A Bumpy Road Lies

By Ira Apfel  |  Posted 2005-09-19 Print this article Print

Ahead"> But Siebels Rob Reid did. "Many small- and medium-sized organizations, especially when they have less than 10 salespeople, will use pipeline and forecasting and contact management tools that are basic, and its tough to ramp things up," said Reid, who is Siebels group vice president and general manager for small and medium businesses.

"They also wanted to reach out to their value-added resellers and integrate them into their processes, and thats a challenge, too, because they used to be mainly a direct sales organization."

Before choosing a new CRM system, organizations need to address some basic questions, said Reid. "When you roll out a CRM solution, its not just the technology but the business process the organization is trying to overhaul," he said.

Questions that the organization needs to consider include, "Have the businesss processes been thought through? Did they have input from everyone in the organization? What goals are they trying to achieve?" he said.

Small said he made a point of testing Siebel CRM OnDemand before committing to it. But he said he didnt take many of the steps that Reid recommends to ensure a smooth transition, such as thinking through how the new CRM solution would affect his companys business processes.

Siebel is denying that Oracle will phase out OnDemand CRM just because it runs on DB2, WebSphere and was developed in partnership with IBM. Click here to read more. After also considering a Microsoft-hosted product, "we settled on Siebel for the primary reason that it offered both sales and customer service," said Small. "We use the product strictly online, so integration and installation were not factors."

When using Siebel CRM OnDemand, Kingways sales force attaches documentation before the sales transaction is processed. "I can now call up the job and look at the PDF of the hard-copy order, the original proposal, and any modifications and changes without having to bug anyone," said Small.

Kingways sales reps typically file reports via laptop at the end of the day, said Small. "That may turn an account from a lead to a qualified lead. This automatically changes my forecasting, and I dont have to have anybody trailing these guys," he said. "They can sit in their hotel room and task the person in the home office to help a customer, instead of making 20 phone calls."

Because Small didnt anticipate the impact Siebel CRM OnDemand would have on his sales team and his companys business processes, he said the transition was often a bumpy one for Kingway. For example, he said the CRM system lets sales reps task customer service agents with the handling of customer inquiries. Small said that is a great feature that his sales reps loved to use, but customer service staff sometimes failed to follow through.

"We asked Siebel to change our system so that wed know that someone had completed a task," said Small. "Theyve been pretty nimble for a large organization."

Another hitch: Even after Kingway switched to Siebel CRM OnDemand, some of Smalls sales agents were reluctant to stop using their preferred tracking systems. That led to duplicated effort on their part and confusion at headquarters, Small said.

"Its been a struggle," he said. "There was a lot of resistance, including from yours truly. We actually didnt take advantage of Siebel training as much as we should have. We signed up for the product in May 2004, and it really took us until the start of the new year in January 2005 to fully embrace it. I made it an edict that we would live and die on Siebel. If they have a problem, I told them to go to Siebel for an answer."

According to one columnist, Oracles buyout of Siebel is good news for SAP and Microsoft VARs. Click here to read more.

Every Kingway employee now uses Siebel CRM OnDemand, and the sales reps have abandoned their old products (except for one holdout, who still insists on using both, Small confided). But despite the growing pains, Small said he is satisfied with Siebel CRM OnDemand because it keeps Kingways sales force focused on the important tasks.

"We keep forecasting opportunities open until the installation has started," he said. "It generates reports by month and probability. In the past, wed pass on the project because wed overlook it."

Siebels Reid advises CEOs to understand that his companys system is not a magic bullet for their channel management needs.

"We tell our customers that they need to get buy-in, that there are pain points and problems to be resolved," Reid said. "Once they get past these issues, then they can perform a test. When folks do that, our product has a high acceptance rating."

Reflecting on the overall project, Small said, "My advice would be to integrate everybody in the company—not just the sales reps. And, as the CEO, you need to force it on your companys culture. You have to jump into the change with both feet. You cant just stick your toe in. Otherwise, youll never integrate it."

Ira Apfel is a freelance writer based in Bethesda, Md. Contact him at iapfel@yahoo.com.

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