Trends in ERP - in-house and in the Cloud

Eric Frank, CEO, NexTec
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Eric Frank, CEO, NexTec

NexTec works with small- to mid-size companies acquiring and updating Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and other business systems. Part of our job is to keep an eye on the industry trends likely to affect our customers.

Currently, the biggest trend is the move to Cloudsoftware. ERP and CRM buyers are increasingly faced with decisions about where their ERP and CRM software will be hosted. They need to evaluate the pros and cons of having it managed onsite at their company or managed in the Cloud by a service provider. The Cloud is gaining favor with small- to midsized companies because they can outsource that staff work, remaining focused on their core competency and quickly scale as the business grows. We think that for most companies using Cloud hosting can lead to efficiencies all around.

We do a lot of work with the Microsoft Dynamics suite of business software, so we’re excited to see the new solutions for Cloud that Microsoft has coming this year.

We currently have clients using Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics SL to help manage accounting, finance, supply chain and operations. Some are also using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to help marketing, sales, and service manage customer and prospect data, tracking information such as contact information, sales pipeline, product orders, marketing activities, issue resolution and history.

 Investments in ERP and CRM are perfect examples of responding to internal needs with external technologies 

When Microsoft releases the latest version of Dynamics GP next month, it will have a new HTML5 interface (replacing Silverlight) that will enable access using devices such as iPads and Android tablets. It will include Odata connections for PowerBI, expanding capabilities for planning and forecasting.

We expect that these updates will help reduce costs (through a more streamlined system) and support companies shifting to paperless workflows (through Document Attach). The support for a wider range of browsers and devices should make Microsoft Dynamics attractive to companies in a wider range of industries. Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 answers the needs of companies that make use of mobile devices to input and analyze business information.

The ERP / CRM Decision

A company’s decision to move to a comprehensive business technology system — such as Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, or Acumatica — is usually driven by a combination of internal needs and available external technologies.

In order to keep up with the competition, a business must constantly reinvent itself and challenge the status quo by investing in people, technology and process improvement. Investments in ERP and CRM are perfect examples of responding to internal needs with external technologies. The software systems can automate processes that allow groups across the company to work together far more efficiently. Finance can see operational data and costs in an instant. Marketing, Sales and Service can work together to track a lead from the moment the website is visited to the first sale to a long-term loyal customer.

The Challenge of Choosing an ERP / CRM System

Companies in the market for new business systems are typically struggling with fragmented financial and customer relationship management systems. Some are getting by with a mishmash of software that doesn’t work together. Others are updating old, legacy ERP or CRM systems. In either situation, they’re facing these challenges:

• How do they select the right system when are more options in ERP and CRM than ever before?

How do they get different internal departments — finance, accounting, operations, marketing and sales — on the same page to decide what’s needed, what’s the priority, and how it all should work together?

• How do they get the new software up and running, and integrated with their other software systems?

Finding the Right Consultant

A good consulting firm fills the role of a Sherpa in this process — guiding a company through software selection and working with the company’s staff to design the right solution and implement it successfully.

The best consultants are ones with a long history of working with ERP and CRM systems. They know the options, can watch out for pitfalls, and can lead a company down the path to success. An ERP/CRM-specialized consulting firm that’s been in business for long time is also a company’s best bet for a partner that will be there for them in the future.

Preparing for an ERP / CRM Decision

We advise companies preparing to make an ERP / CRM investment to keep tabs on Microsoft as well as other software providers, like Sage and Acumatica, to learn what they have in store. This is especially important when it comes to new Cloud capabilities. It’s also a good idea to start following industry leaders on social media, join groups like GPUG or CRMUG, and read news sites like Dynamics World to keep up to date on the conversations and experiences that others are having.

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