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Gathering the Data
Gathering the Data

CRM is only as useful as the information gathered, and where better to gather it than at the point of contact?

The goals of CRM, for most organizations, have been threefold: to enable better decision making by creating a single view of the customer; to optimize marketing and sales resources; and to drive customer satisfaction and maximize customer lifetime value. Over the past decade, massive investments have been made in CRM systems to realize these goals. Yet, the promised benefits have not materialized and CRM is not the engine driving corporate decision making. But why?

The Promise of Analytic CRM
If fully adopted and utilized strategically within an organization, CRM holds value beyond just tracking customer interactions. CRM can drive tangible action. It's a decision-making tool, but only if those decisions are based on the appropriate analysis of critical field and customer data. For this reason, business analytics is the true engine driving CRM.

Analytic CRM, although not a new concept, has been receiving increased attention because its potential is enormous. Using analytic CRM, companies can use captured data to build marketing campaigns based on direct customer feedback and input, understand correlations between subgroups of customers and products, and predict customer behavior and automate event-driven marketing campaigns. The countless interactions that take place every day between your sales professionals and customer-service teams and your customers present a plethora of valuable information. Analytic CRM gives companies the potential to listen and truly understand - in a formal, rather than ad-hoc way - what their customers want and need, and act on this information before their competitors do.

The Challenges of Analytic CRM
The desire exists across all organizations to articulate strategies, collect data from the field in response to those strategies, and then use those answers to drive either higher quality or lower-cost actions. So, why aren't more companies leveraging analytic CRM to its potential? The reality is that the ability and discipline to follow the Collect>Analyze>Act value chain of analytic CRM varies dramatically across those same organizations.

However, it is rarely the analytic capabilities themselves that are the core failure point. Many software providers are focused on providing high-quality analytic products, and most CRM vendors are now introducing their own toolsets as well. So "crunching data" is not the issue. Instead, the failure points are generally at the two ends of the Collect>Analyze>Act chain. Business process failure prevents many companies from actually being able to act on the learnings CRM provides. They have great analytics, but have not changed their business processes - incentives, organizations, customer-interaction processes, field decision making, etc. - so minimal new actions are taken. And analysis only has value if it drives better outcomes.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to even get to the point of identifying whether or not their CRM business processes are effective because they hit a failure point even earlier in the analytic CRM value chain. User-adoption failure prevents companies from being able to collect the field data they need to conduct the analyses they want. Furthermore, poor or inconsistent data is arguably worse than no data at all because, combined with great analytics, it can actually drive the wrong actions.

If analytics is the engine of CRM, then field data is the fuel that feeds the engine. If the data isn't accurate or the quality of data being captured in the system is poor, then the decision- enabling power of analytic CRM is highly compromised.

According to a recent sales management and field-sales representative survey (a survey of 89 sales management executives and 186 field-sales representatives of large- to mid-sized corporations conducted by AvantGo in October 2002), fewer than 50% of sales reps are using their CRM/SFA system the way sales management would like, while 21% are not using the system at all. This is due in part to difficulties logging on, long bootup times, and the sheer awkwardness of having to carry a laptop around all day. Low sales-force adoption means that the most important customer information - collected in the field at the point of contact - is frequently never entered or incomplete, so the Collect>Analyze>Act chain of analytic CRM is never effectively begun.

The Role of Mobility
User adoption is the number one issue preventing most companies from getting the value they expected from CRM. Their ability to solve that issue, primarily through one of three methods - instituting enforcement policies, increasing system usability, and improving the actual value of the system to the sales rep - is critical to analytic CRM. Today, companies know when they have solved the problem because all of their field interactions are recorded (data coverage) on the day they happen (data frequency) with the richness of data they need (data completeness) to enable strategic analysis.

On their own, enforcement policies to increase user adoption rarely succeed, unless they directly impact individual commissions or continued employment. Even then, adoption tends to be only what is required - the bare minimum - as it is only human nature to do as little as possible to remain compliant, especially when the tool is not convenient and is viewed as an administrative burden and not a sales enabler.

Increasing the usability of CRM and making it a valuable tool in the sales representatives' sales process is the key to user adoption. But if the CRM system is only accessible on a desktop or laptop computer, adoption will continue to be severely compromised because these technologies do not fit effectively into the workflow of a field-sales representative. From the perspective of a sales rep doing call preparation and reporting, laptops are not mobile, as they are too cumbersome and take too long to start up. This is where handheld mobile solutions are most effective.

Handheld devices can help drive CRM adoption and increase the returns of analytic CRM. According to that same sales management and representative survey, sales representatives reported that they would be more willing to use their CRM systems if there was a faster and easier way to input information from the road. Of the representatives surveyed, 90% reported that they would use their CRM/SFA system more if they had handheld mobile access, and over 80% believed that a PDA sales solution would make them more productive in the field.

Mobile sales professionals can quickly and easily access a PDA-based solution before or during a sales call to find customer- service history, current productinventory levels, pricing, or more detailed product information such as a color photograph and specifications. After the meeting, the sales rep can use the application to update opportunity status and other customer information, make notes for future action items, and check corporate e-mail - all without having to carry a heavy laptop or waiting for that laptop to start up.

For a handheld CRM solution to be effective, it must be highly usable and the reps must see value in it for themselves. This means the solution must have an intuitive user interface and provide access to all the information sales professionals need, whether it resides in the corporate CRM system or elsewhere on the intranet or Internet. It must always be accessible, regardless of wireless connectivity, and perhaps most important, it must map to and support the sales professionals' workflow, yet be flexible enough to be costeffectively modified when sales processes changes.

By making the solution an integral part of the reps' day, companies can not only increase sales effectiveness, but also can easily enable reps to provide the critical field data management needs. Handheld access enables the data that feeds the analytic engine and starts the process of deriving real value from CRM.

Conclusion
CRM is a decision-making tool, as its value depends on the ability to collect and analyze field and customer data to drive actions that deepen customer relationships, optimize sales and marketing investments, and increase competitive advantage. Without quality data, however, CRM provides minimal value. Many organizations have invested heavily in CRM technologies over the last decade, but driving user adoption among field-sales professionals, one of the key sources of field and customer data, has consistently posed the greatest challenge.

Handheld mobile solutions address this problem by providing a workflow-based sales tool that not only provides the sales reps with the in-field information they need to be effective, but also allows them to easily record data at the point of interaction, thus dramatically reducing their personal administrative burden. User adoption drives data quality, which drives analytics and enables organizations to finally deliver on the original promise of their existing CRM investments.

About Ojas Rege
Ojas Rege leads product development and management for iAnywhere Solutions' Mobile Solutions group. In this role, Mr. Rege is responsible for product
strategy for the company's mobile middleware, e-mail and line-of-business
enterprise solutions as well as AvantGo, the world's largest PDA consumer
application.
Prior to joining iAnywhere Solutions, Mr. Rege was vice president of product
management at AvantGo, which was acquired by Sybase in February 2003. His
past experience includes working at Boston Consulting Group, where he headed
many of the firm's major strategy projects in healthcare, software and
telecommunications. Mr. Rege began his career at Oracle Corporation and has
also worked at Acclaim Entertainment and Fairchild Semiconductor. He holds
Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Computer Engineering from MIT, and
an MBA from Stanford University.

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