From ERM to TES, the terms that cover the customer-centric aspect of IT are growing—and now is your chance to catch up on the jargon. Here are some definitions to help you navigate through the alphabet soup of enterprise management acronyms.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
Enterprise resource planning software is an information system composed of modules that can involve integrating every aspect of the enterprise, including manufacturing, inventory, supplier relationships, customer service, order tracking, financials, and sales figures. ERP systems are both costly and involve extensive changes in an organization, including employee retraining. ERP vendors include SAP, Oracle, Baan, Lawson, PeopleSoft, and J.D. Edwards.

Customer relationship management (CRM)
Customer relationship management (CRM) is enterprise application software that is used to manage every encounter with a customer. It integrates data from sales calls, Web site visitor information, call center transactions, e-mail, and more. Data from each customer touch point is combined to provide more information about customers than was known before, to help with marketing, advertising, sales, and customer service. CRM ties together such elements as order entry, data warehousing, marketing campaigns, and fulfillment systems. Vendors include Vantive (PeopleSoft), Oracle, Chordiant, Arriba, and SAP.

Enterprise relationship management (ERM)
Enterprise relationship management is specific CRM software that makes the access to network resources more efficient, generally by allowing the user to have one password for accessing different company systems and applications. It is most often used in sales and marketing. In customer service, ERM is used for mining data from various databases to learn more about a customer’s use of products and services. ERM is also a term used to describe software that manages financial resources and reporting, inventory, human resources, and manufacturing processes.

Electronic data interchange (EDI)
Electronic data interchange (EDI) is a precursor to the Internet as a means of exchanging data between companies who are trading partners. The data exchanged (usually by direct computer-to-computer transactions) can include orders, confirmations, inventories, prices, and product model numbers. It involves a one-to-one connection, most often via dial-up. Many large companies with EDI in place are not abandoning it for an extranet. EDI is considered a form of e-commerce.

Technology-enabled selling (TES)
TES refers to the use of technology to sell products and services through all sales channels—remote sales force, inside sales, value-added-resellers (VARs) and other partners, Web site sales, and retail sales.

Value-added resellers (VARs)
Value-added resellers are business partners who take your product or service and sell it, often as a package deal with their own products or services. They may even repackage it as their own, or add a “value” such as adding programs to a new brand-name computer and selling it in a retail store. Many companies expand their sales by working with VARs as a distribution channel.

Extended selling enterprise (ESE)
When a company can expand its distribution channel beyond its own sales force, it is known as an extended selling enterprise. Third parties that sell another company’s products or services are also called e-partners, and include brokers, value-added resellers (VARs), distributors, and agents.

Sales force automation (SFA)
Sales force automation (SFA) takes routine sales activities within an organization—such as contact management, notes, proposals, presentations, product information, pricing, calendars, and to-do lists—and integrates them into a comprehensive software package. When SFA is included in an overall corporate enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, it combines sales functions with planning, marketing, manufacturing, and customer service activities.

Technology-enabled buying (TEB) / e-sales
Technology-enabled buying is also known as e-sales because it uses technology to enable a customer to buy from a company’s Web site without the assistance of a sales person—in effect, allowing you to make the Web your sales team.
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