AGF barrels ahead with PeopleSoft upgrade

Stephen Elioff hasn’t even finished deploying PeopleSoft CRM 8.4 and already he’s mulling an upgrade to 8.8.

The latest version of the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company’s customer relationship management software

will be available Boxing Day, a release PeopleSoft is calling it’s most significant since CRM 8.

Elioff, the vice-president and CRM program director for AGF Management Ltd. in Toronto, says the organization has a number of CRM activities in place, including medium-sized call centre and some sales force automation. “”As an organization, however, we really haven’t had an enterprise approach towards CRM,”” he says. “”It’s been trapped within silos and the tools that have been developed to support it have been tools that have taken a single view of that department’s role and that department’s requirements.””

AGF began brainstorming on how to bring CRM horizontally across the organization in the summer of 2001. “”We began a roadmapping exercise,”” says Elioff. That meant taking a look a where the business was and where it was going, and evaluating what its technical architecture could support. “”We came to the conclusion that there were some areas that needed shoring up.””

AGF had tools that were proprietary and some that were off the shelf. Some of them were quite effective, says Elioff, “”but they end of they day, the still don’t talk to one another. There’s no integrated approach. In order to be truly successful at enterprise CRM, you really need that integrated approach.””

The organization kicked the tires of several different CRM packages, including Siebel, Oracle and PeopleSoft. A due diligence process began in the spring. “”In the end, the deciding factor for us was flexibility,”” says Elioff. “”We just felt that the platform that we were purchasing was indeed a platform — it was a solid architecture that gave us the ability to make the tool work for us as opposed to us working for the tool.””

He says other vendors had more feature-rich offerings, but the maturity of their products in AGF’s case worked against them. “”Our vision of CRM and how it would work within our organization didn’t line up with theirs and would lead to added costs to make it work for us,”” said Elioff. The Internet architecture of PeopleSoft was ahead of others in the market, he adds, and provided flexibility from an integration and configuration standpoint.

AGF is in the early stages of its implementation process, gearing for a pilot of the portal module, says Elioff. The CRM-specific modules will be deployed throughout the coming year. “”We’re still at a point where we’re doing development work around 8.4, but since we haven’t really moved to production we do have the ability to move up to 8.8 without too much trouble.””

Making the move to 8.8 will be a balancing act between what’s to be gained and potential risks, says Elioff. “”We think there’s some really solid new features available on the sales side,”” he says. “”We are a sales-driven organization and we think some of the changes (PeopleSoft) is contemplating in 8.8 match up well against our business model.”” For example, there have been some enhancements to the territory management functions and some improvement in forecasting and pipeline management, Elioff notes.

New features in enhancements in PeopleSoft CRM 8.8 have been based primarily on customer feedback, says Barbry McGann, vice-president of CRM product strategy with PeopleSoft. “”As far as breadth and depth and magnitude, this is the largest release we’ve had since the release of 8.0 in June 2001, just in sheer number of products and features and functions we’ve added.””

Those additions total 150, she says, and affect PeopleSoft sales and marketing applications, and its integration and analytics platform. It’s also added six new products and three industry verticals — high-tech, insurance and energy.

“”What this release is focused on is three themes,”” says McGann, “”based on what we’re seeing in the marketplace and the feedback we’re getting from our customers . . . How do we make CRM solutions faster to implement? How do we make CRM solutions easier to use? And how do we make CRM solutions provide additional business value above automating business processes?””

Making CRM quicker and easier to deploy was particularly important for customers, says McGann. “”They see the usefulness of CRM, but they are under tremendous pressure to show results.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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