the C: Forecasting CRM as the system of record for the small-business space
By Rochelle Garner
Read this article at CRN
Irving, Texas (July 25, 2004) -- Mitch
Cannady envisions a time when CRM will disappear from the small-business
market. Not the functionality, mind you, just the category known as customer
relationship management. In its place: a term such as business management
that denotes a single platform from which nearly all employees within
an organization can conduct their work.
I think its the logical progression, said Cannady, president
and CEO of Spinnaker Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based provider of CRM
consulting and services. Customers are beginning to recognize the
birth of data, by which I mean the fact that all data and
workflow originate with sales and marketing. Eventually well have
all of the applications in a company feed into and from the same master
Cannadys grand-sounding vision isnt a new take on data warehouses,
ERP systems or any of the other application categories we now think of.
Instead, hes predicting an environment driven by, and revolving
around, front-end processes. In effect, hes forecasting CRM as the
system of record for the small-business space.
Thats a dramatically different responsibility from CRMs conventional
function as a window into different data silos. That more-traditional
perspective took form inside the enterprise, where most companies use
complex sales, marketing and service applications as adjuncts to the ERP
systems they rely on to run their businesses.
But over the past 18 months, solution providers serving the small-business
market have begun to effect a change in CRMs role. It is becoming
the system from which 95 percent of all company employees conduct 95 percent
of their work.
CRM doesnt supercede accounting, it becomes the screen into
accounting, Cannady explained. The CFO and the folks in accounting
dont need pretty screens to do their jobs. For everyone else, CRM
becomes the application they use when they come in in the morning until
they leave for the day.
Why this new perception of CRM as the small-business markets do-everything
system? Because it can. Until recently, CRM applications came across like
Goldilocks encounter with porridge: They were either too simplistic,
such as Best Softwares Act!, or too complex, a la Siebel Systems
OnDemand CRM. Today, many CRM applications can be deemed just rightcapable,
customizable software that can serve as a console for a variety of functions.
Thats exactly how Sign Warehouse uses CRM in its setup, which was
designed and implemented last year by Spinnaker Solutions. Using Best
Softwares SalesLogix CRM application and MAS 500 accounting software,
the Denison, Texas-based manufacturer and retailer of sign-making equipment
has a single screen from which to handle sales, credit checks, technical
support and customer service.
Our accounting department is using the accounting package, and everyone
else is using CRM, said Chris Gripp, president and CEO of Sign Warehouse,
who estimated that 70 out of the companys 100 employees work from
the SalesLogix screen. Weve streamlined what our people need
to be trained on and use, and anytime you can simplify, you get more efficiency.
Over the past five years, Sign Warehouse has seen annual growth of 18
percent to 33 percent. But as impressive as that is, Gripp said growth
could have been even greater if the company had been able to deal with
all of the business that came its way. Now it can. By streamlining,
weve allowed our system to catch up with what was coming in,
Gripp said. Weve picked up another 10 percent to 15 percent
of business that was being squandered because of our internal inefficiency.
Of course, internal inefficiencies extend beyond the sales organization.
Nearly every small business has less-than-best practices for checking
payment histories, providing technical support, assigning and managing
support staff, or dispatching field personnel. Such tasks typically have
two common characteristics: They need to pull in information from other
sources, and they involve people and applications across the company.
And thats where the new breed of CRM applications from the likes
of Best Software, Microsoft and FrontRange offer surprising possibilities.
They can affect and react to business processes outside of sales or marketing.
Solution providers told CRN that applications such as SalesLogix, Accpac,
Entellium, Microsoft CRM and GoldMine offer the configurability, customizationand
workflowthat companies require.
People are saying they dont
want to go to three different places on their desktop to see or enter
information. CRM makes the most sense for creating that single view because
its the most flexible, with the technology to add buttons and screens,
said Ed Solomon, co-president of New York-based solution provider Net@Work.
Manny Buigas, vice president of sales and marketing at Miami-based NextLevel
Information Solutions, which sells and implements Best software, agreed
that workflow is a big help in opening up the organization, giving
everyone total access to the information they need.
Not surprisingly, the workflow within such packages has been harnessed
to deliver methodologies aimed at improving the sales process. Thats
especially true of SalesLogix, Salesnet (intended for large companies)
and new U.S. arrival Entellium. But the ability to customize these programs
also means solution providers can apply CRM software to nearly all important
business processes. In other words, customer must move over
for others in the center of the CRM universe. If you look at CRM
strictly for relationship management on the customer side, you miss out
on a huge opportunity, Buigas said.
Think of it as an electronic Rolodex of information for everyone
a company does business with, said Brian Bruffey, president and
CEO of Protech Associates, a Laurel, Md.-based solution provider focused
on Microsoft CRM for associations. As the collector of all your
information, CRM can become the central location for all your data management.
So instead of CRM being the connector, it becomes the master. And all
information flows to other systems as required. That means fewer interfaces,
which has been a huge pain point for customers.
Pain point is right. Ed Buckley, vice president of sales for Professional
Edge, said its not unusual for companies with only five people to
have five or six databases. We went into one company that had 56
databases we combined into one, running off of GoldMine, he said,
to illustrate just how fragmented a small businesss IT structure
Nearly two years ago, the Dallas-based CRM integrator, which offers GoldMine,
Microsoft CRM, SalesLogix and Accpac, began running seminars geared toward
making CRM the system of recordbecoming one of the first solution
providers to base entire business systems on CRM.
I would say just about any company could use CRM this way,
said Buckley, who describes a design that writes data from accounting
and inventory systems, for example, into the CRM master database. And
because CRM applications typically include business intelligence capabilities,
users can easily create and read reports on nearly any aspect of the companys
operations. We can populate that data from accounting or inventory
and just create a view of it, Buckley said. Users dont
even have to log into accounting to see if a customer has ascending or
descending sales, or if hes on credit hold. And because we write
that data back into the CRM system, users can quickly create reports on
that information. Its the reporting features of CRM where the C-level
people absolutely love this.
Those C-level executives are gleaning another benefit from the latest
breed of CRM applications they might not initially recognize. Theyre
extending beyond the C of CRM to embrace more than the customer.
That means even small businesses can now harness some pretty potent processes.