Often the worlds of CRM and ERP are quite distant. It is a rare individual who has traversed both of these lands (I am quite lucky to have a few such folk in my team, but it is unusual).
One idea I recently had was a way a CRM system could be used to help with the processes traditionally associated with the ERP system. This post is probably more aimed at ERP users who are CRM-curious than everyday CRM folk but, hopefully, it might generate some ideas to help bridge communication between the two nations.
How Not to Use CRM
There is a rich tradition of people trying to bring ERP functions into a CRM system and it failing horribly. The fact of the matter is a general ledger has no place in a CRM system. If it involves debits and credits or account reconciliation, keep it out. However tempting it my be or however insistent the client is that it is exactly what they need, it is wrong and unnatural and will fail. Even things like inventory management are limited in their scope if managed through a CRM system. This being said, there are some things CRM systems do well which an ERP system can make use of.
What CRM Systems Do Well
CRM systems do two things really well:
- Managing business processes that involve the passing of information between people
- Managing interactions with external stakeholders
ERP systems also handle the first one of these well in regards to financial transactions. However, sometimes the second one is lacking. Sure, most ERP systems have a concept of ‘vendor’ and ‘customer’ but tracking external communication is not always as strong; pulling up a history of client emails, meetings and phone calls is not always simple.
This is where CRM systems can help.
Mass Payment Notifications The CRM Way
I am not an expert on ERP systems so I am sure there are some ERP systems that do this really well; I just have never seen it. Let us say we have made a series of payments in our ERP system. Cheques are in the mail, bank transfers are done and money cabled to distant lands, as required. All of this is recorded in the ERP system and we now want to let the recipients know the money is on its way.
To do this via CRM, we first extract the list of payments from the ERP system into a CSV file. Pretty much every ERP system has the ability to generate lists of transactions and export them to Excel so this should not be a problem.
Next, we use the CRM Import Wizard to bring in the transactions. We will need to create a transaction entity in CRM first, but this is a straightforward, codeless process.
Once we import, we can then use a CRM workflow to do the rest. The workflow will automatically kick in the moment the record is imported and can send an email, using a template of our creation to inform our customer that their money is on its way. The sent email will be held in the activity history of the account record in CRM, along with any meetings and phone calls made by other parts of the business.
While money could be thrown at integrating the CRM and ERP systems to pass the various bits and pieces of information between them, in the case of the activity history, it is probably simpler for the ERP users to simply use the Outlook client for CRM so they can reference the various interactions at their leisure. Similarly, such a setup means the other areas of the business can see when payments are made. For example, if an enquiry comes in via phone to the call centre about a missing payment, they can reference the CRM system to see if and when it went out. If the payment record is not there, they can escalate it, as required.
Sometimes it is hard for the CRM and ERP camps to understand how they fit in with each other. However, it is possible to use the strengths of both for the benefit of the entire business. In the case above, I have described a simple way CRM can help the ERP process and also provide clear visibility of transactions across the entire business. I am sure there are other ways, such as for debt collecting, where a similar process could be employed. If this is of interest, enquire with your internal CRM power users or ask your Microsoft partner how things can be streamlined (as outlined above, it does not have to be an expense process).