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Cloud Integration Provides CRM’s Missing Link
Addressing the hybrid challenge.
Posted Apr 8, 2010
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As more enterprise companies turn to cloud-based and/or software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology solutions, the promise of cost savings and flexibility often runs into the challenge of integration. Since few companies make a complete and singular transition to solutions that are wholly cloud-based, a process is required to effectively manage and integrate data that must exist in a hybrid environment -- in applications that may be both cloud-based and/or on-premises solutions. Failure to address this integration requirement will limit the return on investment for SaaS applications and create additional work and headaches for business and technology staff alike. 

One company that addressed this issue head-on is Global Forex Trading (GFT), one of the oldest foreign-exchange market providers in the industry. GFT opted for a cloud-based integration solution designed to create seamless connections among disparate systems -- and the company immediately began seeing measurable benefits.

The company stores critical customer data such as transactions, financial statuses and account configuration in two databases -- one on-premises and proprietary, and the other cloud-based with a customer-facing portal. GFT also implemented a cloud-based CRM solution from Salesforce.com. As the organization expanded in size and across geographic boundaries, it became inefficient and costly to manage data across two databases. They also needed a method of integrating the critical customer data from those disparate databases into their CRM to provide the leadership team with meaningful custom reports to drive forecasting and analytics.

In order to regain control of their customer data and centralize it within Salesforce CRM, GFT needed an integration solution to automate the transfer of data from the XML file produced by their proprietary database to Salesforce CRM. It was also critical that the integration solution be expandable to easily accommodate updates to the XML file and allow a systems administrator to troubleshoot errors and manage the integration from any of the company's geographic locations.

Rather than build a custom integration solution, GFT selected an existing integration solution from a well-known integration platform-as-a-service provider to integrate the XML file to Salesforce CRM. This decision made it easy for GFT to "plug into" an existing, cloud-based platform of integration solutions, connect and integrate data from multiple sources and applications across the enterprise seamlessly. Additionally, this multi-tenant integration platform required no on-site appliances or application and could be expanded and edited on the fly as GFT's needs changed-greatly reducing strain on its technology staff.

It took GFT only 40 hours to achieve full integration of their customer data. Once built, the Salesforce Operations Manager was able to manage and troubleshoot the integration processes in production from any global location via a Web browser. Other key benefits GFT experienced from SaaS integration of their customer data included:

Complete Transparency — Immediate Web access to a 360 degree view of all integration processes from any location via a Web browser; 
Risk Mitigation — Ability to pinpoint and independently resolve errors within two to four hours (previously took an average of two weeks, tens of thousands of dollars, and technical resources to fix); 
Real-time Analysis — Reports driving critical business decisions for the executive team are generated in five minutes vs. one business day with it's previous solution; 
Immediate ROI — Cost savings of $5,000 each time a data error transpires (vs. custom coded solution which would require going back through an entire development cycle to correct the issue). 
Business Process Automation — Eliminated 1 FTE by automating marketing campaigns triggered on customer transactional data (which would have required daily manual grooming prior to integrating the systems) 
 
Had GFT custom-coded the integration alone, it would have been significantly more costly and possibly lacked the same amount of scalability. By selecting a best-of-breed integration-as-a-service vendor, they were able to control costs, leverage existing technology assets and improve efficiency. And by successfully migrating legacy systems into the cloud, GFT was able to find the critical missing link between their customer data sources and Salesforce CRM and provide internal stakeholders with comprehensive business intelligence via real-time reporting of critical customer data.

Overall, GFT's cloud-based integration solution resulted in a less expensive and more efficient system for both its sales team and technology department. The company was able to maximize the value of their SaaS solutions without having to abandon legacy assets or sacrifice flexibility and control over their systems. Integration was the key that unlocked these benefits and will support future growth.

About the Author

Rick Nucci (rick@boomi.com) is cofounder and CTO of Boomi, the Integration Cloud Company, and a leading provider of on-demand integration technology. Nucci is an expert on SaaS & cloud integration, multitenancy principles, and API design. For more information visit www.boomi.com.

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Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

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For the rest of the April 2010 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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