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Posts Tagged ‘SaaS’

How LinkedIn leveraged the benefits of Salesforce.com?


We have heard a lot of (success) stories of organizations implementing salesforce.com and how it helped their businesses. Here is another story of implementation of SFDC.

World’s largest network for professionals, LinkedIn, wanted to implement an Enterprise Solution (CRM) to help its corporate and advertising teams to streamline and grow their business. LinkedIn is used by professionals to display their online resume (work experience, past organizations, testimonials, achievements and aspirations). Many organizations use LinkedIn data base of resumes to manage their recruiting and talent requirements. The LTA (LinkedIn Talent Advantage) which maintains a database of 900+ customers and helps them scout for talent did not have a system to manage the customer details, leads, accounts and related stuff.

LinkedIn is an “internet based” business and itself is a private Cloud. Also, all it wanted was a robust ES sans a large IT team and maintenance hassles. Salesforce.com fulfilled all their expectations and had a brand name and lots of “success” stories to back its case and hence became the obvious choice.

The implementation of salesforce.com has helped the 70+ size corporate team and the advertising team to manage task scheduling, managing leads, tracking interactions and closely track the deals. Also, the marketing team can create, manage and measure the effectiveness of the campaigns.

As a result of the implementation, the sales reps became more efficient and have been able to handle about 200% more customers than the base levels. This has been a major factor in inflating the topline. Salesforce CRM helped in creating a centralized customer database which helps in providing a comprehensive view of the customers, their requirements and pipeline across the organization. The data available is consistent and updated which helps in realtime/ontime planning and decision making. The LinkedIn teams can real-time analyse and manage the ROI on the efforts spent on leads and is able to optimize its deployment of resources.

The latest Buzz: Location based mobile Ads.

February 24, 2010 4 comments

Mobile phones have been used for long by the companies to promote their products and services. The most used methodology till now has been sending text messages to the customers. There have been attempts to use recorded voice messages, but with very limited success. The marketers have been using the mobile channels based on the customer profile or on the history of previous purchases by the customer.

The latest advance in mobile/text ads is to send location based ads to mobile users. Placecast, the pioneer in this technology uses the phone’s GPS signal and the location data provided by carriers. The company plans to send the messages to users tailored for their interests and preferences.  It uses a practice called geo-fencing, which draws a virtual perimeter around a particular location. When someone steps into the geo-fenced area, a text message is sent (only if consumers have opted for the service). The application works in a similar fashion to text broadcasting where one can make use of various parameters to filter out the audience lists. Using this application, the marketers have another parameter – location, to single out the customers. When a customer passes through a new town, he can get the information on nearby stores, pubs, restaurants etc.

The application has a promising use in the recreation business. The tourists can subscribe the service whenever they visit a destination. Wherever they pass through, they will get the messages on the nearby places of interest. The service can also be great help to bargain hunters. They can get to know about the discount sales and bargain offers and that to in the same area where they are at present.

Proposing a new EA Strategy:SaaS as the Testing Ground

February 1, 2010 1 comment

The years 2008 and 2009 were very turbulent for businesses in almost every industry. Many companies fell prey to the brutal shake up that happened in last two years. Others survived.

As the saying goes, circumstances which are not able to kill you only make you stronger. The businesses which have survived the tough times are taking a very cautious approach to future endeavours. As I wrote in an earlier post, organizations want bang for their buck. Every penny spent is expected to earn dollars for the business.

The year 2010 brings with it hope that the recovery is on its way and the business world will ride the high waves again. The spending is increasing. For my vested interests, I am more interested in tracking the pattern of spending in the Enterprise Solutions space.

Small businesses have realized the importance of implementing EA for their businesses. But the biggest problem for them is spending on these solutions. According to a CVS survey (also pointed out in one of my earlier posts), it takes on an average $0.19 million for implementing an Enterprise Solution for an S/MB. The same solution can be implemented through SaaS delivery model at as low as $1000 a year. This comes with the added advantage that the enterprise does not need to maintain an in house IT team to manage and maintain the system.

Using SaaS as the first step:

Many big organizations also want to implement ES, but are sceptical about the results. The failure stories of ES are still abounding. I propose the SaaS as a first step of ES implementation for bigger companies as well.

These companies can go for a single tenant SaaS solution where the application and the hardware are used by a single tenant only. Although it is slightly costly than a multi-tenant solution, but is still much cheaper than the on-premise solutions.

Once the organization realizes the benefits of the system, it has the option to “own” the system or continue in the SaaS mode. As the organization is the only tenant on the system, the ownership and the location of the system resources can be easily shifted to the enterprise premise.

Thus, vendors and SIs (System Integrators) can gain access to a large market of SMEs and even large organizations through this model. The model addresses the requirements of both the SMEs and the large organizations but also keeps in mind their budget constraints.

Cloud Computing made simple!

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

No discussion on the emerging trends in EA delivery is complete without talking about the Cloud Computing and related stuff. Not many people are very clear on what exactly cloud computing is? What is the difference between Cloud, SaaS, IaaS and PaaS. This five-minute video explain all of this terminology in very simple way. 

Two things that customers want. And, Salesforce.com delivers.

January 20, 2010 4 comments

Last night I got a mail from one of the followers of this blog asking me to give the reasons of salesforce.com’s success. I chose to put it in a very simple way: Salesforce.com is delivering what the customers want!

When salesforce.com won four of the ten awards at 2009 CRM Market Awards by the CRM Magazine, many were surprised. But not me! I had expected it to happen and it did happen.

Now the question is why and how did it happen? And the bigger question is what is it that the customers want?

Most of the success that SFDC has achieved has been in the SMB segment. The small businesses have two main concerns when it comes to IT systems implementation:

One: Affordability.

Two: Robustness.

Small businesses look for affordable solutions as they are not in a position to spare and spend multimillion dollar budgets for IT implementations. Also they look for a robust solution as they cannot spend on maintaining an in-house IT team.

It’s a fact that all the businesses need to optimize the use of their resources and have a seamless flow of information across the organization units and also with the partners and customers. All the EA products available before the arrival of SFD were either very costly to implement or maintain, or were suitable for only large enterprises. Small businesses had requirements but there was no product in the market to meet them. SFDC stepped in at the right moment to plug in the gaps that the giants like SAP and Oracle left.

According to the CVS survey for SMBs, on an average of $0.19 million is required for implementing an ERP system for a medium size business. The same capabilities can be delivered through SaaS at a cost of as low as $1000 per year. This makes a very strong case for SFDC. Also, post implementation, the maintenance and upkeep of the system is to be done by the provider. This eliminates the need for an in-house IT team for maintaining the system.

It’s as simple as that: SFDC provides what (it’s) customers want. That makes it successful.

What’s in store for EA-Strategy space in 2010?


We ended the year 2009 on a positive note where almost every analyst and industry watcher was expecting the economy to look up and once again ride up the crest. Things do look better, businessmen do look confident. The economic crumble had given rise to distrust but as the things are improving, the distrust is being replaced by caution.

Yes, the year of 2010 will be one of cautious approach to every major decision. The fact is that the recession has changed many things around us. The time when anyone and everyone would jump on to the band-wagon is no longer reality. Today, and the year to come, people will be pussy-footing around the platform before making up their mind to jump onto it.

I have compiled a list of top ten things around which the business decisions will be interwoven when it comes to using IT as an enabler for strategy execution.

  1. Focus on ROI: Businesses across the globe will be focusing on RoI in any type of implementation. The companies have tightened their belts and cut on budgets and money supply is low and every manager is trying to get the bang for every buck spent. Any major implementation which does not provide substantial improvements in operations will be dinged at first go.
  2. Focus on Operations: In the recession times, the companies have come to face the reality that the most important thing to survive in a business is the cash flow from operations. If the operations are not generating enough positive cash flows, it is very difficult to survive. Companies will be stressing more on the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations and reducing the wastes (the seven types of wastes). To achieve the same, companies will take the help of IT as an integration mechanism for different operations units. At a time when all the job-shops employ the best machines and cutting edge technologies, it’s the flow of information across units and partners that holds the key to efficiency in operations.
  3. Collaboration: The decade just passed has already shown that how important it is to collaborate with all the stakeholders in the business. As the flow of information across units in the organization is important, similarly, the flow of information across partners and stakeholders is very important. When everyone is working hard to lower down costs, holding inventories, wastes, it becomes very important to share information with each other so that the other party can plan their activities accordingly.
  4. The rise of SaaS: SaaS as a delivery model for EA will be in demand. The SaaS market (though has a low base) is growing at 40% percent per annum. According to the CVS Survey, it takes about $ 0.2 million to implement an ERP solution for a SME whereas if the same application is offered through SaaS delivery model, it can be done at as low as $1000 per year. That makes a big case in favour of the SaaS model. I do not say that SaaS will completely overshadow the traditional implementation models, but, SaaS will be a force to reckon with!
  5. A renewed focus on SMBs: The rise of SaaS as a delivery model will go hand in hand with the renewed focus on Small and Medium Businesses. Most small businesses have recognized the need of an EA package to manage their operations, but, cannot afford the same. System Integrators and vendors will focus on these businesses and offer them robust and affordable solutions.
  6. Risk Management: There will be an increased push towards risk management and data security. As I have already pointed above that the flow of information will be the basic requirement for the smooth and efficient run of systems, in the same breath, the security of data and the risks posed by the unauthorized access to data will be of importance.  
  7. Business Analytics: BABI (the term coined by Dr. Bala V. Balachandran, distinguished professor at Kellogs Business School and Dean of Great Lakes Institute of Management) or Business Analytics and Business Intelligence will take to the centre-stage. The companies are making use of the data available for making informed and intelligent decisions. Analytics will play a major role in helping organizations to make the best use of already scare resources and in turn help in improving the RoI of the initiatives.
  8. Organizational alignment to the Systems: Rather than implementing new systems, organizations will make efforts to align their workforce to the systems in place.  Most of the systems fail because the human component in the implementation does not give its best to make the system a success. Falling in line, the management will give a push to the workforce for embracing change and give their best.
  9. Pay for performance or pay for used capacity: At a time when every business is concentrating on RoI, performance is being attached to investments. Organizations are taking the route of attaching payments to performance. Also, paying for used capacity rather than installed capacity (Air-Tel Bharti’s contract with vendors and IBM) will gain prominence.
  10. ERP space will remain a buyer’s market: With companies taking a cautious approach to big ticket IT spending, the ERP space will remain a buyer’s market. Vendors will have to offer very competitive prices to make buyers loosen their purse strings. Companies looking for EA implementations will bargain hard for “exciting” offers.

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.

Competing on Analytics: Part 3

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

In parts 1 and 2 we have seen the power of analytics and how companies have made use of analytics to achieve substantial gains. The last part of  in the series gives the details of some other important aspects of data.

Where to capture this data?

The modern enterprise has numerous channels from which the data flows. The data can converge into a single destination or may be stored at different locations in the integrated system. The various channels of data flow may be: call centre, direct sales, partner operations, IVR, Self Service-Internet etc. It is again the decision of the management team to identify which sources of data to tap. The Six Cs (Correct, Complete, Current, Consistent, Context, Controlled) of data play an important part in the identification of places where the data can be found. For Example in a telecom enterprise, the data may be available at a number of places such as the CRM database, the Billing Database, IVR Database, the Interaction Centre, the networks etc.

How much data is needed?

The amount of data plays an important part in the ability of the enterprise to leverage the ability of the system to convert the data into knowledge and insights. Any enterprise looking for reliable results should have data at least for two years. The organizations operations in an industry sector which faces cyclicity need even more data for making sure there is no cyclicity in the cycles.

The base line is “The more (without compromising the quality) the better”. The knowledge depositories using analytics solutions build over time. The irregularities are smoothened over time and with the refinement in analysing techniques. Companies should not expect instantaneous results from implementation of analytics. The results take some time to show up and the managers also take some time to pick the fine lines in leveraging the results.

Analytical tools and Analysis

Once the data is ready, the next important aspect is the data analyzing tools. The market is abuzz with tools ranging from very simple tools like XL- Spread Sheets to very complex and powerful tools such as SAS, SPSS, Minitab etc. The organization needs to again take a subjective decision on which tool to use. Some tools offer marginal improvements at a very high additional cost. Also, the analytical tool just provides the results of analysis and is a DSS (Decision Support System). The interpretation and implementation of results is again a function of the “human factor”.

Knowledge and Insights

I always tell fellow consultants and clients that the implementation of Analytics does not “give” knowledge and insights. It has to be “achieved”. The IT component is only a small part of the whole exercise. All the stakeholders have to play their part to achieve the two. Once the trends and patterns are identified, the managers have to play their part. Many companies implement these solutions but not many can leverage the results. The analytics (or any other DSS) can increase the accuracy in identifying more factors that influence the decisions. In the end it’s the manager who makes the decision. 

Competing on Analytics: Part 2

December 13, 2009 1 comment

We have seen in my earlier post on Analytics that how and which companies are competing on the basis of analytics. The next questions that a person is bound to ask is that what type of companies or companies in which industry sector make the best use of Analytics?

The answer is ANY. Yes, any company in any sector can compete on the basis of analytics. Analytics does not mean that one has to have hoards of data and numbers. Analytics can also be use on transactions that involve verbatim details. Companies even make use of the analytics in analyzing words, phrases, the sentiments etc.

So now we know that any company can implement analytics. But, to make use of the analytics framework and to derive the desired results, the human component is as important as the mathematical model and IT component driving it.

There are a few more questions that arise in the implementation of analytics:

What data to capture?

This question has no straightforward answer. The executives driving the implementation should decide on what data will enable them to achieve the insights required. Some executives try capturing every bit of data that they can lay their hands on. It is good to capture as much data as one can because you never know what will be required at what point in time. But al J.L. Distinguished Prof. of Kellogg University puts it “It may lead to data obesity and knowledge starvation”. There no measure to determine the “optimum” amount of data or the “optimum” parameters on which to collect data. Thus, it is a pure Human component of the implementation that decides what to capture (unless one is implementing a package which requires mandatory fields to be captured). The capture of data also depends upon the requirements of the “downstream” systems and channels. For example in the CRM system may not require all the data for itself, but has to mandatorily capture it for the downstream systems such as Billing and Finance.

Correct: The data captured should be correct in all respects. Incorrect data will spoil the quality of results and may even lead one to wrong results.

Complete: The data to be captured should complete. There should be no missing fields. The missing fields may be considered as “zero” or “null” by the analytical tool. This may again lead to incorrect results.

Current: The data should be consistent with the time line. The data being captured at this moment should be current. Any data that is not current should specify the timeline when it was captured.

Consistent: The data should be consistent along the time line. There should not be huge deviations and fluctuations in the quantity and quality of data. This discounts the cyclicity of the data.

Context: The data being captured should be in line with the context. The context is again defined by the parameters which define the scope and scale of the framework.

Controlled: The data should be controlled and manageable. The control on the data makes sure that the data under analysis is the sample that one wants to analyse. The control on the data also ensures the management of sudden spikes and troughs.

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.