Craig Buck our Senior CRM & BI Consultant discusses the connection between CRM and ERP systems.Find out more about Sage CRM
For years organisations have been encouraged to consider the benefits of integrating CRM with other core business applications – most notably finance and ERP. No one can argue with the value of a single source of detailed customer information that encompasses not only every sales interaction and service call but also product history and credit record. From salesperson to Customer Services Manager, Marketing Director to CEO, who wouldn’t want that complete 360 degree customer view?
The truth, however, was always a little less compelling and a lot more complicated. Deep integration of CRM and ERP is not easy. It isn’t “seamless”. It requires two-way database synchronisation, in real time, to ensure information is always up to date. More often than not, the result is data duplication or problems with mismatched records. Integration is time consuming and expensive, and too often users lose confidence in data quality, undermining the value of the investment.
Yet companies need that complete customer view now more than ever. With multiple channels to market and diverse ways of interacting with customers, from face to face to social media, and a more agile approach to market expansion, companies need to know their customers better and be able to respond to their activity faster. Piecemeal information is no longer good enough.
So what’s the answer? Having struggled with this model for years, the time has now come to adopt a simple, less expensive and far more reliable approach. Rather than deep integration, Sage has introduced a Connector which uses Web Services to open up a pipeline between the CRM system and the ERP. There is no database synchronisation – the systems remain separate, avoiding any problems with data duplication, timing or accuracy. Instead, CRM users have a one click link to a real time view into any other application, providing access to that vital, up to date customer information on demand. Critically, implementation is simple and fast, removing any concerns regarding business disruption or excessive investment.
Is this just a pragmatic solution to a pressing business need? Certainly it is all about timing, with the development of Web Services enabling this Connected model. Of course, in an ideal world every business would have a single source of all information. But right now, that is not an option. Even the top end ERP systems compromise on some aspects of functionality; while the low end ‘all in one’ products are essentially little more than ERP with a bolt on contact management solution.
Organisations of every size need fully featured CRM systems as much as they need strong ERP solutions. With the ability to rapidly and seamlessly Connect the two, companies can now achieve that complete 360 degree customer view without the pain associated with deep integration.