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December 29, 2009

Stakeholder Expectations from a CRM Application

The success of a CRM implementation lies in its acceptance for use by the various stakeholders. The stakeholders vary depending on the industry and application in question. Some of the stakeholders commonly involved in CRM are top management, marketing managers, retail sales agents / call center agents / field sales agents, customers using self care applications, dealers and product managers. Each stakeholder has their own set of expectations from the CRM system. Based on my experience in working with some of these stakeholders, I have listed below some of their expectations:

Top Management:
1.   Enhanced customer experience leading to improved top-line.
2.   Reduced Total Cost of Operations resulting in improved bottom-line.
3.   Improved business reporting leading to better governance.
4.   Company branding through Improved Customer Service and diverse innovative product portfolio.

Marketing Managers:
1.   Correct customer segmentation based on various parameters.
2.   Effective tracking of marketing budgets.
3.   Effective Campaign Management.
4.   Effective closed loop marketing.
5.   Use of appropriate treatment for marketing campaigns based on customer segments, to reduce marketing expenses.
6.   Event planning.
7.   Remote application usage (synchronization between laptop and PDA’s).
8.   Performance monitoring for dealers.

Retail Store Agents / Call Center Agents / Field Sales Agents:
1.   Ease of navigation.
2.   High speed.
3.   Availability of 360 degree view of the customer.
4.   Easy context sensitive help features.
5.   Mistake proofing.
6.   Validations to prevent duplication of data (e.g. customers, products etc).
7.   Pop-up messages for warnings, disclaimers etc.
8.   Profiling as per area of work (display only “need to know” information).
9.   Display prioritized list of activities.
10. Pre-intimation / training of new features / messages from time to time.
11. Pre-intimation of scheduled maintenance activities.
12. Faster, accurate calculation and disbursement of incentives.
13. Reduced work with other applications / manual paperwork activities / SSO.
14. Increased level of integration with other systems to offer seamless customer service.

Customers using the Self Care channel:
1.   Ease of navigation.
2.   Facility to search products and services easily.
3.   Facility to chat with an agent in case of any product/service related queries.
4.   Facility to see all the charges (fixed, recurring, usage related) associated with the product / service.
5.   Display of “Hot Offers”.
6.   Ease in bundling products and services.
7.   Up-sell and cross-sell of products and services.
8.   Minimal screen refreshes.
9.   High speed.
10. Guided user help.
11. Mistake proofing.
12. Order / fault acknowledgement.
13. Frequent status updates (on site / through SMS / through email etc).
14. Facility to update/cancel already raised orders/faults.
15. Facility to make online payments, view bills, view usage pattern etc.
16. Automatic accrual and quick redemption of loyalty points.

Product Managers:
1.  Reduced time to market.
2.  Facility to bundle / un-bundle products and services easily.
3.  Introduction of ‘availability / compatibility’ and other rules for the products quickly without help from technical support.
4.  Facility to provide comparison of products (with in-house products / competitors’ products).
5.  Facility to attach user manuals, collaterals etc to products that will help in increasing the sale of the product.
6.  Facility to quickly introduce / modify / withdraw products without technical involvement.

Dealers / Partners:
1.  Self care functionality.
2.  Sharing of opportunities to and from the company.
3.  Joint marketing with the company.
4.  Accurate calculation and speedy disbursement of incentives and compensations.
5.  Automatic accrual and quick redemption of loyalty points.

Neglecting these expectations while selecting / designing the CRM system may cause several implicit or explicit change management issues. Explicit issues could be in the form of resistance to adopt the new CRM system by agents, dealers etc. Implicit issues could be customers preferring email, call center as the communication channels instead of the self service channel, leading to increased cost of operations. Thus, management of these stakeholder expectations is one of the most important factors deciding go/no-go decisions for the CRM Application.

December 24, 2009

Oracle PIPs: Redefining Real Time Integration

I am sure a lot of us are already aware; few months ago Oracle released Process Integration Packs (PIP) based on Oracle Fusion Application Integration Architecture (AIA) framework. These PIPs establish pre-built integration between applications via AIA layer and are modeled on the SOA best practices. Through this article I have attempted to analyze the key features of the PIPs as well as the challenges that might surface while implementing.

At Infosys, we recently co-partnered with Oracle to develop new PIPs. These PIPs were based on two existing PIPs:
• OCH (Customer Hub) PIP - Establishes SOA based integration between Oracle Siebel UCM, Oracle eBusiness Suite and Siebel CRM
• O2C (Order to Cash) PIP - Establishes SOA based integration between Oracle eBusiness Suite and Siebel CRM
The gist was to reuse the components from the existing PIP and develop new PIPs to establish integration between:
1. Oracle Siebel CRM and SAP: For Order to Cash Flow sync
2. Oracle Siebel UCM and SAP: For Customer Master Data sync

The PIPs indeed offer rapid integration between packaged applications. It almost completely takes away the complexity and rigor involved in establishing real time sync via middleware (Oracle Fusion / AIA is prerequisite). Sculpted on SOA best practices, there is minimal change needed at the applications (eBS, Siebel, SAP..), the middleware platform establishes the data mapping, cross references and any other transformation needed to ensure diverse applications integrate for the said functionality. The whole PIP concept is still in its nascent stages, but for sure there is a lot of promise and value in the overall integration benefits realized by the clients as well as the system integration vendors.

Having mentioned this, I would also like to iterate few challenges that must be confronted to establish PIP like integration. At client environments where any AIA PIP is being licensed, I have seen general curiosity among client IT to know the grey areas in order to establish PIP like integration of packaged apps like Oracle Siebel UCM, Siebel CRM with other enterprise applications. Would like the mention the following points that must be kept in mind while conceiving such integration – off course, coming from packaged applications background, I have written this from application consultant’s point of view :
Contrary to the general belief, development of a custom PIP – entirely or partly based on any existing PIP, requires a lot more from application teams then merely testing the functional flows after the technical work is done at the AIA layer. There is a lot of collaboration involved between all the teams (application teams, AIA team) to develop packaged integration.

Applications teams must be adequately staffed to tend to the following:
• Functional Leadership - This is unique flavor of the PIP development programs. Although the majority of technical development is done on AIA, the functional leadership is to be provided by the application teams so as to map the functional flows across applications.
• Data Mapping – Due to the differences in Data Model between applications, data mapping is one of the most complex tasks during PIP design. It is important to have experienced data migration experts on both application teams to help facilitate data mapping.
• Out of the box message structure / Web services may not work – Despite the best interests from all the parties, the OOB message structure of the base PIP may not work. This may mean changes to the standard canonical data model and also to the underlying integration architecture – Web Services, Integration objects etc.
• Setting up Cross references, Domain Value maps
• Integration Testing – Seamless integration between apps is the primary objective of the PIP, utmost importance is to be given to the entire testing mechanism. Integration test cases should be carefully drafted so as to mention the steps to be executed at each layer (participating applications, AIA) for each scenario. During test case execution, a lot of collaboration is needed to check the hand-shake across layers and the appropriate flow of information.

I invite all comments/messages to this blog. PIPs is definitely a new and evolving concept, let us all gain from each others experiences while we implement this new integration mechanism with clients.

December 3, 2009

Marketing without measuring Marketing ROI is casualty

Recently I read an article on “Indian FMCG industry”, the article talks about lavish marketing spends in FMCG. This year marketing spends growth was twice that of the sales growth in Indian FMCG industry. In one way this is good news, Marketing is being given importance but unfortunate thing is that they are running towards a big disaster without measuring ROI on Marketing. Marketing was considered as a function which doesn’t provide any value addition when compared with its sibling sales. It is considered as a cost center.

The primary reason being sales talks about numbers where as marketing talks about indiscrete aspects like brand value, awareness, and so on. Sales team has competition from competitor’s sales team, however for a marketing team; the competition is both internal and external. They have to compete with sales for getting resources as well as with competitor’s marketing divisions. Without proper ROI marketing can never win against sales, as sales show the numbers. Management at CXO level, look more at numbers like sales, revenues, profits, margins than brand value or awareness. That’s the reason during the times of recession or any financial crisis in a company; marketing budgets are the first to get a cut in most of the companies. 

Such spends on marketing without proper ROI will definitely lead to a disaster both for the company as well as the marketing division. The company will incur lot of expense due to extravagant marketing  spends and the plan’s objective might not be achieved due to several reason most important of them being  wrong timing and indifferent customer. Let us assume that most of the marketing spends are on promotion campaigns where discounts are being given, but then the assumption that “customers will buy when discounts are offered need not be correct always”.  For the marketing division such spending without proper returns will lead to loss of trust by senior management and in future whenever there is a conflict between sales and marketing for resources sales will always win. Hence it is more critical for marketing to be more cautious in their spends and more accurate in measuring the marketing ROI.

Coming to where and how to measure the marketing ROI, one area where marketing can talk about numbers is leads, but sales team has a conflict with marketing on the good lead and bad lead or rather not a lead. To an extent it is true that marketing team will pass on all the responses for a marketing event/campaign as a lead to sales team, but how many of them are true leads? Hence there should be a common understanding between marketing and sales for qualifying a lead as good lead. This helps in measuring the campaign ROI more accurately. Marketing divisions should plan in such a way that each penny will result in maximum returns and then measure the ROI to show that marketing spends are driving sales.

Marketing organizations in a company should follow closed loop marketing process for measuring accurate marketing ROI. A closed loop marketing process where sales targets and marketing targets are used for marketing planning, marketing events, programs, campaigns are planned based on marketing plan and the marketing responses are properly segregated and analyzed to arrive at the ROI of the marketing events and finally this data is used for marketing planning in the coming financial year / quarter. Since each action is identified and each response is captured it is accurate and easy to measure the ROI and show the benefits to the management. A good CRM implementation can help in arriving at marketing ROI.

CRM Software’s have inbuilt closed loop marketing process with industry best practices imbibed in them, but there are very few implementations which have implemented the closed loop marketing process. Most of the marketing implementations are constrained to campaign management, or marketing resource management, etc. Unless response capture mechanism is in place and proper reports and analysis is done marketing ROI cannot be measured properly.

I will touch upon how CRM can help in enhancing marketing operations and measuring ROI in my next post.