Friday, July 11, 2014

People are People...

Avoiding Errors In Your Software System

“Two men were examining the output of the new computer in their department. After an hour or so of analyzing the data, one of them remarked: "Do you realize it would take 400 men at least 250 years to make a mistake this big ?”

Errors are a fact of life in ERP systems due to either numbers getting transposed, entered incorrectly, or entered in the wrong place. A well-designed ERP system will minimize errors, but you can further reduce them by setting policies and standards for ERP data entry.

While errors are less likely in a good ERP system (like the MDS-Nx System), they have more serious consequences because they proliferate through the entire system. Since finding and fixing them is expensive, it's best to take steps to eliminate them up front.

Don't Rely on Humans
As much as possible don't rely on humans to avoid errors. People have a lot of strengths, but error-free data entry isn't one of them. Proper training and vigilance can greatly reduce errors, but they can't absolutely eliminate them.

As much as possible, don't use humans to enter information. This is in keeping with efficiency anyway, but the less data entry your people do the fewer mistakes they will make.

Wherever you can only enter information once and let it proliferate through the system automatically. There's no point in having someone repetitively enter basic account information which is already in the computer. 

One perfect example is our updated Optional EDI Transaction Module, this will save you time money and errors by allowing automated update of: 

  • Purchase Orders In/ Out (850)
  • Order Acknowledgements (855)
  • Advance Shipping Notices (856)
  • Invoices In/Out (810)
  • Product Transfer Account Adjustment (844)
  • Sales Tracing Report (867)
  • Advanced Shipping Notices (856)
  • Accounts Payable ACH (820)
  • Catalog and Price File (832) 

Use Lots of Sanity Checks
Sanity checks confirm that the information entered is broadly correct. Numbers that are out of range, suspicious values and such should be automatically checked and the user should be alerted if something looks funny.
It's important to give users a chance to check their work if something looks odd. It is not only cheaper to fix faulty data at the time of entry, it helps keep employees aware of errors.
By Default the MDS System Includes Price Hold features with a High and Low water mark designed to alert you and your managers if a price or cost is outside of the normal ranges for Profit.  This is an example of a built in sanity check but there are many others as well. 

Cross-check Where Possible
Wherever possible cross check new information against existing information in the ERP system's database and alert the user to any discrepancies. Much of the information entered into an ERP system will be related to what is already in there. For example use a standard customer and ship branch code throughout the system and be consistent - this will  make it easier for people to understand and remember what the value they are entering is for. 

The objection to this cross checking is that it slows down data entry – and it does. But the gain in accuracy and avoiding errors is almost always worth the extra time. If necessary use faster hardware or we can tune your database to speed things back up.

Train Your People to Value Accuracy
You want to create a culture of correctness where errors are avoided rather than fixed after the fact. The start of building such a culture is tracking errors and making your people aware of them.
Make sure your people understand the cost of errors and how to avoid them. Reward them for error-free work.

Make it as easy as possible to do things right
and difficult to do them wrong

There should be a logical work flow, both on the individual screen and leading from screen to screen. The users should know instinctively where they are in the process. Judicious use of colors to relate items can help without being garish. Use design elements to tie together related operations.
see our previous blog post on the power of colors and how you can implement them in the MDS-Nx system. 

Minimizing errors is a matter of execution. That means it requires keeping a close eye on them, tracking their rises and falls and always looking for ways to do the job with fewer mistakes. This isn't hard, but it is a matter of constant vigilance to keep error rates low.

With a little help from your system and some basic changes to how your business operates your company can also be error free.

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556. Or send a message to

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