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Integrating ERP With CRM Systems

When we implement new ERP software for our clients, we typically view CRM as one of several important cornerstones of the rollout. However, the fact that CRM systems can often deliver great value at a lower cost than a full ERP system, coupled with the fact that more conservative organizations are often less likely to bite off an entire ERP deployment all at once, means that many of our clients pursue CRM implementations without necessarily committing to a full enterprise solution.

The strategic moves of CRM and ERP vendors also support this trend. For example, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SAP CRM and Oracle Siebel CRM are all marketed as standalone products, as well as part of each respective vendor’s broader ERP system. In addition, Salesforce has made great inroads as a leading, SaaS-based solution that focuses primarily on CRM functionality.

With all of these options in the marketplace, most organizations have a multitude of options to choose from when defining their enterprise software roadmaps. Here are a few things to keep in mind when determining how to integrate ERP with your 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, including that of a CRM system. 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 or a unique source of your organization’s competitive advantage, it may behoove you to either consider standalone CRM systems to augment your core ERP software or consider CRM functionality as one of the top criteria when choosing a new ERP system.

2.   When choosing 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 in Ohio 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 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. They chose to make that compromise based on our recommendation, by the way, and such tradeoffs are important to understand before getting too far along in the process.

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 they 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 Ohio 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 evaluation 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 non-ERP 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 Ohio 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 long-term systems roadmap, we will be able to implement and integrate their chosen ERP system when they are ready.

5.   Get your sales team on board. Regardless of whether you choose one single ERP solution, a standalone CRM system or a SaaS offering, your sales team will be critical to the success of the implementation. When implementing large transformation projects 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. As relatively simple as a CRM implementation may sound, an organizational change management plan will be critical to mitigating these organizational risks.

While the relative simplicity of a CRM implementation may seem appealing when compared to the risks of most ERP implementations, it is important to not be complacent when understanding the long-term implications and risks of whatever path you may 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.

Learn more by visiting our CRM Software page and by registering for our ERP Boot Camp and Vendor Showdown in February.

Infor Delivers Inforce Everywhere to Connect Salesforce CRM With ERP

Combining Salesforce CRM With ERP Data Boosts Customer Visibility and Drives Sales

Infor, a leading provider of business application software serving more than 70,000 customers, today announced delivery of Inforce Everywhere, bringing the power of the back office to the front office. Inforce Everywhere is built natively on Force.com, salesforce.com’s social enterprise platform for employee social apps. Incorporating Infor ERP data with Salesforce CRM, Inforce Everywhere provides users a 360-degree view of their customers to help drive more sales and achieve new highs in customer satisfaction.

“Infor was able to deliver Inforce Everywhere just a few months after formalizing our partnership with salesforce.com because of our innovative, lightweight ION middleware platform and the flexibility of Force.com,” said Duncan Angove, president, Products and Support, Infor. “Combining ERP data with the Salesforce CRM through ION enables us to deliver incremental value to customers, something we will continue to drive through our partnership with salesforce.com and the development of the future joint offerings, Inforce Ordering and Inforce Marketing.”

Inforce Everywhere provides ERP-managed customer information within the Salesforce CRM, delivering customer-facing personnel with rich and detailed customer information like shipments, invoices, receivables and returns. Inforce Everywhere keeps core CRM data like contacts, quotes, and orders in sync with data from ERP systems, enabling a more informed, responsive and effective enterprise. The integration of Salesforce CRM with ERP results in faster implementation, reduced cost, reduced risk, and increased return on investment.

“Inforce Everywhere taps into the social, mobile and open capabilities of Force.com and Chatter to deliver unmatched collaboration and communication across the enterprise,” said Ron Huddleston, senior vice president, ISV & Channel, salesforce.com. “Inforce Everywhere is a great example of an industry leader harnessing the power of the social enterprise to deliver new value to their customers.”

Infor10 ION is the key to connectivity between ERP, CRM and any other ION-enabled application. Now users can create and maintain contacts and accounts in both ERP and CRM systems, providing a single connection point that helps avoid the problems of traditional point-to-point integration while offering different possibilities for additional application connectivity.

The partnership between Infor and salesforce.com provides customers a comprehensive cloud-based application that benefits from deep and wide integration with Infor ERP through the lightweight Infor10 ION platform.

Inforce Everywhere is available for Infor10 ERP Enterprise (LN), Infor10 Distribution iBusiness (A+) and Infor10 Distribution Business (SX.e), with additional ERP applications planned over the next year.

Manufacturing Webinar Features Importance of Enterprise-Wide Collaboration

Free Online Event Set For July 14, 2011 1-2 EDT

Plex Systems, Inc., provider of Plex Online, Cloud ERP for manufacturers, is hosting a free online webinar geared to manufacturers on Thursday, July 14, 2011 1 p.m. EDT.

Co-hosting with implementation partner Revolution Group, Plex Systems offers the one-hour webinar to demonstrate how manufacturers can create a collaborative work environment and facilitate communication.

Registration is now open for the July 14 webinar.

By integrating Salesforce Chatter features with Plex Online Cloud ERP, manufacturers improve inventory management, customer service, maintenance management, production control scheduling and more.  The webinar shows how collaboration adds strength to all processes and programs.

“This webinar provides manufacturers with the unique opportunity to see first-hand how a collaborative manufacturing environment enhances productivity,” notes Plex Systems Vice President Patrick Fetterman. “Participants will view the functions within Plex Online Cloud ERP that can integrate with real-time team communications.”

Salesforce Chatter is a powerful collaborative tool that offers practical benefits to manufacturers. Representatives from Revolution Group will showcase the specific system features for shared knowledge, idea exchange and real-time problem solving.

Manufacturers may register for the online webinar taking place July 14, 2011.

 

About Revolution Group

Revolution Group is a technology services, consulting, implementation, and application development solutions provider with Plex Online ERP, and Salesforce.com Sales, and Service Cloud practice areas.  As a Plex Systems premier implementation partner, and Salesforce.com Registered Consulting partner, Revolution Group offers best practice Customer Relationship Management (CRM) products and services to manufacturing companies.  The Revolution software development team has extensive experience integrating disparate systems, extending, enhancing, and constructing custom applications to support our clients’ continuous lean process improvement.  www.revolutiongroup.com.

Why SaaS and Cloud Enterprise Applications Are Ensuring a Bright Future For Big ERP Systems

The general consensus in today’s enterprise software space is that Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing are the waves of the future. Industry analysts and vendor sales reps are proclaiming that SaaS ERP systems are cheaper, faster, and easier, while traditional ERP vendors are doing what they can to not be perceived as “Big ERP” solution providers.

But perhaps the biggest impact of the SaaS movement is that it is enabling the next wave of big ERP deployments.

There, I said it. Yes, SaaS and cloud software vendors are doing very well in this economic environment and the movement is here to stay. Indeed, SaaS ERP vendors such as Salesforce, Workday, and NetSuite are growing at a much faster pace than the overall ERP industry. However, I’m not ready to pronounce the “other” side of ERP dead just yet.

For years, ERP industry trends have swung like a pendulum back and forth between SaaS/ASP/best-of-breed and on-premise/big/complex ERP, and for good reason. As outlined in the table below, the reason big ERP didn’t die 20 years ago is because of the cyclical and perpetual nature of these competing trends. Just as companies grew tired of issues resulting from a complex, cumbersome, and costly ERP implementation, companies will eventually tire of SaaS issues related to less flexibility, less control, and more complex integration.

It’s helpful to first understand how we got here in the first place, starting at the top of the graphic and moving clockwise:

“Big” ERP’s crisis of flexibility, cost, and overhead. Many journalists and analysts have covered in great detail the troubles with large, on-premise ERP systems: they can be cumbersome, cost too much, and create an IT overhead burden on the organization. Especially in this economy, companies are risk adverse and are less likely to bite off more than they can chew. Therefore, many companies are addressing this crisis by looking at smaller SaaS and cloud point solutions that they can implement in smaller chunks as their IT budgets and risk appetites allow. This leads us to the bottom of the graphic: the movement toward SaaS, cloud, and best of breed solutions.

The SaaS crisis of control, standardization, and integration. Moving clockwise from the bottom of the graphic, you see that eventually organizations using SaaS point solutions will face a crisis of flexibility, standardization, and integration. Companies grow, acquire other companies, expand into new territories, and globalize their supply chains, which strains their disparate enterprise systems’ environments. Having separate SaaS solutions to address various business functions and locations becomes less efficient as companies grow and change, forcing the second crisis. Suddenly, CIOs look for ways to standardize and consolidate their global systems to gain consistent business processes, IT efficiencies, and better visibility into their diverse operations.

Then the cycle repeats itself, just as it has multiple times since I’ve been in the ERP consulting space. It is important to note that not all companies go through the various stages of the cycle at the same time – smaller firms will often stay in the SaaS stage until they have grown to the point where their complexities are no longer supported by cloud solutions, while larger firms often engage in M&A activities and expand internationally, causing them to more naturally hover in the on-premise space for longer periods.

Of course, there are a few potential game changers that could break this cycle. First, if SaaS solutions evolve into true fully integrated enterprise-wide applications rather than primarily point solutions as they are now, then this would disrupt or hinder the arrival of the next crisis. Second, more robust development and integration tools within SaaS solutions could mitigate some of the current flexibility advantages of on premise ERP. Third, if the economy continues to languish as it has in recent years, it may be a bit longer before the next shift in the cycle. And finally, developing and emerging economies will provide a robust global SaaS market, even as some economies begin to mature and face the first crisis resulting from SaaS offerings.

Eventually, companies will move beyond CRM, payroll, and financials in their adoption of SaaS ERP. And the cloud is definitely here to stay. However, at least for the foreseeable future, there will also be a need for ERP systems built to automate large, complex, and diversified organizations.

What do you think? Take our poll and find out how your thoughts compare to others in the industry.

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Six Predictions For the ERP Industry in 2009

As the holidays continue through the end of the year, many of us are finishing year-end activities, planning our budgets for 2009, and enjoying time with friends and family. This is also a good time of year to think about where the ERP industry is headed in 2009.

Next year will be unique. The global economy is projected to stay soft throughout the first half of 2009, which will no doubt impact ERP vendors and their customers. As we wrote in a recent blog entry, the soft economy is already affecting vendors’ software and maintenance pricing.

Based on current economic conditions, continuing industry trajectories, and newly emerging trends, Panorama has compiled its six top predictions for 2009:

  1. Continuing growth of the SMB segment. Because of both the soft economy and the continuing growth of small- to mid-size businesses, ERP will continue its widespread adoption of ERP. Due to ERP’s ability to automate business processes and allow small businesses to do more with less, it will continue to become more widespread in this segment. However, expect SMBs to proceed with caution and in a cost-effective manner.
  2. Rationalized costs. The days of implementing ERP at any cost may be over, at least temporarily, hopefully for good. Because capital and IT budgets are under pressure, CIOs can no longer afford to implement ERP without reigning in total cost of ownership. As outlined in a recent blog entry, this is already causing vendors to more aggressively price their solution offerings to win new business.
  3. More benefits realization, less new implementations. A pattern we are seeing with our client base is more of an interest in stabilizing and optimizing current ERP systems rather than engaging in a replacement of the systems. Because companies are becoming more cautious in their capital spending and in some cases simply don’t have the funds to invest in an entirely new system, many CIOs are looking for ways to leverage their current ERP systems to generate more measurable business benefits that they can take to their executive team. This trend is underscored by the large increase in Panorama’s ERP Benefits Realization service offerings.
  4. Continued adoption of software as a service (SaaS). Numbers 1 and 2 above are driving more companies to look at SaaS offerings such as NetSuite and Salesforce. Generally speaking, SaaS offerings require less up front investment than traditional ERP implementations. However, they can also provide less flexibility, so CIOs need to carefully evaluate tradeoffs as part of their ERP software selection.
  5. Emergence of open source. Budgetary pressures will also tempt companies to give open source ERP a closer look. Open source allows companies to own and customize the software’s source code, providing a great deal of flexibility at a lower initial cost. However, as with SaaS, there are tradeoffs: such flexibility can introduce costly complexities and ongoing software maintenance is generally less robust than with an off-the-shelf ERP solution. These tradeoffs need to be considered during the ERP software selection process.
  6. Higher adoption in specific industry verticals. Evolving government priorities and a new US administration in January will likely increase ERP adoption in certain industry verticals. The US federal government is expected to grow significantly in the foreseeable future, which will likely increase ERP spending in the government sector. In addition, green energy, labor, legal services, and other industries are expected to benefit and grow from changing priorities in the US, and will likely look to ERP solutions as viable options for scaling for such growth.

These are the significant trends we expect to see in 2009. What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment below with your insights, or click here to take the poll about companies’ plans for ERP software in 2009.

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