As A Service (Part 2)

As A Service (Part 2)

In part one Clint Oram, CTO of SugarCRM and I explored the fun "As A Service" topic. By way of very quick review; In the technology world, “As A Service” refers to the ability to provide a demand based solution to a user, regardless of geographic or organizational separation of the provider and consumer. My goal was to dig in a bit and find out whether "Platform As A Service" Is a real thing, or if, really PaaS is just another name for 'The Internet'.

Given that Clint (and I) are really in the CRM business, that is the focus of the conversation. Using the topic of CRM to dig in to the topic as deeply as we can. If CRM is a Platform, what is it a platform for... For those of you who do not know me, please realize that I try to keep the conversations light.

MJL: Clint, Here is a loaded question, Is CRM plus Cloud the actual platform for Customer Experience (or Customer Relationships)?

Clint: So my focus in the business world is how to bring technology to the end-user, helping customers buy, sellers sell and customer service agents deliver fantastic customer service.  But I am the first to point out that technology is only part of the equation (MJL: Not to pick on a friend, but I think I said this first).  The Customer Experience is a summation of every interaction, every experience, between a customer and a company, whether that interaction is facilitated by technology (web sites, phone calls, emails, chats) or conducted in person (store visits, meetings, trade shows).

MJL: I believe we are going to soon need to progress from Customer Experience to Human Experience as the distinction between customer and simple person deteriorates into something that cannot be distinguished. 

Clint: Building those series of experiences involves everything from a company’s brand, message, product and people to how those are presented to the customer from both a philosophical and transactional perspective. The Customer Experience is the sum of everything from the colors on your web site to the smile on your receptionist's face to the quality of your product to how you respond to an upset customer. Now, CRM technology of course facilitates many of those processes and interactions. And the Cloud (aka, Platform, Internet) allows for companies to scale out and more easily manage that technology. But behind it all has to be a vision for the Customer Experience and it’s your people who design, build and deliver that vision. Personally, I think People are the Platform for Customer Experience. It’s your employees who create loyalty, satisfaction and ultimately revenue. Technology just helps the tough, squiggly bits work better.

MJL: Thanks for that!

MJL: Clint: How does the concept of Big Data now fit into a modern CRM architecture?

Clint: Mitch, it was you who first introduced me to idea of Little Data a couple years back. I think CRM apps are where Big Data is turned into Little Data. So to answer your first question, Big Data is an integral part of a CRM architecture. Customers expect companies to know who they are. There is a reason why customers are willing to share some much data about themselves, whether in the public domain or privately with the company, beyond the basics necessary to execute a transaction. Customers want their vendors to give stellar customer service based upon their wants, needs and desires. 

MJL: Do you have any good example that you are able to share?

Clint: Here’s an example of that. One of my larger customers spent two years weaving their Sugar implementation into a very sophisticated backend Big Data architecture which combined MDM, ESB, ETL * and real time data exchange across more than a dozen internal and external data sources. Now that’s an IT alphabet soup not for the faint of heart. But why was this all important to the Sugar implementation? How do you make that sea of data relevant to a person trying to get their job done? This is where a well defined CRM, like Sugar turns Big Data into Little Data. The role of a CRM application is to put the right data at the right time in the hands of a customer-facing professional.

The whole purpose of this effort, one of the key success criteria of this CRM project, was to deliver on the promise made by the CEO of the company to help their sellers delight their customers. The CEO’s vision was to move beyond the antiquated systems of record they had in the past that were slow and cumbersome and turn their new CRM technology, that would be Sugar, into a competitive asset because it helped drive loyalty. Simply put, turning Big Data into Little Data as part of a CRM implementation is all about delivering on that overriding directive we all hear from our customers: “Know me. Tell me something I care about."



MDM = Master Data Management
ETL = Extract, Transform, Load
ESB = Enterprise Service Bus

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