Bridging the dangerous chasm between CRM and ERP.

Are you aware how a chasm between your two core systems is hurting - your bid pricing decisions, deal risks, and your bid team productivity. Check it out.

“Did we agree to this . . ?!” When the manager asked this question to his team members, he could hear the pin drop. He had recently taken up this new role, and a contract at a major customer was up for renewal. And as most large customers do, they wanted more and more. Specifically, expedited delivery terms with a penalty for late delivery. And it seems it was something which was agreed in the previous negotiation. Except that there was no record of why and who approved this. Not surprisingly, the account rep's laptop had since crashed, the sales manager had moved on, the finance manager was sure this was not approved but the pricing lead had faint recollections of such a term being discussed on the bid review call. The client but of course was very sure. Many opinions .. no facts. Utter confusion!

A B2B sales process starts with an opportunity or an account. It passes thru various stages of qualification, presentation, proposal, before finally concluding with an order. Most organizations have a robust CRM system that tracks everything from accounts, contacts, opportunities, deals, to funnel stages and achievement. Many CRM systems have now advanced to track salesperson location (using GPS), read social signals and predict whom to call.

ERPs have been around since ages. They are the backbone of most commercial organizations providing everything from order entry, manufacturing, inventory, billing and collections. ERPs cover processes such as manufacturing, despatch, commissioning, billing and finally payment collection. Thus, most B2B organisations tend to have an ERP and a CRM system to manager their customer acquisition processes.

So how come such scenarios occur, one may ask? If you see two mountain ranges from afar, chances are you will gaze at their expanse and vastness. Its only when you see closer, will you realize that in-between the ranges lies the chasm, the trough. Similarly, while both CRM and ERP appear to cover the complete customer acquisition process, its only when you dig deeper you realize that a key interim process which takes inputs from the CRM and is instrumental in giving the inputs to the ERP lies – unattended. The process named Bid Management.

Bid Management starts once an “opportunity” in the CRM system moves from “Qualified” to “Proposal” stage. The process ends once the order is won and is ready to be recorded in the ERP system. Key steps in the Bid Management process include – requirements/specifications, solutioning, pricing, approval, and submission. For most B2B organizations the stage between – a qualified opportunity AND the order entry - is largely managed outside any system via sundry tools. Pricings are developed in spreadsheets, emails and calls for approvals and follow-ups, word processor for the proposal, and common or local storage for bid documents.

While this may not look surprising to the normal eye, it leads to the problems highlighted at the top and more. Lost emails, incorrect pricing sheets, missing data, partial view, limited history. And almost negligible analysis. Unsynchronized, people dependent tools and processes leading to – poor pricing decisions, higher project risks, and unproductive bid teams. Such a crucial revenue generating process but remains broken for ages.

Of course, there are round-about ways which organizations have attempted – like extensively customizing their CRM software or developing a bespoke application. But most tend to do, what most tend to do – stretch the office productivity suites and apply more labour in the hope that it will somehow take care of the inefficiencies and loop holes.

If you are an organisation who submits more than 50 proposals a year, it seldom does. The complexity and velocity of bids has grown dramatically over the years. Technology advances enable a much more synchronized, collaborative, efficient and intelligent system which can benefit the Bid Management process with automated approvals, integrated pricing & consolidation, effective collaboration, document repository and comprehensive analysis. Resulting in - better pricing decision, proper business controls, and highly productive bid teams.

But only if you want to bridge that chasm.

Comments and observations welcome at