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CRM/ERP Systems: What Do They Really Mean to Your Business

by Scott Lewis

CRM and ERP. We hear a lot about them. We all seem to want them or think our business needs them. But what does that really mean? Do they really have an impact on your day-to-day business operations?

When Lynette and I started Winning Technologies, my goal was to operate in the most efficient, streamlined and integrated manner possible and have a single system that, regardless of role or responsibility, we all worked out of. It needed to be fully integrated with all information shared amongst all departments. Sounds like every business owner’s desire: one place for information, one-time data entry with reporting, tracking and escalations for all areas of your business.

With those goals in mind we performed an extensive software search in 2002 that did not show any benefit. So we started developing our own system that was workflow- and task-based. Fast-forward to 2014, and 42 million lines of code later we have developed a system that manages just about every aspect of our business, including client acquisition, project management, parts and inventory, help desk, document management, time and attendance, human resources, and CRM and ERP functions. The impact of our CRM/ERP system has allowed us to grow around the world, manage and track our client needs, manage our employees in a manner that allows us to be highly productive, and report on just about every aspect of our business in a live proactive manner.

The impact to Winning Technologies is beyond measure. So with the right goals and objectives, along with a huge commitment to process improvement, CRM/ERP systems can provide huge financial and business returns. The big question is: Do you select a CRM/ERP solution for your business, or do you develop your own? Let me give you a little advice here: If you are not willing to fully commit, be very dedicated to the process, and provide a lot of time and personnel resources to the project, then developing your own may not be for you. Therefore, the evaluation and selection process is going to be very important.

According to a ZDNet survey, 40% of CRM/ERP implementations fail to meet employee and executive expectations. These numbers eventually lead to companies using the software less and less or using only parts of the software, or they have a multitude of software packages, which lessens the overall return on investment and raises the total cost of ownership beyond the point where the system will actually make them money.

What are some of the things you should think about if you are going to select a CRM/ERP system? First let’s distinguish between a CRM system and an ERP system. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are built around business functions such as product planning, service delivery, marketing and sales, and inventory management. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are built around activities such as customer service, customer contact points and appointments. These are really two distinct, fully different processes.

Our system at Winning Technologies is one in the same that incorporates all these functions and it is fully integrated between the different modules.

Things to think about:
1) Consider all delivery options for CRM/ERP to determine which is best for your business. Is it cloud, in-house or software as a service? All have benefits and drawbacks. Consider them all before you make a decision.
2) Involve key players from all aspects of your business. Remember that this is a business application, so include all areas of your business. Don’t be part of the 40% of implementations that fail to meet expectations.
3) Consider areas where you have additional software: Can you eliminate other software packages through your purchase? Consolidation raises return on investment and lowers total cost of ownership.
4) Consider your business as a whole: This is a long-term investment, so changing processes, changing business operations and changing culture may be required. Is your business ready for that?
5) Don’t think it is going to be easy. It won’t be. It will take time, money and personnel resources to complete the project, so it will take commitment and dedication on your part for this type of project to be successful.

Winning Technologies decided to undertake the development project because we were dedicated to having a competitive advantage in the market, maximizing our productivity, streamlining every aspect of our business and having all of that in a single platform that everyone shares. We knew it was and is mission-critical to our success. The other partners of Winning Technologies call it our most expensive employee, but we all understand what it saves us in overhead and makes up for in overall efficiencies in our work processes. We could not run our business the way we do without it.

CRM/ERP systems can have that type of impact on your business. The software is out there, but you have to pick the right one and in some cases wait for the software to mature to solve all your business issues. Picking the right CRM/ERP partner is critical to your future success.

Scott Lewis is the president and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies, an international technology management company. He has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker on technology subjects such as collocation, security, CIO-level management, data and voice communications, and best practices related to the management of technology resources.  Learn more about Winning Technologies at or call 877-379-8279.  
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