Investing in planning and process automation software is a priority for modern companies. Therefore, enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) and customer relationship management systems (CRM) constitute the first step towards digital transformation.
In this guide we discuss integration of CRM and ERP systems and give some advice on how to make this process as effective as possible.
Why integrate CRM and ERP systems?
Every single day your business gets information from your customers. Data about calls, orders and deliveries pile up constantly. If these data are not processed, eventually you will not be able to draw on them when making important decisions or forecasts. To help businesses deal with this task, ERP and CRM software packages come into play. Despite of having similar functionalities (both systems store information about customers and their orders), they are designed to do different work:
- ERP is designed to facilitate and automate business processes, financial planning and other resources management. By using comprehensive ERP solutions, companies improves their management of important business processes;
- CRM is to assist in managing information about customers, namely contacts, purchases, requests and needs, etc. This is some invaluable information for sales and marketing departments. Companies use CRM programs to better understand their customers’ needs.
Comparative table of ERP and CRM systems functionalities
This table shows that ERPs keep only the basic information about customers. By contrast, CRMs allow to organize groups of customers, record requests without ordering, add interests, etc. Another substantial advantage provided by CRM is the ability to configure sales funnels and integrate different marketing tools, such as Google Analytics, MailChimp and the like. All these features allow users to segment their customer bases and perform marketing activities on every particular segment.
In which cases do you integrate CRM with ERP?
- CRM and ERP are created by different developers
It is a common case when a company first implements an ERP, and then a CRM. In such a case, we integrate them by means of an API solution. The reason is that responsible developers of business software usually do create APIs for their products.
- ERP was installed earlier than CRM (or vice versa)
This situation looks similar to the previous one, except that the developer is the same here. Our specialists worked with companies which once installed their ERPs, and in a few years they wanted to add CRMs. The pitfall of such cases is the difference in the entities used: a company used to work with particular entities of the ERP, and then implementing of the CRM requires using other ones.
- A Built-in CRM of the ERP system does not meet the requirements
The problem rests in the limited functionalities of the built-in CRM. Required solution: customization or installation of ready-for-service modules.
How to integrate CRM into ERP systems
In this section we discuss the basic methods of integrating CRM systems with ERP systems. The following section is dedicated to some important aspects of the integration.
Integration of different systems via API
If you decide to use different programs, then usually they will be integrated via an API. It is a relatively quick and inexpensive way of implementation.
The easiest option is to have the ERP and CRM as two separate programs from one developer. In this case, the programs already have some integration patterns. All that remains is to set up data synchronization and check everything.
A more complicated scenario is when the products come from different developers. Here we need to compare the two APIs and define what will be synchronized. Difficulties usually arise in the entities. This is where you will need help of ERP and CRM systems customization specialists.
Installation and customization of the ready-to-service CRM module
For modern modular ERP systems, developers provide ready-to-use CRM modules. This is a simple and budget-saving way to integrate the two systems. You can buy an ERP first, and later expand your software package with a CRM module. If this is the case, it is wise to consider the necessary entities and methods of information exchange in advance. This makes the integration much easier.
What is about customization? The fact is, developers of business software cannot predict all the needs of their clients. This means the software has to be tailored to meet your requirements.
What to consider when integrating CRM with ERP?
If you decide to connect the two solutions, you have to pay attention to the following issues.
1# Check the necessary entities for synchronization
Some time ago we integrated a clothing catalog in ERP with the client’s CRM. A test synchronization revealed the following issues:
- In the ERP, clothing sizes were indicated in inches, centimeters or other units;
- The same happened to the colors: they were not standardized, and clothes of similar colors got completely different values;
- Different formats of contact information (phone numbers, delivery addresses, etc.).
We advise you to prepare a list of information for exchange between the systems in advance and check the record formats.
2# Cloud or server location?
If you decide to use a CRM program from a third-party developer, we recommend placing it on the same server where your ERP is hosted. It is convenient in terms of integration and payment for hosting services.
Popular ERPs that integrate easily with CRMs
This is a popular cloud solution for small and medium-sized businesses in the U. S. Its big advantage is the availability of ready-to-use modules, such as CRM, WMS and some other. Also, this ERP integrates easily with other services due to its well-developed API. This system is a fully cloud-based solution that supports multiple devices with no need for any special applications. Another advantage lies in flexible tariff plans for different companies.
A full-featured ERP with a built-in CRM and ability to expand functionalities for any requirements. Unlike Acumatica, NetSuite does not have a flexible installation (cloud + local server) to store confidential information inside the company.
This system was originally developed as a cloud-based CRM solution for eCommerce projects. But eventually developers added some other modules to it. Now Odoo can be used to create the optimal IT solutions for small companies.
What should I finally choose?
No matter what you choose, the main point is to make sure that the chosen solutions match your business requirements.
If you need assistance in choosing and integrating CRM or ERP, you can always contact the experts at Fiduciasoft. Since 2015, Fiduciasoft has been providing ERP customization services for both vendors and end customers. Our experience gives us an in-depth understanding of the capabilities of different systems and challenges of their integration.