"Do I need a stand-alone Customer Relationship Management system?" a client recently asked me. "Can't I just use the CRM module that is offered by the vendor of my accounting software? Why can't it all just be in one place?"
Her question seems to be popping up more and more often. It doesn't surprise me. In the 25 years that I've been in the tech industry the companies I work with have been searching for software nirvana: an all-in-one answer. A single application that handles all of their business needs, rather than multiple applications that have to be duct-taped together.
There's good news: software nirvana is quickly approaching. Thanks to the ease of integration and development in the cloud, all-in-one systems are quietly on the rise.
What is "all-in-one?" It's software that not only includes financial and accounting but also all other applications that are important to businesses.
An example of this is Striven. I've known the people behind this software for years and - full disclosure - my company performs some marketing and consulting services for them. For an affordable monthly price, Striven provides its customers with all the sales, accounting, operations and human resources capabilities they need to run their businesses soup-to-nuts.
Striven, of course, is not the only game in town. Zoho is a CRM application my firm sells that is part of a suite of accounting, project management, collaboration and customer service applications which are all integrated together. Conversely, many makers of accounting applications like Microsoft, SAP, Epicor, NetSuite, Sage, Vcita and dozens more have added these same functionalities to their core financial products so that they can provide single solution for businesses, big and small.
My client wants something that's all-in-one. She doesn't want to add yet another software application to her accounting system. She would prefer just to plug in her accounting vendor's CRM module. But, by choosing to go the all-in-one route, she's going to have make some concessions.
For example, it's likely that the CRM module that's provided by her accounting vendor is not as good as the CRM functionality she would get from a mainstream, stand-alone application like Salesforce.com. It's probably lacking in some of the advanced opportunity, sales, marketing and service management features that she would find in a more mature, mainstream CRM platform. Her accounting vendor's CRM module probably doesn't have the developer tools, or community, that would allow it to better integrate with other applications or expand in its functionality.
But you know what? It may be just fine, for Pete's sake. In all likelihood, it will do the primary things that she needs. If she's willing to accept that her company doesn't need advanced functionality or special features, then she's probably good to just go with the additional business modules offered by her accounting software vendor, rather than buying more software from other places.
The benefits of the all-in-one model includes having all of her data in one database with more reliable integration and a one-stop-shop for support and services provided by a single company, rather than relying on different vendors and software providers. She'll also have the same interface for her applications throughout and she won't have to go through the pain and suffering of migrating data to - and learning - a new system.
So is an all-in-one system right for your business? The bottom line is that you're going to have to likely fit your business to the software, rather than the other way around. If you're looking into one of these systems, ask the vendors about customization and integration and be sure to find a good partner to work with. It's very possible that, while not perfect, you'll get more bang for the buck. That's why all-in-one systems are growing in popularity and why that trend will continue into 2020.