The Best of Both Worlds: Will your ERP play well with Salesforce?

In our previous blog post we reviewed foundational requirements to keep in mind during an ERP evaluation. In this post, we’ll arm you with the knowledge you need to ensure that data seamlessly flows back and forth between front and back office systems. A unified business view is vital to a company’s efficiency and growth, so it’s important to carefully evaluate what you really need from an ERP system’s ability to connect with Salesforce.

Separate Fact from Fiction
First, don’t be caught unaware. Some ERP vendors create confusion by implying that connections with Salesforce are virtually automatic for products built on the Salesforce1 platform. In reality, a Salesforce integration consists of a select set of data passed between sales and finance—regardless of platform. To make sure your needs are met, you need to understand how data flows between the ERP system and Salesforce.

Start with (Your) Salesforce
We recommend starting with your Salesforce implementation because this is generally the first place information is captured in your opportunity-to-cash process. And because each implementation of Salesforce is unique, no real evaluation is possible until you understand your Salesforce workflows. Examine your Quote-to-Cash process, or perhaps your Project-to-Cash Process, and understand which Salesforce Objects (fields) you use today. For example, do you use Customer Records? Do you use Opportunities? What Custom Objects do you have?

Once you know which information fields you capture in Salesforce, you can then evaluate how different ERP systems connect with Salesforce.

Understand Pre-Built Salesforce Connectors
Many ERP vendors offer pre-built connectivity to Salesforce. (Note that some ERP vendors who offer competing CRM products may choose not to support native connectivity to Salesforce.) When evaluating how ERP systems connect to Salesforce, remember that every pre-built connector assumes a certain set of Salesforce workflow configurations. Simply ask yourself how well these assumed workflows match your specific implementations.

Evaluate Tailored Salesforce Connectivity
If you discover that a vendor’s standard Salesforce connector isn’t an exact match for your workflows, you generally have two choices:

  1. Modify the existing Salesforce connector for your needs. This can be a cost-effective solution, providing a lot of standard functionality while still enabling you to achieve just the right connectivity you need. 
  2. Create your own connections, leveraging Open APIs. This gives you the most flexibility with the tradeoff being a longer implementation. 

Other Considerations
In addition to the foundations mentioned above, here are a few more questions to ask an ERP vendor about Salesforce connections:

  • How many objects does a Salesforce Connector consume? If you are close to reaching your Salesforce object limitations, a connector could force you to incur unexpected costs. 
  • Are advanced features such as Single Sign-On included as a part of a standard Salesforce Connector? 
  • Does the ERP vendor build the Connector, or is it created by a 3rd party? Who will support the Connector to ensure it doesn’t break over time?
  • Is an ERP integration able to meet your requirements without forcing changes to your existing Salesforce configuration? This is critical to the ease of implementation and cost. 
  • Does the connection include elements such as Chatter to speed exception processing? 

Completing this portion of an ERP evaluation may require the involvement of both finance and your Salesforce administration teams. Investing the time will ensure that you have a seamless, no-compromises solution—one that meets all of your ERP requirements with the connectivity you need, and one that pays dividends to your company every single day.