Crown corporation reaps CRM benefits

A recent study by IT research firm IDC notes that previous failed customer relationship management (CRM) implementations have generally fostered a low level of confidence in the technology.

But Farm Credit Canada, a Regina-based Crown Corporation, says it has managed to rise above the herd by recognizing that CRM is a strategy that’s supported by a technology, not the other way around.

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) provides financial and loan products for farmers and farm-related businesses. With more than 50,000 customers, 1,000 employees and 100 rural offices across Canada, the challenge was maintaining consistent and relevant customer profiles at all times.

Derwin Arnstead, director of market development Farm Credit Canada, said it was crucial to establish a holistic view of the customer to provide consistent service across multiple channels.

Within the IT environment there are multiple systems, but they weren’t fully integrated, Arnstead said. There were clients with multiple accounts, which made it increasingly difficult for account managers to track and administer loans. At the time, this information was not available to all account managers, Arnstead said.

The project began the first quarter of 2004, Arnstead said, adding “it was a bigger job than we thought.” With the help of project implementer IBM Corp., FCC began by converting data from two back-end systems at four pilot locations. The rollout wave included PeopleSoft CRM 8.8 and PeopleSoft HRMS at the front end, along with an in-house e-business solution and loan accounting system.

FCC created a portal, dubbed Amigo, as the face of its customer-facing CRM initiative. The middleware and integration components include a BEA Weblogic Integration (8.1) product. The back end consists of HP servers, Oracle 8i (8.1.7), BEA Weblogic 6.1, PeopleTools 8.42.10 and Microsoft Active Directory. The technology now allows FCC a 360-degree view of the customer, Arnstead said. Via a loan portfolio snapshot within Amigo, account managers can have a single screen that displays and integrates all loans. Work productivity has also improved, according to FCC; the system can track key financial indicators and gathers customer data in a central repository.

FCC discovered that by better understanding its clients, it could optimize overall business performance. “Don’t automate a process that is broken or doesn’t exist.” In FCC’s case it had a clear vision and resolved to implement CRM incrementally, Arnstead said.

Also, there needs to be a firm executive commitment. It’s only when senior management sees CRM as serving a critical or strategic purpose, can organizations succeed with a CRM implementation, Lorna Higgins, Canadian PeopleSoft CRM Lead with IBM Business Consulting Services.

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