Tag Archive: CRM

The Future of Technology

August 20th, 2020

Technology is a tricky topic. On one hand, almost everyone has put technology and ERP implementations on hold due to concerns about COVID-19 impacts and to conserve cash. On the other hand, it is the best time to gain employees’ attention and focus on upgrading technology to scale the business, create a superior customer experience and deliver bottom line results.

Kellogg or Post?
As I said in my eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19, the Kellogg vs. Post story from the Great Depression provides an excellent example to ponder. In the 1920’s, Kellogg and Post dominated the market for cereal which was still a relatively new and untapped market. Post reigned in expenses and Kellogg doubled its ad budget and pushed its new cereal. Even as the economy hit bottom, Kellogg’s profits rose 30% and they become the dominant player.  Do you want to be Kellogg or Post? The morale to the story is NOT about dollars invested. It is about the opportunities of investing resources (which can be simply in the form of employees’ focus) in future success.

Which Technologies Provide Immediate and Long-Term Value?
Of course, the answer depends on your industry, company, current infrastructure, your customers’ evolving needs, your suppliers’ evolving needs and more. Why not perform a rapid assessment of what makes the most sense for your business and take one important step forward? As I said in my eBook, Newton’s Law is relevant. Objects in motion stay in motion whereas objects at rest will stay at rest. You must take steps forward, no matter how small.

Let’s highlight a few of the more likely technologies to provide immediate value and long-term value:

  1. Further utilize & expand your ERP system: No one uses 80% of their system.  Most organizations utilize only 20%. Find the next 1% that will yield a significant benefit to your customers or bottom line. Clients are gaining significant value from this simple step.
  2. B2B customer portal/ B2C e-commerce: No doubt about it. The ONLY growth area across the board is e-commerce. In addition, what could be more important than visibility of orders for your B2B customers? Delays will result in lost opportunity!
  3. Business Intelligence (BI): We are overloaded with data. The issue isn’t having data, it is making meaningful decisions and formulating plans based on the interpretation of data. BI will bring meaning to your data that translates into customer and profit opportunities.
  4. Artificial intelligence (AI) & Human Learning: In today’s environment, predictive capabilities produce VASTLY greater results than simply analysis and static plans. Demand planning/ forecasting, predictive maintenance, cash flow forecasting, and the automation of tasks are enhanced with AI.
  5. CRM: There has never been a time when understanding, staying in touch with and being on top of evolving customer needs has been more important.
  6. Digital Twins: Virtual replicas of physical devices that technology gurus can use to run simulations before actual devices are built and deployed. Read a fascinating article about the applications in logistics.
  7. Systems to gain efficiencies: WMS (warehouse management), TMS (transportation management), rate shopping, MPS (master production scheduling)/ MRP (material requirements planning)/Inventory planning, replenishment including VMI (vendor managed inventory) and more.
  8. 3D Printing/ Additive manufacturing – If you can produce a customized product on demand close to customers, you win in today’s Amazonian environment. Either way, it speeds up R&D.

Read our eBook, Future-ProofingiManufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to read more about technology as it relates to successfully emerging and thriving post-COVID-19. Explore these concepts further as you start thinking through your technology roadmap.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

The Rise of E-Commerce & WMS Popularity During the Pandemic

Systems Pragmatist



Is CRM Valuable?

July 30th, 2019

A Client Question
When clients decide to upgrade ERP, they also look at CRM (customer relationship management) because it makes sense to align the technology infrastructure into a common platform that will be fully integrated and scalable. However, what if it isn’t part of an ERP project? When does it make sense to jump into the CRM world? One client asked us just this question.

The Answer
In their case, they could achieve a powerful return on investment with CRM. It provided the tools and technology that would strengthen their relationship with their current customers, as well as help them expand sales with current customers and create a pipeline of new customers. Specifically, when meeting with customers, the sales reps gained insights into customer preferences and ways to strengthen the relationship. If they captured those ideas into CRM on the spot, the next person who interacted with that customer could see the notes and tailor the conversation. These seemingly small preferences can go a long way!

In terms of expanding business, they needed robust sales reporting that would tell them if they were falling off in a particular area or if they sold one product without its complimentary product so that the sales rep could follow up. Last but not least, they wanted a way to track potential new customers and expansions of business. For example, if a reseller was opening a new facility, they wanted to track it in CRM so that everyone had access to the timing, forecast, and other critical information. Also, since it was a collaborative sales environment, they wanted a way to track potential new customers and where they were in the sales cycle so that they could forecast future sales and the likelihood of it occurring. Sales forecasts were the 80/20 of success in this client because it was in a high growth mode where cash forecasting is of critical importance.

 A simple CRM solution fit the bill. A few years later, they were ready to upgrade their ERP infrastructure. At that time, they had the base CRM disciplines functioning and so it was an easy transition to a fully integrated system with CRM functionality. This client has been recognized multiple times for its substantial growth and success.

Food For Thought
Although CRM systems can be a great idea (as it was in our client’s case), if your sales and support teams aren’t ready to enter at least the key data, you’ve just bought an Audi that sits in your garage.

Start implementing process disciplines early. Enter information about your customers that will be handy at a later date.

Start tracking key meetings and prospects. Are you able to make good decisions from what you are tracking? If not, wait!

Aggressively push to start tracking vital information about your customers, even if you put it in Outlook or a spreadsheet to start. Soon you’ll be ready for a simple CRM solution, followed by more powerful ones as you get used to driving your car on city streets, you’ll be ready to brave the freeways.

If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

Obsession with Your Customer
A Systems Checkup


Do You Know What Is Important in Selecting the Right System?

March 21st, 2017
Selecting the right ERP system

Are you prepared to make a good match with ERP software suppliers? Start with understanding what your business needs are and whether the ERP software is a match.

ERP systems often fail to live up to their promise — even in the best of circumstances. It is a tough environment — software suppliers are consolidating, the smaller ones can disappear or get gobbled up in a moment’s notice, good resources are hard to find, and the list goes on. Yet there is no choice but to proactively address this topic to have a scalable business and to meet customer expectations as you get to a certain size and complexity. Thus, it is worth-while thinking about whether you are prepared in selecting the right system:

1. Do you fully understand your business requirements and specifically your critical success factors (from a company, industry and ERP functionality perspective)?

2. What safeguards do you have in place to avoid getting excited about non-essential bells and whistles that seem important at the time of selecting the right system but are not critical to your growth and profitability? Be honest!

3. Do you know what questions to ask to dig deeper into down-the-line impacts of functionality options? Overlook this step and it is likely you’ll be gravely disappointed later.

4. Do you have software and implementation cost estimates for what you can expect for your software tier? Would you know if your deal sounds “too good”?

Do you know the qualities to dig into to be assured that your implementation resources are best suited for success?

 

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Uncommon Common Sense Project Management

 



Obsession with Your Customer

January 10th, 2017
customer service

Become a little more obsessed with what your customers want even before they know what they want to keep them your customers for a very long time.

One of our clients has a healthy obsession for the customer! It might drive some of his employees a little mad but it is effective. Adopting a bit of healthy obsession for your customers can go a long way!

In this case, our client was particular with every customer-facing document, interaction, piece of information and the like. This owner would keep track of who ordered what throughout each day, kept a pulse on what was going on vs. prior years, like years and would ask his employees who interacted with customers for customer feedback and the pulse of customers multiple times a day. Every employee and business partner/trusted advisor knew customers were important.

In today’s Amazon-impacted marketplace, keeping a pulse on customers is even more critical. Are you assuming what customers told you a year ago still holds true? Do you think it does? Probably not! Or are you relying on your salespeople to communicate changes to you? Do you prompt them or follow any proactive measures to make sure you find out what your customers prefer? Change is occurring on a rapid basis. Are you asking? For example, I’m sitting in first class on a flight to Dallas and they handed me a cookie for dessert. He didn’t ask whether I’d want it heated up (which is the first time that happened). That small difference made a huge difference to me. It wasn’t worth eating cold yet I’d have loved it heated up. I suppose it might be good that I didn’t eat it but this small question could have gone a long way with customer service.

Technology for technology’s sake is expensive and useless. Put it to work. If you have a CRM system, find a new way to use it that will give you valuable intelligence on your customers. If you have an e-commerce site, find a way to find out more about your customers — and potential customers. If you have access to business intelligence tools, use them to gain business intelligence on your customers’ needs. And, if you have Excel, you can still track key characteristics about your customers. Who doesn’t at least have Excel?! Become a little more obsessed with your customers.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

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Is Your Inventory System Working? 

 



Unscrambling a Challenged System Implementation

September 20th, 2016
complex systems implementation

When executing a complex system implementation that is difficult, remember to step back occasionally and assess where you are and whether you remain focused on the overall objectives.

From time to time, we receive a call from a client dealing with a challenged ERP implementation. Unfortunately, “challenged” is a nice word for most of these! Of course, by the time the client calls, they have spent a lot of money and are frustrated which isn’t a great starting point because unscrambling the situation is never an easy endeavor — assuming you want to provide service and make money.

Unscrambling these scenarios requires a unique combination of skills:

  1. System thinking – as odd as it sounds, there is NOT a need for experience in the specific system. Certainly, it might add value but the most important skill is system thinking — connecting the dots in terms of how systems work, down-the-line impacts, how they’ll integrate with other process steps etc.
  2. Business process expertise – we find that this is a critical component. There are always several ways to perform a certain role or accomplish a task. Some of the ways will create positive down-the-line impacts while accomplishing your goal and some will work perfectly well for you (and might even be faster) but will create negative down-the-line impacts. The complication is that no documentation will tell you about these. This is where having “been there and done that” with multiple systems and process combinations is required.
  3. Timing/sequencing – even if you have good system thinking and good process expertise, if you don’t “see” the various outcomes with different sequences and timing impacts, you’ll still end up in a jumble.
  4. Project management expertise – unscrambling several moving parts requires a deep project management expertise. Organizing and tracking several moving parts and related impacts (prerequisite steps, concurrent steps, etc.) requires a skill in project management.
  5. Relationships/communication – one would think we are asking for too much when we throw this topic into the mix but it is a key component. Often, there will be some technical capability required to resolve certain aspects. Thus, communicating effectively across applications and technical capabilities is a must. Additionally, your ERP and system partners (or lack thereof) might need to be addressed, improved and/or changed out. After all the frustration already incurred, it is essential to know quality resources.
  6. Training/application understanding – this is an easy one to outsource once you know what is needed. Our clients typically think it is #1 yet it is the least critical aspect. Once the solution is known, it is easy to provide training.

Yes, it is one of those situations where there are no easy solutions. The fix itself could seem simple yet putting together a plan and executing the plan will turn complex. Our best advice is to take a step back and assess your situation. After spending a lot of money (that has become a sunk cost), the key will be to remain focused on what the best long-term solution will be to maintain and grow your business successfully. It will require more money than you hoped but you’ll “right the ship” so that you have a sustainable solution.

As an aside, if you happen to employ resources with many of these skills, hang on to them. Follow the advice of one of my best clients who hired top notch engineers during the recession when he didn’t need them. He now has them and will sail past his competition.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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The Value of CRM