We are delighted to announce that, as of October 1st 2014, we have become an accredited Sage Business Partner for Sage CRM.

For the past three years, we have worked with other Sage Business Partners on Sage CRM applications that are integrated with Sage 200 and Sage 300 ERP. Whilst we will continue with this work, which utilises our extensive knowledge of the Sage integration component, there is also a large market for standalone CRM.

This is the next major milestone in our business development which, in the last year alone, has seen us move to new offices in Burgess Hill and also expand our team. Becoming a Sage Business Partner lays the foundation for the next phase in our development, to deliver excellent consultancy, development and support services for Sage CRM across the UK.

 

It only takes a few minutes browsing the internet, to come up with tales of woe about CRM implementations that have 'failed'. However, success or failure is not a matter of chance. In our experience there are clear reasons that can be identified for systems not meeting business requirements.

We have found that the main points of failure are:

1) Failure of senior management to engage in the project. If the top people are not seen to be committed to making CRM work, then there is no way that the rest of the organisation will pick it up effectively.

2) Failure to understand and document the business requirements properly. Having a detailed written specification, is the only true way to establish whether or not a CRM project has met the business requirements. In order to produce this, the business must be prepared to put in adequate time to read and understand what they are committing to and understand the repercussions of getting it wrong.

3) Failure to provide effective user training. CRM training is not just a matter of going through screens telling users what to click. Unless there is a broader understanding of what the objective of the task is and, most importantly, how it helps the user in their job, training time will be wasted.

We find that these factors apply equally to existing system failures as well as to new implementations.

What is interesting, is that it is that it is very rarely technical issues with the software that cause problems. However, because a user's perception is that 'The CRM' doesn't work, this tends to deflect and confuse corrective actions, by focussing effort in the wrong place. In many instances this has led to businesses taking the drastic step of changing CRM systems, only to find that they end up in the same position again some time (and a lot of expense) later.

CRMs are business systems which should be continually reviewed and adjusted in line with changing business needs. It is for that reason that CRM systems should be 'owned' by people with the closest business relationship to the system. This is typically the sales, marketing or customer services teams. The biggest number of failures of CRM occur where they have been devolved to the technical department and run as just another IT project.

So, it is clear that a successful CRM relies more on the process by which the application is implemented and maintained than the physical software. That said, the product chosen must provide functionality to both support the current needs of the business and have 'scalability' to allow it to adapt to future changes.

We have a well-established implementation methodology for new projects which reduces these risk factors as far as possible and puts in place an on-going routine, which should maintain the usefulness of CRM in the business. Where we are called in to assist with a failing system, it is often only by stepping back and appraising the underlying business process requirement that a solution can be established. In all cases business needs are the focus rather than adjusting the way the software is configured.

It is impossible to provide a formula for successful CRM as each business case is different. Our experience gives us the ability to consult effectively and deliver a solution that will provide good service. Please contact us to find out more.

ACT! (formerly Sage ACT!) is widely used by many small and medium sized businesses and generally does what it does very well. However, we receive  many enquiries from ACT! users who, for one reason or another, have reached the limits of what the application can offer. These include:

  • Restricted screen customisation and data controls.
  • Basic Company / Contact data management options with inability to add new entities.
  • Poor reporting and dashboard functionality.
  • Lack of functionality for marketing, customer services and project management.
  • Limited integration options for Sage 50 and other back-office systems.

We have carried out many ACT! to Sage CRM migrations and are able to transfer:

  • All contact and company data with notes and history.
  • Scheduled Tasks and Alerts
  • Opportunities
  • Linked documents and templates.

Standard migration tools and many 'free' migration services offered by other resellers do not generally include all of this data.

Whilst Sage CRM can seem quite a step up from ACT!, it is our experience that users find the Sage CRM interface much more intuitive than ACT! and quickly get up to speed with the new application. The company also benefits from better functionality and more efficient and effective use of the CRM.

Data Migrations to Sage CRM

In addition to ACT!, we have also carried out migrations to Sage CRM from many other CRM applications, including Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, GoldMine and bespoke systems.

Please contact us to discuss migrating your existing system to Sage CRM.

We are often asked to rescue CRM systems that are no longer working for the business. Whilst the reasons presented are wide ranging, they normally break down into 4 main areas:

  • The users don’t use the system effectively
  • The users want to use the CRM system, but the technology is failing them
  • The original driving force for the project has moved on
  • The CRM system does not deliver the functionality required.

If you are unsure whether your CRM is staring to suffer from any of these issues, there are some common tell-tale signs:

  • Frequent requests to export data to Excel for analysis or mail-merging
  • Users maintaining their own spreadsheets of information, creating 'silos' of data which could be lost if that employee leaves the business.
  • Reverting to Outlook or (even worse) handwritten diaries to keep track of appointments and other tasks.
  • Lots of Post-It notes or scraps of paper with reminders on people's desks
  • Incomplete data when running reports.
  • No clear visibility of sales team activity.

Any one of these is a sign that the CRM is not working for the business. This creates additional work, resulting in inefficiencies that erode the benefit of having a CRM. When addressing these challenges we take a structured consultative approach evaluating the system against the following core functions whilst being guided by the need to demonstrate a return on any investment.

  • Process: Does the way that the CRM is configured support or hinder the task? Are process efficiency tools such as automation being used to reduce administration tasks?
  • Physical: Does the CRM system have the features and functions to be configured or support developments that will meet the business needs?
  • Technical: Does the technical architecture suit the method of working? Does it run at a reasonable speed? Can users access what they need remotely?
  • Cultural: Does the CRM have senior management support? Have users simply lost faith that CRM is no more than a barrier to efficient working?

For a company that has lived with a failing CRM for a while, getting the system back on track can seem like a daunting task. There is often the instinct to throw it out and start again. However, this should only be done as a last resort after carrying out a thorough business analysis. In many cases it is not the CRM software that is at fault. Unless a full requirements exercise is completed and the system is installed by people who know what they are doing, there is a real danger that the new system will go the same way as the old.

The key is not to do this analysis in-house, as you will already be starting with the preconceptions that led to the CRM problems in the first place. Use an external consultant with knowledge of the installed CRM. A fresh pair of eyes will quickly see where the issues are and will be able to address any cultural issues much more easily than in-house staff. More often than not, big gains can be made for small changes in the system and at much less cost than anticipated; certainly less than it will cost to start again.

Never was the phrase 'rubbish in, rubbish out', more true than in the context of CRM data. Unreliable information destroys user confidence and significantly reduces the value of CRM to the business. Ultimately, if nothing is done to correct it, the CRM will fall out of use completely and be deemed a 'failure'.

We've seen many instances of this over the years, with some businesses even looking to replace the whole CRM when, in fact, sorting the data out and getting CRM back on track is a much simpler job than many think.

Prevention is better than cure as they say, so if you are the owner of a shiny new Sage CRM system, (or one that has recently been cleaned), there are many things that you can do to prevent the data getting into a mess. These include:

  • Establishing deduplication rules to check that new data being entered does not repeat what is already there.
  • Defining mandatory fields so that users have to enter a minimum amount of required information.
  • Controlling the content type and format of data entered with field level scripts
  • Using Address validation tools to auto populate records.

If you have an established system that is in need of data cleaning this can be a straightforward job. Sage CRM has a number of built-in tools that can both clean the data and, if run on a regular basis, help to maintain the quality of the information. These can, however, only go so far and if a CRM has a long history of poor data management then some more radical surgery may be required.

Loria has an excellent track record of carrying out data cleaning exercises on large and small databases. Whilst there will always be some input required from the owner of the data to oversee the process and rule on deletions and merges, we have many established routines that will minimise the manual effort required.

So, before you throw in the towel completely, please give us a call on 0845 434 8977.