A company’s sales and marketing department is akin to an army’s infantry that is involved in frontline battles, while its back office is more analogous to the lieutenants who plan every action and get the glory without taking the front line risks. Yet neither the sales and marketing people at the front nor the planners at the back could effectively do their jobs without accurate information about each other’s respective roles. In every company, integrating or unifying sales, marketing, and sales tracking information with back office functions is critical to manage operations and to plan and execute for growth and expansion.
Virtually every customer relationship management (CRM) and sales and marketing software system will track and record customer, account, and contact information; product and price lists; sales and payment histories; open orders; and pending product quotations. An effective Salesforce ERP system feeds all of this information into a back office software environment to allow administrative, finance, and accounting personnel to manage supply chains, inventory, vendor and supply chain elements, cash flow, and ultimately, the company’s profitability. Not every CRM or sales and marketing software system, however, can connect into back office software. When faced with this disconnect, a company can either integrate or unify them.
Integrating a CRM or sales and marketing ERP system with back office software is more common among companies where the respective CRM and back office systems have established deep roots. This is a common profile among many companies with parts that have grown in piecemeal fashion. Differences between the two systems, however, can impair robust functionality. IT personnel that are charged with completing the integration will need to ensure the availability of all data required by both the front sales and marketing people and the back office planners.
Combining both systems into a unified whole that runs on a single platform is likely to become a more effective strategy as vendors that provide CRM systems become more familiar with the needs of a back office. Many standalone CRM systems were developed within a sales environment with little knowledge or input from back office management. This is changing with next-generation CRM and sales software systems that show an understanding of accounting and finance, as well as other administrative functions that are handled by back office personnel.
Ultimately, both integration and unification will accomplish the same thing. Consider, for example, how an integrated or unified sales and back office system will function in a company that relies on door-to-door sales. Sales personnel who are in the field will likely use mobile devices to organize sales calls and to record orders. Those orders are immediately sent to a back office where they are processed. Processing data and order status are then fed back to the sales personnel, who can interact with and report back to customers with real-time information on how their orders are being fulfilled.
Different teams of sales and back office managers will also receive this data to allow them to plan production, modify sales techniques and schedules to improve effectiveness, control inventory, and maintain healthy relationships among parties in the supply chain that gets the products from vendors to warehouses and out to customers.
The real goal of the push to integrate or unify sales and back office software systems is to squeeze the greatest amount of profit out of the company’s operations. A company’s sales and marketing infantrymen and women generate tremendously useful data every day. Salesforce ERP software is finally poised to take advantage of that data ands to make it as useful and profitable as is possible in every corporate environment.