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Business Intelligence: Giving Enterprises More Bang for Their CRM Buck

Business intelligence functionality can add tremendous value when integrated into a CRM implementation.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

Businesses today are successfully implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems to help increase efficiencies, reduce costs, boost market share and improve customer service. However, by integrating business intelligence (BI) with existing CRM systems, businesses can reap even greater benefits. With a combination of the customer-centric processes used in their CRM systems and the real-time enterprise data supplied by business intelligence, businesses can learn more about their customers and target markets.

Giving Value to Your Data

An integrated system can provide better customer management, as well as predictive analysis. A fully integrated system also gives companies a way to get greater value out of their data. An enterprise performance management (EPM) solution, already in place at many organizations, can be used to set sales targets at the customer or territory level. With an EPM solution, a company can better track sales performance against sales targets using scorecards and other operational strategies. As a result, business becomes more agile.

In addition, an integrated model lets an organization see what’s really happening in the marketplace. Where is the demand? What cross-selling capabilities are there? How can customers and products be segmented? These questions can all be answered using business intelligence as the missing link in the CRM implementation. Data models are enriched so the company can manage and identify critical trends as early as possible.

Integrating Processes, Increasing Sales

To illustrate how a company can implement a truly integrated system, I’ll use the example of a major automotive company. This company had been struggling with fleet sales, which accounted for only about 20% of its total sales – well below the industry average of nearly 35%.

One reason for this shortfall was that the organization couldn’t clearly see international customer fleet activity. Although its customers were all over the world, the company’s fleet sales were organized by country, meaning there were different CRM tools and sales processes for different countries. This lack of standardization made it difficult to accurately aggregate data for international fleet sales. 

We worked with this company to develop an integrated CRM and BI solution, which contains processes enabling full view of customers, purchases, account performance and contract adjustments. We also helped the company create a data warehouse that provides real-time integration of data from its procurement and order systems. This new solution now covers not only operational processes, but also reporting and analytical capabilities.

The result? The company has been able to significantly grow international fleet sales.

The State of Customer Relationship Management

Many companies have used CRM implementations to help improve interactions with customers, but often these solutions are siloed. Customer information, for example, is used only for sales and marketing and is completely separate from invoicing and other business processes like enterprise resource planning (ERP). As a result, these solutions are limited in the benefits they offer to the organization, leaving companies with multiple records of the same customer and little insight into their purchasing patterns or preferences.

With a siloed CRM solution, businesses aren’t able to sync with information in the data warehouse or the ERP system. This makes it difficult to have a complete view of individual customers. Such silos result in a lack of predictive analysis that limits a company’s ability to make accurate sales forecasts. With an integrated approach, companies can use BI tools like alerting and scorecard measuring to track performance based on sales targets, giving them the insight they need to make profitable decisions.

A lack of solution integration can also result in “dirty” data, which refers to the data that results from a CRM system not being aligned with corporate processes. For instance, if a company wants to send an item to a customer at a different shipping address, the system may actually create an entirely new customer based on the new address, resulting in duplicates in the system and poor customer service.

Bridging the Gaps with Business Intelligence

So how can companies close the gaps between CRM systems and corporate processes to develop a true understanding of their customers? The answer is simple: by enriching the CRM solution with the data, reporting and analytical capabilities of business intelligence that can provide your organization with a 360-degree view of customer activities. Business intelligence functionality, which provides marketing intelligence and comprehensive analytical benefits, can add tremendous value when integrated into a CRM implementation.

With business intelligence, companies can take advantage of effective functionalities such as basket analysis, using data to improve market awareness to gain better customer and market insight. For example, a retail website can use customer data to create a specialized profile of a particular customer in order to determine which additional products that customer might be interested in purchasing online. Using a combination of BI and CRM, the data provides a clearer understanding of customers’ preferences and purchasing trends. The company can then use this data to predict future trends and gain market insight.

Business intelligence can also be used with CRM to automate important functions like basket analysis and customer-activity alerts. Typically, these functions aren’t supported by the CRM system, but they can fully complement the system when integrated into the overall environment.

Using the integrated approach, companies can “clean” the dirty data I mentioned earlier by taking a corporate data warehouse that features integrated data from separate transactional systems and adding business logic to that data. With business intelligence as the layer connecting CRM and the data warehouse, it is easy to view the customer pipeline and use predictions and analytics to segment customer data.

The good news is that adding this type of advanced functionality does not necessarily require another layer of implementation because many enterprises already have the needed reporting solutions within their existing IT platform. In this case, these companies simply need to enhance their existing solutions with the CRM system.

Keys to Success

So what are the keys to successfully implementing a solution that combines CRM with BI?

  • Start small, but think big. While it’s necessary to have a vision of integration, you do not need to implement the new system all at once. Pick a goal for where you want to be in two years, and then try to structure the project in such a way that you can deliver the first step of your plan in three months or less. Along the way, ensure that everyactivity, no matter how small, is focused on the long-term goals.

  • Work to develop an approach that covers operational processes and reporting/analytics, using a combination of CRM, ERP and BI. Use the data models and tools of business intelligence to enrich CRM data and applications, even if it’s as simple as including back-end data warehouse information in your reporting capabilities.

  • Remember that customer segmentation, analytics and scenario modeling all play key roles in helping you understand market requirements. You can use your integrated data to see trends, while also getting more customer and market insight.

  • Embed performance management components of CRM, such as budgeting, monitoring and reporting, into your new system. Use these components to help your company track sales, identify problems and then take action as early as possible to correct issues that you discover.


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