I was reading through McGladrey’s latest Manufacturers and Wholesale Distribution (MWD) National Survey and one of the questions really intrigued me.  We asked companies what processes they were looking to improve in 2010.  The top five responses were Supplier Relationship Management (76%), Customer Relationship Management (64%), Manufacturing Flow (53%), Order Fulfillment (51%), and Customer Service Management (51%).  Right behind these five was Sales Process Management!  Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help address at least 3 of the top five process improvements and can play a role in order fulfillment and of course Sales Process Management.

Every week I meet with manufacturers and distributors to discuss technology needs.  In the past, the most common pain was reporting and planning.  Now organizations are recognizing that in today’s economy, they need to make dramatic changes to their internal processes.  They are trying to do more with less and as business rebounds, are looking to utilize technology and improved processes instead of hiring more employees. They also understand that supplier relations, customer relations, and customer service are key to beating the competition.  Of course technology is not a panacea to improving these processes, but it is a critical component.  I think about a client of ours who changed their entire business from using store fronts, throughout the west to set appointments to using the web and call centers to make home appointments with their sales force.  This change had incredible cost savings, but also required new technology to track inquiries, set appointments, and track service/installation activities.  There is no way our client would have been successful in this endeavor without a flexible CRM application that could manage sales, service, and suppliers.   Using one tool across all of these processes is cost effective, but more importantly it is critical to seeing a 360 degree view of customers and suppliers.

Given the ability to be configured easily and with multiple deployment options, Dynamics CRM can be utilized by MWD organizations to improve MULTIPLE business processes.  The thing to remember is that these projects and the use of a tool like Dynamics CRM NEEDS to be tied to improving business processes.  Projects will be challenged if the project does not take into account process redesign as part of the effort.   These are not, and should not be, technology only projects.  Dynamics CRM is simply a tool to enable the improvements in processes.  Given the data from our last MWD survey, it appears MWD companies should be looking more closely at how Dynamics CRM can help them improve Supplier Management, Customer Management, Customer Service, and Sales Process Management!

By: Mike Nafziger, RSM McGladrey, - Minnesota Microsoft Dynamics Partner

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