Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Syspro Sees CRM as Data Sharing

It’s time for another round of “What’s My Product Line?”, the game where we try to guess a company’s product by reading its white paper. Today’s contestant is Syspro (www.syspro.com) and its entry “How to Embrace CRM and Make it Succeed in Your Organization,” available here.

Our first clue is on the cover of the paper itself. The subhead reads “giving small and midsize manufacturers and distributors the visibility required to compete in a highly competitive business climate”. Can you guess who Syspro sells to? Why, yes, it’s small and midsize manufacturers and distributors! Sorry, just one point for that answer: it was too easy.

In the paper proper, Syspro starts with a description of why companies need CRM, naming all the usual suspects: increasingly sophisticated customers, lower switching costs due to the Internet, accelerated product life cycle, and so on. Not very exciting but no clues about Syspro, either.

Next comes a similarly conventional definition of CRM: “a Customer Centric Business strategy to select, manage and capitalize on valuable business (customer) relationships.” But things start to get interesting in the details, which call CRM “a practical philosophy that can transform a company by providing much greater visibility over all individual touch points and communication with customers, vendors, suppliers and prospects.” The stress on “visibility” is somewhat odd, as is the inclusion of vendors and suppliers. Can you see where they’re heading with this?

If not, the heading of the next section is a dead giveaway: “Ownership of Data”. OK, these guys are clearly taking a data-centric view of CRM. Hence the earlier mention of visibility. You might guess they sell data integration technology, but go back to “vendors and suppliers”. The kind of software that includes that as well as customers and prospects is....Enterprise Resource Planning! You win, game over. But we’re only up to page 5 of 15.

The rest of the paper isn’t bad. It describes a balanced approach to CRM deployment, including prioritization, strategies, metrics, processes, training, and implementation review, with particular emphasis on change management. This is followed by a now-predictable stress on integration in general and real-time integration in particular, with an utterly shameless plug for Syspro CRM as “an excellent example of a fully-integrated CRM solution.” The final summary gives a reasonable list of CRM success factors, citing “a well-defined impllementation strategy” and “the people factor” in addition to “integration with incumbent ERP solution.”

Notwithstanding its emphasis on data integration, this paper gives a pretty good list of the important considerations in a CRM deployment. One curious omission is a discussion of tailored customer treatments, or indeed of pretty much any marketing (as opposed to sales) activities. This may simply be too much to expect from ERP specialists.

A more serious criticism is Syspro’s assumption that a combined ERP/CRM ensures adequate data integration. This is always the position of suite vendors. But few companies run entirely on components of a single system. Perhaps small and mid-size businesses are more likely to do that than most, yet even they are likely to use products from several software vendors. This argues that the real key to “visibility” is the CRM system’s ability to consolidate data from multiple sources, and not its being part of a particular software suite.

Thanks for playing.

No comments: