Archive

Posts Tagged ‘SME’

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.

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.

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.

Google Wave: Another step towards “Seamless Collaboration”

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Google Wave is another real-time information sharing platform. But is it “just another” social website. No. I would describe it as a hybrid of mail and chat (and much more).

Though Google has been a late entrant on the Social Media stage, it still has a huge fan following to make an impact. There are many features in G-Wave which separate it from the pack. As I see it, all these features take us a step closer to the “Seamless Social CRM”. Some of the features that are of interest are:

  1. Enhanced Chat: It is a major enhancement on the basic G-Talk. One can have conference chat, a one to one chat or a video chat. The chat has been really enhanced with all the features of formatting, highlighting, different fonts etc.
  2. Attachments: This helps in sending attachments in a chat. The chat can be directly sent as a mail with the attachment to the other members who might be offline at the moment.
  3. Collaborative e-mail: This is nice feature. Even at the time of drafting a mail (or for that matter even the contents of a document), one can add friends/ colleagues who can see the content being typed real-time. This helps in leveraging a collaborative effort in drafting such memos.
  4. The Waves: The Google Waves are similar to the Tweets but have the advantage that they are “real time”. One can share and see what is being shared real time. This all is not one to one, but can be many to one or one to many. Add to it the advantage of using photographs, online information etc.
  5. G-Maps: The best feature I found was the sharing of Google maps. One can access the map of an area while chatting and mark the positions and thus create his/her own map. I see a great potential in this application. The customer can explain their exact location to the sales rep. In case of emergency, the victim can use the G Map to tell the position to the emergency response teams. These are just a few examples. The applications might be infinite.
  6. G-Search: Another great feature is the G-Search on the tool. Even at the time of chatting or making an online memo/document, one can use the Google search option to find resources online and quote them.
  7. Embedding: There are a lot of options for embedding from documents to pictures to videos. These objects can be embedded from the desktop or by searching online from the net.
  8. Play collaborative games: One can play games with people across the globe. There are not many applications available at this moment to play these collaborative games but, will be available once the developers start to show their skills.
  9. Mobile updates: The mobile version of the Wave can be used to upload the photographs take from the mobile and create waves then and there with it.

What it means for Collaborative CRM?

These applications and features mean lot for the “collaborative and seamless” CRM. The collaboration that is being offered by G Wave has limitless potential if the business teams want to use it. For example there is an option of Yes/No/May-Be for online voting. This can be of tremendous importance when a decision has to be taken by voting. The team does not need to assemble at a place; it just has to click on one of the options in the voting tab displayed.

Oracle has come with something similar for Social CRM. It has some great features of collaboration between the various teams of the organization. It has more of business oriented features where as G Wave caters to the fun and light side of life.

But the big question is: Can it replace G mail? Yes. It has all the punch to replace the G mail. But, it will take time till all the people are on board the Wave!

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.