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Are ERP and CRM one and the same?

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As we engage with customers, and talk to them about the roles of ERP and CRM as enablement and automation tools, many of them immediately try to draw a comparison between the two systems, says Heath Huxtable, head of Vox Telecom’s Consulting and Software Integration Division.

CRM and ERP are, in their minds, technologies that focus on specific, traditional definitions.

And by traditional definition, CRM represents a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers and technology is required to organise, automate and synchronise the sales, marketing, customer service and technical support line functions.

ERP, in its traditional sense, allows an organisation to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business, and automate back office functions related to finance, manufacturing, budgeting and forecasting, professional services and human resources to name but a few.

In order to make a business decision, an attempt is often made to position one, or the other, as the most effective business application in that role. But as companies, and technology, change, so the lines between ERP and CRM are blurring, and the need to compare them becomes almost moot.

Today, more than ever, we are seeing that ERP and CRM are complementary technologies that enable not only the automation of many business processes, but also add controls into a business. This assists with “end-to-end” control of business processes which may begin and end outside of the realm of the traditional ERP or CRM application. They enable and empower people and work together to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Understanding that there is a natural overlap between ERP and CRM, and how best to leverage this, will deliver simpler, more efficient, and in some instances more cost effective solutions, especially in and for the mid-market space.

Microsoft Dynamics GP for example, which many organisations disregard because they believe it is suited specifically for the financial services industry, is equally adept, applicable and successful in industries that range from agriculture to the public sector, and almost everything in between.

In South Africa, the agricultural industry can benefit from process automation in sales forecasting, growing, contract administration, production, quality control and financial management related to the agri business. In the wholesale and distribution environment, supply chain companies are utilising ERP and CRM for supplier management, production and product planning, sales forecasting, inventory, warehouse and financial management. In the public sector, organisations need comprehensive systems to enable them to address compliance with legislations such as the PFMA, and with the broader requirements of stakeholder management.

With the advent and adoption of cloud services, small(er) and mid-market businesses will be able to experience the benefits of complete solutions, and be more readily able to compete with larger counterparts. The adoption of cloud services provides the ability to change the business and opportunity landscape for organisations that may otherwise have not had access to enterprise quality products and services.

In our experience, businesses which engage with consulting companies that understand both business and technology, are better able to leverage, capitalise on and derive benefit from their investment.

This singular approach to business, means that companies experience maximum benefit from the complementary and overlapping roles of ERP and CRM.