Backing PeopleSoft CRM in N.Y.C.

In an era when CRM implementations are failing at an alarming rate, one PeopleSoft user warns companies considering a deployment: Know your organization's business drivers first.

NEW YORK – In an era when CRM software implementations are failing at an alarming rate, Craig Berkson has some advice for fellow IT professionals: Understand your organizations business drivers and requirements before deploying any software enterprise wide.

Berksons insights should count for something. As CIO for the portfolio management group at Thomson Financial, Berkson is in the process of rolling out PeopleSoft Inc.s PeoplSoft CRM 8 (customer relationship management) module to the sales, marketing and support teams at the $2 billion information and workflow provider.

"Understand where you are going and the functionality that meets those requirements," he said during his presentation at a PeopleSoft customer event here Tuesday called PeopleSoft on Tour: The Collaborative Enterprise.

While the goal might be to bang out a high visibility project, Berkson cautions that companies should implement a low-risk pilot first. Do that, he says, and live by the 80 percent rule.

"Getting that other 20 percent of functionality is going to cost you a lot of money and take a long time," he said.

Also, its important to clearly define the differences between customization and configuration. And never underestimate the time and resources it takes for data conversion and clean up.

"If people tell you this doesnt take a long time, theyre lying," said Berkson.

Berkson openly admits he is moving his company from a product centric organization to a customer centric one – even though the customer centric mantra has been used to the point of being misused. In Berksons mind, a company isnt customer centric until it has the technology to back it up.

Berkson said his company is still in the early phases of implementation. He has rolled out CRM 8 modules to a business group of about one hundred Thomson employees, and will roll out another 40 or 50 people next month. Additional implementations across business groups will follow and later this year Berkson will look to integrate CRM 8 with some of Thomsons backend systems.

At the event, PeopleSoft officials focused on CRM, Enterprise Service Automation and collaboration as a means for customers to get the biggest bang for their buck in a down economy.

In hindsight, Berkson said he probably used that philosophy in choosing CRM 8. He went with PeopleSoft for its scalability and flexibility, but also because it is iterative to his current Vantive system (PeopleSoft purchased Vantive in 2000).

Berkson said he also liked PeopleSofts idea of "no code on the client," given past problems with client-side implementations.

"Whether it is an installation of the software, conflicts of other applications, downloads of Active X controls, bandwidth issues – they all make the implementation more complicated," Berkson said.

However, implementing CRM 8 has not been issue-free. In his speech to perspective customers, Berkson outlined a wish list of sorts that he had previously presented to PeopleSoft.

First, CRM 8 is based on Vantive 8.5, and not 8.6 – a fact not lost on Berkson who has had some difficulty in this conversion. Also, there is no integration with Microsoft Corp.s Outlook e-mail client in the current iteration, the integration manager and product hierarchy are not very sophisticated and there is no out-of-the-box quality module.

PeopleSoft, for its part, agreed to address most of Berksons concern in its next upgrade of CRM 8, expected in December. For the others, Berkson is content that PeopleSoft is willing to work with him.

Lastly, Berkson warned that IT managers should not get overwhelmed with business process standardization. While standardization of processes seemed to be one of PeopleSofts fortes, Berkson said he would not be overwhelmed by it.

"Let businesses work with the application and understand it, then start automating," said Berkson. "You dont want to over automate when you are rolling out."