CRM BasicsCRM Best Practices

What is CRM Integration?

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CRM integration is the process of transferring the data from one system to another. Most CRM software exists as standalone systems. Yet, there are instances where it is vital to share data from external systems. This gives you a complete, 360-degree view of your customers and prospects.

Common types of CRM Integration

Email Integration – It is very common for CRM applications to integrate to your email system. This can be Outlook mail and calendars, Google’s Gmail, etc. Most CRM companies do this integration as part of the initial setup. It allows you to send, track and schedule everything together in one location.

Website Integration– CRMs can integrate to a company website for B2B and B2C lead generation. This is done by mapping the CRM to web lead registration forms such as “Contact Us”, “Sign Up for Free Trial”, “Schedule a Demo”, “Download a Whitepaper” or any other call-to-action triggers on a website.

Back Office Systems Integration (Accounting/ERP) – Integrating to back office systems is common especially Accounting Systems where A/R, orders & shipments are transferred/tracked. Manufacturing companies in particular are heavy users of this type of integration since they have many disparate back office systems such as ERPs that have Inventory, Materials Planning, Procurement, Forecasting and other data that has to be tracked.

CTI Integration – Integrating to a VOIP Phone System is common among outgoing call centers and incoming customer service organizations. It provides the ability for one button “call out” service as well as screen pops for incoming calls.  This allows for enhanced application streamlining and efficiency.

Questions to Consider Before the Integration

Will the data transfer be unidirectional or bidirectional? It is determined by the requirements of data needing to be pushed or pulled from the CRM in relations to other external systems.  If one scenario is needed it is unidirectional…if both are required it is bidirectional.

What is the frequency of the data transfer? It is typically looked at in 3 modes: (1) Real Time Updates (TRU) where the transfer occurs instantaneously via a trigger/action from either system, (2) Scheduled Auto Updates and (3) Unscheduled Manual Updates

What is the type of data to be transferred and what is it be used for? The data could be for view only or dynamic, current or historical (i.e. orders vs. shipments), change conditions (i.e. credit hold, create records (i.e. sales quote conversion to sales order).  These factors will help decide the method of transfer.

What is the cost of the data transfer? Securing a permanent integration point tends to add additional cost to the data transfer.  Also, a hidden cost of the integration is the customization of the CRM needed to sufficiently display the imported data as well as any processes/workflows created for trigger points.

Common Integration Methods

  • API – Application Programming Interface (ReST or SOAP) – since most systems now have an API, this method is the most commonly used when creating a permanent integration point and for its simplicity
  • Web Services (ReST or SOAP) – used when APIs are not available and for data transfer for CTI integration
  • Direct ODBC connection via VPN – used in applications with special/security conditions
  • Simple Batch Spreadsheet Uploads –can be accomplished manually via CRM Importing module or automatically via email

Integration Costs

Different CRM vendors charge very different integration prices. Wether they do the integration or they outsource to a partner, you must get this pricing before you sign the contract. Unexpected prices are never fun for anyone. (Read more about CRM pricing here.)

Conclusion

You need to have a ‘discovery’ session with your CRM vendor so they can help you decide what you need to integrate and how often. And make sure you get the price up-front. If you have any questions please call us at 972.304.7100. We are happy to help.

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