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CRM Any Way You Like It: Ensure Your Systems Can Deliver What Customers Need

by Michael de la Cruz | SAPinsider

October 1, 2007

In an increasingly competitive market, companies are seeking CRM solutions that are simple, flexible, and comprehensive enough to truly help them both improve customer experience and drive customer value. In this Q&A, SAP’s Senior Vice President, CRM Solutions Management Mike de la Cruz discusses SAP’s approach to CRM and how it can help companies reach their ultimate goal: CRM without compromise.

Michael de la Cruz
Senior Vice President
CRM Solutions Management

It may sound odd, but CRM — customer relationship management — is finally becoming more about the customer.

CRM started off in silos that focused on specific front-office needs — sales force productivity, for example. Later, with the advent of integrated suites and the emergence of Software as a Service (SaaS), it became about the technology. Now, SAP's CRM solutions center on improving the customer experience and driving customer value.

As SAP's Michael de la Cruz explains, the objective is to provide CRM without compromise. Companies are looking for CRM solutions that are simple, flexible, and comprehensive. That's why SAP's approach to CRM aims to allow rapid user adoption and productivity with its new, intuitive, Web-based user interface tailored for the business user. Flexible deployment models provide companies with the ability to act immediately and grow strategically, without disruption. And best-in-class, front-office capabilities complement end-to-end, industry-specific processes to support CRM across and beyond customer touch points.

In this Q&A, SAP customers can evaluate what's right for their organization, and look ahead to what's coming down the road for CRM.

Q: Where does CRM fall on the executive radar screen these days? How does it rank among other enterprise applications?

A: CRM is at the top. The reason is clear: More than ever, companies perceive CRM as critical to an organization's success. C-level executives are thinking about the importance of the customer experience and how it relates to driving profitable growth. It's not just about cost-cutting anymore; organizations are under increasing pressure to generate more revenue, so they've got to develop strategies to better win, know, and keep their customers. This means delivering an exceptional and differentiated customer experience.

In the past, you could deploy easy-to-use yet basic capabilities that your sales team loved — or you could implement rich CRM applications that required weeks of training and drove your sales and marketing users crazy. You could focus on supporting customer-facing processes but then struggle with integration in the back end.

More recently, companies could choose between a quick, easy-to-implement SaaS solution, or an on-premise solution that required a lot more upfront cost, time, and effort to get up and running. The problem was that you had to choose a path and then live with the results. You couldn't change course later as your business needs evolved, and companies had no way of achieving both tactical and strategic CRM goals. That's no longer the case.

SAP is focused on delivering market-leading CRM solutions and eliminating traditional CRM tradeoffs. And we're delivering results — SAP CRM has been recognized as a leader in all five of Forrester Research's enterprise CRM evaluations in 2007.

Q: Usability has been a major driver in SAP's approach to CRM. Why so?

A: Think about the types of users in CRM. They're in sales, service, and marketing. These are roles in which people are under pressure to execute quickly and demonstrate results. If they can't figure out how to work with the CRM system, they won't use it. Ease of use has become paramount and a new bar has been set. Just as you can go to and easily figure out how to buy a book, you should be able to intuitively get your job done in your CRM system.

That's why we have completely redesigned our UI to deliver a market-leading user experience. The new CRM WebClient UI has been designed for the business user (such as a sales rep or a marketing manager) with a clear focus on how these hard-to-please users work — and to ensure their productivity. Unified across CRM, this new UI is intuitive, easy to use, and simple to navigate, and it can be personalized in many different ways to meet a user's specific needs.

Let's say you are a sales rep. Your personalized home page provides you with a quick overview of what's relevant for your job as a sales professional: your appointments, alerts, and open tasks (see Figure 1). On the fly, you can change the content, create favorites, add reports and quick links, or change the entire look and feel of the UI simply by selecting a different skin template. Throughout the application, information about accounts, opportunities, and activities can be displayed the way you like it. All it takes is a couple of clicks. A design tool allows non-IT users to tailor the UI to specific user roles; they can easily configure features, customize screen layouts, add fields, and change labels and terminology.

Figure 1
The new SAP CRM WebClient UI is designed to make the business user more productive — it's simple, it's intuitive, and users can easily tailor its look and feel to their liking using drag-and-drop

Q: Is this new UI available today?

A: Yes. Introduced with SAP CRM on-demand, the new user interface is now also available in the 2006s release of SAP CRM. And we've already received very positive feedback from our customers. People see this for the first time and say, "I never thought I'd see the day that SAP would be this easy to use."

The new UI enables a number of innovations to improve employee productivity. Pipeline Performance Management, for example, allows sales professionals to analyze their sales pipeline and immediately trigger the right actions to resolve issues and meet quota targets — all on a single screen. An interactive chart displaying won revenue against target revenue allows you to filter your list of opportunities simply by clicking on different bar chart segments. The list itself is editable and includes an in-line briefing card. Without losing any context, you can drill into a particular opportunity, review details, make changes, and immediately see — right in the chart — the actions you've taken.

If users can't figure out how to work with the CRM system, they won't use it. That's why we have completely redesigned our UI.

Q: Besides the UI, what other areas of CRM has SAP been focusing on?

A: We have worked on substantial innovations across marketing, sales, and service. In our 2006s release, which is in ramp-up right now, some highlights include functionality for real-time offers, intent-driven interactions, product modeling and bundling, and service-parts management. We also deliver industry-specific capabilities for telecommunications, financial services, and the public sector.

In our 2007 release, which is due out by the end of the year, we're delivering significant innovations in areas such as trade promotion management (TPM), market development funds (MDF), and call center. TPM and MDF are two great examples of the results SAP gets by innovating with key customers who are recognized leaders in these respective areas. This way, we can ensure that our CRM solution provides comprehensive, leading-edge functionality to support critical business processes from end to end, providing maximum value to our customers.

For example, our TPM solution not only increases the effectiveness of trade promotions — helping companies spend their marketing dollars more wisely — but also supports alignment with supply chain and inventory planning to avoid out-of-stock situations when promotions are launched. MDF, which allows organizations to expand their marketing reach by funding their channel partners' marketing activities, not only increases the effectiveness of marketing spend, but also improves the efficiency and reliability of the entire process — from marketing planning and fund allocation to the payout of marketing funds. At the same time, MDF provides partners with an easy-to-use, online self-service to request funds and submit claims, while ensuring quick and accurate payments.

Q: There's been a lot of interest in CRM on-demand solutions lately. Why all the buzz? And which is better — on-premise or on-demand?

A: First of all, CRM is primarily about your business strategy, not technology or a specific deployment model. When we talk to our customers, they speak about their CRM strategy and what they are trying to achieve from a business perspective. You need to figure out what makes sense for your business — both today and in the future. On-demand is a critical part of some of our customers' overall strategies. So we listened to these customers and included an on-demand offering in our CRM product portfolio.

SAP enables our customers to support both a quick time to value and increased productivity with SAP CRM on-demand, and also allows them to support strategic, differentiated CRM with end-to-end, industry-specific scenarios with our on-premise CRM offerings. And our customers can easily combine on-demand and on-premise. You can bring up a process, region, or business unit quickly with on-demand — then choose to transition them to on-premise when you're ready, or have them remain on-demand but integrated with on-premise CRM or even your SAP ERP software.

Our aim is to provide solutions that allow customers to have CRM any way they like it, in the way that makes the most business sense — be it on-demand, on-premise, or a combination of both.

Q: So organizations should focus on their business processes first, and only then pursue a technology strategy that supports those processes?

A: Precisely. For companies to excel in customer relationship management, they need to think across and beyond their basic touch points. For example, they need to think about multichannel experiences. Customers interact with companies through a variety of channels including Web sites, call centers, or even partners. And these customers expect to be able to choose their desired channel for each interaction while getting a consistent experience across all touch points. By integrating customer channels, companies can better handle customer inquiries and orders, cross-sell and up-sell more effectively, and provide the consistent customer experience that's demanded in the marketplace today.

Companies also need to think about backend integration. CRM is not just about the front office. Through end-to-end processes, companies can harness the efforts of their entire organization to make the customer experience better. These end-to-end processes can also be used to differentiate the customer experience across all interaction channels, further enhancing both revenue and customer satisfaction. In addition, what's really important is how flexibly an organization can respond to market changes. Continuous innovation and business transformation have become imperative.

Our aim is to provide solutions that allow customers to have CRM any way they like it — be it on-demand, on-premise, or a combination of both.

Q: How can a company become agile and innovate their CRM processes?

A: This is one area in which technology can make a big difference. In order to keep pace with changing market conditions and support business process innovation, you need an open and flexible platform. With SAP, companies can leverage enterprise service- oriented architecture (enterprise SOA) to easily compose new, differentiated, end-to-end processes. They can also use it to selectively redesign existing processes, to make changes faster, and to facilitate seamless design and execution — even across company boundaries and business partners.

For CRM specifically, enterprise SOA helps companies innovate and integrate marketing, sales, and service processes across organizations and departments. It also plays a key role in integrating customer-facing processes with backend fulfillment processes. For these reasons, we've made SAP CRM fully Web-service enabled, and we deliver tools for companies and partners to easily create their own Web services to provide even more flexibility.

Q: What innovations should SAP Insider readers be looking out for with respect to CRM?

A: A new area that we've identified is communication-enabled business processes. With broadening adoption of software-based IP telephony solutions, companies can now fully integrate communications infrastructure with CRM. SAP recently acquired Wicom Communications and with its technology is delivering communication-enabled business processes through SAP Business Communications Management (SAP BCM). With SAP BCM, customers can deploy a multichannel, all-IP, end-to-end contact center solution that blends communication processes into customer service. We believe communication-enabled business processes will become more important and will need to extend across the entire enterprise.

Q: Where do you see CRM heading?

A: We're seeing an increased focus on customers and customer experience, which will further fuel the shift from point solutions to comprehensive integrated solutions in the years to come. CRM solutions will expand well beyond traditional CRM categories, encompassing technologies to meet increasing mobility needs and to fully exploit the Web as a channel and a community.

Today's marketplace is increasingly competitive, and companies are looking to their customer-facing processes as an area where they can differentiate and gain competitive advantage. And CRM vendors need to enable that.

The lines between CRM and other business applications will blur more and more; they will no longer be considered separate initiatives. Companies that aspire to become truly customer-centric enterprises will enable their entire organization to create customer value. To support this goal, business applications need to encompass end-to-end business processes that start and end with the customer experience.

From a vendor perspective, the industry will experience continued consolidation as well as an increased focus on co-innovation. SAP's release of Duet, a joint product connecting SAP CRM with Microsoft Office, is an example of this trend.

Clearly, this is a very exciting time for CRM at SAP. There's a significant focus on CRM and its tie into the full product suite. SAP continues to listen to the market, its customers, and analysts, and our CRM strategy is based on what we're hearing — deliver CRM solutions that meet customers' needs and eliminate CRM tradeoffs.

Additional Resources

The CRM 2008 conference in Las Vegas, March 3-5, 2008, offering in-depth coverage of SAP CRM strategy and tools (

"SAP CRM Marketing On-Demand: Wave 3 and 4 Updates" by Seema Thomas
(CRM Expert, Volume 3, Number 4,

"SAP CRM 2006s: Create Web Services Quickly with the New Web Service Tool" by Markus Kupke and Thilo Berndt (CRM Expert, Volume 3, Number 2,

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