Vol. 8, No. 2, June 10, 2008
Hello from your ECi Technical Support Team! In this issue of the KeyOps Dispatch:
- ECi Recognizes Dealers of the Year at Empowerment 2008
- ECinteractive Survey Spotlights Misconceptions, Training
- Google Analytics, Guided Tour Video Help Site Promotion
- Tip: Many Standard DDMS Reports Are Now in SQL
- View the ECi Customer Portal Guided Tour Anytime
- Using Daily Reports, Going Green and Paperless
- Take Advantage of New Office Furniture Tags
- Fixing DDMS Fields With Data Dictionary
- Tip: Save Money by Fine-Tuning Item Substitutes
ECi Awards Dealers of the Year at National Meeting
Two DDMS customers, Artlite Office Supply Company of Atlanta, GA, and Reliant Business Products, Inc. of Houston, TX received special awards at the ECi Empowerment 2008 National User's Conference in April.
“Technology plays a vital role in helping dealers compete against the superstores,” said ECi COO Ron Books. “And now dealers are turning to companies like ECi to help them reduce costs in the face of a challenging economy. We wanted to recognize the dealers who are leading the way for the rest of the industry, using technology to preserve margins, grow sales and reengineer their businesses for when the economy eventually rebounds.“
ECi solicited nominations for Dealer of the Year from industry wholesalers and buying groups based on criteria that included technology use, commitment to e-commerce, growth, and community involvement.
Artlite, a $15 million per year, family-owned office products and furniture dealership founded in 1964, has experienced consistent growth over the past few years. The company reduced its staff during the same period by automating internal operations and emphasizing e-commerce. Winners were selected from over 40 nominees by a committee consisting of representatives from NOPA and industry publications and wholesalers. Owner Stuart Light accepted the award.
ECi presented Reliant Business Products with its Embracing Technology award. The award recognizes technologically progressive dealers using ECi’s business system software. To qualify for the award, dealers must not only be early adopters of new technology but also demonstrate the ability to utilize that technology to improve their business. Nominees also have a history of partnering with ECi to improve the software for the benefit of the entire customer base through participation in forums, product development task forces, and customer advisory groups. Steven Woodall, IT Manager at Reliant, accepted the award for his company. Woodall serves on the e-commerce task force of the DDMS Executive Advisory Board.
Attendees at the April 24-26 conference in Grapevine, TX, included 425 independent dealers, distributors and industry vendors. The focus of the conference was helping attendees find ways to improve current profitability through operational efficiencies, as well as plan for future growth. Roundtable forums on topics such as warehouse management and e-commerce gave attendees the opportunity to hear first-hand what other dealers throughout the country are doing to be successful in these areas.
"The conference was a tremendous success,” said ECi’s Vice President of Quality and Education, Stacy Heemsbergen. “This event continues to grow as we bring together different groups of ECi customers to share ideas and information about improving their businesses. ECi is the only software company in these industries that offers dealers training and education at this level.”
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ECinteractive Survey Spotlights Misconceptions
In a recent survey, all respondents admitted that they needed to attend more training on setting up or administering their new ECinteractive and is.D-Force 2 sites.
In April, ECi DDMS surveyed dealers who had sites either working or available on the ECinteractive and is.D-Force 2 servers. The survey covered how extensively their customers use new site, what features are popular, their experience in implementation, and their thoughts on upcoming features and growing their businesses online.
When asked how much business do your customers do on ECinteractive or is.D-Force 2, respondents fell into three categories:
- One third actively sell on ECinteractive and is.D-Force2, up to 100 percent of their total sales.
- Another third are just dabbling.
- Another third either have not attended training or have not taken steps to implement their sites.
According to Web server reports, Total Sales on ECinteractive and is.D-Force2 rose from $2 million to $4.4 million in the last six months. This indicates significant volume, but why not more?
In the survey, we asked dealers who have not implemented their sites, "Why?"
We received many responses related to the need for training and time:
- “I have not made time due to time constraints.”
- “I don’t know how to use the site.”
- “No time during the workday to take the training.”
In addition, many reported waiting for specific features to be released, including the United Stationers Enhanced Catalog Search (due out this summer), S.P. Richards Enhanced Content for is.D-Force 2 (also this summer), Jumptech scanners (also this fall), and improvements to the interface for setting up custom items and catalogs (also this fall), and coupons (this coming winter).
However, many dealers simply had misconceptions about what they can already do with their new site:
- “Can’t use our web frames with ecInteractive.” Frame handling was released in mid-2007.
- “My dealership did not do a good job of selling Dealer Station. On release of Laundry Lists in ECinteractive, we begin a strong push online." Laundry Lists and Contracts have been available on ECinteractive and is.D-Force 2 since mid-2007. Last month, we released related enhancements, and next month you will be able to limit users to specific contracts and laundry lists.
- “Due to large amount of negative comments by other is.group dealers, we have not converted our customers to is.D-Force 2.” On closer investigation, some of the negative comments were made before many enhancements were released over the last year. It's worth taking another look.
Finally, we asked what contributes most to a dealer's success on ECinteractive and is.D-Force?
- “Once we set up customer groups, adding new users was very quick and easy.”
- “Education on our part for our people as well as the customer about the site.”
- “Our sales force promotes it to customers.”
- “Employee excitement.”
- “ECinteractive makes it easy for our customers to navigate and reduces errors.”
- “It’s very user-friendly.”
Findings, comments and additional suggestions were presented to the e-commerce task force of the ECi DDMS Executive Advisory Commitee and to the e-commerce roundtable at the Empowerment 2008 National User's Meeting in April.
Please join us in congratulating Terry Poindexter of Rogards Office Plus in Champain, IL. In our random drawing of survey respondents, his name was selected to win a Garmin® Nuvi 660 GPS unit.
"It looks more like the big box sites," Terry Poindexter said about his is.D-Force 2 site. "We do appreciate the efforts on the site, and the goal to make this as easy as possible for the customer to maneuver around."
ECi offers free Virtual Classes to ECinteractive/is.D-Force2 customers.
If you have not attended your free class, or if you feel a refresher is necessary for you to implement the latest features, you can register online for three Virtual Class sessions, each limited to 32 seats:
- In Session 1, learn how to set up, manage and customize your site and the products available through your site.
- In Session 2, learn how to set up and manage consumer accounts and their order flow and history.
- In Migration Tool Training, learn how to use the reports from Dealer Station and the original is.D-Force site to organize the migration of your customer accounts to ECinteractive/is.D-Force2 within customer groups and approval hierarchies.
If you do not have your new site enabled yet on the ECinteractive or is.D-Force2 servers, contact ECinteractive Installation.
To purchase your ECinteractive site, contact ECi Sales (email@example.com). For additional information, see the ECinteractive product information and ECinteractive FAQs.
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Google Analytics, Guided Tour Video Help ECinteractive or is.D-Force 2 Site Promotion
ECi DDMS introduced two tools that can help dealers promote their sites during ECi Empowerment 2008 sessions on ECinteractive, both the industry roundtable and "If Your Build It, Will They Come?" Based on feedback, ECi DDMS support has developed instructions for implementing the tools on your sites.
You can use Google Analytics (google.com/analytics) to learn how visitors interact with your site. Google Analytics gives you free reports on your site visitors and page hits. This analysis can help you make informed decisions about your marketing campaigns, increase conversions from guest to loyal customer, and empower you to grow your business online. Google offers its Analytics free of charge.
"Google Analytics is a very neat tool," said Steven Woodall of Reliant Business Products (rbp.com). "My clients visit 21 pages on average shopping on the ECinteractive web site. I've discovered that a lot of my clients use the Quick Search box to locate products by Item Number.
This lets me know that I need to create a training email that focuses on the benefits of using Quick Order when the item number is known. I'm also able to spot check keyword search responses and see if the wholesaler eContent is returning the correct products for the search terms that were used and if not report those findings back to the wholesalers."
To make Google Analytics easy to implement on ECinteractive and is.D-Force 2, your Admin Control Panel has a new Google Analytics ID box in your Site Preference page. After you enter your Google Analytics tracking code, the ECinteractive system automatically enters it onto every page of your front end Web site, so that Google Analytics can track your traffic.
For your Dealer Station and original is.D-Force sites, you can use HTML-capable Site Text to incorporate the Google Analytics script.
For detailed instructions on setting up your Google Analytics ID in both the ECinteractive and Dealer Station families of Web storefronts, see Setting Up Google Analytics for Your Site (www.DDMS.com/resources/support/faq/ecommerce/ecGoogleAnalytics.pdf).
ECi also produced a five-minute video that provides a guided tour of commonly used features in the ECinteractive family of products.
The video discusses all the features your customers need to start shopping — account security (including the new 6-character password, the security question, and how to reset), catalog browse and search, quick order, favorites, machine matching, news, checkout approvals, and history.
"I placed a link to the streaming video on my corporate home page, ecInteractive home page, Dealer Station (ROLOS4) login page, and within the News section of my corporate web site," said Reliant's Woodall. "I suggest that once a dealer is done converting an account/user from Dealer Station to ecInteractive that they use the Mass Email feature of Dealer Station to notify the account/user of the completed conversion and include a link to the streaming video in the conversion notification email. Of my eCommerce business in May, 69% has come from ecInteractive and I have not had to pick up a phone to train a single user on the system or inform them of the conversion. ...
"The Video and Google Analytics tools when used properly can help a dealer convert users to ecInteractive and better understand how users interface with the site," Woodall continued.
There are two versions of the Guided Tour Video: DVD and streaming:
"We're making the ECinteractive DVD available for dealers who want their sales staff to play it on a laptop at client and prospect sites," said ECi Sales of ECi sales. "You can skip around to the topics you need, and pause for questions as needed. You can even include a Guided Tour DVD in your marketing packet along with your brochures."
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Tip: Many Standard DDMS Reports Are Now in SQL
Some of the most popular sessions at Empowerment 2008 were related to SQL reporting. ECi DDMS is making great strides in offering SQL versions of standard DDMS reports with every major release.
"Our salespeople have to know what they're up against," said Gail Wojciechowski of Stephens Office Supply in Poquoson, Virginia. "They have to know where they're losing market share, are they gaining sales, are they losing margin, are they increasing margin, how often are they ordering, comparing this month with last month, this year with last year, year to date...
"SQL will allow a lot more user-friendly reporting. People at all levels can basically click, point and print without having to understand all the data fields that they need to select on. It's just fingertip data that we can give our salespeople instant access."
Here's a sample of the types of reports that are already available in the Report Preview
Customer Master Listing,
Customer Sales Totals
Furniture Order Detail Report,
Invoice Summary Report By Customer/Location/Salesperson,
Order Gross Profit Report by Customer/Location/Salesperson (Backlog),
Order Summary Report by Customer/Location/Salesperson, and
Project Summary Report by Customer
Item Master Listing,
Item Sales Totals
Price Plan Listing
Item Purchases by Vendor,
POs by Vendor Listing
Comparative Sales Analysis,
Contract Item Sales Analysis,
Customer Sales Trends,
Item Sales Analysis,
Items Sold Restock
User Master Listing,
User Sales Totals
Vendor Master Listing
You can even customize a report's limits for a specific salesperson or department, save to a custom view, and set user permissions for each view, so that when they open Report Preview, they only see the reports that apply to them. No more poring over text-based selectors!
In order to use the Preview Reports application, you must first import your data from the DBF file structure into SQL. If you wish to create your own SQL reports, you must request authorization for the third-party C1 Report Designer. For detailed instructions, see:
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View the ECi Customer Portal Guided Tour Anytime!
Earlier this year, ECi DDMS launched its new Customer Support Portal at
support.ECiSolutions.com, giving you convenient online access to request assistance from and communicate details with your friendly ECi Technical Support Team.
If you could not attend the Webinars we offered in the weeks after we launched the program — or if you just want your colleagues to learn how to use the Customer Support Portal — we have published a video tour to be viewed at your convenience.
To view this short 15-minute video, go to
support.ECiSolutions.com, and click the link above the Sign In box. Then click the triangle to play.
(The video requires the latest free Flash player; if you are prompted to install an update, please do so, close all browser windows, and then reopen the site in your browser.)
In the video, ECi Technical Support's Technology Manager, Andrew Koebbe, guides you through the steps of logging in, opening and managing tickets, and everything you need to know to use the portal.
For more information, see the announcement on our Web site, ECi Technical Support Launches Its Web Portal
(www.DDMS.com/support/massfax/PortalLaunch.htm), and check it out at https://support.ECiSolutions.com.
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Using Daily Reports, Going Green and Paperless
As you may already know, monitoring daily accounting activity helps you identify discrepancies quickly and prevents their source from becoming obscured as days and weeks pass. But did you know you could go green and paperless, by automatically saving those daily reports to text files?
You can use DDMS daily reports and other system tools to ensure your A/R, A/P and G/L information balances at the end of each day. Learn how to put the Open Pick Report, Exceptions reports, POS Tender Totals Report, Daily Invoice Register, and the President's Screen to work for you. Learn to interpret and apply the information in your daily reports.
For detailed instructions and examples, see Using Daily Reports
You can assign "print to file" printer profiles to save your text file reports. What you may not know is that the two-character TBL printer definitions are not limited to P1, P2, and P3 logical names. You can use P, 5, 6, or 7 as the first character, and you can use Ø-9, A-Z, a-z, and ASCII characters as the second character (excluding T).
For details, see online help In the (L1P) Screen
For example, you could set up TBLConfig with the following printer definitions:
- Pr to C:\DDMS\ARBATCH.TXT
- Pp to C:\DDMS\APBATCH.TXT
- Pa to C:DDMS\ARPRESIDENTS.TXT
- Pn to C:\DDMS\POSTENDER.txt
- Pi to C:\DDMS\DAILYINVREGISTER.TXT
- Pk to C:\DDMS\OPENPICK.TXT
- Px to C:\DDMS\OEXCEPT.TXT
- Pv to C:\DDMS\OEVEREXCEPT.TXT
- Pm to C:\DDMS\MARGINEXCEPT.TXT
Of course, you can use those printer definitions to save your daily reports manually. Also, you can easily use those printer profiles with automated procs. For detailed instructions on setting up new text printer profiles in Windows, setting up printer definitions in TBL Config, saving text file reports, importing reports into Excel, and faxing or emailing certain formats with AutoComm II, see Going Paperless: Operational & Billing Efficiencies
Note: If you use print-to-file printer definitions in your automated procs, the report files will be overwritten the next time the proc is run, and even the next time you use that printer definition. For example, if you only audit accounts payable on a weekly or longer basis, the overwritten A/P Batch reports will no longer be available when you need them. For your audit trail, you may want to schedule each set of daily report files to be saved to another date-stamped folder or network location. Please confer with your network administrator.
If you're interested in updating your day-end automated procedure files (procs) to take advantage of newer report options and paperless printer profiles, you can ask for a DDMS technician to do the Report Writer work for you by completing two (updated!) forms:
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Take Advantage of New Office Furniture Tags
Recently, the Office Furniture industry standardized its system of tagging items, such as "Please tag as follows: RM-237, Chair 1, Second Floor, Billing Department, Bill Johnston's Office."
In compliance with these industry standards, DDMS Office Furniture Edition imports, stores, modifies, mass changes, displays, communicates and reports on these new tag fields.
For examples and detailed instructions on using tags, see Office Furniture Edition Tags
ECi works closely with specification software providers to ensure that their programs will use the appropriate tag fields when exporting a SIF file for DDMS. In the current 20/20 Worksheet, for instance, be assured that the SIF export for DDMS will continue to work as it does today; it just does not yet take advantage of all five tag fields. Also note that the Legacy CAP SIF export for Order Entry may result in cost and sell rounding issues. We will notify DDMS customers when we have more information. See also:
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Fixing DDMS Field Definitions With Data Dictionary
The Data Dictionary is a DDMS utility designed to update field definitions based on the current software version’s data dictionary. It will ensure each database file (DBF) has the required columns.
While problems with field definitions are rare, there are cases when it interferes with the function of DDMS applications:
- After renaming or merging files at period end, the system still may not properly display some history or reports for sales, orders, purchase orders, accounts receivable postings, accounts payable postings, and general ledger postings or trial balances.
- When using the EnsiteEBS Utility to Validate DBF Files, and the error log reports that the “File is not compressed; column “[columnname]” not found.
- When saving a file or posting a record, and the system returns an error message such as “subscript out of range” or “Object variable or with block variable not set”.
For detailed instructions, see Fixing Field Definitions With Data Dictionary Utility
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Tip: Save Money by Fine-Tuning Item Substitutes
Did you know that, based on a customer's route, you can substitute the wholesaler's product instead of sending the direct-buy item that you stock, or vice versa? You may want to adjust your customers' routes to take advantage of Customer Specific Item Substitutes. For example:
- If the ticket is on a route you have set up as "DROP" (drop-ship), you can substitute your direct-buy item that you stock with the non-stocking wholesaler item.
- If the route is local, then you substitute your stocking item instead of ordering it from your wholesaler, which helps you move your stocking items and may save on your freight charges.
The power of Customer-Specific Item Substitutes is that rather than applying regular inventory substitutes to your entire customer database, you can fine-tune your item substitutions to:
- a specific customer such as a large loyal client.
- a customer group if, for example, you assigned those who have special procurement requirements under Government Services Administration (GSA) or Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) to a customer group ID.
- a delivery route if, for example, you assigned all your Federal customers, your local customers, or your remote drop-ship customers to different Route codes.
For detailed instructions, see Customer Specific Item Substitutes
Note: Customer-Specific Item Substitutes is not included in all software packages and may require authorization. For more information, contact ECi Sales (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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