• July 1, 2006
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

IT Paradise: Integrating CRM with ERP

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Cosa Instrument's chemical and process control systems are used across a wide range of industries for many reasons. "We sell to almost every manufacturing company there is," says CIO Darryl Nitke. "If they have a smoke stack, we probably sell to them." Unfortunately, as diverse as Cosa's customers are, so was the firm's IT infrastructure. The redistributor was using Salesforce.com for CRM, Microsoft Great Plains for ERP, and two other solutions for accounting and email. "Everything was piecemeal, nothing worked together. It was driving our sales force crazy." To get the entire IT department flowing in the right direction, Nitke retooled Cosa's back-end infrastructure--servers, databases, and directories--all on Microsoft for easy integration with Great Plains. But when Microsoft informed Nitke that Microsoft CRM 1.2 would integrate into Great Plains as well, "we were like, my God, that's the nirvana," he says. Cosa also turned to CRM consultancy Infinity to help establish some best practices, and keep the rollout as smooth as possible, understanding that Microsoft 1.2 wasn't perfect. "Microsoft 1.2 had some holes in it," Nitke says. "Infinity was able to explain that up front." Despite any functionality limitations, the implementation and rollout were completed in under a week during January of 2004, much to the approval of Cosa's sales force, which had wanted a replacement for Salesforce.com due to the software's lack of integration and customization. Microsoft CRM's integration with Great Plains has enabled Cosa to inject leads back into the system, allowing salespeople to compare leads against ERP information. In addition to saving time, Cosa is now able to create marketing campaigns in its CRM system for the first time. And, Microsoft CRM 1.2's TCO is less than Salesforce.com's, according to Nitke. Currently, Cosa is in the final steps of upgrading to Microsoft CRM 3.0. Once the IT department finishes converting all of Cosa's reports for Microsoft's new Crystal reporting engine, "we'll hit the switch," Nitke says.
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