The what, when, and why of back office integration in 700 words or less …
I know that my blog posts can get rather lengthy at times, and so I will attempt to tackle this subject in 700 words or less.
In a meeting with a prospect today, I am reminded of the complexity of back office integration. However, even more-so, I am reminded of the importance of it. Let me start with the later and then I’ll take a quick shot at the complexity.
The importance of CRM and back office integration:
Integration between CRM and your back office provides your sales team (and all customer facing individuals) immense amounts of useful data. Just to name a few:
- Sales by account by year for the last several years: This shows the customer trends and a declining trend is usually a good waning sign of an unhappy customer.
- Sales by product line: This lets your customer facing individuals know what product lines the customer is using, and presents opportunities for cross-sale.
- Aging of accounts: This will help in collection efforts as your sales people will know the customer’s payment status.
- Order status: This lets your salesperson know where an order is within the system and will help them to be proactive in negative delivery situations.
- Credit limit visibility: This will help your sales team to know if an order is within the approved credit limit and help them to take the necessary actions prior to accepting an order that is beyond the limit.
The complexity of CRM and back office integration:
While this blog is not meant to be an all inclusive check list for the potential issues and problems of back office integration, I will touch on a few key points:
- Integration may provide access to data that you do not want made available to all users in the CRM system. Be sure to set security to handle these situations. For example, it may not be necessary for all users to see cost information.
- There is always a discussion as to what to do about changes to account information (Account name, address, phone number, key contacts, etc.). Should we allow anyone to change this data in the CRM system and sync it to the accounting system, or require customer changes be made in accounting and pushed to the CRM system.
- Where should quotes begin, in the CRM system or in the accounting package? Should all quotes be an opportunity in the CRM system?
- In many CRM systems, sales orders and invoices are two separate sets of tables. Is it important to have one, the other, or both visible in the CRM system?
- Along the same lines which data should be aggregated (orders or invoices)? Aggregation of the data displays the total sales by month by year for a multi-year period. An example is in the following screen shot taken from SalesLogix, a popular CRM application:
In my experience over the past 12 years, back office integration is a critical element to sales force enablement. However, it doesn’t have to happen in one massive phase. In fact, it is probably better to do it in steps. Start with the area of biggest pain. If quotes and payment information are your biggest issues, do that first. Then add in data aggregation in another phase. Follow that up with invoice or order visibility. Spreading it out over phases will help you and your consultant to more easily manage the integration and it will help you to keep the costs down while ensuring that the integration is working as you need.