How can I allow sales staff access to some, but not all, our financials?

We currently run separate sales and accounts databases. My new sales director wants our sales staff to be able to see accounts information along with customer records, and past purchasing history. How can we do this, how much hassle will it be and what will the benefits be? Also I feel uncomfortable having our finances visible to our sales team — how can I get round this?

A. Veda Snyman of Microsoft Business Solutions writes:

The benefits of being able to see financial information next to customer records are potentially great. Better customer knowledge is proven to lead to better sales. This is the basic premise of customer relationship management (CRM) and financial information is a cornerstone of this. The ‘hassle’ will depend on company size, industry, existing processes, types of database and other existing systems, so it is impossible to give a real idea in terms of time or cost. Security access can be built in to whatever level is required, meaning that your core financial information remains secure. This is a decision not to be taken lightly, or without proper thought and planning, so qualified advice, based on qualified information, is the best way to proceed. The tone of the question indicates a certain scepticism, towards change. This is an unhealthy start point for any IT undertaking. Short term hassle should not get in the way of a process which can help you achieve longer term business objectives. Buy-in and on-going commitment are critical from all involved in the process and this, combined with a lack of strategic planning, is where IT implementations often fall down. So you should step back and think what you want to achieve in your business, look at the processes you use to support this strategy, and the technology that underpins them. This project could and should form part of a proper review of the IT require-ments and should be structured accordingly. The potential business benefits are great, but only when you begin to consider IT as strategically important to your business and integrated with your business processes.


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