CRM + ERP: What’s the Connection?
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are two entirely different processes that both serve to improve the overall efficiency and functionality of a retail business. When working together properly, they can save hours of time, money, and energy in the form of improved processes via automated workflows, real time data, and similar operational improvements. What this ultimately means for your customer though, is a better product and a better experience before, during and after the sale.
In this post we’re going to look at what they each of these do and why their integration can be highly beneficial for retailers.
ERP can be viewed as a general term whose name serves to explain its function. In terms of software, it is the solution that unites all the different operations that enable business functions within a single database and platform that is updated and facilitates data availability in real time. Cloud-based ERP platforms, like Dynamics 365, allow employees to focus on key tasks, leaving machines to handle much of the ‘work’ involved in operations. This often works by the automation of processes that enable repetitive tasks to continue smoothly function without the need for human intervention. This integration of processes means that if something goes wrong in one department, it can be immediately isolated and other operations that could be impacted are alerted with enough time for necessary changes to be made.
CRM, broadly speaking, is how we manage our customers. Like ERP platforms, the technology equivalent to its name is a platform for recording and storing all customer-based data and interactions. CRMs can come in the form of standalone systems or as a built-in function of an ERP in industries where there is a high volume of customer interaction, like as is the case with retail. When CRM is utilized as a standalone tool, it must be integrated directly with an ERP platform during the implementation process.
What’s the Difference?
Separately, both of these functions serve a similar purpose - to help your business be more profitable, though how they do so focuses on quite different parts of your business. An ERP platform does so by reducing the resource spend (time, money, effort, or otherwise) required on your key business operations whereas CRM does so through increasing sales volume via better customer management. When brought together properly, they can greatly multiply the effects of each of their functions - ultimately bringing your retail business the information and process it needs to stay competitive.
Integrate or Implement?
Whether you choose to integrate your CRM into other business operations through an ERP solution or to choose an ERP platform that already possesses CRM functionality, having their processes work together is key. Sometimes in the case of integration there can be problems with compatibility, particularly as other parts of your business evolve at different rates, so it is possible that what much function today as part of an integration may not continue to function far into the future. For this reason, many retailers choose ERP platforms that already include CRM and remain seamlessly updated and compatible thanks to the efforts of your ERP software vendor and partner.
When two major processes like these function almost entirely separate from each other, maintaining consistent communication and processes in order to support accurate decisions can be a challenge. And for retailers that are trying to get a truly holistic view of their customer and how they are truly related to their business, accurate data and its availability are crucial. An ERP platform, particularly one that comes with CRM functionality built in, though a big step, can completely transform the daily and long term operations of a business through data driven decisions and workflows. If you decide that an ERP platform could be the solution that helps your business, be sure to choose one designed with retail in mind and from a vendor who deeply understands both the industry and the solution.
If you want to learn more about how ERP platforms are helping retailers to become more profitabile from within, make sure to download our ebook Dynamics of ROI: A Guide to Achieving Retail Performance Excellence
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Systems Limited, or any other entity related to Systems Limited.