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CRM and ERP – bundling benefits, boosting efficiency
ERP and CRM systems are playing an increasingly important role in companies. This has also been demonstrated by the study entitled "User Survey 2011 – Software Usage and Investments by IT Users in the DACH Region" by the IT market research and consultancy company Pierre Audoin Consultants (PAC): In their IT divisions, companies primarily plan investments in ERP systems, followed by investments in CRM software. In such cases, most IT decision-makers ask themselves: Should we only use one ERP system and do without CRM software, or do we actually need both systems? The solution: Linking ERP and CRM opens up a wealth of advantages for companies.
Both systems in themselves support specific areas of the company, but when used together, processes can be optimized throughout the enterprise. An ERP system serves employees in back office environments. Here, it is not so much about the customer and the sale of products, but rather about making workflows in materials management, HR, accounting and controlling run efficiently. Customer-facing departments are not integrated into ERP processes. If the ERP system has an address management feature, it is of no major relevance to employees in these environments. A CRM system cannot replace this in any case. This is because CRM is intended to – and indeed must – support sales, marketing and service staff with functions that go way beyond the administration and storage of addresses. A CRM system networks parts of the company by creating transparency through centralized data storage and by making all the information available at all times. This is because employees who deal with customers and prospective clients need direct access to their data in order to ensure competent and personalized support. Internal and field sales teams need to access the same data, quotes must be seamlessly traceable, service and sales staff need to respond and be able to make targeted decisions quickly. An ERP system cannot provide the information needed for this. Figures though, it can provide. However the way the figures are prepared in the ERP system is often limited. CRM systems, on the other hand, frequently offer extensive options for evaluations and reporting. This example too illustrates how CRM and ERP are much stronger when they are combined. The ERP system provides the data, the CRM system analyzes it in detail. Consequently, the sales department can access numerous analyses of its customers' buying behavior, which it can then use to take targeted action. On the other hand, the management can use the latest figures to make targeted decisions quickly and plan better for the long term. This method of using data from one system in another is only possible via an interface between the CRM and ERP systems. This avoids any duplicated data entries and ensures optimized, time-saving maintenance of information. An interface between ERP and CRM can be designed to be uni-directional or bi-directional. The latter means that data is transferred in both directions. A standard interface reduces the amount of installation work required thanks to functions that have already been pre-defined. The two systems are generally synchronized at a specific time or, if it makes sense for individual items of data, at the press of a button by an employee. Via the interface, the CRM system imports the data for sales, marketing and service, such as customer or article master data and the figures for the evaluations described above.
In summary: When CRM and ERP work hand in hand, resources can be deployed to best effect and business processes made more efficient. Linking CRM and ERP as a best-of-breed solution means bundling the advantages of both systems and using them as a powerful single entity.