ERP vs CRM: A Comprehensive Comparison of the Difference Between CRM and ERP

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When shopping for software solutions, you’ve likely heard mention of ERP software and CRM software. The main factor that these two tools have in common is their focus on revenue generation, automation and an increase in productivity. However, the scope and methodology that these programs use to complete these goals is highly different and should be considered when comparing ERP vs CRM. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly ERP and CRM are, some common functions of each of these systems and how to select the option that’s best for your business.

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What Is ERP?

ERP (enterprise resource planning) software contains functionality for multiple different business processes such as finance, HR, inventory management and distribution. By integrating these processes, the goal is to streamline operations and to centralize information. Many systems are customizable or configurable and allow users to add modules or functionality to adhere to their unique business needs.

Large enterprises commonly use enterprise resource planning solutions, but some small businesses do opt for these solutions as well. ERP software is known for containing tools related to both front- and back-office information, along with improving internal communication and data exchange. Automation is also a key feature due to its connectivity of multiple workflows.

What Is CRM?

CRM is an acronym that stands for customer relationship management. These systems are built to make customers happy, whether it’s through improved ad targeting or tailored sales communications. CRM software is a front-office tool that is used by employees in departments such as sales and marketing to increase revenue through an improvement in customer experience. After all, without a solid customer base, your company doesn’t have much to go on.

These programs are available as either standalone software or as part of an ERP solution. Some providers enable users to incorporate standalone CRM systems that have more relevant or beneficial technology to increase functionality and allow users to develop their own individualized solutions.

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Key Differences: ERP vs CRM

When deciding between CRM or ERP, it’s important to consider some of the distinctions between the two systems. For one thing, an ERP can facilitate business processes across many different workflows, meaning that if you are looking to invest in systems that will benefit finances, warehouse and other operations, an ERP might be a good option.

On the other hand, CRM is a more tailored solution. Yes, many ERP solutions include some CRM functionality either out of the box or as an easily added on module, but the number of customer-related features included in a CRM is more extensive than what’s featured in an ERP package. Ultimately, the main difference between them is scope. In the battle of ERP vs CRM, it’s essential to look at your company’s needs comprehensively and to determine what functionality you specifically need from your solution.

What Are Common Functions of ERP?

Features vary widely based on the vendor that you go with, but there are some commonly included capabilities. Here are some of the tools you might wish to look out for in a solution.

Financial Management

Financial management and accounting tools are at the core of systems. They are the engine behind the facilitation of various business processes. Financial tools enable the solution to be sustainable and to adhere to budgetary requirements. Some specific functions typically included are accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger and fixed asset management. Some programs may also help in the development of budgets, financial forecasting and tax calculation.

Human Capital Management

Managing your people efficiently is one common benefit included in ERP software. HCM tools may include the ability to schedule employee hours, distribute wages and approve PTO and sick leave requests. Some vendors may also offer project management capabilities that enable users to see the projects that staff members are working on while also allocating labor resources as needed.

Customer Relationship Management

We will go more in-depth on what exactly CRM entails in the next section, but it’s important to underline here that some vendors do offer CRM functionality in their systems. The capabilities likely won’t be as advanced or comprehensive as that of a standalone CRM software, but for companies with basic CRM needs that are also seeking solutions for other business processes, ERP could be a good option.

Inventory Management

Some of the capabilities included in inventory management could consist of the ability to set automatic reordering points and notification of low stock levels. IM doesn’t typically stand on its own; it’s usually paired with distribution, warehouse or manufacturing management to develop a more comprehensive solution. After all, being able to monitor and manage inventory in addition to seeing the status of the machines producing your products creates a better overview and more control of the production process.

Supply Chain Management

SCM software contains a robust set of tools. IM, which we discussed above, is one key component of this function along with aspects such as management of purchase orders, distribution, quality monitoring, regulatory compliance and manufacturing. There is a lot of potential for different technologies and features in this area especially, and the manner in which capabilities can be connected and automated differs from vendor to vendor.

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What Are Common Functions of CRM?

The main goal of CRM is to nurture leads and take care of the client experience as users develop into a prospect and, hopefully, into a returning customer. Here are some of the features commonly included in CRM software that aim to achieve this goal.

crm functions

Contact Management

These tools enable users to track and edit customer information. With this feature, you can assign contacts to different representatives and add them to various accounts. The client’s role in the purchasing process for their company can also be monitored. The program can store contracts, invoices and other relevant documents associated with a customer.

Client Interaction Tracking

This tool enables users to track historical client information to improve the sales process. Sales representatives may also segment potential customers based on purchase intention, interests and buying behavior. This capability enables users to track and view payments.

Database Management

This is a helpful tool that allows users from across an organization to access the same information in an easy-to-use, centralized location. Some programs offer data cleaning functionality to reduce duplicate and “dirty” data that could develop incorrect insights. Information from this repository can be downloaded to other workflows within a company to aid in the development of prospects and useful analysis.

Marketing and Campaign Management

Advertising targeting has become a core tenet of modern marketing strategy. This feature enables users to find potential campaign targets and to measure the effectiveness of these campaigns. Some vendors offer integration of the program with various email applications so that contact information can be uploaded and email marketing communications can be sent easily.

Lead Management

With this tool, leads can be gained from multiple different sources, whether it be through email, landing page or referral. This feature enables users to set up lead routing and look at how leads progress with pipeline tracking, hierarchy relationships and territory management tools. Leads can also be assigned to various sales representatives through this function.

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Should I Use Standalone CRM or an Integrated ERP Solution?

Choosing between these depends on how robust your lead management and sales tracking needs are. An ERP is a helpful solution because it streamlines a diverse list of processes, with specific capabilities varying from vendor to vendor. On the other hand, a standalone CRM typically contains a stronger set of customer-related features than a CRM that is included in an ERP solution.

Therefore, if you only require CRM functionality and don’t really need streamlined operations in other business areas such as finance, SCM and distribution, CRM software may be your best bet. However, if you are going to be implementing a solution to facilitate workflows aside from CRM in the near future, you might consider an ERP because it contains a centralized data source and connected business processes.

Additionally, if you have complex CRM needs, you may need to consider a standalone solution due to the variety of features associated with these programs. ERP software is becoming better and better, but its customer relationship management features still aren’t at the standard of CRM solutions that are specifically designed to meet this particular need.

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Conclusion

CRM and ERP are both great tools for optimizing revenue. However, the actual purposes that they serve vary — ERP is a comprehensive solution that centralizes front- and back-office processes, whereas CRM mainly deals with sales, marketing and customer relationships. The program that is best for your business depends on the scope of your needs and the amount of investment that you’re willing to make.

In a CRM vs ERP match-up, what do you think are some of the pros and cons of enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management solutions? Sound off in the comments below!

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Lindsey JenkinsERP vs CRM: A Comprehensive Comparison of the Difference Between CRM and ERP

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Join the conversation
  • Jim de Jager - September 14, 2020 reply

    Hi Lindsey, my customer would like to have both CRM and ERP. The ERP is mainly used to handle Finances, Procurement, and Supply Chain. CRM will be used to handle Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service with some bold-on applications such as Spotify. Should I convince my customer to take one or the other.

    Madeline Reinbolt

    Madeline Reinbolt - October 12, 2020 reply

    Hi Jim,

    CRM software is often offered as part of an ERP system, so your customer does not necessarily have to choose between the two solutions.

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