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Archive for April, 2009

Extending CRM Usage to the Executive Level

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 by Alex Smith

What if an executive could see into the future? What if an executive could see past the internal rhetoric to dig deep into the sales funnel or customer base and spot sales growth or dips well before they actually occur? Without question, this insight would dramatically impact the decision-making ability of the executive, as well as provide a more adaptable organization. While some may refer to this as the works of a fortune teller, the “crystal ball” exists today and is utilized by savvy executives in many small to mid-market companies. This crystal ball is far from voodoo or hocus pocus; it is the power of a strong customer relationship management (CRM) ERP software solution.

A business executive recently said, “I would give anything to be able to have visibility into my sales funnel and future revenue stream. In fact, I’d give anything just to be able to know what my sales representatives do each day and if they are actually making the sales calls they claim.” Given the amount of CRM capabilities that are available in the SMB market, this statement is surprising. While CRM was at its infancy stage years ago, the CRM packages of today are powerful.

In Enterprise 21, CRM is more than a module. It is fully-integrated into Enterprise 21 and reaches across the entire ERP suite. It is closely tied to online quoting and order management, accounts receivable, and even manufacturing and shipping. This holistic approach takes the usage of CRM from the sales force and extends it into the entire back office and the executive level. It allows CRM to become a tool for the entire organization.

When CRM data and usage is integrated into a decision support system, the daily activities of quoting, forecasting, and sales call reporting all become strong resources. These generic actions provide a consolidated view of the organization’s past and future activities.

In Enterprise 21, a CEO can see a wide range of information right from within his or her own personal dashboard. The dashboard not only provides information specific to the CEO’s needs, it provides it in the manner he or she desires and allows for further drill down or detailed analysis. This permits the CEO to view critical information such as sales funnel trending, anticipated revenue, and even a given sales person’s daily activities such as onsite sales calls, outstanding quotes, and newly entered sales orders. While this may be too much information for some, to the CEO who has four new hires, it may be just the information that is needed to know if a specific sales representative is delivering as promised.

CRM information can be extended even further to trigger alerts when changes occur in an existing customer’s buying trends. The worst customer is not the customer that constantly complains; the worst customer is the customer who quietly takes part or all of their business elsewhere without any notification or warning.

While Enterprise 21’s CRM functionality cannot change the customer’s communication style, the CRM module can warn of an unexpected drop or delay in a customer’s ongoing purchases or buying trends. While these CRM-based alerts are not necessarily a crystal ball, they are powerful and provide a means for facilitating proactive behavior on the part of the sales force or management team. Most importantly, the alerts and other dashboard information provide the information necessary to move the company from reactive behavior to much more successful proactive operations and communications.


The Migration from QuickBooks to ERP Software: Problems, Solutions, and Common Questions

Monday, April 20th, 2009 by Alex Smith

Many small business manufacturing and distribution companies run some combination of QuickBooks for managing accounting transactions and Excel spreadsheets to maintain inventory levels and record production scheduling. For these companies, the mere thought of migrating from these widely used and recognized tools can be intimidating for even the most technologically savvy small business owners. That being said, with proper data migration and training, small business executives and employees can learn new, more efficient practices in a timely manner to help run a small business more profitably.

One common issue software users have as an impetus for migrating from QuickBooks to more sophisticated software solutions is changing the business’ costing methodology. QuickBooks, while highly intuitive, only allows for one costing methodology. Enterprise 21, however, offers more flexible costing methods to best suit each small business’ specific needs. Enterprise 21 small business ERP software allows for average, standard, LIFO, and FIFO costing as granular as on a product-by-product basis.

A relevant example of this is when a small business within the food and beverage industry migrates from their existing entry-level software package. Many start-up or small food processors do not have the ability to use FIFO-based costing, yet they require it in order to meet their accounting and costing needs more adequately.

In addition, small business owners are frequently concerned with moving their existing data maintained in QuickBooks, Excel spreadsheets, or other small business accounting software packages into more advanced software solutions. Though small businesses have fewer employees than larger organizations, that does not exclude them from often times having hundreds or even thousands of products, ingredients, parts, vendors, and customers.

The thought of spending employee time and resources to enter each individual record manually with this volume of data is simply not practical (or affordable) for a small business. Fortunately, TGI developers have standard routines and tools in place to load existing data contained in QuickBooks, Excel spreadsheets, and other small business software packages directly into the proper fields within Enterprise 21 with little to no manual data entry. The data is then rigorously tested (in a test environment) to check for accuracy and consistency, and to make sure no errors have occurred in the migration process. By migrating existing data rather than manually entering it into the new system results in substantial time and cost savings to the small business.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, small business owners question in what ways their day-to-day business operations must change in order to adopt a new, technologically- and functionally-sophisticated software package. To achieve a rational and sizable return on investment (ROI), both small business owners and employees must be flexible and open-minded in adopting new, more efficient business practices and processes with the implementation of a new software package. The goal in selecting a new manufacturing or distribution software package should be, ultimately, to enable daily business operations to run more effectively, efficiently, accurately, and profitably. A fully-integrated ERP software package can do this with ease.

A fully-integrated software package eliminates the need for data entry and transacting business in a multitude of software packages concurrently; every entry and transaction would be performed in only one software package, allowing for improved data accuracy and visibility. Initially, employees may struggle to grasp new methodologies because the way they perform their daily jobs and tasks could be radically different. They will, however, also be significantly better. The new manufacturing or distribution software system will offer process improvements and provide a structure for adopting best practices. With adequate training and practice, software users will adopt new, better business processes and practices that will ultimately result in better, more efficient operations and an increase in the productivity and bottom line for the entire organization, thus allowing for future and sustainable business growth.