Integration Widens CRM's Business Value


When I consider CRM, I tend to think about it primarily in terms of what it can do for the sales force -- and I suspect I'm not alone, given the popularity of Salesforce.com.


But this short piece on Vendor Guru made me rethink CRM. The article discusses how CRM can benefit the whole business when it's integrated with marketing/e-commerce, operations and accounting.


I knew CRM could affect marketing and e-commerce, but a less obvious use is integrating CRM with supply chain management to cut fulfillment times. The article also points out that CRM systems can be used to help anticipate and coordinate ordering products.


As for accounting, Apatar's blog, which is how I found the Vendor Guru piece, notes that:

"Integrating Customer Relations Management and bookkeeping is probably high on the ToDo list of many companies."

It makes sense that you would want to share the data available in the CRM system, but the Vendor Guru piece points out that integrating the two technologies also gives you the ability to run more detailed, predictive business analysis:

"For instance, customers can be analyzed and prioritized according to profitability. Also, customer sales and cost trends can be used for budgeting purposes."

CRM is in its hey-day, it seems. Spending is up and, perhaps more significantly, more small businesses are embracing CRM solutions, thanks to the availability of SaaS offerings. The real estate market is a good example of an industry that's recently "discovered" CRM.


CRM's expansion is even changing other office technology, according to Denis Pombriant of CRM Buyer, who wrote in an recent e-Commerce Times column


"One of the hallmarks of CRM is that its footprint keeps expanding. I think part of the reason is that we have taken to lumping everything that is not a back-office application area into CRM. In fact, some people are even using front office interchangeably with CRM these days, myself included."

CRM, in and of itself, can be impressive and offer great productivity boosts. But it's easy to become focused on the immediate need and miss how a technology implementation -- and in particular integrating that technology with other systems - could affect other areas of the business down the line. (I suspect this is another peril of IT being too project-focused.)


And that's why I really wanted to point out this Vendor Guru piece. The article itself is brief and a bit superficial, but it's a great reminder to think beyond the immediate installation or integration project and see how your work can benefit the whole organization.