The Courtship of CRM and CM

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Working Together
The Salesforce/Koral approach has the potential to solve the CRM-CM integration problem, so long as you are a customer looking for a content management solution. But there are a lot of companies that have different CM or CRM solutions already in place in the enterprise. If you are not going to purchase an entirely new solution, you have to find ways to make the systems you have in place work together.

Gilbane and Company’s White says companies can use middleware applications; partner with other vendors; hire consultants; or use programming techniques such as SOAP, web services, and service oriented architecture (SOA) as ways to get the two systems to communicate. He says that while each method has its strengths and weaknesses, regardless of how you go about it, the software must be tweaked when either application changes or gets upgraded. Further, each one requires heavy participation by IT.

Interwoven’s Kiker believes that CM and CRM vendors are working to make it easier to create these communication links by creating the technical underpinnings and programming links. The challenge, says Kiker, is to get an IT staff that is already overworked involved to make this happen. He believes it’s up to the vendors to help smooth the way. Can CRM and CM systems talk to each other? “They absolutely can,” says Kiker. “Where the bottleneck occurs is with IT staff. If you are a publicly traded company in the United States, Sarbanes-Oxley puts massive requirements on IT to document system changes and other things that affect key business systems.” Kiker adds that when you couple these requirements with improved business and a smaller IT staff handling additional demands, you have critical resource crunch. He says one way Interwoven has handled this is by meeting with IT executives to help them plan these types of projects and facilitate more rapid adoption and roll out plans.

Search for a Solution
Another way to deal with this issue is to use a search tool that searches both repositories and returns unified results. Vendors such as Fast and MarkLogic have the ability to search across multiple repositories and return a set of combined results and even use the results programmatically to do other interesting things. But White says that even this approach could be difficult because of the fact that one system works with structured data and one with unstructured data, making it more challenging for the search vendors to pull off.

Suster believes search is a key to combining CRM and CM, and he sees Web 2.0 concepts like “the wisdom of crowds” as key to helping users find the best information. He uses user-generated tags as an example: As users tag information, it becomes easier to track. The program displays the most popular tags in a graphic called a tag cloud. The most popular tags appear larger and bolder in the cloud, enabling users to see at a glance what the most popular tags are and use those terms to find the information they need.

Over the years, CRM and CM have mostly led separate lives, leaving users to search the two systems and often fail to make logical connections that could markedly increase their understanding of customers and markets. Over time, the two systems have flirted using point-to-point connectors, but it wasn’t until recently that a marriage of the two technologies was possible. It’s certainly easier to combine these information types if you are starting from scratch, but even if you have existing systems in place, you can benefit from looking at ways to get your CRM and CM systems talking.

Sidebar: What’s To Gain By Sharing Information Between CRM And CM Systems?
Vendors offer examples of the combination of CRM and CM in action:

“If a company wants to push a certain product, when a customer reaches the company call center, his name comes up on the screen and the sales representative gets information from the CRM system about the caller, including the fact that he owns a printer. The CRM system provides further information that there is a special today on print cartridges for the given printer. At this point, the CM system feeds the sales person a call script (an unstructured document) and provides the sales pitch to sell the cartridges to the caller.”

—Ben Kiker, CMO, Interwoven

“Consider a software company selling into a financial services company. During the sales process, sales personnel use the CRM tool to log every meeting, including who the players are, what the power structures are, and other types of structured information. On the CM side, one sales person may download the customer’s quarterly report while others create product presentations, generate a customer organizational chart, write meeting notes, and so forth. Combining CRM and CM allows you to marry those two sets of information together. Now, a member of the sales team can enter a search term such as ‘financial services’ and find every document generated for this and other financial service sales—perhaps a competitive analysis about how the software compares to others trying to sell into the same space—and also see financial services customer information to see where the company has had success in this space in the past.”

—Mark Suster, VP of content,

Companies Featured in This Article

Gilbane and Company
Fast Search & Transfer
Interwoven Inc.

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