Making Discordant Systems Work in Harmony

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In 2001 Baseview Products was purchased by MediaSpan, and became a subsidiary of Harris Publishing, ultimately forming the division Harris-Baseview. Baseview specializes in prepress and production software for print media. Harris provides publishing software for print and Web publishing. Although our product bases were proprietary and geared toward different size business--we served small to midsize, and Harris served large firms--there was a lot of client information that we could be sharing. Yet, our disparate databases and development systems made that nearly impossible. We operated on a Mac platform; Harris was strictly PC. When sales and progress reports were run, they were done so separately and individuals like accountants or marketers would have to wade through both to gain one cohesive picture of the Harris-Baseview financial and marketing picture. By 2002 MediaSpan demanded a solution that would link both the Harris and Baseview databases, and provide one seamless CRM interface to users--whether they were on Mac or PC platforms. It wasn't going to be an easy task. First of all, Baseview was using Macintosh FoxBASE, an old system with low capabilities, such as only allowing one customer service representative into a record at one time. Worse yet, FoxBASE wouldn't run on new Macintosh machines, so for a long time we had been operating with two desktops per person--a new Mac for all non--database driven work, and older machines that could run FoxBASE customer records. We needed a solution that could easily import the FoxBASE data, and all the Harris data. It also had to match our way of doing customer service, which we were satisfied with, rather than change our workflow processes. Another important feature was a robust Java client for the PC, so the 100 Baseview employees on Macs and the 50 to 75 Harris folks on PCs could hook up at any time--even remotely--and see the same workfields. Initially we looked at some small CRM packages, but found they lacked key features we needed. For example, most had plenty of supply chain automation that we didn't need, but were skimpy on accounting we wanted. We finally settled on a product only to decide against it after reviewing its Java client. While the program could technically run Java, it had fractional capability unless we wanted to invest hours in customizing. The search began again, and by December 2002 we found RTI Software's solution. RTI's CRM suite was written to help software developers support software, so it was right in line with our business model. We began our implementation this past April and went live in May. RTI lays on top of our old system, and our workflow didn't change. Now, we don't have to maintain two customer databases with disparate reporting, and our accountants aren't going crazy trying to match books. The new system benefits our salespeople and trainers as well: Where we had separate programs on multiple servers for email, training notes, and order tracking, it's now all done from within the centralized database. Our plans include granting specific customers access to their customer service files over the Web, so they can see incident numbers, and submit and view information.
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