Businesses who integrate their enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software report increased productivity and streamlined business processes. Nonetheless, for many organisations the two systems tend to remain separate, and the thought of embarking on an integration project sends shivers down their spines.
While this hair-raising topic continues to be hotly debated, here we explore whether CRM and ERP integration is a dream come true or an IT nightmare…
CRM and ERP integration: the good, the bad and the unmentionable…
A dream come true…
For many organisations, CRM and ERP integration is not only a financial paradise but the key to their customers’ hearts. If you’re wondering why that is, the following benefits will explain it all:
Accessibility - A CRM and ERP solution that is fully integrated gives your employees the ability to access important information in real-time.
Easier maintenance - There is one area to manage and maintain all of your customer and prospect communication, eliminating data duplication and facilitating transparency.
Streamlined processes – Streamlined business processes and automated workflows enhance efficiency and productivity without the need to recruit additional staff.
Mobility – Having on-the-go access to all customer inventory and orders alongside product and pricing information will assist in closing deals more efficiently.
Enhanced customer service - With everyone within your organisation having access to all customer and prospect data in one place, customer service levels are enhanced dramatically. Think about it from a customer’s perspective – do you get frustrated when a customer service advisor takes a long time to find your details?
Improved collaboration – Running a unified system reinforces transparency and collaboration so everyone is working towards achieving ‘One Team, One Voice , One Track’.
A spine-chilling perspective…
It’s clear to see why businesses see the value in integrated ERP and CRM. So you’re probably wondering, why it would be an IT nightmare for others…
Longer implementation times – Implementing a company wide solution that fits your business model may require a considerable amount of customisation turning into a time-consuming and tedious task.
Higher costs – CRM and ERP integration usually require a higher initial investment, including the cost of configuring and customizing the integration project to fit the business requirements.
The reality of silos…
Long live the silos…
Nobody likes change and many businesses love and cherish their separate systems, using them as a key to fostering a culture of collaboration that drives the business forward:
Aid communication – Focus on opportunity, not crisis. Lack of unified systems can encourage proactive communication between employees.
Eggs NOT in one basket - If one part of your system goes down, you are always able to access another application. With a unified system you need to ensure you have a disaster recovery plan to restore operations.
"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – isn’t that how the saying goes? From poor customer service to decreased productivity, running separate applications can have its disadvantages:
Complexity - For the staff with poor technical knowledge, using a larger solution might be troublesome especially when their needs could have been fulfilled with the help of just a CRM.
Maintenance costs - Even if you choose the same vendor for providing ERP and CRM, you would be incurring higher costs for the design, maintenance and support of two separate applications.
Productivity dip – Having to continuously switch between screens for different information means your employees will waste a lot of their work time impacting business performance.
Greater Adoption Rates - Staff might be sceptical to embrace more than one piece of software, especially if it requires a lot of training. Learning to use both ERP and CRM at the same time can be a challenge, resulting in poor adoption rates.
Tunnel vision - Departments that are completely distinct from one another discourage collaboration, making data accessibility a challenge, and data duplication common.
The choice is yours
So…there you have it, the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to CRM and ERP integration. Before jumping onto the project, remember it is never a one size fits all or a one option fits many and there are few things you need to consider:
- Scalability - Look for a solution where you can easily scale up or down and add new users and companies
- Customisation - No two businesses are the same and it is unlikely an off-the-shelf product will match how you operate. Look for a solution that can be adapted to reflect your needs.
- Reputable supplier - Without the support of a reputable partner your implementation could fail. When choosing a provider, don’t just go with the easiest, cheapest or quickest option.
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