ERP vs CRM System: Which One Do I Need?

ERP vs CRM System: Which One Do I Need?

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ERP vs CRM: In the world of business operations, two software systems that are commonly used are Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). While both CRM and ERP solutions are designed to streamline operations and improve productivity, they serve different purposes. 

ERP systems are created with a central database to manage business processes such as inventory management, finance and human resources. On the other hand, CRM systems are designed to manage customer interactions such as sales, marketing and high quality customer support. However, despite their differences, there are still misconceptions around the two systems, and many people often use the terms interchangeably. 

This post will explore the differences between ERP and CRM systems and why it’s essential to understand their unique functions in any business setting.

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What is ERP Software?

An ERP system is a set of integrated applications designed to manage business processes and automate daily activities within a business. An ERP focuses on core business processes to maximize business growth. It is used by companies to optimize their operations, improve efficiency and make smarter business decisions.

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The software provides real-time access to data from different departments, including finance, human resources (human capital management), sales, inventory and production. This data is analyzed to gain insights that drive better decision-making and increase profitability. 

An ERP solution also helps businesses streamline their workflows, standardize processes and eliminate manual tasks, reducing the chance of data errors and ensuring reporting consistency across the organization. 

What is CRM Software?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is business software that is designed to help businesses manage and analyze interactions with customers and data throughout the sales process and customer lifecycle. 

The software enables businesses to generate sales projections, manage invoices, visualize the sales funnel and gain a better understanding of their customers’ needs and preferences, so as to tailor products and services that address those needs. In addition, it provides businesses with tools to track customer relationships through interactions like emails, phone calls, customer communications and purchases.

Some of the key features of CRMs include real-time data collection, automated workflow management, customer service tools, sales projections, contact management and performance analytics. By using CRM tools, businesses streamline their sales processes, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty and improve overall productivity of their sales representatives. 

Key Differences Between ERP and CRM

There are several key differences between ERP features and CRM features, including:

1. Focus and Purpose

One of the key differences between ERP and CRM lies in their focus and purpose. While ERP software focuses on streamlining and automating business processes across various departments, including finance, HR, supply chain and inventory management, a CRM system primarily aim to enhance customer related processes, sales force automation and improve customer service for better customer retention. 

The purpose of an ERP is to provide a comprehensive overview of the entire business operation, ensuring efficient decision-making, cost-control and operational efficiency. On the other hand, a CRM focuses on empowering sales and marketing teams with advanced tools to better understand customer preferences, behavior and needs. With a CRM system in place, businesses store all customer data in a centralized location, providing better customer service, targeted marketing campaigns and sales forecasting. 

2. Data and Functionality

CRM and ERP software solutions both collect and store data, yet they differ in the type of data they collect and how it is used. ERP collects and store data related to the organization’s overall operations, including supply chain management, inventory and manufacturing. Conversely, a CRM collects data related to customer interactions, such as sales, marketing and customer service; essentially, a CRM system drives sales while an ERP manages the production of the good or service that is sold.

In terms of functionality, ERPs are designed to streamline and optimize business processes by integrating various departments and functions within an organization. CRM systems, on the other hand, are designed to improve customer engagement and provide personalized service by tracking interactions with customers and preferences.

3. Scope and Integration

Another major difference between ERP vs CRM is scope and integration. Scope refers to the breadth of functionality provided by each system. ERPs typically cover the entire range of operational functions across the entire organization, from finance to manufacturing, inventory and supply chain management. In contrast, CRM focuses specifically on customer relations, including sales, marketing and customer service. 

Integration refers to the degree to which the various functions within a system work seamlessly together and both ERP and CRM solutions are designed to integrate functions. Both a CRM and ERP integration allow a company to connect and leverage more data and insights. ERP systems are designed to be integrated across an organization, with data flowing between different modules and departments as needed. 

CRM integration works with other systems as well, but the focus is on integrating with external data sources, such as social media or marketing automation tools, to provide a 360-degree view of the customer experience. 

4. User Roles and Access

User roles and access is another major key difference between the two systems. ERP systems tend to have a strict hierarchy of roles and permissions, with the ability to restrict access to sensitive data to only those who are authorized. This is because ERP typically handles financial and operational systems that require high levels of security. 

On the other hand, CRM functionality is typically driven by customer service departments and sales reps. Thus, a CRM solution usually offers more flexibility in its access options, allowing users with varying roles to access certain features depending on their needs. Because customer data is less sensitive than financial data, CRM access is often more open.

ERP vs CRM Software: Which Do We Need

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Signs that Your Organization Needs an ERP System

If your organization identifies the following signs, then definitely you need to implement an ERP system:

  1. Your organization is experiencing data duplication across multiple systems or departments, leading to inefficiencies, errors and delays in processes.

  2. Your organization has multiple departments or business functions that are using separate software systems that don’t communicate or integrate well with each other, leading to disjointed processes, fragmented data and difficulty in accessing accurate information.

  3. Your organization heavily relies on manual data entry, spreadsheets and paper-based processes that are time-consuming, error-prone and hinder productivity.

  4. Your organization struggles with financial management, such as tracking expenses, managing budgets, generating accurate financial reports, or complying with regulatory requirements.

  5. Your organization deals with complex supply chains, management of inventory and procurement processes, making it difficult to track inventory levels, manage orders and coordinate with suppliers effectively. 

  6. Your organization lacks a centralized system to manage customer interactions, track leads, monitor sales pipelines, or provide effective customer service.

  7. Your organization is struggling to access real-time data, generate accurate reports, or gain actionable insights for decision-making.

  8. Your organization is experiencing growth or planning to expand its operations.

Signs that your Organization Needs a CRM System

If your organization identifies any of the following signs, then you definitely need to implement a CRM system:

  1. Your organization is struggling to organize and track customer information, such as contact details, purchase history, interactions and preferences.

  2. Your organization has trouble communicating between different departments and sharing information effectively. 

  3. Your organization’s sales team lacks visibility into the sales pipeline or finds it challenging to manage leads and follow-ups.

  4. Your organization’s customers receive inconsistent service, due to different employees handling their interactions.

  5. Your organization is struggling to gain meaningful insights into customer behavior, preferences and trends.

  6. Your organization relies on manual processes for managing customer information, such as spreadsheets, email threads, or paper-based systems.

  7. Your organization’s marketing efforts lack precision and struggle to target specific customer segments.

  8. Your organization frequently misses out on potential sales, due to poor lead management or inadequate follow-up.

  9. Your organization finds it increasingly difficult to handle a growing customer base, maintain personalized interactions and provide timely support.

Integrated ERP versus stand-alone CRM

CRM software systems do not contain ERP components, but some ERP systems may offer CRM capabilities. A CRM might be your best option if you only need CRM capability and don’t actually need optimized operations in other business areas like finance and distribution. However, an ERP can be a good option to take into account if you’re looking to install a solution to streamline workflows across the company, in addition managing sales and customer service data. This is because ERP has a consolidated data source and integrated business processes.

Due to the range of capabilities included in these packages, you may also need to explore a standalone solution if you have sophisticated CRM requirements. Even though ERP functionality is improving, many times its customer relationship management capabilities are still not up to the level of CRM solutions created specifically to address this need.


In conclusion, while there are similarities between ERP and CRM systems, they serve distinct purposes in an organization. While ERPs are focused on streamlining companies operations, CRMs are dedicated to enhancing customer experiences and helping businesses build stronger relationships with their customers. 

Both systems have unique benefits, but an ERP and CRM integration is often what many businesses determine is best. Thanks to progressive technology compatibility, your business should consider how your specific needs and goals can possibly be best managed from a strategic blending of the two types of systems. 

Ultimately, whether you choose one or the other or both CRM and ERP systems, your choice should be made after careful consideration and planning, to ensure that the solution meets the specific needs of your organization.

Ultra Consultants specializes in walking companies like yours through the enterprise software selection process, to help you determine the best-fit technology for your unique needs. Our five-step technology selection process provides critical analysis, evaluation and guidance – and provides structure to ensure that you choose the best solution for your industry, organization and processes. Contact the Ultra team today.

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