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Posts Tagged ‘Oracle’

Oracle Social CRM: A short review

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Oracle Social CRM is proving itself as the next generation collaborative CRM which incorporates some very advanced features required in today’s business environment. The below video gives an overview of the functionality of the product.

Poor Customer Service Costs Billions

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

A new study, “The Cost of Poor Customer Service: The Economic Impact of the Customer Experience and Engagement,” may finally put the damage bad service can create into a language executive boards understand : Dollars and Cents. According to the survey of 8,880 consumers across 16 countries, poor customer service cost an aggregate of $338.5 billion per year, the average value of each lost relationship across all countries surveyed costing $243.

According to study findings, companies in the financial services and telecommunications sectors should take special notice. Statistics reveal that financial services firms lost more than $44 billion, while cable and satellite television providers lost upwards of $37 billion. Wireless carriers and Internet service providers each lost $36 billion, with landline carriers posting $33 billion in lost revenues.

Financial services and otherwise, the most significant reasons for poor service according to the study are:

  • being trapped in automated self-service;
  • waiting too long for service;
  • callers having to repeat themselves; and
  • customer service representatives lacking the skills to answer inquiries.

Consequently, what then ended up at the top of many respondents’ wish lists for customer service improvements included better integration between self-service and assisted service, including voice and Web.

Possibility, Feasibility and Compatibility

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Those who have been around me have heard me using these words very often. For a re-engineering exercise and for any implementation, I use these three words to convey very simple, yet very important message to the people involved in the exercise.

Possibility:

The end users and even the process owners might get carried away with the implementation exercise and list down requirements (read wish list) which might be outrageous and impossible to do. As an example, on one of my assignments, the user asked me if he can get an SMS is someone tries to log-in into his system. No doubt this can be done, but it’s an “outrageous” requirement for an organization unless the organization deals with data pertaining to the nuclear missiles and the like.

At the time of gathering requirements during interviews, and later at the time of analyzing the requirements, it’s the responsibility of the Consultant to segregate there “impossible” requirements and remove them for the list.

After checking for “impossibility” one is left with only “possible” requirements.

Feasibility:

Feasibility can only be checked for the “possible” requirements. Thus, this logically forms the second step in the implementation.

The requirements which can be done with the available resources and/ or can be achieved with the resources the project can afford and are within the scope of the project are feasible requirements.

Compatibility:

After one is left with the feasible requirements, it’s again the job of the Consultant to make sure the requirements are in line with the Business Case for the implementation and the strategy execution which the steering committee aims to achieve with the implementation. The consultant always has to ask the question “Is this compatible with the strategy?” If the answer is No, he has to think over it again and talk to the process owner as well for the value addition that this requirement will to the overall success of the project.

Thus, the answers to questions for checking possibility, feasibility and compatibility are very important during the execution of implementing a project.

The CRM implementation: Preparing the ground.

December 7, 2009 3 comments

Once the organization knows that it has to implement CRM and has selected the EA Product to implement, the next step is to have the ground ready for the implementation. Along with that, the organization has to form a team for managing and overlooking the implementation. The following is the list of some important components of this phase. The organization is required (or I say MUST) prepare ground to have a long term relation with these components. The effective management and control of these components is important in the making or breaking of the project.

 

  1. The Business Case: For every task that involves huge monetary and human efforts, one needs to justify the means and the end. For the same, a business case is necessary that concisely states the end result one wants to achieve by the efforts and the benefit that the stakeholders will get from the exercise. Someone rightly said that if you cannot state the business problem in a single sentence, you have not understood the business problem. I agree with the statement, but, in addition to that, one should put a one pager note to the business case which in brief explains the cause, case and the end. 
  2. The Steering Committee: The stakeholders need to form a steering committee for the implementation. The main task of the Steering Committee is to make sure that the teams working o the project do not loose the direction. The SC works mainly on the line of aligning the implementation with the long term strategy and achieving the same. The SC generally has on board the decision makers from all the partners involved in the implementation. There will be a few representatives from the client, the System Integrator, the vendor and other partners. In most of the cases, the SC is the ultimate decision making authority in case a dispute arises among the partners. The SC also takes care of the mid course correction, if required. 
  3. The Lead: All the teams involved in the exercise have to have a team lead. The team leads act as the POC (Points of Contact) for the teams to coordinate with each other. Also, the Leads make sure that the teams understand their roles and give the required inputs. In case there is ambiguity in the views given by the end users or the team members it is the Lead who gives the final say. Also, the Leads resolve the disputes in case something is overlapping two areas and most of the time is involved in give and take when some functionality can be done by one or more of the teams. 
  4. The Champions: The Champions will be the guys in different teams who have the knowledge of “how things work?” and not only “why something works?” In every organization and department, there will be guys who know which piece fits where in order to make the system work perfectly fine. They will be a great source to know the short comings of the present system. For a successful implementation, the Champions are required at every point in time. But, the Leads should not be too dependent on the Champions as they have the present system imbibed in them, they might not be able to visualise the future system or the future requirements. 
  5. The SI/ Implementation Consultants: The System Integrator (SI) and the implementation consultants come from two backgrounds (one consultant have both the back grounds). One, some of them have in depth knowledge of the domain and are called domain experts. Two, the product experts: Who have the in depth knowledge of the EA product. The implementation consultants work together to understand the client requirements and meet the same through the system capabilities. There are other functions of the implementation consultant which are very vague and may come time to time. Some of these functions might include getting a buy-in for the solution from the Process Owners, negotiation with the clients and the partners etc.
  6. The Vendor Relations: It is a must to have a small team from the client and the SI to keep in touch with the Vendor. This is to make sure from time to time on the customizations and the bolt-on that are being built. Some (read all) of the vendors might not give the support and upgrade required for the EA product in the future.
  7. Feedback Channels: The implementation exercise should have feedback channel for the implementation. The feedback can come from all the stakeholders including the Steering Committee, the Process Owners, Business Managers, Vendors etc. The Feedback is necessary to make sure that the implementation is in line with the “means and the ends”. This also gives a base for the course correction, if any, required.

 

The above listed teams and the functionalities are very important for a successful implementation. Or, to put it in the other way, these are the participants required to “almost” eliminate the chance of a failure.

The CRM implementation: Selecting the EA Product

December 4, 2009 2 comments

The selection of the product for implementation plays a major part in the success or the failure of the implementation. The success or the failure of the implementation is measured in terms of the extent to which the set targets/ goals have been achieved by the implementation. The product selection again depends on a number of factors or constraints that the organization may be facing. I have listed a few of these factors below. The list is an indicative list and does not contain all the factors that might affect the product selection:

  1. Budget: The CRM implementation can cost an enterprise from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred million dollars. The budget allocated for the product alone can be from a 5% to 70% of this cost. There are some open source CRMs available for free downloads (Sugar CRM) where one does not have to pay a single penny for the product. Then there are products by SAP and Oracle which may cost a bomb for the vanilla product alone. Midway the two are some mid range CRMs. Though most of the CRMs claim to address most of the industry requirements, not many (read “none”) are able to meet all the requirements of the organization.
  2. Scale: The Scale also plays an equally important part in the product selection. Some company may just require managing the contacts or the interaction with the contacts form the MS Outlook. There are some small packages available which can be downloaded and easily laid on the existing MS Outlook framework. They help manage the schedules, inquiries etc. Then there may be some organizations which require just managing the sales team or the marketing team or the Call Centre operations. Most of the modern day CRMs have 20-25 modules. The Organization may require a few or all of these modules. The cost and the selection of the product depend on the need for the modules required by the organization from this list.
  3. Complexity: The processes of two industries can be vastly different from each other. Though no industry processes can be called easy to manage, but my experience says that telecom industry processes are most complex and difficult to manage. Add to this the dynamic nature of the telecom industry where new products are launched daily and new functionalities are added daily. Thus the products for telecom industry contain more functionalities than for any other industry. These products, no doubt, are costlier than their peers form other industries.
  4. Deviation from the Industry Practices: Even in the same industry, one organization may have processes very different from other organization. Every organization tries to follow the “differentiation” path to move ahead of the competition. In this quest of differentiation, these organizations have processes which are vastly different from other similar organizations in the same industry. If your organization is different from the others, the CRM product to be chosen will depend upon the extent to which you are willing to sacrifice the uniqueness of your processes and the money you are willing to pay for the customizations required in the generic product for maintaining the existing processes.
  5. Model of implementation: The CRM products differ in genre which is dictated by the mode of implementation.  For example, if the implementation on-premise, the costs may be different, than when it is a SaaS. Similarly comparing it with PaaS implementation may give different commercials. The products for SaaS, On Premise, PaaS may also be different in costs based on the vendor selected.
  6. Existing Systems: If one is looking for compatibility of the CRM to be implemented with the existing legacy systems (such as Inventory, Billing, Financials etc.), one has to be very careful while choosing the product. If proper precautions are not taken care of, the new product may pose difficulties in the integration of existing systems. The cost of the selected product again depends on the vendor who offer the most compatible product.
  7. Human Factor: The human factor comes into play at a number of instances in the selection of the product. The team or the person authorized to make the final say on the purchase may have some pre notions for some product. The employees or the implementation team also may count in the ease of use for the product. Some CRMs are more user friendly than the others and hence are favoured by the implementation teams or the advisors for product selection.

All the above factors and some more influence the selection of the EA product to be implemented by the organization. Nonetheless, the product selection is a very important and a crucial aspect for the implementation to deliver the desired results.

The CRM implementation: Is CRM really required?

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Every day there are stories and advertisements in business magazines and newspapers about the organizations benefitting from the implementation of ERP and CRM. The vendors (Oracle, Sales force etc.) leave no stone unturned to make sure their success stories reach the audience. Many organizations do get influenced by these messages coming from the industry as well as the vendors. No organization wants to lag behind its competition and is willing to invest a few million dollars if the implementation gives it an edge over the competition.

But, the question is: Is the CRM really required?

The legendary Harvard Professor and noted economist, Theodore Levitt once said that a customer does not want a quarter inch drill; all he wants is a quarter inch hole. The same rule applies to organizations thinking for implementing the CRM package. The question they should ask is: Do we want to implement CRM or do we want a solution for a problem? More often than not, the answer will be that the organization is looking for a solution to its problem. There can be many solutions to this problem. The organization can improve by just improving the competency of the human component or by just re-engineering its processes. Some other problems might be solved with just adding enhancements to the existing IT systems.

Build vs. Buy: When the organization is convinced that it has to improve or replace the existing IT systems, the next decision is to decide between whether the organization should build its own system or buy an EA product?

When the patchwork on the IT system stops working, the option of building the system has been ruled out its time to justify the implementation of CRM. The implementation of CRM is justified if the organization has the following requirements:

  1. The organization is a customer centric organization or wants to transform into a customer centric organization.
  2. It has multiple teams working on a single process and the process ownership changes from one stage to another.
  3. The coordination between teams and flow of data from one team to another is the key to success of a process/ transaction.
  4. It feels that customer service has to be personalized for each segment or each customer.
  5. It wants to integrates all the three functions of the customer interaction: Identification, Acquisition and Maintenance of customers.
  6. It has the money and resources to implement and maintain a CRM System.

The exciting world Analytics…and CRM

November 13, 2009 2 comments

There was a time when managers used to think that their business can run on ERP alone. Later the view changed from ERP alone to CRM and ERP combination where the data generated/ stored by the ERP is converted to knowledge by the CRM and then to insights by the analysts.

Now it’s the combination of analytics and CRM which is creating waves. And these are some really exciting waves.

FMCG companies pay billions of dollars to get data from the stores and then analyze them to look for patterns in consumer behaviours and purchasing patterns. This helps in predicting the sales patterns and in turn planning production and planning scheduling. The stores have gone a step forward to make use of this data in optimizing the space utilization in the shelves to maximize the returns per “foot shelf”. In a few cases (I have not worked on such assignments till now) the retail stores charge companies based on the sale these shelves offer. The additional revenue is shared between the store and the manufacturer: All possible due to the new age Analytics.

 In an assignment with a leading telecom player I worked on a solution where the last three to six months data for the customers could be analysed to identify the patterns of use by different users. The CRM then runs a match between the use pattern and the products available. This gives the list of Customers Vs the Products they should be using to make the best use of the offers and schemes available.

I have even proposed this solution to the Libraries (none of them implemented it though). There is huge amount of data available in every library. One can analyze this data to find the frequency of issuing books on various subjects. This will help in optimizing the space in the library shelves. Also in case of private libraries and book stores, the management can contact the customers who might be interested in purchasing/ issuing the new arrivals.

The CRM in combination with Analytic provides a great solution for forecasting, scheduling of production, resource optimization, revenue maximization and many other exiciting opportunities. Keep exploring!

Keep it Simple. But, not Stupid.

November 9, 2009 2 comments

 

Process

When it comes to processes, they can be as simple as one single step or as complex as multiple steps with various points where the optimum path is taken depending upon the logic. But, in any kind of process, whether it is of single step or multiple and/or parallel steps, one needs to keep it simple.

The concept of keeping things “Simple” has been given many jargons by many management gurus and successful managers. Everything comes at the same point: Cut the flab.

The job of cutting down the flab is tedious and has to be carried out with caution. The following steps might help in achieving the same:

      1.      Check the Results first:  Take a single process at a time. Make sure the result of the process is exactly what is desired. If not, first check and tweak the process to get the desired result. This because, there is no use of simplifying a process which does not give the desired result.

      2.     End-to-Front: This works for most of the processes. Check the processes one by one start from the end result and keep going up the value chain. Wherever you find a step that doesn’t add value to the next in line, scrutinize it and chop it off if it doesn’t add value.

            This step might sound easy but in practice it is not easy to remove a step from a process. One has to check the after effects (or what-if?) if the step is removed. Check with all the stakeholders and make sure that it will not cause “value-reduction”.

      3.     Front-to-End: For complex processes, having many forks and logic at each of these forks, the End-to-Front methodology might not work. Segregate these processes and treat them separately. For each of these processes, take each branch one by one and make sure that the redundant steps are removed and we reach at the end result with optimum use of resources.

      4.     Step Back and See: After simplifying each process, just step back and have a look at the bigger picture. The new, lean process should fit into the bigger scheme of things. For making sure the bigger picture is intact, segregate the processes into logical and manageable groups and before proceeding check if the processes fall in place.

           The end result of this exercise will be a simpler and leaner system. This exercise will help in achieving the same (or better) results with the use of optimum resources. Sometimes this exercise helps improving the results even before the implementation of the Enterprise Solution. If this is carried out hand-in-hand with the re-engineering while keeping the strategy and vision of the organization in mind, the results can be astounding!

Avoiding the CRM Failure: SSIS Framework

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

strategy

I have had my fair share of CRM Implementation failures and successes. Learning from my experience as a consultant and from the experience of fellow consultants and analysts, I put forward a framework to improve the success rate of the implementations. The framework, called the SSIS Framework, is an advanced version of a checklist for a successful implementation strategy. It lists the phases and the functions that the implementation team should take during the phases. 

The SSIS Framework:

Simplify: 

Many organizations grow around their core business and processes. Every time a new offshoot to the core business comes, it is built on the existing framework. Most often the new process is designed and formulated the team working on it. As the time passes, every team develops its own processes and protocol of carrying out business. Sometimes similar functions carried out by two different teams will have two entirely different processes to achieve a similar result.

In the Simplify Phase, the ineffective processes (redundant/ non-value adding) are identified and removed. This will clear the system of the “non-required” processes. The inefficient processes (consuming too many resources, even though achieving the desired result) are worked upon. While working upon the inefficient processes, the BPR activities are initiated and the new processes are put in place.

In all the activities above, the end users and customers are involved in indentifying the requirements so that there is little re-work later. The result of the Simplify phase is an organization with fewer and less complex processes. This makes the system leaner, faster and easier to manage.

Standardize: 

In the Standardize Phase, the processes should be checked for variability. If similar processes have considerable variability, it has to be reduced to optimum level. Standardizing of similar processes should be done across business units and teams. This will give the customer a feel of similar treatment even if he is handled by different teams or units. Similarly, the Process Owners and the team members should have similar functions at same levels.

An important point to be remembered here is that the variability of the processes has not to be eliminated, but, is to be brought to an optimum level. Even when the processes are standardized, there should be enough space to accommodate slight variability as and when required. For example, the customers should be segmented and the process should be customized for the segment, still keeping some bandwidth for personalization within the segment.

Implement: 

Once the processes across the organization have been simplified and standardized, start the Implementation Phase. Divide the implementation into logical and manageable phases. This means do not take the Big Bang approach. In the case of implementing CRM as a strategic framework, the feedback from all the stakeholders at each step is important. It is better to consume some time at this phase than later revert the changes. Change in the design will be a deterrent to meeting the project targets both in terms of costs and time lines. This will reduce the efforts in Stabilization phase as well.

Plan a gradual phase-wise transformation so that the results are visible. No visible results for a long time (e.g. in the case of a big bang approach) can make the client and the stakeholders restless and anxious.

Stabilize: 

When the new processes are well laid out, the system is up and running, look for kinks and smoothen them out. A major task in this phase is to take the end user feedback. This is important because it is the end user who becomes the face of the organization’s CRM initiatives to the customer. No amount of money invested in CRM will do any good until the front end agents take the initiatives in their daily interactions with the customers. Take the end user and customer feedback. Once all the issues have been identified, go for a low scale second iteration. Go through all the three (Simplify, Standardize and Implement) phases and again Stabilize. The value addition activities are an ongoing process and will continue far into the future.

 Its CMR and not CRM: Implement it well!

The buzzword today in CRM implementation circles is; “CRM is no more CRM; it is Customer Managed Relationships (CMR)”. This gives an equal importance to requirements of the customers (internal and external to the Enterprise). Unless the internal customers are satisfied, the system cannot be expected to work smoothly and unless the system works to satisfy the external customers, its motive is not achieved. The CRM Implementation today is a combination of the CRM strategy implementation with human beings and CRM Enterprise package. The coordination between the capabilities and requirements of the two is one of the most important factors in determining the success of the initiative. The strategy team, the process owners, the end users, the customers and the System Integrators (EA package implementation team) have to work in close co-ordination to achieve the desired results. Resources lost in a failed implementation not only affect the Enterprise and other stakeholders, but also the customers who lose on better service that could have been provided with the implementation.

Thus, keeping the CRM Simple yet maintaining the effectiveness and the efficiency with coordination of all the stakeholders is the key to success in a CRM implementation. It is tough but not difficult to achieve. The resources spent initially on the implementation are more than compensated by the benefits received later.

CRM:How I see it.

November 7, 2009 Leave a comment

 

Business

When the CRM concept started to gain acceptance, it was considered a promising solution to many of the industries’ problems. The IT industry took little time to transform the concept of CRM into an application. But, to the dismay of the organizations and implementers, a long streak of failures threatened an early demise of the promise. The problem with the failures was two way. One, the systems were not mature enough to replicate the flexibility and complexity of the real world business processes. Second, the clients failed to understand the amount of role CRM Application played in the whole CRM Strategy. This reduced the CRM as a holistic view to just another IT implementation. Consultants and clients alike were wary of the CRM implementation failure even before implementation. 

Today, when the systems have matured enough, CRM is again making a comeback and success stories are told on every website and every conference. CRM today is not considered as an enabler aligned to the corporate strategy, but an enabler of framing and executing the corporate strategy. With most of the clients going in for Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) and Process Optimization along with the CRM implementation, it becomes imperative to modify the implementation process to collaborate with all the stakeholders effectively. 

“The buzzword today in CRM Implementation circles is that CRM is no more

 CRM; it is Customer Managed Relationships (CMR).” 

Every organization has a vision and mission. The Organization devises its short term and long term strategy in-line with the vision and the mission. CRM comes handy not only in the implementation of the long term strategy of the company but also helps in managing day to day operations of the organization. When the implementation of an organization’s strategy and millions of dollars worth of resources are at stake, no one would like to wish for a failure.

CRM implementation has all the three components of People, Process and Technology. And, of importance in the same order.People:  The most important part are the people. CRM as a tool is of no use untill the people are ready to change and accept it. Process: The process has to be simple, yet encompass all the scenarios. Technology: There has to be a right match between the pprocess and technology to get the desired results.

In next few posts, I will be taking up these three components in detail. Keep watching this space for more.