Integrated CRM and ERP Systems Made Possible

Many organizations have business applications which they use to help drive efficiencies and run their business. However, many also struggle to realize the value of integrating traditional Sales (or CRM) solutions with their Financial and/or Operations systems. One could argue that tracking opportunities to gain visibility into one’s sales pipeline has little value if you don’t DO anything with it. After all, what good is knowing what’s coming if you can’t act on it? It’s a bit like learning about an upcoming storm and venturing outside with shorts and flip flops.

Microsoft has been offering integrations between their Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (ERP) solutions for over 15 years. The latest generation builds upon a new Azure service, known as the Common Data Service (CDS) or Common Data Model. The premise is that since Sales and ERP solutions typically have very different data models, there is a need for a normalized place to store data from both systems. One huge advantage to this is that Microsoft develops and maintains what is essentially a Data Warehouse for your shared data. The CDS data model is extendable, so storing and exchanging fields that are unique to your business is possible. Currently, Microsoft provides templates to support three different workloads, with more promised to come. The traditional Quote to Cash model supports basic sales processes, while the newer Field Service and Project Service workloads are also supported. These templates and their data mappings can be found here.

The Quote to Cash process provides financial details in addition to product and pricing data. For example, a customer’s AR balance and credit information can be synchronized. Salespersons are quickly able to determine if they can sell a customer new products and services. The Quote to Cash template has the high-level data mapping you see below. The “Data Integrator” between Sales and Finance and Operations refers to the Azure (CDS) Service.

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With Microsoft footing the bill for developing and maintaining CDS, organizations can save money on licensing expensive middleware or integration software and save money on implementation costs. As many integrations require additional customizations, it’s best to think of the integration offerings as templates or starter packs.

Microsoft’s Quote to Cash process delivers the most immediate value to sales organizations who offer finished goods. Part of the data mapping template allows you to integrate product and pricing data (often mastered in the ERP system) to sales teams. The main benefit is to provide visibility into products, pricing, and stock levels without having to log into an ERP system. For organizations in the manufacturing industry, this solution can provide insights into Engineer to Order or Design to Order product availability. This can significantly reduce the calls between sales and engineering (or production) teams asking, ‘where’s my order?’, or ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, you need it when?!’. Ultimately, this results in better customer service, as the sales teams are often the ones responding to customer requests, and they are empowered to quickly respond to those requests. In these Engineer to Order, or Design to Order organizations, product details such as Bill of Materials or build process are unknown to the sales team until the engineers do their work in the ERP system. The finished BOM can then be passed back to the Sales solution as line item details, along with cost and pricing information.

Both the Field Service, and Project Service templates are built upon the Quote to Cash in terms of data exchange. In addition to Customers, Products, Pricing, Quotes, Orders and Invoices, Field Service adds on Work Orders, and Time and Inventory, as per below.

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Project Service builds upon the Quote to Cash Template as well, detailed ERD can be found here.

More and more salespeople are leveraging data to help them sell to their customers. Perhaps you’ve heard of the expression “Data is the new Oil”? Historical sales and sales trending provide incredible insights into what products or services SHOULD be sold. For example, if a salesperson knows that a customer has only purchased 25% of what they purchased last year, they can adjust their strategy to suggest a different product line (perhaps one that’s more cost effective). Comparative selling has also become very popular, allowing a sales person to compare customers in similar lines or business or geographies. Again, this helps with sales strategy, allowing a line of questioning such as “Bill down the street is buying 3x what you are, help me understand why you aren’t being as aggressive.”

For Field and Project Service workloads, the benefit is typically around achieving better inventory control, integrating sales and service details into the planning processes, and achieving quicker time to invoice.

As mentioned earlier, while Microsoft develops and maintains the CDS for you, it’s worth noting that this is still an Azure service, and organizations have to setup and maintain an Azure account. The data being exchanged between the two systems will result in Azure service charges, so organizations with a significant volume of quotes, orders, invoices, work orders, projects, or expenses being exchanged, should anticipate these costs accordingly.

If you would like to learn more about integrating these systems and it could potentially benefit your organization, contact us now to get in touch with one of our team members.

Author: Travis Pullen, Director, Dynamics 365 for Field Service

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