The Road to Success Is Paved With Determination--And a Bit of Tweaking

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When I came to New Horizons in June 2000 the company was already working on a CRM solution; however, I soon realized that more than a simple CRM package was needed. As the world's largest independent computer-training company, reaching both the SMB and consumer segment, New Horizons has 2,400 instructors and 2,000 account executives in 47 countries. Of the company's 280 training centers, more than 250 are franchises. What this means is an awful lot of people with disparate needs to manage, and a vast amount of data to be used in a variety of ways. Most immediately we decided that a sales force automation tool would have to be integrated into our CRM solution. We were looking at an enterprisewide application that we could port out to our franchisees in an ASP model. We wanted to achieve this goal as quickly as possible, without going the way of so many failed large-scale integration projects. After spending much of June researching the market we settled on SalesLogix from Best Software and Training Partner from GeoMetrix, a great tool for back office, accounting, managing student transcripts, and various instructor components. Because Training Partner did not have CRM offerings or contact management, we took SalesLogix, tweaked it, and did some integration. Within three months we were doing an alpha rollout in local centers just to test the waters. Previously the company operated with a lot of poor processes like running a weak Access database for sales leads and scheduling. As a result, to make our new integrated system work we had to go back and re-create the building blocks of good business processes. The task ultimately took one year's worth of development to complete, but we accomplished it by rolling out service packs to end users, which they then implement at the local level. Most companies find that training end users to make good use of a CRM system is one of the major obstacles of getting ROI. At a learning center like New Horizons that shouldn't be a problem, right? Wrong. Just like at any other company we found that instituting a culture change was going to prove difficult. This was especially true since we hoped to recoup our implementation costs by selling the package back to franchisees in an ASP model. We got around the training and acceptance issues by instituting a 24-hour help desk that supports the ASP model, but most important, involves users by taking their change suggestions and presenting them using CRM functionality. For training we are now developing with Online Live, a virtual Web classroom that is used for the company's core business as well. This virtual Web classroom can be accessed through an Internet browser, which will be accessible to franchisees through a virtual private network. We've learned a valuable lesson for creating a successful CRM integration as we implemented this piece of the package: Don't be afraid to build what you'll surely throw out later. For example, right now we are building an internal system for learning management that will predate the Online Live rollout. It's a stepping stone to get users familiar with the system, which will be thrown out when the final Online Live version is completely developed. Yes, this will cost us money up front, but in the long run it will save valuable time in training and product acceptance. So far we are breaking even on our CRM integration, but we are confidently optimistic that this project will soon be a money-maker.
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