Hearty Welcome to Customer Champions & Master Minds
I believe "Successful CRM " is about competing in the relationship dimension. Not as an alternative to having a competitive product or reasonable price- but as a differentiator. If your competitors are doing the same thing you are (as they generally are), product and price won't give you a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage. But if you can get an edge based on how customers feel about your company, it's a much stickier--sustainable--relationship over the long haul.
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Your Partner & Companion ( P&C)
Dinesh Chandrasekar - DC*
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Oracle CRM on Demand Integration, the Cloud Connection – Part 1
Companies invest in best-of-breed solutions, whether on demand or on premise, to optimize best practices within each application’s domain. The challenge is in integrating these solutions. Enterprises may want to integrate an on demand CRM application with an on premise ERP system to gain greater agility and user adoption within sales teams while also leveraging existing systems for order fulfillment and accounting. Or there may be a need to integrate a department’s on demand CRM solution with an established on premise CRM system in use elsewhere within the organization. Unfortunately, these applications typically operate as silos, disconnected from the actions of the other. Therefore, linking them to achieve an end-to-end business process has been a difficult-to-attain goal.
For an enterprise to fully leverage its investments in various domain applications such as CRM, order management, and supply chain management, it must ensure comprehensive integration across data, user interface (UI), and business process levels – transforming a portfolio of disparate applications into a unified, virtual
Application suite. Only then will users be able to complete a business transaction from a single application UI and interact with the latest information, regardless of where the data is stored or how it is synchronized. Without a complete integration, the user experience will remain disjointed, unsatisfying, and inefficient. This white paper discusses current integration challenges facing businesses with mixed deployments and presents Oracle’s vision and solution for comprehensive integration with Oracle CRM On Demand.
Present Integration Challenges
Today larger organizations in particular are considering on demand applications for the flexibility a subscription-based offering provides to internal lines of business. For example, an organization may want telesales representatives to have an on demand solution for automating sales processes and centralizing lead, opportunity, and account information while customer service representatives have access to an on premise CRM solution with highly robust inbound and outbound call center capabilities. The true potential of any new application investment – be it on demand or on premise, front or back office – is realized when information readily flows across applications to support a streamlined business process. The problem is that applications often operate within silos, inhibiting collaboration and coordination across repositories of information and reducing sales, marketing, and service effectiveness. For example, attempts to integrate an on demand CRM solution with a well established on premise CRM system risks fragmenting key customer data and undermining the effectiveness of these systems. Or, efforts to introduce a new on demand CRM solution to support the roll out of a new sales force, while at the same time relying on an existing on premise ERP system for order fulfillment and accounting, could have potentially disastrous consequences with customer orders and invoices. To accommodate for these shortcomings, organizations endure suboptimal processes that conform to integration restrictions rather than streamlining practices that increase business productivity and sales efficiency. The result is a disjointed user experience, increased administrative burdens on sales representatives, and ultimately, reduced sales effectiveness. Because data stored in one system is not synchronized or shared with another, organizations risk having outdated or even inaccurate information displayed to sales users. When information is not readily available through a single application, salespeople are forced to toggle between applications to access and interact with relevant data such as leads, quotes, product information, and service requests. As a result, sales representatives are forced to spend time out of their busy day reconciling information and manually reentering data in other applications to make up for the functional disparity, increasing the chance for inaccurate and redundant customer information to be incorporated within an organization’s information systems. Furthermore, this administrative overhead reduces the time salespeople have available to spend with prospects and customers, affecting overall sales productivity. What organizations need is a virtual suite of applications that behave and interoperate as a single entity.
As the adoption of on demand solutions continues to grow, hybrid combinations of on demand and on premise installations within an enterprise will become more common. These instances run the risk of becoming isolated application silos without the means to easily and effectively link to the wider application network. Integration attempts are complicated by the following factors:
• Increase in environment complexity. Different business units and geographies of an enterprise can have different systems, and these systems can be a mix of custom, packaged, on premise, and on demand. Consequently, customer information is often fragmented across various repositories and difficult to incorporate into a single view.
• Different vendors, different architectures. With multiple systems often comes varying architectures from multiple vendors. Proprietary data models, standards, and interfaces may be used, making integration across these unrelated applications even more difficult. Integration of multiple proprietary platforms is further complicated by divergent roadmaps and uncoordinated release cycles.
• Expensive do-it-yourself integrations. As a result of the lack of standards based architectures and prebuilt integrations, organizations are forced to undertake the costly process of building custom integrations that are not easily adaptable, extendable, or upgradeable.
• Insufficient integration depth. Most integration efforts are often limited to the data level as more sophisticated UI and business process integration efforts prove to be more challenging. However, only through a holistic integration approach at the data, UI, and business process levels can organizations reap the true potential and return on investment of connecting best-of-breed applications. A user experience cannot be seamless if a user needs to toggle between applications and re-enter information that was already captured in another system. For example, re-entering account information on an order stored in the back office when that information is already captured in the front office is a time-consuming and error-prone exercise for the user. Organizations already struggling with the challenge of linking together disparate applications face extra complexity with the addition of on demand deployments. Companies find they cannot adjust to new business requirements easily and cost effectively. Users experience difficulty completing a single business transaction, often because such activities require needless toggling between various applications, and thus additional user training. Most importantly, users do not have access to the complete set of information they need to do their jobs. For example, without the ability to easily view past orders stored in a back office system while working on an opportunity in a CRM application, a sales representative may miss invaluable up-sell or cross-sell opportunities. Users cannot tap into the true potential of CRM without the ability to share and communicate information seamlessly with other applications.
RESOLVING THE INTEGRATION DILEMMA
The lack of a robust standards-based architecture, an incomplete integration strategy, and lack of prebuilt integration make such efforts costly, time-consuming, and unsustainable. To remedy this requires an integration approach that leverages an open, standards-based platform for extending, managing, and modifying end-to end business processes across packaged and custom applications. The strategy for integration needs to be comprehensive, to ensure seamless coordination across the data, user interface, and business process tiers and deliver a virtual application suite. And finally, prebuilt, sustainable integrations between common industry applications are needed to accelerate the time to achieve business value, facilitate integration efforts, and reduce costs with minimal risk.
The second part of this article would provide the insight about the integration options.