Longtime Salesforce customers understand the power and benefits of the Salesforce Platform, but what about those companies requiring Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)? Many ERP organizations use on-premises technology, especially companies that make and distribute tangible products. In fact, many manufacturers and distributors are using ERP systems that are between 12 to 19 years old. Today, we can’t imagine using a 19-year-old computer, but businesses still run their operations on archaic ERP. Because these outdated solutions are difficult to access and integrate, ERP data is held captive in inaccessible silos. Companies need to unlock the full potential of ERP information to better serve customers, improve cycle times and to leverage technologies such as Einstein Analytics and AI.
Brian Sommer noted in his article, It’s 2018 So Why Isn’t My ERP Vendor Multi-Tenant?, that businesses haven’t leveraged cloud ERP because vendors haven’t made the move themselves – for a variety of business and technical reasons. Moving to a true cloud architecture is critical to unlocking ERP. Legacy systems are expensive, time-consuming and difficult to customize, change, integrate and upgrade. Many people with the skills to administer legacy systems are retiring. Transitioning to a cloud multi-tenant platform will alleviate many of these concerns, enabling companies to more effectively compete in today’s digital age. And if moving to a modern, upgradable cloud isn’t benefit enough, here are additional advantages and strategies to unlock ERP.
1. Uncover customer data for better customer service
If you are in the area of customer service, you aren’t doing yourself any favors if you have CRM in the cloud and ERP on a legacy system. This artificially separates customer information into different silos, causing inefficient processes and poor customer service.
By moving ERP to the cloud, you'll essentially unlock vital customer information such as inventory availability, delivery status, customer profitability, invoices, credits and return information, making it available to customer-facing personnel. Back-office staff (but still customer-facing personnel), such as credit and collections professionals, will have a view of sales opportunities, support or service cases, too. This can improve customer response times and first-call-resolution rates, and eliminate the dreaded runaround when customers are routed from one department to another. In short, when CRM and ERP are combined, your company will come across as highly personalized and cohesive in its ability to service the customer.
2. Connect CRM to ERP processes for faster cycle times
“Front office” and “back office” are old constructs forced to emerge when systems had limited computing power and were built to automate a smaller set of tasks. Back in the day with limited memory, storage and CPU cycles, functions were broken up into pieces to be automated. The back office received the lion's share of investment and was developed first, leading to today’s ERP. The front office came later. Today, we have virtually unlimited resources on the cloud, making it easy to automate CRM and ERP together to accelerate operations.
Companies must be agile and responsive to compete. This demands a unified approach across the front and back office which the cloud can deliver. With ERP connected to CRM, processes can traverse departments. Functions can be 100% automated and synchronized in real-time from front to back. Overall, cycle times accelerate as there are fewer manual processes, interfaces to run, errors to rectify and delays. We can bridge the gaps that previously existed between selling, production and fulfillment systems, further reducing friction and costs along the way. Streamlining front to back processes also makes it easier for companies to personalize products for their customers and deliver them in a timely way. Quite simply, business will run faster and smoother with CRM and ERP on one cloud.
3. Leverage ERP information for real intelligence
You can pull comprehensive business insights when Einstein Analytics, AI and ERP data are combined. However, analytic tools cannot thrive with data fragmentation, issues around master file data management, data latency and lack of data normalization. These issues persist when ERP and CRM are kept separate. Combining them on the Salesforce Platform using one data model goes a long way toward fixing these vexing data problems. For example, one cloud database makes it easier for Einstein to triangulate information across front and back office functions for demand planning and predictive customer behavior analysis.
4. Make the move to cloud ERP one increment at a time
You might be thinking that moving all of ERP to the cloud is going to be painful. There’s no doubt that ERP projects can be challenging, but the longer you stay on a legacy ERP, the more pain your business will experience in the end – stuck with the status quo, you'll be unable to innovate, adapt to change or progress with the times.
One approach is to implement incrementally, moving certain processes or distinct operations to the cloud in a model called "Two Tier ERP." This phased approach enables you to implement specific components of ERP in pieces, (ideally with customer-centric processes first). You can move specific functions such as inventory or select operations. Some companies elect to automate discrete business units and transmit financial information periodically to the corporate system. In many cases, newer, specialized operations simply won’t fit how old ERP systems were set up, making those processes great candidates to begin the cloud transition.
5. Transition with AppExchange solutions
To help with this transition, consider AppExchange solutions such as Rootstock Software, which provides an ERP data framework or set of ERP objects with all the typical ERP fields pre-defined, e.g. inventory items. The ERP objects can be populated and refreshed using an API, making the implementation much easier than a completely custom object integration project. You’ll get all of the ERP information you need on one platform where you can view it, discuss it with customers, or analyze it by running Einstein Analytics end to end across the data set.
As we’ve discussed, a modern cloud ERP will resolve legacy challenges while simultaneously opening up new business opportunities. As such, I hope this is the year you take the keys and unlock the full potential of ERP for your business. To learn more about this topic, we recently participated in a Salesforce webinar, Unlock ERP: Make Your Data Work for You. Sign up to watch the replay here. If you’re considering switching out your legacy ERP, consult this ERP Buyers Toolkit which includes a number of resources. And of course, you can always check out Rootstock Software on AppExchange.
Tom Brennan is CMO of Rootstock Software.
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