Having an enterprise resource planning system (ERP) system in place is a foundation many companies recognize is necessary, particularly in supply chain and manufacturing. However, in today's economy, making sure you can integrate ERP with a CRM system to make sure you keep -- and gain -- customers is essential.
Recognizing this need for its base of 14,000 customers on IBM's System i platform already utilizing Infor's ERP offering, the enterprise software provider released its targeted solution, Infor CRM i Edition. The offering seeks to integrate ERP data along with CRM capabilities in order to increase sales and enhance customer service.
According to Kevin Piotrowski, director of System i solution marketing for Infor, the inspiration for the offering came from the System i platform customers themselves, as they wanted to be able to better manage their customers. "We did this in order to really prove our commitment to the System i base," he says. "We wanted to help them manage their customers better, and so we delivered this release specifically for them."
CRM i Edition, first and foremost, delivers a single database for customer information that is tightly linked to the System i platform, says Piotrowski. Additionally, the fact that it was built using the Infor development framework tool gives customers flexibility to customize and personalize the way the CRM capabilities are implemented.
- campaign management, so users can target their customers with tailored offers;
- opportunity management, a structured process to help better manage sales opportunities;
- sales process management, to allow organizations to use multiple sales practices as part of an overall CRM program; and
- quotation management, which takes advantage of information -- pricing, discounting, promotions, and sourcing -- already available in the Infor ERP system.
"Especially in these economic times, our clients were coming to us and asking how we could help them manage their customer process, and hopefully increase sales revenue through more deals," Piotrowski says of the CRM functionality.
Chris Fletcher, research director at AMR Research, says the release makes sense for the install base in question. He points out that while it won't compete with Siebel or SAP, this offering isn't meant to do so. "It's a good set of functionality for a typical customer that is using the ERP system to begin with," he explains. "They're not looking for the bells and whistles, but rather, the basics. This is a good set of [capabilities] to focus on, particularly in this economy."
Piotrowski believes the solution, though only targeted for System i platform users, can both deepen and expand Infor's competitive footprint. "We're extending in terms of the value we can provide our ERP customers, but deepening our footprint by providing more functionality to help customers manage their customers, which is what they've been asking for," he says. "This provides the opportunity to improve customer service, run sales and marketing campaigns, manage leads ... and implement new customer order processes."
Fletcher believes that this could possibly become a "land-and-expand" type of strategy, but in a very calculated manner. "I can see Infor continuing to offer new functionality to customers," he says, "but in a very methodical and basic way like this product ... that targets a very specific market."
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