The framework is the future, argues Mark Camilleri, international sales and marketing director of Graham Technology.
Over the last few years it would be hard to argue that CRM has lived up to all the hype and expectations. You don't have to look very hard to find examples of failed projects and multi-million dollar spends with little or no return. However, there are examples of companies that have got it right.
These are the companies that have learned that the key to CRM success is long-term, sustainable change. Too many companies have rushed into CRM, buying off-the-shelf packages in the hope they could suddenly transform themselves overnight. This just doesn't work.
CRM is about improving long-term profitability by maximising the return on a companies most important assets - its customers and the data it has collected on those customers. It is about identifying the things that are of value to the customer, those things that would make them want to develop a relationship with you rather than one of your competitors.
This implies taking a long-term approach to CRM, one where you are constantly learning about your customers preferences and habits. It also requires a different mind-set in the organisation, one where the focus shifts from the products and services that the organisation can offer to the customers it serves. These changing attitudes don't happen overnight but require time and constant reinforcement before they become part of the culture of an organisation.
Despite having the best intentions, many organisations CRM programmes come unstuck when they move to implementation. They may well have invested significant time and resources into formulating a solid CRM strategy but this effort is wasted when they make inappropriate technology selections especially a ‘package’ to implement the strategy.
The problems that arise from using package solutions at an enterprise level are well known; the ‘fat client’, fixed data model architecture of many packages makes scalability to enterprise levels difficult, and the degree of customisation required for most installations introduces many complications around maintenance and ability to upgrade. It is perhaps the latter which is receiving most attention in the current climate. The degree to which packages are customised reveals a deeper issue – most organisations have unique requirements that have to be reflected in the systems they deploy.
These unique requirements arise from two areas – the need for integration with existing systems and the requirement to deploy unique business processes. It is usually only the ‘start-up’ organisation that enjoys the luxury of a ‘green field’ systems environment. However in most cases, the existing systems of ‘established’ organisations reflect years of development and significant investment, an investment that has to be protected. Integration with these systems has to be achieved in the least disruptive and most cost effective manner, by leaving data ‘in situ’ and taking everything directly from the source. This model isn’t supported by most packages and integration in their terms is more about data migration and replication to proprietary data models.
The second requirement, that for the rapid deployment of unique business processes symptomatically reflects the fiercely competitive nature of today’s industry. Deregulation and product commoditisation has forced organizations to look for new ways to differentiate – by introducing new service models designed to ‘delight’ and retain customers or perhaps by being increasingly innovative in the types of products or services that they offer to customers or partners.
Both require a high degree of flexibility and agility within the organization, hence the flexibility to design and deploy innovative processes based around the customer, and the agility to create and process innovative products or services in short time frames becomes paramount. This flexibility and agility cannot be found within the constraints of a package. What is required is a system that has been designed specifically to reflect the underlying processes directly to include both front-office and back-office environments.
One route to building systems that reflect the underlying processes directly is the ‘self-build’, where large and talented teams of programmers are assembled to create systems that capture the business requirements directly. However, this approach introduces its own problems and often all that is achieved are systems that are a snap-shot on the business requirements at some moment in time and retain none of the flexibility and agility that is required on an ongoing basis for the business to remain competitive.
The alternative proven option is a framework solution which has been designed specifically to allow organizations to develop and deploy large-scale, enterprise-wide solutions which capture front- and back-office processes as rapidly as possible. The resulting systems not only capture current requirements but also retain the flexibility to change and evolve with the business. Enabling business strategy to drive technology strategy well into the future.
Framework software is designed to provide a platform to deploy the unique business processes of an organization, a platform that supports rather than constrains the business. This is achieved by providing generic infrastructure, which includes a very powerful integration capability, to deliver a scalable platform to deploy the business processes. The business processes themselves are developed using a high level set of tools which aim to provide a direct mapping the business processes to the underlying systems.
Once an organisation’s business processes have been defined and automated into back-end and legacy systems, with a framework solution there is no need to re-develop the business logic of those processes within each separate channel. Processes can be deployed across multiple channels, instantaneously. These channels include Call Centres, the Internet, Mobile Technology, E-mail and Interactive Digital TV (iDTV).
There also seem to be a clear move from operational to analytical CRM. Operational CRM is all about putting in the fundamentals - the basic processes which allow you to identify and transact with the customer. The next step is to use the information that you have collected in the course of these transactions to create value for the customer - this is where analytics comes in. Analytics can be used to identify products and services which more closely fit the customers needs - providing better levels of service to the customer but also increasing the chance of a sale.
Mark Camilleri is widely recognised as a thought-leader and visionary in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) space. He has over 22 years industry experience, including Managing Director roles at Onyx Software and Siebel Systems, and Director CRM Asia Pacific at SPL WorldGroup.