One of the leading cloud ERP companies in the world today – NetSuite – recently organized a SuiteWorld conference to discuss the future of ERP, CRM and eCommerce. During the discussions, CEO Zach Nelson made a few important points regarding the product offerings of NetSuite vis-a-vis competitors like Salesforce. Nelson noted that while Salesforce operated as a pure-play CRM service, they still do not handle one critical aspect of customer relationship which is order capture. Similarly, services like Workday that offer human capital management solutions do not carry all the features that a typical ERP system containing a human resource module would offer.
While Zach used these points to highlight the comprehensiveness of NetSuite's offerings in the ERP and CRM space, it is also interesting from another perspective – what are the distinct features that distinguish an ERP system from a CRM or a HCM product? What's the fine line that determines the business worthiness of an ERP product?
In a blog on her website, Cindy Jutras, an expert analyst on enterprise applications notes that while the distinction between ERP and CRM might seem blurry, it is not a factor that should contribute to classifying solutions as ERP or not. These terminologies exist so that vendors who are shopping for a business solution know where to start their search from. As she puts it, they cannot search for “something to run my business.” Products classified as ERP or CRM, regardless of how close or far away they are from one's definition still gives these vendors a benchmark against which they can compare products and pick one (based on their requirements).
But this question also needs to be answered from a cost optimization perspective. As a decision maker in an enterprise, one must look at what the various requirements are in their organization? Do they own two different products for ERP and CRM? Have they customized their ERP product to take care of the CRM functions as well? If so, is it due to budgetary constraints or because of cost optimization? Have you purchased directly from a ERP or CRM provider or have you hired one of the NetSuite ERP partners to help you with the installation? Answering these questions will give you an exact answer to where your business is heading.
Quite often, it may be the case that your business does not need all the features offered on an ERP product. Also, in a lot of cases, you may have been subscribed to a pricier version of an ERP or CRM software simply to avail yourself of one or two additional features. Ultimately, you might realize that your business does not require an ERP or a CRM product, but just some features from them all to run your everyday business.
This is the case with most of the businesses, even larger enterprises. ERP and CRM might appear to be fancy terms for feature-packed products. But in reality, you may not need all the features. What a business needs are specific solutions from a suite of resource planning and order management software. That will happen when ERP and CRM providers radically change the way they operate by allowing specific solutions within their products to be sold a la carte. This is only possible when ERP and CRM are not classified as separate products but are merged to be termed one product that offers holistic planning and management solution.
What do you think? Would merging ERP and CRM into one category and selling features a la carte prove beneficial for users and the service providers? Tell us what you think in the comments.