As a Product Manager working on SAP CRM I have witnessed some major changes take place over the last couple of years. However, with the advent of Enterprise SOA and Web 2.0 I am constantly pondering if the biggest changes are yet to come.
As we build out the Enterprise SOA structure and plans at SAP, my conversations with customers are always very interesting. Although the Enterprise SOA topic may come with the stigma of being a “technical subject”, I can clearly tell you: It is all about the business. Enterprise SOA is nothing other than an enabler of business requirements.
As we discuss use cases with customers and discover where they plan to take advantage of Enterprise SOA in the future of Customer Relationship Management, the breadth of ideas and the excitement created is very invigorating.
Late last year I was attending a conference where Ed Thompson from Gartner was speaking. Without quoting him word for word I will loosely rephrase his statement: Enterprise SOA is more important for CRM than any other Enterprise Application. I was already very aware of the importance of Enterprise SOA, but I had yet to take my viewpoint to that level.
During my time working with customers since then, it has become ever clearer that the “front-office” and CRM processes are indeed the place where Enterprise SOA can make the most impact. The front-office is where agility, flexibility, experimentation, and differentiation can have maximum impact in helping to win against the competition. This is not to say that Enterprise SOA does not have the potential for enormous impact elsewhere, however when you consider for example the dynamics in how a company goes to market compared to the dynamics in how they handle their general ledger, the differences in what can be accomplished with Enterprise SOA become quite apparent.
So is CRM the ripest application for Enterprise SOA? I say yes. Look at the potential for working with partners for example. One example is a company looking to setup a link from their CRM to their partner’s website, in order to service their partner’s customers, all with Enterprise SOA. Another example is a company that will allow their distributors and agents to access their CRM to generate quotes, create orders, and check for product availability – all through the comfort of the distributors own systems with a linkage through Enterprise Services. Talk about building in customer loyalty! And let’s not forget about Web 2.0. In the Web 2.0 world, unique interactions are the name of the game – and the game is fun and rewarding, until you recognize that the data from these interactions is not being collected by the enterprise. Here Enterprise SOA can help bridge the gap between these interaction-based systems and the traditional transaction-based backend systems like CRM. The sale might start with an interaction in Facebook, but it will always end with a transactional order in CRM!
This area of Enterprise SOA and CRM is still in its infancy, but the future is looking bright. I am excited to see where the unique business processes of our customers take us and I look forward to being part of the ride and sharing with you my experiences and lessons learned along the way.