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Case Study


Lubrizol Takes CRM to the Next Level with a Mobile App

by Dave Hannon | insiderPROFILES

April 1, 2013

When Lubrizol completed its initial SAP implementation, it didn’t include SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) in its list of applications. But when the company acquired Noveon in 2004, they gained an unexpected benefit — Noveon’s “culture of CRM” would improve how Lubrizol does business in the long term. Lubrizol has now deployed SAP CRM in one of its units, is rolling out the solution across the enterprise, and is taking the technology mobile.

When specialty chemical maker The Lubrizol Corporation bought Noveon in 2004, the company’s size almost doubled and its reach was extended into new industrial and geographic markets. Of course, there were new technologies and product development processes to gain from the newly acquired business. But one of the most important, and most unexpected, benefits that came from the acquisition was the customer relationship management (CRM) experience the new company brought. Noveon had developed a “culture of CRM” that would improve how Lubrizol does business in the long term.

After a concerted data cleansing and migration effort, Lubrizol has deployed SAP CRM in one of its units and is rolling out the solution across the enterprise. Today, the company is taking the technology mobile, which has created an energy and enthusiasm around CRM that even the most optimistic IT manager would not have expected.

Painting the Landscape

Lubrizol is a $6 billion specialty chemicals maker with close to a century of industry experience. It has been using SAP systems since 1998 and runs a single SAP ERP instance globally, having rolled out the software first in North America before moving on to Europe, Asia, and Latin America. 

“Our entire company is running SAP ERP except for some smaller recent acquisitions, which we’re rolling out to now,” says Dan Himmelman, IT Manager at Lubrizol.

Lubrizol didn’t include SAP CRM as part of its initial SAP implementation. The company had some experience with CRM technology, but mostly internal-facing systems with limited functionality and custom-developed front ends for advanced users. CRM at Lubrizol was seen as a focused internal application, not a broad customer-facing application.

Dan Himmelman

“After using the CRM system for a while, the business users tell us they can’t remember how they got along without it for so long.”
Dan Himmelman,
IT Manager, Lubrizol

“We didn’t understand the full value of capturing all customer relationship information and activities in an enterprise-wide system at the time,” says Himmelman. “So we had a lot of customer data stored in Microsoft Access, Excel, and Outlook then.”

But the Noveon acquisition brought some in-depth CRM experience in house, as the company was running CRM systems based in Lotus Notes. “They introduced us to some of the business process benefits CRM can bring, such as account and contact management and detailed recording of customer activities,” Himmelman says.

However, Lubrizol’s executive and sales teams didn’t see Lotus Notes as the CRM solution the company was seeking to deliver the single integrated view of customer data. As a longtime SAP ERP customer — Noveon was being migrated to SAP software as well — moving to SAP CRM made the most sense. But before that could happen, there was some work to do on the data side.

Cleaning House

The IT organization at Lubrizol wasn’t sure what shape the company’s CRM data was in or how big the data cleansing job would be. Businesses within Lubrizol had been siloed for many years, storing customer data in various locations and systems. As a result, the standards and structures were all over the map, which meant migrating the data to a new system would take some real work.

“Once we started extracting the data and looking at exporting the information, we saw a lot of inconsistencies,” Himmelman says. “We were pulling data from databases that had deviating structures and were capturing data differently, and much of the information was free text so there were significant integrity issues. We hadn’t anticipated how challenging that would be. We also had to deal with the limitations of the technology and what we could do to fix it.”

For example, in most cases, there was no indication of the age of the data. So the IT organization had to work with the business units to manually review the data, determine what data was active and meaningful and would be coming over to the SAP CRM system, and what could be archived.

“Technology can only go so far to clean up data,” says Himmelman. “And this cleansing should be done at the business level because IT people don’t always have experience with the information to make decisions on what’s useful and what’s not.”

At Lubrizol, the IT organization worked together with the business to improve the integrity of its data, which made for a much smoother migration to the new SAP CRM system.

Moving onto CRM

The business chose to roll out SAP CRM in the division that had the most experience with CRM processes — the former Noveon business (now called Lubrizol Advanced Materials), which historically had been run as five separate units, each with its own customer databases.

“As we migrated these business units, we focused on an enterprise-level view of data and emphasized the value of consistent processes in capturing data so it could be aggregated across an entire business,” Himmelman says. He adds that the SAP CRM implementation was effective in helping the business understand the connection between consistent data and the ability to see all of the interactions and activities with a single customer across the company.

The strategy worked. Today, that business within Lubrizol is up and running on SAP CRM and has been such a strong proponent of the benefits that word quickly spread to other units in a grassroots groundswell of interest. There are three more businesses in the data migration stage that have go-lives planned for the first quarter of 2013.

“After using the CRM system for a while, the business users tell us they can’t remember how they got along without it for so long,” says Himmelman.


Lubrizol is an innovative specialty chemical company that produces and supplies technologies to customers in the global transportation, industrial, and consumer markets. Lubrizol makes lubricant additives for engine oils and other transportation-related fluids and industrial lubricants; fuel additives for gasoline and diesel fuel; ingredients and additives for personal care products and pharmaceuticals; and specialty materials, including plastics technology and performance coatings in the form of specialty resins and additives.

Mobilizing CRM

Concurrent to its CRM implementation and rollout, Lubrizol’s IT organization was also in the process of developing an enterprise mobility strategy. Like most companies, Lubrizol had moved some productivity applications mobile, such as email and calendar, but the SAP CRM implementation got the IT organization thinking about the benefits of extending that application to the mobile environment.

In late 2011, the company began piloting iPad and iPhone devices to evaluate their ability to work with enterprise applications. The next step toward enterprise mobility was implementing the SAP Mobile Platform and Sybase Afaria for mobile device management and targeting a couple of mobile apps to pilot.

To bring SAP CRM mobile, Lubrizol began with a pilot of SAP CRM Sales. The implementation team planned an eight-week project with the goal of simply getting the CRM app working on a mobile device — not deploying a final version to users.

“We chose to do this first mobile CRM proof of concept with the business unit that had the most experience with on-premise CRM and used a very out-of-the-box design, and we went live in seven weeks,” says Himmelman. “We decided to show it to a few contacts around the business, and that’s when the firestorm began. It turns out this was exactly what our salespeople were looking for.”

In fact, word spread so quickly about the mobile CRM app that business units that didn’t yet have on-premise CRM were requesting the mobile version, not realizing that the mobile app was an extension of the on-premise implementation. Other businesses that had not yet been deployed iPads or iPhones were also asking to be put in the mobile CRM queue. So it quickly became a challenge of managing user expectations, rather than having a difficult time building a business case and selling mobility internally.

The Lubrizol businesses that are rolled out on SAP CRM today are getting both the on-premise version and the SAP CRM Sales mobile app at the same time. Himmelman says the training required for the mobile app is very limited — and that is by design.

“We felt a mobile app should be very intuitive and the people we first rolled it out to had been working with SAP CRM on premise, so they knew the terminology and concepts,” he says. “They know how the device works, so they should be able to figure out the app very quickly if it’s designed well.”

Unexpected Benefits

One of the features that Lubrizol’s CRM users liked best about their prior CRM solution was the ability to have offline access to the CRM data. Users were concerned that a new CRM system wouldn’t provide that offline access and limit their ability to get data remotely, a key concern for salespeople. But, according to Himmelman, these users were pleasantly surprised to find that with the mobile app, they could not only get access to data without a network connection, but could also get real-time data on a mobile device.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” he says. “If you have connectivity, it’s real-time data. But if you don’t have connectivity, you still have access to the data and the app tells you when the last update took place. The technology manages the loss or gain of connectivity, so users don’t have to worry about logging on to connect to the network.”

One somewhat unexpected benefit that came from the mobile CRM project is a change in customers’ perception of Lubrizol. When a salesperson makes a customer visit with an iPad in hand and is able to pull up real-time data, the customer perceives that this salesperson is working for a cutting-edge and technology-savvy company. That’s a very different perception than the one they got when opening their laptops to access offline data.

“We’ve heard from our salespeople that customers view us differently as a result of this project, and that’s something that we didn’t expect,” Himmelman says.

Another unexpected benefit as a result of the CRM implementation was the change in how the business side of Lubrizol views the IT organization. By delivering solutions like CRM and mobile CRM, business users now see the IT organization as a valued partner in making them more productive.

The Path from Here

With so much enthusiasm around the CRM project, Himmelman and his team spent some time in 2012 stabilizing and standardizing the process for deploying mobile enterprise apps, from requesting and procuring the devices to training users on the devices, and then targeting applications. 

“Realizing that tablets and mobile apps are here to stay, we now need to have the right steps in place so we can scale mobility across our enterprise,” he says. “We’re looking at additional devices as well — we want to give the business as much flexibility as possible without offering every device imaginable. We’ll open it to more devices, but it won’t be unlimited — they’ll pick from a list.”

The company continues to add more businesses and regions onto SAP CRM — both on premise and mobile. Beyond CRM, Lubrizol is reviewing what other areas of its business would benefit most from mobility.

And to companies considering a CRM implementation, Himmelman says, “The best advice is to do an assessment of your data prior to even scoping your project. It might take a while to get a sampling of the data from all the different sources in your company, but you’ll at least have an idea of whether it will be an easy migration or a difficult one.” 

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