Big CRM Plans From Big Blue
IBM is implementing a system accessible by 75,000 sales and support employees.
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You think your CRM plans are big? How about the daunting task of expanding a CRM project that includes a total of 75,000 employees? That is what Cher de Rossiter, project executive for CRM at IBM Corp., is facing as 35,000 sales representative and 40,000 service and support positions will all have access to its sales and marketing CRM solution after it is deployed next year. Sound like a big investment? It is, but it is not without rewards. The CRM deployment is part of IBM's program, called CRM, formerly CRM2000, which has already garnered IBM $8.6 billion in revenue or 11 percent of overall revenues since its launch in January 2000, de Rossiter says. It is no wonder IBM boasts that it is the largest customer relationship management program in history. One of the more immediate goals of the supersize program is to enable IBM to switch from passive customer service to proactive, one-to-one selling over the Internet. CRM is currently deployed to all 26 IBM.com worldwide sales centers. Not surprisingly, the CRM solution runs on IBM's DB2 database, WebSphere application servers, and MQSeries messaging software. The software runs on IBM hardware, mainly eServer pSeries servers coupled with Enterprise storage Server, a configuration code-named Shark. The long-term goal for IBM CRM executives is to have the system incorporate all IBM lines of business, enabling hundreds of thousands of employees, business partners, and customers to share information across 164 countries. Since the company's restructuring in 1993, IBM has had to adapt to changes in the market, causing the company to shift and tweak its strategies, de Rossiter says. However, since the launch of www.ibm.com in January 2000, she says, one thing has not changed: IBM's focus on the cost to serve each customer. "We looked at how we could effectively address each customer, whether it's by face-to-face interaction, the Web, email, or the phone," she says. To do this effectively it was necessary to create one IBM. "A lot of people need to share information about the customer," de Rossiter says. "It's not just [sharing information] across the sales team, but the service team as well. By shifting our business model we could present the image of being one IBM, we could provide the same level of professionalism and courtesy to the customer across the company." Had it not been for IBM's ability to shift with market demands and cut the red tape often associated with large projects, the program could have failed. "How you manage your direction is the most critical thing to do," de Rossiter says. This includes claiming ownership of the project to get the politics out of the way. Otherwise, "the project cannot proceed with the level of speed you need." But de Rossiter also stresses the importance of commitment from high-level executives. "This project has visibility at the Lou Gerstner and executive committee level," she says. As new technologies and innovations emerge throughout the business landscape, the ability of companies to stay nimble with regard to CRM will bode well for them, she advises. "Once the bar is raised, customers want that level of performance in all the Web sites they visit. When you get a clunky Web site you don't want to do business there anymore."
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