ERP & CRM - How Much Integration Do I Really Need?

Posted by Jen Bieker on September 13, 2016


By:  Tim Thompson, Crestwood Co-founder & Partner


One question that comes up often when talking about using CRM systems centers around integrating that CRM solution with your back office ERP system.  We’ve found that sometimes the word “integration” is used very broadly, and may not mean what you think it does. True integrations require significant effort, and if all you are looking to do is display some data from one system to another, you may be able to get away with reports instead. To figure out what you need, we first need to ask a few key questions. 

But let’s back up a bit. To start, it is important to understand that the moment an integration is deployed, you have redundant data.  Meaning, you will have duplicate data existing in your systems.  For example, if you have invoices in Dynamics GP and those integrate to Dynamics CRM, you now have 2 copies of them.  Even if one is a “read-only” scenario, the invoices still exist as duplicates. 

So the question to ask yourself is, “Do I really need that?”  Do you need Dynamics CRM users (Sales, Customer Service, etc.) to see that information, and/or do those same people have access to Dynamics GP?  And to what extent?  You might have sales people who only use Dynamics CRM and don’t need to be in your ERP system. But you really want them to have a complete, current picture of an Account – including any outstanding invoices, order history, etc. without giving them access into Dynamics GP.  

For this scenario, maybe you don’t need a true integration, but instead, just some reports displaying data from the other application.  Many clients don’t realize that it is possible to pull reports from one system into another, while matching the data, and having drilldown capabilities.  This method gives your team the data it needs, without having to access other systems, or having to implement and maintain a full-fledged integration.  We’ve done this for ourselves and our clients with great success.

These kinds of reports can save you the extra costs and risks that may come along with a full integration, such as: 

  • More customization needed in Dynamics CRM
  • When upgrading a system, more work might be required
  • If one side changes the process, the other might need to be redone
  • More software is required
  • Larger database sizes needed

Sometimes a full integration is what you need, and in those cases, selection of the correct integrating technology is critical. Depending on needs, we generally recommend Scribe Software or eOne Solutions as the best integration tools.  

However, we often find reporting is far superior to actually constructing an integration of systems.  It’s also important to work with a partner who knows the process backwards and forwards to ensure success.

To learn more about how you can make your software work for you instead of the other way around, contact me at TThompson@Crestwood.com or call me at (847) 232-8202.


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