Build-it-yourself CRM

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You pay too much for customer relationship management applications to see them fail. Yet, too often, those seeking to improve customer interactions find themselves saddled with an off-the-shelf application that just doesn't quite fit the business model.

Charlotte, N.C.-based YOUcentric attempts to solve this problem with YOUrelate, a Web-based e-business relationship management tool that adapts to the needs of any business.

YOUcentric President and CEO Don DeLoach likens his organization to Dell during the exploding days of personal computers. YOUcentric supplies e-business relationship management software that allows businesses to manage information among customers, sales partners, employees and suppliers from cell phones, desktops, palm devices or the Web.

Quite simply, DeLoach says, Dell let the users decide which components they wanted in their computers, then built the machine to match. "Instead of being relegated to getting whatever components were offered in the pre-packaged configuration, Dell said you should be able to call us directly and get exactly what you want," DeLoach says. "The same mass customization techniques are delivered by our approach."

Have It Your Way

Users can define the business aspects they would like to include in YOUrelate from the beginning. Business-specific details, such as industry specifications, statistics, schedules, pro-forma calculations or any other requirements, can be woven into YOUrelate so the application meets organization needs from the outset. At the same time, YOUrelate offers traditional CRM functionalities that allow businesses to manage information and interactions among employees, customers, sales partners and suppliers via the Web. The system can be customized so that each user gets the exact information and tools they need.

The you-build-it approach is an improvement over off-the-shelf solutions available on the market, DeLoach says. "Traditional relationship management applications impose a data model or impose data processes that are typically rigid and internally focused," he says. "Most of those traditional applications have been very costly and very time consuming."

Not only that, but many traditional CRM applications are too static to keep up with rapidly changing business models, he adds.
But with YOUrelate, "The trick is because we don't impose a data model or business rules, we let customers select which is appropriate for their environment," DeLoach says. "It's a subtle but very important distinction."

YOUrelate's "mass customization" technique is made possible by the application's Assembly Line tool. Assembly Line, says DeLoach, "allows you to take the functional components we offer and weave that together with the unique data in the customer environment. What you end up with very quickly is an exact-fit rendering of your environment."

This is "a nightmare for the traditional approach," DeLoach says, but YOUcentric can use it to implement its solution in just a few months.

The system easily adapts to changes in the organization, as well as to external changes that impact how the organization operates, such as advancements in technology. YOUrelate supports information from a variety of channels, such as e-mail, Web chat and phone calls, and is also synchronized to a variety of devices, such as wireless and mobile computing devices. "It's an extremely powerful mechanism for extending your reach not only across a wide variety of users with a huge portfolio of functionality, but also extending it with 100 percent usability across a wide variety of devices," DeLoach says.


DeLoach admits this all "may sound too good to be true." But YOUcentric is willing to prove it.

"The natural response anybody would have would be to say, ‘This sounds really cool, but this is a very important project to me and I'm betting the ranch here,'" he says. "Our response is that we'll engage in what's called proof of concept. We'll actually render a (model) of this exact-fit solution to prove to you that we can do what we say."

The proof of concept technique led a California-based provider of information storage and management devices to sign on with YOUcentric. Seagate Technology, a manufacturer of disc drives, magnetic discs and read-write heads, as well as a developer of business intelligence software and storage area network solutions, winnowed down choices during a three-month process and eventually chose YOUrelate as its relationship management provider.

"We didn't have a Web-based solution for pulling together our disparate data systems in our back end, specifically sales and marketing and our resellers," says Jay Remley, Seagate's director of e-business development. "We had information lying in Lotus Notes, in a legacy system, some in Oracle. We needed a Web-based application that would pull together those disparate data sources into a single user interface."

YOUcentric, Remley says, "offered the most open and flexible architecture in meeting fragmented data sources."

And the power of the proof of concept model couldn't be overlooked, he says. "We gave YOUcentric our requirements, as well as samples of data and related scenarios of how the sales and marketing folks would use the tool," Remley says. "We asked them to put together a concept or demo of how YOUcentric could meet those requirements. It was a defining factor in the sense that YOUrelate came in and was so personalized. They took the data and truly put together a pilot that met the scenarios and used all the data we gave them for it, all the way down to the Seagate HTML logo."

At full roll out (expected sometime in April), 2,300 Seagate-connected and remote users worldwide will access YOUrelate. Initial rollout to about 700 internal sales and marketing professionals, began in November 2000.

"The goal is that the CRM application will provide the data and information that users need when they need it, and it will free up their time to do more productive customer relationship work, rather than chase down information," Remley says. "The goal is to allow the sales and marketing team to spend more quality time with customers, rather than digging for information."

Another YOUrelate selling point was its ease of implementation, Remley says. "It's a lot more flexible in building the business model on the fly to pull together and present different types of data," he says. "It really boiled down to our being able to be trained on YOUrelate in two or three days."

He adds, "The project management team that YOUcentric provides has been very responsive and professional. The majority of the team just rolled off a larger implementation from YOUcentric and they (brought) valuable experience with them."

In the end, however, it was YOUrelate's highly customizable system that won Seagate. "I would definitely say the primary reason why we went with YOUrelate was because we knew we couldn't go with an application that was very structured because our back-end systems are anything but structured," Remley says. "They require a lot of synchronization."

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