How Does Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM Fit into ERP?

By - January 16, 2018

Microsoft Dynamics 365 as a suite of applications has shifted dramatically and rapidly in the last few years.  With so much change it has been hard to reconcile just how to structure applications to meet specific business needs.  Within this Dynamics 365 ecosystem there are multiple approaches to integrated solutions, and creating a technology strategy requires significant preparation and forethought.  There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to build systems which is why RSM employs experienced subject matter experts in multiple disciplines.

The Customer Relationships Management (CRM) application we have known for years has been repurposed into multiple solutions which can be licensed and purchased individually, each bearing a new name under the Dynamics 365 banner.  This is in part because of the highly configurable application structure, but also because the product itself has evolved into something else.  I continue to call the application CRM, however, the toolset has become multifaceted and designed so broadly that it can fit into nearly any integrated ERP deployment in some fashion.  Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement, Sales, Field Services, Project Service Automation, and Marketing is technically one back-end application with multiple modular “apps” built on top.

So how does CRM the “Swiss Army Knife” of Business Applications fit into the rest of integrated ERP?  To answer this question we have to first answer what the application is natively and where it belongs integrated into purpose-built solutions.

CRM is natively:

  • The core of CRM is still about relationships with people and companies. If a business needs to manage any information about contacts or organizations, then CRM has a place within integrated ERP. Broadly speaking, this can include relationships to products, contracts, service tickets, sales cycles, social media insights, and human behavior.  Creating a centralized record for a contact or an account which includes all information about how that entity has interacted with your business gives profound insight.  With the ability to create custom tables/entities in CRM the application can map to virtually any information a company wants to relate to people.
  • CRM is also about managing people in your business and their activities. The configurability of the application is designed so that business processes, business rules, and workflow automation can optimize employees’ correspondence with people and companies.  Tasks, appointments, phone calls, service tickets, emails, and custom activities can all be managed within the application by employees or groups of employees.
  • CRM is integrated into the Microsoft stack. The application natively integrates with SharePoint and One Drive for document management;  natively integrates with Exchange for email and activity tracking;  natively integrates with Excel online for spreadsheet/table management;  natively integrates with Office 365 for group and administrative management;  natively integrates with Power BI for info-graphic business intelligence reporting and dashboard management
  • CRM is a solution with a highly productized marketplace. There are literally hundreds of proprietary solutions which have been built on top of the application to accommodate niche business needs.  Some products deal with universal ERP needs such as telephony integration or marketing automation.  Some other products are extremely niche dealing with things like elevator service repair/management.

CRM should be integrated in these contexts:

  • CRM is not a transactional database natively integrated with financials and accounting systems. General ledger and sub-ledger accounting are best integrated with solutions designed within other Dynamics 365 application such as Finance and Operations, NAV or GP.  Integrating financials to CRM and organizations will have profound insights into customer and company relationships with monetary transactions.  CRM has invoicing, contract, and quoting capabilities but functionality ends where the dollars hit your bank account.  CRM monitors sales cycles and pipeline management but it’s not an accounts receivable and payable system.
  • CRM is not a warehouse and distribution management system. If you are shipping and receiving supplies, dealing with inventory metrics, or facilitating transportation from warehouse to brick and mortar store then use another solution and integrate with CRM for customer insights.  CRM is designed to show what products and services customers have purchased or might purchase, not how the product was shipped and manufactured off-shores.
  • CRM isn’t a payroll or benefits tool although the structure for resource management is inherently available. CRM deals with how resources are assigned to services and tasks and can be used to tally up hours and estimates for employee optimization.  You can integrate CRM with a payroll or benefits solution but CRM functionality ends at your bank account where financial systems are pushing out paychecks and fringe benefits payments.

As CRM rapidly changes, our experts at RSM can help you get the very best out of your systems. Contact us or call 1-855-437-7202.

by Brendan Hancock for RSM



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