Six Things Your ERP Can't Do

If you’re a security integrator, we’ve identified six key ways that your ERP is probably falling short and why you should consider looking elsewhere to get those jobs done right…

By Tracy Larson

ERP, an acronym for “Enterprise Resource Planning,” is the software backbone for most modern businesses. Visit the websites of ERP manufacturers and you’ll see a laundry list of essential functions their software can perform, from managing financials and inventory to handling a wide range of operational, sales and HR challenges. ERP software has truly revolutionized how modern businesses function by bringing together what were previously disparate systems, thereby optimizing efficiencies and streamlining workflows.

However, no solution is perfect, and there’s plenty that ERP software just can’t do…or do very well. By design, ERP software is generic, intended to support the widest possible range of organizations and business types. But as a Security Integrator, there are some aspects of your business that don’t fit a generic business model, particularly in the area of sales and sales management, and ERPs simply haven’t been designed with those needs in mind.

If you’re a security integrator, we’ve identified six key ways that your ERP is probably falling short and why you should consider looking elsewhere to get those jobs done right.


ERPs do keep track of customers, and many offer a built-in CRM component. But CRM, “customer relationship management,” is really a misnomer, because true CRM software needs to keep track of more than just customers. It needs to keep track of prospects too…those sales contacts that haven’t become customers yet. With conversion rates in the Security Integration industry of about 30%, more than 2 out of 3 of your prospects won’t become customers. ERPs don’t do well when their database is cluttered up with a bunch of prospects who have never bought anything and aren’t associated with any project. ERP software is, first and foremost, focused on the financial aspects of your business. Prospects have no place in that equation until they buy something, thus turning into a customer.

The lead cycle for security systems is long. It can take months, or even years, for a cold lead to become warm, convert to an opportunity, the proposal process to play out and for you to win the project. Throughout that whole process, you need robust software with a centralized database to stay on top of the lead status, maintain communication with the prospect, manage quoting, generate a top-notch proposal, and facilitate the creation of contracts and legal documents. Sales management software that handles these tasks, and then seamlessly passes them off to your ERP once the deal is closed, is a vital tool for growing any security integration business.

You don’t win a marathon by putting on your running shoes at the 12 mile mark. But that’s where you’re ERP software really starts doing its job; when the customer signs a contract. Make sure you’ve got powerful CRM and sales management software in place to get you through the first half of the race too; from contact to contract!


Because ERP software revolves around the financial aspects of your business, it must be somewhat rigid in how it processes data. It’s used to help you invoice correctly, file taxes correctly, do reporting correctly, and handle other highly regimented processes. By design, ERP must view your business in terms of black and white.

Quoting security projects is just the opposite. It requires flexibility and creativity to address the myriad of challenges a project may pose. Security integrators offer a wide range of technology solutions. Each one can include hundreds of parts. Labor is tricky to quote, with rates that can vary by region, system, project and even at the part level. Prices for parts may vary by customer, procurement options, quantities and other factors. Quotes may include recurring monthly or quarterly revenue for services, licenses and maintenance agreements. Customers may want to see quotes broken down in different ways; by system, floor, building or project phase. And, there may be miscellaneous costs for travel, permits, rental equipment and many other chargeable items. With all of these fluctuating variable, quoting security systems accurately isn’t a science; it’s an art!

Contrary to what some VARS will tell you, even expensive, customized programming cannot make ERP systems handle flexible quoting to the degree demanded by security systems integrators. It’s like trying to draw in color with a black ballpoint pen. Business owners or management teams who go down this route find that, tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later, that their customized ERP software is painfully slow and simply not up to the task. Instead, security integrators should think like the “integrators” that they are – and opt for a combination of technologies best suited for the jobs at hand. This means integrating security-centric sales management software with ERP software and allowing each to do what they do best.


Establishing the right quote approvals process is a balancing act. Overzealous policies can feel burdensome to salespeople and slow their response time to customers, but failing to sufficiently oversee the process can result in costly errors. Using software to create an automated approvals workflow can give your company a competitive edge, making sure approvals happen thoroughly and efficiently, but only when appropriate.

ERP software is great at automating workflow, but as we’ve pointed out repeatedly by now, it’s designed for helping with processes related to existing customers and projects. The quoting process is often outside that domain. Quoting and sales management software can eliminate the need for sales staff to manually walk quotes and proposals around your facility seeking out management sign-off. Instead, documents within the system are automatically flagged if they exceed predetermined thresholds and forwarded to the appropriate supervisor(s) for review.

Security integrators should make sure to choose sales management software that can support the complexity of their quotes. You’ll want a system that can accommodate highly customized rules to define thresholds, specify approval hierarchies, and eliminate bottlenecks by allowing for concurrent approvals by different personnel responsible for specific systems, services, legalities and other areas of concern. Automating this process is a win/win for everyone in your organization, making quoting faster and less stressful for salespeople, while keeping management confident that inaccurate or unprofitable quotes are not being rushed out the door.


Motivated salespeople are productive salespeople. Letting them see their commissions add up within the quoting software, in real time, is like dangling a digital carrot in front of their noses, helping to keep their focus on closing the next deal.

Commissions for security quotes can be structured around many different factors and the calculations can be complex. Commissions may be based on gross profit, number of months of term for an RMR contract, whether the sale is to a new or existing customer, whether the salesperson has exceeded quota and other variations. Again, these type of creative calculations are best handled by sales quoting and management software designed for security integrators; not generic ERP software.

And here’s an extra benefit of sales management software when it’s used to handle both automated approval workflows and commission calculations: From the perspective of salespeople, if they can speed-up the approvals process and close a deal more quickly by abiding by “the rules” when structuring their quote, they can see the real, tangible value attached to their work – in the form of commission. Bringing these two processes together within the same platform keeps salespeople driving the company goals and making more money.


Security sales involve a lot of paperwork. Contracts, forms, legal documents, site surveys, spreadsheets; all of those include a lot of duplicate information. And each time that data gets manually entered somewhere, there’s an opportunity for errors to be made, not to mention time wasted. Software specifically designed to assist with quoting and sales management can eliminate the use of disjointed resources by connecting all of your contracts, forms and other documents to a convenient, secure and centralized database. Once entered, information like customer name, location, sell price, deposit amount and so much more can be used to auto-populate associated fields that appear in your full array of sales documents.

Furthermore, if integrated with your ERP system, once those contracts are signed, all relevant data collected by your sales software can be passed on to your ERP, facilitating a seamless customer experience. Other departments now involved in supporting the project will have access to complete and accurate information about the sale, helping to ensure that they can deliver on what was promised.


Here’s an area where sales management software can truly shine, and help your organization shine too. Well-written, thorough, personalized and aesthetically pleasing proposals make a statement about your company: your attention to detail, the pride you take in your work, and the importance of delivering a high-quality customer experience. When competing against other integrators for a project, a great proposal can instill customer confidence in your organization, differentiate you from the pack, and help close the deal.

Sales management software can make generating stellar proposals easy and turn-key for your sales team in a way that ERP software just isn’t designed to do.  First, it brings together a library of boilerplate and customizable document templates that integrate with your quoting software as well as the centralized database that includes both prospect and customer data.  Then, it enables salespeople to choose the elements and documents they need, populate them with correct customer and pricing information, and package them together into an attractive, highly-professional presentation. Logos, colors, fonts and imagery all support your brand, while highly customized elements like an executive summary, site drawings, pricing and payment terms speak directly to your customer’s needs. 


Don’t get us wrong; we’re not knocking ERP software. It’s an invaluable tool; it’s the software version of a swiss-army knife for many organizations, supporting a huge swath of functions. But there are limits to what any one tool can do. Specialized businesses needs require specialized tools in order to meet the threshold of performance necessary for achieve efficiency, accuracy and reliability.

For security integrators, the value that sales management software can deliver – and particularly those solutions designed with your industry in mind – is tremendous. Best of all, many sales management software solutions offer integration with ERP platforms, seamlessly passing data back and forth and tapping the right tool for each business challenge.

Thought your ERP “does it all?” Hopefully this post has helped to clarify where its functionality ends and marketing hyperbole begins. And, what you can do about it!

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