customer. Maybe it depends on who holds the cards.

A client asked us to help them navigate the emotional traipse through the process of buying a new accounting system. A business uses a particular package for a good number of years and realizes that it is now time to consider an alternative.

There were two issues of concern with the accounting system:

  1. They labeled what you or I would call Normal Order process SPECIAL ORDER. That’s correct- to them special order meant that when selling something out of stock, a request to have the supplier expedite the product back to them was special. The accounting system designer considered that m ost businesses would let the supplier drop ship the product for them to their end customer.

    That may work for some small time ecommerce operators but not for medium sized businesses.

  2. The accounting software had no provision for non-stock item entry where the input person could leave the item code field blank and free form a description, selling price, and cost. It required that an item code always needed to be entered and if one did not exist it would be created on-the-fly.

The accounting software rep had no interest in figuring how to adapt his product to my client’s business culture. It would now be up to the client to decide how comfortable they would be playing other radio stations in the car than what they were used to.

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Accounting Software: Menu-Driven vs Work-Flow

There are two major designs to accounting software- menu-driven and workflow-oriented.
Menu-driven: When the accounting software icon is clicked on the desktop and login credentials are provided, a menu screen pops up offering a choice of modules and sub-menu tasks from which to choose. The user may be required to click on a choice or input a number that relates to the list of options.
In this environment, the user learns to navigate back and forth between the modules on the main menu and intuitively decide which task on a sub-menu to choose. Example screens:

menu_vs_workflow2

This is pretty much the typical style that has been engaged for more than 40 years since the advent of scaled-down computer systems from the mainframe variety.

Workflow: has a different look. It will include some aspect of the menu-driven scheme but it will also use a more graphical, spatial design. There are graphical displays of tasks to be accomplished. Once a portion of the task is performed, the master work-flow graph shows a representational figure of the document partially processed, its current status and may offer hints as to what it takes to finish the task.

For example, AP purchases are entered. When one returns to the master graphic, there is a picture of documents sitting in the entry position with an arrow pointing to a location on the graph that will identify the next point required to finish the task. This may be a station that is labeled Open Invoice or Posted Invoices.

In the menu-driven model,  the user will need to go to the menu task labeled POST PURCHASES. In the work-flow model, [SEE BELOW] the user may just need to drag the icon representing the entered purchases to the Post Purchases station and click a pop-up that double checks whether the user is ready to do the task.

menu_vs_workflow

For some, the work-flow model may seem easier. There may also need to be several conditional flags set so that when the simple drag and drop functionality is used, the correct underlying actions take place. In the menu-driven scheme, most likely all the underlying actions will be presented as a checklist of acceptance before the final OK is clicked.

Visit www.lteren.com to learn more how we can help you navigate your business computer application needs.

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What Makes a Good Project Manager?

What Makes a Good Project Manager is truthfully a loaded question. It obviously depends on what the project is about. For the sake of this discussion, I’ll focus on procuring accounting software. This is something I know too well having been a consultant supporting accounting systems for more than thirty years.

Some people think that a project manager should be a facilitator. That’s the lazy man’s way of saying the person is good at holding hands, tracking the status of project phases and goal accomplishments. To me, it’s meaningless unless the person has a good understanding of the purpose and implementation of accounting systems. Otherwise, he or she is faking it. The person deficient in the technological knowledge is just causing the company to waste time and money. They are doing their own discovery and education while someone else is paying for it. If the company does not mind because they appreciate the organizational skills the project manager brings, then I guess that’s their right.

What about the other side of the coin- the person who is very technologically proficient but fakes the organizational effort to get through the muddy waters? Again- if he or she brings a superior knowledge of the company’s needs and can help make the right decisions, then probably the organizational skills can be overlooked.

Click back to our website to request to download our twelve point pdf on things a good project manager should do.

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Health Care Act Reporting

Does your in-house payroll software make provisions for ACA reporting?

The Federal Government is now requiring businesses to report on the status of their employees having health insurance. This is especially important for ‘C’ class businesses that employ 250 or more workers.

Form 1094-C  (Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information) identifies on a month-by-month basis how many employees accepted coverage, how many declined, etc.

There are other aspects of reporting by Human Resources that relate to compliance. We can help you navigate these issues.

You are looking for someone who understands your business and will help you navigate your needs. It’s your money and business on the line. Give us a call at (773)502-5771 to get you on the right track.

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Multi-user Software Tool

Multi-user accounting software should provide designated task managers with a tool to see:

  1. Who is using the system
  2. Which files are open

There are obvious reasons for this especially when a process is unable to be performed.  Accounting software written using the bbj programming language facilitates this tool using the Enterprise Manager.  Below are two examples of identifying which users are currently on the system and which files are in use.

emterprise_manager_1    A

(click on pics to get clearer view)

emterprise_manager_2    B

Screenshot A shows the list of users when the BBJ PROCESSES option is highlighted.

Screenshot B shows the list of files open and the BBJ Users who have them open.   Both tasks have an option that allows the Enterprise Manager user to delete or kill the BBJ user process highlighted as well as individual instances of open files.

You are looking for someone who understands your business and will help you navigate your needs. It’s your money and business on the line. Give us a call at (773)502-5771 to get you on the right track.

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Executive Summary Information

A good accounting system should provide for the executives of a business easy-to-digest snapshots of the business. They may be the cash-flow for the day, top 10 customers, top 10 items, among others. See these example snapshots below:

top_10_customers

 

top_10_items

 

daily_stats

 

ar_analysis

You are looking for someone who understands your business and will help you navigate your needs. It’s your money and business on the line. Give us a call at (773)502-5771 to get you on the right track.

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Graphics and Charts

Users of modern accounting systems now expect to see graphical charts embedded in the system. Below is an example of  twelve month sales versus profit for a customer shown in columnar digital format as well as with a line chart. For number crunchers, the columnar look satisfies, but for those who need to see things visually, the graph adds that dimension.

graph_1

 

This next graph shows a selected customer’s year-to-year sales:

graph_2

 

You are looking for someone who understands your business and will help you navigate your needs. It’s your money and business on the line. Give us a call at (773)502-5771 to get you on the right track.

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