Magazine article CRM Magazine

Turning Information into Insights: Best Practices for Maximizing CRM with OnDemand Business Intelligence

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Turning Information into Insights: Best Practices for Maximizing CRM with OnDemand Business Intelligence

Article excerpt

IMAGINE IF EVERY PERSON IN YOUR BUSINESS COULD MAKE BETTER CHOICES and decisions every time, in every situation. That's the promise of business intelligence (BI). BI is the use of an organization's disparate data--from CRM databases, ERP systems, financial applications, unstructured data, and so on--to provide meaningful information and analysis to employees, customers, suppliers, and partners for more effective decision making.

BI software enables organizations to access data and transform it into useful and actionable information Business intelligence delivers what key stakeholders--including sales, sales management, marketing, finance, and executives--are increasingly demanding: information that is delivered in precise, accurate, and understandable terms.

A 2006 Gartner survey of CIOs with CRM investments found that the number one application business area targeted for spending in 2007 was performance management, BI, and analytic tools to transform their transactional data into information that would help business performance. A 2007 sales performance study by CSO Insights revealed that almost 65% of CRM users plan to enhance their CRM applications with sales process integration and sales management analytics.

As organizations rush to adopt or increase their footprint in BI, however, they should be cognizant of the best practices--and potential pitfalls--that could make the difference between BI clarity and confusion.

BEST PRACTICE: DEFINE SHORT- AND LONG-TERM GOALS FOR YOUR BI IMPLEMENTATION.

Know what you need now and plan for your needs in the future. While you may only require certain reporting functionality to start, once users have been exposed to the benefits of business intelligence, demand increases for broader and deeper analytical capabilities such as query and analysis, dashboards, and scorecards, information management, and performance management solutions. Evaluate BI vendors for their breadth and depth of offerings as well as the ease with which they can expand the solution to meet your future requirements.

BEST PRACTICE: EMPLOY AN EFFECTIVE PROCESS IN SELECTING A BI VENDOR.

According to Gartner1, one of the primary reasons for BI project failures is an ineffective process when selecting a service provider. When evaluating BI vendors, scrutinize their history for reliability and stability. Select a vendor with a proven track record, extensive experience with organizations of all sizes, and successful growth both in revenues and capabilities. Choose a vendor that's large enough to retain its independence and is likely to survive in an increasingly competitive market.

A BI vendor with strong partner network--both in software vendors and consultants--will also prove invaluable. Vendors with a strong base of consulting partners make it easier to find outside expertise should your organization have special requirements down the line. BI vendors that hold strong partnerships with leading CRM providers such as salesforce.com will deliver solutions that are already integrated and optimized for use on your CRM platform.

BEST PRACTICE: ENSURE DECISION MAKERS HAVE ACCESS TO ACCURATE AND TIMELY INFORMATION NEEDED TO DRIVE THE BUSINESS.

In the past, real-time access to reports and dashboards has only been available to enterprises that could afford to purchase and manage a large-scale BI solution. For organizations unable to divert internal resources to support enterprise level solutions, the alternative has been ad-hoc information delivered via static files over email or hard copy. Unmanaged, unstructured and unsecured, these solutions have been inconvenient, time-consuming and unwieldy for the report authors and decision makers who rely on the data. Today's on-demand Business Intelligence solutions ensure that companies of all sizes can instantly, simply, and securely distribute the accurate and timely information needed by decision makers, without the need for IT resources or capital budgets. …

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