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How To Prepare For A Small Business Loan

While well-off businesses don’t need extra cash, some find themselves in between money-related struggles that could use a boost, and that’s when they turn to business loans.

Whether you want to expand your operations, clear outstanding invoices, purchase inventory, or require some quick cash for miscellaneous expenses, you can turn to lenders to help you out.

If this is your first time taking a loan, it’s no surprise that some things will confuse you. Here’s our detailed guide on preparing for a loan and key factors to consider before taking one.

When To Get A Small Business Loan

Since there are so many types of loans, you must decide why you need any financing to begin with. Doing so will help you make the right decision and choose what works best for you.

As surprising as it may sound, you should take a loan when you have a good credit score and when the business cash flow is strong so you aren’t desperate for money; this is so you meet the eligibility criteria set by lenders. If you qualify for lower interest rates, you’ll have more loan options, and this won’t happen if you are neck deep in bills.

Plan ahead by going through your financial reports and making decisions based on your needs. For example, if you’re not in immediate need of a lump sum of money, don’t choose a term loan for working capital; instead, a line of credit will be a better option since it allows the borrower to take money from the line as and when needed.

When Not To Get A Small Business Loan

If you’re struggling to meet your financial goals according to the business plan, then don’t take out a loan. The main reason you shouldn’t wait until there is an extreme cash crunch is that you might struggle to afford to pay back the loan, making you a risk to potential lenders.

If your business or personal credit scores are dwindling, avoid getting a loan. Considering your personal credit history plays a vital role in determining whether or not you’re eligible for a loan, you’re better off trying to rectify it first so you qualify for these financing options. Pay your bills on time, watch out for your credit report, and reduce your debt.

Even if you do qualify for a loan with online lenders despite having bad credit, you may not get an unsecured loan with a low annual percentage rate. Consider a short-term loan or merchant cash advance if you really need the money. You must ensure they’re credible sources, so when questions like “is 5k funds legit?” pop into your head, go ahead and check their reviews to know for sure.

Applying For Small Business Loans

Get Your Documentation In Order

Once you decide you need a loan, gather the important documents before going to the lenders, or just contact them if you’re unsure. Usually, these are the items your lender will require:

  • Business License
  • Personal and business tax returns
  • Personal and business bank statements
  • Business plan
  • Building lease
  • Financial statements
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Profit and loss statements

Submitting Your Loan Application

With all the documents ready, it’s time to get started on your loan application process for your small business. You have the option to do this online or in person based on which lender you decide to work with.

These are details lenders commonly ask for:

  • Your name
  • Social security number
  • Business name
  • Business tax ID
  • Loan purpose
  • Desired loan amount
  • Annual revenue

Best Types of Small Business Loans

SBA Loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees these business loans because the federal government guarantees a repayment of up to 85% of the loan in case the borrower defaults. SBA-approved lenders choose their own annual percentage rate (APR), and the interest rates can range between 2.8%-13%. These are the most popular SBA loans: 7(A) loans, 504 loans, and SBA microloans.

Line Of Credit

These business loans work like a credit card; financing with a business line of credit allows you to borrow money as you require it and pay interest accordingly. After approval, you’re given a credit limit, and you repay what you owe as you use it. You can access this credit anytime during the draw period (usually 12-24 months), but after it expires, you no longer have access to the credit line.

Term Loan

Terms loans are a common search for small business loan options; businesses borrow money from traditional sources like banks, online lenders, or credit unions and repay the funds over time, often at a fixed interest rate. Although the terms and conditions vary, qualified businesses can borrow $500,000 or more, with an APR starting at 9% and repayment terms of up to 10 years.

Personal Loan For Business

Small businesses usually opt for personal loans because it relies on the business owner’s personal credit score and not the business credit score. These loan amounts are generally small, and the maximum borrowable quantity depends on the individual’s debt-to-income ratio, personal finances, and assets, so you must have strong personal credit.

Equipment Loan

Small businesses usually need financing for new equipment, and these loans help you do just that. The equipment you purchase using this loan serves as collateral. In the case of a default, the lender can claim the equipment to resell it and recuperate the losses. Since there is an inevitable collateral involved, the lender’s investment risk is low, which means you may get competitive interest rates ranging from 8% to 30%.

Microloans

Compared to other business loans, microloans offer small amounts of money with short repayment terms. The eligibility criteria are less stringent, and businesses can usually borrow up to $50,000. Microlenders typically involve nonprofit organizations and focus on underprivileged small business owners like women and minorities. Interest rates are quite low and sometimes non-existent.

Conclusion

With that said, every smart business owner knows when they need extra financing, but it’s all about planning ahead to ensure you don’t have to make hasty decisions that leave you in a downward spiral. 

What are Logistics Operations in Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain management is the bridge connecting various elements of the supply chain, involving the movement of goods from point of origin to point of consumption. It acts as the backbone of supply chain management, ensuring the smooth flow of goods, thus reducing costs, and improving efficiency. 

To enhance these operations, businesses are now adopting technology to make things easier and faster. There are several tools available in the market to cater to the needs of modern supply chains. These innovations have also benefited “last mile” delivery drivers, providing them with advanced apps to perform logistics operations smoothly. 

Furthermore, to assist the drivers in their role, Upper lists out the best apps for drivers designed to make logistic operations more productive and responsive. So, let’s embark on this journey together to demystify logistics operations in supply chain management.

Understanding Logistics Operations

Logistics operations are the backbone of supply chain management, helping to bridge the connection between manufacturers, suppliers, and customers. This operation involves various processes, from optimizing delivery routes to managing excess inventory.  

The primary goal of logistics operations is to streamline processes, minimize costs, and maximize service levels. Apart from this it also aims to enhance the efficiency within the supply chain. Moreover, companies must ensure that their logistics operations remain responsive to evolving market demands to survive in the competitive business environment.

Key Components of Logistics Operations

Logistics operations involve four main components, each with its unique role in ensuring that the product reaches the destination on time. The key components include:

1. Transportation

Logistics and transportation acts as the backbone of the supply chain for the movement of goods from one place to another. It may be conducted through various channels such as road, rail, air, or sea. Efficient transportation planning ensures cost-effective routes guaranteeing timely deliveries with minimal transit times. 

2. Warehousing

Warehousing refers to the temporary shelter en route movement of goods from manufacturers to consumers. It plays an important role in the management of inventories, consolidation of orders, and safeguarding against fluctuations in demand. The warehouses can be in the form of distribution centers, fulfillment centers, or hubs depending on the needs of the supply chain. 

3. Inventory management

Managing inventory is an essential balancing act that can be achieved through inventory management software. It involves tracking stock levels, replenishing when required, and minimizing excess inventory to reduce carrying costs. Inventory management helps to make sure that the customer requirement is fulfilled without hampering their experience. 

4. Order fulfillment

Order fulfillment involves everything from order placement to delivery to end customers. The first step involves order processing (orders are received and verified), then comes picking and packing products, and lastly to the final leg of shipment and delivery. Order fulfillment helps to attain customer satisfaction by meeting customer expectations of on-time deliveries.

Together, these components can help businesses improve their operational efficiency by meeting customer demands. 

Role of Technology and its Benefits in Modern Logistics

Technology has transformed logistics operations from a manual paper system to an automated, data-driven process. It has reshaped the way businesses manage their supply chains. Here’s how:

  • Technologies like GPS and IoT sensors empower real-time tracking of shipments, giving exact information about location and enhancing visibility across the supply chain.
  • Advanced analytics tools are used to optimize routes, predict demand, and make informed decisions based on the data available. 
  •  Robotics and AI-driven automation smooth out warehousing and order fulfillment, lessening blunders and upgrading productivity.
  • RFID innovation and barcode scanning improve inventory accuracy and minimize stockouts or overstock circumstances. 

Now, let’s discover some benefits of adopting technology within logistics operations:

  • Innovation-driven automation lessens manual work, limits errors, and speeds up order handling and delivery times.
  • Optimized routes, efficient inventory management, and diminished work costs add to bring down operating costs.
  • Real-time tracking, accurate delivery estimates, and easy communication enhance customer satisfaction.
  •  Innovation gives valuable insights into supply chain performance, empowering proactive decision-making and strategic planning.

By and large, integrating innovation into logistics operations isn’t simply a decision — it’s a need in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Sustainability in Logistics

Sustainability is a crucial aspect of logistics operations and is no longer simply a buzzword. So, let’s learn about sustainability concerns in logistics, the adoption of green practices, and the emergence of sustainable supply chain initiatives.

Furthermore, logistics operations have a huge ecological impression, with transportation and energy consumption being primary patrons. The impact incorporates carbon emissions, pollution, and resource depletion, making sustainability a prime concern.

To deal with this effect, logistics is going through a green transformation. Green logistics practices incorporate:

  1. Adopting eco-friendly transport modes, for example, electric vehicles or freight ships with lower emissions, diminishes the carbon impression.
  1. Advanced route planning software limits fuel consu and emissions by determining the shortest and most efficient paths.
  1. Adoption of sustainable energy sources for stockrooms and transportation facilities.

Beyond green practices, logistics is now a vital part of broader supply chain initiatives:

  • Tracking and uncovering the ecological effect of items and materials.
  • Planning supply chains that diminish squandering and advance recycling and reuse.
  • Sustainable packaging materials and designs to reduce waste generation.

By embracing green practices, and partaking in sustainable supply chain drives, organizations are satisfying the growing need for eco-friendly items and responsible supply chain management.

Future Trends in Logistics Operations

The future of logistics will see groundbreaking innovations. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) equips shipments with real-time tracking, guaranteeing the security of items and timely arrivals. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also revolutionizing route optimization, demand forecasting, and decision-making, prompting cost reductions and increased effectiveness. 

Blockchain technology is enhancing transparency and security within supply chain transactions, decreasing fraud, and improving traceability. Furthermore, eCommerce and last-mile delivery providers are utilizing autonomous vehicles and drones to speed up deliveries. 

Global events, like pandemics, have highlighted the requirement for logistics resilience. Supply chain expansion, diminishing dependence on single-source providers, and regional sourcing have become basic techniques to limit disruptions. Moreover, planning and forecasting are also important to avoid supply chain disruptions. Sustainability practices are gaining momentum as environmental concerns develop, underscoring the significance of eco-friendly logistics operations.


Adjusting to these future patterns in logistics operations isn’t simply profitable but fundamental. 

Final Thoughts

Logistics operations are the invisible threads that connect manufacturers with buyers, guaranteeing items arrive at their planned destinations in the shortest time frame. From its definition and key components to the embrace of sustainability and anticipation of future trends, we’ve traveled through the core of supply chain efficiency.

To flourish in this environment, organizations should embrace advancement, sustainability, and versatility. Whether it’s optimizing routes or exploring e-commerce’s surge, logistics operations remain the foundation of success in the steadily developing world of supply chain management. Understanding and mastering them is the way to remaining competitive, productive, and receptive to the necessities of a quickly changing world.

How Growing Businesses Can Develop Effective Technology Strategies

At the risk of stating the obvious, technology has changed everything. It’s changed the way we communicate, the way we buy and sell, and the way we seek information. These changes are impossible to ignore, especially for businesses. As new advances continue to disrupt the workplace and reorder the consumer experience, the most successful businesses are able to adapt and evolve.

Of course, that requires the development of a robust and comprehensive technology strategy. Whether you are running a Florida LLC or a Partnership in California, it’s important to be intentional and visionary in your deployment of technology.

What is a Technology Strategy?

Maybe a good starting point is simply to define our terms. Technology strategy sounds like a perfectly good entrepreneurial buzzword, but does it actually mean anything?

To put it most succinctly, a technology strategy is a concrete, specific, and detailed set of documents that outline a company’s technological goals: What’s your vision for technological deployment? What do you hope to accomplish with your technology, and how will you measure your success?

A good technology strategy will articulate the budget you’ve set aside for IT, the kind of staffing and training you’ll need to deploy technology most effectively, and the operating models you have in place for technology compliance, governance, and security.

Why Does Having a Technology Strategy Matter?

This isn’t documentation for documentation’s sake. On the contrary, there are some specific benefits that growing businesses can gain from having a well-designed technology strategy in place. Those benefits include:

  • It provides a clear and consistent approach to information-sharing, which can boost efficiency, encourage collaboration, and minimize redundancy.
  • It provides a holistic approach to cybersecurity and to regulatory compliance.
  • It supplies you with clear metrics for assessing the success of your technology program.
  • It defines responsibilities for decision-makers, IT leaders, and other stakeholders within the company.
  • It provides direction and vision for how tech resources should be allocated.

How to Develop a Technology Strategy

With all of that said, then, what are some practical ways for growing businesses to put technology strategies into place?

1) Start with your business objectives

Technology, when rightly deployed, can have a positive effect on all aspects of your business, including every department and every employee. As such, your technology strategy should never be created in a vacuum, as though IT is simply its own little island.

Instead, your development of a technology strategy should always begin with key stakeholders taking stock of core business objectives: Sales targets, long-term growth plans, marketing goals, and more. Use these objectives to provide some shape and direction for your technology plan.

2) Gather information

It’s also important to bring key decision-makers and stakeholders into the planning process. That means seeking input and gathering information from everyone who will be most directly affected by your tech roll-out (including the IT leaders and department heads who will be spearheading the roll-out).

You might even consider surveys or town hall meetings to get insight from your employees, seeking their opinions about technology goals, hurdles, or pain points.

3) Set a timeline

A good strategy should include measurable goals, as well as a basic timeline. In other words, it’s important for your technology strategy to clearly articulate what you hope to achieve, and at what points you need to be hitting key benchmarks.

Something else to consider: When will you and your IT team pause to review the technology strategy, and to make any necessary additions, revisions, or improvements? The strategy itself should document a basic timeline for audits and reviews.

4) Audit your current technology infrastructure

Speaking of audits, as you develop a technology plan, it’s critical to take stock of the assets and resources you already have in place.

By identifying these assets, you can first determine the technological gaps that must be accounted for. From there, you can develop a strategy for filling those gaps as cost-effectively as possible, and with minimal disruption to your day-to-day operation.

As you conduct this audit, however, you need to be attuned to more than just hardware. Also think about the human factor. Which technologies do your personnel actually use, and which ones are underutilized? Which existing technologies feel essential to the big picture, and which are peripheral?

5) Define your metrics

How will you know whether your technology strategy is actually working? Simply put, you’ll need to define your metrics up front, along with the processes you’ll use for measuring and reporting.

There are a number of metrics to consider when establishing a business technology strategy, including project delivery time, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, marketing and sales ROI, and more insights from Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). As you think about which metrics are most worth measuring, go back to those core business goals you established in step 1.

6) Obtain buy-in

Your technology strategy will only be successful if the stakeholders in your business agree to its value and importance. That means getting buy-in with leaders and managers, who can then promote the strategy to the other employees.

Here, clear communication is essential. Be prepared to convey the big picture, avoiding too much technical jargon and instead focusing on the reasons why your technology plan will benefit the company in its day-to-day operations.

7) Seek help as needed

Developing a whole new technology strategy is a major undertaking, and it’s sure to have implications for your entire business operation. It’s normal to feel like you need a little guidance from an external partner, so don’t hesitate to enlist an IT vendor or technology consultant as necessary. Invest in getting your technology plan right, and it should yield major dividends over time.

Take a Strategic Approach to Business Technology

The bottom line: Every growing business benefits from taking a proactive, long-term view of their technology needs. The right strategy can undergird your productivity and align all of your other business goals. Take a careful approach to your technology strategy, and be ready to revisit it regularly as your business grows and changes.

8 Benefits of Cloud-Based Business Management Software

It’s no secret that technology is evolving—and the world of business is changing too. Remote working is on the rise, which is forcing conventional workplaces to pivot the way they work.

One way businesses are changing is in the storage, processing, and collaboration of data. While on-premises ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems were traditionally used, today many businesses are turning to cloud-based business management software, including Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) solutions.

Compared to physical hosting and in-house solutions, these systems are adaptable and easy to use. So how does it work? Put simply, your system is hosted on virtual servers that are easily accessible over the internet. Meanwhile, data is saved on external servers controlled by your service provider rather than on-site servers. 
These cutting-edge data centers are properly managed and feature computer resources dedicated to hosting applications such as digital marketing software on several operating systems. So what other benefits does a cloud-based business management software solution provide?

How Does Cloud Computing Work?

With cloud computing, you can run software remotely via the internet without configuring or maintaining your own server infrastructure. So rather than investing in hardware, you only need a web browser and an internet connection to manage your business’s IT systems. 

Meanwhile, your cloud computing provider handles the installation, maintenance, and upgrades of the software, servers, operating systems, and network switches that make up your cloud.

What Are the Primary Service Models in Cloud Computing?

Remote desktop hosting and data storage are just some of the many practical applications provided by cloud-computing services. The services on offer are divided into three primary models:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

With IaaS, you can rent servers, storage space, virtual devices, and even networks from a cloud provider on a pay-as-you-go basis. If you’re a small business, this may be a useful option, as IaaS providers offer flexible infrastructure to handle fluctuating workloads. Examples of IaaS providers include Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine (GCE), and Microsoft Azure.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS is a model for delivering cloud-hosted applications and infrastructure to developers. This covers everything from web portals to gateway software and APIs. Solutions such as Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Beanstalk and even Facebook are excellent examples.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Chances are you’ve used a SaaS tool before – applications include popular services like Netflix, Quickbooks, Zoom, and Google Workspace. 

This model offers access to various software through the internet. SaaS applications can be accessed via desktop clients, web browsers, or APIs that interface with the user’s operating system. 

Collaborating on projects, sharing data, and accessing specialist software are all made easier with the aid of SaaS applications. Users often pay a recurring cost, either monthly or annually.

8 Benefits of Using Cloud-based Business Management Software

As technology continues to evolve, understanding the latest consumer trends is essential for businesses to stay competitive. One trend that has emerged is remote working, which has forced conventional workplaces to pivot the way they operate. Another area in which businesses are adapting is in the storage, processing, and collaboration of data. This is where cloud-based business management software comes in, providing adaptable and easy-to-use solutions that cater to the latest consumer trends. 

The number of companies using cloud computing is growing. In fact, 69% of businesses accelerated their cloud migration in 2022, and that number is likely to grow. 

Here are some other top benefits of using cloud-based business management software for your business: 

1. Promotes Job Satisfaction 

Cloud-based business management software makes managing who has access to what easier, especially if your workforce is increasingly remote. Employees can log in from wherever they are and use whatever device they like, increasing productivity and allowing for greater autonomy and adaptability across the company. 

With this consolidated method of interaction, your teams will all be on the same page and more motivated to work together. By empowering employees with more autonomy while retaining the necessary level of control, you can increase job satisfaction and employee retention.

2. Improves Data Accessibility

For employees to be as productive as possible, it goes without saying that they need to access data remotely and in real time. Cloud computing gives employees access to company data from any device with an internet connection. With the right credentials, users get immediate access to data by logging in to a single online hub.

Role-based access is also a feature of certain cloud-based services, ensuring that only authorized users can access sensitive information. These security measures help to ensure that only authorized individuals can gain access to private data. Another advantage is that it enables managers to efficiently manage remote teams, which means that employees in different locations, even across the world, can collaborate on the same projects as their colleagues in the central office.

3. Offers Better Protection

Improving your company’s cyber security practices is essential in modern business, as cyberattacks and hackers pose a threat to corporate data. 

By investing in a robust data security process, you can curb data theft and keep sensitive information safe. This means fewer emergencies and maintaining a solid reputation with your employees and customers.

Switching to cloud-based business management software is an excellent approach for strengthening cybersecurity. A cloud-based business management system helps you keep tabs on sensitive information and ensure its safety.

Some methods used by cloud vendors to guarantee data security include the following:

  • Data encryption
  • Web services security
  • The TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol
  • Network IPSs (intrusion prevention systems)
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Physical server security 

Moreover, software vendors undergo internal and external audits, so your business can be sure that your data is safe and secure.

4. Improves Scalability 

No matter the size of your business, change and growth are inevitable, whether it’s setting up a new onboarding system or exploring complex topics like model drift detection. With this in mind, your enterprise management system must be flexible to accommodate such changes. 

If you need to add or remove users as your company expands or contracts, you can do it with ease when using cloud-based software.

What’s more, you’ll have far more leeway than you would with a legacy system because of the ability to scale your infrastructure to match business demands. Because you only pay for what you use, there’s no chance of overspending or running out of storage space.

A flexible system that can adapt to technological developments and market shifts is crucial to thriving in competitive marketplaces. When compared to a proprietary system, cloud-based business management solutions’ flexible upgrades and new features are affordable and offer significant growth potential.

Furthermore, cloud-based solutions enable greater opportunities for integration, either between applications from a single provider or third-party software, allowing you to customize your technology to your organization’s specific demands.

5. Offers a Cost-Effective Solution

Cloud management software helps you store data without the hassle of purchasing and maintaining hardware and other equipment. Setting up cloud-based business operations also requires less of an upfront financial commitment than setting up in-house infrastructure and employing a full-time IT department.

The majority of cloud-based services only charge you for your consumption. Like with other services, data storage space is often priced per unit of storage space used. These services are reasonably priced and contribute to reduced costs and a higher ROI.

6. Supports Data Backup and Recovery

Reducing downtime and preventing data loss are key priorities for successful businesses. However, both targets can be difficult to achieve and maintain. Taking measures to limit the severity of data loss and downtime as much as possible is an important first step.

Unnecessary expenses and losses can accrue quickly when even minor problems arise. Data backup and disaster recovery are crucial in the event of unexpected problems. Data recovery and backup functions are built into cloud-based software to mitigate the effects of emergencies such as power outages or natural disasters.

If your company’s data is safely backed up in the cloud, you can rest easy when unexpected situations arise and your system is compromised in any way.

7. Offers Automatic Updates

Speaking of loss of productivity and unanticipated downtime, both are possible results of overlooking software updates. 

Traditional software needs regular manual upgrades to function correctly. This is often a tedious, costly, and challenging task that might require an IT professional’s help or input. 

By using cloud-based software, your business can benefit from the time savings and peace of mind that come with having the most recent software upgrades applied instantly. This automation eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming third-party IT support. If your employees don’t have to spend time on mundane tasks like maintenance, they’ll have more mental bandwidth for more critical projects.

8. Supports Work Synchronization

It’s easy for mistakes to be made when several people are working on one digital file. 

However, if your files are stored on the cloud, you’ll always have access to the most recent version, regardless of what device you’re using and who else is modifying the file. 

This feature is valuable for organizations that prioritize continuity in communications, such as a virtual customer service business. Changes are updated in real time and synchronized across all accessible devices, allowing your employees to make key business decisions using the most recent data.

Take Control of Your Business

The best part about cloud computing is that it simplifies complex business systems and saves you time and resources. 

You don’t have to struggle to maintain vital business systems by expending scarce IT resources. It handles all that, allowing you to focus on more critical business goals thanks to your cloud computing provider.

Nevertheless, cloud computing also has certain drawbacks that you should be aware of before making the switch. To get the most out of a cloud business management system, it’s important to do your research on the services you’re considering, learn about security measures and compliance requirements, and provide your team with appropriate training on how to use the new system.

The Impact of AI on ERP Software

Artificial intelligence has been changing the world around us in many ways. No, we aren’t quite living in the matrix, but we are interacting with Artificial Intelligence (AI) all the time. Many organizations are now turning to AI to improve sluggish Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). AI can provide the processing power to deal with the increasing complexity of modern business needs.

This article will explore the impact of AI on ERP software and how it is revolutionizing this decades-old system.

Current Trends and Future Needs

Before considering the implications of AI in ERP, let’s crunch some numbers about the current use of AI and how this will change in the coming years. According to a recent study, the enterprise AI market size in 2022 was estimated at $16.81 billion. By 2030, it’s predicted to grow to $102.9 billion as a CAGR of 47.16%.

According to a report by IBM, AI adoption by businesses as a whole is at around 35%, a rise of 4% from the previous year. Such evidence indicates the importance attached to this by companies all over the world. And why is this? 

One application of AI in ERP is increasing workplace efficiency and productivity to make companies more competitive. For instance, it is thought that 40% of the work of a sales representative could be done by AI, allowing these valued members of staff to focus on more complex tasks.

Such innovative technologies can put a company in a prime position for the future and in line with businesses that already have the right software engineer talent and are looking to use AI to help their ERP systems.

Businesses who currently use AI in any format, or are working towards having it.

What Is An ERP System?

Whilst the term itself dates back to the 1990s, companies have actually been using ERP management systems since the 1960s. It’s evolved greatly over time—and to many, AI is the next new innovation to improve efficiency.

An ERP system is the organized storage and use of information for the benefit of a company or organization. In layman’s terms, this allows enterprises to create a single database for all departments in an office or organization, uniting finance, accounting, supply, warehouse management, customer service, marketing, and more. 

It offers services like simplified data entry, business processes, automation, reporting, and forecasting, all integral to driving profit. Combining this with AI will fundamentally change how these operations are managed.

Image sourced from trustradius.com

Will More AI Actually Help?

Britannica defines AI as the “ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with humans.” AI services currently available to enterprises include chatbots, intelligent process automation, AI-enhanced financial planning, and automated data entry.

Using AI can benefit many departments and business processes, like accounting, analytics, data mining, sales automation, and warehouse management, by increasing productivity. It can also reduce human error when inputting data, cut operational costs, and enhance human capabilities by streamlining routine processes. Ultimately, this will reduce staff frustration and boredom while doing these menial tasks.

Challenges To Implementing AI

However, companies face certain obstacles to benefiting from these services fully. Firstly, it can be challenging for firms to effectively implement AI because they may lack the technical IT skills, expertise, or knowledge. So, it’s worth considering investing in relevant qualifications like a Databricks engineering certificate

Furthermore, companies can lack the investment capital to set it up, or data can just be too complex to make sense of.

Nevertheless, recent advances in AI technology, the increasing savings it can make, competitive pressures, and the need to satisfy supply issues and environmental concerns are encouraging companies to turn to AI.

Read on to find out the fantastic potential for your business.

8 Ways AI Enhances ERP

The bottom line is that it makes your business smarter, more cost-effective, and thus more competitive. Here’s how:

1. Better Quality Data Handling

One major issue today is coping with the growing volume of data being collected and making intelligent and accurate insights into it, like reducing complex business systems. This is possibly the most important factor in how AI can help improve ERP, making companies active rather than reactive.

AI offers integrated analytics that can collect enormous amounts of data. It can then produce more detailed reports than traditional ERP systems, allowing more accurate predictions and ensuring that business solutions are correct. Other features include maximizing process efficiency by analyzing processes and workflows to save time significantly and increase productivity. Any data collected this way is accessible and tailored to business needs to increase ROI.

Furthermore, AI can provide algorithms that permit companies to notice trends that might have otherwise gone undetected by mining data and searching for complex patterns. Such activities make it operate in a similarly fluid way as the human brain. Such data analysis assists with planning, problem-solving, strategy, and organization.

2. Automate Repetitive Tasks

Boosting automation has always been a way for companies to increase productivity, saving time and thus increasing competitiveness. For instance, manual data entry used to take up a huge amount of time and money and was also subject to human error. Automated data collection is not only more accurate but improves operational effectiveness on these essential, menial tasks.

For example, your HR department can save time on repetitive data entry and can even use automation in the recruiting process. This frees them up to concentrate on things like employee training programs or compensation and rewards for exemplary staff.  

While this does present issues regarding reducing the amount of work people can do, these kinds of jobs are usually considered boring and prevent your talent from engaging in more fruitful activities that they enjoy. That’s why, according to IBM, 30% of companies say they are already saving time thanks to AI.

3. Advanced Forecasting Models

AI’s ability to constantly collect data is the most effective and accurate way to make predictions. For example, it can make supply chain and warehouse management run more smoothly by keeping real-time figures, enabling warehouse managers to better prepare for spikes in demand or potential disruption. This is especially important in the light of the Covid pandemic and changing geopolitical situations.

One common criticism of traditional ERPs is that they are too slow to adapt to change, yet changes to the supply system happen daily, presenting a huge challenge to businesses. AI constantly predicts and measures past, present and future data to enable more measured responses to current conditions. 

The increase in the amount of data analyzed ensures that predictions are accurate, closing the gap between them and the reality of the future, be this accounting, customer trends, or research and development.

Image sourced from Gartner

4. Better Problem Solving

By analyzing data, AI can detect workflow issues before they occur. For instance, manufacturing systems can be monitored closely to develop a better understanding of when maintenance is required, reducing the potential for a break in production.

This can be further enhanced by self-learning algorithms, based on past data, that predict incidents before they occur, for instance, within hardware or even software. Some software solutions contain a database framework that can be integral to core ERP processes. This is why high-tech industries often use AI to prevent expensive errors and faults from occurring. 

This creates more agile companies, especially as staff can focus on complex problems rather than maintenance unless it’s necessary.

5. Better Accounting

AI is capable of spotting common issues like irregular or suspicious payments or data entry mistakes. It can also aid in more complex tasks like creating financial documents or preparing for auditing.

Furthermore, when assessing financial risks, AI can help run diagnostics and other reports, allowing finance departments to produce more accurate forecasts. The graph below shows how finance teams are planning to invest in emerging technologies, such as AI and cloud-based ERP, to streamline their operations. 

Image sourced from Gartner

AI can achieve this by analyzing data it has mined about a company, such as past financial performance, current backlog, purchase rates, and market opportunities. A potential setback is its inability to control commodity prices, macroeconomics, and supply chain surprises.

6. Better Marketing

AI in ERP helps departments explore new business opportunities that they might not have noticed. By analyzing more client information, businesses can deploy a more bespoke marketing campaign that reaches the right people. The optimization of business data can lead to a significant rise in profit margins.

7. Enhances User Experience

By connecting AI with ERP, customer behaviors and demographics can be more closely monitored. AI assistance can analyze customer feedback in real time, increasing trust and profits as well as improving the all-important customer experience. Additionally, AI can quickly identify bugs, mistakes, or gaps in your user experience to help provide the best service. According to the IBM report, companies have witnessed a 48% increase in user experience satisfaction thanks to AI.

8. Improved Customer Service

Any successful customer service team requires data. Not just any data. Good data. Better than simply sending customers to FAQs, they can engage with chatbots that are more geared up to answer individual requests with up to 79% accuracy. This gives customers the agency they desire to get things resolved.

Not only are your agents freed up from automated tasks, they have easy access to data to help them deal with potential buyers effectively.

The Takeaway

AI can have a hugely positive impact on many areas of a business, including managing data, forecasts, company departments, and increasing automation. Such improvements improve the user experience and customer service, improving loyalty to a company and driving sales. This all boils down to a company that is more competitive and productive in a fast-paced market. While a lack of training and money may be an initial barrier, implementing AI in ERP can enhance any enterprise.

How to Protect Your Business’s Assets on a Cloud Network

Cloud networks are the wave of the future. The ability to access your business assets anywhere is attractive to many companies—especially those with a remote team. However, protecting digital assets requires sophisticated knowledge and foresight. 

The cloud services market is a $266.4 billion industry and growing yearly. As with anything online, though, cybercriminals will try to find ways to access personal information or take systems down. Protecting your business’s assets is a vital step in ensuring your customer and business data stays safe. 

Cloud security is often a concern of small-business owners. Some may even shy away from cloud computing due to fears of exposing trade secrets or customer lists. That said, you can take steps to protect your business’s assets while reaping the benefits.

1. Choose the Right Provider

Your first step should involve choosing your cloud provider wisely. What steps do they take to ensure secure digital assets? Top cloud-based hosting companies have the best security software imaginable. Because they represent numerous clients, they can invest more in world-class protection.

Ask how they back up information. What happens if a hack does occur? Find out how frequently they update their security systems and what they do to identify and quarantine potential threats.

2. Match Specialties

Some cloud providers specialize in working with particular industries. A company that already has clients in your sector better understands your specific security needs. Cloud migration can take endless hours of moving databases to a new setup. It helps to know which system you want and why. 

Find a provider willing to move information over for you in a secure environment so you start the process with less risk.

3. Secure Your Wi-Fi

blue wi-fi strength indicator for cloud security

It doesn’t matter who your provider is if the devices used to access data are compromised. Make sure company Wi-Fi is secure so that non-authorized people can’t log in and watch what your employees are doing. Instead, set up a guest Wi-Fi if you want to provide convenient Wi-Fi connectivity to on-premises visitors.

The Covid-19 pandemic showed us that remote work environments are effective. Your IT department should pay particular attention to security concerns for employees working off-premises. If remote staff needs to access information from the main office, set up a secure VPN network that’s resistant to cyber-attacks.

4. Require Regular Password Resets

Require your workers to reset their passwords for logging into the office network every 45 days or so. Set complexity rules around the types they can create, don’t allow repeated passwords, and ask them to protect their current login information. Multi-factor authentication, where users receive a secondary verification code on a trusted mobile phone, is a must.

Although not as common as some other attack vectors, there have been occasions when someone works at a coffee shop and a nearby table notes their login and steals it to access a company website.

Identity Theft Resource Center infographic depicting Q1 2023 data compromise statistics.

5. Security

Just because news of corporate data compromise no longer dominates the headlines, breaches are still happening. Most in-house IT staff are well-versed in a number of disciplines, but effective data security practices are a moving target.

Consider hiring a 3rd-party cybersecurity expert. The level of creativity and malice of today’s data theft actors is astonishing and they only need to succeed one time. To avoid catastrophe, your security needs to be right every time.

Today’s outsourced cybersecurity firms offer surprisingly inexpensive services to help businesses stop attacks before they occur. 

6. Train Employees

One of the top things you can do is train your employees in cybersecurity. Explain spoofing and phishing and how they can avoid it. Set policies to never request password information in an email. 

Spend time refreshing your staff about how to keep data secure every so often. They should be very careful when working in public locations.

Should you need to terminate an employee, make sure their account credentials are disabled immediately. Otherwise, you open your brand up to vengeance attacks. 

7. Keep Backups

Even if the cloud hosting company you use keeps regular backups, and most do, make sure you keep them as well. In the case of a severe cyberattack, your entire system, website, and online presence may go down.

The best way to get back online fast and avoid revenue loss is with a recent backup. However, it might take days to restore everything if you don’t. Develop a business continuity and disaster recovery plan before a catastrophe happens. In a worst-case scenario, you risk losing some data forever.

8. Keep Sensitive Data Offline

If your company has some truly sensitive data because you work with patients or the government, consider keeping some things off the internet. No matter how much software you install or how robust your security is, there’s always a chance of hacking.

If something is extremely sensitive, you can code it and use that for your online entries or just take that information to your private servers. However, they must also be kept secure.

9. Encrypt at the File Level

Even if your cloud provider uses encryption, add another layer of protection by encrypting before you upload your files. You’ll need something your remote workers can access, but it’s crucial to take that one added step to prevent sensitive data leaks.

Use database sharding to break up sections and store them in different locations to further protect documents. They may breach your network, but they aren’t likely to find the full information they need to steal private information. They’ll only have bits and pieces.

Business Cloud Security

The rate of cyberattacks has grown in the past year. More people are online, and businesses have to be remote-work-friendly. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of this, but you can stop them in their tracks—and protect business assets on the cloud—by following a few of the tips mentioned above.

Think about the different ways you might open yourself up to an attack and take steps to stop it before it happens. Your cloud provider can help by putting protections in place, and you can ramp up security on your end, too.