Astea: CRM to the Rescue

The buzz around industry-specific CRM flavors jumped a few decibels after Astea International, a software vendor, released a white paper on CRM in regulated industries. The theme of the 14-page paper is that highly regulated industries such as healthcare make fertile ground for business process-oriented CRM solutions. Call it the bane of regulatory compliance. Companies that must comply with strict standards and regulations, from ISO 9000 to FDA rules, face stacks of paperwork requiring multiple signatures and other hair-pulling tasks. The rules are meant to ensure proper tracing of equipment sales and service records. Ironically, these processes often retard productivity and customer focus, according to Astea. CRM software can solve many of these headaches -- but not just any CRM solution does the trick. Astea breaks down CRM into two broad categories: data-driven CRM and business process-driven CRM. Data-driven CRM enables data sharing across multiple work groups, support teams and business systems. Business process-driven CRM systems usually are vertical-focused with the particular industry's business processes built in. And it's the latter that appeals to regulated industries. "At first glance, data-driven systems and business process-driven systems appear to provide the same value proposition, but they are actually very different in their approach to problem solving," says Greg Cicio, vice president of strategic planning and corporate development at Astea. "Data-driven systems usually require a lot of professional services and customization to embed business processes, and this would include tracing equipment lifecycles across sales and service processes. A process-driven CRM system is vertically focused and designed to deliver such industry-specific functionality out of the box." All of this means a CRM system tailored to the healthcare industry, for instance, could reduce the need for duplicated entries (and manual errors), speed up the buying and selling process and leverage built-in tracing mechanisms, among other benefits. And by automating these processes, companies can still comply with their unique regulations. "The sum total of regulations, in terms of how they manifest in business, is a set of standard operating procedures for an industry," says Cicio. "CRM should not focus on delivering data but optimizing processes by collapsing a lot of independent processes. Companies should seek to move from transaction-based customer relationships to strategic customer relationships." Tom Kaneshige also writes for
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