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Is data shared really a job halved?

07 Nov 2011

How often during your day-to-day operations do your employees duplicate or even triplicate data entry into disparate business applications?

New customers need to be put into your Customer Relationship Management for sales and aftercare, right? But you also need them in your finance system so you can bill them.  Employees get placed in your HR and payroll solution and then the HRM cost is input separately into your journal. Suppliers in your sales system and your purchase ledger – the list goes on, as do the associated personnel costs.

Integration Generation

Different business applications manage customer information; front-office employees use CRM applications that support customer-facing activities, such as sales, marketing and customer service, whereas back office employees use ERP systems that support transactional reporting and compliance activities, such as invoicing, accounts receivable, cash-flow management and financial reporting.

While front-office applications have historically been developed around the idea of cross-organisational collaboration, back-office applications by contrast have been insular in nature. This may possibly be due to the legacy of the systems or perhaps the need for increased security within finance operations that has lead to reluctance in opening this data up to the rest of the business.

The lack of cross-pollination of data from front to back office has historically led companies to run business applications that have struggled to address key business needs. This is particularly true where customer-related processes cross from front to back office processing, such as sales order processing and supply chain management, leading to silos of information, administrative inefficiencies and process duplication.

Today’s CRM and ERP systems have gone some way to address these common problems experienced in medium and large businesses. Enhanced integration, workflow management, exceptions monitoring, mandatory fields and data moving from one part of the application to the other have all provided capabilities that increase front to back office integration, for example:

•Consistent data across ERP and CRM applications

•360 degree customer visibility, regardless of whether the customer data originated in the ERP or CRM

•Straight through processing – which enables a user to initiate a transaction, and then automatically trigger all the business related processes

I’ve been lucky enough to work within a team that looks at these challenges and develops solutions to address them. Front-to-back office integration is essential for companies – regardless of their size – to bring together disconnected employees, applications, data and develop business processes in order to help drive revenue, serve customers more efficiently and reduce cost.

The best approach to assimilating business management software is to focus on improving and simplifying the integration experience for all of your  users. This is achieved by deploying ERP products that, out-of-the-box, are compatible with market leading CRM solutions.

Mike Lorge is managing director for Sage Business Solutions.

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