Chapter: Business Science - Enterprise Resource Planning - Emerging Trends on ERP

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CRM

The Integration Challenge Generally, ERP and CRM systems tend to remain siloed as their contrasting architectures make it difficult to streamline integration.

CRM:

 

The Integration Challenge Generally, ERP and CRM systems tend to remain siloed as their contrasting architectures make it difficult to streamline integration. Those who try to create seamless connectivity between the two often turn to custom point-to-point integration. This method is fragile, expensive, and difficult to maintain. With point-to-point connections, a developer needs to manage connectivity and implement changes. Moreover, changes impact the entire system, leaving room for errors. These point-to-point integrations deliver a short-term solution, but become overly complicated as businesses grow. Another method businesses many times resort to is “swivel chair” data entry.

 

This method requires an individual to manually retrieve data from one system and enter it into another. Such a procedure is error-prone and takes an extensive amount of time and human resources. Some businesses simplify the task by employing data loaders such as Dataloader.io for Salesforce.com. When working with CRM systems offered by a vendor other than Salesforce.com, however, a different solution is required. With two different systems unable to communicate with one another, it becomes nearly impossible to track all customer interactions and obtain information through one interface. Sales reps spend time jumping between applications to create a 360 degree view of their customers, slowing down sales processes. As a lack of integration creates an inefficient workspace, businesses need a robust CRM and ERP integration solution in order to streamline their business processes.

 

Benefits of CRM Module:

 

1. Consolidated Sales Processes

 

One specific challenge that manufacturing firms face is supporting two modes of selling: a direct sales team and a distribution channel. Not only are you focused on appealing to your distributors so they push your product, you're managing your direct sales team and their relationships with your clients. So what happens when your direct sales team goes head-to-head with your distributor on the same project? Are you even aware of the overlap before it's too late? A well-implemented CRM system is flexible enough to support the two different modes of selling and get your teams the information they need to ensure you aren't engaging yourself in a bidding war.

 

2. Increased Visibility and Improved Forecasting

 

In our experience, we've found that a majority of sellers don't have access to their ERP systems. This is a problem! If you don't have a CRM system and you're storing valuable client and product information that your sales force needs, you have a problem. Because of this lack of access and information, any hope for accurate forecasting goes out the window. When integrated, ERP and CRM systems can give your team real-time visibility into the business data so they can properly sell and have compelling conversations with customers.

 

3. Cleaner Quote to Cash Process

 

This is a conversation we have with almost every one of our manufacturing clients. The concept of having to create accurate quotes off of complicated product configurations is an extremely difficult task. But with increased visibility comes an improved quote to cash process (hallelujah!) We know that the product configurations that you create can be very complex because you build to order. Every choice impacts the next and without a deep understanding of the product configuration at the beginning of the project you’re setting yourself up to fail. Unfortunately, we've found that the beginning of the sales process hasn’t paid enough attention to product configurations and how this impacts the entirety of the project’s lifecycle. When CRM and ERP systems are integrated, your sales team can access the information they need at the beginning to accurately quote and deliver.

 

4. Mobility

 

Now that you’ve addressed the two modes of selling, determined who is responsible for the sale, and integrated your CRM and ERP systems properly, your team is ready to hit the ground running. Or are they? Your field team is on the road having dynamic conversations with customers and they must be able to update content at the point of interaction, not at the end of the day. You have to have a mobility strategy that allows you to update pipeline and quote information on the fly. Mobile CRM applications allow you to capture and document this information, ultimately helping you to engage and make better decisions for your customers based off of order information, historical purchases, and current production schedules; all accessible with just a swipe and a tap.

 

5. The Distributor Portal

 

A trend that we are currently seeing in manufacturing is an increased focus on keeping existing customers, rather than winning new business. This means that once you’ve made the sale, you have to pivot your attention to keeping the conversation going. Manufacturers, repeat after me: cross-selling is your friend. And how can your team cross-sell more effectively? Through portals updated with information from both ERP and CRM systems. Portals allow you to see where in the manufacturing process an order is, check the status and delivery of past orders, and see the account in real-time. All of this information gives you valuable insight that can help you make the next sale while keeping your existing customers in the know.

 

CRM is no replacement for ERP and ERP is no replacement for CRM, but the integration between these two systems is essential to increasing collaboration between departments. If you're considering integrating a CRM tool with your existing ERP system, remember this: the key is to create two systems that are tightly integrated and designed in a way that creates a customer-centric environment


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