CRM within an ERP solution.
This is the next in our series looking at CRM solutions.
The alternative to our previous article are the ERP versions. This is where CRM functionality is built into an overall solution and each department is represented in one integrated solution. The benefit would negate our previous example as the bonus would be paid on the actual profit of a job, including reversals, not the turnover. The other advantage is the reduction in double entry of information. If you put in the contact details, (Name, address, phone number) into the CRM system, those same details will populate the invoice fields for accounting, thus limiting data errors and spelling mistakes. It also allows for greater analysis as you can report on the effectiveness of the sale by which campaign, or marketing effort was responsible for that income stream. If that effort proved successful can it be repeated or improved upon. In the reverse flow, the sales department can leverage information in the accounts department. If a sales manager wanted to apply the 80/20 rule, that most sales come from your existing customers, in an ERP solution he could run a customer ledger report that would indicate which of the customer base had bought a particular product, but not purchased a related product (bought a Bravia television but not the antennae). With that report he could send a newsletter, email marketing campaign or get his sales team to focus on these entities with special offers. If the sales manager had a stand-alone system, he would have to apply to the finance department for that information, sort through the information and reformat it into the CRM system. Not only time consuming but the information would be disparate and not reliable due to the double entries as mentioned previously.
Comparisons with stand alone CRM software.
On the flip side the imbedded CRM system would be more strict with added complications. This is due to the fact that the information inputted into the CRM module is relied upon by other departments so therefore has to follow strict disciplines. Some of the functionality that would be in a single focused CRM system may not be in an ERP system simply because the ERP has broader canvas and requirements so it won’t have specific things to focus on. And again not all people in the sales community would have exposure to ERP systems so extra training may need to be involved.
What about linking CRM software with other programs?
There is a move for a half way house where links are being built through API’s (Application Programming Interface) so that relevant information can be pushed through from a CRM, to say accounting packages (Salesforce to Sage for example). This will still have limitations as it will never be as seamless or as integrated as a solution that is built from the ground up. API’ will mostly just link one particular module of any system and relevant information would not be available to other departments.
Each of these solutions have their place, and you can select which is appropriate for your business model. Having a basic overview of what each software offering is capable gives a clearer picture of whether the tool is up to the task.
If you are interested in upgrading your CRM capabilities please see our offerings on the services page.
About the Author.
Malcolm Ford has implemented CRM solutions to companies across the UK for over 10 years. He advices business owners on best practice to gain maximum results from the software.