Small businesses and medium sized enterprises are under pressure. Digital transformation is stopping at nothing. Software is moving in everywhere, in every process, making SMEs and business processes faster and cleverer, since data-based business uses data to learn what can be improved.
There are two big systems that always come up as a fundamental condition for the success and growth of business. Just three letters, but they pack a punch: CRM and ERP. CRM systems focus on everything to do with customers, customer service and supply chain – from offers to delivery. ERP software makes all your internal resources on-premise and business processes more efficient.
So what should you do first as an entrepreneur? Which is more important? Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)? Which is more sustainable? Or do I need both? The answer is: yes. The explanation takes a little longer, but it’s coming right up.
ERP made easy
This abbreviation refers to software that integrates and controls all the major processes in your business. ERP software uses a comprehensive database to improve the monitoring and planning of resources. An ERP system makes your internal business processes more efficient and transparent, saving time, materials and money.
Enterprise resource planning does sound rather like big business. It’s ERP for short, which already seems much slimmer and more dynamic. But it remains complex, since an ERP system is used across the whole company, in every department and at every level of your organisation.
Where is ERP used?
From managing merchandise all the way to HR, from controlling to quality management – ERP software maps all of the processes in your business. It is highly adaptable to industry specific and scalable solutions.
- Finances and accounts
- Merchandise management
- Research and development
Enterprise resource planning – one size fits all?
Some ERP providers promise to be a solution for everything. But important features still tend to be missing, even in the latest product generations. Customers and customer relationships are integrated with varying degrees of success, depending on provider. The associated data comes from outside and new data is produced with every customer contact. That’s why tools for customer relationship management (CRM for short) and CRM software have evolved very strongly in their own right.
CRM made easy
Highly specialised software is now available for customer relationship management. A CRM system links together all of the data from each customer relationship in one database which every member of staff who has contact with that customer can access. CRM software organises, automates and synchronises processes for systematic customer care. This includes eCommerce and Point of Sale, e-mail contact, telephone, returns, order management and marketing automation.
Areas that benefit from a CRM system
Marketing and sales activities are clearly the focus of customer relationship management software. Customer care, service and call-centres all benefit from a CRM system too, as do accounts and product management. The tool steers the company’s focus towards the customer experience.
CRM software for the optimum customer experience supports work in the following areas:
- Customer service
- Product management
The main differences between CRM software and ERP software
A CRM system manages customer contacts like a front office in a business. The ERP system is situated in the back office. CRM software processes data from outside – from customer contacts. An ERP system only uses data from internal processes. There are now newer ERP software generations that integrate CRM solutions and other areas such as document management.
The cloud is the meeting point for CRM and ERP in SMEs
Buy or rent? In the past, businesses have often preferred independent CRM and ERP solutions of their own – called on-premises solutions. They prefer to buy, because it keeps everything in house. Including their data. That is slowly changing, because such solutions mean greater dependence and very high costs in everyday digital business.
What’s expensive about it? Your own server space, your own IT department, your own programs and databases. It ties up capital and lots of resources, and makes you slow and uncertain. The alternative is cloud solutions. Cloud computing is particularly interesting – and especially for SMEs.
What are the benefits of cloud CRM and cloud ERP?
- Scalability: these solutions grow easily with you and your changing needs. That makes everything faster, if things have to be fast.
- Availability: most providers offer a 99.999% guaranteed service and can be reached immediately by any user, including on the move, using an app.
- Simplicity: SaaS is the easiest way to use software and software updates.
- Financing (subscription): you only pay for what you really use. Cost grows with the features that your business subscribes to.
- Collaboration: teamwork at different locations is supported virtually, since everybody, desktop or mobile, uses an app to access the same data, on the road or at their desk.
- Flexibility: specifications and costs can be redefined at any time, therefore reduced or upgraded at short notice.
- Security: data in the cloud is secure, even if devices are lost or stolen. Missing devices can be denied access immediately. Backing up data is also included in the service.
Integrated providers of all-in-one systems
The market for ERP solutions and CRM tools is large and confusing. Here in brief are just a few of the major players:
- Zoho One: running since 1986, an independent Californian provider of ERP software and Zoho CRM in the cloud.
- Sage: this British business offers Sage Business Cloud ERP, with a CRM system and other solutions.
- SAP Business One Cloud: this German company has developed a modular, cloud-based ERP and CRM solution for SMEs and start-ups.
- Dynamics 365 Business Central: Konica-Minolta has built on MicrosoftDynamics 365, so it can use cloud ERP to offer CRM and other services for SMEs flexibly and scalably.
CRM systems for combining with ERP systems
- SugarCRM: this open-source software from Cupertino, USA has spawned a whole market of applications around customer experience.
- Salesforce: this business from San Francisco has been a pioneer in the development of cloud-based CRM and ERP for successful CX management since its founding in 1999.
Integrating CRM and ERP pays off
Companies need customers to succeed. Digital transformation, agile work – businesses that get to grips with these things put customers at the centre of all their activities. That’s why it makes sense to have a complete view of customers at every point in your business – in one system.
Businesses that integrate CRM software and ERP in the cloud increase the efficiency of their processes at every level. From customer acquisition to the processing of orders, they dismantle silos, promoting collaboration and cooperation between employees. They eliminate duplicate data and mean that all of the data is available to users in its latest version.
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