September 27, 2013
In an age of short attention spans, busy schedules and smart phones, we continue to see the use of acronyms in simplifying industry terms, but this can sometimes lead to a poor understanding of the actual meaning and implications behind these phrases. An example is the use of “CRM” (Customer Relationship Management) to describe all Contact Management systems. In fact there is a difference between a true CRM and a Contact Management system. Many software vendors use these two terms interchangeably. This post explores the differences between Contact Management and CRM systems, and will hopefully help you to make better decisions when evaluating software.
Contact Management is a broad term that covers the tracking of customer, vendor and individuals’ information and communication. Most Contact Management systems will typically allow you to track:
- Address information including ship to and bill to addresses if necessary
- Main contact information and additional contact information, including position and associated companies
- Associated sales rep information, and open quotes, orders and sales history information
- Communication with customers, vendors etc. – verbal or email
Customer Relationship Management implies a more advanced system, providing additional sales and marketing capabilities. CRM systems are typically used to fully manage relationships with customers, vendors, and prospects by allowing users to schedule upcoming actions, events and meetings, move prospects through the sales funnel, create email lists and categorize prospects and customers. CRM systems are about managing sales funnels, sales cycles and relationships, and not just storing basic information.
A CRM is particularly useful for businesses that have long or complex sales cycles requiring ongoing customer interaction, with scheduled follow-up dates and detailed communication records.
Other features to look for in both Contact Management and CRM software include:
- The ability to schedule appointments with, and send emails to, the contact from within the system
- Automatically date and time stamp notes added in order to track communication
- Ability to change and manage lead statuses
- A “lead review screen” or dashboard to alert sales reps on required activities and follow-ups for the day
September 18, 2013
Here’s a common mistake I see people make when searching for new inventory and accounting ERP software: evaluating too many vendors. Although it is important to spend time researching different ERP systems and vendors, when you begin actively engaging with vendors – discussing requirements and viewing demos – only a handful of vendors should make the short list; ideally between two and four. Trying to evaluate any more can result in wasted resources, overwhelmed employees, and ultimately the wrong decision or (more usually) no decision at all. When it comes to making a decision, quantity does not trump quality – it is better to have more in-depth discussions with a few vendors than to skim the surface with a whole bunch. “Overall, choice overload reduces engagement, decision quality, and satisfaction” says Columbia Business School Professor Sheena Iyengar in her study done on choice.
When you evaluate too many ERP vendors . . .
It becomes difficult to distinguish between vendors and their products.
Although each vendor will offer specific functionality and unique components, the differences between each will become less and less clear the more demos and discussions you have. Since ERP software inherently has similar base functionality such as inventory management, accounting, and contact management, remembering which system had the better interface, more advanced reporting capabilities and additional features will be almost impossible when looking at, say, 6 or 7 vendors. ERP software is designed to streamline all business processes, which means demos can take up hours (each) without even covering all areas of the software. A better approach is to keep the number of demos low, with each one spread out over a few days so that there is ample time between each one to discuss and record notes with key employees.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 12, 2013
There are several aspects to consider when choosing to implement a fully integrated inventory and accounting (ERP) system – one of them being whether or not to implement the software via the cloud or as an on-premises solution. The term “cloud” is often used interchangeably with the terms “hosted” and “SaaS”, and refers to the deployment method whereby the client pays the vendor an ongoing “subscription” fee for access to the software (off-premises) via the Internet. The vendor takes care of maintaining hardware, upgrades and backups. In contrast, on-premises implementations are installed on the client’s server, on-site and the hardware is managed by the client.
Download our Cloud vs. On-Premises Cost Comparison
Cloud implementations have made it more affordable for small businesses and start-ups to implement a proper ERP system with advanced automation, systems that were historically only available to larger organizations with deep pockets. But without performing additional research, there is no simple answer as to which method is better suited for any specific business.
Choosing an implementation method is dependent on many factors, among them: cash flow, number of users, available hardware, existing infrastructure, physical space, IT skills, level of desired hardware control and internet connection. Smaller businesses and start-ups tend to lean towards cloud implementations because of their ongoing, monthly payment structure — an affordable and predictable cash flow. On-Premises implementations require an up-front investment that is much more substantial, but may be a better fit for businesses with an existing IT infrastructure and IT staff. Costs to consider include: license fees, maintenance fees, implementation costs, external consulting and customization costs, infrastructure upgrade costs and internal costs.
Because the vendor for cloud implementations hosts the software, the client does not handle upgrades, maintenance, IT issues or backups. This is beneficial for smaller businesses that lack an IT department. However businesses that prefer to own the software and control the hardware will lean towards an on-premises solution.
September 4, 2013
Business owners are constantly striving to improve inventory management in their warehouses – but how can they do this? The answer is of course dependent on the company as well as specific problems, but in general, businesses trying to solve inventory problems will typically choose one of 3 approaches; hire additional staff, invest in a proper inventory management system or evaluate and change internal processes. Each option has its pros and cons, however eventually any growing business will reach a point where the only way to improve inventory management is to invest in a proper, robust inventory management system. To get the most out of such a system, consider investing in software with the following functionality:
Landed Cost Tracking
Landed cost is the total cost of an inventoried product, and takes into account expenses incurred to purchase, transport, and import goods from one place to another, within a country or across continents. This includes border fees, duties, taxes, transport costs, insurance, trans-loading and port handling fees among others. Proper landed cost tracking software will automatically account for and reconcile these costs in order to arrive at the true cost of the purchased item. This in turn will allow a business to protect margins and make better purchasing and pricing decisions.
Read the rest of this entry »