The Difference Between ERP and CRM and the Importance of Integration

Jalene Ippolito November 11, 2022

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are two of the most important tools that businesses use to manage their operations and relationships with customers.

ERP software typically includes CRM functionality that will suffice for most small and mid-size businesses. But for others that have more sophisticated processes across sales and marketing, it’s necessary to use a more robust, best-of-breed CRM solution instead.

For example, here at ProjectLine our sales and marketing teams live in the HubSpot CRM as it provides a more complete picture of our prospective customers as they interact with us online, navigate our website and engage with our sales team. But we’ve integrated our HubSpot CRM with our ERP to ensure we maintain accurate company and contact data in both systems.

And that’s the key if you want to run a best-of-breed CRM – integration with ERP to maintain a single source of truth and give everyone on your team the visibility they need.

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What’s the Difference Between ERP and CRM?

Before we get into the benefits of an integration, let’s talk quickly about the difference between ERP and CRM.

CRM software is used by marketing, sales and service teams to manage customer information and interactions. It offers tools to help you manage the companies and contacts you interact with, generate sales activity and improve customer satisfaction.

ERP software is used to manage and optimize the operational processes in your business, including finance, inventory, production and more. Where CRM is focused only on revenue generating activities, ERP also helps you optimize internal processes and lower operational costs.

Simply put, ERP systems are more comprehensive than CRM systems, as they’re designed to manage a wide range of business processes. CRM systems, on the other hand, are focused specifically on customer interactions and relationships.

Benefits of Integrating ERP and CRM

If you’ve identified the need for a stand-alone CRM software, you’ll have two sets of data that overlap – one in your CRM and one in your ERP. That can make everyday processes more challenging.

For example, if one of your sales reps wants to see a customer’s order history or outstanding payments, they’ll have to work in two systems. This might take you back to life before ERP, when you were trying to manually reconcile data between systems on a regular basis. And that’s why you integrate – to avoid that pain!

Thankfully, ERP and CRM systems can be integrated to provide a more comprehensive view of your performance and customer relationships.

We like to think of our HubSpot CRM as an added layer on top of our ERP platform. Sales and marketing have greater insight into prospect activity and tools that make everyday sales activities more efficient. But the overlapping data is feeding into our ERP system so other teams in the organization have up-to-date information on contacts, companies and sales forecasts.

That’s the beauty of integrating CRM and ERP – different teams have the tools and data they need for their functions, while still sharing information in real-time with other parts of the business.

If we dig a little deeper, here are some specific benefits of an integrated ERP and CRM solution.

  1. Improved efficiency: Integrating your ERP and CRM systems allows you to manage all of your business processes in a connected platform, without the need to manually reconcile data.
  2. Enhanced customer experience: With an integrated ERP and CRM solution, you have a complete view of customer purchase history, account standing and communication, enabling you to provide a more personalized experience.
  3. Better decision-making: Integrating your ERP and CRM systems gives you access to a wealth of data that can help you make more informed decisions about your business. For example, you can use sales data to inform purchasing decisions and provide customers with real-time information on inventory availability to fulfill their order requirements.
  4. Increased sales: Integrating your ERP and CRM systems can help you identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities, and can make it easier for your sales team to close deals.

ERP & CRM Integration Challenges

All that said, integrations inevitably add complexity. But they can add value when implemented correctly. We recommend working with an ERP partner that has experience creating integrations to get the best result.

Prepare for these potential roadblocks ahead of time so you’re not caught off guard.

  1. Standardizing data across business processes can be challenging when each system tracks the data differently. You’ll need to put some rules in place to transform the data as it’s synced and ensure consistent data entry going forward.
  2. Lack of resources can slow down the implementation. This could be your internal IT resources or super users that understand how the data is used in both systems. Your ERP partner can provide support on the technical side and will recommend a design for the integration based on your processes.
  3. Cleaning customer data is a time-consuming, but necessary, step for a strong integration. You’ll need to reconcile the data between both systems and clean for completeness, consistency and accuracy before your integration goes live. These data migration best practices will be a helpful starting point.

Reap the Benefits of an Integrated ERP & CRM Solution

In our experience, it’s best to use the native CRM functionality in your ERP system if you can. That’s your best bet to keep processes simple and efficient.

But if you decide that a separate CRM is the better fit for your needs, find an ERP partner that can build a seamless integration. The money spent will be worthwhile to create a complete solution that ties your data together and maintains company-wide visibility.

As an ERP partner, ProjectLine has built many ERP integrations for our customers (and ourselves). In fact, it’s one of the cornerstones of our success. We’re here to help when you’re ready to chat.

Book a call with our team to get started. 

Download: ERP Readiness Assessment Checklist

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