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December 28, 2015

A Day in Life of ERP Support Consultant and the Best Practices used

There is a fundamental difference in the way a development and support project is executed. While the former is more time intensive, it takes discipline for the later. Unlike the development project, in support, the consultant faces and resolves many different issues with varied priorities. There are different dimension on which the support project is measured, some of them are Backlog, Aging, SLA, Knowledge Base, Continuous Improvement and so on. These are the varied aspects a support consultant needs to dwell on daily basis and it may happen that in all these he may lost on what and how things to be done, prioritized. The only key for the success is Discipline and this Blog aims at to provide a typical schedule for support consultant so that he can organize his daily activities in better way.

To illustrate, let's take an example of John working on an ERP support project. As a consultant, John is assigned issues on daily basis from his lead and his assignment is to resolve these issues. The only key here is resolving the issues, but as the project progress, the issues gets piled up increasing the backlog and then eventually the issues became aged because of various reasons. While combating Backlog/Aging issues, John is thrust into looking at the priority issues as laid down by business. And to add all this, John has been tasked to create a comprehensive Knowledge Base where he is expected to document the resolutions for frequently occurring as well as unique issues. Furthermore, John is also being asked to suggest improvement so that the customer experience is enhanced and the issues are reduced. Amid all these expectations, John finds it difficult to decide which things he needs to give importance and how to manage his day so that he can deliver on all of this expectations.

To start with, John first need to discuss with his lead and come up with a sequence of the things to concentrate on. This will vary project to project, however for this blog, let's assume that the below sequence is being advised.

·         Escalated/Urgent Issues

·         Aging Issues

·         SLA Breaching Issues

·         Backlog Issues

·         Knowledge Management

·         Continuous Improvement

Based on the above view, let's sneak into John's day to see how he is been managing all of this adventures-

BEST PRACTICE FOR PRIORITIZING ISSUE RESOLUTIONS

As John begins his day, he quickly checks his mails. Mails along with any daily call with his Lead gives John an idea into what are the escalated issues which needs an urgent attention. John mark his 'To-Do' list with this issue. Even though this is escalated issue, John has not yet jumped into the issue but he is checking on his issue 'Dashboard'. This Dashboard gives him all the relevant information which will aid his decision to effectively manage the day. John quickly goes through his Dashboard which tells him how many new issues are assigned to him, what are total issues he is responsible for, how many issues are nearing the SLA breach. In his 'To-Do' list, John marks an entry for the issues which are having highest aging and then marks the issues which are nearing the SLA breach.  By now, on his To-Do list, John has marked the Urgent issue, Aged issue and the SLA Breach issue.

He quickly goes through the issue list once again and into the details of issue and checks if there are any known or repetitive issues which he has worked on. He makes an entry in his 'To-Do' list for such issues and moves on to check other issues. By now, he is aware of what are all issues he has received and which are they pertained to. Based on his best judgment, he marks his 'To-Do' list with the issue he thinks can be easy win as well mark the issue with asterisk where he feels that the issue will need some time to investigate and analyze. Now that John has a ready 'To-Do' list which he is using to deliver his day.

As John is going through individual issues based on the above listed priority, he scribes some notes on his Knowledge Management and Continuous Improvement folder to note that these are the topics which can contribute in this category. While John is working on the issues, he gets assigned with some new issues. As he reaches a certain milestone in resolving the existing issue such as Analysis completed, Development completed, Review Completed, he quickly checks on the new issue assigned and categorize the issue as easy win or need further investigation so that the next day he can quickly pick these up. John sends an email ( or update the issue tracker) suggesting that he has acknowledged the issue and advising user that he will look into the issue and provide updates.

On all issues worked during the day, John has provided his update and progress information on the issue tracker as well as keep updated the issue raiser. In a support project, it is of utmost importance that the business user is keep updated on the progress being made. This ensures that business knows that someone is looking into their issue and it will be resolved within an agreed date.

BEST PRACTICE FOR BUILDING KNOWLEDGE BASE AND IMPROVEMENTS

John has reserved certain day and time based on his judgment of the inflow of issues (like Friday where incoming issue will be lesser in number) to dedicate for the other two important facets of the support project which is building up the knowledge management and suggesting continuous improvement. John opens up his scribbles and goes through them and create a knowledge document based on his note while resolving the issue which he has earlier faced. Once complete, he sends his Knowledge Document and Improvement idea to concerned person to review and progress.

CONCLUSION

To conclude, John is disciplined on his daily schedule which has won many accolades for him as he is able to fulfill and excel the expectations. The key in a support project is 'Discipline'. One have to be very much disciplined and adhere to the schedule laid down by yourself to effectively deliver the day. 

December 7, 2015

Carrier Collaboration using OTM Portal

 

The transportation of every shipment requires collaboration with carriers. Carrier collaboration can be achieved in various ways with Oracle Transportation Management (OTM):

  1. Communicating through EDI with carriers that have EDI transmission capabilities

  2. Email and fax-based communication

  3. Offline communication on phone followed by manual entry of response into the system

  4. Carrier collaboration using the OTM Carrier Portal

We will focus on the simplest and the easiest approach to implementing carrier collaboration, which is the OTM Carrier Portal. OTM provides a carrier domain named SERVPROV. Every service provider in the operational domain creates a user ID in the SERVPROV domain. In most cases, this is the user ID provided to carrier. The most commonly used features in this domain are:

  • Responding to the tender sent to the carrier (normal as well as spot tender)

  • Adding shipment tracking events for visibility

Apart from the above there are several other very useful features that can enable more effective communication with carriers. Let us take a look at some of the important ones.

User Management

Many of the shippers and 3PLs, have different carrier IDs created in their ERP systems. In reality, however, these multiple IDs represent the same carrier. Especially for 3PLs depending on the OTM domain strategy they have, the same carrier IDs created in multiple domains. When the tender is sent, it is the same carrier user that responds. It can be frustrating for carrier users if they need to use a different ID for every carrier ID created in OTM. The "Manage User Association" feature helps overcome this problem by creating a single ID for all carrier IDs.

The reverse is also true where there are various users for the same carrier, depending on the location from where the shipment is being dispatched. "Manage User Association" again comes to the rescue by associating dispatch locations with users based on the source location of the shipment.

Carrier Capacity Limits

Carrier capacity is usually used to denote the capacity provided by the carrier. But the capacity keeps changing depending on the situation. With OTM, the carrier can override the capacity for any lane(s) so that the actual capacity available is used for planning.

Self-Billing

The self billing process is fast catching on with shippers. More and more shippers are creating carrier invoices themselves and asking carriers to validate the invoices. This can be easily implemented by tweaking the existing Virtual Private Database (VPD). There are two ways of achieving this:

  1. Provide access to view the shipment and ask carriers to verify the cost on the shipment and provide feedback

  2. Generate the invoice and provide access to carriers to verify the invoice. If the carrier accepts the OTM generated invoices, only then is the invoice approved to create vouchers

The invoice view has a placeholder for comments if the invoice is not acceptable. The operational user can then change the invoice based on the feedback.

This speeds up the carrier billing process and provides complete visibility on the current status of the transaction including the current responsible party.

Response to Bids

OTM provides a sourcing feature which can be used to attract bids from carriers. As a part of this process, an Excel sheet is sent for the carrier's response. The Carrier Portal is an effective platform to upload response bids. The upload of Excel files reduces time for the response and also helps with ongoing data integration. While uploading, the system verifies the structure of the Excel file allowing the carrier to rectify it in case an error occurs.

Since, not all carriers are EDI-enabled and communication using phone, email, fax, etc., is difficult to track, visibility into the transportation chain is impaired. In this scenario, the OTM Carrier Portal with its robust features including custom menus and screen sets provides a highly efficient and convenient way of communicating with carriers.

Do drop in to meet with us at the Infosys booth during the OTM SIG APAC Conference. We will be happy to discuss how you can improve your carrier collaboration.

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