Magazine Article | June 1, 2003

Magnify Your Customer View

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Before integrating ERP with CRM, manufacturer FW Murphy couldn't be sure if customer requests reflected widespread service issues.

Integrated Solutions, June 2003

When it comes to integrating enterprise applications, there are two schools of thought. The first school favors integration of point solutions from multiple vendors. The thought is that point solution providers are experts in their offerings and can contribute to the creation of best-of-breed solutions. The second camp prefers an all-in-one solution from a single vendor. One of this group's primary concerns is that, if there are any problems, there is just "one throat to choke."

Two years ago, FW Murphy (Tulsa, OK), a manufacturer of engine-monitoring equipment, would have cast its vote with the best-of-breed advocates. Since then, however, it has changed its position.

ERP Replaces MRP
In 1995, FW Murphy made its first major enterprise upgrade. Prior to that period, the company had MRP (manufacturing resource planning) software running in its five branches. MRP was sufficient at helping line-of-business managers determine raw material availability and coordinate which machines and operators would run specific jobs. But, the MRP application wasn't able to show the company the big picture in terms of profitability of products. "In 1995, we had 10,000 sellable SKUs [stock keeping units]," recalls Mitch Myers, VP of operations at FW Murphy. "MRP couldn't help us see which SKUs were profitable and which ones weren't." The company searched for an enterprise solution that would allow it to not only view inventory and raw materials availability, but also monitor financials and orders.

FW Murphy's search led it to a J.D. Edwards (Denver) ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution. Once the ERP was rolled out, the company was able to get a bigger picture of its enterprise activity. But, as functional as ERP was, FW Murphy needed more.

ERP And CRM Disparity Misses The Big Picture
FW Murphy sells its products using one of three channels: engine manufacturers, natural gas compression providers, and distributors. Field sales representatives, a call center, and a staff of engineers help these channels with such issues as equipment troubleshooting and warranty questions.

FW Murphy's field sales reps, call center reps, and engineers had no way of systematically capturing customer data. To solve this dilemma, the company deployed a CRM (customer relationship management) solution in early 2000 from a different vendor. With CRM in place, sales reps, call center reps, and engineers could record information such as customer budgets and positive or negative feedback on new engine-testing products.

With ERP and CRM in place, FW Murphy had a more holistic view of its business. Yet, there was still something missing. For example, if a field sales rep visited a client, there was no way of determining the client's credit history or the status of a recent order without calling back to the office. Likewise, FW Murphy's research and development personnel had no way of knowing that several customers had requested additional functionality be added to one of the engine-monitoring devices. The ERP solution had information that field sales reps and call center reps needed, and the CRM solution had information that research and development personnel and shop floor managers needed. Because the two solutions were not integrated, however, no one had a holistic customer view.

ERP, CRM Suite Keeps All Parties Informed
FW Murphy knew that to realize the full potential of its ERP and CRM solutions, it had to integrate the two solutions. "We soon found out that integrating the two solutions was going to be a huge undertaking," recalls Myers. "The two vendors weren't keen on sharing their source codes with one another. We would have to write a lot of custom coding to make the two solutions work because one solution was Web-based and the other was built on a client/server architecture." Also, once the initial integration was completed, expensive upgrades would have to be performed every time either the ERP vendor or the CRM vendor released an upgrade.

Shortly afterwards, J.D. Edwards approached FW Murphy with an alternative plan. The vendor had recently acquired a CRM solution - that functioned as an additional module to its ERP suite - and asked FW Murphy if it would consider replacing its current CRM solution with its solution. "We were reluctant at first," recalls Myers. "We were very happy with how our CRM solution worked and we had spent a lot of time and money getting it to work the way we needed it to." But the looming integration issue caused FW Murphy to look further into the proposal - and finally to accept it. Over the course of a six-month period, FW Murphy migrated its CRM data to the AS/400-based J.D. Edwards CRM application and trained its sales reps, call center reps, and engineers on the new solution. Most of the functionality was the same as its legacy system. "Our legacy CRM solution was more tightly integrated with Microsoft Outlook," says Myers. "For example, we used to be able to drag and drop e-mails from Outlook into our CRM application, whereas now we have to cut and paste them." Like this example, none of the lost functionality proved to be a showstopper. And, what little functionality FW Murphy lost in the trade, it more than made up for once the rollout was complete in September 2002.

With its new, integrated solution in place, FW Murphy's sales reps, customer service representatives, engineers, and research and development personnel have access to more useful data. For instance, when sales reps visit customers they can view a screen that not only shows them customers' budgets and recent feedback on equipment purchases (CRM side), but also any overdue payments and service issues (ERP side) that need to be resolved. Additionally, as each sales rep enters positive or negative feedback on recent equipment purchases, the ERP application is automatically populated with data, and reports are generated to let the appropriate research and development personnel know if there is a trend and if changes need to be made to equipment.

"By having an integrated ERP and CRM solution, we are able to get the big picture on our customers and proactively tailor our products to meet their needs," says Myers. "The solution is on target to pay for itself within a year of the rollout. And, by using ERP and CRM from one vendor our initial implementation and ongoing maintenance costs are 66% less than maintaining a best-of-breed solution."

Some companies will tell you that to get the functionality you need, you have to go with best-of-breed solutions. But, after talking with Mitch Myers and FW Murphy, it's apparent that their solution - and their school of thought - is seeing the big picture, too.