Salesforce is a powerful CRM solution -- even a cursory review of the basic functionality and the abundance of offerings at the AppExchange prove its potential. However, many enterprises already have a separate ERP solution (SAP has been one of the most popular choices) and now must determine how to make it "talk" to the new CRM. The following tips can help you make the integration process easier.
- Let your business needs drive integration, not the reverse. The first thing you must do is clarify what benefits your enterprise gains from integration. If the decision is left to IT, IT will often choose integration simply because it "seems like the correct way to do it." However, this may not be in accord with the enterprise's priorities. The answers to the questions similar to the following can help with the decision:
- Which processes will integration improve?
- Will integration require any changes to current business processes?
- Can integration help with lead generation?
- How much time can we save for different classes of users, such as our salespeople?
- How will data be synchronized?
- What is the plan to cleanse the data prior to integration?
- Will integration require modifying the structure of the data hierarchy in the ERP?
- Does integration help us generate additional revenue or improve our profitability?
If, based on the answers you receive, you cannot realize a true benefit, you might delay integration or forego it altogether.
- Choose the integration planning team carefully. How many people you need for your integration team depends on your particular enterprise. However, keep in mind that involving too many people can result in project-stalling debates and discussions, while leaving some departments out of the decisions can result in resentment, lack of cooperation or even sabotage. Regardless of the size of the team, make sure that you appoint a strong leader who can keep the process moving forward.
- Address concerns about loss of control. In most organization, the accounting manager will likely be the most vocal in expressing concerns about granting non-accounting personnel access to financial situations. They might not object to letting sales reps access inventory levels or order histories, for example, but balk at granting them access to accounts receivable. Human resources might also have concerns that sensitive data, such as salary information, might be inadvertently exposed to unauthorized users. Determine the processes that are essential to protect and plan accordingly. If necessary, you could opt for a one-way deployment, allowing the CRM to query financial data while protecting the data from unauthorized changes.
- Determine the requirements for the integration. You will need to decide on the type of data integration that you need. For example, must it be real-time, or will batch updates work better for your situation? You will also need to know whether you will need additional tools to make the integration work. Will you need a third-party ETL tool for data synchronization? Can you use the middleware in SAP?
- Evaluate your infrastructure for supporting integration. It is possible, especially in smaller enterprises, that you do not have the personnel with the skills needed to support integration. For example, Salesforce is a cloud-based solution, but your ERP may be on-premises. Bridging the gap may pose a security challenge for industries that must comply with strict regulations. Other tasks could include configuring firewall rules, in-DMZ installation or configuring a reverse proxy.
A CRM can give you a complete picture of your customers, and it is relatively simple to establish a single instance of a Salesforce CRM solution even if you have locations around the globe. However, when different locations have deployed different ERP solutions, the integration methods will not be identical. For this reason, there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer to integrating CRM and ERP -- but these tips should help you plan the strategy that will work best for your specific enterprise.