CRM and ERP: Perfect partners

Matthew Gibson of HSO helps us to explore the benefits of CRP and ERP integration
Last month we delved into the benefits of enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms; ERP is something that is, generally, thought of as being separate from customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and most businesses would choose between one or the other. Matthew Gibson, Dynamics 365/CRM solutions consultant at HSO, believes that two is – in this case – better than one.
“There was never a palpable case to have both, especially when considering the cost involved in deployment, let alone integration,” he says. “Often, the choice of which system to implement came down to whether the organisation saw its profit drivers as being internally or externally-driven.
“A sales-focused organisation would have usually gained a greater advantage from an external-looking system – a CRM – as most of their interactions involve customer communication. A manufacturer would have chosen the efficiency of its internally-focused systems – in terms of selling a less expensive product with fewer flaws – as more important to its profitability, and opted for ERP.
Matthew says that, historically, even businesses using both didn’t tend to integrate them, thus limiting their functionality.
“Today, all this is changing, driven by increased competition across the business environment. Even previously inward-looking companies – like many manufacturers – are becoming more service-led. In line with this, they are beginning to appreciate the benefits of reacting quickly to market changes and of being in-tune with their customers. As a result, they are starting to see the advantages of CRM and ERP integration.”
Integration is easier than ever, thanks to advances in technology, and organisations are beginning to realise that bringing CRM and ERP together isn’t as costly as they expected – particularly when you factor in the efficiency it can bring which, naturally, saves money in terms of working hours at the very least.
And there are further into benefits to be had by bringing these platforms together, according to Matthew. “Following on from GDPR going live, many organisations remain focused on compliance issues. To be fully aligned with the stipulations of the new regulation, businesses effectively need a single customer view. It is no longer viable for them to have one silo in one place where they maintain records of all their customer e-mails, account executive interaction and customer mailing addresses, for example. This is because, in the post-GDPR world, if a customer contacts the organisation and asks to see all the data they hold on them, or updates their preferences to say, ‘Please don’t contact me again’, many businesses will struggle to carry out appropriate action across all the different data silos they hold.
“This is, arguably, the most topical benefit that CRM and ERP integration delivers, but the most important is the enhanced intelligence and competitive advantage it brings. Poor integration often mitigates against this for businesses. Let’s take a typical scenario that a manufacturer might encounter as an example. ERP is often key to a business like this; it’s where they earn their money and make savings from automating processes like traceability and order management. However, the manufacturer’s marketing team is likely to be using the company CRM data and, if this is not integrated with its ERP system, that may cause problems.
“If, for example, the business asks marketing to set up a campaign for everyone who has ordered a certain product in the last year, this will be difficult to achieve without ERP/CRM integration. To do it, the business would have to ask its ERP team to take time out of their crowded schedules to extract or export the data or create relevant spreadsheets.
“CRM and ERP integration also helps organisations by reducing the need for manual reworks. The mental energy used in repeatedly switching between two different systems is significant. If CRM and ERP are not integrated users will often have to switch between the two, and more potential production time will be lost. The impact in terms of lost morale is likely to be considerable, too, as workers become bored by the mundanity and repetitiveness of the work; employee loyalty will be reduced and staff churn levels rise.”
According to Matthew, businesses the world over are moving away from the perception of needing to choose between these systems. Dealers can boost this increased awareness and use it as a platform for upselling IT solutions to their customers, helping them achieve better operational efficiency, enhanced customer engagement and greater business advantage.
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