Archive for the ‘General’ Category
This is an old blog but all tips are still relevant today.
1. Know your goals for your ERP implementation. Choose the product that promises to meet those goals and put measurement tools and processes in place to gauge your success, advises Lance Williamson, engineer, Engenio Information Technologies, Inc., Wichita, Kan. In particular, he said, set goals for performance, response time and downtime.
2. Don’t do any project without a plan, particularly an ERP project which touches almost every part of your organization, said Bernard Golden, CEO, Navica Inc., a consulting firm in San Carlos, Calif. Create process with regular milestones and participation from affected organizations. And be sure to test, test, test, all the way through. “All of these things seem like ‘nice-to-haves’ rather than critical elements in a project, but can make the overall project much more successful,” Golden explained.
3. Involve users in your ERP project planning phase, said Andy Klee, president of Klee Associates, Inc., a consulting firm in Cedaredge, Colo. “The software is not going to do you much good if you don’t have employee buy-in,” he added.
4. Don’t do the planning and implementation alone if you don’t have the in-house skills to make it happen, said Jorg Janke, president of open source ERP vendor Compiere Inc. in Portland, Ore. “Determining which options and features to use requires experience,” he said. If the in-house team doesn’t have that experience, Janke advises, find a local ERP expert who is trustworthy and who collaborates well with your team.
5. Be realistic in your cost projections. Double the consulting firm’s estimate, Klee said. “I hardly ever hear of these projects coming in under the estimate,” he explained. Also, be realistic about training costs. “Even at the largest level, companies underestimate the training costs,” he said.
6. Don’t keep adding to your project. In the planning and evaluation stage, people see the capabilities of products and want to use each new one they discover. “Commit to what you want to do initially,” said Jon Reed, a Klee Associates consultant. “Get your return on investment and then expand. Otherwise, you’ll have a never-ending and unsuccessful project.”
To host or not to host?
7. If you’d prefer the hosting model for your ERP, then scrutinize your application service provider (ASP) well, says Janke. First of all, you must be able to trust this ASP with your data. “Find out if that hosting company provides cookie cutter solutions or can customize the ERP suite to fit your needs,” he advises. “Many outsourcers don’t know enough about ERP to customize it. Then again, if a cookie cutter solution is okay for you, then fine, use an outsourcer and you don’t have to take care of your ERP.”
8. Follow the money. “Hosting should take out a lot of internal costs of labor,” says Frank Prestipino, vice president of Oracle’s global enterprise applications strategy.. “It should save you money…by spreading payments over a period of time. You should be paying less over a period of time for hosting than you would do it yourself.” The hoster should provide this analysis. If you’re not paying less, don’t use an ASP, he said.
9. Choose an ERP package that is industry-standards based. “You don’t want to find yourself out on a limb with customers who can’t interact with your proprietary, out-of-standard implementation,” says Oracle’s Prestipino.
10. Look closely at maintenance costs. “You can pay a great purchase price and find that it costs a fortune to maintain,” Prestipino said.
11. Evaluate your processes and decide if changing them to fit a particular ERP suite would be beneficial, Klee suggested. “Either you’re looking for customization or going for out-of-the-box,” he says. “With the latter, people have to change how they do things in order to conform to the package. That may work for a company that needs to make changes anyway. Often, however, it’s better to choose a suite that can conform to your needs.”
12. Discuss a vendor’s stability with the vendor reps and outside experts. Find out if the company is losing market share, which might make it a candidate for a takeover or failure, Pestipino said.
13. “Whenever a company and its ERP package are acquired, it’s not usually good news for the customer,” Klee said. “Often, the vendor is buying the client base and is not that interested in the software itself. Instead, they’ll try to get clients to move to their own platform.” In this situation, customers may have to migrate without good business reasons.
14. Get the numbers. “Get empirical evidence of return on investment from the vendor and/or a consultant,” Prestipino said. Also, simulate the ERP suite in your company and make your own calculations.
15. Get vendors to come clean about their upgrade cycles. “Once they get you as a customer, their goal is to sell you new features and upgrades,” Klee said. “You want a company that upgrades and adds necessary features and doesn’t lock you into an expensive upgrade cycle.”
16. Find out how much customization assistance the vendor will offer, Reed said. “If you customize the ERP package to fit your business scenarios without vendor support, you can limit your support options from that vendor down the road.”
17. Be efficient in contract negotiations. “Don’t spend too much time analyzing details to the Nth degree,” Klee said. “If vendor can answer 25 critical questions and give most of what you want, you’re going to be in good shape. Focus more on critical items to get through negotiations more quickly.”
18. You can’t get everything you want. “Do accept that there is always going to be a functionality gap,” Reed said. “Usually, you have to let 10% go. If the gap is more than 10%, keep shopping.”
After the implementation
19. Pay attention to the quality of your data and the daily workflow, Golden said. This is especially important during the transition time after implementation and during periods when your business is changing or growing. Watch for seasonal variations, too. For example, Christmas can cause big jumps in data volume for a retail company.
20. Don’t sign up for long training sessions. Instead, do some initial, condensed training on your own site, and then set up a regular class schedule that gives users time to learn before they move on. “Vendors want to sell customers, say, 40 days of training over six weeks,” Klee said. “By the time the class is over, the trainees have forgotten the first half of the lessons.”
We know as a service provider, credit payment processing can become a huge hassle to small and midsized businesses. Rates and fees are usually high which immediately turns many business owners off the idea of accepting credit card, but an all cash business can only work for so long. In today’s economy and purchasing culture, credit cards are becoming more and more widely used and accepted in business transactions. Sage Payment Solutions provides businesses with all the necessities of credit payment processing without the high rates that are common with bank processing. With Sage Payment Solutions you are able to accept all major credit/debit cards and bypass the setbacks that come with cash and check payments. The benefits of this solution will take your business to new heights.
We all look to grow our small businesses and often overlook the need to improve our business management solution. More data, clients and income means you need a larger, faster and more efficient software. Sage offers many different systems that can help your company adjust to its new size.
Like a child your business is constantly growing and needs to be outfitted with solution software that fits. To make a decision on a new system you first have to analyze your needs. How many users do you plan on having access the system? What are your data needs? Do you have the right amount of space to facilitate a new system? How quickly is my business growing? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before moving to a new system.
Sage provides a few pointers on how to analyze your business and which systems may suit your needs. It is a very easy decision once you understand exactly what you need and how to implement changes.
An entity begins the business case for a Client Relationship Management system for two basic underlying reasons; growing pains or because an employee, usually an executive, perceives a future need. There are several elements involved in making a business case for a CRM system.
These can be divided into two major components, quantitative and qualitative measures and benefits. Quantitative measures are composed of the traditional analytical and economic factors familiar to most executives such as Return On Investment (ROI), Net Present Values (NPV), and Internal Rate of Return (IRR). Qualitative measures on the other hand focus on facets such as customer satisfaction, customer intimacy, customer retention or quality of service. The majority of qualitative measures are difficult to measure. The state and stage of the business decides which type of measure should be used, and usually a combination of both types of measures is necessary to make a compelling case for a Client Relationship Management System.
Most businesses in existence today have some sort of enterprise resource planning (ERP) or financial software system in place. Most also have some type of contact management or Sales Force Automation system as well. When disparate systems are already in place, any proposed change increases capital expenditures and recurring costs and usually challenges corporate culture. However, these obsticles commonly fall when the impitus for change includes growing pains and the need for one enterprise-wide repository.
If the business is a startup, then the case rests solely on perceived future value.
The business case for CRM includes all the factors listed above, but any CEO worth his salt will demand a combination of qualitative adn quantitative measures – likely with a bias toward traditional measures such as Return On Investment (ROI) or financial measures which principally impact on the bottom line and can be measured. Qualitative measures, such as increased customer loyalty and future business value are more perceptive, difficult to quantify and difficult to justify.
Most people are familiar with the traditional measures like ROI, and know smatterings of Internal Rates of Return, and Net Present Value. However, not all mid-size businesses have the necessary tools, resources or knowledge to put these together across the three departments of marketing, sales and service.
A simple breakeven or payback period approach can justify implementing a CRM solution. Instead of looking at the whole company, you may want to divide the projections into departments, and if they can be broken down further, such as marketing into email campaigns, print ads, television, for example, do so. Dissect each benefit to its lowest level and then do the analysis. This can provide a simple and clear projection.
Some businesses do a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) evaluation. If you expect the life of the software to be four years, and aggregate all the multiple costs of the software, implementation, customization, etc., what is the TCO per year? Per employee? How much of a revenue gain do you expect?
Another option is to quantify the costs involved in reducing the time it takes to manually perform a series of processes and then compare the value of that work time to the cost reduction. It’s easy to ask a service manager, how long does it take your CSR to resolve a new issue going through the help manuals? Work out the amount of time spent on new issues, and calculate the value of that labor. Now you have a baseline measurement and you can assess how long it would take using a knowledge base in order to calculate the savings. Then it’s a simple matter of extrapolation.
If your return rate for your product is 10% higher than the norm for the industry, what target figure would justify reducing it to the norm or even improving on it? Return rate directly influences two factors, selling costs and customer satisfaction, which affects customer retention. How much will reducing the return rate lower direct selling costs? What’s the cost of capturing that new customer, as opposed to increasing customer loyalty by 10%?
Building the business case for CRM means taking multiple measures today and testing them against the impact of changes in those measures after a Client Relationship Management solution is implemented. Only by having baseline measures of where you were prior to the implementation can you compare quantitative measures after the implementation. Each vertical or horizontal industry has common threads, but the stage of development of the business, and the issues facing that particular firm decides which measures to use in building the business case for a CRM solution.
An overriding factor in a business case for a Client Relationship Management system is having all the information at your fingertips, so when the market plummets, or the price of oil rises to $80.00 USD a gallon, or your particular market variables change, you aren’t reacting but can instead adapt a plan, shape it, and provoke the action you require. Well tuned CRM applications function like the New York Philharmonic, playing Beethoven’s Fifth, not missing a beat, with each instrument functioning to perfection.
Qualitative measures are comprised of many facets and are oftentimes impossible to quantify, however, can win the business case for a CRM, particularly if a visionary drives the case. It’s easy for a bank to justify a debit card acceptance rate increase of 20-25% using automated marketing tools, focused databases, and seasonality, but how do you attach a value to product quality, or customer satisfaction? How does spending marketing dollars on building the image of a brand translate into brand loyalty? What impact does that have on the bottom line?
For Harley Davidson, what value do you think the company attaches to branding, image, and quality? Do you know any motorcycle buff who doesn’t aspire to own a Harley someday? How on earth do you translate that to the bottom line?
There is an inherent risk in using qualitative measures to build the business case for a Client Relationship Management solutions – it’s difficult to prove success. Your gut tells you, that having one repository for all client data will provide the information on your most profitable clients and identify their preferences. Then you can target the right group for the new hot service or product you’re about to offer. You know if it’s successful, revenue will increase, but by how much? Some businesses take a leap of faith. Can a strategic decision to invest in a CRM solution based solely on future value be justified? That depends on the vision for the business.
For Starbucks, it was. It allowed them to refine best businesses practices and build in specific metrics, which allowed the company to make better business decisions. Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks started the company with the vision that he would cap out growth at 30,000 outlets. He began with six stores in 1987. Today, Starbucks has over 12,000 outlets, either company owned or joint-ventured, worldwide. The company has increased its cap out to 40,000 outlets.
In tea drinking London, Starbucks has more outlets than Manhattan. The branding is now worldwide, especially with the opening of stores in China. Because Howard Schultz invested in strategic software systems early in the game, and designed metrics to make better business decisions, Starbucks was able to identify clearly the business processes for success. The company was able to grow without many of the accompanying growth pains.
Combining a series of qualitative and quantitative measures can sometimes prove useful in getting an idea of a percentage increase or decrease. Bundle a series of qualitative measures together, such as branding, customer satisfaction and/or customer retention and figure out the ceiling required to justify it. If you spent ten dollars per customer on brand and quality, and increase customer satisfaction five percent, how much could we increase revenue? If we could double the current revenue per customer, is it worth it?
Faced with a software justification, it can be helpful to break the decision down into multiple options. You can stay with the current solution, implement a Contact Management solution, or implement Sales Force Automation. You can stay with the current solution or implement a Client Relationship Management system. How much will each option cost? Obviously, Contact Management costs little or nothing; we get Outlook with Vista or Windows. SFA software is relatively inexpensive to purchase or lease, but implementation adds a spike cost if a consultant is necessary.
CRM can be an expensive solution to implement, principally because it affects nearly every single customer facing employee and requires the cooperation of the sales, marketing and service departments. You could choose to begin with only one of the three departments for a Client Relationship Management implementation, or possibly two departments. Is one of these options more justifiable than the others? Will one department provide the largest impact and pave the way for the other departments?
You can approach qualitative measures using another option; negativity. What happens if we do nothing and remain with the status quo? Is standing still an option? What is the competition doing? What do we stand to lose? If your salespeople don’t keep basic contact information in a shared database, what happens when they leave? Who knows the prospects, leads, clients and recent communications that each salesperson managed? What is the cost of that knowledge? In a small business environment, it could spell disaster. Specific qualitative measure components should be considered.
If the business case is for a large corporation, you should factor in the gain in productivity. Executives may expect to see some value attached to that. Larger corporations may also expect to see the costs of employee time on the project and the time cost of money.
Think of quantitative measures as impact on the bottom line. Think of qualitative measures as strategic decisions. Then ask – which is more important? Use that as a general guideline for building your business case for your Client Management Relationship solution.
This article was sourced from CRM LandMark
Strengthen your businesses “lifeblood,” customer relations! We all depend on customers to fuel our business, so why not strengthen the way we deal with customers? A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can help with the way you handle business. Customer Information can sometimes get confusing and easily unorganized, but with CRM, data can be quickly organized and managed. Today, most CRM solutions come with built in Sale Force Automation (SFA) which helps streamline your sales process. SFA is a great way to help free up time so you can focus on other business functions. In addition to the management of customer data, a CRM solution can give you a 360°view of your business with relation to your customers. It will allow you to track sales trends and your business pipelines. Sugar CRM, Info At Hand and Sage ACT! are just a few CRM systems that can improve your customer relations and business management.
If you live in a region of the country that suffers through winter, you know that March signals the beginning of spring cleaning. Peachtree’s interface is so clean and understandable that you don’t really have to clean it up, but a little tweaking can make your daily accounting tasks easier and faster.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a button you could push that would move all of your income tax-related data from Peachtree directly into your accounting professional’s computer or a tax package, sliding it directly onto the correct forms and schedules? Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, but Peachtree desktop software does help you prepare all through the year for April 15 in a variety of ways. Take advantage of those tools, and you’ll find tax prep to be a friendlier, less frantic process.