CRM in ERP? Or interface a dedicated system?

“Will we use CRM functionality in ERP or will we buy a separate CRM system?” This is a question that has been asked for a long time in the manufacturing industry. Particularly with the emergence of complete ERP packages, this remains a difficult question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an unequivocal answer, but I can help by offering insights that I have come across over the years. In this blog I assume that we are dealing with a mature ERP system, which has CRM functionality. If not, the question is irrelevant because then you wouldn’t escape a dedicated CRM system.

Separate or integrated?

ERP systems are (quite) directive in terms of recording data. Everything is saved in tables and through smart queries and links, functionality can be used. I will keep it simple for now, I am not a real techie or database practitioner. In recent years, ease of use has clearly become more common and that is very evident in some ERP systems. Dedicated CRM systems are one step ahead. Consider the full integration with, for example, email clients. Instead of starting up a CRM system, you would start, for example, Outlook and then you would immediately have all CRM functionality from one solution. Dedicated CRM systems often support online and offline use, something not directly possible with ERP software; solutions are available for this, but in native mode it is often not supported. In the Netherlands, this shouldn’t have to be a problem because the average cover of 3 or 4G is reasonably good. Here you can quite literally always be online, provided you aren’t in a deep cellar, bunker or Faraday cage. If you are only interested in Opportunity Management, in terms of functionality, the two systems don’t differ much. It is all about how you use that functionality. I’m not going to try in this blog to give a full explanation about the differences, but would like to mention a couple of points to think about, which could help you to make a decision.

Knowledge-intensive versus brand intensification

Knowledge-intensive sales. When Sales requires a strong partnership with Engineering and sales processes are closely intertwined with large (engineering/development) projects and these are closely monitored and perhaps even invoiced, we often see that companies opt for the CRM functionality of the ERP package itself. Sharing information, documents, work preparation information, such as calculation, parts lists, routers, unit costs, etc. are part of the core business of these types of companies. It is then preferable that everyone works with one system. The back office is then closely integrated with the sales team. Brand intensification We often see that a dedicated CRM system is useful for companies wanting to bring a brand to the market, that are interested in the customer behind the customer (often the end customer), that is monitoring market movements or using social media. In this case, sales has a much weaker link with the back office and people want to be able to consult information even faster on all devices and from anywhere. Ask yourself which company you are and what you want to achieve with your sales force. As well as a decent turnover and profit, of course, this will to a degree determine the CRM solution. If you want to transport goods quickly, you can use a Ferrari. This is fast and can carry something, but if you want to transport a higher level of volume, a station wagon will give a better result, even though it isn’t as fast. There are therefore no clearly defined golden rules, but there are guidelines and experiences that can help you with this choice. Don’t let the beautiful slick displays fool you. Ultimately, your people have to be able to work properly with this in their own environment. I am an enthusiastic jogger, but I don’t jog in the most expensive and flashiest shoes. These aren’t the right ones for me. That could apply to your company too couldn’t it?

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