Not ERP Vs. CRM, ERP with CRM: Integrating Front-Office and Back-Office Functions to Deliver Value

If you are trying to be more customer-centric, you really need to merge what you do, and how you do it, with what your customers want. It isn’t a question of should we do ERP or CRM, but rather, how do we do ERP with CRM.

John E. Kosar, III

From a systems perspective, ERP with CRM means integrating the two; from a business perspective, this means integrating Sales and Operations; from the highest level, this means merging front-office and back-office capabilities.

This series will walk you through some of the ways process-centric companies understand these two functions, and how they implement applications and processes for an ERP-with-CRM solution. It all starts with two silos: front-office and back-office.

What Is Front-Office? What Is Back-Office? And Ever the ‘Twain Shall Meet

We need to be honest about where organizations begin, and they begin with essentially two different cults, the cult of front-office and the cult of back-office.

What Is the Front-Office Cult?

Front-Office functions are your customer-facing business processes, or Sales and Marketing, and possibly Service, but we’ll talk more about that later. Systems-wise, Front-Office applications are governed by Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and they either support the interface between sellers and buyers, or they are the interface.

Sales Operations and Marketing are support for the interface. Sales is the interface. Communications systems, salesforce automation, contracting, quoting, orders, usage tracking, and live customer support are just a few examples of front-office applications, many of which are ideally housed within a CRM.

What Is the Back-Office Cult?

Back office refers to the set of business functions required to generate value for the customer and support that value-generation: everything from Operations to Accounting to HR. Components of ERP like Procurement, Production, Distribution, Business Intelligence, and Enterprise Asset Management are all potentially deployed under the broad umbrella of an ERP.

Where Do they Meet?

No matter how much you want to keep these two cults separate, they are forced to interact around serving the customer. Functions like quoting and customer service, areas where your business is interfacing with the customer and collaborating to deliver real value from Operations, are the meeting of back office and front office.

As long as you are thinking in siloed terms, of either/or, you will be sacrificing these moments that actually mean the most to your customers.

There are a handful of applications that help to configure products (Configure-Price-Quote, aka CPQ), engage service agreements (Contract Lifecycle Management, aka CLM), and end-to end solutions (Quote-to-Cash, aka QTC) that perform both of these capabilities.

The most advanced of these systems solve the problem of ERP vs. CRM and create a solution of ERP with CRM by integrating Front Office and Back Office systems.

If you are interested in seeing a more thorough breakdown of these solutions, the processes they automate, and the business logic that overlap across front- and back-office functions, be sure to come back next week, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Alone We Are Smart; Together We Are Brilliant

Whether you are looking for CPQ, CLM, or CRM, let us help you decide if a Quick-Start, Deep Dive, or Turnaround would be best for your organization.
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