CRM and ERP systems have traditionally been complex and expensive, limiting them to big companies with significant IT budgets. However,according to Brendan Peo of HansaWorld South Africa, new technology has brought the benefits of integrated solutions within the reach of smaller businesses.
“In the past there were no good, integrated business systems for smaller companies, who then had to rely on accounting packages. However, these did not provide managers with all the information necessary for running the company,” explains Peo.
Many small companies use only spreadsheets or small self-built databases.
“Custom systems can be a flexible choice in the short term, but they also have several down-sides. They bring along a lot of double entry of data, taking more time and increasing the risk of making mistakes. Also, the ad-hoc solutions can not cope with bigger volumes, holding the company back.”
The latest generation of business systems, on the other hand, is designed to avoid duplication and to provide real-time information on the state of the entire company.
“Once the sales and accounting systems are integrated, companies start to see the full benefit of having access to realtime data for business analysis and planning.”
Peo cites the case of a customer who was able to grow its business by 200% without increasing staff. The computer hardware distributor simply updated their business solution, thus also improving the service to customers.
“Ultimately, business is about being close to the customer, which will lead to more sales,” says Peo. “In the past, smaller companies often found that difficult because they weren’t able to access and use their customer information in the most powerful way.
“Today’s software gives them both the customer story and the numbers behind it, creating a lot of cross- and up-selling opportunities.”
Peo adds that the key to making a business system work is convenience.
“If the technology doesn’t make the sales team’s job easier, they just won’t use it. This is the litmus test to see if a system will really add value to a business. Unless the sales team embraces it, you can’t expect to see improved sales performance.”