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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Diary of an ERP Consultant - Bank Statement Interface and me

Yesterday I watched the movie 'Julie and Julia'. In that movie, the protagonist, Julie Powell, decides to complete all the 524 recipes from the book 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' (written by the legendary cook Julia Child) and blog about it. 

You can watch this movie on Netflix. Nice movie. 

Watching the movie reminded me that I started this blog as a medium to pen my learning, successes, failures and frustrations as an ERP Consultant. When I work, I work a lot, about 11 to 13 hours on an average. I love my work and the challenges that I face. 

I hope that you, my reader, will enjoy reading about it as much as I do doing it. 

Right now I am working on two separate challenges, one of them is urgent and the other is not so much.

The first one is Bank Statement Integration. My customer has moved to a new bank and we have to configure the statements integration into Oracle ERP.

Let me explain. 

On any day, a business organization does many bank transactions. They may make payments to the vendor, pay salaries and advances to the employees, reimburse employees for their approved expenses or receive checks and transfer payments from their customers. 

These are some example transactions.

The payments are always entered in their books first and the bank impact happens later. For example, if I give you a check for 1000 INR, I record it in my books as soon as I cut the check and give it to you. However, the transaction is reflected in the Bank Books only when you deposit the check in the bank. 

This means that there is an entry in my 'Cash Book' which is not reflected in the 'Books of the Bank'.

Another example, is when a customer directly transfers the money to your bank account electronically. In this case the Bank's records are updated but that change is not reflected in the books of the company.

This difference is regular and dynamic. The result is that the 'Cash Book' of the company is different from the 'Books of the Bank'. 

But these books should be in sync, right? I mean, if you cut a check, you need to know when it is encashed, right? Else, how will you plan your cash position? 

Or, assume a fortunate situation where customer has deposited money in the bank. If you do not sync it up with your records, you may have unused bank balances that you did not know of.

The process of syncing up the two books is called Bank Reconciliation. This is an important and sacred process followed by finance managers in any company. They prepare a statement known as Bank Reconciliation Statement. 

There are many formats of this statement. One such format is given below.

Question: How do you know that the finance manager has completed bank reconciliation?

Answer: It is month end and he is smiling :) 

Finance managers are very passionate about how the Bank Reconciliation Statement looks. They want it exactly as per the format they. But ERP is naughty. It will give you all the information, but will not structure it the way you want. Bank Reconciliation Statement look and feel is a constant source of friction between consultant and customer in a typical ERP Implementation !!!

Shall I tell you a trade secret that only very senior ERP consultants know? We welcome this specific friction. It tells us that there are no other critical open issues in the project. If they were there, customer would be focusing on them rather than on the look and feel of this statement. Ironically friction on Bank Reconciliation Statement is a good friction to have.

The document that companies use to reconcile Bank Book and Cash Book is called the Bank Statement. You all know what it is. Every once in a while, you check your bank statements to see if the salary has been credited, right. Even companies do the same. The only difference is that they do it everyday since they have many receipts and payments to reconcile !

This process is tedious to do manually. But ERP makes it easy by automating this entire flow.

Everyday, the bank server will send (transmit) the Statement to a location specified by the Organization (target directory). This process is called File Transfer. There are many rules (called Protocols) used in File Transfer. The latest and the most secure protocol is called SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol, duh ! ).  ERP Process will automatically pick this statement and load it into the ERP System. And ERP will also do the Automatic Reconciliation of the Bank Statement with the ERP Transactions so that the accountant will only need to handle the exceptions.

This is what we are trying to do for this customer.

The challenge we are facing is that the statement is not getting interfaced into ERP. The process is throwing some errors that I am unable to decipher.

When faced with things that you can't handle on your own, you seek support from Oracle Support. I have raised a Service Request (SR) to get this issue sorted out.

Many consultants have this mistaken notion that raising SR will expose their ignorance. They feel that the customer will prejudge their knowledge and lose confidence in their consulting skills.

Au contraire...

There are many reasons why you should raise SR as soon as you face a problem. One, there are about 40000 highly skilled support engineers working to resolve your issues. Customer is already paying for the support. So why not use it? Two, back in the days of On Premise applications, many of the issues faced were product bugs and only Oracle Support could resolve it. Three, Oracle Support might have already faced this issue and have a solution readily available

Of course it is possible that your knowledge was not sufficient. But that is OK. Show me one consultant, nay one person in this world,  who is expert in everything...

I spent four hours yesterday (third November, today is Fourth) with my colleague Anurag to resolve this issue. We tried multiple options. Modified the transmission configurations, checked tonnes of documents on Oracle Support and validated that they are not relevant to the issue that we faced, logged out of the application, logged in again and tried. shut down the computer and restarted and tried again....

No luck. Sigh...

Despite today being holiday I have been working on it since morning. Oracle had asked us to change some settings and try again, which I did. 

As of now, I am sitting in front of the computer, regularly refreshing my Oracle Support page to see if there is any update. I feel like a horn-bill waiting for rain...

Wait continues...

My problem is that when faced with a challenge like this I can't sleep. The problem keeps bugging me at night. What did I miss, I ask myself. I twist and turn at night. In the day, I am acerbic and irritable and the world disgusts me.

I am in that phase right now.

Just now Oracle has posted an update. They have asked to update the configuration and try again. I have asked for clarifications.

That is another thing I do. Whenever I am interacting with Oracle Support, I ask many clarifications before I take any action. This helps me in two ways. One is to keep engaging with the support consultant. He / she is the one person in the world that can help me right now. So it is good to keep that engagement going. Another is that it helps to understand their thoughts and clarify the issue. 

It also helps the consultant. I might have done some analysis that may add a fresh perspective to them. 

It is Win-win. I always look for win-win. 

18:44: Oracle gave an update. They asked me to remove the decryption configuration and try again. I tested it. The process is still failing with error. Updated the SR. Also reviewed the log file, the error message is different from last time. That is progress.

Today is Diwali and I am working on an SR. The last time I spent my Diwali working on an SR was back in 2005, while implementing Lot Costing for Tanishq.

The more the things change....

19:00: Again refreshed the SR. No update. 

19:40: Still no update. Called the Support Engineer and left a message.

21:00 Still no update. It is frustrating

I am stopping for today. I won't sleep today, I think

Next Day, 5th November... Good morning universe...

Woke up at 4.30 after a disturbed sleep. Wanted to check the SR status, but did not want to switch on the lights and wake up others. Walking around the home on pins and needles... 

5:00: Checked the email. There is an email from client to see if we can do this task manually. Very embarrassing to me as a consultant to have the situation come to this pass. I said Yes

6:00: Finally checked the SR. Still no update from support. Updated the SR explaining the urgency.

6:10: Called Oracle Support helpline and asked for a manager call back. They told that the manager will call me back in an hour. Lets see.

6:30: Manager, a lady named Diane, called me back from the US. She told me that the SR is Sev 1, Non 24X7. A new consultant will be starting the shift in an hour, he / she will call me back.

Diane wished me 'Happy Diwali'. Very thoughtful of her

This issue is becoming exciting. 

I am going out cycling right now. I couldn't do any exercise yesterday evening since I was glued to Oracle Support Portal. I don't want to waste this day as well.  

Here is my cycling route (Cicola Routa)....

09.00: Back from almost two hours of cycling. Feeling energized

09.30: Oracle support called. They want to do an OWC along with a consultant who has access to SFTP Server. I am not sure who is the resource. I asked the PM, he told me to check with the customer.

In Tamil, my mother tongue, there is a saying "Pazhaya Kurudi Kathavai Theradi", which roughly translates to 'Back to square one'. Not sure if customer knows the login credentials. What tool will I use to connect to SFTP Server?  

I am stuck here? This is tech stuff and I have no idea. I have many questions.

Who owns the SFTP Server? How to access the server? From what I see, the bank is the owner. Will they allow Oracle Consultants to see the data? How can we purge SFTP Server? 

Handling these multi-stakeholder issues is the most challenging. I am no longer in control and I have to accept uncertainty and delay in the resolution of the issue. 

09-Nov-21: No real update from anyone. Updated the SR with this status and asked for an OWC to keep the issue moving.

10-Nov-21: We had an OWC with Oracle. I asked Vaibhav to participate since he had been following up on this ticket. One SFTP expert from Oracle Support joined the call. They said that the problem is related to the FTP Server maintained by the bank. They asked for the screenshot of FTP Server with the Files and also asked to change the name of the input file to a short file name. I informed the same to all the stakeholders. Lets see.

That is another thing I do. I communicate often and in detail. I would like to keep all the stakeholders informed so that they feel comfortable about the progress of the ticket and also they know where the responsibility lies to progress the ticket. In addition, it keeps the ticket moving. 

And in ticket resolution any type of movement is progress. 

10-Nov-21: Customer send us extensive details. Updated the SR. I loved the level of details provided by the customer. Updated SR. Informed customer

11-Nov-21: Another OWC with Oracle. They reviewed the details. We were able to connect to the Customer Server using WinSCP (I don't know what it is) and verified many information. Based on the input from Oracle support team, further testing was done.

Good news is that the program is now ending with 'Warning' and not 'Error'. That is progress. I think we are very close to resolution. 

Fingers crossed.

To be continued...


Friday, October 29, 2021

The power of wishing...

 This post was first posted in LinkedIn. Here is the link to the post on LinkedIn

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6859852551110701056/

 "Be very careful with what you wish for, because you will get it".

So they say.

Ever since I started believing it, things have started happening as per that.

I had not flown in an aircraft till the time I was 37.

Every time I looked at the sky, I wish I could fly one day, I said to myself.

For the next ten years I have flown so much that I was considered as a 'Travel Expert' in my company. I accumulated over 200000 flying miles in Lufthansa and Air France combined.

Take another example.

I hadn't worked on ERP Product for over 7 years before I worked with Deepak NR of Sonata Software about four years ago. on a Microsoft Dynamics project. The guy knew MS Dynamics like the back of his hand. He could single-handedly implement integrated MS Dynamics solution for a customer, including SCM, Retail, Logistics and Finance.

'I wish I could be like Deepak. I want to be a hands-on expert in Oracle Fusion', I told myself one day while watching Deepak in action.

I had never implemented Oracle Fusion solution till then. So what were the chances?

But I still wished. There was no price for wishing, right?

Fast forward four years....

That is exactly what I have been doing for the last 8 months. I am working for a great company providing AMS solutions on Oracle Fusion. I am the lead architect and I get to work on customer's problems in different areas including Procurement, Inventory, Costing, Manufacturing and Financials.

I have implemented innovative solutions in different areas, revitalized a sub-optimal implementation, done data conversion, created and updated complex Subledger Rules to meet different accounting and reporting requirements, streamlined business processes, developed complex reports in both FRS and OTBI, implemented Budgeting, AIP (Image Processing) and Multi-level allocations and complex approval workflows.

And I really enjoy what I do.

When I wished for it four years ago, I never knew it would happen this way. But it did.

That is the power of wishing.

There are many more such examples

But here is the caveat.

'You should be clear about what you wish for, because you will get it'.

That is so true.

What am I wishing for now? Two years ago I wished for opportunity to implement Oracle Fusion projects in Europe.

I want to travel across Europe, cycle in Amsterdam, see the Greek Architecture, laze around by Seine in Paris, see where they had the Berlin Wall, Pray for the lost souls at the Auschwitz memorial in Poland, Pray at St.Peter's Basilica in Rome, Run those trails in Germany and Norway that I do virtually now ...

Its a big list, the universe is still working on it.

And I am working on my Spanish. Como esta usted? Me llamo Ram. Soy de India.

You never know.

#ERPConsulting #ERPImplementation #OracleFusion #DigitalTransformation

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Great ERP Promise

I had posted this in ERPCommunity.com. Here is the link. https://erpcommunity.com/articles/the-great-erp-promise

Here is the article....

As per various surveys done on ERP customers, 70% say that their implementation was a 'success' and only 30% say it is a failure.


Gives a neat quaint picture, doesn't it?

Only 30% failure, thinks a prospective customer. May be all those stories about 'ERP Failures' that I read about are wrong. Name one application that can be implemented without any glitches? Enterprise applications have their gestation period, right? Also they say ERP has become a commodity. How hard it is to implement a commodity?

I implement ERP for a living. One of my job as a consultant is to do reviews. It could be implementation review, post implementation review, ERP Usage Review, User Satisfaction Review....

You name it, I have done it.

The kind of feedback that I get from the reviews is very disturbing.

A large company could not close their Financial Year in ERP for two years after going live. Things were a mess, Accounting, Costing, Compliance....

Another company lost almost 50% market cap after implementing ERP.

Companies with wherewithal are suing their implementation partner for huge amounts.

Disturbing stories.

The sales of a small scale company stopped after implementing ERP. 'We had material in our stores, but not in our ERP application. Due to this we had to lose sales of one full month while consultants tried to resolve the issue. On top of that we had to write off the entire inventory since we were dealing in highly perishable goods', one manager told me.

"We don't understand how ERP costs our finished products, due to that we have given up on a proper profitability analysis in our low margin industry', says another

"We are maintaining a parallel system in Excel, since my users do not have a clue how ERP works', tells another

Complex processes, unreconciled clearing accounts, untrained (minimally trained) users, wrong data conversion, pressure from auditors (and even 'observations'), high amount of data entry ('My user spends 7 hours a day just running bank reconciliation process, how can he get time to do Cash Position analysis'), unsuitable costing methods, nerve-racking notifications and alerts, unexpected process holds, unexplained errors, unposted accounting entries, uncleared interface tables, performance issues (between 5 and 7 in the evening, our system becomes unbelievably slow), user errors, delayed period closing, agitated middle managers, flustered employees ....

Problems abound.

Data conversion for the previous period is going on even after go live. Cutover is a never ending activity.

You ask the CIO of these companies how they rate their ERP Implementation and they will say 'Mild to moderately successful'. 'We are doing most of our processes in ERP' they will fill the review comments.

'We are entering the transactions, but we are not getting any good reports from the system. We depend on Excel for management reporting', says the CIO who says that his ERP implementation is moderately successful. He doesn't even know if his ERP is performing as expected.

"We were promised a very good compliance reporting system, but we are doing all our compliance reporting in Excel', says another

From my experienced eye, these are all failed implementations. What use is an ERP if it can't give you the information that you require.

There is this 'Great ERP Promise', isn't it? That it will act as a backbone to your 'DigitalTransformation' initiative? That is what sales guys told you.

Tell that to that CFO of an SME sitting yonder with his hands on his chin, wondering how is going to prepare the Balance Sheet and Profit statements.

His trial balance has huge amount in 'Suspense Account' and ERP shows his profits have fallen 40% month on month after implementing ERP. His product costs have gone sky-high, his inventory turns have fallen to the ground. Prior to ERP implementation, he was proud of his performance.

Not anymore. Now his boss is doubting the earlier numbers.

I don't want to end this article on a negative note. I know that there are some of you who are reading this who want to know if there is a way out.

You want to know if your Current Investment in ERP can be salvaged? Yes of course it can be.

My company specialize in that. We analyze the current state, identify a best solution that might involve process changes, user training and reconfiguration and in few cases, re-implementation. We have this passionate team who is always looking to add value to the customer and once we get involved our deep knowledge and strong internal project management processes ensure a great solution to the customer.

We take you along in this journey. Everything is documented explained to you and we work as a team with a common goal of getting you the best return on your ERP Investment.

We help you realize 'The Great ERP Promise'

This is not a plug. Just a statement of fact.

Friday, August 13, 2021

My interview with Paapri Cloud Technologies

 Recently Kurtis Lilford of Paapri Cloud Technologies interviewed me for a post in his company blog. 

The article is titled

The Operational Dream: Is ERP all it’s made out to be?

Before the interview Kurtis Lilford had asked me a few questions like 'What is Cloud ERP', 'What are its advantages' etc. As a part of the Q&A he asked me about Cloud ERP Readiness and the common hesitations for companies to move to Cloud ERP. 

That last question was very interesting. 

The common hesitation that I have seen are two. One is hesitation to store sensitive company data in a third party storage system. You are exposing your IP to  a third party vendor and to potential hackers. That last part about hackers is the second reason for hesitation. You no longer have control on your data. The final hesitation is due to Geography Risk. As the recently introduced GDPR showed, any new legislation by the host countries could mean that your data is declared non-compliant and you could potentially  end up paying hefty fines.

What do you think of the Interview?

Saturday, August 07, 2021

The confessions of a Cloud ERP Consultant....

I implement Cloud ERP for a living. I tell customers about how safe is Cloud and how it eases their operations.

The key argument to prospects is that it makes your desktop thin by making applications and reports available on demand.

But here is the problem. I still use the office applications installed on my desktop to create my documentation. I don't normally use Google Docs or Office 365. I still save my photos on my desktop.

It is not the money.

It is the mindset.

I may be a cloud consultant. But I still want to save the documents on my desktop. Every fortnight, I want to save them in my backup device, just in case. I want to feel in control.

In my recent interview (ttps://https://lnkd.in/gSygmY5) with Kurtis Lilford I talk about the 'Culture of Cloud Adoption in an Organization'. If the Organization has a culture of storing their data in Cloud and accessing it from anywhere, they are much more likely to adopt Cloud, I opine in that interview.

I believe in Cloud. I think that this is the future.

But then, these habits come in the way.

If I as an individual finds it difficult to change my habits, imagine changing the habits of a company with hundreds of employees like me.

No wonder Organizations remain skeptical. Change Management is a monster in transformation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Approach ERP Implementation with a Vision, not as a Project.

 Recently Eric Kimberling had asked this question in LinkedIn.

"If you put in the time to choosing the right vendor and implementation partner who has experience running transformation projects, can you count on them to run your project?"

To this I had responded that "No. Their agenda is short term till the end of the project whereas the agenda of the customer is long term stabilization. There are many phases in any project where the agendas clash and it is always the customer who lose out."

In the article (Link below) that I wrote for ERPCommunity.com, I expand on that theme.

https://lnkd.in/gdB2v_b

Check it out and let those Likes and Comments pour in !!!

#digitaltransformation #digitalindia #erpsoftware #erpsolutions #erpcloud #erpimplementation #makeinindia #erpindia #erpconsulting #enterpriseapplications

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Being ERP Consultant is a huge responsibility

 https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6810372555896172545/

A couple of weeks ago, I faced a problem in a project that I am managing.

In addition to being the PM, I am also the solution architect in this project. So I had to find a solution to this issue. I couldn't just 'Project Manage' it away.

I spent about three to four days thinking about this problem. My normal experience is that the correct solution comes to my mind if I give it that much time.

Like that 'Double Helix' thing.

It did not in this case.

I was frustrated.

Since the problem was tough, I used my usual channels, LinkedIn messaging and talking to expert friends. Based on their suggestions I worked out a solution and presented it to the customer who accepted it and approved it.

Despite that I was uncomfortable. The solution was not logical. It did not 'Sell to my Sleeping Point'

(Check the end of this blogpost to see what I mean by 'Sleeping Point'. https://lnkd.in/gg-3UxG)

The other day, while writing about this issue in my daily journal, I realized where I had gone wrong. I was double counting one number.

Once I factored that in, the solution was logically sound. It met my very high standards.

Eureka!

Now I had the hard task of apologizing for my error and getting the new solution approved. I was very apprehensive how the CFO would react.

They don't react well. Normally

Yesterday I called up the customer CFO to tell him of my mistake. He patiently listened to me and all the time I was talking, did not say a word.

Finally he asked me one question.

"Do you think that this is the best solution?"

"Yes sir, 100%"

"Then go ahead. I trust you to do the best for my company"

Being an ERP Consultant is a huge responsibility. 

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Project I managed went live recently

 https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6811226861700481024/

 

Here is my LinkedIn Post about Go LIve




 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

How to handle Letter of Credit (LC) in ERP

 https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6810138575162757120/

I put up this question in LinkedIn

I have a practical question for the Oracle EBS Financials experts out there. Here is the business scenario. How do you handle this in Oracle?

Let us say you do an import based on an LC. You enter a future dated payment in the system, with the date of 1st November 2021. As the mid of October arrived, you realize that you have a cash crunch. You do one of the three things. One, get an extension from the vendor to 1st December, two, change your bank to one where cash is available or three, do both of them. My understanding is that In Oracle EBS, once the future dated payment is entered in the system, you cannot do any of this. But this is a regular business scenario. How to handle this in EBS?

As usual, the best answer I got is from Siva Ganeshan

Dear Ramaswamy, The LC is not recorded as Future Payment. We created a Custom Screen (Solution) to manage the complete LC Limit Sanctioned, Utilised and Balance amount available for each bank with whom we availed LC facility and integrated to Payable. It is not hard customization of Core Payable applications. If you check full LC Process, the banker is only going to make payment to Supplier on due date based on the LC limit sanctioned to you before and You don't make payment on due date.Hence you don't need to create a Future Dated Payment. The Banker will intimate and debit your bank account from the LC limit to your bank account and it is reflected in your bank statement. Then only you record this transaction in Payables as Payment because Exchange Rate to everything will change on due date, 

Thank you Siva.... 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

What are Microservices?

This is the tenth of a series of articles on 'technologies for the coming decade that I am writing in my blog. I intend to cover 21 technologies / ideas. Here is my publishing history.

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Machine Learning 
  3. Deep Learning 
  4. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) 
  5. Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)
  6. Cloud Computing 
  7. Blockchain 
  8. Multitenancy
  9. Multichannel / Omnichannel 

Introduction

About 50 years ago we used to predominantly have General Physicians. She was the Go To Doctor for all the illnesses ranging from headache to cuts on your ankles. 

If the GP is down due to illness, say diarrhea, all the medical support systems in the town came to a standstill. Whether you had a head ache or a throat infection or a knee pain, you had to wait till the GP was available. 

In technical terminology, that single GP was a 'Monolithic Architecture', akin to a single application that is installed as a package or an executable. In case of a bug in one part of the application, the entire application went down and all the inter-dependencies had to be retested before the application was available again.