Guest Column | December 18, 2023

Modernizing Commercial Operations In Manufacturing With CRM + ERP

By Ivan Moore, Apps Associates

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In the wake of Industry 4.0 and the mass digital transformation efforts that have taken place over the last five years, manufacturers can now make their operations more connected and efficient than ever.

As I've covered before, enterprise connectivity is pivotal to success. This connectivity can accelerate your digital transformation and lead to more efficient sales processes, better forecasting, and more realized revenue over time. This starts with a solid foundation, which we define as including a trusted ERP, CRM, and middleware platform.

Modern Operations Systems

The benefit of technologies like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), is that manufacturers can drastically improve their commercial operations. The systems collect, store, and organize critical information about your customers, products, services, and employees so that you can leverage that knowledge to make improvements.

The use of these systems allows you to manage your complete book of business digitally, from sales opportunity to order management. This allows for better alignment between planning and forecasting, sales agreements, the final product/production, and shipment data visibility. Connecting just these pieces of your business can have a massive impact on your employees’ day-to-day experience, as well as your customer experience and bottom line.

Driving Enterprise Forecasting

As I've mentioned, accurate forecasting is important for accurately predicting revenue, but also for ensuring your operations team is prepared for order fulfillment. Uniting information surrounding direct and indirect sales through distribution networks gives you an enterprise-level summary of your operations.

Manufacturing Cloud by Salesforce offers some very useful features in terms of forecasting, and when you integrate your CRM with your ERP, you get an even better view.

Let’s dive into an example: Imagine you are working on a new opportunity for a customer that has a forecast associated with it. Say they want to purchase 20 widgets now, and an additional 10 widgets each month over the next 12 months.

Your sales rep will create this opportunity in your CRM, where it will live while the sales team is actively working on it.  At some point in the opportunity management journey, the information is shared with your ERP system, so that your fulfillment and operations teams can begin their planning. This is likely done via a middleware platform such as MuleSoft.  When the business is won, it becomes a sales agreement, aka a real customer commitment that your manufacturing and operations team must deliver on.

Once the order hits the ERP system, your operations team knows they have to manufacture the products and send them out in accordance to the schedule in the sales agreement. At this point, information is shared back to your CRM. With the right workflows, you can monitor actual shipment dates and see the run rate of estimated vs actual orders.

When your ERP and CRM are talking to each other in this way, teams on both sides of the customer – sales and operations – can get an accurate portrayal of what’s happening in an account. Your operations team can accurately forecast how many widgets they need to create, and your sales team can see how many widgets their customers are consuming, creating a better forecast for future sales.

I will always advocate for the customer experience to be paramount to a company’s success. I think we have a responsibility to our customers to not only deliver on our sales agreements but also to make the experience as seamless as possible.

When the value chain is fragmented, the customer experience will inevitably be fragmented. Modernizing your commercial operations requires a solid, strategic foundation surrounding your ERP, CRM, and integration platforms. Optimizing these processes will create a smoother customer experience, as well as improve your overall corporate outlook.

About The Author

Ivan Moore is Practice Director of Apps Associates, a premier enterprise application advisory services leader with a customer-first focus. For more than two decades decision makers have turned to Apps Associates for end-to-end strategic counsel, system integration, and the services required to solve their most complex business and digital transformation challenges — applying expansive expertise in data and analytics, application modernization, automation, digital systems, operations, and change management.