• The Price you Pay for Commodities (Managing Price Volatility)

    Prices for commodities across all sectors have been more volatile than ever over the last two years. While there are signs of slow recovery in some markets there seems to be no relief of the continuing pressure on prices. Some of these changes can be attributed to heightened production and a reduction in demand.

    The agreement by OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) to reduce crude oil production has already seen an increase in the spot oil prices. It is anticipated that demand for oil may fall due to slower growth in advanced economies and China. Going in to the colder weather, natural gas prices in the US have increased while prices in Europe have not. Coal prices have increased, mainly due to disruptions of supply in Australia and China.

    Metals have continued their downward trend due to concerns about over supply and existing large inventories. Two exceptions are tin and lead; they have hit a two year high reflecting concerns about decreased production in China.

    In agriculture, September saw a decrease overall for the third month in succession. The expectation of exceptional yields in several growing regions, particularly in the US, have seen prices for corn and soybeans. Wheat has also reduced, again on the back of increased yields in India, Russia and the US. In contrast, coffee and sugar have seen increases due in some cases to adverse weather conditions in some regions.

    So what does all of this mean? In short, it is safe to say that price volatility in the markets will continue, creating challenges for trading organizations to determine pricing strategy and for manufacturing companies to manage the cost of their raw materials. Organizations are looking for more and more ways to minimize risk, maximize profit on their commodity business. This leads to less fixed price deals and to more ways of quoting and pricing raw materials; a classic example is agreeing to pay 5c per bushel above Chicago Wheat price for December 2016. The price is variable thereby taking account of market price fluctuations while locking in the premium to be paid.

    With more and more variable pricing methods, commodity traders and manufacturers who are evaluating traditional ERP solutions need to ensure that their chosen solution is adept at dealing with these types of prices. Scalable offers an ERP solution suitable for commodity traders and manufactures. Microsoft Dynamics AX with Scalable Commodity can handle these pricing mechanisms and carry them through to landed costs, valuation, and profitability reporting. Contact a Scalable consultant if you’d like to learn more about about  Microsoft Dynamics AX with Scalable Commodity. 

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  • How to: Easily Manage Commodity Contracts in One Place with Microsoft Dynamics AX

    Real-time access to commodity contract information is so important in a commodity trading that organization is essential. Traders must have one go-to place where all contracts and related information is readily available to access. The trouble is that for many traders that go-to place happens to be a coloured file folder filled to the brim with documents; everything from contracts, notes, shipping instructions, weigh scale tickets, and scraps of paper – not the most efficient way to locate contract specific information at a moment’s notice! Take a page out of Scalable’s book and forego the paper altogether, you’ll be glad you did.

    For the modern commodity trader and manufacturer, contract management is best handled with Microsoft Dynamics AX with Scalable Commodity in the contract management form – take a look:

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    The benefit of moving from paper to a software solution such as Microsoft Dynamics AX with Scalable Commodity solution is that managers can easily drill down into the information they need; filtering information by attributes such as trader, commodity, delivery dates, or counter-party. For each contract summary the information panel provides a real-time status view.

    In Microsoft Dynamics AX with Scalable Commodity, the inquiry tab provides access to all transaction related information. Some questions that you might ask include things like:

    • How do I intend to use/consume this contract?
    • What shipments have been arranged?
    • What deliveries have taken place?
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    The Allocation form provides details of the matches/allocations that exist for the contract. The user can see the execution plan for the contract and then make any adjustments or changes as necessary. As the contract moves through the execution life cycle the shipment and individual delivery (loads, rail cars, B/L) details are available to view.

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    Using the Contract Management Form as the central point to access contract specific information, with cross module access to AP or AR for financial information, helps everyone keep up to date in an ever changing environment.

    If you’d like to learn more about how your commodity trading or manufacturing company can easily obtain access  to important information without having to manage burgeoning file folders,  contact Scalable today.

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  • Successful ERP Strategy for Reducing Commodity Trading Risk.

    cargo_shipIf the outcome of the UK referendum is any indication, there remains significant uncertainty in the global economy. Today, businesses face risk that stems from many origins: everything from political change, climate related factors such as draught in East and Southern Africa, and the Zika virus in Latin America. Recent forecasts reveal commodity price uncertainty lay ahead, reflecting a higher global risk aversion. For raw materials manufacturers and commodity traders in industries such as food and beverage, chemicals, metals, and biofuels, this presents many challenges. Calculating landed costs for commodities for instance requires adopting a successful strategy for dealing with commodity trading risk management (CTRM).

    Were the purchase of commodities at a known price, definitive quality, or fixed costs at the time a contract is agreed, handling of commodities could be managed more easily with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution alone. However, for businesses dealing in commodities something more is needed for dealing with the risk, logistics, and global supply chains. One successful strategy would be to integrate commodity trading and risk management (CTRM) for a single integrated solution.

    With Microsoft Dynamics AX and Scalable Commodity, raw materials manufacturers can now address these challenges by recording all commodity procurement contracts with details of expected quality, costs, price, and delivery dates. Prices may be fixed or where appropriate quoted against a Futures Exchange market e.g. Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). zedIT Solutions in conjunction our partner Scalable provides the flexibility to fix the commodity price against a contract or shipment as determined by the contract terms (this may even be after the delivery and consumption of the commodity). The tracking of estimated costs for each contract and/or shipment satisfies a number of requirements; accurate mark to market valuations, strong cost accruals process for shipments and ultimately accurate landed cost calculations for materials.

    Additionally, the production demand for raw materials is visible to the procurement and logistics departments who can then decide how to satisfy that demand; from inventory, existing contracts or by going out to the market to purchase additional materials. As soon as the allocations have been made and the logistics arranged the plants know when to expect deliveries and production can meet their schedules.

    By leveraging standard Microsoft Dynamics AX functionality combined with Scalable Commodity, an organization has visibility of data across all departments, and can improve efficiency and strengthen its supply chain. Read the AGT success story to learn more about how Microsoft Dynamics AX integrated with Scalable Commodity can reduce commodity trading risk.

    Read the success story…

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  • Delivering a Transformational Erp Experience to Business

    By Mike Ehrenberg

    Cloud computing opens up new possibilities for organizations where speed, scale, flexibility and intelligence can redefine how business gets done. We have architected the new Microsoft Dynamics AX, our flagship enterprise-class ERP product, with a clear focus on leveraging the full power of the Microsoft cloud and to change how people think about their ERP business solutions.

    The key to successful business software begins with empowering users to work where and how they want to work – the right scenarios with the right experiences on the device of the user’s choice. We have completely rethought the user experience, tapping into extensive usability analysis to come up with an experience that is second to none. An elegant, modern, intuitive HTML5 experience brings the principles of highly visual, immersive applications which today’s modern user expects from their consumer apps to their enterprise business application. We’ve optimized the experience to eliminate unnecessary clicks and pop-ups – bringing the user all the right information, and where they need it, so they can be more productive.

    We’ve developed an integrated user training mode — Task Guides – that helps new users complete business processes with on-screen guidance in the client experience, and that same facility can let users drive the application through voice commands to Cortana. In addition to being great on the Microsoft Edge browser, the new solution is also available on all modern browsers. That same modern HTML5 experience will be available in a Windows 10 Universal App, simplifying deployment. With an adaptive experience through Continuum, we’re enabling Dynamics AX users to get the most out of their phone device. The app will also be available for iOS and Android, reflecting our cross-platform commitment.

    The payoff for a business application investment is not about putting information in, but it really lies in turning data into intelligent insights and driving actions around those insights to deliver outcomes. In today’s fast moving business environment, that can’t be based on data for yesterday, last week or last quarter, but needs to be about what’s happening right now. Dynamics AX, together with Azure SQL and PowerBI, delivers near real time analytics, embedded pervasively across the application. Users don’t need to leave their work to use a separate analytics tool – the business intelligence they need is right in the application. Dynamics AX uses in-memory BI to give people real time operational insights so they can make informed decisions. It enables people to find, sort, visualize, and use information easily with an intuitive user interface that provides contextual insights through Power BI — embedded directly in the application. A user can now create analytics in PowerBI, publish them to Dynamics AX, and embed them directly in the application UI. Dynamics AX users can see those analytics in context, click through to PowerBI to more deeply explore the data, and even drill back to the underlying transactions.

    In addition, we’ve enabled new scenarios, powered by Azure Machine Learning, bringing predictive capabilities built in to the application that, for example, can help a retail seller make more effective product recommendations.

    The new Dynamics AX is at the center of Microsoft’s core ambition around the reinvention of productivity and business process. With outstanding Office 365 and Skype interoperability, users have the best productivity and collaboration tools to help them be as effective as they can be. Matching how people need and want to work, scenarios seamlessly flow across Dynamics AX, Office 365 and Skype for Business. For example, in a Budget Formulation process managed by Dynamics AX, budget requesters and approvers get to work with budget data naturally in Microsoft Excel. The new solution also introduces a powerful new concept called “Workspaces,” where users in various roles not only get a different lens on the data, tasks, and activities tailored to their role in the organization, but also an even more focused experience in the application with additional context bringing together all the data, all the processes and everything they need to get a task done.

    With the new release we are expanding the capabilities of our cloud delivered Microsoft Life Cycle Services (LCS), focused on continuing to transform the full application lifecycle management of a Dynamics AX project. We are formalizing the concepts of development, test and production and delivering the tools that will let enterprises combine the agility of cloud software upgrade models with the enterprise best practice discipline of managed release promotion and deployment – meaning the customer can have more control over when they get and implement updates that fits their business needs. Building on the experience we’ve already gained with the LCS service and with our operation of CRM On-line, we are confident that we will enable our customers to break new ground making the ongoing upgrade of their business solutions suite quicker to implementation and deploy, more predictable and easier to manage.

    It’s all made possible through the cloud and the new Dynamics AX is delivered from the Microsoft Azure Cloud. In building the new release, we drove each architectural choice to optimize for excellence on Azure. The new Dynamics AX focuses on the benefits that the cloud can really drive for a business such as simple sign-up and immediate provisioning to get users up and running fast; reliability with built-in High Availability and Disaster Recovery so businesses can get the information they need and are secure they won’t lose their data at the most critical times; elastic capacity to add resources when needed but not pay for them when they’re not, and transforming the software upgrade conversation. Building on the global footprint of the Microsoft Azure cloud, with its strong commitment and capability to meet diverse data locality and data sovereignty requirements, the new Dynamics AX is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of our global customers. And, building on planned advances to Microsoft’s on-premises technology stack, we will deliver the new Dynamics AX to customers that demand on-premises deployment in 2016.

    This is a major transformation for Dynamics AX. At the core remains our proven business logic, surrounded by our proven ecosystem of partners and ISV’s. We have invested in early access programs that have the service in the hands of hundreds of partners and have a record number of ISV solutions ready to go with the new Dynamics AX at launch. We have harnessed the best of Microsoft technology from Azure to Office 365 to Power BI and delivered a solution reinvented for the demands of modern business and maximizing the business benefits of Microsoft’s intelligent cloud. This is the beginning of a new era for Dynamics – and for reinventing business process and productivity.

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  • New Research on Digital Strategies and Priorities

    In October 2015, Microsoft commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate European organizations’ digital strategies and priorities. To explore these trends, Forrester developed a hypothesis that most European enterprises consider digital capabilities to be a key component of their business and customer strategies, but most have not yet reached the ability to create new sources of customer value from digital assets. Furthermore, Forrester tested the assertion that business leaders – including technology leaders – lack alignment about what digital means and what is required to transform into a digital business.

    In conducting in-depth surveys of 150 European business leaders, including technology leaders, Forrester found these leaders to be optimistic about the potential benefits of digital; indeed most have digital strategies in place. However, companies hampered by traditional business models create digital strategies that paint a veneer of digitalization onto the existing business without truly creating new sources of value for customers.

    Digitizing Your Business Strategy – November 2015

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  • Reimagining Business Applications with Microsoft Dynamics AX

    By Christian Pedersen.

    Today is an exciting day for us at Microsoft as we formally announce Microsoft Dynamics AX, the latest release of our flagship ERP solution that has been completely architected for the cloud.

    This is a significant release because we believe it is going to transform the way people and businesses interact with and what they expect from their business solutions. Mike Ehrenberg in his blog today nicely lays out the new technical aspects of this new release.

    We have been previewing the new Dynamics AX with hundreds of partners and customers and overwhelmingly the feedback has been that this is the most significant release in the history of Dynamics AX and people can’t wait to get this into production within their companies.

    Based on my discussions with customers about their business needs and feedback on the new release, I wanted call out some key things that stand out for me in the new Dynamics AX.

    First off, Dynamics AX delivers a beautiful UI that is modern, touch-enabled and looks and feels like no other ERP system in the market.  This in itself is revolutionary.  It enables people to use and interact with the system easier than ever before democratizing data and information for business people today.  And as millennials enter the workplace, it appeals to them because it looks and works like the applications that they are used to, leading to quicker adoption and actual usage.

    Dynamics AX is intelligent. When we say intelligent, it is more than just visualizing reports (although, Dynamics AX with Power BI does that beautifully).  It’s about how the data in the ERP systems is combined in real-time with data from outside the company to help people make more informed decisions. It’s about the ability of the solution to proactively predict issues or provide guidance to help keep you out of trouble.  For example, think of how Cortana on your Windows phone gives you notifications when you need to leave for an appointment to make it on time based on all the traffic/ weather data that it is capturing in the background.  Now apply that intelligence to your business, where Cortana has the ability to tell you about a problem in your supply chain, or alert you about the need to increase your inventory of cold drinks because of an upcoming heatwave to ensure that you have the right amount of stock on hand.  This predictive nature and intelligence of business applications is the future that we are delivering today with Dynamics AX.  This new solution removes limitations and opens up the ability for businesses to think about the “art of the possible” – and that is very exciting.

    The power of the cloud. Cloud has been a buzz word in the software industry for the last few years, but when people talk about the cloud, it is usually limited to infrastructure – the ability to host and deliver software as a service.  We are expanding what cloud means for businesses.  The cloud powers the intelligence, but in addition to this the cloud enables growth and the ability for people to do business anytime, anywhere, at a global scale.

    The cloud enables the agility that was never possible before. Mike in his post talks about Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services – this is a game changer in the business software industry, the ability to discover, develop, test and deploy a complete business solution in the cloud is a compelling proposition for customers, but we go beyond that – we view LCS a service that gives continuous life to a business system, enabling it to change, adapt and grow with the organization. This is also reflected in the new product name, just simply, Microsoft Dynamics AX, without any version or year associated with it because what you will have will always be the latest.

    Speed – implementing a system quickly, the ability to get people up and running faster, changing business processes without business disruption, getting real-time insights into business to accelerate productivity and ultimately getting the fastest time to value are top of mind for every customer.

    I’m both honored and excited to deliver Dynamics AX to market, a world-class business application that will make all of the above real for our customers.  Similar to Windows 10, we see Dynamics AX as an application that businesses will want and love.

    The new Microsoft Dynamics AX is expected to be available in public preview for all of our customers and partners in 140 countries by early December.

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  • Accelerating Microsoft Dynamics Deployments on Microsoft Azure

    By Christian Pedersen.

    In my conversations with customers, one of the key things I hear is how they are looking for technology that can keep pace with their business. They want solutions that give them the agility to change with their customer’s and market needs. For example, retailer Pet Supplies Plus is gaining both more flexibility while lowering costs by putting their business infrastructure in the Microsoft cloud.

    Cloud has played a significant role in helping our customers keep up with this pace of change. With the release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 in 2014 and Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle services (LCS) in 2013, we are enabling our customers to use the power of the cloud to develop and test their business critical ERP solutions, helping them enter a new era of business applications in the cloud. Earlier this year, with the availability of Microsoft Azure D-Series Virtual Machines, we took the step of giving our customers the choice to directly deploy production instances for Dynamics AX on Azure utilizing LCS and giving them clear, predictable, repeatable implementation capabilities as well as significantly reducing their deployment times. As a result, to date, we have seen more than 15,000 Dynamics AX cloud VM deployments in Azure, a number that continues to grow daily.

    To help our large enterprise customers and further accelerate Dynamics AX deployments and give even more deployment choice for Dynamics CRM on Azure, we are excited about the announcement of the global availability and introduction of a new variant of the powerful G-series class of servers called the GS-series that combine the compute power of G-series with the performance of Premium Storage to create incredibly powerful VMs for storage and compute intensive applications. The capabilities offered by the new GS-series give even more choice to our customers to deploy Dynamics AX on Microsoft Azure – capabilities such as supporting high volume transaction volumes to enable real-time inventory and BI capabilities that any global, world class enterprise requires to run their business critical applications.

    In addition, we are also enabling new ways for our customers to achieve incredible business agility by giving them the ability to leverage the elasticity of Azure. Specifically providing customers and partners tools and services to manage their environments efficiently in Azure through simple capabilities in LCS. We are doing this by providing a set of PowerShell scripts that leverage Azure Automation through Runbooks capabilities as the first step in this journey. We expect this elasticity will help our customers and partners that are doing dev/test on Azure to reduce their monthly costs by up to 69% or more and have environments ready for their developers or users when they need them instead of making them wait to spin them up.

    We continue to help simplify our customers utilizing these new updates and advancements through LCS by planning to provide support for the deployment of the GS-series VMs by the end of September and the integration of the Runbooks capability into LCS by the end of November. And finally, to deliver the most value to our customers for their technology investments, starting October 1 2015, we are pleased to announce a reduction in the prices on D-series VMs by up to 27%.

    All of today’s announcements demonstrate that we are taking the next major step in our journey to reinvent productivity and business processes for our customer and taking Dynamics on Azure to the next level.

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  • Serve your Customers Better and Expand your Business

    By Christian Pedersen.

    As the global economy continues to shift, companies need to expand in a variety of ways, including by adding new segments, locations, and of course products and services. Companies need support for growing through acquisition as well. Microsoft Dynamics AX can help you reach new customers in fresh new ways:

    • Rapidly serve customers in new geographies by using built-in multi-industry capabilities, regulatory, compliance, and language support for 36 countries on a scalable private cloud infrastructure. Manage Microsoft Dynamics AX implementation from pre-sales through deployment and operations with Lifecycle Services, our Microsoft Azure-based application lifecycle management services makes it easier to grow and expand your operations.

    • Improve customer interactions, innovation, and differentiation by quickly expanding, with continuous optimization of business processes.

    •Win new customers. Add new services and deliver more functionality by taking advantage of out-of-the-box enhancements, like new Master Data Management (MDM), campaigns for social channels, and support for integration with Facebook and Twitter. Our friends at Jean Coutu Group help store managers be more active on the floor, delivering timelier, more meaningful service. Mobile point-of-sale functionality will enable managers and salespeople to interact directly with shoppers, while checking inventory, placing orders, and reducing waiting times when lines are long.

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