At the company I am currently contracted to, we have finally kicked off the CRM project. CRM is generally identified with sales automation and order entry, a la salesforce.com. But the acronym CRM stands for customer relationship management. So, CRM is really quite a broad concept. How many types of relationships does a customer have with an organization. When an organization does nothing more than sell widgets, then having sales info, shipping info, and order status everything is great. But what if you provide widgets and services. Do you know the service status of your customer? More than that do you know the business process for the service you are providing to your customer? How do you express to your service clients the value of the services that you provide to them?
This is the situation and the questions that I find with the current customer. This is a large company with more that 10 billion in sales yet they manage sales contacts with spread sheets. This may seem incredible, but the company has a very “just get it done” attitude and most everyone is just getting it done. The company maintains a large portfolio of products so order placement and tracking is important but this company distinguishes themselves in their marketplace by providing product related services and analysis. Contacting a potential customer is the first step in a long and involved relationship with a customer.
So, in implementing a CRM system, we want the flexibility to address the range of relationship needs from lead tracking to product performance on behalf of the customer. I call this the continuum of CRM. At each point on the continuum there is another axis of depth, or how effective is the tool that is employed. How good is the lead tracking or customer analysis. As the system is implemented, we want to smooth out the relationship continuum and deepen the effectiveness of the tool. We want movement along these axes to be incremental and regular, so we will use agile techniques along with a base system that provides a modular structure.
This project will be implemented with Apache’s Open for Business for a couple of reasons. The first, and most important, is that OfBiz is already in place for inventory, billing, party management, etc. The second is that OpenTaps, which is an offshoot of OfBiz, has a CRM module that we can merge back into the OfBiz implementation. This project should be quite illustrative of what can be accomplished merging powerful open source tools with a major enterprise.