IT consultants, such as Acuity Business Solutions, often recommend integrating sales and marketing systems with accounting systems. The two functions are often separated because of limitations inn system functions and fears concerning data sharing and security breaches. Acuity argues that enterprise resource planning, or integrated systems, are now more sophisticated and offer improved client communication and accurate financial forecasting.
David Taber of IT World, however, highlights the potential problems in an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting system. These problems reflect the different goals of the system users, and the fact that CRM systems and accounting systems serve different purposes that often conflict with each other. CRM, done right, is a strategic tool that uses proprietary customer data to understand the market and identify opportunities. CRM is not simply a reporting database.
- According to Taber, accounting systems use high-quality data that provide accurate financials. However, CRM system data can be less reliable and often contain blank fields or flawed entries from staff frustrated by the volume of inputs required. Accounting professionals tend to be detail-oriented and pride themselves on accuracy. Data entry staff are less concerned with precision. Sales and marketing managers value nuance over decimals.
- These conflicting work goals complicate business processes and interpersonal relationships. Accounting staff are frustrated by the data provided by sales and marketing. Sales and marketing resist the details required for the accounting teams and demand simpler, faster systems.
- Systems that try to integrate more complex issues such as configure-price-quote (CPQ), order management, commissions and incentives, referral fees, expense claims, and credit card disputes can cause even more data confusion and conflict.
Taber suggests not attempting to integrate systems but the use of mash-ups and mini-apps for specific purposes. The use of apps and pop-up rails can provide a system that is user-friendly and accessible for both the accounting and sales departments. Taber’s opinion is that, for CRM to serve its function, it must appeal to the sales and marketing users. Trying to incorporate the accounting function will only serve to undermine its effectiveness and to frustrate the accountants.
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