Why should you use a CRM System?

What is a CRM System?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and the basic reason for any business to use a CRM system is to help manage business communications. Still, Contact can be used instead of Customer to change the mindset to a business tool rather than a sales tool. The simple core of any CRM system is about maintaining a record of contact with people with who you communicate and the core of your communications is with your customer. There is a benefit to bringing all communication with customers, suppliers, and partners into a single view for your business. The system collects the flow of data within your business and displays the data all in one place.

The power of CRM Systems

Many CRM systems have the core records for Customer and Contact but we like to think of customers as Account to allow for flexibility in the relationships being tracked. The Account is the business, and you can store information about the business there. The stored information would include turnover, sector, size, website, address, and any other information that you feel appropriate. The Contact records are the people who you have contact with and they are associated with an Account or Accounts. The Contact record will hold information about the person, things like their email address, mobile number, and title as they are specific to the person. In the case of the Account, you may wish to store additional information specific to the person which may include linkages to other people in their or other businesses.

The real power of a CRM system is that you can keep a record of the calls, emails, meetings, and tasks that you have with your business Contacts and allow these to be shared within the team. CRM systems should fit naturally within your business processes with activities being filed against the person automatically to create a history of contact. CRM systems should allow activities to be forward planned so you do not forget that promised follow-up call. You should be able to assign tasks to different people within your team and keep track of their progress.

What CRM System works for you?

There are literally 1,000s of CRM systems on the market but which should you choose and why are there so many? The main challenge in implementing any CRM system into a business process is that these processes change from one business in one sector but also between sectors. Whilst there are common business processes like sales and support that businesses can follow across any sector; we find that every business has its own nuances of that process and some unique processes of its own. In addition to different processes, each sector and business will need to capture its own unique data. Managing this unique data can be made simpler as there are CRM systems for sectors, specific processes, and even for system integration so flexibility is key to any decision process when choosing a CRM system.

You may have also heard of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. ERP systems are holistic data systems that typically include finance and manufacturing. The more popular choice for many businesses is to choose to keep the system to sales and support and as a result, just focus on CRM.

Integration of your CRM System

We often take recommendations from other businesses of what they use and whilst they may be in the same sector, their data systems and processes may be different and so the same CRM system may not work for your business. Another area where we find CRM system selection is becoming more challenging is integration with other data systems and more businesses are consuming cloud-based data services. To capitalise on the data sharing, the chosen CRM system must easily integrate with your existing or planned data systems.

We would advocate that you look for a CRM system that offers no less than 60% of your core functionalities with little implementation effort. The balance of your requirements will be met through either more complex implementation work in the CRM system or through you adapting your business processes to align with the CRM system. The level of implementation works will dictate the implementation cost and the delivery timescale. Keeping this in mind, you should choose a partner who can demonstrate knowledge and experience in your chosen CRM system, this is so they may assist with aligning your business and the new system.

Free and paid CRM Systems

Very good CRM systems are out there that offer free plans like SugarCRM, ZohoCRM, HubSpot-CRM, Capsule, Monday-CRM, and Freshworks-CRM. Nonetheless, these CRM systems usually come with restrictions on the number of contacts, users, or terms with the step up to the next level being high. In addition to the paid-for plans for the free services, you can choose CRM systems like Salesforce, Dynamics 365, NetSuite, Sage, and SAP. Whilst many would consider these being too expensive, they offer higher levels of customisation and easy integration. However, they do have more complex licensing models and as a result, may seem more expensive but this may not turn out to be the case.

Some CRM Systems that have been mentioned in the blog.

In conclusion

We advocate that CRM systems are not and should not be your business process. They should form a critical part of your business processes with you choosing how much of those processes that you want to be driven by the CRM system. We would suggest that the tighter your business processes are aligned and managed by the CRM system then the greater the efficiency you can achieve, this may compromise flexibility and will probably increase delivery and ongoing cost.

If you’re interested in talking about CRM systems or interested in how we can assist with a Dynamics 365 CRM system implementation, then please get in touch.

This blog was written by our Managing Director, David Massey.

The Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Introducing Multi-Factor Authentication

With an ever-increasing number of malicious attackers in the cyber world, industry standards and recommendations change more frequently than ever. Both corporate and consumer businesses need to look deeper into securing their data, that’s where Multi-Factor Authentication (referred to as MFA onwards) comes into action. MFA is a set of measures enabled to help users protect their accounts whether it be for banking accounts or documents or anything of value. A common form of MFA is a text message with a code sent to a mobile number which can then be entered on a computer or mobile device to confirm a login attempt. Other common methods are time-based codes for each account shown through an app (known as an authenticator app). Alternatively, biometrics such as fingerprints or voice/face recognition can also be used. A helpful feature of MFA is that, within a short period of time, using MFA once will allow the user to log in to valuable apps and documents without the need to use MFA every time. However, this will only work for a short period of time and eventually, the user will need to confirm a login attempt with MFA.

A white laptop showing a green skull and crossbones, two magnifying glasses highlight green fingerprints on the screen of the laptop.

MFA is important

Nowadays the majority of people use passwords or PIN combinations to guard their phones, computers or data. Whilst this provides security by narrowing access to people who know the password or PIN this often proves to be insufficient.  Frequently people be will use either a single or handful of passwords that they can remember across all their accounts. Security-wise this is a danger by itself as it would only take one or two accounts to be breached to get access to potentially everything that a user has access to. By enabling MFA there is always an additional factor for security.

Let’s say that a password is found out by a malicious actor and they attempt to log in, if text message codes were enabled, the owner of the account would receive a code on their phone. By seeing the code appear whilst knowing that no login attempt was made by them, it is a safe assumption that the password was compromised and should be changed. In the same scenario, if prompted to scan a fingerprint then the only way for the bad actor to gain access would be with the consent and participation of the account owner.

A stream of blue energy wrapping around a padlock and fingerprint icon. Someone’s hand is pressing on the fingerprint icon.

What we recommend

It is always highly advisable to prioritise password length over complexity, the more letters and characters in place, the more secure the password. With all that said there’s always a potential inconvenience to users when their usual behaviour of passwords with rememberable words or events is changed to lengthy and ambiguous characters. Increasing password length is always a good way to go, however, it is still a single line of defence, if it becomes known there are no other means of preventing access.

MFA helps end-users by providing more flexible criteria for creating passwords. They can use something they can reasonably remember and only have to spend a little more than a handful of seconds on going through the first login steps. With an example of time-based codes from an app, the user would just type their rememberable password of 12 or more characters, take their phone, open an authenticator app (e.g. Google Authenticator) and enter a short 6-8 digit code. As a result of spreading the login process across at least two methods of authentication, the user can use relatable passwords which they are a lot less likely to forget and can keep their accounts secure.

If you would like to know more about Multi-Factor Authentication, please contact us at info@theapprenticestore.co.uk or call us on +44(0)1463 572042.

This blog was written by Flynn Liepins, our IT Support Apprentice.

A guide to Microsoft 365 licences

a guide to Microsoft 365 licencing

Microsoft 365 Licensing for Businesses

Microsoft 365 is a suite of cloud-based applications for your business. Microsoft offers a wide range of subscriptions to businesses, but it is sometimes hard to tell what is suitable for your needs. In this blog post, we’ll talk through the small business offerings, what’s included in them and why you would choose one over the other.

Note that Microsoft’s licensing changes over time. The information provided here is accurate at the time of writing (15th October 2021).

Microsoft 365 Business Basic

This is Microsoft’s entry-level offering. It grants you access to:

  • Business class email services with a custom domain (@yourcompany.com)
  • Office online applications (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more!)
  • 1TB (1024GB) of OneDrive storage per user
  • Access to SharePoint online
  • Full features of Microsoft Teams

There may be some jargon in there if you’re new to Microsoft 365, so here we’ll explain that a little more below. Feel free to scroll past this part if you’re already versed in the Microsoft cloud applications.

Office Online

Office applications such as Word and Excel can run in the browser. They are very similar to those you get on a desktop. There are some features that are unsupported, but light usage users can get by using these, so long as a sufficient Internet connection is in place.

OneDrive

Is effectively cloud storage like Dropbox, Box or Google Drive if you have ever used these services before. The data you store can be accessed via a web browser or through your file explorer if you have the data synchronisation client installed.

SharePoint

SharePoint is also cloud storage but with a focus on teamwork and collaboration. While you would typically use OneDrive for storing your own personal files, and ad-hoc sharing of files with others, SharePoint acts as a defined space for shared data. You could store all your shared data in one library, like a server file share. However, we encourage using the modern features of SharePoint such as sites, where you can have your own dedicated spaces for projects, departments, or teams but SharePoint does far more than file storage.

Now, this is defined, let’s look at some of Microsoft’s other offerings.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard

One step up, it includes all features from Business Basic with the addition of:

  • Desktop apps
  • Microsoft Bookings

The main difference is desktop apps. Users won’t experience the limitations of running apps like Word in a browser, they can now have it installed on their computer. In total, they can install it on up to 5 devices that the licensed user uses, such as other computers, phones or tablets.

Another feature in Standard is Microsoft Bookings. This is an online booking service that allows customers to book time with you through your website (once configured). It can then be managed through the bookings portal and your own Outlook calendar which is great for allowing people to book in your busy calendar to reduce emails to find a hole to align busy diaries.

Microsoft 365 Apps for Business

Perhaps you already have a server for your shared data, an email system you don’t want to change and all you want is the latest copy of Microsoft Office. This plan is for you, it only includes:

  • Desktop apps
  • 1TB (1024GB) of OneDrive storage per user

Summary

Here is a matrix to help you choose what small business license to buy.

LicenseDesktop AppsOnline AppsPersonal Cloud Storage (OneDrive)Shared Cloud Storage (SharePoint)Email Services (Exchange)
Microsoft 365 Business StandardXXXXX
Microsoft 365 Business Basic XXXX
Microsoft 365 Apps for Business XX  

If you have any questions, please contact us!