Salesforce for Manufacturing: ERP Integration

Giving your Salesforce Users what they want!

Now that you have a good understanding of the essentials necessary to ensure your team is set up for success with Salesforce, it’s time to discuss how valuable ERP integrations are to user adoption for Manufacturing companies. This is one of my favorite topics and the catalyst for my passion and excitement towards Salesforce for Manufacturing.  The value to end users and the Salesforce adoption that ensues is nothing less than exciting, and the best part is that it typically costs much less than expected – in both time and dollars.

To illustrate my point, we’ll look at three different scenarios of ERP integration with this main goal in mind: we need to find that perfect balance of delivering value and efficiency to End Users, without extensive costs/timelines.

Scenario #1: Salesforce without ERP Integration

For many reasons, companies new to Salesforce (or any CRM) take the approach of keeping things very simple out of the gates (i.e. no integration, standard functionality, etc.) with the intention of avoiding confusion or intimidating users.  I understand their reasoning, but that story typically ends with mild adoption of Salesforce by a small subset of users, followed by grumblings about “entering data for no reason” as Salesforce dwindles away over the next few months. This doesn’t happen due to bad intentions or the lack of technical capabilities from users – it happens because nothing of significant value has been provided to the team (and who can blame users for that?).

The main culprit is that, as manufacturers, we typically can’t take advantage of the traditional low hanging fruit that CRM systems provide out of the box. Standard lead/opportunity management is often misaligned with our reality.

Here’s a few examples that often break the traditional CRM use cases – your company…

  1. Deals with a high volume of sales orders and creating opportunities for each of them is inefficient.
  2. Sells through manufacturers’ reps and the sales team doesn’t necessarily own or know about every opportunity unless they assisted with a quote.
  3. Client/distributor orders are placed through customer service and are entered directly into ERP without sales involvement
  4. There are many more examples, but let’s keep moving.

The point here is that standard opportunity management doesn’t always align well with manufacturing companies because the responsibilities of sales tend to be more about account relationship management and less about managing individual deal cycles for each sale. The value of the CRM to a sales user is understanding the customers’ sales behaviors over time – data which comes from ERP orders/invoices.

Want to test this out? Ask a sales person about how things are going with a key account this year, and you’ll almost certainly see them reach for some papers on their desk to show you an order summary printout from the ERP.  Don’t expect CRM adoption unless you can deliver what they can’t live without!

Scenario #2: CRM with Extensive Bi-Directional ERP Integration

On the other side of the spectrum, I often encounter the “we need everything fully integrated immediately” mentality.  While I commend organizations that understand the value of integration, it doesn’t quite work that way.

People are good at identifying every possible bi-directional integration they can think of – heck, sometimes they build beautiful diagrams. However, by trying to take on everything upfront, you’ll find yourself tweaking an over-engineered integration while your users continue to operate without a CRM. In addition to that, your executives will start complaining about paying subscription license costs with no tangible results.

With that being said, don’t stop from documenting a list of potential integration desires – build those beautiful diagrams. But, use this list as a barometer in prioritizing and simplifying your true initial needs.

It’s critical that my ERP integration to Salesforce:

  • Enables accountability across processes
  • Enhances the workday experience for my users.
  • Unlocks capabilities we currently cannot access (or easily access) today.
  • Is delivered in a timely fashion and doesn’t result in paying subscription licenses for extended periods of time without driving value.

If you remember one thing from this post, it should be that integration is not an all-or-nothing effort.  It’s OK if users need to do one manual data entry task initially, or a workflow notification is used in place of full integration for some processes. Just make sure to acknowledge it, articulate why the decision was made (i.e. time to value) and let users know that that inefficiency will be solved in the future. Take a deep breath and don’t over complicate the integration process!

Scenario #3: One-way Sync into Salesforce (Recommended Starting Point)

An overwhelming majority of the value of ERP integration to CRM comes from simply passing valuable account & order/invoice data into Salesforce on a nightly basis. Let’s take a look at the value of a basic one-way nightly integration of ERP account & order data unlocks in Salesforce:

  • Account Record: Access to orders & order status (accessible on a mobile device! Try that with your ERP).
    • Roll-up summary of order data can provide instant access to KPIs for account management. No more struggling to pull sales reports from ancient ERP interfaces!
      • Last order date (reads date from most recent order)
      • Year-to-date/month-to-date sales
      • Current period vs. previous year current period sales (trending)
      • Rolling 90-day sales/volume figures
  • Order Notifications: Create Salesforce notifications to sales personnel when orders are posted which meet certain criteria (order > $XX,XXX, order status = back order). Or even better, notifications when orders are trending down in relation to historical order behavior.
  • Cases / Ticket Logging: Now that orders are in Salesforce, cases can be logged in relation to the orders regarding issues or problems.

These are just a few examples of the power that even a basic one-way ERP-to-Salesforce integration provides.  By initially cutting out the complexity of bi-directional integration, we can deliver a Salesforce solution that unlocks new value that will drive user excitement – all in a cost-effective and timely project.

If you are interested in more of the technical details, please contact Tim.

Part 1: Set up for success with Salesforce

Part 2: ERP Integration – Give your Salesforce Users what they want!

Part 3: Salesforce User Retention in the Manufacturing space (Coming Soon)

About the Author

Tim Schultz joined NuAge Experts in 2018, bringing with him over 10 years of experience in the CRM industry. As Vice President of Salesforce Manufacturing Practice, Tim is responsible for helping to enable and support Manufacturing companies in the Salesforce ecosystem through Solutioning and Implementation Services.  Pairing his passion for successful CRM’ing with a Master’s Degree in Organizational Retention Theory from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Tim brings a unique approach to Salesforce deployments that focuses on User Adoption and Retention strategies.

Ready to get started?