Don’t Screw up your CRM Initiative – 7 Steps to Success

By | CRM

Customer relationship management projects (CRM) have a higher failure rate than other types of software implementation projects for several reasons:

  1. Project goals are not always clear
  2. The CRM software isn’t seen as adding value to the sales process
  3. The CRM software isn’t connected to ERP or other line of business systems

Of course, those are just the top three issues; the “tip of the iceberg” that sink CRM projects. To successfully navigate your way to success, follow these 7 CRM project best practices.

1. Set clear goals

Why are you implementing a CRM system? What is the problem you are trying to solve? CRM software can be used to:

  • Manage sales opportunities
  • Accelerate the sales process
  • Improve collaboration
  • Increase client engagement
  • Resolve customer support cases
  • Automate your marketing process
  • Manage inventory and resources
  • Provide accountability
  • Create a central client knowledge repository
  • ….and the list goes on.

Be specific. Articulating exactly why you are implementing CRM software will save you needless steps. Be ruthless about staying focused on your priorities, so you can avoid costly scope creep. You can always create a second project to accommodate those special requests.

2. Show the value

Especially when you are implementing a sales management CRM system, users need to understand why using the CRM solution is so important. Many sales people work independently and resist management controls. Help them understand what benefit THEY will gain from using CRM, in addition to how the organization will benefit.

3. Get leadership buy-in

Your CRM implementation will be vastly more successful if the leadership team is also using the CRM system, using the data, and evangelizing use of the system. Steps 4-7 are ways that the business leaders can put their CRM evangelism into action.

4. Provide adequate training

CRM training often gets cut from the project budget in effort to save money. While eliminating training may cut a line item from the budget, the organization may see lots of “hidden losses” – time spent researching how to do things, information entered incorrectly that requires data clean up, and people not using the system in a way that will help you achieve your business objectives.

5. Simplify the processes

The purpose of the CRM system is to save time, not take extra steps.  Think about the user’s experience. The more intuitive your processes are, and the more time it saves your users, the more likely they are to use the system.  Build out automations and workflows. Help each individual do their job more efficiently and effectively.

6. Link to ERP and other LOB systems

One major advantage of Dynamics 365 for Sales, Marketing  and Customer Engagement is its integration with Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. Think through your customer’s experience from end-to-end. Can you have closed sales opportunities trigger the creation of a bill of materials and the procurement of raw materials? For customers running SAP, we even have a SAP-CRM integration solution.

7. Add incentives for CRM use

In the beginning, it’s important to reward user adoption. Many clients tie CRM use into their user’s MBOs (management by objectives), and use it as part of the employee’s performance review. We have an entire business team focused on change management best practices, which we believe should be built-into all projects.

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Author: Janet Thomas, CRM Senior Solution Architect

4 Tech Trends to Watch in 2018

By | CRM, ERP, IoT and Analytics

It’s that time of year again, where everyone wants to know what the hottest technology trends will be in 2018. We see these four areas having the biggest impact for the customers we serve.

1. Data Security

With so many well-trusted, major corporations experiencing data breaches in 2017, organizations are making data security a top priority for 2018. Having software in place to prevent data security problems is critical. Solutions include:

  • Anti-virus/anti-malware software
  • Backup and recovery / disaster recovery planning
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Being able to remote-wipe devices
  • Updating security policies and procedures

2. Cloud Computing

The move to SaaS solutions like Dynamics 365 will continue to be a major focus for companies in 2018. Cloud computing offers greater agility, while preserving capital. And although some organizations have concerns about the security of the cloud, many experts assert that having private servers is actually riskier. Cloud computing shifts most of the IT Administration responsibilities to the SaaS provider, which lowers both your ongoing cost and risk.

3. Blockchain

The technology that launched the Bitcoin / cryptocurrency craze to stratospheric heights is garnering the attention of the tech world. Blockchain is a distributed database that enables everyone to work together simultaneously. Using a series of validations, the end result is information that is transparent, secure and incorruptible. Blockchain can be used for identity management to secure financial transactions around the world. We are also starting to see great opportunities within business applications using block chain to support IoT applications, reduce security challenges and secure intellectual property.

4. Machine Learning

Companies in every industry are seizing the new opportunities presented by machine learning. As more data is processed, sophisticated algorithms systematically seek out anomalies, and learn how to respond without human intervention. From approving credit lines to spotting trends in product defects, machine learning provides big advantages in speed and accuracy.

How does Microsoft Dynamics 365 capitalize on these trends?

Companies moving off MAPICS or another legacy ERP solution will find that Dynamics 365 is a leader in each of these tech trends.  Security and cloud computing are innate features of Dynamics 365. The Dynamics Community site has a great article about blockchain integration with Dynamics 365.  And another one about the future of Dynamics 365 and machine learning.

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

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Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

5 Questions Auto Supply CFOs Should Be Asking

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

As the CFO of an Automotive Supply company, your role is to be equally visionary and pragmatic. How will you build the business of tomorrow, while ensuring you have the cash flow, materials and resources to sustain your business today?  The key is in asking the right questions. Modern ERP systems like Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations can help Auto Supply CFOs answer questions like:

1. How can we improve our planning? 

Most ERP systems include some planning and scheduling capabilities, but how easily can you run different scenarios to understand the best plan for your business? Can you run a variety of “what if” scenarios? Solutions like LeanCONNECT enable you make data-driven decisions before you make the financial investment.

2. How can we quickly and easily find business insight?

The quicker you can resolve a problem, the better off your business will be. Some insights can be automatic. Our clients have used IoT devices and predictive analytics to pull suspect units off the line for further quality testing. You can use tools like Power BI to create and distribute business analytics dashboards across the organization. The Voice of the Operator concept is becoming popular because it adds a human interpretation to the data collected by the ERP system.

3. How can we improve our forecasting capabilities?

The best thing you can do to improve forecasting is tie your sales orders with your manufacturing BOMs. That way, you have clear visibility of what’s available to promise, and what’s already been committed. Then, by adding your planning forecasts, based on sales order history and other information, you have a much clearer picture of your expected cash flow, and can build a reasonable production schedule.

4. How can we better manage our inventory levels / mix?

“Take one, make one” is the ideal scenario for replenishing buffer inventory – but it isn’t always possible. What should be possible, however, is to identify a targeted stock level for your buffer inventory. Then, when that inventory is drawn down below its reorder point, the replenishment process is triggered to build more. If you want to learn more about inventory mixing and leveling, you may be interested in our whitepaper on lean production scheduling best practices.

5. How can we better store and retrieve documents? 

Auto supply manufacturers have reams of virtual documents that must be stored, sorted and easily retrieved. CAD drawings, proof of compliance, engineering change orders – all must be catalogued for future reference. Cloud storage solutions link these documents to customer, vendor, product and other ERP system records for easy retrieval.

The Automotive Industry has been Digitalized.

View our infographic to learn how modern technology has enabled auto suppliers to create a competitive advantage and report measurable results.

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Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

Which Field Service Software is Right for You?

By | CRM, Field Services

Enterprise field service software is surging in popularity – and for good reason.  It has proven to be an effective way to cut costs and create new revenue opportunities, increasing overall profitability.

However, all field service solutions are not created alike. As you begin your research, ask yourself:

Which features are most important to you?

Different software solutions have different strengths. Knowing what you need up front will help you prioritize areas where you need to investigate deeper. For example, most field service software solutions offer some sort of scheduling, but how sophisticated does the scheduling need to be? Do jobs need to be assigned not only based on availability but also on other factors such as technical certifications, geography, urgency or a weighted factor of multiple criteria? How closely do you need to monitor the inventory on your trucks, schedule recurring work, or invoice and capture payment in the field? Be sure the capabilities that are important to you are accommodated in the solution you select.

What do you value in an implementation partner?

Sure, you don’t want to overspend, but how much are you willing to trade off in quality and risk? If this is the first time you’ve implemented field service software, having an experienced partner can be the defining difference in the success of your project.  A qualified implementation partner should be able to help you tailor the solution to the unique needs of your industry and your specific business processes without reinventing the wheel.

Are your expectations realistic?

How will you measure the success of your project? Software is not a silver bullet that creates instant results.  Spend some time understanding the areas in which you expect to improve efficiency and how you expect to measure those improvements. Brainstorm how you can generate more revenue.  Focus on the areas your customers value most.

Evaluate Which Field Service Software is the Right Fit

Not sure which Field Service solution is right for your business? Use our Free Evaluation Matrix to help guide the best decision.

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Author: Marty Monaghan, Sales Executive

What happens after Dynamics 365 goes live?


The day you “go live” with your Dynamics 365 ERP or CRM system is a major milestone achievement, but it doesn’t mean your work is done. Companies have to choose how the system will be supported after the implementation project is finished.

You have 4 major choices for ongoing Dynamics 365 support.

1. Use internal staff

In theory, using internal staff to support your ERP or CRM system should save your company money. However, we find that frequently staff members are stretched too thin and don’t have the expertise they need to maintain the system – at least not in all areas. Having people “guess” how to fix the system can create bigger, more expensive problems that then require the help of an external consultant.

We are a big believer in fostering an environment that creates Dynamics power users. BUT – we also believe that having an external support system is critical.

2. Use a Microsoft Dynamics partner for support as needed

The good part is that Microsoft Dynamics partners know Microsoft Dynamics – and if they just implemented your system, they probably already know your company. The challenge is that most Microsoft Dynamics partners don’t have a business model with a focus on support. Instead of having dedicated support personnel, they have consultants who are now engaged on another implementations, and are trying to juggle your support requests over lunch and whenever they have a spare moment. If your system isn’t being continually managed and updated, problems can start to creep in.

3. Using Microsoft Support for support

While Microsoft Support is good, it is ONLY support. Their technicians will resolve your support cases, but they won’t be proactive, you don’t have an assigned team, and they can’t go beyond the scope of their assignment.

4. Finding a partner that offers Managed Services

Not all Microsoft Dynamics partners offer a Managed Services / Support option, and those that do, don’t always have full-time dedicated staff devoted to servicing customers who have already gone live. The advantage of using a managed services team is that your systems are continually managed so they run smoothly, rather than dealing with break/fix support. The managed services team becomes a virtual extension of your team, with fixed costs, but more versatile skills.

Differences in Dynamics 365 Application Support / Managed Services

We can’t speak for how other Dynamics partners offer application support, but we can tell you how MCA Connect’s Managed Services team works to anticipate our clients’ needs. We help with things like:

  • Building technology roadmaps
  • Upgrade project management
  • Short-term staff augmentation
  • System support
  • ISV management
  • User training
  • Customizations and workflows
  • Plus, each of our clients have a designated client delivery team – a service delivery account manager, functional lead and a technical lead. This way, you get access to a spectrum of skills. And when we’re stumped? Our close relationship with Microsoft helps us escalate issues, and get answers more easily.

Want to find out the cost? Get an instant online Managed Services quote.

Does your Microsoft Dynamics Support Measure Up?

Use our checklist of criteria as a guide to help you determine which Microsoft Dynamics support option is right for your business.

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Author: Steve Walsh, Managed Services Practice

The Top 5 Automotive Trends for 2018

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

Big changes coming in 2018! Changes in consumer demand are trickling down to provide new opportunities for automotive suppliers. Some of the trends include:

1.  Autonomous / Self-Driving Cars

As the public starts to embrace the idea of a3ssisted-driving and self-driving cars, new opportunities are being created for suppliers who can offer this type of technology. This new type of vehicle will require collaboration between multiple partners to integrate the GPS, cameras, sensors, big data and other technology.

2. Predictive maintenance

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are being used by automotive suppliers on the shop floor – and being embedded into consumer vehicles – to indicate when preventative maintenance is needed. Rather than recommending oil changes or tire rotations by mileage, IoT sensors can provide more accurate indications about when maintenance is needed.

3. Variety of fuel cell options

Over the next few years, we’ll see an increased demand for alternative fuel sources like electricity, hydrogen and bio diesel fuels. Automotive suppliers will have to consider how to innovate and service these new niches, and be able to handle the compliance requirements.

4. Personalization

Rather than looking through the newspapers for available cars, today’s car buyers turn to the web to custom build the car they want. Sophisticated technology enables buyers to pick out the exact paint and packages they want. Personalization continues into the driving experience. Newer “intelligent” cars are collecting information about driving habits, and patterns to provide a better driving experience for customers, and more marketing insight for car sellers.

5. Data Security

These new internet-connected technologies are requiring more vigilance from a data security standpoint. Information relayed over the Internet poses a risk, and manufacturers must be mindful of preventing cyberattacks.

Automotive suppliers looking to capitalize on these emerging trends need to consider:

  • How their supply chain will be impacted
  • How their ERP systems and business processes will need to change
  • Where they will find the skilled workers
  • Whether the margins and risk levels are reasonable

Learn How Digitalization Has Transformed Automotive

Modern technology enables automotive suppliers to create a competitive advantage and report measurable results.

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Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

How Companies Use Field Service Automation to Get Ahead

By | CRM, Field Services

Companies who’ve been around for decades are starting to see how field service automation can give them a big advantage over the standard work order and clipboard approach. Here are the top benefits they seen:

Improved Customer Experience

  • Keeping clients updated – Clients can be updated automatically to tell them when their technician is on the way. Surveys can automatically be sent afterward to gather feedback on the technician’s performance. Providing two-way communication between technician and client creates more satisfied customers overall.
  • Improving first call resolution – Have a good understanding of the equipment being repaired, the asset history, known issues, and the parts that are likely needed

Better Cash Flow, More Revenue

  • Optimized routing – With field service automation, workers can be assigned to a job based on customer location, employee credentials, service-level priority – or a great number of other factors. Companies can often schedule 10-20% more clients per day when the route is optimized.
  • Adding service revenue from SLAs – Create new revenue streams by offering warranties / guarantees, and by properly billing clients for services that are outside the scope of the client’s Service Level Agreement.
  • Getting paid faster – When clients electronically sign-off on the work order on-site, and that electronic paperwork is immediately routed to the corporate office, the DSO (Days Sales Outstanding) numbers drop dramatically, increasing your cash flow.

Increased Operational Efficiency

  • Better inventory management – Field Service software tracks inventory across locations, including warehouses and trucks. By knowing what you have in stock, you can improve materials forecasting and replenishment, and reduce write-offs.
  • Enhanced mobile productivity – Technicians can access customer and case history, as well as find parts information, pricing and support / knowledgebase information.

Learn How Field Service Software Empowers your Workers

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Author: Mark Schindler, Sales Executive

How Manufacturing CFOs are Preparing for 2018

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

What’s in store for 2018? Changes are ahead for the manufacturing industry, largely due to new technologies that are becoming more affordable, and provide significant strategic advantages.

Some of the trends we see manufacturing CFOs considering for 2018 include:

1. Moving to SaaS-based, integrated ERP/CRM solutions

Cloud-based ERP all-in-one systems like Dynamics 365 shift much of the IT department’s administrative work to the vendor. With the solution continually kept up-to-date and widely available from any device in any location, workers are freed up to focus on innovation and customer value-adding activities. Manufacturing CFOs and CIOs can then work together to balance risk and return as they identify new opportunities.

2. Merging structured and unstructured data, including Voice of the Operator

Manufacturing CFOs have long recognized that Excel spreadsheets, and even sophisticated business analytics tools, don’t always reveal the whole truth. Data gets hidden in emails, documents, side databases, and even in the knowledge of the plant floor operators. Data warehousing tools like DataCONNECT bring disparate source data into one central repository to create ‘one version of the truth.’

In addition, companies are finding innovative ways to incorporate the voice of the operator to provide context to the results seen on the plant floor and in the MRP / ERP systems.

3. Leveraging Predictive Analytics / Machine Learning

Business analytics is booming! The combination of inexpensive IoT devices, the availability of cloud-based data, and the advent of sophisticated business intelligence software has created the perfect storm for manufacturers to be better able to predict defective products, craft ideal preventative maintenance schedules, and improve sales forecasts. According to IDC, spending in this area should surpass $30 Billion by 2019.

4. Adding IoT – Internet of Things

According to Gartner, over 8.4 Billion “things” are on the internet today, and that number continues to grow. The IoT trend impacts manufacturers by improving the efficiency of plant operations, but also product innovation. As customers demand more IoT-things, it will be up to manufacturers to produce and support IoT devices.

5. Creating new revenue streams with Field Service

If you have to provide support to customers, you may as well make money doing it. Manufacturers are realizing that their service business today has too many revenue leaks, and isn’t profitable. BUT by adding field service software to manage and maintain service level agreements, warranties, and improve the efficiency of the service call, supporting your customers (or your customers’ customers) can increase profitability and customer satisfaction.

In addition, we see manufacturers putting greater focus on staying agile. Some manufacturers may approach agility by using rolling financial forecasts. Others are working toward improving their relationships with suppliers and reducing on-hand inventory.

8 Ways Manufacturers Can Leverage CRM

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Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

Automotive Manufacturers Sell More with a Better Bid Response System

By | CRM, Manufacturing

Do you want to win more bids?

You need a better bid response system.

Without a strong automotive manufacturing bid response system in place, your team is going to be spending too much time putting together quotes that may be late, not competitive, or not complete, and seeing far too few sales successes as a result.

Bid response is a major challenge for most automotive manufacturers.

If you don’t respond well, your competition will, and you won’t win.

If you do respond, you’d better win… because the bid response takes a significant amount of company time and resources.

An automotive manufacturing bid response system like the one we’ve built using Dynamics 365 for Sales can help you win more bids by:

  • Creating one single solution to globally manage all bid responses
  • Coordinating efforts across departments – Sales, FP&A, Engineering and Production Planning
  • Centralizing pricing and all response documentation for quick and easy reference
  • Enforcing standards to create better consistency
  • Automating the approval process
  • Improving employee efficiency through familiar Office 365 tools
  • Analyzing what’s working – and what isn’t

You’ll be able to see every opportunity at every stage of the bid response process, which helps you analyze which opportunities need more attention, and can improve accurate sales forecasting.

Ditch the spreadsheets. Get a professional bid management system that helps you win more business.

8 Ways CRM Helps Manufacturers Improve Business

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Author: Mark Schindler, Sales Representative

Why Field Service Automation Software is Essential

By | CRM, Field Services

Field service automation software used to be a ‘nice to have’ option for manufacturing companies and professional service providers. Field service workers routinely showed up at job sites with a clipboard of paperwork and the inventory they needed to complete the task at hand. Once they were done, they had the project paperwork signed and moved to the next job.

While many field service-based companies today still run their business that way, those companies are at a distinct disadvantage.

If that scenario describes your company, this is what you’re missing!

• Faster payment from customers – Electronic routing of signed paperwork can cut DSO invoices by 7 days or more.

• Increased first-time fixes – Ensuring your field service workers have the right parts, but also the equipment history and access to maintenance guides, increases the opportunities for you to finish the job the first time, improving customer satisfaction and increasing worker efficiency.

• Improved operational efficiency – From optimizing dispatch to increasing service call capacity, companies can improve overall efficiency by 10-20% – at least!

• Reduced costs – Leverage scheduling and routing to ensure the most applicable field technician is deployed for the job. This leads to reduced length of site visits and number of revisits.

• More revenue, new revenue streams – As more OEMs push service back to their suppliers, and service companies work to create and manage profitable Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Field Service Automation software provides an efficient way to know exactly what’s included and excluded in your company’s warranties and SLAs. Stop your field service teams from giving away services because they’re unclear what the customer is entitled to. Additionally, field service technicians have more visibility to customers than anyone else within the company which allows them to identify opportunities for new revenue streams such as obsolete items and lack of spare parts.

• Happier customers – Your field service personnel may be the only company representative your customers ever meet. Help your field service workers make a great first impression by keeping in constant communication with customers about project progress, and when your staff is expected to arrive. Creating happier customers increases your wallet share and market share.

Considering New Field Service Automation Software?

Asking the right questions is critical. Download our field service evaluation matrix to decide what software is best for your business.

Download the Field Service Evaluation Matrix

Author: Mark Schindler, Sales Executive