Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why and How to Succeed in Integrating Your CRM System in the Enterprise

What is called, “the evolution of IT” in the enterprise, has really been a series of successive revolutions. 

For instance, the early 2000s were marked by an upsurge in CRM technology, which major companies were quick to adopt. Since CRM systems were innovative, quick to set up, and built for business people, they met the real needs of sales, marketing and customer support managers. They also provided an effective way for these departments to avoid cumbersome IT department processes, a source of slowness, delays and dissatisfaction. 

Fifteen years on and CRM systems are still a hit. The current success of the Salesforce platform is the best example, as it is fuelled by the cloud computing trend, which is currently sweeping through the IT industry.

CRM/ERP Integration: An All-too-Often Tedious Process

Despite immediate benefits, including better overviews of prospect and customer portfolios, appointment management, and sales opportunity identification, enterprises soon realized that their CRM systems were not fulfilling all that was promised. They could not provide a complete 360-degree view of their customer base because they were disconnected from strategic enterprise applications such as invoicing, stock and order management, and more. 

Even when putting together proposals, salespeople need to be able to access a wide range of information located across the company: order histories, receivables, inventory status, product and price catalogues, and so on. Moreover, an increasing number of salespeople would like to be able to place orders directly using the same interface. What could be simpler than accessing all this information directly from the CRM system?

The consequence is that IT departments are back in the center of the game as they try to make CRM systems communicate with the rest of the company’s IT systems, starting with ERP. But once again, it is all too common for results not to match up to expectations and salespeople find themselves bogged down in tedious processes, which fail to meet their needs and the need of their customers.

In many cases, the problem is that IT departments connect the various applications using cumbersome interface systems in batch mode – a method introduced 30 or so years ago. This results in a number of problems, including delays in updating data as well as processes that are often overly intricate and painfully slow.

Business Processes Must Take Precedent

So, what solution should be adopted to ensure integration goes smoothly on all fronts? Well, in truth, companies need to realize that looking at the problem from a purely technical point of view and simply interfacing the systems using data is not the way to go. A much better approach, and one an increasing number of companies have already put to the test, is to look at the problem from a different perspective and integrate business processes. Since the processes are independent from the systems used, it is important to begin by forgetting about the systems, whether they be CRM or ERP, and focus on the processes.

In order to succeed, enterprises should begin by describing and modelling their organizational and business processes. This requires operational departments to model their processes and define the ideal goals they want to achieve. They also need to bear responsibility for their leading role in the integration project.

Then, based on this modelling, IT departments should define the tools they need to best implement the business processes. By eliminating tools that are too slow, inflexible or overly complicated – for example, tools that involve batch processing, the processing of large files and pure data integration – IT has a healthy base on which to find a technical solution.

At the end of the day, though, it is a lot easier to adopt a business process integration approach than trying to interface data, since companies' organizational processes tend to be easy enough to model without the need for an IT specialist.

Short Projects, 50 Days Maximum!

Magic’s experience shows that it is possible and more effective to adopt a process-based approach to solve the integration problem. Magic integration projects are typically completed in a short time, usually in fewer than 50 days. And what is even more important is that by integrating the required business processes, the desired result is always achieved.

In conclusion, enterprises can unleash their CRM's full potential by integrating it into their information system according to the needs of the business – which of course vary from company to company. By creating a tool that gives a 360-degree view of the customer throughout the customer lifecycle, from prospect to post-sales, companies become more productive and competitive and earn greater customer loyalty through the ability to provide better customer service.

Luc Simon, CTO at Magic France