When it’s a week before the RRSP deadline, Sheldon Dyck is busy man. That’s when time is running out for clients looking to invest their hard-earned dollars in products offered by ATB Financial Services.

It is obviously also a busy time

for his investment advisors. As senior vice-president, investor services at the Edmonton-based financial institution, Dyck also wants to know how the sales force is handling retirement savings contributions.

Knowing what they are selling to clients is valuable information in terms of tracking success, but often a difficult thing to do when everyone is on the road.

So late last year the company started looking at customer relationship management products for its mobile sales force. After checking into a number of products including salesforce.com, the decision was to go with Siebel‘s recently developed CRM OnDemand, a hosted suite that brings customer data together.

“”We decided to go with Siebel because of the integration with some of the stuff we already had running like the Siebel enterprise version in the call centre and organizational familiarity with the Siebel product,”” said Dyck. “”A lot of our key members and the project manager heading up our group are certainly familiar with the enterprise version.””

The product offers sales, marketing, and service functionality, customer analytics and virtual call center technology. It is designed to work in conjunction with enterprise Siebel CRM systems and shares a common data model with Siebel 7 applications.

Developed by Siebel’s Canadian operation in Markham, Ont., the Web-enabled product is intended for use by both large enterprises with a mobile sales force or branch offices, or small to medium businesses looking for a CRM tool.

CRM OnDemand claims a low total cost of ownership because it is provided on a subscription basis (US) $70 per user per month), the product is hosted with IBM. and requires no software, hardware or IT support says Paul Naish, lead architect, sales consultant with Siebel Systems in Toronto.

While Siebel has been criticized for being bulky and difficult to implement, IDC Canada analyst Warren Shiau says the OnDemand product is a way of getting around that.

“”Siebel still has two approaches to market. Their line has always been that a salesforce.com type offering just doesn’t give you adequate functionality to deliver on all the modular function areas that CRM really needs to do to give you the best in sales automation, marketing automation, customer service and contact,”” said Shiau.

ATB wanted a way to keep in touch with its salesforce but like many organizations these days, did not want to spend a lot of money to get there.

“”The challenge we have with this sales force is they work out of multiple locations, they work out of their homes; they’re a lot more remote. So to have something that is available over the Web is tremendously important to us,”” said Dyck.

The company runs Siebel CRM enterprise version in its call centres but did not want to enter into a huge project to get the tools to its sales team.

“”Another feature of this type service I’ve always liked is the low-risk implementation,”” said Dyck.

The users of Siebel OnDemand at ATB are financial advisors and investment planners, portfolio managers that deal directly with investment clients. The company is currently running a pilot with about 20 users so far, but there are about 300 in the group and it’s growing by about 25 per cent a quarter and Dyck expects the team to number about 420 people by this time next year.

Users can generate reports, look at sales figures using historical perspectives such as the pervious quarter or comparisons to last year.

What also appealed to ATB from the beginning was Siebel’s promise that the OnDemand product could be up and running quickly.

“”You don’t have to incur a big bang technology project and spend a lot of time and money before you ever get the first person up and using it,”” said Dyck.

In terms of functionality what ATB was looking for was the classic benefits of being able to see all the activities and progress through the stages of the sales process.

“”We have some key drivers in our sales and service process. This gives us the ability to view those and make sure we’re living up to that reality of things like quarterly follow up calls to our clients to do investment reviews with them. Right now I can anecdotally talk to the sales managers and say ‘Is this going on?’ Three months from now I’ll be able to click on and see whether we are averaging a quarterly cycle time or is it taking four months –what is the exact reality?””

There are a few points on which Dyck would like to see improvement.

“”It misses on some of the functionality of the vertical products, such as some of the functions I’m familiar with in the financial enterprise version. The product and account details of what type of product is going through the sales process. All this stuff is things they are aware of and are working on for future releases.””

The adoption rate in Canada for hosted applications, when it’s enterprise applications has been quite low, according to Shiau.

“”As far as the big enterprise apps go, the portion of their revenue that would be attributable or that would have gone as a hosted sale is not significant. It’s growing, but from a very small base.””

Siebel is looking to go outside its typical enterprise customer base with CRM OnDemand.

“”We’re definitely targeting the small to medium enterprise,”” said Alex Mackay, group vice-president and general manager, Siebel Canada.

Shiau said Siebel could make some inroads to the SME space, depending on how they approach the customer.

“”If they can go in and convince the small to mid-size customer that they have a very specific areas they need addressed in CRM then the Siebel level of functionality could still work. If it’s very light CRM needs the target has then maybe something like Accpac or Microsoft CRM works better,”” he said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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