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Dan Snider calls it the “napkin to cash process” – the entire concatenation of events that starts with a sales rep getting the customer’s name, and concludes with collections.

“We’ve implemented CRM to automate the entire process,” said Snider, vice-president, business systems at Oakville, Ont.-based Securit Inc.  

Securit’s rollout of customer relationship management (CRM) software from enterprise applications vendor SAP AG was in response to a business challenge.

At SAP Sapphire 2009, SAP’s recently concluded user conference in Orlando, Snider described this and how SAP CRM provided the antidote.

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VIDEO: Securit’s CRM triumph

Securit, which shreds millions of records every day, used to be called ShredIt, and is still widely known by that name. But on getting into the records management business, the company’s name was changed to Securit. (As Snider points out: “it’s hard to sell records management when you’re called ShredIt.”)

But the name change was more than a re-branding.

It was a way of communicating to a growing and increasingly diverse customer base that their critical records were safe, and could be retrieved and delivered to them anytime — “faster than if those documents were stored on their own premises.”

For a company with 140 branches and 150,000 customers — with a new one being signed on every six minutes — this may seem a tall order.

Taking care of business

But Securit set about acquiring the tools to make it all happen.

For starters, in 2006, the firm implemented SAP ECC (enterprise central component) and its modules – including Finance, Sales, Material Management and HR — to run core “backend” business processes.

Soon after, Securit rolled out SAP CRM, with tight hooks into the ECC modules.

Information from customer interaction, including service orders and contracts, is initially managed via SAP CRM, until a “confirmation” is created.

Data then flows into the ECC system, where the final steps in the sales process – running a billing list, invoicing, and accounts receivable – are completed.

Data cleansing is accomplished by linking SAP CRM with data profiling tools from Billerica, Mass.-based Trillium Software, a division of Harte-Hanks.

As Securit has well over 1,200 trucks on the road servicing customers, its SAP systems are also tightly integrated with logistics software from Waterloo, Ont.-based Descartes Systems. “We send all [service] orders to Descartes; it optimizes the routes and sends them back.”

To capture and centralize customer master data, Securit uses SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe. This joint offering from SAP and Adobe automates and streamlines forms-based communication to support customers who create reusable forms for their business processes.

Snider dubs these interactive forms “one of the best kept secrets of SAP” and recounts how they have simplified, speeded up and improved workflow at Securit.

For a firm that wins a new customer every six minutes – at any one of its 140 global branches — data management can be a colossal task.

How do you manage all that [customer] data, and get it to a single place without making any mistakes? And how do you do this quickly and seamlessly?

300 per cent process improvement

If that was the business conundrum, Adobe interactive forms provided the answer, Snider said.

They accurately capture master data at branch locations, checking for and eliminating duplicates, and sending all that information to the master data team for final review.

The background workings of the application can be quite complex. For instance, as a customer service agreement is filled out electronically, in the background Adobe invokes a session right out of SAP CRM. Another session is called out of Trillium Software to do the duplicate checks.

And yet end users experience none of that complexity, Snider noted.  

He said the invoking of SAP CRM makes filling out that electronic form far simpler than doing the same with a paper-based customer service agreement.

For instance, if the form is filled out in the U.K., the system would know that.

It would also know which branch the form is associated with. “So it would populate the necessary fields, right down to the tax structure associated with that branch.”

He said Adobe interactive forms can also call up other applications simultaneously.

For instance, while invoking a CRM session, it can also call up an enterprise application, or a tool such as Trillium that checks for duplicates and can capture digital signatures.

This ability to interact seamlessly with other vendors’ tools within a heterogeneous environment is one of the key strengths of SAP CRM, according to an SAP exec.

“We recognize that from an infrastructure standpoint, we’re not the be all and end all,” said Jim Goldfinger, senior director, customer value network, SAP. 

Also speaking at Sapphire, Goldfinger noted that SAP customers would also have other processes and systems. “So we provide a platform that gives you that agility. Not only is it easy to use, it’s very easy to configure, and very open – so you can bring in [other] tools.”

At least one Canadian analyst doesn’t quite buy that, however.

Customers already using SAP for their financials would derive some benefit if they also used SAP CRM, noted Shari Lava, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

But if another vendor’s ERP app is used for financials, she said, there’s nothing so different about SAP CRM and its integration capabilities that would justify the cost of the IT skills required to maintain it.

Nor is Adobe forms integration much of a differentiator for SAP, the Info-Tech analyst said. “Both Siebel and MS Dynamics CRM can also be easily configured to work with Adobe Interactive Forms, meaning that the same benefits can be achieved.”

She said forms integration apps are also available for through the AppExchange site, though “they aren’t as robust” and cost extra.

Be that as it may, at Securit use of Adobe interactive forms with SAP CRM has paid off in spades.

Completing the form is a piece of cake, Snider noted, as it has pre-filled values. “So you’re not even filling half the form because it’s pre-populating.”  

He related how these interactive forms have also dramatically reduced time and effort.

Previously, before signing-off on a “customer master” the Securit rep would have to plough through around 40 screens with at least six to seven business packages — pre-assembled content designed to serve users in specific industries and business areas.

“Now we can now do it in 6 – 8 minutes and on a single form,” Snider said. “That’s a 300 per cent process improvement.”

Office on the hip

And even this, he suggested, is a conservative estimate.  “It’s probably much more than that.” As the forms are intuitive, his firm hasn’t had to provide any training on their use.

Securit will soon be piloting SAP CRM on RIM BlackBerry devices – an offering that has been frequently dubbed “office-on-the-hip” since it was unveiled last year.

The pilot will involve 10 -12 of the firm’s sales folk in the U.K. who are already using SAP CRM sales, according to Snider. Longer term, the firm plans on rolling out the product for all its 350 sales reps worldwide.

Increased productivity is expected to be the immediate and most tangible fallout.

At Securit, the general sales territory reps (who constitute the bulk of the sales force) don’t currently use laptops. All they have is notepads to jot down leads and track their progress, said Snider.

The lead-gen process itself is “very manual” right now, Snider told in a previous interview. “A typical sales rep goes into an office a couple of times a week, and uses whatever facilities are available – telephone directories, yellow pages – to generate leads. They then make sales calls from those lists.”

He said with the “SAP CRM on Blackberry” rollout the lead gen process would become automated, quicker, and smarter. “Leads would get pushed to salespersons real-time, based on certain criteria.”

The other huge benefit, he said, is tracking of the sales process.

Right now there’s no record of what the sales person accomplishes against their objectives in a given day, week, or month because it’s a very manual process.”

All that will soon change, as sales reps will have “pipeline tracking” on their BlackBerries, Snider said.

“This means anything they do during the sales process can be followed up on. For instance, when they make a call to a prospect, the [logging] of that call would become a permanent record.”

If the sales person leaves the company, he said, those records could be pushed to whoever replaces them.

And that’s a far cry from the notebook jottings of these transactions that reps currently use.

But in the area of mobile CRM too, analysts note that SAP offering is by no means unique.<

“SAP is playing catch-up,” said Info-Tech’s Lava. “Handheld solutions for Siebel have been around for over three years.”

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