We have identified 7 components that are common emerging requirements when it comes to a business management system. These are components outside the core financial and operational applications.
1) BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE:
Whilst Business Intelligence (or BI) is a relatively vague term used, it is fundamentally based around the generation of concise and easy-to-interpret reports and analysis. Dedicated applications may have a report writing inbuilt whereas business intelligence may extract data from multiple sources to provide a more strategic and accurate view.
An old saying ‘how can you achieve what you are not measuring?’ highlights the importance of key performance indicators.
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are a measurement of operational performance within a business.. KPIs can be micro, as in tracking a ratio of number of store visitors to the number of transactions per store or can be across an entity, such as average debtor days. KPIs can be applied to most segments within in business and are ideally bench-marked or viewed in comparison to other results.
2) SOFTWARE INTEGRATIONS
Software integrations refers to the integration or the encompassing of business management software to industry specific requirements and solutions. Commonly an ERP or accounting system can manage the standard goods in / goods out and transactional level, however they do not address key requirements of specific industries, which is why many businesses also run a specific solution separate to their business management system.
An example of this may be a sheet metal cutter that uses an industry specific tool for the nesting of cut jobs and an integration would be to prepare the quote in the business management system, send the measurements of the cuts to the nesting application and then after the cut has been performed to send back materials used and off-cut details back to the core stock control and accounting system.
Workflow can be defined as a series of processes and procedures for the purpose of achieving a particular task or function. In relation to business management systems it is breaking down role and outcome based tasks into sequential order including the requirements at each stage.
Here is a example of a sales-based workflow…
4-Demonstration / Proof of concept
7-Delivery of product/services
10-Support & Maintenance
Workflow systems should be able to restrict access to following steps should user have not completed the required prior stages.
4) BUDGETING & FORECASTING
Budgeting & Forecasting is all about setting goals for the future and tracking your progress towards those goals – which is typically through reporting actuals to budget and variance. Key budgeting and forecasting components include;
- Budget / Forecast assumptions
- What-If Scenarios
- Budget inputs & revisions
5) CRM – Customer Relationship Management
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has many definitions, however the principle behind it is the quantification of the sales process. Therefore a CRM application should provide users with client contact information and be able to track progress of sales stages/values. Closely related to sales is marketing and CRMs should have the capability to track and manage marketing campaigns (both on-line and off-line) as these feed the sales prospect/lead pipeline. CRMs can be used across most industries where there are associated sales and marketing activities. It can also be used in call-centre scenarios where inbound and outbound calls are tracked.
Key CRM components:
- Lead tracking
- Lead status
- Marketing campaign recording (costing, projections, outcome)
- Email management (integration to Microsoft® Outlook)
- CRM Workflow
- Event register
- Alerts and Notifications
- CRM Reporting
- Automation (eg. mail merge, email responders..)
Outcomes a CRM system should deliver:
- Greater understanding of clients buying patterns, life-cycle
- Ability to understand client interactions and life-time value metrics
- Increased revenue through knowing the client better and being able to understand buying behaviour
- Ability to shorten sales cycle through automating parts of the sales process with CRM
CRM standard reports include:
- Contact History
- Forecasted Sales Analysis
- Top/Bottom Clients
- Alerts for Follow-ups – who has and hasn’t been followed up (at given stages of the sales cycle)
- Marketing campaign analysis
6) MICROSOFT® OFFICE INTEGRATIONS
If you walk into any office or business, odds are they are using Microsoft® Office. Without a doubt, Office is an essential tool for any business and the distribution of Office files standard practice. Having Microsoft® Office integrations to your business systems is a two way communication where data is either coming from Office or into Office.
Examples of Office integrations into your business management software;
- Supplier Catalogues – imported from Excel to your stock list
- EDI Orders received from clients – imported via CSV to your accounting system
- Purchase order attachment to Job/Sales Order – attachment of Word document (or PDF)
Examples of Office integrations from your business management software;
- Invoices – when processed and selected to be emailed to client they are dispatched via Outlook
- Mail Merge – monthly account letters are populated with relevant client data in Microsoft® Word
- Pivot Report views – users create views in their business management software that are sent live to Excel
What are the benefits of having a business management software that integrates to Microsoft® Office?
- reduced double handing of data – and minimisation of error
- reduced administration time
- Microsoft® Office is a standard environment and easy to use
Mobility in the context of business management software is all about having the ability to access business data remotely to the office or local network. With the wide acceptance of tablet devices in commerce the logical step is to have remote accessibility to business data via these devices on the field with associated functionality including;
- Transaction processing (quotes, sales orders etc… )
- Lookups (stock on hand enquiries, pricing enquiries etc… )
- Reporting (daily sales, sales by store, financial reports etc… )
- Management views (dashboards, daily performance… )
- Time-sheet entry
On-top of these, having remote access to your ERP is ideal for situations where you are capturing data on field assets – eg. kms travelled, pages printed etc… Typically the devices used for remote access are one of the following;
- Tablet device
- Laptop/PC via Web
- Mobile phone
The key benefits of having remote access to your business data is that of far greater speed of enquiry/transaction processing, reduced administration time (no more completing orders faxing them at night from a hotel room & having your admin people key into the system in the morning), improvements in customer service and probably most importantly, the ability to get your invoices out faster.