Tag Archive: CRM

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?

 

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

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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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System Strategies to Kick Off a New Year

January 19th, 2016
system strategies

Kick start your new year with business strategies that are more focused, faster and improve overall relationships. The 5P Accelerator is a new way to take a critical step toward success.

Since I work with clients ranging in size from small, family-owned businesses to multi-billion dollar corporations, industries ranging from aerospace to building products to value-add distribution and on topics ranging from growth to service level improvement to increasing business performance, I have the opportunity to see countless businesses — and what works and what doesn’t work.

It seems like a great time to share what is important as we head into a new year, new quarter or even new day. There is always opportunity to take that critical step towards success.

From a systems standpoint, here a few of the top strategies/areas to consider as a next step in driving business success:

  1. Leverage what you have – Even though I dedicate a portion of my practice to selecting the “right” system to best meet business objectives, I find that 80% of the time, the current system (almost no matter how bad it seems) can be further leveraged to drive results. There are two situations I can think of where the client was extremely system challenged but we found a few ways to improve upon processes, even in the worst of cases. Start by thinking about what is most important to your business. Then dig into the areas of the system that could support that critical business process. It can be as simple as that.
  2. Upgrade when it makes sense – As I said earlier, every business can be improved with its current system; however, there is a limit. If you are in a high-growth mode and leveraging a system geared to small business, you’ll begin to run into the wall in terms of capabilities. It might be time to upgrade. If you have gone through a merger or acquisition, it is likely you’ll need to consider upgrading to have a common platform. If you have a highly customized system to support your business with limited growth potential without continuing down the customization path, it is likely time to consider upgrading. If you want to make a leap forward with your technology and are using an outdated system that has weak support and might be bought up by the next software giant to come along, it might be time to consider an upgrade.
  3. Select the “right” system to drive business results – I have helped many clients select the best system to meet their business objectives the last several years. It can be a dog-eat-dog world with radically different estimates and smooth-talking salespeople; however, there are also great suppliers selling highly functional and flexible systems to bring your business to the next level of performance. The bottom line is that it boils down to how well the software options support your critical business factors (which should be a short list; not 100 items) and how well the software suppliers will partner with you for success. Implementation will cost more than software and it will cost more than you expect to do it well, yet it will deliver substantial results after things smooth out.
  4. CRM – In today’s Amazon-impacted marketplace, service is of critical importance. My clients are expected to deliver faster, provide more options, suggest value-additions, be available 24/7 — and the list goes on. CRM software can help you keep track of your relationships, potential business and provide extra value to your customers.
  5. Warehouse automation – As e-commerce continues to grow in importance around the globe, many manufacturers and distributors must rise to the occasion. It isn’t as easy as using the same processes that work effectively for your regular business. E-commerce drives significant differences to warehouse operations if you want to be able to provide the level of service consumers have become accustomed to at the price they are willing to pay. These changes are driving significant investments in different equipment and technology for those companies with heavy e-commerce business. Bring in experts. Do your research. It will make or break success.
  6. SIOP functionality – More and more of my clients are further leveraging their planning, capacity planning, demand planning/forecasting, MPS/MRP and advanced planning systems to better align demand and supply for improved service levels, reduced lead times, improved margins, accelerated cash flow and to support growth.

Think about which of these might benefit your business. Leveraging systems is one way to grow without adding overhead and it will improve your business performance by utilizing an already-existing asset in most cases. Give it a try. Contact me for support with these strategies and/or to let me know how it goes. Sharing success stories and even failures can propel you to success.

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Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

April 21st, 2015
crm

With every business looking for a customer service edge your CRM system should set you apart from your competitors to create customer loyalty.

Keeping with the customer theme, I thought a brief discussion on CRM would be in order. In the last 5 years, I’ve seen the importance of CRM double, at a minimum. The critical importance of customer service has emerged, and so having tools to aid with this process has become trendy – and helps to grow the business.

To determine what you need in a CRM system, start with your customers. What is important to your customers? Determine the top 3 ways you’d like to leverage a CRM system to help you develop relationships with your customers. I often refer to these as critical success factors – what will “make a difference” to your customer and your business?

Once you know your top 3 critical success factors, dig into the specific functionality that supports these areas. For example, if managing your pipeline is important, you should look for software that has robust capabilities on tracking prospects, stages of the business, probabilities of success, etc. On the other hand, if you want to remember to call your key customer or prospect every month to offer value, advanced pipeline management capabilities can be a deterrent. You just want software with call management features and reminders. CRM software is becoming more robust, and it is often embedded with upgraded ERP systems. A bit of searching will yield the perfect CRM to support your particular customer requirements. 

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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The Value of CRM