Ever experienced multiple software systems that don’t communicate with each other? – I have!
I sold my last business in 2005 after building it from scratch over eight years, I took some time out after the sale and reflected on what I would do differantly next time around.
My conclusion – start with a good business management software system that could manage all the day to day activity and which would give you a good overview of your key business processes.
We had a sales prospecting program called ACT and later Goldmine which we also used as a CRM system, a Sage accounts package, a bespoke billing system and an HR system.
This set up caused lots of issues down the line which really resulted from us being too busy with all the things you do as a new business rather than taking the time to plan. We were being successful in terms of growth and were building a good business but with hindsight could have been a lot more efficient if we had planned more and had had the experience that the 8 years of running the business later gave us.
All the founding directors had good experience in different areas but none of us had started and run a business where we had to look after multiple customers, suppliers, and employees.
We shot from the hip on the move and didn’t use any consultants or have any Non Execs to advise us as we wanted to use all our funds to grow a sales team.
The big issues were:
1. Synchronising data from the sales and telesales teams – ACT was great when used as a single user version to track an individuals own prospects but when we had to synchronise different databases from our different teams it was a nightmare. As we grew we needed to buy numerous consultancy days from expensive systems integrators to add custom fields and to generally make the system fit our business. We also had issues of salesman working remotely accessing the system and spent lots of man hours enabling them to work efficiently.
2. The Customer Services Department used a further customised CRM version of ACT/Goldmine which could record information in custom fields but had no inbuilt logical processes to follow with a simple overview.We were trying to make a simple flat database product fit our business which was dynamic and changing. It worked but only just and we lost a lot of time and things slipped through the net which were very costly. We couldn’t record and measure the time taken between process steps to highlight bottle necks in our processes – we had blind spots and were growing too quickly to notice until it cost us money. The other problem for customer support staff was that they could not access the billing system. They couldn’t see what a customer had been charged for in previous periods or had paid because they didn’t have access to Sage either. Information had to be entered twice and mistakes were made and the people who may have noticed the mistakes couldn’t see the other side. Basically our staff looking after customers were not empowered to do their jobs properly which meant that customers were not getting the best service and we probably lost some customers as a result.
3. All the information put in the billing system was only viewable by 3 people out of 65 staff and there was no automatic link to update payments in. Things got messy when our customers increased or decreased the number of items that we billed them monthly for because there were 2 different systems to be updated manually. Even worse there were occasions that we didn’t bill customers for all the products that they had. We had to carry out regular, time consuming audits to make sure that we billed for the no. of products that our CRM system said we should.
4. Sage is great for Accountants but to the non financial managers it is difficult to interrogate and get meaningful information out of. In my experience this leaves managers and directors without up to date financial information while they wait for weekly or monthly management accounts/reports which are provided to them by their FD, Book Keeper or Accounts Department.
5. Our simple HR program was only accessible by our HR manager and she was part time! We had to wait for her to be in the office and not in interviews with potential new staff before we could get HR notes out of the system.
There were lots of other system problems relating to a lack of access to relevant employees, a lack of flexibility and expensive bespoke programming.
Another big problem was the resilience of the servers in our office, access to information when out of the office and the security of our data.
All the above issues prayed on my mind at the time but there really wasn’t a proper alternative for us to consider at the time.
When we were writing the specification for ClickHQ ( our business management software service) it was obvious that we should build a service which seamlessly integrated all the modules needed to efficiently run a business from day to day.
Whilst not perfect for everybody, in my perhaps biased view, ClickHQ business software will save you both time and money because it was written by people like you that have walked the walk and learnt from their mistakes.
As part of the ongoing development of ClickHQ we have written code that allows us to add full ecommerce capability into any Joomla website so that our business customers can have an online shop that seemlessly links into the same system that runs the rest of their business.
Call us on 0845 88 00 203 for a demo.