CRM-ERP Integration

Interoperability Across Enterprise Applications

Updated: September 29, 2014

CRM-ERP Integration

When it comes to business, information is power, and power equal success. Sales representatives and managers need to have a complete database on leads and customers, while administrative and logistics personnel need to be able to track costs, accounting, human resources, and inventory. Problems arise when there is no synchronicity between these disparate, yet equally important, parts of a company.

To streamline the business process and allow critical business information to be shared throughout the entire organization, most successful businesses rely on Enterprise Resource Planning software, in order to integrate the myriad departmental functions into one complete, all-encompassing system.

Information about customers and leads is typically handled in the software that comprises a Customer Relationship Management system, commonly referred to as a CRM. A CRM will store contact information, appointments, a customer's order history and preferences, upsell possibility, and a plethora of other information that is invaluable to anyone involved in the sales process.

An Ongoing Problem

Sales personnel are always looking for the next tool or system that can assist them in their jobs. There are a number of CRM programs and services that are available from various developers, and every few years, the matrices are tweaked and a "new and improved" version is created. This is where difficulties can arise.

Often, an existing, or "legacy" CRM can be found to be incompatible with a recently-developed ERP, causing a logistical nightmare throughout the organization. Even in the best case, there can often be a level of redundancy between the two systems, and in the worst case, multiple entries of the same information can mean a higher likelihood of human error.

Although many developers of CRM and ERP programs include patches that will seamlessly merge the specific CRM information into the larger whole of the ERP, this is not universal. It is often necessary to use the software or services of a third-party entity to oversee the integration process.

The Importance of Integration

If the information from the separate databases can be successfully merged, then many common business processes can be automated. This automation will in turn promote increased data accuracy, streamline both the sales and the shipping process, and greatly smooth the path that began at the point-of-sale, came into fruition when the customer took delivery, and continues with after-the-sale support and service.

The Keys to a Successful Integration

Depending upon the particular CRM and ERP programs used, the step-by-step process will differ in each individual case. However, there are a few critical actions that need to occur during any successful and efficient integration in order for a business to maximize the efficacy of that integration.

For example, it is true that both the CRM and the ERP contain contact information, but the particulars of that information and how it is used will vary between the two. The CRM system will contain contact information about the customer that is often different from the billing and shipping data. In some cases, an individual customer's personal contact information may be needed by the sales force, but that information is not appropriate to include on a shipping label or bill of larder.

To alleviate any conflicts or confusion, a successful integration will be flexible enough to account for special instructions and circumstances, the particular details of individual customers, and the need for customizable data fields.

Secondly, it is often beneficial to have product information fully incorporated into the ERP. This means that the processes of the CRM, when fully integrated into the ERP, are able to grant access about products and materials to the sales force. Sales personnel should be able to easily view, and perhaps even order from supply and material bills.

However, one caveat could possibly apply – if the ERP contains a large number of products, the CRM component needs to have a tiered accessibility where specific actions must be taken to view the complete inventory. This step is necessary if sales quoting is to stay within the realm of practicality. Otherwise, both the sales professional and a customer can be overwhelmed by a morass of information and products that may be irrelevant to the particular situation.

Lastly, a successful integration will allow sales representatives to stay up-to-date with the status of an order or an invoice during all stages of the process. The integrated system should create and order/invoice from the time the customer agrees to the purchase, and from there, that order should be able to be easily tracked during each link of the sales, supply, and delivery chain.

Using the information created during the CRM component, a salesperson needs to have the ability to check if an order has been received by logistics, filled, or shipped, including such information as tracking numbers and expected delivery date. The ability to access this information allows the sales force to keep anxious customers apprised and satisfied. A happy customer is a repeat customer.

Properly done, the integration of a company's CRM into its ERP can help that company greatly improve customer satisfaction while at the same time increasing cost-effectiveness and profitability.

Want to learn more? Check out our infographic: Interoperability Across Enterprise Applications