The working world has changed drastically in the last 30 years or so with the rise of information technology and the automation or partial automation of nearly every part of our workdays. As computing technology advanced we’ve developed three primary pieces interconnected software types that allow us to do vastly more work than was ever conceivable 30 years ago while still sneaking in enough time to check our Facebook when no one’s looking.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is all about coordinating all of the various pieces of a corporation to ensure that the right hand knows what the left is doing. ERP software automatically collects information from all of the various departments of a company, organizes it, and makes it available to the appropriate people in real time. Since every company is different and has different needs many newer ERP systems are sold in modules that perform different functions that can be integrated into a single super-program to meet the user’s needs. ERP software can be used to track and manage accounting, supply chain management, project management, data services, and tech support, while also overseeing other third party programs like customer-relationship management (CRM) or manufacturing software. ERP systems are flexible, general, and focused on providing good oversight of what’s happening within the company as a whole, meaning that people don’t need to spend hours every day calling, emailing, or running around to talk to each other in order to figure out what everyone else is doing so that they can do their own job.
CRM can come as an autonomous system or as a module of an ERP system and is relatively narrowly focused on dealing with everything relating to the customer. That means tracking marketing campaigns and logging and organizing the results of various campaigns, recording calls and tracking progress on each sales lead, and making sure that each customer is taken care of once a sale is made. CRMs track all of the necessary information about your clients and provide the resources needed to provide good customer service and support, while simultaneously keeping track of the work being done in this area both to provide evidence of your work to the customer as well as to ensure proper procedures are followed by employees dealing with customers and handling customer orders.
Manufacturing software can also function as a part of a larger ERP system and is focused on production tracking, quality management, and automation. It might also track and manage supply chains for outsourced labor and parts. That means that it provides a federated overview of the entire production process, which is important because an issue in any part of the process from raw materials, to tools, to labor, to quality analysis can bring the entire production line to a screeching halt which can cost a business millions of dollars in a matter of hours or days.
Kyle Hurst writes about business software & technology including ERP, CRM, and manufacturing software. When he’s not doing that he tinkers around with his 3D printer and writes about the world of plastic engineering.