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integrating SAP CRM and Groupware Platforms

When I had discussions with customers about SAP CRM Activity Management in the past who where implementing SAP CRM (older versions like CRM 4.0) the idea of integrating CRM into existing Groupware systems was always heavily discussed. But only in very few cases customers made the step to integrate these platforms.Now as SAP CRM 2007 has hit the market with such a success this has changed a lot.

Groupware Integration made it to the top priorities for sales organizations when they talk about CRM, particularly in the area of Sales Force Automation. Today I regularly get e-mails or threads with very specific questions on how to integrate elegantly and we have fruitful and valuable discussion.

I am convinced that before going down that path project teams should make a step back giving some thoughts to what´s the difference compared to integrating with e.g. ERP. I will try to bring some light in this very much non-SAP-like area.

Preliminary remarks
CRM systems are very much different internally from how your groupware platform was designed.

  1. Groupware is the Holy Grail
    CRM systems are heavily adapted to the business needs, sometimes even different between countries or sales organizations. In contrast to that the groupware platform functions as a corporate collaboration backbone, sometimes with strong workflow elements and governed by corporate IT like a holy grail. It turns out that whereas you are allowed to change the behavior of CRM you will not have a chance to do so in your groupware system.
  2. Global repository versus personal world
    Your CRM system is the global repository and brain of your sales, marketing and service teams. Based on ones authorization users can access the same physical record in the database. This makes collaboration and sharing customer knowledge relatively easy as every user can easily benefit from others contributing as well. Your groupware platform instead consists of many personal folders with redundant records that are kept in sync using a strong messaging flow in the groupware server. One appointment in the organizers calendar is a different record than all the copies sent to the invitees. This means there is no 360° view on the customer data possible but every user has his/her own little information universe. Integrating between these systems means harmonizing very different architectural concepts.
  3. Simplified calendaring
    Groupware systems can be adapted to corporate needs but the functions will remain very basic and the intelligent part lies in the flow of data that finally reaches your e-mail inbox. In contrast to CRM systems the approach of groupware platforms is to provide personal planning capabilities only. The focus is always to support the individual user in keeping his data universe clean but not to gain a higher level view e.g. a customer or a team view. Appointments and tasks in groupware systems are very generic features that do not allow flexible adaption to various business situations.

How does that now match to CRM?

I have seen many CRM systems and sometimes I was surprised how complicated CRM Activity Management can be set up. Why do customers work with 10 different transaction types for appointments that are made of exactly the same customizing and would behave identically? I never got a proper answer to such questions that but instead was told that users still find SAP CRM very complicated (…maybe because of that..I should add.)

But groupware integration can help us here a little because now there are bounding conditions that we need to follow if we want to make the Integration successful.

How to get this fixed now

My recommendation to customers is to first revisit the activity customizing in CRM taking the following ideas into account.

First look at your transaction type customizing. Keep in mind that your groupware system does not have anything like that and an appointment is always an appointment; same with tasks.

The customizing should ideally have only one transaction type for appointments, one for tasks. You can define as many categories as you like but make sure there is a proper mapping to transaction type and category class available. Outlook does not know these categories and classes either but that is not a big deal as we have defaults in CRM customizing for that.

Make sure nothing else than an appointment is defined to be in the calendar and everything that is blocking your time is an appointment (I once saw planned emails being calendar entries, that´s not the best idea I am afraid…). And the task list should only contain task and nothing else.

I would prefer to do the same with interaction log which is nothing else but a visit report or a phone memo. Here again only a single transaction type is enough in most cases, the category would allow a more detailed classification without adding complexity to it.

As everything we do in CRM has an impact on the groupware we need to ensure a semantic mapping correct for our activity objects. That´s why Interaction logs are not to be replicated to groupware and it is a bad idea to use appointments in groupware to store visit results instead. Why? Because groupware will someday archive your calendar and consequently all customer visit results you want to store “forever” are getting lost. If logging that type of information in your groupware is essential Interactive Forms can to a great job here.

Now as we have shared some of the basic concepts how can we do this with SAP CRM?  

As of CRM 2007 customers can choose between two integration packages.

  1. The server based groupware integration is available since CRM 4.0 and has a new ABAP Mapbox that does the data conversion between CRM Server and Groupware Server.
  2. The client based integration is available as of CRM 2007 and does the integration against the groupware client and not the server. This replication scenario is available in CRM on premise and CRM on Demand (CoD)

Both share similar scope replicating contact data as well as appointments and tasks but there are details that differ. The comparison document is a great help to understand the different approaches.

E-Mail Integration

To make the “integration-picture” complete, e-mail integration as well is very important these days. Whatever groupware Integration you will choose, the e-mail integration will work with both of them. In contrast to the groupware integration scenarios e-mails are not replicated but copies into the other system.

This allows users to archive their local e-mail folders but still keep the content in CRM in the customer interaction history and have it available globally for all colleagues.

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