Friday, December 10, 2010

Integrating CRM and Accounting systems, Part 2

In our previous article we discussed the idea of integrating CRM systems with Accounting systems and highlighted the benefits associated with providing your staff with access to the business's data and functions they need across multiple systems.

Today we will delve deeper into the integration process and demonstrate the benefits of having your different business systems talk to each other, we will be using the ACT! CRM system, The QuickBooks accounting system and our own Accounting link for ACT! and QuickBooks.

First we will describe the concept of integration, within ACT! you can store the information related to a contact within a Contact Record, A contact is not necessarily a customer, a contact can be a Prospect, a customer, a supplier a colleague or a family friend (or anything else you wish to classify them as).

In an accounting system you usually have records for Customers, Suppliers and Employees, singling out customers we can see that they exist in both CRM systems and accounting systems. As mentioned in our previous article CRM systems excel at storing the non quantitative customer information while accounting systems were designed to store quantitative information.

The idea here is to provide access to both sets of  information for a given customer from one place thereby eliminating the need to jump between multiple systems in order to see the big picture, this is done through the process of linking a customer record in the CRM system to their equivalent record in the Accounting system.

In the screenshot above we have a view of Chris Huffman's record in ACT showing all of her details, at the same time we can view Chris Huffman's financial details as they currently appear in QuickBooks, in this particular case we are looking at Chris's financial summary details directly from within ACT, at a glance we can tell what Chris's current balance is, when was the last time she made a purchase from us and if she has any overdue payments.

In addition to having access to QuickBooks customers data directly from within ACT! we also have the ability to update Chris's contact information directly without the need to switch to QuickBooks and re-enter the updated contact details, in doing so we have reduced the amount of data entry work required to maintain both sets of data.

Furthermore when we get a new customer added into our CRM system we no longer need to re-enter their details twice, we can simply push a button in ACT! and create a record for our new customer in Quickbooks in real time!

One of the other benefits of having an integrated CRM & Accounting system is the ability to provide sales staff with controlled access to some accounting functions, for example if your sales team needs to raise estimates or invoices for a customer then they can do that without having direct access to the accounting system, there is no need to write the estimate on a piece of paper or email it to the accountant, it can be created directly from within ACT! where your sales team spend most of their time working from.

The two scenarios above highlight the benefits of having the ability to communicate across different systems within the organization, the benefits can be summarized by the following:

  • Reduction or even elimination of duplicate data entry procedures, having to re-enter the same information across different systems is a time consuming process the time spent on duplicate entry of data can be better utilized elsewhere.
  • Streamlining your business process work flow, connected systems provide your staff with the ability to meet customers demands on time in a very efficient manner this in turn results in having an increased customer satisfaction, a satisfied customer is one who is more likely to do business with you again than an un-satisfied customer.
The above is just an example of what can be achieved by having integrated systems within your business, there is a lot more to cover than this, feel free to list your comments or ask any questions that you may have, you can contact us at or you can follow us on twitter, we are more than happy to answer your questions in any way we can.

If you currently have ACT and would like to download a trial copy of our QuickBooks link then you can visit our products page here , you also purchase a copy of the QuickBooks link by visiting our online store

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Integrating CRM and Accounting systems , Part 1

In a previous post we talked about CRM Systems in general and the benefits associated with implementing a CRM database and a CRM process within any business environment.

Today we will be talking about  the benefits associated with enabling your CRM database to talk to other databases in your organization, we will be specifically talking about integrating CRM databases with Accounting databases.

To demonstrate the integration process we will be using the ACT! CRM system and the QuickBooks Accounting system, through the use of our own Accounting link for ACT! and QuickBooks we will provide practical examples and highlight the benefits associated with integrating your office databases together.

Part 1 of this Article will cover the concept of Integration while Part 2 will provide a walk through showing the integration in action.


Within a typical business it is possible to have a number of disconnected databases each serving a specific purpose, some of these databases however may share the same information (e.g. Customers and Contact details).

Within such environments there is a need to enter and maintain the same information across the different databases within the business, for example if the business captures a new customer, their details will need to be entered in the CRM database and also in the Accounting database (so you can bill them etc.).

The same customer will have different types of data stored against their record(s) within the two databases above, the CRM database will be used to track that customer's communication history and anything that is not considered quantifiable data.

On the other hand the accounting system will be used to record the customer's transactions, generate sales invoices and ensure the customer is paying his/her bills on time etc.

Looking at the above we can immediately identify an issue, Dual entry of data , every time the business acquires a new customer their information need to be recorded in the CRM database and the accounting database. On top of that if the customer decided to change their contact details then the changes will need to be applied twice.

With disconnected databases this can pose an issue, what if the customer changed their contact details and the changes were not made across the board? What if the accounting system kept the old billing address?

Another thing to consider, from time to time your staff might need access to information which is not typically available to them, for example your sales and marketing staff may require real time access to a customer's transactions history, within a disconnected environment your sales staff might not have direct access to your accounting system and for them to get the information they need your accountant will need to be involved.

With many small businesses there are usually one or two accountants present and most of them work part time, what happens when a customer calls asking about the status of an order or to make sure if an invoice has been paid? what if your accountant was not present at the time and the customer was asked to call again next week when the accountant comes in on Tuesday? Many customers will not consider this as an example of a Responsive business and would prefer to deal with businesses who can give them what they need right there and right now.

Last but not least your staff might require access to certain business functions which are not available to them directly, for example consider the process of raising quotes or invoices, when a customer calls asking for a quote or an invoice your sales staff will need access to an up to date pricing list for whatever Items / Services your  business has on offer, in addition when a quote is generated it will need to be passed to the accountant manually in order for it to get converted into an order and from there into an invoice.

In a disconnected environment your sales staff might be depending on pricing lists entered in a spreadsheet or they might have the information written on a piece of paper! the problem which arises from here is that these price lists might not always be up to date since the source data can be changed and it could take sometime before the price lists are updated.


Having your internal business systems communicate with each other can give your business and your staff a number of advantages these advantages are the following:
  • Reduction or even elimination of Dual, Triple or even Quadruple entry of data thus saving time and minimizing data entry errors.
  • Providing your staff with the information they need when they need it thus allowing them to provide a higher level of service to your clients and helping in ensuring customer satisfaction.
  • Streamlining your business process work flow thus enable your business to become more agile and ensuring that your staff can respond to your customers needs in the best way they can.

 This concludes part one of our Integration Article, feel free to comment on this topic and make sure to stay tuned for Part 2, you can follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with our blog posts.

If you currently have ACT and would like to download a trial copy of our QuickBooks link then you can visit our products page here , you also purchase a copy of the QuickBooks link by visiting our online store.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Measuring Business performance through CRM

These days any business be it large or small is expected to have a repository for recording information about its customers, some businesses use whatever is on hand such as their Email software address book, a spreadsheet or maybe a combination of the two.

Other businesses however take this concept to the next level and record their customers information in a properly designed database (be it an off the shelf CRM system or a database built from the ground up).

Having your data stored in a proper CRM system gives you access to a wealth of information which you can utilize to measure the overall performance of your business, whether its done through the use of reports , Dashboards or even by eye balling your database records, as long as your data is accurate and as long as it is being updated consistently then you should be able to measure your business’s performance with very little trouble.

So why is this important? The answer is simple, in order for your business to achieve growth you need to be able to see where you are at now in order to be able to setup a growth target and formulate a plan to hit that target.

Without an accurate view of your current state it is very difficult to determine the best way to move forward and this day and age if a business does not keep on moving forward then it will simply loose out to the competition.

With all of that in mind, one might wonder where does CRM fit in this picture? the answer is simple, most CRM systems excel at keeping track of the business sales funnel history and tracking the day to day business activities (e.g. Sales Calls, internal meetings, client meetings etc).

In terms of sales performance tracking, CRM systems introduce the concept of Sales & Opportunities (Sales Opps for short). Sales Opps encompass a process which can be defined by the business, for each Sales Opportunity the process can go through multiple stages, with each stage the sales person in charge of managing a particular opportunity can update its status and probability of closure (e.g. 80% chance this opportunity would result in a sale or 45% chance this opportunity will be lost to a competitor).

As a result, with all of this information being recorded, business analysts can draw on this data to see how their business is performing in terms of sales, it becomes very easy to answer such questions as “How many sales have we lost to a competitor?” and more importantly “Why did we lose X number of sales to a competitor??” Or “Why did X number of customers did not like using one of our products?”

On the other side of the coin, you can use CRM to measure your internal business performance, most CRM systems provide the tools to manage and schedule daily activities, you can usually customize the types of activities and track their outcomes (e.g. a Sales Call to a Prospect was made or a Meeting with a client was cancelled etc).

Say you wanted to setup a number of KPIs to determine if the business is performing as it should, your sales team might need to make at least 4 Sales Calls per day, your On the road staff might need to do at least 3 product demonstrations per week. By providing your staff with the tools to record all of this information you ensure that you are always up to date on how close or far the business is from meeting its performance targets.

This knowledge can greatly assist in the decision making process when it comes to working out how your business should adjust in order to meet its performance targets.

The above is just a fraction of what you can do with CRM in order to keep on top of what is going on within your business, we hope this article has given you insight into the power of CRM and how it can help you take your business to the next level.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to know more about CRM in general then feel free to contact us or visit our website at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tips for choosing the right CRM system.

In our previous Post We talked about CRM systems and processes in general, today we will be talking about what you should keep in mind prior to implementing a CRM system in your business.

If you do a web search on CRM systems you will undoubtedly end up with a long list of results each pointing to a different product, so which one would fit you best? which product can give you the best value for your money? why would product A be better than product B? these questions and more can be answered by keeping some key points in mind.

The following is a small set of tips that aim to assist you in the decision making when process when deciding on which CRM package to go for.

  • Implementation Cost, some would say that this is a very obvious thing to keep in mind, How much will a CRM system cost to implement? Well the other thing to keep in mind when looking at cost is to not ignore the added value of the system (i.e. How much will implementing a CRM system is going to save the business in the long term?).

    It is a very good idea to review the added value of implementing a CRM system against the cost of implementing it and making a decision based on that, making a decision on cost alone could knock some potential systems off the list.

  • Vendor Reputation and Product Popularity, Who is behind the system you are looking at? how popular is the product? what do existing users of the system think about the Vendor and the system itself? how long has the Vendor and the product been around for?

    You should always make sure to find an answer to the above questions, a well known and established product is likely to be more robust than a system which just came out, Vendors who have been around for a long time are less likely to disappear into thin air few months down the track.

  • Ease of use, How easy to use is the product? this is very important, having a streamlined , easy to use interface is crucial to any successful CRM system, your staff will be using CRM in their every day work activities, the easier and the more intuitive the system is the more productive your staff are going to be.

    Having systems with counter-intuitive work flow, clunky and over crowded interfaces tend to cause a loss of productivity because your staff will spend most of their time trying to get the information they need rather than getting on with their work.

  • Can the system be configured to suit your needs? with CRM there is no One size fits all solution, every business has its own specific requirements , a good CRM system is one which can be easily adapted to meet today’s highly complex and ever changing requirements.

    A simple example on the above would be the ease at which the Customer’s entity within a CRM database can be modified, maybe the business wants to add a new set of fields to store information about their Customers cars, a good CRM system would provide its admin users with the tools to do so, on the other hand locked down systems would have you contacting the vendor in order for them to implement the changes (which can be a costly and time consuming process).

  • Interactivity and Connectivity with your existing business systems, in today’s world a typical business would use a plethora of software packages and systems to do what needs to be done, Email clients, Word Editing software  Spread sheets and accounting systems are some examples of what you would find running in a typical business environment.

    When looking at a CRM package consider how well it can connect to your commonly used software systems (e.g. Email and Word Processing software) , having a system which can integrate well into your other office software means that you can do your business without having to jump all over the place since everything is connected together, thus saving you time and adding value.

  • Mobility and information sharing, this is a big one, these days a business can operate from all over the world, you can have branches in different continents, Sales Teams operating in different countries, business managers going all over the place on weekly basis etc, your staff need to have instant access to their data no matter where they are.

    With regards to CRM systems you want to consider the above and how well does a CRM package meet the demands of today’s highly mobile business force, some of the things to keep in mind are
    Mobile Connectivity , Web Based Access and Synchronized Databases

    If a CRM system does not offer any of the above options then chances are your on the road staff will have a hard time trying to get the information they need to do their job thus impacting their productivity in a negative manner.

The above is just a sample of what to keep in mind when choosing the right CRM package for your business, we hope this article has given you the information needed to assist you in your decision making process.

If you would like to know more about CRM systems and the CRM process in general then feel free to contact Xact Software Solutions, we will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CRM, What is it? and why would your business need it?

If you are reading this post then chances are you have come across the term CRM before and would like to know more about what it means, CRM is an acronym for Contact Relationship Management , the term is generally used to reference CRM software which can be thought of as databases for storing your customers and contacts information, that however is merely the tip of the iceberg.

CRM is not just about software, CRM is about process, it is about how a business deals with its customers. Here at Xact software we consider CRM to be a pillar of a strong business foundation,  we believe that for a business to experience success then it needs to strongly consider how it manages its relationships with its customers (both current and future).

Software aside, CRM can be thought of as a system or a collection of processes within a business or an organization, these processes can be used to maintain contacts information and to track all relevant communication between the business and its customers.

One might ask Why? .... why would you want to do any of that? Well, this question can be answered on multiple levels, here is a simple breakdown of why it is important for a business to keep and track information about their customers:

  • Providing a higher level of service, by knowing more about your customers needs your business is equipped with the knowledge needed to respond to your customers queries in a timely and professional manner.

  • Providing the right product to the right customer, by keeping track of your customers preferences you are given the advantage of knnowing or at least anticipating what they want out of a given product or a service, this knowledge can assist your business in targeting the right customers when launching a new product or a service.

  • Keeping in touch, maintaining a strong relationship with your customers shows that you care about them, customers are more than likely to do business again with businesses that show interest in their needs and who strive to provide the highest quality of service.

  • Keeping everyone in the business on the same page, this is a very important point and it builds upon everything before it, when everyone within your business knows what they need to know your business will not suffer if one of the sales reps is out for the day and their prospective customer calls asking about the status of a quote that is in the works.

  • Measuring business performance, If everyone in your business is doing their job correctly and they’re feeding the business’s CRM database with the correct information then managers and business analysts can tap into an invaluable resource to analyze and report on how the business is performing. 

    For example you can analyze the rate of Lead to customer conversions, why some prospects chose to go with a competitors product Or how quick does your staff respond to customers enquiries.

The above is just a sample of why a business would need to implement CRM as part of its day to day operations, you can summarize the above in two words Competitive Advantage , a business using a CRM system has the advantage over a business which does not (you can see why from the above easily) , CRM is a very powerful tool, used correctly it can greatly help in taking your business to the next level.

There is a lot more that can be gained from using a CRM system in your business, we will be covering that more in depth in future articles so stay tuned for future posts and make sure to follow us on twitter at