You often see customer relationship management software in reference to business outreach and customers however it’s useful for IT operations too. I was interviewed this year on this topic. As with most 3rd-party interviews, parts are summarized and truncated. There’s value in sharing the full answers to their questions so I’m providing my “director’s cut” [giving you my full answers] in a 3 part series. This will provide a practical overview roadmap.

I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions here or send me an e-mail, sibaraki@cips.ca.

Thank you,
Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.

Part 2/3 Questions:

How can CRM software making work easier for IT staff? What benefits can it bring to them, in terms of greater productivity, ease of use, more manageability? What issues or pitfalls does CRM software help an organization overcome?

So how are IT operations supported with a CRM solution that integrates with other systems?

The ideal case is to have a system that can be used to manage other business functions such as marketing campaigns, sales process, customer support, and make it easier for the IT staff. It’s also beneficial to have a system using a familiar interface or ways of working that are natural in the every day work of the IT staff. Since deployments of the Microsoft Office Productivity Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, …) are virtually universal in business then it makes sense to have a CRM system that works seamlessly with Microsoft Office and their Outlook e-mail client. It is also a priority to reduce the number of applications used. You want to reduce the number of touch points when completing tasks and reduce the clutter and complexity of working with too many applications. Keeping to Microsoft (MS) Office solves many challenges and especially with IT Staff since they understand MS Office so well. In fact, it likely part of their support function. A CRM system that allows IT Staff to continue to work with these ubiquitous powerful tools while simultaneously and transparently work with their customers—the employees in the company—that is a perfect combination. Moreover, you want to reduce not only the “new” applications that IT staff have to deal with, you also want to eliminate separate silos of data. You want to eliminate duplicate data entry or mismatched data where for example, Jane Doe is listed as on vacation in one system but not in another or has two different phone numbers/addresses (though one is obsolete). Using business process/work flow integrators such as Biztalk, a company can tie their CRM system into the business solutions that are available for managing HR, Finances, Inventory, and so on. If an information technology (IT) technician has a laptop and he leaves the company, this impacts the CRM system, HR system, and Assets Management system. The CRM system needs to know that the IT-tech can’t be tasked for maintenance jobs, the HR system needs a record of his employment details, and the Assets Management system should be aware that a laptop is free to be allocated elsewhere. You want all these systems to tie together to avoid duplicate updates and mismatched data or worse still, an actual operational stop or blockage in the workflow. A Microsoft CRM solution answers all of these challenges. And as the company grows, or as the load on the IT staff peaks in different periods, you want a structured system in place to handle that growth or those peaks. An integrated, well designed CRM system will allow all of this and so much more. Associated benefits from a CRM system include: high morale and improved employee retention. As the business grows so does call volume but the infrastructure is in place to handle increases without pains. The company can manage growth and peak loads, resulting in improvements in work flow. Ultimately, there is a lower total cost of ownership, lower complexity with one platform that integrates company wide. These are key factors in the CRM system. If added software development is required to integrate systems, then you want a system in place where it can be completed in a few days. Microsoft CRM 3.0 exceeds all these requirements and comes even with its own system development kit (SDK).