• November 30, 2001

CRM Key in Bridging Strategy With Technology

Top consultants gather for industry conference.
By Elliot Markowitz

New York--Top guns from the industry's leading consulting firms gathered in New York at Kennedy Information's Consulting Summit 3.0 conference to discuss the need for enterprises to bridge strategy with technology and CRM as a critical component.

The all-star lineup included George stalk Jr., senior vice president of The Boston Consulting Group Inc.; Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy for IBM Corp.; Michael Wolf, director and senior partner at McKinsey & Company; Mel Bergstein, chairman and CEO of DiamondCluster International Inc.; Dan'l Lewin, vice president of Microsoft Corp.'s .Net strategy; and a panel hosted by Steve Berez, vice president of information technology and e-business at Bain & Company.

The theme of the conference was the consultant's role in bridging the gap between a customer's technology plan and business strategy. At the heart of the issue is the adoption of CRM implementations as a corporate philosophy and not just a technology deployment, many of the executives said.

stalk kicked off the all day event held at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York pushing his "infinite bandwidth" philosophy in a wireless computing age. "Most enterprises will benefit from some wireless enterprise applications," he said, adding that corporate adoption usually starts with wireless e-mail and then makes its way to sales force automation and field force automation.

stalk then outlined the four steps limiting corporations from embracing wireless solutions and four different ways for technology companies to get into the exploding wireless business.

Delaying enterprises from pushing forward are: their habit to look at wireless as an enabling technology, not a critical business issue; complex value chain; the quick-changing technological landscape; and the significant change required to reengineer business processes. However, as wireless technology becomes more stable and reliable, the adoption rate will increase and consultancies will be in the middle, stalk said.

Technology Maintaining Costs Call for CRM
Following stalk, IBM's Wladawsky-Berger talked about the importance of the Internet as a computing platform for grid computing. "The biggest change we had through technology in the last five years is the cultural impact of the Internet. The Internet itself is becoming a computing platform."

Wladawsky-Berger also pushed his theory regarding autonomic computing, or the ability of a computer to take care of its own "hygiene." "While technology is wonderful, it is the cost of managing the technology that will do us in. We need to develop the right software or architecture so the technology behaves more like the intelligence and can take care of its hygiene needs," he said.

That plays right into the hands of CRM, Wladawsky-Berger said.

"When dealing with customer service, the Web systems should not go down. When dealing with customer data and security, don't get hacked. The customer interfacing applications such as CRM, autonomic computing will bring great benefits," Wladawsky-Berger said.

IBM looks at the opportunity for CRM as the biggest benefactor from the Internet's advancement, Wladawsky-Berger said. And although the company does not develop any specific CRM application it is looking to take advantage of the market by providing the hardware, middleware, and consulting services to its corporate customers looking to integrate their ERP systems with CRM solutions, he said.

"We are not a CRM application developer. We have the ability to do a better job in integrating and supporting CRM solutions than build a specific CRM application," he said.

Meld strategic Thinking and Technology Plans
PeopleSoft Inc. Vice President of strategy Simon Walls was also at the event and was part of a panel discussion specifically addressing the need for corporate customers to meld their strategic thinking with their technology plans. Afterward, in an exclusive interview, Walls emphasized the importance of consultants in implementing any CRM solution.

"Consultants are critical to the overall success of PeopleSoft and any CRM implementation," Walls said. About 20 percent of PeopleSoft's business is handled through its direct representatives, but the remaining 80 percent comes from consultants and integrators, he said.

More than 175 executives attended Kennedy Information's Consulting Summit 3.0, which ran on Thursday, November 29 and the morning of Friday, November 30. In addition to the Who's Who lineup of presenters, the audience was filled with top executives from American Express Company, Avanade Inc., Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Cognos Inc., Deloitte Consulting, KPMG Consulting Inc., Oracle Corp., and PricewaterhouseCoopers, to name a few.

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