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Customer vs. Business Partner: Ensure your ERP and CRM systems work together

by The Tip Doctor

March 14, 2012

Tip Doctor, Insider Learning Network.

This tip comes from a session by Michael D Debevec of Debevec Consulting at CRM 2012, March 19-22 in Orlando, Florida. The session -- "SD Doesn’t Go Away with Your Implementation of SAP CRM: Tips to Guarantee a Smooth Transition and Coexistence Between Systems" -- looks at how to link the SAP ERP and SAP CRM systems and how configuration, master data, and transactions are passed between the systems. This tip focuses on overcoming the differences in data representation between the two systems.


Since many companies have enhanced their SAP ERP systems to support business processes, we will discuss how to transfer those enhancements to CRM and consider whether the existence of those enhancements may preclude using CRM for some business processes.
Differences in the representation of data between SAP CRM and SAP ERP required SAP to make certain assumptions on how SAP ERP was configured.
Customer vs. Business Partner
  • In SAP ERP, there is a distinction between Customer, Employee, Vendor, and Contact Person. In SA P CRM, they would all be represented as Business Partners that exist as individual entities
  • In SAP ERP, a contact person exists only in the context of the Customer for whom they work.  In SAP CRM, the contact person is a unique business partner and associated with a company by means of a relationship
Customer Numbers and Business Partner Numbers
Although CRM stores the R/3 customer number cross-reference with the Business Partner number, many companies choose to use the same number in both systems.  Factors that should be considered:
  • Where will new customers be created?
  • If in CRM, then uploading requires a different number range
  • Will I be downloading vendors as well as customers – Are they linked?
  • There are only business partners – But in ERP vendors and customers are different number objects so the same ranges can be use
  • Are there dedicated number ranges for customers by some organizational parameter?
  • May affect where the customers are created
Visit the CRM 2012 website for full details on sessions on this and other SAP CRM integration and configuration topics. Join the CRM Group for more information, including details on upcoming live Q&As on CRM topics, and post your questions anytime in the CRM Forum.

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