We live in exciting times. Just last week, Salesforce.com announced their vision for a connected marketing suite of the future with their integrated Marketing Cloud. There is no doubt that announcements like these are great news for companies – but are we there yet? Most companies, from small to large enterprises, still have to worry about stitching on-premise and cloud solutions together to make their sales hum. This why we recently sat down with Jon Carthew to hear how CRM specialists like him, with less than 100 CRM seats, work through the challenges of connecting custom ERP solutions to trendy CRM systems such as Microsoft Dynamics.

Jon Carthew is the CRM Specialist for Paulo Products, a company that offers a wide variety of heat-treating, brazing and metal-finishing solutions, along with a broad range of metallurgical and engineering services. When Paulo Products made the decision to move from their on-premise CRM system, Oncontact, to a flexible cloud solution, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, they did so to ensure that the sales team was equipped with complete customer information from one location. Couple that with the need to integrate their Oracle 9 database and a custom ERP solution, and you have your integration work cut out for you for months on end.

As someone who has experienced a complex, multi-system integration first hand, Jon provides some tips and best practices for others embarking on their ERP-to-CRM integration journey.

1. Rely on Partners: Jon worked closely with his certified Microsoft partner PowerObjects, to ensure Paulo users were taking full advantage of the usability, workflows and data accessibility offered through Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. Jon’s advice? You’d be well-suited to work with experts during a large-scale implementation.

In fact, after the initial set-up phase and educational training from PowerObjects, Jon has honed the skills he needs to prepare his own reports not only within CRM Online, but for other stakeholders who don’t have access to the company’s CRM. Using a light and intuitive online replication solution, Jon is creating automatically generated reports that are then routed to those without active CRM seats.

2. Consider an Integration Platform: When working with legacy or home-grown systems, there are rarely available off-the-shelf solutions for systems or data integration. The choices companies face are either building a custom integration or using a data integration platform that can address their specific integration needs. Paulo chose to work with Scribe’s data integration services to integrate Oracle 9 and their customer ERP solution with CRM Online while applying the required business logic, reflecting the needs of his business. Now vital customer information is available in real time and on demand, information such as account details, quotes and sales figures, all synchronized across systems to avoid delays, errors and duplication.

3. Identify the Business Need: The Paulo sales team was particularly interested in having their customer feedback documents merged into their CRM, as such integration offers the much-needed customer insight to both service existing clients and help close prospective deals. It was a simple request that would increase adoption of their solutions and increase satisfaction among their user base.

Since the implementation four months ago, Paulo has already realized substantial benefits. For one, new business is serviced better. The new workflow syncs all new customer information with CRM Online, automatically creates a welcome email, and accurately assigns new accounts to their respective salesperson based on customer zip code logic. This has increased the efficiency and the effectiveness of the Paulo sales team.

Additionally, through the integration of CRM Online and SharePoint, customer complaints are tracked, synced and addressed in real time. Paulo’s sales people know instantly if they are working with a happy or a disgruntled customer. Finally, the system more accurately tracks sales leads. Leads from various sources are synched within seconds and assigned for follow-up.

So for all those companies who are wondering how to get the promised return on their CRM investment (according to Nucleus Research, those companies that do it well see an average $5.60 back for every dollar they spend on CRM), follow Jon’s advice. Needless to say, if you have gone down the integration road before and want to share your tips and advice, we welcome your comments on this post, on Twitter or LinkedIn.