In a jungle of acronyms, you may hear these terms when speaking with your IT department and be lost in their meaning. This blog provides a quick walkthrough of what you should know about each one, what stands behind them, and how they apply to your situation.
Make sure you don’t read the word too quickly - it’s not intERnet, it’s intRAnet. Back in the day, an intranet was an internal network restricted to employees of a particular organisation - hence, the name. Access to such a network was only possible from within the physical building of the organisation. Today, when people say “intranet”, they are referring to something slightly different.
Think of an intranet as a place to store resources that are restricted to staff members of the company. This “place” can be anything - a bulletin or dashboard with important information, a cloud drive where documents can be exchanged, or a list of systems and access to them.
Your intranet can be just a small collection of documents and websites where your employees can learn the most important information relevant to them. It can also be something much more complex, providing a platform for employees to do all their work with access to all the tools they need.
You can get started with building your intranet in a modular way - for example, with an authorisation feature that leads to a clock in/out tool to track employees’ working time. In the next steps you can add more modules for accounting, human resources, or whatever your business needs. As your company grows, your internet will also grow. SMEs usually end up relying on a set of different tools that are hosted in a restricted cloud.
A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management tool and, as the name suggests, focuses on anything related to customers. Modern CRM tools offer way more functionality and it can get confusing how they work, for example, to send and track invoices. This expansion is a response of the software companies to their clients' needs. You can now do a lot more with your CRM, and if your business focuses on client relationships, the CRM may function as your intranet.
CRMs allow you to not only record notes about your clients and keep track of prospects, but can also let you run marketing campaigns, do gain/loss reports, and many other things. Every B2B company has a CRM - it may start small, as just a spreadsheet, but as more customers are onboarded, there is a demand for more sophisticated tools. CRMs are very likely to be subject to integration with other tools, like invoicing and payment gateways. That may be sufficient for some businesses.
If your company delivered a service or has a back office to complete orders, then the CRM can only cover the front office, and you need additional tools to run the processes in the backend. For example, if you run a carpenter service, you still need a tool to manage your stock, track the progress of work, etc, which is not something a CRM can handle.
This term originates from enterprise-level companies and stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. To understand what ERP is, think about it as a tool that is involved and controls every single aspect of any task or asset within a company.
The ERP will work as a CRM to manage the clients, track their orders, connect with accounting and manage invoices. But it will also be connected to the “production” end of the company - any resources or assets used, any tasks completed, and any time spent will be recorded and tracked within the ERP.
The ERP gives a full view of the company and provides powerful reporting tools to allow management to make decisions and plan ahead. Not surprisingly, it usually takes a lot of time to build such a tool. A solid record of company information is mandatory to even make it viable. Ultimately, such an ERP is the result of years of experience gained through the operation of the company.
If you are an SME, you probably don’t need such a complex tool, though it is great to imagine putting something like that together for your company to give you full control of everything happening. For SMEs, an intranet with a set of custom tools is a sufficient and budget effective approach to running the business.
You may wonder why there is such a great number of intranet, CRM or even ERPs solutions out there available to purchase. The answer is that off-the-shelf tools try to be flexible and match most of the use cases of potential customers. Even though every business is unique, at first glance some of these products will fit your processes.
After a while, though, you will face a problem and you will have to make a decision: do you adapt your company’s processes to the available off-the-shelf tools, or do you create a tool that is adapted to your business?
We can help you understand these options, so feel free to reach out to us here to have a chat.