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Customizations and Configurations in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP

Customizing Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP

Customizing Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP 700 500 Xcelpros Team

Intro to ERP Customizations

You have your eyes set on an Enterprise Resource Planning solution and want to jump into the implementation phase without delay, but do you know what will be necessary to make that happen? Dynamics 365 customizations can help ensure your ERP solution meets your needs precisely and enables you to get the most value out of your investment in the software.

Here are some standard customizations to consider when implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance or Supply Chain Management Enterprise Resource Planning solutions. What are common customizations? Why do companies customize their ERP implementation?

Should you customize your ERP?

While customization is technically possible with any enterprise software, it’s best to customize what you need. That’s because each customization is an additional layer of work that can cause things to go awry down the road. This doesn’t mean your new ERP will run without a hitch—but it should mean fewer and less problematic hiccups in implementation and usage over time.

If you are considering customizing, consider some important questions first: Will your customizations be well-supported by your vendor? What kinds of training do they offer? Are there customizable modules available for what you want to do? Should you customize you ERP?

You may have good reason to customize if one of your goals is streamlining business processes or integrating disparate data sources. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and how far along you are in your overall project lifecycle.

In general, though, you don’t rush into customization just yet. Plan out how it’ll fit into your end goals before diving into development or taking on a project manager.

Start exploring ERP customization options

Microsoft recommends that the best approach to understanding what customizations exist for Microsoft Dynamics 365 is to begin by creating a customization request on the Dynamics Marketplace. The Dynamics Marketplace offers organizations pre-built or partially built business solutions, known as applications for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. Microsoft applications on the marketplace allow organizations to quickly get started with an out-of-the-box solution that can be customized to meet their specific business needs. They also offer organizations a way to familiarize themselves with how other customers have customized and extended Microsoft’s standard applications.

These samples can provide a good starting point, making it easier for new customers to identify opportunities to extend the capabilities of their implementations. For example, if you want to know how your customer could extend Microsoft’s standard application functionality, start with their existing sample apps. If you’re going to learn how they could leverage PowerApps or Flow to create more dynamic forms in real-time using the line of business data, check out sample apps developed by partners. When exploring these samples, remember that they may not fit your specific requirements but are valuable sources of information about additional functionality available from third parties that can augment your implementation project.

Microsoft D365 customization and configuration examples

An excellent example of ERP customization is the configuration of Microsoft D365 Finance or Supply Chain Management (SCM) so that only particular users can access everything in your system. In contrast, other users only see their specific parts. You can even create a separate security model for internal versus external use. This granular configuration means you’re not dealing with dozens of different user interfaces—you have one. Still, depending on your level of access, you see only specific tabs, pages, and menus. Since everyone sees what they need to know, it’s easier for everyone to work together.

Learn more about Customizing and Configuring Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP.

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Some of the more common examples of D365 customization include:

Adding more functional modules

Dynamics 365 comprises numerous modules, each with its specific function. Organizations can easily offer users significantly increased functionality by allowing them access to different modules simultaneously.

Adding additional Fields

Often, based on the specific data your organization needs to collect, more than standard forms within D365 may be required. For this reason, Microsoft added the ability for Sysadmins and Power Users to include custom fields through the workspace personalization options. These supported field types are the easiest way to allow users to track additional data and can consist of, Text, Numbers, Decimals, Date/ Time, Date, Picklist, and Checkboxes.

Customizing workspaces

Users also can create their workspace with different functionality than out-of-the-box modules. Users can add Live tiles, Lists, Power BI tiles, and Links. This can result in a very focused workspace that lets users complete their job more efficiently.

Adding custom reports

Creating custom reports saves companies significant money during an implementation project. Microsoft’s D365 gives users several different ways to create custom reports. This includes simple Filtered views that can be exported to Microsoft Excel, the Report Wizard that asks the users simple questions before generating a statement, and SSRS for creating more complex reports.

Microsoft’s AppSource

Microsoft’s AppSource allows you to explore and try approved D365 extensions designed to add specific functionality or seamlessly tie in other third-party software solutions your business requires.

Custom solutions

Even in the same industry, business models can vary wildly from one company to another – For requirements that can’t be met by existing solutions available in Microsoft’s AppSource, customers can work directly with partners that have experience developing complex business solutions.

Self-service functionality

Companies can take advantage of increasingly valuable tools like Microsoft Flow, and the Microsoft Power Platform to help develop one-of-a-kind processes and integrations for whatever solution needs it most. These tools are some of the best ways to make your solution fit your specific requirements.

Final Thoughts on D365 Customization

Should you customize ERP? Yes. Of course, you should. Because the real question is, what customizations do you need to make your solution work best for your organization? Organizations that choose to implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 often know they will need to customize the software, but don’t always have a clear idea of how to approach it—they want to maintain standard functionality and ensure their data remains accurate as possible. The best way to go about customization is to understand why organizations are customizing in the first place.

While ERP comes with a lot of built-in functionality, that’s not to say you shouldn’t consider customizing it to fit your organization. ERP implementations are rarely perfect and require various organisational modifications to function correctly and integrate seamlessly. You might customize for various reasons—for example, if you’re using multiple ERP solutions or have different business units with unique needs—but one thing is for sure: customizing your implementation can save you time and money.

Whether you’re dealing with manufacturing companies, retailers, wholesalers or logistics companies, there are sure to be some everyday things to consider when customizing your new software implementation.

Pharmaceutical analytics and business intelligence using power bi banner

Pharmaceutical Analytics and Business Intelligence using Power BI

Pharmaceutical Analytics and Business Intelligence using Power BI 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Modern pharmaceutical companies are undergoing a significant transformation with new opportunities from digitization, big data, and analytics. In response to COVID-19, businesses are seeing an increased need for an agile enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) architecture to leverage these opportunities in order to grow. Successful Pharmaceutical companies are looking beyond standard operational and statutory reports to implement more powerful Analytics and AI-driven solutions. These new solutions provide actionable insights and useful KPIs to help make better decisions. This leads to more empowered teams and new engagement that drives additional revenue.

Pharmaceutical companies generate massive information every day through their day to day operations. But the data is not always being put to the right use. Some companies tend to look at reports with a traditional eye that doesn’t drive a ‘call to action’ to grow the business.

The strength of any analytics software lies in its ability to help users easily create quick insights, especially for an agile business like pharmaceutical manufacturing. Creating reports in days instead of months frees up hundreds of hours in unnecessary spend to gather these hidden insights. This allows business leaders to repurpose cost savings towards other operational improvements and growth.

There is a right and wrong way of reporting – one provides overwhelming numbers, while the other means to understand those numbers and make them actionable.

As the pharmaceutical industry continues to undergo significant adjustments to new opportunities presented by digitization, big data, and analytics, more enterprises continue to see the need for an agile enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) architecture to leverage these opportunities & seamlessly deliver business-critical insights to executives.

The Strength of PowerBI

Power BI, Microsoft’s business analytics solution, lets you visualize your data and make it accessible to your Organization. Insights can be easily shared through various platforms of your Organization by embedding them in your app, portals, or website, collaborating on Teams, and integrating them into your ERP or CRM applications. Microsoft’s Power BI makes it easy to combine these numbers from different sources, streamline analytics onto a single dashboard, act on newfound insights, and enhance visibility to other teams in your organization.

Leveraging PowerBI interactive reports in a few quick and easy steps

  • Onboard
    • Access PowerBI either from powerbi.com or any of the Microsoft ERP/ CRM applications.
    • Connect to your data wherever it lives.
    • Explore your data with interactive visuals.
  • Collaborate & Share
    • Publish reports and dashboards.
    • Collaborate with your team.
    • Share insights inside and outside of your Organization.
  • Access insights from anywhere
    • Act with seamless access to data insights from your desk or home.
    • Access on the go with Power BI visual reports built rapidly.

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Turning Industry Data into Smart Decisions

Leading Pharmaceutical companies who are transforming into agile organizations need 360-degree insights for business-critical functions such as manufacturing execution, sales productivity, financial management, purchasing raw materials from approved suppliers, quality assurance & quality control.

Today’s pharmaceutical organizations collaborate, monitor, and communicate on available live data to achieve operational excellence. Pharmaceutical business intelligence enables these organizations to monitor real-time data from multiple sources and combine them into one pharmaceutical dashboard with the ability to drill-down into the report to identify issues, as necessary.

Figure 1: Pharmaceutical Analysis using Power BI

Pharmaceutical Analysis using Power BI

Usage in the Pharmaceutical Industry

01.Interactive Reports

Power BI is an analytics software that brings to the table a strong background in delivering end-to-end BI analytics to modern Pharmaceutical companies such as

  • Efficiency Reports On Lot Production
  • Trending And Analysis Of Quality Control Data
  • Recommendations Based Clinical Trial Reporting
  • And Financials Per Batch Produced For Each Product
  • Product Go to market assessments (how much spend and types of activity is involved, expected and actual results)

02. KPI Reporting

Accurate decision making occurs when reporting provides clarity on both good and bad data points on prime KPIs. With business analytics in the pharmaceutical industry, companies can acquire intelligence in real time and can track key performance indicators like:

  • Machine utilization
  • Process efficiency
  • Cost of Sales
  • Inventory levels
  • Batch Losses and cycle times
  • Quality standards of a product line
  • Customer engagement and customer experience

03.Real-Time Analytics

One of the essential requirements for agile Pharmaceutical companies is to have real-time analytics of overall operations, and to be able to make quick corrections and proactively handle situations before they turn into risks. Especially for manufacturing execution and pharmaceutical inventory management, knowing the work is progressing and inventory is turning around helps production supervisors to manage batch production processes much faster and make on the fly corrections. This real-time reporting on screens throughout a production plant gives needed visibility to both the managers and operators who can be alerted and fully aware of any issues.

Figure 2:Real-Time Data Tracking with Power BI

Real-Time Data Tracking with Power BI

Benefits of PowerBI enabling business improvements

  1. 1. This information gives the ability to make changes to processes based on how well resources are functioning to increase productivity, and how each product lot produced is performing in the market.
  2. 2. Getting real-time alerts with Power BI mobile apps makes your operations more efficient, allowing you to achieve a higher level of organizational agility and minimize response times.
  3. 3. Power BI enables monitoring of your supply chain end-to-end, letting you identify problems and potential bottlenecks before they can affect critical processes.
  4. 4. Monitoring quality inputs and outputs from all sources, including your customers, allows you to make quick and meaningful decisions that will improve the quality of batches that are manufactured.
  5. 5. The ability to share your dashboards with suppliers and partners is a plus and accommodates adjustments to the latest information available to work towards making your processes leaner and smarter.
  6. 6. Microsoft’s Power BI is a full-featured BI solution that offers a number of benefits to many different organizations on their path to success such as –
    • Global Scale – Local Speed
    • Agile Business Processes
    • Predictive Analytics
    • Machine-to-Machine
    • Employee Onboarding

Basic analytics used by the Pharmaceutical Industry

  • Products & Inventory
    • Full Track & Trace Functionality
    • Enhanced Global Marketability
    • Customer Requirements
    • Product Quality
    • Product Recalls
  • Sales
    • Quotes & Order analysis
    • Pricing and Cost reporting
    • Available-to-Promise reporting
    • Order Profitability
  • Supply Chain Management
    • Match demand and supply
    • Improved Supply Chain Responsiveness
    • Updated and efficient Logistic analysis
  • Financial
    • Product Profitability reports
    • Batch costs
    • A full audit of transactions
  • Manufacturing
    • Safety and sustainability analysis
    • Realtime production data reports
    • Equipment failure predictions
    • Production rescheduling

Final Thoughts

A big step towards change today comes from enhancing visibility across all operations including manufacturing execution, sales force productivity, procurement, and financials. Power BI brings to the table a strong background in end-to-end BI services for modern pharmaceutical companies – covering BI strategy, managed services, implementation & support, and even more. From the moment you start considering a BI solution for your growing Pharmaceutical company, the benefits of Microsoft’s Power BI become evident very quickly. Microsoft’s Power BI will continue to be a must-have product for leading Pharmaceutical companies by delivering a 360-degree insight of operations.

References: Advantages of Using Power Bi


Effectively Tracking and Controlling Inventory

Effectively Tracking and Controlling Inventory 700 500 Xcelpros Team

Introduction to effective inventory management

Especially today, manufacturers, wholesalers and retail businesses from several different industries share several standard business practices, with inventory management at the top of the list.

An efficient, capable inventory management system can distinguish between struggle and success. Any boost to the efficiency of managing your inventory can result in a significant return on investment. To drive the effectiveness of your inventory management, especially when if you’re just getting started, it helps to pay attention to 10 popular techniques:

1.Fine-tune your forecasting Accurate forecasting is a must unless you want to either tie up precious capital in product stuck on warehouse shelves or be unable to meet your customers’ orders.

2.Identify low-turn stock Have a flexible ordering approach that, combined with accurate forecasting, lets to adjust inventory based on customer priorities.

3.Regularly audit your inventory Knowing—not guessing—what you have at any given moment lets you adjust ordering to ensure a balanced inventory.

4.Track stock levels You want to track all inventory from the moment you purchase raw materials or components to when you deliver finished goods to your customer’s door.

5.Keep track of your equipment Especially in a production plant – Knowing what you have, how quickly it wears and when to schedule repairs for optimal life ensures uninterrupted production runs.

6.Verify Quality Ensure all items in your inventory meet your quality control standards, ideally from the moment they arrive.

7.Categorize inventory based on customers needs Ensure you have the most sought-after products in stock at all times, working your way down the line to the least popular products.

8.Consider drop shipping This is much quicker especially for any items you don’t make yourself, especially when it becomes part of your product. An example is a Siemens ® controller for industrial machinery.

9.Rotate your stockTurn your stock so the oldest items are sold first This is especially true for pharmaceutical products with comparatively short shelf lives.

10. Use good inventory management software A viable program that meshes with your financial and sales software helps keep everyone informed, making for happier customers.

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Figure 1:Common inventory management challenges

Common inventory management challenges

Common Inventory Management Challenges

Among the most common inventory management challenges that can affect a number of different businesses are the following:

  • Inconsistent tracking Working with older software that relies on manual data entry opens a company to data entry errors. Mistakes are bound to happen when different departments use different spreadsheets to input the same information.
  • Inaccurate data Companies need to know how much of everything they have on hand and in the pipeline. Without accurate information, you won’t be able to track your production. This can be a massive problem if you’re still manually entering data.
  • Order management Manufacturers often live on the edge of logistics, struggling to make sure deliveries are going out just in time – right before their customers need them.
  • Juggling a complex supply chain Manufacturers need alternate ways of obtaining raw materials and shipping finished products. For example, your primary port is running behind because dock workers are sick. How do you get what you need when you need it?
  • Communications and planning Intercompany communication is critical, especially in a world where companies often have business units in different countries, keeping everyone focused on the same task can be difficult.
  • Robust competition In every industry, competition is ready and willing to grab your customers when you make a mistake or find yourself unable to deliver on time and within budget.

These are a few examples of the challenges faced by modern manufacturers. Thankfully, the good news is that modern ERP solutions can be a huge help when it comes to addressing these issues.

Inventory Management Software As a Solution

Several inventory managements programs available on the market today that focus not only on addressing these challenges, but also by identifying potential issues before they can impact your operations. Some of the best solutions available, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, can seamlessly integrate with your existing software, reducing data silos, allowing different departments to share more information. Instead of requiring three departments to input the same information into a database, each group is able to provide material unique to their specialty.

Effective inventory management programs like Microsoft can print barcodes and QR labels. When these codes are scanned with a hand-held reader or cellphone, users can be rewarded with a wealth of information. The most critical data to track are precisely how much of any product you have, where it’s being stored, and what it will be used for.

For example, you need to produce 20,000 doses of a Covid-19 treatment. Your customer needs them yesterday but will settle for next week. Do you have enough raw materials on hand to meet your customer’s deadline? If not, what can you do to obtain what you need?

Using this information wisely lets management develop complex plans, like the ability to track everything from small lots to pallet loads. A company can learn by checking an item’s progress at different points—its arrival at the warehouse, use in production, loading onto a truck or ship, and delivery to the customer. By examining reports, you can identify potential delays or roadblocks and find ways to speed up delivery.

Supply chain management software on a secure cloud computing platform like Microsoft’s Azure let’s you communicate securely and safely with other researchers, salespeople and vendors. With Azure, you’ll know that your intellectual property and contracts are safe from competitors.

Boost Decision Accuracy with Power BI

With today’s supply chains – seemingly constantly in a state of upheaval – effective inventory management that goes beyond tracking stock on hand is critical to operations. Effectively managing your inventory and raw materials ensures you’ll have the materials you need when you need them. It means having more than one source of supplies and materials. It also means constantly checking with vendors to ensure you have the goods to meet your own delivery deadlines. This is where an integrated business intelligence solution comes into play.

Microsoft Power BI let’s you connect to hundreds of data sources, preparing reports you can easily share. You can confidently deliver interactive messages to customers using information from inside and outside your company. Inventory planners can be warned of potential shortages in time to find alternate supplies. Salespeople can be told of possible delivery delays caused by outside forces, giving them time to ask the customer if they want to use a different shipping method.

Accurate business intelligence at your fingertips puts you ahead of competitors stuck using their “tried and true” methods that are becoming increasingly worthless every day.

Final Thoughts

Effective inventory management comes down to data: knowing what you have and where it is.

A modern inventory control system that supports labels and barcodes lets you track raw materials, work-in-progress and finished goods simultaneously, with high accuracy.

An inventory system with business intelligence helps you find faster and alternate ways of obtaining raw materials and pre-made products, mainly when shipping delays occur. That information can help you get your products to your customers when needed, balancing everyone’s inventory.

Protecting pharmaceutical data with azure banner

Protecting pharmaceutical data with Azure

Protecting pharmaceutical data with Azure 700 500 Xcelpros Team

At a Glance

  • $985 million: The median cost of getting a new drug into the market
  • $1.3 billion: The newer, lower average cost of getting a new drug to market
  • $2.8 billion: The previous average cost of getting a new drug to market
  • $200 billion: The estimated size of the counterfeit drug market
  • 13: the number of new drugs not brought to market each year because of revenue losses from counterfeit drugs

Sources: Wikipedia and Statista.com


On average, the cost of bringing a new medicine from idea to market – aka the drug development process – has dropped significantly, from $2.8 billion per drug to $1.3 billion each, according to an online encyclopedia. Counterfeits still have a measurable effect on the number of drugs being brought to market. Recent studies published on Wikipedia and Statista.com show that prescription drug makers continue to get hammered by counterfeit competition.

Statista’s 2022 study provided interesting data on different scenarios showing changes based on market size. The number of new medicines not brought to market ranged from six at $100 billion to 28 at $431 billion

So, what does all this mean? The short version is big pharma and even smaller companies have a considerable investment in intellectual property (IP) they must protect.

IP and Drug Manufacturers

“IP rights, if sufficiently limited, are typically justified as necessary to allow pharmaceutical manufacturers the ability to recoup substantial costs in research and development, including clinical trials and other tests necessary to obtain regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” the Congressional Research Service states (CRS).

Pharmaceutical companies are protected by two types of intellectual property (IP): patents, which give exclusive rights to the holder for 20 years, and regulatory exclusivities. According to CRS, these exclusivities range from six months to 12 years, depending on the specific type of drug or biologic.

These companies have a substantial financial investment in their research, development, and testing data. The only way to recover their vast assets is by making and selling products.

It can cost millions of dollars and over ten years of dedication to developing a single drug. With the money levels involved, thieves have a solid incentive to capture this research for themselves.

Protecting Your IP Investment

Take a look at another statistic: $590 million. That’s the amount the U.S. Treasury Department estimates was paid by victims of 450 ransomware attacks in the first half of 2021 alone.

Using that short time frame alone, the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) stated that “ransomware is an increasing threat to the U.S. financial sector, businesses, and the public.”

Ransomware is one of many cyber-attacks that share a common goal: stealing money. This attack works by infiltrating a company’s computer network and taking control of it. Companies face a difficult decision: pay the ransom, have their data destroyed, or worse, share it worldwide.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is another standard weapon in a hacker’s arsenal. “In computing, a denial-of-service attack is a cyber-attack in which the perpetrator seeks to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services of a host connected to a network,” a Wikipedia article states.

Many of these attacks start with simple phishing schemes. If they get one employee out of thousands to open an infected email, they have a doorway into your data. Microsoft does everything it can to block these attacks and protect its investment and yours.

As with ransomware and other attacks through stealth or brute force, the goal of DDoS attacks is money. The thinking is, “Hit a company badly often enough, and it will pay you to leave them alone.

Figure 1:Key Strategies to avoid cyber security attacks

Key Strategies to avoid cyber security attacks

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Protection in the Cloud

Every company has another option, though: investing in its security.

One method of stealing data involves capturing it as it moves from place to place. Microsoft has invested millions of dollars to continuously protect its customers’ data through its Azure cloud computing platform. The company stated in a recent blog post that they detect 1.5 million attempts per day to compromise its systems, spending about $1 billion a year on computer infrastructure security.

With the ongoing need to invest in protecting their on-premise equipment from attacks, more firms are migrating to the cloud, with platforms like Azure gaining importance with each thwarted attack. Moving data from on-premise network servers to widely spread cloud data centers means attackers have to hit moving targets if they want to control a company’s data.

“The cloud has some built-in advantages. Unlike the internet, it was built from the ground up with modern security and privacy in mind. It’s also a controlled ecosystem protected by people who spend all day thinking about data security and privacy,” according to a recent Microsoft online store.

Traditionally, internet and computer security safeguards were bolted onto a tool rather than built into it. “With cloud infrastructure, security considerations are part of the development process,” Microsoft states. “The cloud is an opportunity to do security better,” security analyst Doug Cahill added.

Azure’s status as a cloud platform means that all of the money, and the 3,500 security engineers Microsoft devotes to making it secure, also benefit the software running on top of it. For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365’s Supply Chain Management, which helps companies track raw materials and finished products from the warehouse to the customer, runs on top of Azure.

Companies using this software get the bonus of automatic protection for their cloud data. While these updates can’t directly help prevent thieves from making a physical attack on their buildings, it can make it harder for them to steal data on the move.

“If we detect a set of attacks on one tenant or a handful of tenants, we can synthesize that and start using the things we learn to protect all the other tenants out there,” Bharat Shah, Microsoft’s vice-president of Security for Azure platform, said. “That’s the cloud effect. We learn. We react. We turn something on, and we protect everybody else.”

Azure benefits from Microsoft’s investment in machine learning – a branch of artificial intelligence – to track attempted attacks. Microsoft takes what it learns and uses it to benefit not just Azure but all the companies who’s multi-million-dollar intellectual property investment rides on top of it.

The Bottom Line

Citing the NETSCOUT Threat Intelligence report, Forbes.com estimated 26,000 cyber-attacks per day, or 18 per minute, in 2020 alone. The report indicated that security threats against industrial control systems and operational technology tripled in 2020, while DDoS attacks will grow to 15.4 million by 2023.

These numbers should make any executive who doesn’t have a significant cyber security team on their staff nervous. Thankfully, companies who use Microsoft Azure’s cloud computing platform have the security of more than 3,500 security engineers devoted to protecting it and the data running through it.

With the livelihood of pharmaceutical companies depending on keeping their data safe, secure, and private, you don’t risk your company’s data with poor security. Investing in Azure services today can make a huge difference in your bottom line.

Agility in daily operations using the Power Platform

Agility in daily operations using the Power Platform

Agility in daily operations using the Power Platform 700 500 Xcelpros Team


COVID-19 continues to test supply chain and manufacturing operations around the world. More than 18 months after exploding onto the scene, companies still have their hands full dealing with ill workers, limited working hours and uncertain supply chains. Businesses are evaluating how to improve efficiency, lower costs and increase operational performance. The immediate question on everyone’s mind is, “how are we coming out of this crisis?”

While employee safety is a top priority during this pandemic, mitigating the impact on the day-to-day operations is crucial to business leaders. CEOs and CFOs are facing the unprecedented challenge of pivoting product demands and preserving growing cash flow. Implementing a “do more with less” attitude while gaining a few quick wins in the process can build the momentum needed to keep companies moving forward.

Figure: 1 The Ecosystem of an Integrated Supply Chain

The Ecosystem of an Integrated Supply Chain

Pivoting the Plan

The role of the chief information officer (CIO) is critical in risk mitigation strategies. They can draft a plan to determine how the COVID crisis is affecting the company infrastructure short term. The plan must keep operations running smoothly while acknowledging that long term projects and roadmap budgets are affected.

One example is switching employees to remote work while maintaining operations. Software tools like Microsoft Teams and Skype let companies communicate with far-flung workers and managers while the interfaces similar to those in Office 365 programs eases the transition.

Keeping the Lines Open

Not all production and distribution employees work from home even when social distancing and masking restrictions limit face-to-face contact. Many workers are considered essential, causing some factories to switch from a single shift to running 24/7. These facilities are adding shifts and ramping up capacity, working hard to keep warehouses stocked with raw materials and finished products.

Since computer software and machines are now working longer hours, the companies that support them must do the same or risk losing clients.

Figue: 2 Microsoft Power Platform: An Integrated Solution

Microsoft Power Platform: An Integrated Solution

As companies move back and forth between remote and in-person workers, having the right tools in place can help boost communication between production plants and supporting vendors. One example of an effective toolbox is the Microsoft Power Platform. This “low-code, no-code” platform can be installed and running in a matter of hours to generate a quick win. A no-code solution is valuable when needing to make quick decisions while maintaining critical operations.


of all app development will be low code by 2024

Source: Gartner

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PowerApps are a suite of apps, services, connectors and data platforms providing a rapid application development environment, Microsoft states. “Using Power Apps, you can quickly build custom business apps that connect to your business data stored either in the underlying platform or in various online and on-premises data sources, such as SharePoint, Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365, SQL Server, etc.”

Using custom-built apps connected to internet of things (IoT)-enabled devices, workers gain access and insights into machines that may be headed for trouble. Staff is alerted before shutdowns are required. This lets technicians replace worn parts before production unexpectedly stops.

Power Apps can connect to hundreds of business systems and databases. They make it easy to connect workers with the existing processes and data while working through Microsoft Outlook to keep key staff informed.

Power App benefits include:

1.Greater development agility Automate and simplify repetitive, time-consuming processes to launch faster while reducing errors.

2.Speed and savings Reduce time and cost building web and mobile applications, enabling companies to work through their development project list.

3.Achieve more while doing less Some Power Apps are fully functional out of the box. They have data presets using standard business logic and rules making them fully customizable to individual business needs.

Meeting the Demand

Before the coronavirus, businesses made supply chain forecasts based on the then normal business operations. Now, though, many firms are switching to a demand planning model.

Executives are continually evaluating sales and budget plans. Power Apps let them do it faster. For example, the sales and operations teams can hold “what-if analysis” scenario planning sessions. Using a consumption-driven model boosted by industry and customer knowledge, companies can lower their risk. Similar methods let major carmakers quickly switch their production lines from automotive parts to building ventilators for critical hospital patients and then move back to normal operations when the situation changed.

One such app is Microsoft Power Automate. It automates tedious manual analytic processes when quick decisions are required. Automate provides a creative, cost-effective strategy for businesses to connect their existing legacy systems.

An example is activating workflows for approvals in a matter of hours instead of days.

As workforces become a hybrid of remote and on-site team members, Power Automate can reduce the time spent tracking down approvals and keep things moving.

When companies combine a smaller, leaner workforce with greater demands and less time and then add more government regulations, they increase pressure on managers to make the right decisions quickly or risk falling out of compliance.

Another essential Microsoft Power Platform app is Power Bi, which “bridges the gap between data and decision making.”

The business analytics service delivers insights helping business leaders make fast, informed decisions now and when developing future emergency response plans.

Power Bi:

  • Transforms data into stunning visuals for sharing to any device
  • Exploring and analyzing data in one view
  • Permits sharing customized dashboards and interactive reports

Staying Ahead

In addition to machine maintenance, following federal and state coronavirus guidelines is critical to keeping operations running and employees safe. The Power Platform has several new tools with the pandemic and other emergencies in mind.

  • Crisis Communication- A sample Microsoft Power App taking 20-25 minutes to set up, Crisis Communications combines Microsoft Power Automate, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. It lets companies coordinate information sharing and team collaboration under evolving conditions. Employees can report work status and make requests. System administrators can use the app to push updates and news including web-based really simple syndication (RSS) feeds from the World Health Organization (WHO), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local authorities or emergency contacts. The information can go to different locations that are accessible on the web, mobile or in Teams.
  • Power Virtual Agents Crisis Response Bot- The Power Virtual Agents team released instructions to build a Virtual Agent Crisis Response FAQ Bot. The no-code program helps staff get company-specific information they need quickly using a question and answer interface you can embed on your company website.

Power Apps Drives Business Transformation

A recent Forrester Consulting study shows how businesses reduced development costs and increased overall efficiency using Power Apps. Results are for a composite organization based on interviewed customers.

The Total Economic Impact of Power Apps study, March 2020 states:

  • 188% return on investment over three years
  • 74% reduction in app development costs
  • A savings of $4.9 million in application development and management cots
  • Replacing two external applications with a single Power App saved $742,449


No one knows how long the coronavirus crisis will last. Taking the time to plan how to function in these uncertain times is essential. Using software tools like the Microsoft Power Platform and its many apps will help companies continue to operate in rapidly changing conditions.

Helping your company fit into the-bio-economy banner

Helping Your Company Fit into the Bioeconomy

Helping Your Company Fit into the Bioeconomy 700 500 Xcelpros Team


The term “bioeconomy” has begun gaining steam but many executives don’t know what it means or how it might affect their business.

Brain-biotech.com defines bioeconomy as producing renewable biological resources and then converting them plus waste streams into valued-added products. These include food, animal feed, bio-based products and energy, including fuels.

A related but different concept is the circular economy, “where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimized,” the article states.

Both concepts share the goals of increasing resource efficiency and lowering demand for new petroleum resources while creating more jobs. Tying into both of these is “cascading,” which promotes recycling and remanufacturing. An example of cascading is using fresh wood to build furniture. When the main product’s life ends, part or all of the wood is used for something else such as a different piece of furniture or a planter.

“The circular economy includes all kinds of material streams with different utilization routes. Organic recycling, which equals biodegradation, and even the capture and utilization of carbon dioxide from industrial processes or the atmosphere are included,” the report states.

One way the bioeconomy affects industry is by producing renewable carbon compared to fossil carbon such as oil and other fossil fuels. The bioeconomy and circular economy have a common goal: creating a more sustainable world with a low carbon footprint. Both avoid using fossil carbon. Using sustainable resources helps achieve climate targets, brain-biotech states.

Among the stated goals of the bioeconomy and the circular economy are:

  • Reducing the use of fossil fuels
  • Wiser management of natural resources
  • Continually reusing minerals, metals, and biomass from agriculture, forests and the seas
  • Creating biodegradable and compostable products
  • Generating ways to capture and reuse carbon dioxide in the Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) process
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Reducing waste, especially anything going into landfills
  • Promoting research across disciplines and borders
  • Creating more jobs in rural and urban environments

Impacts of the Bioeconomy on the Financial Economy

Features unique to the bioeconomy include creating new products and better utilization of agriculture and forestry, Brain-biotech states. Among its examples are using genome editing to create products with lower toxicity and new functions plus more nature-compatible (i.e., biodegradable) and healthier consumer goods.

So where can we see the bioeconomy? “The U.S. bioeconomy is all around us: new drugs and diagnostics for improved human health, higher-yielding food crops, emerging biofuels to reduce dependence on oil and biobased chemical intermediaries,” the 2012 White House’s National Bioeconomy Blueprint is quoted as saying in youmatter.world.

Youmatter.world connects the bioeconomy and circular economy by referring to the circular economy as “the what” as in what are desired outcomes. The bioeconomy is “the how” as in how biophysical processes can be enhanced to achieve the expected result.

Transforming the U.S. economy from one based on hydrocarbons (i.e., fossil fuels) to a bioeconomy, will have the most dramatic effects. These effects will be felt most strongly in the energy, agricultural, chemical, industrial and consumer products and transportation industries, attorney Neil Belson wrote in 2016.

Among Belson’s conclusions are, “an economy that runs primarily on renewable, domestically produced bio based raw materials is inherently less vulnerable to disruption than one which relies on or is heavily influenced by the availability of foreign fossil fuel energy supplies.”

Among the biofuel resources are corn stalks and wheat straw, animal manure, household and industrial organic wastes containing carbon and dedicated fast-growing energy crops.

Belson also suggests a major target of opportunity is the $164 billion U.S. organic chemical industry.

By the Numbers

After several years of declining revenue caused by low fossil fuel prices, the Organic Chemical Industry is expected to resume growing in 2021, reports from IBISWorld state. Among the highlights are:

  • 13.2%: The 2021 increase in market size estimated by the Organic Chemical Manufacturing Industry (OCMI).
  • $106 billion: The 2021 market size measured by revenue of the OCMI
  • 1,107: Number of organic chemical businesses in the US
  • 75,441: Number of people employed in the organic chemical businesses in the US

Current top products and related manufacturing activities are producing:

  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Cyclic crudes, coal tar, wood chemical and intermediate products
  • Basic organic chemical products
  • Fatty acids
  • Synthetic organic alcohols
  • Synthetic flavor and perfume materials
  • Bulk pesticides

This list does not include forestry-related materials such as major wood products.

According to the Government

The US Department of Agriculture released the 128-page “An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry” in 2015.

Using 2013 numbers, the US Biobased Products Industry:

  • Contributed 4 million jobs
  • Added $369 billion to the U.S. economy
  • Created 1.64 more jobs for every 1 biobased products job
  • 20,000 products in the BioPreferred program database not including traditional textile fabrics or forest products. The true number is closer to 40,000, the report states.
  • 300 million gallons of petroleum replaced by biochemicals and natural-based products replacing petroleum products such as Styrofoam.

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Areas of Opportunity

Figure: 1Number of Installed Ethanol Biorefineries in the US

Number of Installed Ethanol biorefineries in the US

Statista states that in 2019, the US had more than 200 ethanol biorefineries. In 2015, the USDA listed 213 such refineries. Audi, BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen make diesel vehicles that can use biodiesel blends, edmunds.com states. As of 2014, most biofuel came from soybean oil. The US Department of Energy states that the B20 biodiesel blend contains 2% – 6% biodiesel mixed with petroleum fuel.

Adding biodiesel improves fuel lubricity making vehicles easier to start and reduces ignition delay. It also reduces premature wear on moving parts even in concentrations as low as 1%, the Alternative Fuels Data Center states.

Chemical and pharmaceutical companies, take note: Modor Intelligence estimates the market for biochemical reagents will grow at a CAGR rate of 9.1% between 2020 – 2025. This market is defined by products such as cell and tissue reagents, electrophoresis and others plus geography. Asia Pacific is the fastest growing market while North America is the largest.

Chromatography reagents have the greatest demand with their use in many pharmaceutical processes such as separating chemicals and biomolecules, diagnostics and protein purification.

Market Research Future’s report on the Global Bio-Based Chemicals Market states the top products between 2019 – 2025 will be bioplastics, bio-lubricants, bio-solvents, bio-based acids, bio-surfactants, bio-alcohols and others.

Let Technology Help

What chemical wastes currently costing the company money to be shipped to a landfill can be reused to boost profits? Companies using technology like Microsoft PowerBi and Microsoft Dynamics 365 to organize their data can organize waste into its core components. Some of it might be easily converted into biofuels. Others might be broken apart with components becoming biodegradable solvents.

Another way tech can help is by looking at existing customers in growing markets and suppliers in areas where key crops are grown. Are they ways to piggyback shipments and reduce transportation costs while also cutting air pollution? Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management can combine and crunch data. While helping a business run much more efficiently, it can also offer insights into new ways to use existing products.

The Bottom Line

The bioeconomy is here to stay, as is global warming. Companies entering bioeconomy markets should look at new ways to use plant-based materials to replace petroleum products, like the chemical and pharmaceutical industries using plant-based solvents to develop new medicines because they are less toxic and better for everyone in the long run.

Alternate fuels, fibers, chemicals made from plants and other biological sources are just a few of the many potential products whose demand will continue to rise.

Using cutting-edge enterprise resource planning software can help a company more accurately evaluate its own products and resources. Who knows, there just might be the materials to build some bioeconomy products already sitting on a warehouse shelf. With the right tech, you will know what you have.


Upcoming Process Automation Trends That Will Transform Your Enterprise

Upcoming Process Automation Trends That Will Transform Your Enterprise 700 500 Xcelpros Team


The ultimate goal of any enterprise is that of speeding up processes, reducing errors, and increasing business output for better revenue generation. With the onset of the digitization era, companies have upgraded their technological prowess to adapt to process automation. It is important to understand that in the rapidly transforming world, process automation is not just a technological ability to speed up processes but a strategic movement towards better use of software to streamline workforce, introduce better work practices and mitigate cost inflations. Since COVID-19, process automation has turned into a need of the hour to improve operations that are built with adherence to process compliance and yield better outputs with a limited workforce. This means process automation will transform enterprises at a larger scale to increase agility and reduce dependency on manual work.

Manual Vs Automation

Is your business still operating through manual handoffs, excel macros, and cumbersome reporting? As businesses are integrating automation in more rapidly in different facets right from HR to Marketing, Production, Sales, and Information Technology; there is a considerable reduction in human intervention for mundane and simpler tasks. A component of efficiency will be introduced with the implementation of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in process automation. According to a leadership piece by Sogeti (1), enterprises will look into integrating robotics process automation (RPA) with AI to extract more business value. Read on to know why an enterprise should consider intelligent process automation for complete transformation and the latest trends that will help businesses along the path of said transformation.

Why Embracing the Latest Process Automation Trends and Techniques is a Necessity for an Enterprise?

As an enterprise, you need to ask yourself a key question: Where should the business’ attention be?

While at face-value this question may seem trivial, the entire enterprise architecture revolves around this key aspect. The more attention your skill base gives towards the latest trends like the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, Cloud, Advanced Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and automated-integrated workflows, the better streamlined and agile your workforce would be. Hence it is highly significant for enterprises to explore deep into the latest process automation trends and make their employees acquainted with these trends for a competitive edge.

There is no doubt about the fact that legacy systems need upgrades and modernization to encompass latest trends of digitization, modern technologies and to become aligned with the fast-paced, changing business demands. Process automation plays a key role here. If not for process automation, the IT systems would face the brunt of not being able to keep up with business process improvements (carried out usually at a large-scale), leading to lesser productivity and overall loss of revenue. Automation helps you form ‘bundles’ of data and migrate them to platforms for systematic records management. Process automation can help your enterprise reduce the error rate, and increase productivity at a lower cost. But one point to remember is that the process automation described above would only make sense if your company has already transformed into a modern ERP system.

Figure 1 8 Reasons to Automate Your Business Processes

Reasons to Automate Your Business Processes

1.Handling the Unstructured Data Challenge: While data on systems has been very much taken care of by current process automation tools, enterprises and their related facets still struggle with unstructured forms of data such as hand-written notes, bills, invoices, images, etc. With the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence, businesses are digging up automation solutions that will not only recognize this type of data (with the help of Robotics), but also assimilate and use it in processes similar to structured data.

2.Low-Code Solutions for Faster Results: Robotic process automation when integrated with low code solutions forms a golden bridge of zero human intervention and faster application development. These low code solutions enhance efficiency as well as help in transforming core processes like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

3.Integration of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) with Business Process Automation (BPA): Interdependent workflows have always been a part of large enterprises and the IT skill set in an organization has mostly been at the helm of managing these interconnecting processes in a complex workflow system. The latest automation tools will help in integrating RPA with BPA resulting in the formation of intricate workflows and implementation of all the related processes.

4.Real-Time Automated Decision Making: Enterprises will see more and more management of big data with the help of artificial intelligence and this will facilitate the way for flexible tools for IT operations that will preempt glitches and provide real-time solutions. This will help in better resource-allocation, lesser communication gaps, and fewer outages.

5.A Chance Towards Skill Set Upgrade: When computers were introduced as a tool to reduce human effort, they were met with a lot of apprehensions. In fact, many considered them as machines that would make a human contribution to technology obsolete. Similar apprehension and even cynicism can be seen in the case of process automation tools and software. After all, process automation eliminates the need for human intervention, making many technical jobs outworn.

However, enterprises are now looking up to this advancement in process automation as a chance to upgrade the skill set of their current employee base and make them adept in the latest technologies and tools. This will not only help the IT personnel move from labor-intensive, monotonous jobs to skill-based, dynamic ones, but it will also create a learning curve in the industry resulting in more innovations. When put in perspective, automation is not the cause for losing jobs, it is instead an opportunity for companies to fill the skill set gap and enhance the expertise of their IT personnel for innovation and better strategic output.

By 2023, AI-enabled automation in data management will reduce the need for IT specialists by 20%Source: Gartner report

The Changing Landscape

An enterprise cannot deny the fact that adapting to the need of the hour with the latest process automation trends is going to work in favor of its core business value. Numerous users across organizations will gain access to data, automated workflows that will be systematically prepared, and actionable insight that will aid towards building an agile enterprise. In the current market being agile as a company will be your strong suit. As they say, the cards are laid on the table; it is up to the businesses now to play their hand wisely!

Remote work is becoming more prevalent post-COVID-19. Companies are looking for more ways to streamline operations, engage the workforce, and yet meet the needs of customers. Process automation plays a major role in volatile market conditions during COVID-19. A combination of Microsoft’s Power Platform, AI – ML, Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 ERP, integrated with Teams allows users to streamline their processes and build needed visibility for management to effectively view the progress of operations remotely.

In fact, a successful use case off-late within various companies is to integrate Dynamics 365 with flow, teams, planner, and SharePoint to enhance compliance of process, coordination with team members remotely, track processes that are running in each department and provide task execution clarity for each employee within a department. More companies are adopting this suite of tools to improve productivity and simplify workforce engagement. All major functions of a company – be it Procurement, Sales, Manufacturing, Quality, Finance or HR, when unified together help a business stay afloat during challenging market conditions and support the over well-being of a business.

Key Takeaways

  • Introduction of Automated workflows, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Big Data, Machine Learning, and Advanced Electronics has changed the face of process automation for better and faster results.
  • Enterprises will need to invest more in advanced process automation tools to stay ahead in the competition and to gain critical business value.
  • Evaluate low-cost solutions for process automation that is easily customizable for your business and build enhanced visibility of how your company is performing in a challenging market.

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