BMI Microsoft Dynamics NAV Blog

Addicted to Holding On to Old ERP Technology?  Consider This an Intervention.

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Nov 28, 2017 10:56:18 AM

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Day-to-day demands will often distract Distributors from realizing how inefficient their outdated ERP has become. Every time you are forced to create a process outside your ERP solution, you may be losing the battle to gain more customers and prospects.

The pain of operating on old technology and unconnected data systems may be hurting you more than you know. It is not only creating manual workarounds that are error-prone; it is also affecting how your customers perceive you, and getting in the way of acquiring new business.

I recently looked at a customer's ERP system that should have been retired a long time ago. The navigation was not intuitive, and multiple screens were confusing. There was no easy way to get orders into the back office accounting from the ecommerce site.  If I wanted to look closer at a transaction, I had to jump to different modules instead of just clicking a button and seeing all the data behind the numbers.

Sometimes you are so used to doing things the hard way, that you don't even know there is an easier way. For example, when tracking down the shipping costs for an inventory item. With a modern system, you could just click on the total, and see all the landed costs that were incurred to get the item into your inventory. For a distributor with tight margins, knowing your true real-time costs is critical to offering a pricing strategy that makes a profit. In an older system without this capability, you lose sight of just how much your items cost - and don't even see it until after month-end, when it is too late.

A picture is worth a thousand words; we've all heard this adage. That's why graphical representations of your most important key performance indicators should alert you so you can take action. Exception-based data management in a modern ERP solutions  means let's just look at what needs attention so you don't waste time on what's already working.

I toured a distributor's warehouse recently and noticed that there were big screen displays scattered throughout the building so everyone, from the warehouse pickers, to the receivers and purchasers knew what was happening in real-time. Their goals were clearly visible, and alerts were flashing if a sales order triggered an Out-of-Stock  notification. Managers knew when to intervene to keep operations running smoothly.

As in any addiction, the first step to recovery from old technology is admitting you have a problem. The next step is to evaluate how you can add the technology elements that are most important and drive more business into your ecommerce carts and ultimately, your bottom line. 

Please join the conversation by commenting below.

 Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We're not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real-world business problems. www.bmiusa.com. 

Topics: distribution software, Dynamics NAV, Business Software, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, BMI Software, Dynamics NAV, Distribution Software

What the Heck are Tokamaks? The Answer to Clean Energy? Read On!

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Nov 7, 2017 9:36:59 AM

 

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One of BMI Software’s longtime customers, Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, is doing some noteworthy research on clean energy. They are working on an alternative to radioactive options that are currently reliant on fossil fuels. The initial tests offer the possibility of a limitless supply of clean, affordable energy.

We thought you might enjoy this article about Fatima Ebrahimi, a physicist working in the lab who is doing ground-breaking research into tokamaks. What the heck are tokamaks? Read all about it in the article below. Read Button.jpg

 Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems. www.bmiusa.com.

We welcome your comments below.

 

Topics: BMI Software

Six Reasons Why ERP Implementations Fail.

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Oct 13, 2017 12:28:27 PM

 

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When a company searches for new ERP software for the first time, their top criteria may include price, functionality, fit to their industry, ease of use, hardware compatibility and support from their implementation partner.

Once they have some implementation experience under their belt, their priorities change dramatically. Their number one priority becomes support from their implementation partner. The difference between success and failure comes down to having the right guidance to avoid the pitfalls that comes with implementing a new business system.

Avoid These Common Mistakes :

Lack of Executive Sponsorship 

Management should convey to all employees that getting the new system up and running is an important priority. If it is not communicated from the top down, employees will not devote the attention that the project requires, and the risk of failure increases. 

Not Selecting an Internal Project Manager with the Right Skills

Ensure whoever you choose to lead the ERP implementation internally has the knowledge and authority to change internal business processes. They will be making decisions about whether customizations are required or not, so they need to part of the entire process, from selection to go-live. 

Your Employees May Block Progress 

Long-time employees may feel threatened by the new technology. They know how they do things now and have a vested interest in replicating their processes in the new system, even if those processes don’t make sense anymore. Modern ERP Software systems support best practices in accounting and operations; any modifications should provide a cost/benefit that is valuable to your organization. 

Not Keeping Focused on The Big Picture 

You’ll have complainers who resist change and don’t want to embrace new processes. If you give them the reasons for the change, you are more likely to get their cooperation. For example, “I realize this is adding an additional process to your normal workflow, but this will accelerate your month-end closing time to hours instead of days.” 

Ignoring Training 

Proper training makes a big difference in user adaption of the new ERP Software. Frustration sets in when they can’t find what they are looking for. Give your employees the gift of confidence by providing training that empowers them. 

Underfunded Implementation Budget 

The old ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 of software to services costs no longer applies. When companies move to the cloud, where the software costs consist of a smaller monthly subscription, the ratios become unrealistic. Regardless of what you pay for the ERP software, the same tasks to implement and tailor your system to work for your company still must be done. Successful implementations include a services budget that will allow your employees to thrive with the new system.

Are you in the process of evaluating an ERP solution? What are your biggest concerns about the implementation? Please comment below to continue the conversation.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real-world business problems. www.bmiusa.com.

Topics: Dynamics NAV, BMI Software

Online Distributors: Technology Can Make or Break Your Business

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Sep 6, 2017 11:00:00 AM

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I recently ordered a medical product from Amazon. I ordered it at 10 am and received it the same day at 4 pm for no additional shipping charge. Now, that is service! (Granted, I was a Prime member and pay $99 per year for free shipping on all items I buy, but I use it enough that it is worth it to me to have what I want in my hands quickly).

As an independent distributor, it may be difficult to compete with that level of service, but there are many ways you can endear yourself to customers. Finding out what is important to your customers is the first step to delivering a buying experience that brings them back for more.

Customers won’t buy it if they can’t find it - Your Search function should be on steroids.

Customers want to type in logical words and have it return what they are looking for. Sometimes they are not logical, so you need to think about how they would type words in a search with spelling errors.

  • Allow them to filter with a variety of attributes like brand, size, color, etc.
  • Make it easy for your customers to mark favorite items and come back later to order.
  • Offer suggested additional items, “customers who bought this also bought…” to make sure they are not forgetting something.
  • As a distributor, you should be able to control "first in search" e-commerce product placement to encourage purchases of products that you make the most margin on.
  • Display products you want to feature to prompt them to order something they may not even be thinking about.
  • It should be easy to find out what search terms your customers are entering on your e-commerce site so that you can drive profitable and appropriate products to the top of the search results page in order to better match what your customers are asking for.

Customers want a wide selection of products. The opportunity to integrate with Master Wholesalers’ advanced content keeps your product offering diverse, whether you are a stocking distributor or not. If you offer Avery Labels, offer all sizes available. Maybe the label order is a small part of a much larger order, so don’t drive them somewhere else that has a better variety in stock.

Customers want to pay the way they want to pay. It is proven that every barrier you put in the way of a customer doing business with you will work. For example, If they want to pay with AMEX, don’t tell them you only take Visa. If it is too hard to manage the fees and maintenance of AMEX, then offer an app like PayPal or something like it. The point is that there are many retail online stores they can go to who give them those options. Break down those barriers and let your customers in.

Customers love Discounts and Promos unless they are inaccurate. Integration with your ERP system including finance, sales, procurement, and inventory is essential. You can do more business and avoid inevitable errors if you eliminate manual changes between your eCommerce site and your back office operations. One minor mistake in pricing could hurt your business and credibility.

Customers get mad when you deliver the wrong item - in fact, you just might drive them away. Good warehouse processes start with a robust, comprehensive software platform that connects your operations. If you are running on an old, clunky software platform that you constantly patch with band-aids to keep your business afloat, it will be difficult to compete with companies that offer modern integrated technology.

Additionally, put processes in place to get the outcomes you want. I heard from an analyst who visited a leading distributor’s warehouse to interview the shipping team as part of a study of their operations. There was one employee who was literally running to grab stock, pop it in a box and ship it out. He didn’t have time to stop and talk. Finally, they asked, “Why are you moving so fast?” The answer, “I get 25 cents bonus for each correctly shipped order. The more orders I ship with no errors, the more I make.”

What issues matter to your online customers? Please comment below to continue the conversation.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems. www.bmiusa.com.

Topics: BMI Software, BMI OP Revelation, Office Products

Kinder and Cheaper Robots Bring Automation To Distributors

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 25, 2017 2:20:59 PM

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Robots are all around us. They are delivering room service, vacuuming your floors, and even showing up for work to stock shelves. Restaurants are placing small monitors on tables so customers can re-order drinks and pay their bill. 

When you order a drink from McDonalds, workers place empty cups under drink dispensers and they automatically fill them up to the top while employees do other tasks. In the healthcare industry robots are operating with precision on human beings as physicians instruct them from another room.

You have probably heard about the electronic labor force at Amazon; There are thousands of robots in warehouses across the country. Robots made by Kiva Systems (Amazon bought the company for $775 million in 2012), are being used to better handle the avalanche of orders placed every second. The robots bring shelves of goods from storage and carry them straight to human workers to process.

I read that Amazon employees were complaining about walking 15 miles a day to retrieve goods for orders; they don’t have any problem with robots handling that part of their job. Also, with the introduction of delivery drones into the supply chain, (being tested now), a new level of customer service is possible.

As a small business owner, you may think robotics are too expensive for your organization. But times are changing, and there are inexpensive robots (as low as $20,000) called collaborative robots (cobots) that are working with employees instead of replacing them. These robots have a smaller footprint, are very mobile and are considerably kinder to humans. Armed with safety sensors that keep them from running into bodies, the little bots are able to perform a variety of tasks.

Unlike their ancestors, the giant industrial robots bolted to a single location who work assembly lines, these cobots roam free on warehouse floors. It is interesting that studies show that small businesses who use robots increase productivity, which in turn requires them to hire more humans to handle additional business and complete tasks that robots cannot handle.

For small businesses, keeping margins low is the path to profitability. There is no need to outsource work to foreign lands and cheaper labor if they can work more efficiently in their own warehouses. Delegating repetitive work to cobots on the night shift means when employees come to work in the morning, their work is ready to process.

Warehouse robots may be the least sexy members of the robot family, until you view the bottom line. The market research firm Tractica predicts that companies around the world will spend $22.4 billion on warehouse robots by 2021.

The old adage, make it cheaper, better or faster still stands. Leveraging technology to save costs and reduce errors is a wise path for any size business; however small businesses need to think of innovative ways to compete with big box distributors.

Please share in the comments below how you view robot technology and if it has a place in your small business.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems. www.bmiusa.com

Topics: Dynamics NAV, ecommerce

Five eCommerce Blunders that Online Distributors Can't Afford to Make

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 17, 2017 5:05:52 PM

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In the course of my business, I have the opportunity to speak with many online distributors. I found that some of them suffer from common mistakes with their eCommerce platform - mistakes that can be fixed.

 eCommerce is the lifeblood of online distributors. If not attended to, these mistakes can turn off customers and drive them away from your business. I read that over half of online customers have experienced problems with their purchases within the past year.

 Here is a list of some common blunders and how to fix them:

 No. 1: Choosing an ecommerce platform without doing adequate research.

Something as important as connecting with your customers shouldn’t be relegated to the back burner. Just reading a list of functionality in a brochure is not enough to verify if the platform will work for your business. We all know that once you get your hands on the new software, suddenly your “assumptions” about how you thought the software would work may be a big wakeup call and give you a bad case of buyer’s remorse.  

Create a list of the functionality that your business requires like:

  • First-in-search product positioning
  • Credit card processing
  • Online order status
  • Online returns
  • Upsell and accessory options
  • Order history / Easy re-order
  • Integrations to back office accounting/ERP

Consider these questions:

  • Is the cart easy to use?
  • Can you get support when you need it?
  • Are there positive reviews for the product?

No 2: Ignoring Security Concerns

If you want customers to buy from you, don’t scare them away. Studies show that up to 25% of users will stop an online purchase because of security concerns.

Users need to know that their information is safe and protected. Smaller eCommerce sites overlook how important a trust indicator is for the success of online business. A digital certificate communicates to customers that your site is authentic and safe to use.

If you outsource to third party providers, make sure they provide strong security best practices, verified through industry certifications and that they secure their own data with https.

No. 3: Clunky Site Navigation

The quickest way to drive a customer to your competition is to make your site so difficult to navigate that they can’t find what they want quickly.

Make sure your search is optimized. A customer should be able to find the products they are looking for with minimal clicks.

Review your analytics and note where your customers are dropping off. Continually optimize your eCommerce site base on your findings.

No. 4: Eliminate Uncertainty

Since a customer can’t see and inspect their purchases before buying, you can ease their uncertainty in other ways. Failing to give accurate or helpful product descriptions leads a customer to order the wrong product, or they may just give up on ordering altogether.

Include as much information as possible in your description. Placing information such as materials, sizing, colors, and instructions for use, how to care for, will assist your customer in deciding if this is the right product for them. Many master distributors and manufacturers provide enhanced content. Your site should be capable of taking advantage of that advanced content.

If your customer gets all their questions answered, they will order from you. Another benefit: You will reduce returns and customer dissatisfaction for your eCommerce store.

 No. 5: Poor Checkout Design

Don’t ask for information beyond what is needed for the transaction as that will frustrate your customers. Your process should be easy and painless.

If you have multiple checkout pages, you are giving visitors more reasons to click out. I have heard it said, if it is harder to pay for the item then find the item, there is something wrong. Use one page that offers account creation/guest checkout, shipping, billing and credit card information.

What challenges do you have as an eCommerce distributor? Please comment below.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems. www.bmiusa.com.

 

Topics: Dynamics NAV, ecommerce

Who Says Independent Distributors Can't Compete with the Big Box Giants?

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 11, 2017 12:49:18 PM

 

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 I talked to an independent distributor the other day, and he let me know what a tough time he had competing with big box etailers and retailers’ huge discounts and wide-ranging product offerings. So he changed his approach.

He makes it easy for consumers to do business with him by automating the ordering and sales process. He offers free shipping, a generous return policy, and as a small, agile business, he can broaden his ecommerce channels through social media and flash sales.

Studies show that the social network quadruples a retailer’s message online. Not only that, but friends who share good deals with their friends have the credibility that no big box company can match.

Here are some action items to take if you want to win against the power channel:

  1. Compete by offering free shipping or free upgrades to shipping. Multiple shipping options are a mighty conversion tool. You can make your customers happy by letting them know they are getting a great deal. Emphasize the pain they feel when they buy an item elsewhere and then end up paying $100 in shipping charges.
  2. Don’t even try to compete on price - you won’t win against the big box retailers. However, you will win if you offer a customer experience that they can’t resist. Be personal, use their names in correspondence. Use buying history to offer more of what they want. “Dear Sue, we noticed last month you ordered some computer paper, and we’d hate to see you run out right before a big presentation. Just fill out the form below, and we will have your order on the way with Bob, our delivery driver, who knows exactly where to deliver it. Big box stores will have a hard time duplicating the level of service you can offer. They are concentrating on a volume play. You can win with your attention to detail. How many times have you walked into a big box store and were ignored by three workers with no more knowledge than you?
  3. A strong online presence is essential to attract new customers. Get the word out and the sales in your carts by creating an easy-to-use eCommerce site. Your goal is to make it easy to buy and easy to return so they will buy again.
  4. Sell value, not price. I once had a dry cleaner who was further away than other local dry cleaners. However, that didn’t stop me from driving across town to bring my business to them. Why? Because they were smart enough to send me weekly tips about how to care for different fabrics. A big snowstorm hit our region, and they sent me an email with a list of fabrics NOT to wear in the snow so they wouldn’t be damaged. Not only did they share their expertise, but I learned to trust that they would know how to handle my clothes.
  5. Define your niche and beat the pants off Amazon. Look at a company like GoPro. Yes, you could order it on Amazon, but if you are a fan of GoPro you want to buy from GoPro where all those geeky experts live. With 3.5 million followers there is a reason they have a loyal base. Their top-notch customer service beats Amazon because they know the answers to your questions.
  6. Be radical. Make a deal with a popular pizza restaurant and offer your office product customers free pizza with every 5th order. Alternatively, send Starbucks cards when they reach a certain dollar value in orders. The folks who place those orders will remember you as they enjoy a pizza lunch or coffee the next day and they’ll come back for more.

What are some of the ways you compete with the big box companies?

Please comment below; we’d love to hear your story.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems. www.bmiusa.com

Topics: Dynamics NAV, Business Software, E-Commerce, BMI Software, Customer Service

What to Do with a Hopping Mad Customer?  Listen....

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 4, 2017 9:58:43 AM

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Think back to an experience you had with a vendor that frustrated, angered and made you shake your head in dismay. I admit it, unexpected surprises drive me bananas. I don’t mean to pick on the cable company, but this particular experience is top-of-mind.

One of my co-workers recently told me about an infuriating experience she had with an install order at the cable company. She emphasized during the sales process that she was moving and HAD to be connected to the internet on the date scheduled, so remote working was possible. She made an appointment three weeks in advance to be sure the work would get done in time. The cable technician came two hours early, while she was doing a run to the old house. He left a note on the door saying “Sorry I missed you. Call the office to reschedule.” HUH? She had an appointment! The office let her know the next appointment would be two weeks away. Unacceptable!

She was angry and kept calling up the chain, retelling her story, getting rejected until she got a supervisor to listen to her and do something about it. The supervisor empathized with her problem, asked clarifying questions, and determined that she had done everything right to try and get service when she needed it. Then he did something that made her happy. The Supervisor said he would come out HIMSELF the next day on Sunday and install her internet and cable. That kind of demonstration of personal responsibility changed her anger into admiration.

No one likes to deal with unhappy customers. Customers, happy or not, have the power of social media to make or break your business. Here are some tips on handling unhappy customers.

  1. Let them Rant - It is important for customers who perceive that they have been treated unjustly to talk about their issue. Ask clarifying questions to let them know your are listening to them, and want to get details. Say things like; I hear your frustration. Let's find out what we can do to fix this.
  2. Tell them what you can do, not what you can’t do. For example, I can schedule you for the very next available technician. Not, I don’t have any techs available for a week.
  3. Look past the anger - find out what caused the issue. Was it unclear copy? Did we drop the ball? It is common to dismiss customers as unreasonable, or cranky, but you may be dismissing genuine feedback.
  4. Don’t defer blame - Nothing infuriates a customer more than being told what they did wrong when they have a complaint. Your tone, if dismissive can start a firestorm right where you don’t want it - on social media. Just apologize without any caveats. Even if the customer is off-the-wall unreasonable, just say you are sorry and ask how you might help resolve the issue.
  5. How you ask questions either feeds the anger or diffuses it. If you ask a customer a negative question, you’re asking for a negative response.

For example,

Is there anything else wrong? (Negative)

Is there anything else I can help you with? (Positive)

  1. Complaints need a speedy response. Don’t think you can wait a day or two until they “settle down.” They won’t. Don’t let them feel powerless and drive them to feel social media is the only way to get your attention.

No one enjoys dealing with angry customers. Better communication can create opportunities to earn respect and turn them into fans. The key is the customer is not always right, but you have the power to make your response right.

How do you handle angry customers? Please join the conversation and comment below.

Business Management International (BMI) sells, implements and supports Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP solutions for growing businesses. We specialize in keeping customers happy and productive with modern technology. www.bmiusa.com

Topics: Dynamics NAV, Business Software, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, microsoft ERP, BMI Software

Don't Let Your Competition Automate You Out Of Business

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Jul 27, 2017 3:58:07 PM

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Fierce competition for sales and equally as important, efficiency, force business owners to automate as a way to be profitable. Now more than ever before, offering your customers a memorable experience when doing business with you entices them to come back for more.

Today’s instant gratification world means you don’t get a second chance to capture business. A customer who visits your eCommerce site has no patience for sloppy processes that don’t communicate what they want to know: how many, when and where they can expect items on order to be in hand.

Small to medium businesses with budget considerations may make a stab at improving selected areas of their operations. For example, they implement a stand-alone warehouse system so they can pick and ship more efficiently. Lacking integration to their back office software, they leave gaping holes in their operations. The back office does not know that a widget is out of stock, so there is a delay in replenishment. By the time the customer hears about it, not only are their expectations unmet, but a hard-fought-for relationship may go south.

Or, a distributor may implement an eCommerce solution that has to be tediously updated manually by their staff to make sure prices, discounts, and shipping locations are in synch with their ERP system. As the business grows, it becomes a nightmare to keep the data correct, and errors are sure to happen.

I heard the story of a distributor of music CDs who was doing business with Amazon. He was looking at a proposal for a new ERP system to replace his disconnected legacy system and tells how his hand was shaking as he committed to buying the automated solution. Was he going to bring his company down with this investment? Would he be able to see the ROI fast enough to justify the spend?

One month after the company was operating on the new system, Amazon notified all vendors that if they gave Amazon access to their inventory directly, the vendors who did this would be moved up in priority status on Amazon's vendor order fulfillment ranking. Because of the open technology of the solution, the distributor was able to give Amazon direct access to their inventory within three days. They moved from position 8 to position 3, and their orders soared. Within three weeks the additional orders paid for his ERP purchase. This is the kind of ROI that automation can bring.

Business owners with vision recognize they need to do more with less. If you are operating on outdated technology, your competitive edge is waning. Successful businesses prioritize investment in automation because what follows are outstanding customer experiences that lead to revenue growth.

What are the barriers to automation for your company? Please comment below to join the conversation. 

BMI supports Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP and offers end-to-end solutions for organizations who want to automate their operations.

Topics: Dynamics NAV, Accounting Software, Business Software, Microsoft Software, BMI Software

EPIC Business Essentials Announce Record Q1 Results

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Jun 29, 2017 12:17:19 PM

EPIC Business Essentials, the national and regional accounts joint venture between Independent Stationers and Trimega, last month announced record results for the first quarter of 2017.

The organization said it saw growth in its key categories-commercial, state-local, governmenta/educational, federal and healthcare-versus the same period last year. Sales were up over 10% with federal sales leading the way, up over 30%, EPIC reported.

"We are very pleased with the turnaround year-over-year for the joint venture," commented IS president and CEO Mike Gentile. "Additional efficiencies through our industry-leading, totally integrated BMI Software ordering platform/ORDERPOINT are enabling EPIC end-users to experience a world-class platform, while enjoying the high touch local service levels that only the independent dealer channel can provide."

Added Trimega president Mike Maggio, "Not only is EPIC growing its business, we have a record number of dealers-over 300-with a record number of end-users-over 90,000 participating, and those numbers continue to grow. We are pleased to see our dealers and customers continue to embrace the model."

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Topics: BMI Software, Dynamics NAV, Distribution Software