The oft-repeated phrase “United we stand, divided we fall” is applicable to more than just war movies and superhero TV shows. It’s also a great summation of why ERP software integration is key to running a successful business. As Information Builders puts it: “In every ERP implementation, there comes a time where these wide-reaching, all encompassing systems need to communicate with other 3rd party solutions and legacy applications.” At a certain point, the more you keep your different types of software apart, the more likely it is that data will be inconsistent and your processes will become inefficient. This can lead to confusion between departments and an ineffective workflow (the bane of any business’ existence).
What exactly is ERP software integration? In Layman’s terms, it’s the process of bringing together an ERP system with another type of software to maintain consistent information and automate certain processes. What makes ERP software integration so key is that it provides a single location to find information on everything from ecommerce to HR documents to sales leads, so everyone in an organization stays on the same page.
So what are the best categories for ERP software integration? Well, all of them, actually; the more you integrate third-party solutions with your ERP the better. But if you’re going to prioritize certain integration solutions over others, here’s where your focus should be:
The most important cog in your successful-business machine is proper communication with, and excellent customer service provided to your customers, says Aptean. This can be one of the biggest advantages over your competition, so optimizing your customer communication with a “best-of-breed” CRM is crucial. For this reason, CRM and ERP integration is one of the most common, and therefore it’s likely be the easiest category on this list to integrate. If you’re already using a CRM (which you probably already are) but don’t have it integrated with your ERP yet, we highly suggest you do so because of the “critical link between demand (CRM) and supply (ERP)” that it provides. This link helps streamline the marketing and sales process.
Business Intelligence (BI) software is one of the most useful tools in a business’ decision-making arsenal. By collecting and analyzing internal data, BI software helps businesses find the insights that lead to successful new ventures or business practices. The lessons learned from the data collected by BI software are often the launching point to these new implementations, so by integrating your BI vendor with your ERP, your data and insights are easy to access at any time by any employee.
The HR department has some of the most extensive back office needs of any department, so providing an efficient workflow is key. The HR department is, after all, the one department that deals with every employee in your business regardless of title or leadership status. Incorporating your HR vendor’s capabilities with your ERP helps keep track of all of those time-consuming back office tasks by properly placing them in the workflow on your ERP.
Many ERP systems include some type of project management solution, but if you’re already using a third-party project management software, your ERP’s version is doubtfully as sophisticated. What makes this integration so effective is that all of your business tasks, processes and workflows can be aggregated in one place. At any time, any employee can see which projects are done, which are in progress, who’s working on them and what projects are coming up. This can be a huge time-saver so nobody has to ask around to find out, for example, which developer is tackling a bug fix or which sales rep is following up with a lead.
This one comes down to the all-encompassing buzzword of “efficiency.” Any kind of business that manages orders can benefit from integrating their eCommerce applications for much the same reason as BI: data collection. Some of the most important data that these businesses collect are related to orders, inventories, customer information and shipping. As Liz Carpenter at nchannel explains, you can reach a higher level of efficiency when this data is seamlessly communicated with your other systems, thereby automating the data transfer process (and eliminating the need for any manual input).
These five types of third-party software are the most important to consider when beginning and ERP system integration. When you start the process, it’s important to make sure that it happens as seamlessly as possible. Ask your ERP vendor about what third-party vendors it already integrates with, and make sure to check our Leaderboards if you need help deciding which one will work best for your business.