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Many organizations pursue CRM implementations without committing to a full ERP system. The reason lies in the fact that CRM systems can deliver great value at a lower cost than end-to-end ERP software. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when selecting a CRM system:

1.   Remember that your CRM system doesn’t necessarily need to come from your ERP vendor. Most of our clients begin their software evaluation process with the expectation that one single ERP vendor will provide most or all of the functionality they need. While most ERP vendors offer CRM modules, some are better than others within this functional area. If CRM and its related sales and customer services processes are critical to your business model and a source of your organization’s competitive advantage, it may behoove you to either consider a standalone CRM system to augment your core ERP software or consider CRM functionality as one of the top criteria when choosing a new ERP system.

2.   When selecting a CRM system, don’t back yourself into a corner as it relates to your future ERP system. Although choosing a standalone CRM system can be a viable option for many organizations, you also want to make sure that your decision in this area doesn’t limit your options when deploying a new ERP system in the future. For example, one of our mid-size manufacturing and distribution clients was considering a purchase of Microsoft Dynamics CRM but wanted the option to integrate with Oracle JD Edwards in the future. They found that some of JD Edwards’ product configuration and PLM functionality wouldn’t integrate well with Microsoft Dynamics CRM so they had to choose whether or not to sacrifice potentially better CRM functionality in the interest of better integration with their back office functions. Such tradeoffs are important to understand before evaluating CRM systems.

3.   Understand the integration capabilities of your CRM system. Standalone systems, such as Salesforce CRM, have built some fairly robust integration tools, so whether or not a CRM package will integrate with leading ERP systems is usually a moot point. However, simply because two systems integrate doesn’t mean they will integrate the way you want them to. Again, using the example above, we found that certain product configuration details desired by our client’s sales team would not integrate well without extensive customization and changes to their CRM system architecture. Understanding the details of how your ERP and CRM systems may integrate now or in the future is a critical part of any software selection and implementation planning process. Similarly, you’ll also want to understand how your CRM will integrate with other software, such as business intelligence, product lifecycle management, quality assurance and other point solutions.

4.   Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Even though you’ll want to make a decision that’s best for your long-term enterprise solution, you don’t necessarily need to implement or even purchase various solutions all at once. For example, our client chose to leverage our assistance to procure and implement their CRM system in a separate phase well before they even began planning for their ERP implementation. Because we had done the due diligence to define the digital strategy roadmap, we were able to implement and integrate their chosen ERP system when they were ready.

5.   Get your sales team on board. Regardless of whether you choose a single ERP system, a standalone CRM system or a SaaS ERP system, your sales team will be critical to the success of the implementation. When working on digital transformations for our clients, we often find that the sales team can be among the hardest employees to get on board because of the extra work it creates for them in the short-term and the temporary pull from their commission-generating activities. An organizational change management plan is critical to mitigating these organizational risks.

While the relative simplicity of a CRM implementation may seem appealing when compared to the risks of an ERP implementation, it is important to understand the long-term implications of the path you choose. An independent evaluation and implementation will help ensure that these tradeoffs and risks are objectively considered as part of your CRM selection and implementation process.

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