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Getting It Right: Product, Quality, Timing, and Price

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: April 19 2006

The Functionality of Jeeves Enterprise—Not To Be Undermined

Jeeves Enterprise has long consisted of a number of autonomous modules for all key business processes; new modules have been gradually developed and added by Jeeves partners, and have often been tailored for a specific sector or type of business. In 2003, Jeeves devoted significant efforts to developing, refining, and supplementing its product. Jeeves Enterprise Version 9 is the latest offering, and it was launched in mid-2004. Before delving deeper into some modules, it would be beneficial to review the genesis of Jeeves.

This is Part Three of the series Jeeves—Thriving Organically as a Humble Servant.

Based on the analysis in The Formula for Product Success: Focus on Flexibility and Cooperation, Jeeves Enterprise can be described as a toolbox, emanating from the client's own, unique business processes, to which the system in turn can be adapted. This is quite a different approach from what is generally provided on the enterprise applications market today, such as regimented "best practices" or "processes-in-the-box."

As mentioned earlier in this series, Jeeves in its current form was founded in 1992, when Assar Bolin authored a graphical financial system for personal computers (PCs) in a client /server network. The first delivery agreement was signed in late 1992, and the very first accounting system went live in 1993. In 1995, Jeeves signed a master agreement with Alfa Laval Thermal, whereupon several new modules were launched, including Order, Stock and Invoicing, Procurement, Assignment Management, Marketing, Service, and Material Requirements Planning (MRP). Jeeves then became a more complete business system, and was renamed as Jeeves Enterprise. The Alfa Laval partner made its first installation in Nevers, France, which at that time represented Jeeves's first installation abroad, of about fifty systems sold in total.

In 1996, a universal language translation tool was integrated into the system; ICL Data Oy became the first foreign partner; and the number of systems sold reached 130. In 1997, the MRP and logistics applications were enhanced, and Jeeves Enterprise 5.0 was launched. ICL Data Oy sold this system to Academica in Finland, which was the first transaction by a foreign partner, of the 260 systems sold at the time. In 1998, Jeeves Enterprise was supplemented with the Graphical Planning, Net Requirement Calculation, Reporting, and Fixed Assets accounting modules, as well as integrated electronic data interchange (EDI) functionality, which marked the Jeeves Enterprise 6.0 launch. By that point, 460 systems had been sold.

In 1999, Jeeves went public, and Jeeves Enterprise 7.0 was launched, and adapted for mobile communication and e-commerce. Also, partners started up in France, Italy, Finland, and Spain; the euro currency management was added to the system; and Jeeves marked a total of 620 systems sold. The year 2000 brought about the three-layer client/server architecture with thin clients and Internet communication. Also, collaboration agreements were signed with some application service providers (ASPs) and business systems providers (BSPs,), and with new partners in Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the UK, and Ireland. The total number of systems sold by that point was 680. In 2001, Jeeves Enterprise 8.0 was launched with Workflow, Document Management, and other smart tools (the workflow application for web-based authorization of supplier invoices was developed together with Sweden Post Outsourcing). More foreign partner start-ups, primarily in European core markets, were initiated; 2001 marked a total of 750 systems sold.

2002 marked product development to continue to enhance product quality and introduce new functionality in Workflow and web-based applications; Reveny was Jeeves's first major acquisition (now one of their subsidiaries in Sweden). Agreements were signed with new partners in Slovakia, Russia, and other countries. Nicolas Ehrling was appointed as the CEO, and the total number of systems sold came to 900.

In 2003, the Sales & Product Configuration module was launched in collaboration with Tacton Systems, and the vendor has initiated a presence in Poland. With 980 systems sold at the time, Jeeves Enterprise was named Sweden's most widely used business system, by DataDIA. As mentioned earlier, 2004 was also quite a busy year: collaboration with IBM for delivering Jeeves Enterprise for Linux was initiated, and new partnerships started in Russia and other countries. Also, as will be further detailed, Jeeves acquired HRM Software AB to strengthen its offering in human resources (HR) and wage management; 1,090 systems had been sold at the time. Finally, as mentioned earlier, during 2005 the vendor added 102 Jeeves Enterprise customers at 132 sites, bringing the total number of installations to 1,536.

Focus on Communications

Since any modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) system must enable all people in the user company's entire complex network to handle information in a way that supports the business, Jeeves Enterprise is positioned as a catalyst for improved communication. A user company network, in addition to all the typical enterprise-wide functions like financial management, production control, service and maintenance, and so on, also involves remote sales offices (which need to be able to access sales and marketing modules via thin clients). Mobile users such as service technicians, consultants, and sales personnel have to obtain wireless access to applications via personal digital assistant (PDA) solutions. Furthermore, suppliers and other trading partners need to participate in a number of effective information exchanges using either web-based or thin clients.

Customers, on the other hand, increasingly want to communicate with their business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) web applications via different public e-commerce or supplier sites to view catalogs, place orders, access reports, check the order status, and so on. Last, but not least, the idea is that parent companies and their subsidiaries must easily integrate with Jeeves Enterprise even if using a system from another supplier. To that end, Jeeves has long been Internet-ready, and has B2B and B2C e-commerce solutions. As Jeeves-native modules, they are fully integrated with the rest of the system (and should be fairly easy to implement, since all business logic is already set up within the database).

Thus, the functional focus of the product is not necessarily on financial management modules, although they are of central importance to all user companies and thus also to Jeeves Enterprise. In other words, while extroverted, the product certainly cares about what is going on inside the enterprise. To that end, the Jeeves Accounting module manages all the business data required for ongoing accounting and booking, budgets, and forecasts, as well as for internal and external reporting. This module, together with the modules for accounts payable (A/P), accounts receivable (A/R), general ledger (GL), inventory management, and fixed assets, enables Jeeves Accounting to manage several companies in a single database. The system handles multicurrency management, whereby users can change currency and companies via a drop-down menu or by entering the company code.

As for ease of use, users receive strong support in their daily work, with automatic posting rules, templates, and relationship checks. For automating routines and repetitive tasks, there is also a set of different tools (such as automatic posting and allocation, with a user-defined rule system for every type of transaction throughout the suite). Since all financial modules are integrated with the rest of the system, it is relatively easy to track all events and transactions using drill-down analysis, since changing from one to another is as easy as choosing from a drop-down list.

Users have the option of using Jeeves's multidimensional classification of business events, given that transactions can be linked to seven different account segments as well as to projects. Again, posting rules can be defined for each segment, and users can also define relationship checks for each segment; there is also a budgeting and forecasting system containing the revisions facility. There are also many standard reports within Jeeves Enterprise (such as income statements and balance sheets), and they can be modified or personalized with Jeeves Report Editor. One can also use Crystal Reports and integrate these reports into Jeeves. Once users have defined what they want to see in the report, and have defined any calculations on the data, a program puts all the data into a separate reports database that can then be accessed by authorized users. The same holds for import or conversion of external transactions.

Integrating Production with Information Systems

Integrated ERP systems came into existence when business people realized that there were great advantages and opportunities in integrating a production system with information systems (for example, for orders, and inventory and purchasing management). Nevertheless, the scope of integration today has widened, since the same people want to obtain the same advantages along the entire value chain (from end customers via intermediate customers, to suppliers, suppliers' suppliers, and so on). Despite the advent of technologies like computer telephony integration (CTI) and wireless application protocol (WAP), electronic data interchange (EDI) still forms the basis of modern logistics and supply chain management (SCM) applications, in which the entire value chain (up to the final customer) can be coordinated to achieve efficiency and competitiveness (see The Pain and Gain of Integrated EDI).

With Jeeves EDI, a user company can receive orders, order changes, delivery plans, and dispatch notifications, and then send information on prices and items, order confirmations, and invoice and transport confirmations. Because the same information is no longer registered manually, the exchange of information is typically better automated, faster, more secure, and, above all, cheaper.

Purchasing decisions can be decentralized or automated in Jeeves Purchasing, and the purchasers thus have more time to focus on both internal and external logistics issues. The most important competition factor in industry is no longer the mere price of the product. The purchaser's task has increasingly become to obtain the right product of the right quality at the right time—and all that at the right price. The purchasing function has the task of controlling the whole spectrum of costs, since processing, stock keeping, transport, development, and environmental costs are all taken into consideration. Jeeves Purchasing aims at fulfilling the need to keep stock minimal while satisfying customer and manufacturing requirements for delivery quality, since the integration with inventory, sales, production, and accounting enables automation and better purchasing decision-making. Inventory management, on the other hand, is all about establishing which items are to be stocked, as well as their quantity policies and delivery assurance. To that end, inventory location, bin, and individual items can be identified using Jeeves Inventory, and there are programs for advanced requirement planning, scheduling, receiving and dispatching, management of manual inventory transactions, and physical inventories.

Going Beyond Core Enterprise Resource Planning

The Jeeves Enterprise features represent a fairly comprehensive ERP system. For one, the suite is fully workflow enabled, and by using Jeeves Workflow, users can streamline their business processes, increase automation, decrease throughput times, and improve follow up and management of any outstanding issues. For example, users can create to-do lists for everyone involved in the business process, whereby the user starts at the top icon, initiates the activity, and executes each task in the flow. For example, if the user double-clicks on the Arrival Entry icon, the corresponding underlying session program in Jeeves will enable the user to execute the arrival entry action, and then to go back to the flow when finished. Since all tasks are logged, additional benefits include using workflow as a documentation tool and installation tool, as well as for process analysis, simplified training, graphical status information, and individual performance measurement.

The Internet and integrated enterprise systems have resulted in customer relationship management (CRM) becoming a much more feasible concept, and Jeeves has been aiming at the automation of sales support, marketing, and service, in a way that is adapted to each individual customer. The vendor acknowledges that CRM is not applicable solely to the marketing department, since the approach to nurturing customers has to eventually permeate the whole organization. It is a basic requirement that there be a common and uniform customer emphasis in all company departments, and Jeeves Marketing attempts to make this possible by integrating the company's database with other parts of the company administration, based on a link to the rest of Jeeves Enterprise.

Furthermore, given Jeeves Enterprise's aforementioned adaptation possibilities, the Jeeves Sales module allows a user company to easily modify the personalized program menu, the order form, the customer registration process, and so on, all based on the company's own order routines as well as individual preferences. It is obvious that the most important partner in a company's network is the customer, and that all aspects of customer relations must be fully controlled in an integrated manner. Thus, integration with other applications within Jeeves Enterprise gives direct access to information on customers, inventory, credit, ledger, service, purchasing, and manufacturing. Better, faster, and more secure information in all customer-oriented processes should result, with better service and better delivery quality, which in turn results in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Finally, in line with an increasing focus on the need for companies to have well-functioning customer service, both externally and internally, Jeeves Service is a tool for setting up service and support processes, thereby increasing the level of service, and creating long term service contracts and profitable business relationships. Process flows, routines, and rules for the service and support function can be maintained with the aid of Jeeves Workflow, so as to intensify and automate customer relations and marketing efforts, and to adapt sales service and support to each customer.

The Jeeves Sales and Product Configurator

Related to the above CRM modules is the Jeeves Sales and Product Configurator, which aims at helping users find the optimal configuration or product variant for their needs. Integrated with Jeeves Enterprise, it gives salespeople the tool to quickly suggest an optimized product solution to the customer, create a proposal, and place a customer order directly into Jeeves Enterprise. If used as an e-commerce solution, users can rather interactively guide themselves to the best product solution, based on their needs. The product has a graphical modeling environment, making it intuitively easy to create and maintain configuration models.

The best example of the need for integration, indeed, is product configuration, which requires a tremendous amount of integration deep in the guts of an ERP system, since it leverages the item master, bill of material (BOM), work operations (i.e., routing), costing or pricing, work order management, sales order, and sales quote management. Configurators need, for example, to add or change an operation, change the work center where the operation is performed, change the run rate on that operation, and change the set up time; and they also need to produce special instructions or comments on the work order, sales order, or invoice (see Product Configurators Pave the Way for Mass Customization). To that end, since mid-2004, Tacton and Jeeves have also made Jeeves Enterprise available to manufacturing companies with complex or build-to-order products. By connecting Tacton Configurator to Jeeves Enterprise, it is now possible to quote and order a customized product solution. The configurator collects price and product information from the Jeeves Enterprise database, and produces a list of material for production. The integration is seamless to the end user.

For Manufacturing: Jeeves Production

Given that the majority of Jeeves customers are in manufacturing, the Jeeves Production module is included as an intrinsic part of Jeeves Enterprise, and is used for various types of manufacturing, such as process and discrete manufacturing, and production-to-order or production-to-stock. With the system adaptation tools pervasively included in Jeeves Enterprise, this module too can be easily adapted to support a wide range of work processes and routines in the manufacturing process, including independent working groups, production lines, kanban signals for lean or just-in-time (JIT) environments, subcontract manufacturing, and so on. Its main capabilities include material and net requirements planning; visual capacity planning; shop floor reporting; costing; serial number and batch traceability (with barcodes, if desired); product configuration with product data management (PDM); and external computer aided design (CAD)/computer aided manufacturing (CAM) systems integration. Jeeves also supports shop floor automatic data capture (ADC) to pick up actual production times and provide real-time progress updates.

Jeeves Production users can also define items, operations and BOMs, but also, if required, time, throughput, costing, tools, queuing, and work crews. It is also possible to indicate if there is a subcontracted item and under what conditions subcontracting is used (for example, when in-house capacity is exceeded). Work orders can be created manually, or automatically (through requisitions or through a connection to a specific sales order). In turn, work orders control material reservation or allocation, issues, and the labor and tools required to produce the finished item. As in most other peer systems, when finished items are produced, used material, labor, and overhead are reported, and goods can be received into finished goods stock. All inventory transactions are logged for future reference, whereas all order transactions or economic data is collected automatically and updated in the general ledger.

There are other similarities with other systems: an important planning tool in Jeeves Enterprise is the Planning Lists module to summarize required activities; sales, purchase, work, and service orders are all included to give a bigger picture of reservations or allocations for a specific item. In the top right-hand corner of the screen, users can click on the MRP button to produce a suggested material ordering pattern, and the same can be done for capacity requirements planning (CRP) when all the variables of capacity have been defined.

However, an additional option for use together with the Production, Project or Service modules, is the Jeeves Graphical Planning System (JPS), where users can control all their planned activities, resource use, and workload, by leveraging a graphical interface with drag and drop editing capabilities. Production data is loaded from the Jeeves Enterprise database to JPS, so that users can run what-if simulations and if necessary revise planning of activities and resources to optimize utilization. Users can do this intuitively, with drag and drop editing facilities, and when they are satisfied with the new plan, they can download it back into the database and update the appropriate planning and scheduling data in Jeeves Production.

Furthermore, the resource tree and the activity tree are displayed together with the planning area, where users can also see a window for subactivities linked to selected resources. The resource usage window shows how resources are booked, together with the capacity curve, and it is also possible to identify bottlenecks and select single resources for closer analysis (i.e., drilldowns).

It's a well-known fact that in most project-based assignment activities, time is the commodity that everyone has to deal with, whether the activity calls for unique specialist competence, or for simple assistance. Services can be packaged and sold at a fixed price, while the responsibility for fulfillment during a certain time bracket can be spread between employees and employers by means of an agreement. Regardless of how this responsibility is spread, it is desirable to be able to account for and control the time and activities devoted to the project. Also, as invoicing is such a mission-critical function, it is logical that planning, project control, and management come from the business system, whereby it is possible to automate invoicing routines with an advanced pricing module.

To this end, Jeeves Project offers a platform for obtaining control over projects and assignments, to plan and keep track of all activities, to track internal and external time and expenses (T&E), and to manage internal costs. Users can use the project code throughout the system to integrate the entire value chain up to the final customer, and they can also use wireless technologies like WAP or simple message service (SMS) to communicate with Jeeves Enterprise and to log project, time, or service reports directly into the system. Road warriors like field technicians and sales representatives can also retrieve information from the database.

This concludes Part Three of the series Jeeves—Thriving Organically as a Humble Servant.

 
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