There are many compelling reasons to integrate enterprise CRM and ERP systems, but for this week’s blog, we’ve selected five of our favorite top drivers. We’ll also compare a few of the methods and tool sets available to integrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Dynamics GP, as well as list the standard integration templates provided in the most popular integration tool sets.
- Reduce manpower required to manually re-enter or copy and paste data between systems
- Eliminate data transcription errors
- Real-time bi-directional flow of data
- Trigger CRM Workflows from changes to data in ERP system
- Create reports that accurately combine ERP and CRM data
Before taking a deep dive into the list, I thought I’d answer a question asked by many companies as they select ERP and CRM systems, “Why don’t they just combine all the functionality into one program so we don’t have to integrate?”
- The first answer is that Microsoft does provide full CRM and ERP functionality combined in Dynamics AX, the highest end product in the Dynamics ERP family. If a single integrated CRM/ERP system is a requirement for your organization, then you will want to consider Dynamics AX.
- My next response is that marketing and sales organizations tend to be very dynamic, constantly experimenting with different business practices, while accounting and operations tend to be much more control, standardization, and compliance oriented. While good ERP systems can be configured to meet a variety of business needs, they are not generally reconfigured as often or to the same degree as CRM systems.
- Where accounting and operations processes are tightly intertwined, marketing and sales often operate outside accounting and operations, both geographically and procedurally. There are many touch points, therefore the need to integrate, but marketing and sales departments often act with more autonomy, from a systems perspective, than accounting and operations.
A Deeper Look at the Top Five Reasons to Integrate Dynamics CRM and Dynamics GP:
Reason #1: Reduce manpower required to manually transcribe data between systems
We could subtitle this reason “Spreadsheets, Spreadsheets, Everywhere.” In my 20+ years of implementing ERP and CRM systems, I’ve never once analyzed and documented a legacy business process workflow without management being shocked at the number of times data was copied and pasted or manually transcribed from one system into another. User’s PC and network directories are full of spreadsheets containing data exported from one system, e-mailed to another user, and then re-entered into another system. This is added cost with no added value—waste pure and simple. Even semi-automated processes where data is exported to a delimited text or Excel file, mapped, then uploaded into another system are time consuming and error prone.
Reason #2: Eliminate data transcription errors
Data that is transcribed manually will always, without exception, contain some degree of errors. Data that is copied and pasted is often truncated, pasted into the wrong field, or due to character set issues may place cryptic characters in the data that not only look strange, but can crash processes. Even export/import procedures experience transcription errors when the data itself is the improper data type, contains delimiters that skew the columns, or is manually edited between export and import.
Reason #3: Real-time flow of data
Integrations can be set to post from the source system to the target system immediately upon creation or update of the source record. To illustrate the value of this feature, I will share an experience I had a few months ago. I had been on hold with a business that I was calling to inquire about one of their services. While on hold, I continued to web surf, looking at their competitors’ web sites. One of them caught my attention, and I filled out their web form questionnaire while on hold, then clicked the submit button. Less than 1 minute later I had an inbound call, so I hung up and took the call. It was a sales representative for the company whose web form I had just filled out. A few weeks later on a follow up call, I told the sales rep how he snagged the sale from his competitor. He told me their web portal had a live integration with their CRM system which placed my inquiry into an inbound inquiry queue. He was monitoring the queue and while dialing was reading my responses to the web form.
Reason #4: Trigger CRM Workflows from changes to data in ERP system
One of the great features of Dynamics CRM is the ability to create workflows based on a record being created or an update to the value of a field on a record. The workflows can perform branching logic based on the data event that occurred, creating and assigning a variety of tasks to users, groups, and queues. With the exception of AX, the Microsoft Dynamics ERP systems do not support this level of user configurable workflow. By integrating CRM with GP, changes to a record or field in GP can trigger a workflow in CRM. Here are some examples:
- Shipment of an order to a customer with a certain Customer Class can trigger CRM to send a shipment notification e-mail to the customer and schedule a telephone call for the sales representative to contact the customer a week later to verify they received their goods.
- A change to the quantity of an item with a certain Item Class in GP can trigger CRM to create a task for the Master Scheduler to review the item and verify that it will not affect the shop floor schedule.
- A dramatic change to the standard cost of an item can trigger CRM to create and assign a task to the pricing manager to review the item’s price lists.
Reason #5: Create reports that accurately combine ERP and CRM data
Businesses increasingly rely on the need to track income from the earliest stages of lead acquisition to cash collections, often mining the data for correlations, key ratios, and behaviors that help them understand their business.
Both Dynamics CRM and Dynamics GP are built on the Microsoft platform top-to-bottom, using Microsoft SQL Server as the database engine in which all the data resides. Well written integrations provide cross-references between the CRM marketing and sales records and their corresponding ERP records in GP. Using Microsoft Business Intelligence Development Studio, a component of SQL Server, businesses can create reports that integrate related data from both the CRM and ERP systems. Examples of this include:
- Complex commission reports where the metrics for determining commission rates may reside in CRM and the invoice payment data in GP.
- Return on Marketing (ROM) reports where the Campaign data resides in CRM and the cost and revenue data reside in GP.
- Marketing demographics data correlated with collected invoice data.
While the Microsoft Connector is a free download and comes with the standard integrations described above, Scribe Insight offers a far more comprehensive set of tools allowing for the creation of custom integrations with a variety of platforms and databases as well as additional features like branching logic and data transformation tools.
Scribe provides an intuitive graphical interface for mapping fields from the source to the target.
Scribe also provides a graphical step flow and control editor. Users and developers can easily see the flow of the integration, and track the branching logic that controls steps to be skipped or conditions that would cause the integration to proceed to a specific step.
When using an integration template or creating a custom integration, knowledge of all of the systems to be integrated as well as the integration tool to be used will assure a robust and stable integration. Tridea Partners provides ERP and CRM integration development services using Scribe Insight, the CRM and GP SDK’s (software development kits) for Microsoft Development Studio, and the Microsoft connector for CRM and GP.
Written by George Sagen, Senior Application Consultant for Tridea Partners, a Microsoft Dynamics GP and Dynamics CRM consultant Serving Southern California and the Salt Lake City region.