The right third-party add-on solution could provide your CRM and ERP distribution software with increased functionality and flexibility.
Third-party technology providers offer specialized features outside of the general framework of most ERP distribution software or CRM systems. Such providers typically develop products (often referred to as “add-ons” or “bolt-ons”) for specific industries or purposes, often because they’re experts in those areas, such as warehouse management or business intelligence.
As experts, these providers are able to help distributors get more out of their technology systems. Of course, you need to make sure you do your homework and choose the right third-party product for your business. Here are five key questions to ask when evaluating such solutions.
- Does it meet your needs as a distributor?
While it seems obvious, this is a critical part of the product evaluation process. It’s your responsibility to define the key requirements and identify products that meet most (if not all) of those needs.
- How many customers and products does the provider have?
Any third-party add-ons you’re considering should have at least a couple of hundred installations — the more the better. Find out how long the provider has been in business and see what other products it supports. You want to know whether it’s dependent on one product or if its offerings are diverse. It’s usually a good sign if the provider has teams that are developing multiple products.
- Does the product have seamless integration with your ERP or CRM system?
That’s a critical feature. Some products only work with specific ERP and CRM systems. It’s important to determine whether the product integrates with the system you have. If you need to import and export data, there isn’t seamless integration. At the very least there should be no more than a simple, one-click step to gain that type of functionality.
- How much does it cost?
Price is always an important aspect. You’ll need to carefully determine whether the product is affordable for your business and provides a good return on investment.
- What is the provider’s reputation in your industry?
Inquire about customer referrals and find out if there are any serious issues with the product, service or provider. It’s also a good idea to ask to view the support page. This would allow you to see what problems other customers are experiencing and how those issues are being resolved. Keep in mind that every product is going to have some issues; don’t expect perfection. However, you should be able to get a sense of the types of issues and whether they’re addressed in an expedient manner.
Business intelligence and analytics are becoming very popular add-on products for CRM and distribution ERP software systems. Barcoding and warehouse management are also in demand by distributors. But before you purchase any third-party add-on, be sure to clearly define your needs, and then use the five questions above as a guideline for identifying the right solution for your organization.