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August 1, 2006
Jim Chilton, vice president of technology and systems for SolidWorks, as told to Colin Beasty
Secret of My Success: PRM Goes VARs(ity)
What problems were you facing? SolidWorks produces 3D modeling software and solutions for other companies and has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years. I joined the company in 2001 with the mission of making sure our business applications and IT infrastructure could scale with that growth. At the time, we had about 25 disparate business applications for multiple departments, everything from finance, to accounting, to order management. As each department was going through its growing pains, it was taking these applications in separate directions to match that growth. Nobody was working toward a common goal, a common solution. The biggest issue was installing an application that would improve our ability to interact and do business with our value added resellers (VARs). If we didn't select a new system that could scale with our growing business, we were going to have an order management department with hundreds of employees. We also needed a new CRM system that would tie in with partner relationship management (PRM) software and enhance our tech support, providing us with analytics, sales functionality, and e-commerce.
How did you select a vendor? We needed to do the evaluation in 90 to 120 days. First we went to all the separate departments and had them rank and rate their most important functionality requirements. In terms of vendors, we looked at PeopleSoft, Oracle, Siebel, and SAP. We went after all the enterprise suite CRM providers because I didn't want to start out with a small CRM application and quickly outgrow it. Companies like Salesforce.com and NetSuite just didn't fit our needs. By the start of 2002, we had narrowed it down to Oracle and Siebel. Because the primary focus was on enabling the VARs, Siebel won out because it had the PRM functionality in place that we were looking for.
How did the implementation unfold? SolidWorks wanted to rapidly implement but slowly customize. So we selected seven of our most important VARs and started them out on the PRM modules, such as order management and customer assets. Then, we moved all of their customers, products, and maintenance onto the new system and began working out the kinks. We learned a lot from that, so we added the next group of 14. At the same time we extended the functionality, adding tech support, then added another 30 VARs, and so on and so forth. By the middle of 2003, we had all of the VARs up and running, but we're still rolling out functionality to this day.
What have been the main rewards? The big ROI number is the time it now takes to deliver products to customers. It used to take us 13 to 20 days for our European consumers and four to 10 days for our North American ones. Now we've automated the entire process. Fifty-six percent of orders are processed and shipped within 24 hours. The remaining orders are shipped within 48 hours. We've seen order management go from 1,800 a month to over 10,000 a month while still keeping that department at 24 employees.
What are your plans moving forward? We're getting into analytics now, and we've just gone live with e-service, marketing, and sales. As for Oracle Fusion, we're still waiting to see how that unfolds, we don't want to be the guinea pig. Once the picture around Fusion clears up, we'll be able to see which Oracle applications and services will best fit our business strategy.
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