If you’re considering adopting an ERP and CRM system, we’re not shocked. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of companies of all sizes that use these solutions to better streamline their business, improve customer relations and increase their bottom lines.

In fact, a Software Advice survey of 304 CRM software users found that nearly 40 percent of small businesses said they were “very satisfied” with their current CRM system and a similar amount of big businesses felt the same way. 

On the ERP front, A Panorama Consulting Solutions survey of 215 respondents found that 81 percent of organizations have either implemented Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions into their current business model or are in the process of doing so. 

However, wanting to bring an ERP or CRM system on board is different than actually doing so. It takes time, resources and cooperation from all levels of the organization. Here are five ways to successfully implement one of these products into your company:

1. Form a strategy
Creating a strategy may be the toughest part of the CRM and ERP implementation process. Why? Simply because it involves what we call the “discovery process.” This involves, but isn’t limited to, the following: 

  • Understand your business goals: It’s critical you figure out how a CRM and ERP can help you exceed your objectives.
  • Identify problems: Figuring out how these solutions will help you solve many of the operational problems you’re currently facing can ensure your objectives are met.
  • Evaluate your company’s strengths and weaknesses: It’s important to assess the performance of each department and determine how an advanced solution can best serve them.

In Paramount’s survey, nearly 50 percent of organizations adopted ERPs because their old one was outdated. Sixteen percent wanted to replace one that was custom built for their organization and 20 percent were replacing a non-ERP system with one all-encompassing solution.

  • Determining your budget: You can purchase the most advanced system, but do you need all of its bells and whistles? There’s a good chance you don’t. Determine what features will be the most useful and purchase a system that not only has these but can scale quickly and easily if you need to add more components. 

Other costs to consider include: Software and vendor fees – installation, maintenance, training, customization (if needed), and hosting or hardware costs – and in-house costs such as data migration, hiring and training.

  • Gather your resources: Other than budget, do your employees have expertise to implement and use an ERP and CRM solution? Do you have the backing of upper management who can continue to invest additional time and money into the project? Do your employees already have experience using these systems and how much training will they need? 

As you can imagine, there are likely many other parts of the “discovery process” that will help you make more informed decisions when it comes to purchasing a CRM and ERP system. But don’t neglect this step. If you do, you’ll be creating a strategy blind, which will cause the implementation to go poorly.

It’s also important to select a project manager (someone who’s enthusiastic about taking on the project and knowledgeable about CRM and ERP systems) who can then build a team to develop an implementation strategy.

The strategy itself should address each stage of adoption from implementation to employee feedback and evaluation. It must also address both how you plan to prevent potential implementation issues and how the new CRM and ERP system can help avert issues. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the second segment. 

2. Prevent problems
CRMs and ERPs differ in a few ways, which means the problems they solve will also be different. 

A CRM solution looks to improve the relationship between a business and its customers and other stakeholders. CRM collects, organizes and helps employees better manage information. In turn, this can help synchronize departments, giving them greater access to more information regarding marketing and selling products, and servicing customers. 

CRM can temper customer frustration because employees have quicker access to more data. That means they can answer customers’ questions in a timely manner, and efficiently begin the healing process sooner. As you can imagine, it’s not unreasonable to think that both the company’s customer and employee retention will also improve.

An ERP solution can also improve relationships with customers, but that’s not its focus. Its goal is to improve business processes. For example, instead of employees having multiple tabs open for monthly sales, territory sales, customer acquisitions and web traffic – assuming this is the information they need – they can use an ERP which can present all of this data in an easy-to-navigate dashboard.

ERPs can help prevent business processes from coming to a grinding halt by giving employees greater visibility into the company.

3.Choose a CRM and/or ERP System
After you’ve formed an implementation team, gone through the discovery process and understood how CRMs and ERPs can prevent potential issues, it’s time to select your system.

Choosing the right solution is critical because it will greatly impact your entire organization for years to come. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some suggestions:

  • Conduct some basic online research and find solutions that have features that satisfy the requirements we discussed earlier, such as problem solving, resourcing and strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of all these solutions and then call a sales rep. Inform them upfront that you’re just researching, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind discussing both what you should be looking for in a CRM and/or ERP system and how their products satisfy these requirements.
  • Contact other professionals within your industry who are already using these systems. Sure, we’re not suggesting that you call up your competitors, but chances are you have former colleagues that have moved onto positions elsewhere. They can be great resources. 
  • Look into trade associations that may have a wealth of online resources such as message boards and content that detail different, top systems being used within your industry. 
  • Don’t forget about social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. ERP and CRM companies you’re thinking about purchasing from may have social media pages. It takes seconds to post a question on their site, such as “What should I look for when purchasing an ERP or CRM system?” And you’ll likely receive feedback from fellow users soon after. 

In saying that, let us be one of your resources. The TM Group offers a number of CRM and ERP solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365, formally known as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Netsuite CRM and ERP products. We feel confident that we represent a solution that would meet your business needs.

4. Present your strategy
After your team has developed a strategy, it’s time for them to present it to upper management. 

If the team isn’t sure how to deliver their message for the greatest impact, start by having the project manager debrief them on who they’ll be presenting to and what to expect from the audience.

Harvard Business Review also provides a number of of excellent tips to help presentations flow smoother. A few include setting the audience’s expectations by informing them about the structure of the presentation and then leading with your main points first such as key findings, conclusions and call to actions. 

Finally, it’s crucial that the team understands C-suite executives may do one of the following:

  1. Ask for more time to review the project. 
  2. Challenge the finding, and put team members on the spot to answer them.
  3. Reject the proposal completely.
  4. Dismiss parts of the bid and ask for the team to make changes. In this case, the team may have to make a second presentation.

In the case of an outright rejection, the team should be ready to respond appropriately and professionally. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask executives why they turned down the proposal and how they can make changes to better meet management’s requirements. 

Remember the goal: Explain how and why CRM and ERP systems can help improve the company’s bottom line. We know they do, and so do you and the project team. It’s just up to them to relay that information effectively to those who don’t: upper management.

5. Evaluate
Once the CRM and/or ERP solution is implemented, it’s time to evaluate its effectiveness. While it’ll take time to gain statistical feedback regarding improved customer relations and revenue as well as gained efficiencies and reduced costs, you can pretty easily measure employee satisfaction. Are employees happy with the new system? Do they find it easy to use, and is it increasing their productivity and engagement levels? If not, tweak the CRM and/or ERP system further to improve how they use it.