Breaking Down Data Silos to Boost CRM Results

CRM applications have traditionally been standalone technologies that host a wealth of information pertaining to customer activity. Ultimately, CRM solutions are deployed to help organizations leverage customer information to drive higher customer satisfaction and to lower the cost of sales. The biggest challenge, however, for CRM vendors is delivering the myriad benefits CRM solutions promise. These numerous promises include enabling more efficient call centers, managing sales data, improving customer loyalty, and recognizing cross- and upsell opportunities. Companies are spending billions of dollars on enterprise applications like CRM, ERP, and SCM. Yet, many industry analysts estimate that as many 70 percent of all CRM implementations fail. Why? CRM applications promote the concept of a 360-degree view of the customer, but the "siloed" nature of the CRM system prevents business users from accessing the entire universe of critical information across their numerous enterprise applications. In addition, like other popular enterprise applications, CRM suites struggle to process unstructured information, because they were designed to work with structured database information from within a specific data silo. Without the ability to provide a complete view of all the structured and unstructured information from across the enterprise, organizations are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage and in many cases significant risk. This lack of information accessibility prevents full insight into customer relationships, thereby affecting decision-making and customer retention. With 80 percent of a company's data stored in unstructured formats, such as emails, presentations, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, and a variety of other documents, businesses are demanding the ability to retrieve information from these sources and from the Internet through a single interface. CRM vendors must listen and react. Integrating the information contained in a CRM application with related information residing elsewhere can be a significant challenge. However, with continual development of complex and sophisticated information gathering systems, businesses no longer need to make decisions based on the 15 to 20 percent of collective knowledge that is housed in CRM systems. Enterprise search technology addresses the complexities of information aggregation by providing a unified gateway to all sources of information throughout the enterprise. Search technology empowers companies to get the most out of their CRM investment by fully leveraging the wealth of information that their siloed applications contain. The subsequent ability to integrate information from other areas of the enterprise, such as applications that handle SFA or partnership relationship management, is an inherent capability of an enterprise search platform. By providing business managers with a complete, 360-degree view of all the information throughout their organization, enterprise search technology enables businesses to decrease the time spent looking for data, improve customer relations, and dramatically increase revenue, because decisions are based on a complete view of the business. Comprehensive intelligence drives better CRM decisions. Embedded enterprise search platform solutions designed specifically to tackle data-intensive search and information retrieval challenges are enabling intelligent access to existing corporate CRM systems and beyond--in real time. In standalone implementations, enterprise search solutions demonstrate increased revenues, lowered TCO, and improved worker productivity. Furthermore, when combined, or embedded within a business application, such as CRM, these benefits are enhanced by the structure and industry-specific focus of the host application. These enhancements include more intelligent interaction based on a holistic view of the customer, improved analytic capabilities, context-sensitive search and navigation, and information integration. Most importantly, customers who receive the right information at the right time appreciate the value of superior service--impacting customer acquisition, retention, and growth. About the Author Ali Riaz is COO of Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), the leading developer of enterprise search and real-time alerting technologies.
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