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The unrealised potential of ERP and CRM

Digging up that buried treasure

Poll Results With all of that money, time and effort expended on ERP and CRM systems over the years, you would expect organisations to have paid a lot of attention to getting the most from them, but a recent poll of Reg readers (including 66 ERP users and 65 CRM users) suggests that many implementations have some way to go before they deliver their full potential (Figure 1).

Figure 1

To be fair, when looking at this picture we must acknowledge that putting such systems in place and getting them properly bedded into the business is not a trivial exercise, and as one reader explained:

“We have only just implemented ERP - people are still learning the system. It may take several years to fully realise the benefits.”

Indeed some would argue that ERP and CRM implementation is a perpetual process and that with ever evolving business requirements, it is unrealistic to expect systems to ever be ‘finished’. Nevertheless, the above does suggest the presence of a lot of unrealised potential, particularly in association with CRM. And the following reader comment provides some insight into why such big gaps often exist, even with more established deployments:

“The day-to-day use of ERP and CRM is ingrained with the users. Most do not see the benefits to be had by using the systems in a smarter way. The tools only get used to 'do the job' not to do the job well.”

This goes back to our previous discussion about systems often being implemented originally to deal with particular process-oriented requirements, then the capability delivered not being revisited thereafter, which, as another reader said, highlights the imperative to:

“Remind senior management that these systems are not fire and forget.”

Good advice, perhaps, but where exactly should you be looking to unlock additional value from ERP and CRM systems? Well, switching on previously inactive functionality that was not within the original implementation scope is mentioned by two thirds of our poll respondents, but top of the list, highlighted by an even greater number, is enabling better use of the information stored in systems of this kind (Figure 2).

Figure 2

The truth is that ERP and CRM applications can accumulate large amounts of transaction data that potentially represents a significant business asset, but is often simply too hard to get at and make sense of. As a result, the practice of users with little formal IT knowledge or discipline extracting information into Excel spreadsheets and other offline tools will be familiar to most users reading this, as will the associated dangers and costs. The sentiment articulated by this reader is therefore likely to strike a chord with many:

“The greatest benefit from ERP/CRM is only to be obtained when [dependency on] office software is dropped so the ERP system is actually the centre of information.”

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