BPMS, CRM and ERP: Similarities, Differences, and Synergies

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Introduction

In the intricate world of business management, three types of software stand as fundamental pillars: BPM Suite (or BPMS), CRM, and ERP. In this article, we will delve into these acronyms and understand their importance by recognizing that, although they may overlap in certain aspects, each of them is a unique entity with specific applications. The key lies in using them optimally within their niche of specialization to achieve unprecedented organizational efficiency.

BPMS – Business Process Management Suite

Let’s begin with BPMS, which stands for Business Process Management Suite. This set of tools is entirely dedicated to business process management (BPM). Its primary mission is the optimization and automation of internal workflows and processes within an organization. BPMS enables the efficient modeling, execution, and monitoring of these processes, which is especially valuable in environments where operational efficiency and continuous improvement are essential. Flokzu is an example of a BPMS, notable for being cloud-based and “no-code“, meaning it doesn’t require technical knowledge for use.

CRM – Customer Relationship Management

Now, let’s move on to CRM, which is an acronym for Customer Relationship Management. As the name suggests, CRM focuses on managing customer relationships. Its central task is the collection, organization, and analysis of customer-related data and interactions. This allows companies to provide highly personalized service, improve customer retention, and stimulate sales growth. CRM is indispensable for organizations that value customer satisfaction and aim to cultivate strong relationships with them. Well-known examples of CRM systems include HubSpot, Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM.

ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning

Finally, we have ERP, which stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. This set of tools serves as the central system of an organization. Its responsibilities encompass resource management, including finances, human resources, inventory, production, stock, billing, and sales, among others. ERP plays a crucial role in strategic decision-making by providing real-time information and automating key processes. Well-known ERP examples include SAP, Oracle E-Business Suite, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP.

While BPMS, CRM, and ERP can intersect in their functions, recognizing their differences and specific applications is crucial to achieving maximum organizational efficiency. In the upcoming sections, we will explore these areas in greater depth and how they can be integrated synergistically for the benefit of businesses.

Differences Between BPMS, CRM, and ERP

It’s time to dive into the key differences that distinguish these three crucial acronyms in business management. Each of them has its own focus and specific application, and understanding these differences is essential for making informed decisions about which one best suits your organization’s needs.

BPMS: Optimizing Business Processes

Let’s start with BPMS, which focuses on optimizing business processes. Its primary goal is to improve operational efficiency through the automation and control of internal workflows. BPMS enables organizations to efficiently model, execute, and monitor processes. This is especially valuable in industries where agility and continuous improvement are essential, such as manufacturing, logistics, or healthcare. Here are three specific examples:

Onboarding of New Employees:

With a BPMS, the onboarding process can begin before the new employee even arrives at the office. Necessary documents and forms, such as contracts, tax forms, and company policies, can be sent and completed electronically.

If approvals from multiple departments or managers are required for the onboarding process, a BPMS can establish automated workflows. This ensures that all approvals are obtained efficiently, following the correct process.

The BPMS can schedule reminders for important tasks in the onboarding process, such as computer allocation or training scheduling. This helps avoid delays and ensures that everything is ready for the new employee’s first day.

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Purchase Request and Approval:

Employees can complete purchase request forms directly within the BPMS system. These forms can be customized to the organization’s specific needs and can include details such as product descriptions, preferred suppliers, and budgets.

BPMS allows for the configuration of custom approval workflows. Requests can be automatically routed to designated approval authorities, and the system can enforce predefined rules, such as spending limits.

A complete record of all requests and approvals is maintained within the BPMS system. This provides transparency and facilitates process audits.

Expense Approval:

Employees can submit expense requests online through the BPMS, attaching receipts and relevant details.

The BPMS automates the approval workflow. Requests are automatically routed to the appropriate supervisor, following pre-established rules.

The system keeps an updated record of all approved and pending expenses. This allows financial teams to have real-time visibility into the company’s expenses and make informed decisions.

These examples illustrate how a BPMS can enhance efficiency and transparency in critical business processes, reducing manual workload and errors. Additionally, using the standard notation for process modeling called BPMN allows for documenting, understanding, and discussing complex processes, which can be highly beneficial, especially in complex scenarios.

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Why These Processes Don’t Fit in a CRM or ERP

The three examples presented cannot be fully automated with a CRM or ERP for the following reasons:

First, they have a different focus. A CRM primarily focuses on customer relationship management, while an ERP is centered around enterprise resource planning. Both are primarily designed for customer and resource-related functions, not for managing internal workflows and human resources.

 

Second, it’s related to the potential complexity of business processes, involving a series of steps, approvals, and customizations that are often unique to each organization. BPMS is specifically designed to manage complex and customizable workflows, making it better suited for automating these processes.

 

Third, and no less important, is flexibility and customization. CRM and ERP systems are more rigid in their structure and typically do not allow the same level of flexibility and customization that a BPMS does. Each company has its own policies and procedures for these processes, requiring adaptation that only a BPMS can efficiently provide.

CRM – Customer Relationship Management

Let’s now turn to CRM, whose primary function is customer relationship management. Here, the focus shifts toward customer satisfaction and building strong relationships. CRM systems collect and organize data related to customers, enabling companies to sell more effectively, offer highly personalized service, and enhance customer retention. This approach is especially relevant in sales, marketing, and customer service.

Let’s explore three typical functionalities of a CRM that are generally not available in a BPM or ERP:

Management of Sales Opportunities:

A CRM handles the complete sales cycle, helping maximize opportunity conversion:

  • A CRM provides specialized functionality for managing the sales funnel, allowing tracking of sales opportunities from creation to closure.
  • It facilitates the assignment of salespeople to specific opportunities based on factors like location, customer size, or other relevant criteria.
  • It provides detailed tracking of each opportunity, including its stage, interactions with the customer, and pending activities.

Sales Forecasting:

The CRM enables the generation of precise sales forecasts, incorporating relevant functionalities such as:

  • It allows for generating accurate sales forecasts considering variables such as geography, salespeople, product lines, and other factors.
  • It uses historical data, trends, and analysis to predict future sales, assisting companies in making informed strategic decisions.
  • It facilitates effective sales resource planning and allocation.

Automated Generation of Sales Proposals:

A robust CRM allows for the automated creation and delivery of customized and complex sales proposals in customer-friendly formats (e.g., PDF files):

  • A CRM enables the automated creation and issuance of personalized and complex sales proposals. This includes setting up price lists, applying discounts, managing multiple products and currencies, and defining payment terms. 
  • These sales proposals are generated efficiently, expediting the sales process and enhancing consistency in the offers presented to clients. 
  • Additionally, CRMs often include proposal tracking, allowing sales teams to know when and how they have interacted with them. 

These functionalities are essential for effective sales and customer relationship management and are distinctive features of a CRM compared to a BPM or ERP, which are generally not specifically designed to handle these specific business activities.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Finally, we arrive at ERP, which is responsible for Enterprise Resource Planning. Its primary function is to integrate and manage a wide range of processes and resources, from finances and human resources to inventory and production. ERP systems act as the central system of an organization, providing real-time information for strategic decision-making. They are essential in companies seeking a holistic view of their operation.

Below are three typical functionalities of an ERP that are not available in a BPM or CRM:

Human Resources and Payroll Management:

  • An ERP integrates a comprehensive suite of human resources management, covering hiring, terminations, job role changes, labor record tracking, and accounting for bonuses and extraordinary payments. 
  • It includes tax and contribution calculations related to payroll, ensuring legal compliance and accurate legal and fiscal reporting.
  • The human resources function of an ERP also provides tools for managing employee records, performance evaluations, and training.

Production Management and Inventory Control:

  • An ERP specializes in production management, allowing for planning and controlling production processes, managing raw material and finished product inventory, and optimizing the supply chain.
  •  It provides automatic alerts for critical material levels, ensuring that key resources are never in short supply for production. 
  • It calculates production costs in detail, enabling efficient resource management and data-driven decision-making.

General Accounting and Company Finances

  • An ERP encompasses a company’s general accounting, including sales and billing management, tracking of receivables, and supplier payment management. 
  • It offers real-time and historical information and reporting, allowing companies to have an accurate financial view of their current and past situations. 
  • It complies with legal and fiscal requirements, generating financial reports and tax declarations in accordance with local and international regulations..

These functionalities are crucial for comprehensive company management and are distinctive features of an ERP compared to a BPM or CRM, which focus on more specific areas of business management.

Areas of Overlap and Replacement

Now that we’ve explored the fundamental differences between BPMS, CRM, and ERP, it’s important to understand that, despite their distinct focuses, there is some overlap in the functions and areas where these solutions can replace each other.

Overlap in Process Automation:

Both a BPMS and an ERP have the capability to automate internal processes. A BPMS excels in managing workflows and business processes, while an ERP focuses on automating broader business processes, such as inventory management or accounting. 

In situations where business processes are highly customized and not tied to human resources, sales, or finance functions, a BPMS can effectively replace an ERP in automating these workflows.

Intersection in Customer Management:

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an area where a CRM solution is unmatched. However, in organizations where customer management is closely tied to internal processes and complex workflows, a BPMS can complement a CRM by efficiently automating these activities. 

An example would be automating customer follow-up and service processes after a sale, which can be effectively managed by a BPMS.

Replacement in Human Resources Tasks:

An ERP is king when it comes to human resources and payroll management. However, in companies where human resource management is not as complex and the needs are focused on human resources workflows, such as performance reviews or vacation requests, a BPMS can replace an ERP in these specific areas.

Where Efficiency Lies in Integration

Instead of viewing these solutions as mutually exclusive, many organizations find efficiency in integrating BPMS, CRM, and ERP. This allows them to leverage the strengths of each in specific areas and achieve more comprehensive and synergistic business management.

In summary, while BPMS, CRM, and ERP have their specialized focuses, there are areas of overlap and replacement. The choice will depend on your organization’s specific needs and goals, and intelligent integration of these solutions can be the key to effective and efficient business management.

Leading Market Products

Business Process Management Suites (BPMS)

In the BPMS market, we can present three products as examples:

  • Flokzu: Ideal for medium and large enterprises, it specializes in managing complex and highly customized processes without programming or complex configurations (no-code).
  • Oracle BPMS: Offers power and scalability for large and complex enterprises, with a comprehensive set of BPM tools and seamless integration with Oracle solutions. Requires advanced technical knowledge.
  • Kissflow: Geared towards simplicity and agility, it’s perfect for small and medium-sized organizations, focusing on straightforward workflows and a user-friendly interface.

The choice will depend on the complexity of processes and the size of the organization.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

In the CRM category, three major products stand out:

  • Salesforce: The undisputed leader, offering a wide range of customer relationship management tools for businesses of all sizes and industries.
  • HubSpot CRM: Especially popular among small and medium-sized businesses, it stands out for its user-friendly interface and focus on inbound marketing.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM: Closely integrated with Microsoft solutions, suitable for companies already using Microsoft products and in need of comprehensive customer relationship management.

The choice of the right CRM will depend on the specific needs and size of the company.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP):

In the ERP category, three major products are noteworthy:

  • SAP ERP: Industry leader, offering a complete suite of enterprise resource planning solutions for companies of all sizes and industries.
  • Oracle E-Business Suite: Provides a wide range of integrated business applications, suitable for companies looking for comprehensive planning and management solutions.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP: Ideal for companies already using Microsoft products, easily integrates with other Microsoft solutions like Office 365 and offers advanced sales, marketing, and customer service capabilities.

The choice of the right ERP will depend on the specific needs of the company and its existing technological infrastructure.

Example of Integration in a Real Organization

Below is an example of a real manufacturing company, referred to as “XYZ Manufacturing,” that integrates these three technologies:

  • BPMS (Flokzu): XYZ Manufacturing uses Flokzu to optimize its internal processes, including the design and management of new products, employee onboarding, offboarding, and performance evaluations, as well as investment approval processes. With Flokzu, the company has automated vital workflows that, while not directly related to the production line, are critical for ensuring competitiveness and sustainability in the medium and long term.
  • CRM (Salesforce): To strengthen customer relationships, XYZ Manufacturing implements Salesforce CRM. It uses Salesforce to track customer interactions, manage sales opportunities, and provide high-quality customer service. Integration with Flokzu enables smoother communication between production and sales departments, ensuring efficient processing of customer orders.
  • ERP (SAP ERP): The company uses SAP ERP to manage financial aspects, human resources, and the supply chain. SAP ERP allows XYZ Manufacturing to optimize payroll management, accounting, production planning, and inventory management. Integration with Salesforce ensures a comprehensive view of the company, from customer relationships to resource management.

Some benefits of this integration include:

  • Increased Efficiency: The integration of these three technologies has significantly improved efficiency in the supply chain and customer relationship management. Automated workflows streamline production and product delivery.
  • Enhanced Visibility: The company has a complete view of its operations, from raw material acquisition to customer satisfaction. This facilitates informed decision-making and strategic planning.
  • Improved Customer Experience: Integration with Salesforce CRM has allowed XYZ Manufacturing to provide more personalized and efficient customer service, leading to higher customer satisfaction and stronger business relationships.

In summary, this organization has achieved effective integration of BPMS, CRM, and ERP to optimize its operations and maintain competitiveness in a highly competitive global market.

The No-Code Paradigm in BPMS, CRM, and ERP

The no-code paradigm has made a significant impact on the world of business technology, transforming how organizations manage processes, customer relationships, and business resources. In the realm of BPM Suites, no-code allows users to design forms and workflows, automate them, and deploy them in production without requiring technical or programming knowledge. In CRM, it simplifies the customization and automation of customer interactions. In ERP, it facilitates the creation of applications and system integration without writing code.

This no-code revolution democratizes technology, enabling business professionals and domain experts to take control of their processes and systems. This translates into greater agility, faster implementation, and cost reduction.

Examples such as creating custom forms in CRM, automating approval workflows with a BPMS, or configuring custom reports in ERP are made possible by these no-code solutions. However, it is crucial to remember that no-code is not a universal solution and should be used where appropriate. Its ability to accelerate innovation and empower users is undeniable, but the right strategy and balance with traditional solutions are key to success..

Benefits of BPMS, CRM, and ERP

It is very difficult (or impossible) to summarize in this brief article all the benefits that these three technological areas provide to organizations. We will summarize just three of them, which are illustrative and specific to each technology. We emphasize from the outset that the maximum gain occurs when combining these three technologies, achieving synergies that are impossible to attain using each one in isolation.

Specific Benefits of BPMS:

  • Process Optimization: BPMS specializes in the automation and optimization of internal workflows, which can be simple or highly complex. This leads to increased operational efficiency by eliminating manual tasks, reducing errors, and accelerating decision-making.
  • Real-Time Visibility and Tracking: BPMS provides real-time insights into ongoing processes. This enables precise monitoring and analysis, facilitating the identification of bottlenecks and timely corrective actions.
  • Customization and Scalability: The ability to customize workflows and tailor them to specific needs is a key benefit of BPMS. Additionally, they are scalable, meaning they can grow with the organization as needs evolve.

Specific Benefits of CRM:

  • Improved Customer Relationships: CRM focuses on customer relationship management. It facilitates customer segmentation, interaction tracking, and communication personalization, resulting in significant improvements in customer satisfaction and retention.
  • Sales and Marketing Automation: CRM allows the automation of sales and marketing processes, streamlining customer acquisition and increasing efficiency in lead management and sales opportunities.
  • Data Analysis for Strategic Decisions: CRM provides advanced data analytics that help companies make informed strategic decisions. This includes tracking key metrics, evaluating sales performance, and providing accurate forecasts.

Specific Benefits of ERP:

  • Comprehensive Resource Management: ERP provides a complete view of business resources, including finance, human resources, inventory, and production. This facilitates data-driven decision-making throughout the organization.
  • Legal and Tax Compliance: ERP automates accounting and tax management, ensuring compliance with local and international regulations, avoiding penalties, and legal risks.
  • Efficient Supply Chain: ERP enhances inventory management and supply chain efficiency, reducing costs and optimizing product delivery to customers and suppliers.

Conclusions

In this article, we have thoroughly explored the differences, similarities, and benefits of three key business technologies: BPM Suites, CRM, and ERP. These represent fundamental pillars for business management, each with its own strengths and independent benefits. However, their true power is unleashed when strategically integrated, allowing organizations to achieve more comprehensive and synergistic process, customer relationship, and business resource management.

These technologies, when used individually, provide substantial improvements in specific areas, such as process optimization or customer relationship management. However, when integrated, they create a technological ecosystem that facilitates more informed decision-making and operational efficiency throughout the organization.

Additionally, we cannot overlook the importance of the no-code approach in these technologies. The ability to enable business professionals and domain experts to take control of their processes and systems, without requiring programming knowledge, is a fundamental shift that accelerates innovation and empowers organizations to quickly adapt to changing market demands.

Ultimately, the intelligent choice and implementation of these technologies, along with a solid integration strategy, are key to achieving effective business management in the digital era.

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Sobre el autor

Juan Moreno

Juan Moreno

I have been an entrepreneur, founder, and investor in tech companies since 2001, with a B2B vision and a focus on innovative technologies. What do I talk about? I concentrate on applied computer technology as a tool for efficiency and effectiveness in real organizations. In particular, I specialize in the digitalization and management of business processes, involving aspects of process automation, artificial intelligence, and no-code tools. I always apply a pragmatic approach, prioritizing the effective application of technologies in real businesses. My background: I am a Computer Engineer, with a PhD in Software Engineering and an MBA. I have been a university professor since 2002, currently teaching undergraduate, postgraduate courses, and giving lectures. As an entrepreneur, I founded 5 technology companies and am an angel investor in others. I am a recipient of the National Innovation Award, with dozens of academic publications and two books. My role at Flokzu: I currently serve as the Chief Strategy Officer, where I am responsible for the medium and long-term strategy of the product and the company. Part of my role is to evaluate technological trends and their incorporation to ensure that Flokzu becomes increasingly useful to our clients. It also involves understanding the reality and needs of our customers to ensure a perfect fit with what Flokzu offers. Finally, my job also includes evangelizing the discipline of Business Process Management and no-code technologies worldwide through publications, conferences, workshops, or complete courses.

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