In 2011 Forbes published an article by Eric Savitz, "Integrate Everything: 10 Tech Predictions For 2012" and in January this year they posted another article by Louis Columbus entitled, "ERP Prediction for 2013: The Customer Takes Control". One of the author’s predictions was that: ‘Customers push speed and responsiveness from a “nice to have” to a “must have” as advances in mobility platforms and integration make real-time possible.’ Integration is becoming a key requirement for businesses that have many disparate software systems. So what is driving this trend?
The Pain caused by Information Islands Many organizations are feeling pain because they have systems that are not integrated and they are working with 'information islands'. What I mean by 'information islands' is that they have various software solutions run by different departments. The pain that this causes them is that if the departments are not communicating, this causes unnecessary delays or worse a breakdown in communication that can seriously hurt the smooth running of the Business.
Imagine this scenario where a business does not have any integration between their ERP & CRM:
A small children's clothing manufacturer who supplies boutique stores throughout North America has a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that is used by its Sales and Marketing Department to manage new opportunities and existing customers.
Orders are recorded into the system but have to be manually sent through to the Finance Department. Additionally when goods are shipped there is another manual process that is recorded into the CRM. The Sales Team has no visibility of stock levels. Nor do they have any visibility of accounts that are on-hold or waiting payment. Often they will take a client order and then be asked by Finance to call the customer back to say they are out of stock or that they need to pay before another shipment can be made.
Adding to the Sales Department's frustration is that Finance does not necessarily inform them immediately of an issue. Sometimes there is a 24 to 48 hour delay in getting back to a customer! All the Sales Team wants to be able to do is offer a better service to their Customers!
The Finance Department is responsible for the Enterprise Resource Planning system. Their system handles all new customer credit requests, invoicing, credit and stock control. They are always chasing their tails as the Company is very busy. They try and keep track of stock but sometimes the levels drop too low and they get an irate Sales Team member calling them.
They would like to send out a daily list of accounts that are on hold but never seem to get to it! They realize that it would be good if the Sales Team could let their delinquent customers know that they can't order until a payment is received! But they just don't have the time; especially as the Sales team is always calling them about stock or credit control!
This scenario is a classic example of an 'information island' where one company has two systems managed and maintained by different departments and no visibility for their colleagues. So what is the solution?
Integration between CRM and ERP software
By integrating CRM and ERP Software and adding intelligent business process into the mix the information islands would disappear. There is no way that Finance wants Sales dabbling in their system and Sales likewise doesn’t want finance having any control of their software systems. They both want to keep their own distinct patch!
However, by having the systems integrated these silos go away and the benefits of the integration, the knowledge that can be shared, the time saved and the improved productivity is realized companywide very quickly.
It now becomes clear why ‘Integration’ has featured in top Technology predictions for the past 2 years and it is my belief that this trend will continue. Do you agree?