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EDI by Exception: Data Masons’ Software Spotlight

Merit Solutions works with a number of Microsoft Dynamics ISV solutions in order to meet our clients' needs. Occasionally, we like to spotlight those partners on the Merit Matters Blog. Today, we are excited to welcome Data Masons to our ISV Spotlight.

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Data Masons Software specializes in simplifying EDI by providing tight integration and compliance management services for Microsoft Dynamics® without customizations to the Dynamics ERP platform. The company’s end-to-end EDI processing platform gives organizations a competitive edge through broad and deep EDI integration, predictable ownership costs and comprehensive compliance services - all without expensive and disruptive ERP platform customization. We help our customers improve their efficiency by providing full automation of business transactions with their trading partners, which includes customers, suppliers, banks, logistics suppliers, third-party warehouses, trading networks, freight carriers, etc.

Today I want to talk a little bit about how those efficiencies can bring a huge ROI and an overall improvement in your business processes.

One of the biggest benefits customers receive from our EDI solution is the automation of business processes that enable the company to transact 24/7. That means the solution is highly-automated. It also means that it is very strong at recognizing and trapping errors, ultimately preventing bad data from getting into Microsoft Dynamics. Data Masons makes this happen without human intervention, while at the same time, trapping errors and reporting them through a variety of channels, which enables our customers to manage their business transactions “by exception.”

In addition to our ability to capture errors when they occur, we provide another layer of security to make sure that all the transactions that you receive from your partners are processed correctly into Microsoft Dynamics. And we insure that all the transactions that exist within Dynamics have been transmitted to your partners – and accepted by them.

These two levels of error trapping and auditing build out an audit-exception framework that makes sure no transactions fall through the cracks. This enables clients to do more, with less staff, with fewer errors to drive real value from their investment into the Microsoft Dynamics platform.

EDI also plays a major role in FDA regulated industries like Life Sciences and Food & Beverage with regards to compliance. Companies in these industries may be subject to strict safety and compliance requirements, for example, pedigree laws. Further to that, companies in these industries are subject to business practices such as Rebate Reporting and other processes that are unique to the industry. EDI can help ensure that all transactions are compliant, accurate and meet your partners’ needs.

Data Masons’ focus on Microsoft Dynamics means something very important to our customers. We make sure that our team members are experts in the Microsoft Dynamics products so that when you talk to our support and delivery teams, you’re not explaining how Dynamics works or how EDI works or how your partners operate. Our team members will already know this because we make sure they are trained and understand the platforms. Unlike some companies in our industry, we don’t integrate with every product on the market. We focus because we want to be experts at it.

One other aspect of our business model that is important to companies evaluating EDI solutions is flexibility. We are flexible from a business model perspective, providing a fully-managed solution that can do all of the compliance, all of the interactions with your partners, and make sure that you’re always up-to-date on their latest requirements – we can manage it all for you! Or you can do as much of that work as you want! You can license our mapping tools and you can do your own compliance. The flexibility in allowing you to do as much or as little EDI-related processes is entirely up to you.

Additionally, we are network independent. And what that means is that you can move data any way you want with your partners. We’re not forcing you down certain transmission methods that would result in transaction fees and data charges that you might not be subject to depending on how your partners want to transmit data.

In the end, that all adds to the low cost of ownership that is available by doing business with Data Masons!

Four IT Megatrends will Dominate the Next Decade

Based on reports from industry analysts and the many conversations that our team has with clients, we believe four megatrends will radically change how businesses view enterprise IT over the coming decade.

  • Mobility and social are the driving forces for change in business today, particularly as employees (and customers) increasingly expect to use mobile and social technology to interact in new ways. These two elements are becoming a competitive differentiator for business - for recruiting and retaining employees and for attracting and retaining customers.
  • The cloud and big data are quickly becoming enablers for business success. The tremendous scalability and agility enabled by the cloud and the new insights made possible with big data can help businesses today get ahead of the competition and tap into new sources of revenue.

These trends represent not only what is most important to our customers today, but also what we feel are likely to be the dominant forces of change in the coming decade.

  • The proliferation of new device types, along with the connectivity of the cloud, is making us more mobile and changing the way we work and play. Mobility answers the growing expectation from your employees to be able to work from anywhere, with the device that they choose. Mobile technology also delivers a great mobile experience to customers, bringing your business to them wherever they are through their mobile phone or tablet.
  • As technology becomes more immersive, we also expect it to help us develop more personal and social connections with our colleagues and customers. Social networks build strong work communities, enhancing collaboration, information sharing, and productivity.
  • The connectivity that the cloud offers is changing what we expect from technology. With an always-on connection, apps can provide innovative new services with instant scalability and attractive economics.
  • While business intelligence (BI) has been important for a great number of years, the explosion in connected devices and apps is generating an exponential growth in data and the need to get better insights from “big data.” The challenge for today’s businesses is to make that data useful—to put it into the hands of their people to drive informed, forward-thinking decisions.

We’re not alone in identifying these megatrends. According to IDC, “In 2012, the ICT industry's shift to its third major platform of growth—built on mobile, cloud, social, and big data technologies—will accelerate.” In contrast to what IDC refers to as the first (mainframe) and second (PC/server) platforms, they estimate that by 2020, “…enterprises’ highest-value leverage of IT will be driven by these third-platform technologies as well as an explosion of new solutions built on the new platform and rapidly expanding consumption of all of the above in emerging markets.”

It’s amazing just how fast our world is changing today. Just think…

  • Within 15 years, a little startup named Amazon has gone from transforming the book industry to changing the face of retail.
  • It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. In less than nine months, Facebook reached 100 million users. And in the space of just a few short years, social networking services have significantly changed people’s expectations of how we interact with each other and with businesses, particularly for the millennial generation.
  • Within just two months of its launch, Kinect for the Xbox 360 changed the face of gaming and became the world’s fastest-selling consumer electronics device ever.

Each of these examples reflects the tremendous impact that the megatrends are having on our world - and the pace at which it is all changing. As we enter this new era in the enterprise, the question is - what can your business do to make the most of it?

Of course, technology trends on their own aren’t going to revolutionize your business or help you stay competitive. How you adopt new technology and put it to work in your business will ultimately be the responsibility of IT. We know how important it is to ensure that your technology solutions truly empower your IT professionals to deliver what the business needs. What are those needs?

  • Integrate new devices and applications with their existing line-of-business apps, for a seamless experience that keeps people productive and connected to the business.
  • Help maximize end user productivity, with solutions that put the tools users need at their fingertips, wherever they happen to be working from, and that connect them with the people, information, and content they rely on to do their jobs well.
  • Ensure that corporate data and resources are protected and secure, even as access to those data and resources becomes possible from an increasing number of devices and apps.
  • Fully manage all devices on the network, both local and remote - a task that is becoming ever more complicated as users bring more and more devices into the enterprise and work from more and more locations.

At Merit Solutions, our goal is to deliver ground-breaking technology solutions that empower IT to take advantage of the latest trends without compromise. By achieving this goal, we are able to provide your IT professionals with the tools they need to help you innovate and compete while meeting the core needs of the business in all new ways.

Learn more about how Merit Solutions can help you transform your business!

Agile ERP Project Management

Nenad Simeunovic, Vice President of Services for Merit Solutions, was recently featured in the PM Network's March 2013 issue discussing using Agile Project Management techniques for ERP implementations.

Here a short excerpt from the article, titled Big Delivery in Small Packages:

Eliminating Waste: Agile is based on lean processes that remove non-value-added activities such as downtime. As a result, agile components such as daily stand-up meetings can help project teams deliver ERP-related functionalities faster. "During the 15-minute meeting, each team member says, 'This is what I did yesterday, this is what I'm going to do today and these are the obstacles I need help with,'" says Nenad Simeunovic, vice president of services at global IT services company Merit Solutions, Wheaton, Illinois, USA. "If there's a challenge, we can address it on the spot and move on. As a result, there are fewer distractions, and progress is being made on a more consistent basis."

Agile's benefits are especially appealing in the current volatile economy. "The departments are reluctant to tackle large-scale projects as one big initiative with scope, time and resources locked. Instead, they are looking more to deliver functionalities in iterations, where flexibility is allowed - even expected - due to rapid changes happening in the marketplace and in the organization. We can longer guarantee that our planning for today will be applicable in nine months," says Mr. Simeunovic.

View the digital release of the magazine, PM Network - Governing Creativity: Marrying Project Management with Innovation. The Agile ERP Project Management article starts on Page 60.

Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer for Windows 8

Last month Microsoft announced the launch of the Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer for Windows 8 – the first Windows 8 App available for Microsoft Dynamics ERP clients.

The Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer displays business intelligence (BI) information from your Microsoft Dynamics ERP solution, including Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2, Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013, and Microsoft Dynamics SL 2011 FP1. Users of the Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer can display reports from their ERP solution, interact with the reports using a variety of actions (such as copy, edit, view, and refresh), and open Microsoft Lync ( for Windows 8 ) directly from a report to initiate a conversation with someone about the report. This can all be done from any of your Windows 8 devices!

The launch of this new app is a milestone in the road to enterprise business mobility for Windows 8 and Microsoft Dynamics ERP clients. In today’s increasingly global and interconnected world, customers need to have quick, easy access to their business data – and they need to be able to access it from a variety of devices. The Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer for Windows 8 is the first of what is expected to be even more enterprise business mobility apps to deliver this value to clients.

Merit Solutions is honored to have played a significant contributing role in the development of the Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer app. While this milestone signifies a great achievement for Microsoft and its clients, it also represents Merit Solutions’ ability to build and deploy innovative, leading edge Windows 8 and mobility solutions that can help clients get more value out of their Microsoft Dynamics ERP investments.

The Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer is free and available for download from Microsoft on the Windows Store: Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer for Windows 8. We encourage everyone to go download and use the app - then rate it and let us know what you think!

Windows Azure Access Control Service (ACS) 2.0

Access Control Service (ACS) is a Windows Azure service that offers a way of outsourcing authentication. It decouples the application from all the complexity of maintaining a direct relationship with all the identity providers the application is collaborating with. ACS takes care of engaging every identity provider with its own authentication protocol, normalizing the authentication results in a protocol supported by the .NET Windows Identity Foundation (WIF). In just a few clicks ACS can be configured as the authentication manager for the application. Once running, ACS takes care of the application authentication. Furthermore, ACS even offers an UI for the user to choose among the selected identity providers.

Using ACS, applications can:

  • Leverage an existing Active Directory user stores through Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS v2), as well as other stores compatible with the WS* or SAML 2.0 protocols, to multiple Windows Azure applications through a single trust relationship with the ACS 2.0 service.
  • Implement a Single Sign-On.

ACS uses security tokens instead of credentials, which is more secure because credentials are not passed over the network. Also, Building around claims allows separation of authentication logic from application logic.

References:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dd440951.aspx
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windowsazure/gg429786.aspx
http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2011/SIM324

Official Risk Management Suite Transition Update

Don't be fooled by the speculation going around about Merit Solutions' Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite. Hear directly from Microsoft Dynamics Director of Product Management, Errol Schoenfish: Please Read: Official Risk Management Suite Transition Update

“All SMB products are going through a Pricing and Packaging simplification process to better meet the demands of the customers that we serve. Part of that process is identifying the functional elements that are best served by Microsoft and those that are best served by our broad and healthy partner ISV ecosystem through the Dynamics Marketplace. Microsoft has had a valued partnership with Merit Solutions for many years. The Risk Management Suite has been a great product for us and with Merit Solutions driving the product forward I am confident that it will continue to give customers value now and in the future. Merit Solutions is also just completing the CfMD process for GP Risk Management, and now represent the first GP based Audit Trails and Electronic Signatures products that are certified at this level of quality assurance.” Errol Schoenfish - Director Product Management, Microsoft Dynamics

I am thrilled to take this opportunity to welcome the 500+ customers who currently license the Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite to the Merit Solutions family!

Merit Solutions is the original developer of the Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite (Audit Trails and Electronic Signatures). Microsoft acquired the product from Merit Solutions back in 2005, and since then, they have included it as part of their core Microsoft Dynamics GP offering. However, Merit Solutions has always been the company developing new releases and upgrades for Microsoft.

In an effort to simplify packaging and pricing, Microsoft has decided to remove quite a few OEM products from their core Microsoft Dynamics offerings (official announcements will be made Sept. 1). However, Merit Solutions is thrilled to have this opportunity to further enhance and improve the Risk Management Suite with a better focus on our partners' and customers' needs - enabling us to keep moving the product forward and get newer versions to market quicker. As noted above, Merit Solutions has already made the investment in getting the Risk Management Suite Certified for Microsoft Dynamics (CfMD) - the first GP based Audit Trails and Electronic Signatures products to receive such recognition.

Merit Solutions is committed to keeping all customer experiences with the Risk Management Suite consistent with previous Microsoft engagements, and all partners and customers can count on Merit Solutions to provide the same level of support, quality, and reliability that was experienced with Microsoft in the past. View our Customer Satisfaction Scores and check out some of our Customer Quotes online to learn about our satisfied customers!

If you have any questions at all about the future of the Risk Management Suite, or our commitment to your satisfaction, please don’t hesitate to contact Merit Solutions at any time to get the truth and learn more about the future of your product!

Sure Step Online Project Wizard – Architecture Overview and Benefits

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Online Project Wizard adds the ability to create specific Sure Step projects in a partner or customer’s SharePoint environment all from within their own SharePoint environment or SharePoint Online.

In Sure Step, projects are a collection of documents, tools and templates that follow the Sure Step implementation methodology. When creating a new project, Sure Step Online Project Wizard will always retrieve the latest content ensuring that project documents are up to date. As the documents reside on SharePoint, it enables easy collaboration of the whole project team.

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Online Project Wizard is a SharePoint hosted Silverlight application which harnesses the power of both SharePoint and cloud-based content storage. It can be hosted either on your local SharePoint 2010 environment or on SharePoint Online.

After a simple one time process for manually deploying the Project Wizard to the desired SharePoint environment described in the User Guide, Sure Step project can be created on the same site collection or any other accessible locally. (If the site collection resides on another SharePoint farm or web application additional configuration of the destination web application is required. This will be described in one of the later posts.)

Each time a Project Wizard is started it retrieves the configuration information and checks for compatibility. Only if a new version is required (which actually means that there were significant changes to the Sure Step content metadata model) a user will have to download the latest version and redeploy it to the destination SharePoint environment before continuing with the project creation.

Project Wizard retrieves the latest content metadata and generates the options offered in the wizard itself. Content as well as all the options offered in the Project Wizard are dynamically loaded from the Sure Step Online content repository. This enables seamless update of the Sure Step content, addition of new tools and templates, new solutions, project types and languages. This architecture ensures that each time a project is created using the wizard, it will contain the latest content available from Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Online without the need to regularly download and install client and content updates (which can be around 400MB for each language).

The Sure Step content is categorized into seven (industry related) solutions, six Dynamics product lines, five project types for implementation engagement type and numerous accelerators for diagnostic phase and optimization offering. An inventory of more than 750 tools and templates are available for use on each project with partial translation in nine languages. Projects are created for a specific Solution, Dynamics Product, Engagement type and a selected Project Type or accelerator. New project contains copies of all Sure Step documents applicable to selected criteria.

Sure Step Online Project Wizard can be deployed on the following environments:

  • Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft SharePoint Online
To start using the Project Wizard in your SharePoint environment, download the Online Project Wizard and follow the instructions from the Sure Step Online User Guide.

More info and the links to resources can be found here.

Benefits of Micrsoft Sure Step Online

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step is a customer lifecycle methodology for all Microsoft Dynamics solutions (AX, GP, NAV, SL, CRM and CRM Online). Besides delivering guidance, project management discipline and field-driven best practices, Sure Step also contains a huge collection of tools and templates to be used in all phases of a Microsoft Dynamics customer engagement.

Last autumn Microsoft announced Sure Step Online, which enables you to:

  • View the complete Sure Step methodology, including all tools and templates.
  • Create and manage customer projects based on the Sure Step deliverables on SharePoint.
  • Link to online marketing, training, and other resources on PartnerSource and CustomerSource

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Online

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Online is a new approach to using the Sure Step methodology. Instead of having a client application with a set of content language packs, Microsoft developed a Silverlight application available on Partner Source and Customer Source. As the Sure Step Online is cloud-based, you no longer have to regularly download and install client or content updates (around 400MB for each language) to have the latest tools and templates, Sure Step Online will always contain the most recent content, and be available from anywhere, always.

Some of the advantages of the Sure Step Online include:

  • Using the latest guidance and content available online without downloading and installing the client.
  • Ability to access and share content quickly from anywhere. All you need to have is an internet connection, a browser with a Silverlight plugin and access to Partner or Customer source.
  • All supported languages are also available. Besides English, Sure Step Online offers (partial) methodology and templates in Chinese, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.
  • Ability to point users to a specific guidance page or template, which will eliminate the need for them to download the whole methodology to locate the specific content/guidance.
  • Ability to create customer projects on your local SharePoint instance, partner hosted SharePoint or SharePoint Online. Projects created using Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Online Project Wizard will always contain the latest templates.
Of course, if your prefer to do so, you can still download and use the “on-premise” Sure Step 2012 client with the latest language packs.

Sure Step Online is available for partners and customers on the following location https://mbs2.microsoft.com/SureStep

For more details, please refer to the Sure Step Online User Guide.

Productivity Is Key to Profitability

Sales productivity is built on twin pillars: efficiency and effectiveness. To be a high-performing company, the sales organization requires both. The key isn’t to bring on more people to make your company grow. The key is making the ones you have more efficient and effective.

Efficient means they are discriminating in how they spend their time, less on activities such as:

  • Account maintenance
  • Administration
  • Travel
  • Planning
Effective means they spend more time on high-value sales activities and are more effective at those activities, such as:

  • Needs identification
  • Solution development
  • Product demos
  • Proposal development
  • Closing (negotiating, pricing, contracting)
A survey of 841 sales professionals at 500 companies with large sales forces (2,000 employees) showed that salespeople at high-performing companies spend 40% more time each year with their best potential customers and 30% less time on administrative tasks compared to salespeople at low-performing companies. High-performing companies demonstrated faster sales growth and better financial performance compared to industry peers. (Driving Profitable Sales Growth: 2006/2007 Report on Sales Effectiveness, Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

With any challenge comes opportunity. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is uniquely positioned to provide measurable business benefits for sales organizations.

Specifically, Microsoft Dynamics CRM helps organizations:

  • Increase time with customers.
  • Improve close rates.
  • Shorten sales cycles.
  • Achieve real-time insight.
Learn more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Get Improved Customer Loyalty with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Looking to improve customer loyalty and retention? Want to boost profitability along with way?

We can help—with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online®.

Focus on great customer service - rather than learning new technologies - with reliable and accessible customer care functionality in a familiar Microsoft® Outlook® application. Plus, with access to complete case and customer data, you can respond to cases faster and improve customer retention.

Enjoy access to world-class, scalable customer service technology without a world-class investment in infrastructure—because Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is hosted in the cloud. What’s more, because it’s delivered by subscription via the internet, there’s no hardware or software to purchase or maintain, and no deployment cycle either, so your agents can be up and running quickly.

Download your complimentary CRM Comparison Guide to discover what sets Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online apart!