Posted on 01/12/14 by Tom Miller
CRM systems are wonderful communication tools. One can log every phone call, email, or any other communication between individuals. CRM began with tracking how many contacts were needed to turn a suspect into a prospect and then to a customer. They stored data we used to analyze the flow down the pipeline toward a sale and profitability. We now use CRM to develop forecasts based on communications with the users and buyers of our product. Why not turn the system round and look the other direction toward our suppliers by integrating supply chain ERP and CRM?
From our ERP supply chain module, we know which materials they want to sell to us and at what price they are willing to do so. We know how many times we asked for a delivery commitment and what the response was each time. Why aren’t we importing this data into an integrated CRM system? We can use CRM for more complex supplier relationships too. When our engineer are in communication with suppliers, we track what was said and can judge whether or not the supplier can deliver our requirement.
A Marriage of Communication and Transactional Data
CRM is a collector of communication data as much as ERP is a collector of transactional data. When we have enough data, we can analyze it and use it to help make strategic decisions. We have strived for supply chain visibility for years now. Could an integrated CRM provide some of the visibility in question?
We already setup a trigger in our CRM to follow up on a prospect when they are likely to make a purchase. By integrating supply chain ERP with our CRM we can set a similar trigger to remind us to contact our supplier to be sure they have shipped our order. Those communications don’t have to be verbal. We could create automated emails or integrate with their systems to create direct alerts on their end.
Using CRM to Manage Supply Chain Complexity
Highly outsourced businesses already use CRM to communicate. Their design work is done by a contractor in one country and manufacturing done in another. They use a 3PL to warehouse and manage customer shipments and hire yet another business to keep the general ledger.
Supply chains can be every bit as complex. Our customer sends specifications for an item. We integrate those specifications into our processes. That communication might take place through ERP with the help of a purchase order / sales order link. CRM can handle the same communications. We can send the data files or drawings to our supplier and because we use CRM to manage these supply chain tasks, we have the added benefit of knowing the communications are received and we can ping for regular updates through the system.
Use the best tool for the job. Use supply chain management to control product flow. Use ERP to control transaction and financial flows. Use CRM to control communications flow. Use them together to maximize system ROI.