Rationalization is the foundation for good CRM strategy
The traditional way of approaching CRM is changing. For example, organizations have stopped viewing their CRM strategies as simply CRM application implementations. Product vendors have also been offering new options and innovations in the space — some, such as Oracle, have begun espousing the virtues of social networking and have included it in their CRM offerings. Similar product vendors offering enterprise feedback management are looking to play a critical role in completing CRM as a strategy.
CRM as a strategy cannot operate in isolation, independent of the rest of the enterprise applications. Today's CRM solution will not be technical, but will be a strategic initiative requiring other solutions to work with it. In this new world, correct information in real time is the key, and it is expected that the magnitude of information captured from the customer and fed to the customer will see a manifold increase.
Moving forward, CRM as a strategy will not be limited to a single CRM application, but will be aided and abetted by a host of complementing technologies, products and applications. This will bring about disruption and new expectations from the existing application portfolio. If these applications that play the crucial supporting role in the CRM strategy are not rationalized, they will undermine the whole CRM strategy.
Along with the necessary people support, it is essential for vibrant CRM that the solution be bolstered with other complementary solutions, such as master data management, enterprise content management and business intelligence. Many applications other than the core CRM application will work in tandem to ensure that the CRM strategy works.
For example, to get customer trust, organizations will allow complete visibility into the applications with respect to the customer's order, complaints and other interests. For this, the CRM solution must be well-connected to the rest of the enterprise applications. It must integrate easily with back office or legacy applications, existing data repositories and line of business applications to quickly seek and make the relevant data available to the customer.
Thus, organizations making strategic moves and trying to transform into customer-centric organizations need to worry about legacy applications and non-CRM systems such as billing, inventory, and other back-office applications that still impact customer interactions. It is therefore pertinent that the underlying application stack should be rejuvenated to be conducive in the new order CRM. With standard expectations of speedy, clean and relevant information, it is necessary that the underlying applications rationally fit into the new CRM strategy.
The operational CRM needs to be in sync with the rest of the enterprise applications to receive complete and updated information on which it can act. It must also integrate the systems at various customer touch points.
As the first step of the CRM solution build, it is necessary to iron out the dependencies on the other enterprise applications. A non-rationalized portfolio will create problems for the CRM service by not meeting performance expectations; not providing accurate information to customer service representatives and customers; not allowing self service, or making it difficult; and making it difficult to make rapid changes to the enterprise applications.
It is necessary to rationalize the information management systems to ensure that good quality customer and other data is available to the CRM applications. Companies should also rationalize the application to eliminate issues in integrating CRM applications with existing legacy systems to facilitate a smooth flow of information.
Sushil Paigankar is the senior manager and head of Patni Computer Systems' Technology Solutions Group in India.