Why You Should Integrate Your ERP and CRM Systems
Your ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems both work hard for your business. They’re constantly recording and handling data about your customers, suppliers and processes. Both are vital. The CRM helps you understand your customers and develop your relationships with them, while the ERP helps you handle everything behind the scenes, including finances and inventory.
While they do different jobs, there is often overlap between the two systems. A staff member dealing with a sale would look to the CRM to find out about interactions with that customer and previous sales to them. But they might also want to know about that customer’s financial information, as that could have a significant effect on how they approach them. For that, they’ll need to look to the ERP.
So what do does that staff member do, if they don’t have access to the ERP? They might contact those that do have access to it and ask them for help. Or, they might look at data that’s copied manually between the two systems.
The problem with both these approaches is that mistakes and miscommunication are pretty much inevitable. When staff provide information to each other informally, they’ll sometimes be doing so on a day when they’re very busy, or at a time when they’re distracted by other things. Or perhaps simply when they’re about to shut down their computer and leave for home. They rush and make mistakes that might have a significant impact.
Where data is manually copied, the process is more formal, but it’s also repetitive, difficult to concentrate on and often not highly valued. This, again, means that mistakes will be made. Mistakes make your business appear disorganised and unreliable, contributing to lack of growth or even failure.
Integration avoids all this, giving everyone in the business access to all the data they need about customers and processes. That data is guaranteed to be accurate and up-to-date. Having access to reliable data is vital to both day-to-day success and long-term business progression. With integration, your business will be better placed to anticipate, plan and grow.
What happens when you integrate your ERP and CRM?
You get a 360 degree view of your customers
This is perhaps the most significant benefit of integrating your ERP and CRM. Everyone in your business can see everything they need to about any of your customers, whenever they want. There’s no need for checking with others or working through poor-quality data. Staff can respond to questions quickly and accurately and make informed decisions without delay.
For example, when a sale is made, sales staff working in a business with two separate systems might not know anything much about what happens next. When systems are integrated, the sales team can track the order, make sure everything runs smoothly and follow-up if needed.
Integration means that staff are much better able to work proactively and more effective when working reactively.
You can build better relationships, inside and out
When different teams are working from different systems, they tend to find it harder to work together. If teams have to rely on each other for informal, manual data sharing, mistrust can develop if (or when) mistakes are made. People will often actively avoid working together and won’t always see the value in the work of others in the business.
When everyone can see the same information, the opposite happens. People see opportunities for collaboration rather than competition and work together more effectively. As well as being more appealing, collaboration becomes simpler, as a significant degree of shared understanding already exists.
The same can be true of your external relationships. When staff dealing with customers are confident that they’re doing so using accurate, reliable data, they tend to be more open and responsive as they know they can handle any question with ease. They are also usually able to anticipate customers’ needs better as they have access to more information.
This is important, because demanding customers want your business to respond to them with ease and confidence. If your staff have to scrabble around for information or, even worse, give out inaccurate information, you’ll lose trust very quickly. Consumers expect businesses to have access to data and to have systems in place that can handle it effectively.
You save money
Integrating your CRM and ERP saves you time and money in several ways. First, it means that you no longer have to spend time and money on manual data entry, copying information between systems. This laborious process can end up taking up a lot of staff time, both to carry out the initial work and to deal with the mistakes that inevitably result.
Integration also means that you save money on training. If you’re running two unconnected systems, you’ll probably need to train at least some staff on both systems. As well as the cost of training new starters, you’ll rack up expenses when you need to update training for existing staff, along with all the associated admin.
Then there’s the cost of simply maintaining and administering two separate systems. You might find that your need for IT support decreases significantly once you integrate.
You can plan for the future
Businesses rely on data to spot trends, make predictions and create plans. Integrating your CRM and ERP means all the data you need to base your decisions on is available easily and quickly, whenever you want it. Importantly, it’s available to everyone in your business, within a few seconds.
Having an integrated CRM and ERP helps you establish your business as future-focused, open and results-driven. With all (or at least more) data available to everyone, you have the basis for cultural. Rather than being denied vital information, all staff having access to the big picture, meaning they’re able to make suggestions and predictions. People feel included and their contributions are more likely to be valued.
Integration isn’t the only thing you need to do to encourage this kind of culture, of course, but it’s a vital step towards it.