Have you hit a brick wall with your CRM system? We adopt tools like CRM and spreadsheets to solve a problem, until we discover they create yet another silo of information in the business. And when it comes to turning orders into cash, these silos just slow you down.

We’ve all been there, copying data out of one system to paste into another. Often spreadsheets become the glue of most businesses, bridging data between departments. Its natural to make do with an approach like this, it’s works, kind of. It works because the people in your business know the steps and tricks needed. It works as long as someone doesn’t overwrite that formula in the excel.

And maybe you put up with it because you believe there isn’t a system that can handle the whole process.
But apart from the inevitable errors, and the wasted time, the bigger problem is that a ‘Franken-system’ can’t give you the reliable information needed to get control, never mind serve customers better and grow your business.

Don’t get me wrong, basic systems and spreadsheets are great when you need something fast and flexible to capture and work on data. They don’t care what you’re asking them to do, but that flexibility also means risks. Typically one person knows how the spreadsheet really functions, if they leave, they take that knowledge with them.

These systems typically fail because they don’t bring your people and processes together.

  • Are you wasting time and money fixing inaccurate order details?
  • Are you quoting off the latest cost prices to calculate margins effectively?
  • Are you working off correct stock levels or scrambling to buy to meet customer promises?
  • Are you in the dark about sales forecasts and planning fulfilment and production?
  • Are your competitors serving customers faster?
  • Do you feel in control of the information that drives your business?

CRM systems have evolved to support more than just contact data and sales pipeline reports.

Software is now available that handles the steps of the order process in one seamless flow:

* Create Quotations (create accurate quotes in seconds, rather than minutes)

* Set follow-up reminders (ensure you don’t lose a sales by simply forgetting about it)

* Generate orders, dispatch and invoices automatically (less time copying and pasting)

* Integrated Bills of Materials and Purchasing (stop re-keying data between orders and production jobs)

* Built-in Inventory management (real time visibility of stock)

* Production and serial numbering (integrate order data with job cards for effective stock management)

* After-sales servicing and job tracking linked to the product sold and the customer record.

* integration with your accounts software

Take Control

Joined up thinking like this puts SME businesses, managers and owners back in control. It creates visibility across the business. It reduces wasted time on manual, repetitive tasks. It gives peace of mind that nothing can be missed. And it creates a platform for growth.

Don’t ‘make do’ any longer.

CRMs should no longer fail your business, because they have evolved to support your entire business process. At Flowlens, we’ve seen customers reduce their order processing time by over 50% with our joined-up cloud software. This means that our customers get paid faster, with fewer errors.

For more information on how to select a CRM for your business, download our free ebook.

Flowlens works alongside your existing accounting package. This means you can stick with what you know (and save the money you’ve invested already), whilst adding a powerful suite of management tools to help your business grow.

Flowlens is a modular SME cloud software system that manages sales, stock, purchasing, production and after-sales service. Flowlens integrates with Sage 50 & 200, Quickbooks Online, Kashflow and Xero.

With modules starting at £149 per month for 5 users, Flowlens is highly affordable for SMEs looking to grow.

Flowlens helps you avoid duplicating work, and rekeying data. So, Flowlens integrates with your accounts software to pass through sales order invoices and approved purchase invoice data automatically. This saves time, and avoids rekeying errors.

How Does It Work?

All tasks associated with managing sales orders, purchases and stock movements/taking are handled in Flowlens.
You accounts package remains the master for creating your monthly and annual accounts, and other functions such as payroll. Flowlens Stock and Project reporting tools can also provide you with a current Work In Progress and Stock values to be added into management accounts when required.

Benefits of integrating your accounts package

Keep the system you are familiar with.

Many businesses have invested their time and money in an accounts package. By integrating with Flowlens you will enhance this investment rather than having to start from scratch as with most ‘all in one’ systems.

Minimise License Costs and Control Access to Sensitive Info

Many businesses try to use their accounts software to do jobs they weren’t designed for. This usually means giving more staff access to the system, increasing license costs and/or risking sensitive business data being accessible. By integrating with Flowlens your staff will have access to purpose built tools to do their job, limiting access to relevant information only.

Grow at your own pace

By keeping your existing accounts package, you are maintaining a solid and familiar foundation for your business. Your finance team, and accountancy practice will be familiar with your setup. Flowlens offers a modular ‘flow and grow’ subscription service which lets you gradually adopt features and add more users as required. This lets you focus on top priorities, without paying for, or getting distracted by less important features.

How does integration work?

As part of our Customer Success implementation service, we we work with you to setup the integration with your accounts system. Each accounts package has it’s own integration process. We take care to guide you through this process to help you ensure accurate and consistent transfer of information between the systems.

Learn more about Flowlens’ user friendly business tools, or Request a Demo.

Accountants! Do you provide cloud accountancy advice and services to your clients? Flowlens lets you expand the potential of modern accounting products. We’re eager to partner with practices who want to help their clients grow and streamline their businesses. Please contact us to learn more.

We built Flowlens in response to SME customers who needed an easy to use, ERP-CRM toolkit to help them grow.

Our customers may be small, but they think big. They make, refurbish, supply and service all kinds of tangible assets. From industrial plant & machinery, to ATVs, to street furniture, to intricate aerospace components, and even buildings.

We are proud of the range of industries and applications our product supports. But what’s the one thing they all have in common?

They all want to GROW!

They want to grow their turnover. They want to grow their profitability. They want to enhance their customer service.

Our customers inspire us with their vision and determination to bring their product to market. They energise us with their passion for their businesses, their products, and their customers. We provide the tools that reduce wasteful manual effort and nurture customers for long term gain.

Our customers have integrated business processes, but the old tools were disjointed, manual and inefficient.

Building a sales pipeline and converting orders. Managing production, stock and operations. Delivering timely and effective customer care. These are too often disjointed, duplicated and inefficient processes. Flowlens unites these business critical functions in one system, removing waste to create an platform for business growth.

Our customers don’t accept the inefficiencies of outdated processes and ‘silo’ thinking.

Our customers don’t accept the inefficiencies of outdated processes and ‘silo’ thinking. They demand tools that nurture leads, convert sales, deliver on promises and develop relationships. They demand reliable business performance information. They demand simplicity, because complexity slows them down.

Our customers may be SMEs, but their vision and capability is huge, and Flowlens provides the tools to achieve that vision.

If you share that drive, determination and vision, we’d be delighted to have you on board. Please shoot me a message at rich@flowlens.com or book a demo.

You might think a new CRM or ERP is the answer to your prayers for greater efficiency, profitability and customer satisfaction. And it probably is. For most SMEs, software is a natural place to go when faced with mounting paper work and duplicating effort.

As a leader in your business, how can you ensure the success of this investment in time and software?

Firstly, ask yourself a few questions…

  • Does your SME have the capacity to adopt a new system while keeping the wheels turning?
  • Have you considered the habits that will need to change to adopt new software into the business?
  • Are your people ready for this change?

Are you prepared to lead from the top and demonstrate how new software will support the business strategy and achievement of its vision?

Start with the goal in mind

What goal will unite your team on the need for change?

Ask your team to identify the activities that slow them down the most. Ask customers what frustrates them the most. Share the pain points that unite you, your team and your customers and you’ve got your shared vision.

This vision provides the catalyst for change, and team buy-in for adopting software to make things better. But remember, adopting CRM or ERP is a both a strategic and cultural decision. And culture drives from the top.

How can you adopt software and lead by example?

As the leader of a business or team, you’ve many priorities. Start small, and focus on managing your own activity. Understand how the software can make your life easier:

  • drive your own sales activity by planning actions with new and existing customers, to generate new sales leads, quotations and orders.
  • streamline your sales process by demonstrating better activity planning, automated quotation creation and order processing.
  • standardise and accelerate your sales pipeline using common terminology, tools and forecasting.

Variations in business processes slow you down and cause confusion for customers. Software is not a sticking plaster, but it does offer a way to standardise processes in your small business, and reduce manual effort.

Show how the tools make your life easier and unlock opportunities, and others will follow.

We’re hiring! The successful Software Tester will be working in a fast paced environment and will be involved in the end to end testing process from requirement review through to defect management. You will work closely with the development team to schedule and manage progress of issues raised from testing, and use your own initiative to ensure that critical issues are flagged and tracked.

We’re building a fully integrated cloud-based CRM and ERP product. Every day presents new and interesting challenges as we deliver functionality that solves problems for SME across sales, marketing, operations, purchasing, and after sales service.

Key Duties:
– Creation and maintenance of test plans and documentation
– Defect tracking and reporting
– Executing manual and automated tests
– Regression testing
– Reviewing project requirements
– Communicating progress back to the Project manager, Developers and Senior Management team as necessary
– Testing and sign-off of all projects before release
– Help to implement and maintain a robust roll-out procedure delivering a high standard of customer service.
– Creation of training manuals and other material
– Carry out training with clients
– Deal with clients on a daily basis

Competencies Required:
– Software testing in a commercial environment
– UI Testing
– Usability testing
– Automated testing tools
– Experience working with relevant operating systems
– Awareness of responsive testing, cross platform.
– Hands on experience with HTML, Java or Ruby on Rails
– Defect tracking/reporting
– Strong technological knowledge
– Customer service and communication skills

Desirable Attributes:
– ISEB/ISTQB certification
– Experience in cloud-based software environment

Must have:
– 2-3 years full time commercial experience
– Experience with issue/task tracking and management

– Salary based on experience
– Role is based at our Belfast HQ

At Flowlens you’ll find a committed and supportive team that is working together to achieve our vision for easy to use, easy to setup and easy to administer business software. Do you want to be part of our success?

Please submit your CV to jobs@flowlens.com

We’ll be exhibiting at SubCon/Advanced Manufacturing, 6-8th June at the NEC, visit us at Stand B47 where we’ll be demonstrating the latest version of our powerful, user-friendly Product Configuration and Quotation tool, which links BOM data directly to stock and production job cards.

Visit the website to register: http://www.subconshow.co.uk/

How to eat the software elephant in your business.

Considering a new software solution for your business? Across our team, we’ve worked on countless software implementations across SME and large companies. In every case the more you prepare, the better the outcome. Prepare and plan your procurement and project implementation with these lessons in mind.

 

Keep your team on board

Cultivate your peopleDifferent people and different departments will have a different outlook on changing systems in your business. You might be ready to drive change and achieve efficiencies, but is the business behind you?

Without team buy-in, short term patience and long term adoption will suffer. The change must be something that is worthwhile in the day to day work that each person carries out.

Some people may not understand how software can enhance their own effectiveness and help the company achieve its goals, but they will be aware of how their own work could be made more efficient. Most people will happily engage in a project that will give them more time for value-added activity, and reduce repetitive chores.

With most people working within a defined function, it can be difficult for them to understand the impact their work as on others. They may even begrudge change that doesn’t impact them, but has huge benefits for customers and profitability.

Get feedback and ideas from across the team and you’ll see greater buy-in.

 

Keep it simple

reduced-complexityMost of us drive cars that are sold in various standard configurations. This standardisation makes it easier for the manufacturer to make, so it costs you less. It’s also cheaper to maintain, as your service mechanic will be familiar with the car.

We accept this simplicity in buying cars, so why not our business systems?

When considering software, we’re tempted to ask for special customisation and changes that suit particular processes that have grown up with the business? These changes cost money to define, build and maintain, and they also impact standard parts of the software, potentially preventing access to improvements the developer is making.

Consider examining your processes to reduce complexity and variability. Then figure out how the streamlined versions could be supported by existing software workflows.

This will have two benefits:

1. The software can be delivered faster ‘out of the box’, so you get a return quicker.
2. Enjoy your faster, leaner processes! (And hassle free updates to your software in the future.)

 

Keep it bite-sized

Measure small stepsCan you eat an elephant in one bite? I thought not, then why would you try implement a new software system in one go?

It’s hard enough to make a change in business whilst keeping customers happy, and orders fulfilled.

Where are the most obvious weaknesses or inefficiencies in your business? Can you implement change here first, and reduce the risk, and free up time to tackle further challenges?

Often companies do not have strong purchasing and stock management processes. This function is relatively easy to bring into a new system, iron out the kinks in parts/materials coding, supplier lists, purchasing practices and goods received.

Another area is sales order processing. Getting orders out faster, means faster time to cash, but in many businesses this involves excessive paperwork. Making it easier for your sales team to secure orders, and you’ve got a clear success story to engage the rest of the business.

 

Keep your accounting package

You’ve probably invested heavily in your current accounting software and infrastructure, yet most software vendors have their own version built into their product.

Automate repetitive tasksWhether it’s a better option or not, you’ve no choice but to force upheaval on the Finance team as well as your Sales and Ops.

Modern cloud solutions are ready and able to integrate with existing software, whether it’s for accounting, marketing or any other purpose.

So now you can keep what is working, and tackle the core challenges that are really holding you back.

 

Keep your data clean

Single version of the truthYour data is the lifeblood of the business. Readiness for a new software system relies on having good data to start. Look at your business KPIs and understand what data is essential to you. Most companies are spending time and money recording data that is no longer relevant or useful. Many also maintain multiple versions of the same data in different business silos.

When you think about your processes, how much legacy data collection and duplication can you remove?

Clean, consistent and relevant parts, customer, products and asset data will make your investment in software more powerful.

 

Keep the customer in mind

What will make your customer happy? Probably clear communication, fast delivery, fair pricing and a quality product.

Are your current processes optimised around your customer goals?

sales-quotation-builderFor example, think about capturing customer requirements in the sales process. Waste and cost often creep in because inaccurate requirements have made it all the way through to production. Worst case, you don’t find out until the wrong configuration has been delivered!

Help your Sales and Operations teams to define available products, options and upgrades. Quote only what you can deliver. Process orders based on an agreed bill of materials. Build only what has been signed off by the customer.

 

In Summary

Start small, solve critical problems and bottlenecks: typically sales order processing, stock management and purchasing involve lots of manual effort. Address these inefficiencies and create time to address wider issues.

Focus on the targetDon’t throw everything out and start again. Modern software can and should talk to each other. Make your existing investments work alongside new functionality.

Standard work makes money – how can you take variability out of your business and actually serve your customers better?

Keep your team on board, focus on the vision and how you will get there together.

Download our free eBook “6 Steps to Smarter Business Operations” to get more practical guidance or book a demo of Flowlens.

Southern Manufacturing is the UK’s largest regional manufacturing technology, electronics and subcontracting exhibition, with thousands of engineering & electronics solutions. We’ll be ready to showcase the capabilities of Flowlens cloud build to order software.

The show is open, 21-23 March 2017:  Tues/Weds 9.30am to 4.30pm, Thurs 9.30am to 3.30pm. Visit us for a demonstration of our time-saving Enquiry to Order, Order to Cash, and Purchase to Pay workflows.

Also, visit the seminar area at 12.30 on Wednesday 22nd to  hear our presentation – “Stop The Silo Thinking – how to integrate your business process for better results.”

Flowlens Enquiry to Order, Order to Cash, and Purchase to Pay

Pre-register at industrysouth.co.uk

We’re exhibiting at the ITShowcase event in Manchester on 14th Feb, taking place at Old Trafford Football Ground.

The event kicks off at 10am, and we’ll be ready to showcase the capabilities of Flowlens software. Visit us for a demonstration of our time-saving Enquiry to Order, Order to Cash, and Purchase to Pay workflows.

Flowlens Enquiry to Order, Order to Cash, and Purchase to Pay

Click here for free tickets.

We’re pleased to be exhibiting at the National Manufacturing & Supply Chain conference and expo, taking place on January 31st at Dublin’s City West Hotel.

The event includes an impressive line-up of manufacturing leaders, academics and government agencies who will engage in a stimulating blend of key note addresses and debates.

We’ll be ready to demonstrate Flowlens’ joined-up and user-friendly software that links Sales, Production, Purchasing and Service.

Click here to learn more and register.

Flowlens Enquiry to Order, Order to Cash, and Purchase to Pay