With digital transformation permeating every industry, organizations are driving efforts to accelerate business outcomes, and achieve greater efficiency while minimizing costs. In order to lead the race, many organizations today are considering integrating their ERP and CRM systems and leveraging the combined benefits across collaboration, visibility, and productivity. While many have been using both systems, implemented separately, the integration of ERP and CRM in Dynamics 365 helps organizations share data and reduce manual efforts in replicating data such as masters and overlapping transactions between the two systems.
Benefits of integration
For businesses that use both CRM and ERP systems, with stand-alone data replicated in both, the manual efforts involved in maintaining and updating data and transactions in both systems is repetitive, counter-productive, and time-consuming. Therefore, many companies are now looking to integrate both systems, so that the data is managed in real-time and synchronized between both systems with the least amount of manual efforts and intervention. Here’s how integrating ERP and CRM can benefit you:
- A holistic view of the customer
Integration provides companies with a holistic view of customer interaction, right from prospect creation, to sales and support. With complete visibility into customer needs, buying habits, and order history, you can achieve greater efficiency in purchase forecasting and budgeting, as well as, measuring and maintaining operational efficiencies.
- Flexible access to critical information
Integration allows users anywhere, any-time access to accurate and fact-driven information, rather than just approximates. You can view the status of an order, inventory levels, order history, returns, payment, negotiation terms, discount terms, and trade agreements, as well as changes in business models or operations and make decisions that positively impact your bottom line.
- Streamlined business processes
Integration also drives higher productivity through streamlining processes and automating workflows. You can develop automated workflows across applications and avoid repetitive business process execution. Additionally, an integrated solution cuts down on duplicity of data entry tasks, improving inter-departmental communication, eliminating errors, and saving substantial administrative costs through efficient collaboration and information sharing.
- Reduction in training cost
A single platform also reduces costs in training the employees on both systems, and will allow for better decision-making. Having access to real-time data from multiple sources such as sales and operations, from a single, integrated platform can lead to elimination of repetitive transactions in both systems.
- Enhanced employee productivity
By reducing the time spent in entering, fetching, and sharing data, an integrated solution makes carrying out business processes straightforward, cost-effective, and quick. You can streamline business processes, automate workflows, and enhance employee productivity. A single interface offers access to the most accurate and up-to-date information, enabling employees to convert data into actionable insights.
Steps to integrate ERP and CRM in Dynamics 365
Integrating ERP and CRM in Dynamics 365 is primarily through the common data model and common data services. The sets of data synchronized between both systems are accounts, contacts, products, sales quotations, sales orders, and sales invoices. Through such integration, transactional scenarios of sales and marketing activities in Sales, and order fulfillment using inventory management in Finance and Operations can be simultaneously executed.
Using the data integrator tool in Dynamics 365
The Data Integrator is a tool introduced by Microsoft specifically meant to integrate Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. It consists of a common platform with out-of-the-box templates and pre-defined entities and field mappings to facilitate the data flow from source to destination. Data transformation to match data schema of both connecting systems can be done before it is imported. The templates for integration, along with custom templates, can be created and used by partner companies to extend the integration scenarios as required. In a nutshell, user companies can create connections to integration end points, choose customizable templates with predefined mappings as required, and then create and execute the data integration process.
Data integration project
Integration projects can be run manually or set to run on a pre-defined schedule. These are configured using PowerApps. A project contains mappings for one or more entities at a field to field level. Using an integration project, you can:
- Create a connection with credentials to data sources
- Create a connection set to identify environments for connections created
- Create a data integration project using an existent template
Create a connection and connection set
Connections are points of integration that must be set up in PowerApps. Connection groups are collections of connections, environments for connections, organization mapping information, and integration keys that can be reused among projects.
In order to access public templates, or define new ones, you will need to access the
- Name of the templates in Data integration
- Accounts (Sales to Fin and Ops) – Direct
- Products (Fin and Ops to Sales) – Direct
- Contacts (Sales to Fin and Ops) – Direct
- Contacts to Customer (Sales to Fin and Ops) – Direct
- Sales Quotes (Sales to Fin and Ops) – Direct
- Sales Orders (Sales to Fin and Ops) – Direct
- Sales Orders (Fin and Ops to Sales) – Direct
Name of the task in the project
- Accounts – Customers
- Contact to Customer
Other data to be synchronized
A default value for the customer group must be defined in Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations so that when a new customer is created in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations will have a default customer group to assign to the newly created customer record, and will avoid the error of not filling a mandatory field.
A valid site is mandatory to generate quotations and sales order lines in Finance and Operations. Default sites can be sourced from the individual warehouse setting in the product master, the customer master or the individual transaction header. Similarly, a warehouse is mandatory to process quotations and sales order lines in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. This can be sourced from the same forms as the site I.D.
Choosing a language is mandatory to use the application. The default language value is received from the customer master.
- Mapped values for the following must exist and be set to sync between Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.
- Units of measure
- Unit group
- Price lists for every product sales currency
- Ensure that products are activated from the Draft status in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement before proceeding.
- In the data integration project, the mapping values from Shipto_countryto DeliveryAddressCountryRegionISOCode needs to be set.
- At the quotation line level in Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, values have to be mapped for SalesUnitSymbol.
- Synchronization tasks to be set for integrating sales orders:
- Products (Fin and Ops to Sales) - Direct
- Accounts (Sales to Fin and Ops) - Direct (if used)
- Contacts to Customers (Sales to Fin and Ops) - Direct (if used)
Manage the flow of entity dat
1. Product data
- The default direction of flow of customer data is set to originate from Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement to Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations. However, product masters will flow from Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. The external property is set to Yes to make sure that this is by default, and customer data will be used as primary criteria when searching for invoices in both applications.
- Saleable released products data entity consists of products that fulfill all setup validations and requirements in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. Only saleable products can be configured to synchronize between Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.
- In Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, the field ‘Is Externally Maintained’ has been introduced to indicate whether the product data is synchronized with Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. The default value is set to ‘yes’. The following values are available:
- Yes – Not editable in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. Product data origin is Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations
- No – The product was created in directly in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement
- (Blank) – The product existed in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement before the integration with Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations was executed
- This field validates that data pertaining to products which have this value set to ‘Yes’, will only be synchronized between Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.
- The product sales price from Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is used as the price on the price list in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. Therefore, every product to be synchronized must have sales prices set up in the product master in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.
2. Contact data
- Contacts originate in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and automatically become customers or contacts in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. This is determined by:
- Synchronization to a customer in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations: Contacts where ‘Is Active Customer’ is set to Yes
- Synchronization to a contact in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations: Contacts where ‘Is Active Customer’ is set to ‘No’ and Company (parent account/contact) points to an account (not a contact).
- A new ‘IsCompanyAnAccount’ field in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement determines whether the contact is associated to any parent company. It enlists the contacts that should be synchronized to Finance and Operations as contacts.
- A Contact Number field which can be auto-generated has been added to the contact master in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement to identify the contact as unique, during integration.
- The ‘Is Contact Person Externally Maintained’function in the contacts master in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is used to indicate that the contact originated from Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and is maintained there.
- Sales quotations originate in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and flow to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations if all quote products on the sales quotation are externally maintained.
4. Sales orders
- Sales orders are created in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and synchronized with Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.
- The customer in question has to originate from Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and must be included in the synchronization.
- In Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, the OrderingCustomerIsExternallyMaintained and InvoiceCustomerIsExternallyMaintained fields are used to filter sales orders from the data entities.
- For data to flow back to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, the order status must be shipped or invoiced.
- Apart from this, status fields have been updated in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement to reflect the status values from Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations for auto-sync whilst the order is being processed.
Other data that needs to be synchronized
Other details of the customer such as payment terms, methods of payment, default bank transaction types, bank accounts, delivery terms, shipping methods, though not mandatory, can be synchronized. For this, value mapping must be setup, specific to the data in the organization that the entity is synchronized between.
Drive greater efficiency
ERP and CRM have long existed as separate systems in every organization; however, as businesses look to drive greater efficiency, integration of the two systems can help them make the most of the distinct advantages they offer. Integrating Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement allows information to be made easily available across the enterprise; with improved visibility into customer data, you can boost productivity and improve time to market. By optimizing the business as a whole, rather than in individual silos, you can support end-to-end business processes and create a truly, customer-centric environment that is the cornerstone of success today.
About the Author - Nanditha Kini
Nanditha Kini is a Sr. Manager Pre-sales - Dynamics AX, at Indusa with close to 10 years of IT advisory experience, which includes ERP product sales and implementation experience: pre-sales, client engagement management, implementation strategizing, project planning and management, change management, business process transformation, and system training and support.