The first two mission-critical systems to connect for your digital transformation are enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM ERP integration is important for improving the customer experience and increasing revenue because two separate data systems are connected into one, centralizing data and increasing efficiencies in your organization.
While integrating ERP and CRM has numerous benefits for your organization, not all integrated CRM ERP systems are created equally. When it comes to integrating CRM with ERP, it’s important to follow best practices such as choosing a native cloud-based integrated solution rather than a legacy system so your organization is set up for future success.
In this guide, we’ll help you understand ERP-CRM integration, the benefits of integrating these systems, and best practices for integration.
What Are ERP and CRM?
Before we can dive into the complexities of integrating ERP with a CRM system, it’s important to understand each one individually.
ERP is the software solution used by an organization to automate and support a range of administrative and operational business processes. In simple terms, an ERP solution streamlines critical functions like purchasing, inventory, control, production and financials to improve productivity, efficiencies, and profitability. Examples of ERP are Sage, Infor and Intacct
An ERP system is intended to centralize and optimize back-office operations. For example, using an ERP may help you identify inefficiencies in the manufacturing and production process or keep track of important metrics in the accounting department. Because an ERP both creates and manages business data, it is critical that all of your business data is visible. Unfortunately, much of the incoming data is the result of sales that may be created and managed by a wholly separate system—typically manual spreadsheets or a customer relationship management system.
On the other hand, CRM systems manage the initial relationship with prospects for leads and the process of converting leads to orders by empowering sales and service teams with immediate available-to-promise data, better understanding of margin implications to optimize profitability, move quotes/orders quicker, and set appropriate delivery expectations.
A CRM solution allows you to strategically increase sales and improve customer satisfaction, experience, and loyalty by collecting and leveraging customer data. CRM functionality ranges from sales and marketing to customer service and e-commerce. Simply put, this system handles any customer-facing sales and business interactions. Examples of CRM are Sage & Infor
CRM ERP Integration Data Points
A CRM ERP integration architecture synchronizes common data points to improve organizational visibility in all departments. Here are the most common ERP and CRM data integration points:
- Client and account information
- Customer data
- Product information
- Pricing and discounts
- Sales orders and purchase histories
- Payment information
Simply put, CRM and ERP use the same data, so they should be integrated on a common data platform for one data model across the organization.
The Benefits of ERP and CRM Integration
Now that we’ve explained the definitions of CRM and ERP and the information they share, we’ll discuss the primary benefits of integrating these 2 separate systems into one. By connecting these symbiotic systems you eliminate the previously siloed data and empower your company to access one source of truth across the entire value chain. With a single data model, your business benefits in several ways.
1. Improves Productivity
Because all organizational data is centralized on one platform, an integrated CRM ERP system improves organizational productivity. For example, with separate ERP and CRM systems, a salesperson has to manually enter customer and deal data into their CRM, then another member of the organization has to enter that same data into the ERP system. When ERP and CRM aren’t in sync, data ends up being manually input more than once—wasting time and inviting errors—an inefficiency that costs you money and decreases organizational productivity.
2. Provides a Better Customer Service Experience
With an integrated CRM and ERP system, sales teams can view all customer data on one platform, rather than wasting time looking for customer data in separate systems. When it comes to resolving customer service inquiries, your service reps can access everything that a customer could ask from a single screen, thereby increasing first-call resolutions and shortening the time to respond and resolve inquiries.
3. Increases Sales and Upsells
A CRM is essential for increasing sales, but if you don’t have quick access to product data in your ERP system, it’s more difficult to close sales and upsells. Integrating ERP with CRM gives your service reps all the information they need to service customers and make sales and upsells. Additionally, your sales reps can see if a product is in stock, and see similar products to offer to a customer.
4. Enhances Organizational Decision-Making
With all organizational data in one centralized system, you gain powerful insights into business performance. An ERP System with customizable business KPI dashboards shows business performance in real-time and allows you to spend less time preparing data for analysis and more time analyzing the data. With the ability to draw helpful insights from data, your organization will benefit from enhanced decision-making that will help your organization meet its goals.
Best Practices for CRM ERP Integration
The benefits of integrating CRM and ERP systems are undeniable, but not all integrated ERP CRM systems are ideal for future business success. When it comes to ERP and CRM integration, there are some areas to consider.
Avoid Integrating Legacy ERP and CRM Systems
A legacy ERP or CRM system means that the data in these systems isn’t stored on the cloud but within the system itself. Many manufacturing firms juggle a variety of different systems to run their business, including CRM, sales order processing, design and engineering, product lifecycle management, inventory management, production management, supply chain management, and financial management. To “integrate” these disparate legacy systems, you have to build interfaces to link data between the systems, which then may have to be updated every time one of the multiple applications is updated.
In today’s ever-changing world, having to manually update each application every time a change occurs significantly slows productivity. Making efficient use of a legacy system in today’s digital world is a bit like holding on to your landline phone. You can still talk on the phone but all your friends are texting and instant messaging you. You’re out of the loop!
The pace of doing business is changing rapidly, and if you’re not using the same powerful tools as your competitors, you may start falling behind them. The sad truth is that many legacy systems are called “legacy” for a reason. They are to cloud solutions what the pay phone is to mobile phones–they are a dying breed.
It’s no surprise then that nearly 50% of companies, according to the Technology Evaluation Center, are planning to soon ditch or upgrade their current ERP system for something in the cloud. As for CRM solutions, Dun and Bradstreet estimate that 91% of CRM data is incomplete or duplicated. In either case, are you still betting your company’s success on them–especially if they’re using two different databases?
Inevitably, legacy ERP and CRM solutions lead to limited visibility. If they are not integrated with a common data model, you need to enter the same data into each and then look into each one to get the right data.
Disadvantages of Legacy CRM and ERP Systems
- Missed orders and opportunities: With e-commerce sales expected to leap 16% in 2023, according to Insider Intelligence forecasts, the rate of doing business is quickly accelerating. Legacy systems fail to maintain pace and often cause frustrating delays. Worse yet, effective cross- and upselling opportunities are few and far between, due to inaccurate information.
- Inability to scale: Growing businesses need to spread their wings, but legacy solutions are like ankle weights. Outdated systems are difficult to manage, require excessive maintenance, and often can’t be upgraded easily as your business grows.
- Lack of insight: Because legacy systems don’t provide cross-organizational visibility, you can’t identify inefficiencies. Think about it: If you didn’t have a temperature gauge, how would you know if your engine is overheating—until it’s too late?
For these reasons, Gartner predicts that enterprises will soon see a “blurring of the traditional boundary lines” between ERP and other critical business applications like CRM. In fact, they say that enterprises are starting to focus on a more robust and manageable integration between platforms.
That’s why solutions that are connected on a common data platform are raising the bar making manual integration unnecessary—in fact, obsolete. The result? A more manageable, cohesive, and pain-free experience for your employees, your customers, and your IT staff.
When Choosing a CRM ERP Integration, Opt for a Native, Cloud-Based Solution
The term “native” refers to software written natively to a software platform. Salesforce CRM is the world’s leading CRM and has resulted in the Salesforce Platform where virtually any type of software—like Rootstock ERP—can be written natively on that platform, eliminating the need for integration of any kind. All solutions native to the Platform share the data model and other critical software components like user interface and business process workflows.
Across the board, native applications are faster, more intuitive, and more secure than legacy or integrated solutions. Key to the Salesforce Platform is the common user experience, so once you learn Salesforce, all other applications native to the platform share that same experience. No need to learn a new one.
To understand why native solutions stand out from the rest, it’s easiest to think of the three in terms everyone is familiar with: the telephone system.
You can think of legacy systems as the traditional telephone: big, bulky, and attached to the wall. They were designed for a single intended purpose—to make phone calls—but as referenced above, cannot be “upgraded” to become a mobile phone. In the same vein, legacy systems are tethered—installed in a closet somewhere—and cannot ever become mobile. In essence, you got what you paid for—and that is all.
Remember the first cell phones? You could obviously make phone calls, but in order to text, you had to poke the number keys multiple times to type out letters. They combined phone and text akin to integrating CRM and ERP, but the result was not an effective tool for easy communication.
Native cloud-based systems
Akin to the modern smartphone, native solutions are jam-packed with features that share common functionality. The addition of a camera enables you to not only take pictures, but you can video-call your friends and even scan QR codes. Built on a widely-used public cloud platform, they’re designed for ease of use and high performance. As a cloud-based solution, it works universally from any location, accesses one single repository of data, and is automatically updated via the cloud. It connects your entire network on one simple platform that can be scaled up or down based on your needs. Better yet, it’s highly configurable to fit your specific requirements and business needs.
The Benefits of Native ERP and CRM Software
Like your mobile phone, with a CRM and native ERP system you can optimize your entire value chain from a single solution. In turn, your business stands to gain a number of key advantages:
- Cloud-based: As a subscription model, you gain predictable cash flows (Operating Expense versus Capital Expense) and an infinitely scalable platform without disruptive installs and patches.
- Data integration: Complete visibility of all your data gives you timely insights to adapt production to meet changing demands and make quicker, more informed decisions based on accurate data.
- Common Data Model: With a single source of truth, you can streamline order processing, reduce data entry errors, eliminate double-handling and gain a 360° view of your customers.
- Scalability: With a native, cloud-based solution, you can configure your solutions offline until you are ready to deploy without disrupting operations until you go live.
- Accessibility: All of your information can be securely accessed at any time, on any device, from any location.
- Security: Native cloud solutions are protected with an order of magnitude more security than any company can afford to invest in a legacy solution housed on their servers.
From customer service to supply chain management, you need a solution that unifies your entire value chain on a single platform. Legacy solutions can’t do it and integration only takes you so far, but that’s why we’re here. TimeLinx can help you to optimize your end-to-end processes in a frictionless and effective user experience.
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TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.