Mobility and Enterprise Software

Whether you are currently evaluating an ERP/CRM solution or looking to modernise and align your current  platforms, mobility will or should be high on your criteria list.

The business drivers include

Higher productivity – of customer facing sales and support staff whilst out of the office

Better response times to customer queries – we expect the same response times of suppliers, wherever they are

Complete information at hand when on the road – if there is any doubt, a customer can order off Amazon and it will arrive at an expected date – you need to at least match that experience

Analyst firm Forrester forecasts that 82 million consumers will own tablets by 2015. That the average smart device owner currently has 30 to 40 apps, and one-third of owners download new apps monthly. These apps are not just small bits of functionality but are increasingly connected to and dependent on a limitless supply of data through wireless technology and the cloud. These Mobile Apps will require significant change within an organisation in order to deliver the high value expected.

The interesting element is that Mobile does not mean phone or email – they are projects already completed. Mobile functionality being envisaged now expects that ERP and CRM projects to be available and complete. The next generation of  Mobility covers:

  • Business Process Management/Automation (BPM projects) – extending out the business process
  • Analytics and Business Intelligence (BI) – allowing ‘what-if ‘questions and powerful query
  • Location based services – such as GPS

Just as the web has radically changed some industries and what a successful business model may be, the Mobile worker and device will likely affect the operating models of businesses in the short term before radically reshaping business models.

If you are interested in reading more, download our Mobile CRM Guidebook, or add it as an area in your ERP Checklist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Office is NOT your business system

This post is somewhat driven by a recent client whose business system consisted of:

  • An Access Database for Customer details
  • MYOB for Accounts
  • Excel for analysis and pricing
  • Word for invoices
  • A server for historical documents and
  • Crossed fingers, Blue Tak and SuperGlue holding it all together

The issues were many, and it was somewhat surprising that they had grown into a successful mid-sized business with this ‘infrastructure’.

The problems thrown up were:

  • Lack of business monitoring tools e.g. Dashboards, reports, alerts
  • Lots of manual processes
  • No single place to identify the ‘truth’
  • Lack of consistency
  • No true real-time view of the business, revenues or profits
  • Little was documented

There were benefits:

  • The business was very flexible, it could ‘whip-up’ a new process in a few minutes
  • Staff didn’t feel constrained by business processes
  • The managing director could get a feel for the business by walking around

So why did the MD start looking at ERP and CRM systems? Well he wanted to retire and sell the business – he could only do this with real data in real systems. The driver was not running his business, but getting the most value out of the sale of his business. His current systems would reflect badly in the due diligence process.

Does this sound familiar? Look at the Do You Need ERP Guidebook for more examples.

 

 

 

When and Why You don’t need an ERP

An Enterprise Resource Planning System(ERP) aims to deliver in a single system the capability to manage and automate most if not all of a companies business processes. But let’s be frank – sometimes you just don’t need an ERP – it can be an overkill.

Firstly, let’s look at why ERP was initially built and why they are very useful. ERP systems are made up of a range of functions such as finance and accounting, manufacturing, supply chain, warehouse and human resources. In many businesses these were separate systems and moving information between them was difficult(if not impossible). Interestingly, some industries just didn’t buy in to ERP eg Banking was very early into CRM but quite late to ERP, only now starting to implement.

ERP systems were designed to:

Deliver a single system with all of these functions, by creating a Central Database, where information is held, integrated and shared easily.

Herein lies the great strengths and weaknesses of ERP systems:

  • Sometimes a business does not need a single system – it sometimes needs a number of systems
  • The functions of an ERP are usually described as “best in class” or bench-marked – this can mean that ‘everyone’ does things the same way, so there is no differentiation or competitive advantage
  • A central database is a great idea, until you want to add a new field ( and then see the potential impacts and costs to that small change)
  • Often the different functions only use a very specific parts of the database, and share little data.
  • Integration was strong within the ERP system but often weak when working with other systems
  • Sharing of information was rarely as good as it was marketed.
  • These systems are implemented by consultants – but many projects were just too big for mortals to manage

In recent times there have been a range of technology changes that have resulted in a different world:

  • New web-based  technologies have made integration much easier
  • Businesses have to be much more fluid than they were – being more nimble
  • Custom development is back in vogue – building the software to your business exact needs 
  • A Best of Breed strategy is also back in vogue – choosing the best solution for an area and then integrating with another system
  • End-users have become used to using Social media tools like facebook and linkedin – so want their business tools to work in the same way

ERP vendors have realised many of these are happening and now sell their solutions separately or integrate better using Business Intelligence tools and Integration platforms.

So where are the break points, when does it make sense to be running a single system and when many. I think it somewhat depends upon the size of the business but the following could be separated:

  • Accounting – can be stand-alone
  • Manufacturing, Warehousing, Logistics, Purchasing
  • Supply-Chain( only if you are big)
  • HR ( although payroll often outsourced)
  • CRM (keep Sales, Marketing and Service together if you can)
  • BI/Analytics

For more information, read our Do you need ERP Guidebook and ERP Checklist for features and functions whichever route you choose.

Workflow in Netsuite

Workflow is one of the key benefits of improved processes coming out of ERP – here is a video on a Travel request within Netsuite. If this is important to you – add it to your ERP checklist – our starter template available here.