A Slice of the Good Life: Dallas--Ascendix Technologies

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Today Ascendix Regional Sales Manager Greg Moser and CTO Todd Terry have spent the first three hours and three cups of coffee preparing for a project kickoff meeting with La Quinta. Three weeks earlier the hotel chain had selected Ascendix to replace an existing sales force automation system with a custom installation of SalesLogix. The first phase of the project--150 seats in three divisions, including customizations, data migration, all end-user training and administrator training, and deployment--was scheduled to begin April 1, 2003, with a completion target of July 1.

Although Terry had met with La Quinta executives and managers earlier in the sales cycle to address hardware, training, and services issues, he views today's meeting as a pivotal juncture in the relationship. "So far, they have developed a relationship with Greg. They still look to him to answer questions, even technical ones," says Terry, who serves as managing partner of the firm with founder and President Wesley Snow, a fellow University of Texas graduate. "After this meeting we want them to look to me when they ask those questions." 

Terry oversees his firm's professional services, and in that capacity he will manage the overall delivery of the SalesLogix installation while managing a project team of five, including a project manager/analyst, lead developer/architect, application developer, quality assurance/support person, and implementation engineer.

La Quinta trusts Moser for good reason. He logged 45 nights at La Quinta Inns during his four-month courtship of the company that began with a proposal on October 9, 2002. Moser used his stays to immerse himself in the customer experience--talking to desk clerks, sneaking peaks at the reservation systems, sniffing out whether customer information collected in the "Win a Free Night's Stay" fish bowls in lobbies made it into a database, and taking note of extra pillows.

That extensive research is apparent in the 11-page implementation "road map" Moser flips through once more on the 15-mile drive from the Ascendix offices to La Quinta's corporate headquarters, in Irving, TX. Terry and Moser also crafted a densely detailed project plan with a comprehensive accounting of project hours, and invested significant time and effort in Ascendix's proof-of-concept demonstration, which required four days' worth of developers' time and expertise to customize the SalesLogix application for La Quinta's needs. Terry and Moser credit SalesLogix's flexibility, along with their firm's ability to shape the solution to La Quinta's specific operating model and unique business needs, as a primary reason for winning the business. 

At 1 p.m. the pair stop briefly at a restaurant across the street from La Quinta's offices to review their plans for the meeting and recharge over lunch.

Once at La Quinta's offices Terry and Moser enter a large conference room that overlooks an expanse of office parks and immaculate shopping centers featured in the film "Office Space." At 2 p.m. sharp they are greeted warmly by La Quinta Vice President of Information Systems John Novak, Director of Sales and Marketing Support Systems Cris Snyder, and Vice President of Business Solutions Jim Mitchell. Feliz Jarvis, vice president of sales for La Quinta, joins them via speakerphone from Colorado, where she is vacationing. Like Moser, Jarvis is primarily interested in facilitating a handoff to the project team after working with Moser for several months during the sales process. After some introductory comments Jarvis bids the rest farewell and returns to the ski slopes. 

Terry removes his watch and places it next to his laptop, but before he can rev up PowerPoint, Novak and Snyder raise a concern about his presentation. They don't want to make any planning decisions without their full project team present. "Our thinking," Novak explains, "is that there are not IT projects here--only business projects that are IT--enabled." The room would be packed with business partners, he asserts, if today's session were a genuine kickoff meeting. It is quickly agreed that today's session will be a pre-kickoff meeting in which the five participants will compare project methodologies, but delay decisions until the full team officially convenes.

That slight adjustment is fine with Terry, who smiles and clicks to a Project Risks slide. He reviews strategies for avoiding four key risks: lack of buy-in from key management, lack of participation from the business/user community during the design phase, failure to follow a design and implementation process, and lack of training and support for end users. These are factors Ascendix takes pains to avoid during the implementation process. "All of your points up there," says Novak when Terry finishes, "reflect our approach. We're on the same page."
So the group agrees that Ascendix's strategy for avoiding these risks will become a part of the implementation plan. They agree, however, to finalize the details at the official project kickoff meeting.

Novak then excuses himself for another commitment. Snyder, Mitchell, Moser, and Terry continue to dig into the finer points of how they will approach the project, including strategies for ongoing quality assurance. They sound like speakers of slightly different dialects of the same language clarifying a single vocabulary. Outside, the sun makes a brief appearance before dipping toward the prairie to the west. 

Why CRM?

Greg Moser and Todd Terry use CRM to:

  • uncover in-depth information on their clients' businesses
  • shape the solution to customers' specific operating model and unique needs
  • craft custom, detailed implementation road maps that begin with a proof-of-concept demonstration

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