The remarkable benefits of storing customer information all in one place

Esri Canada is best known for its award-winning geographic information systems used by over ten thousand customers. But the company’s own transformation story is also putting its name on the map.

Our digital transformation started in 2013 as a way to eliminate information silos in the company, said John Kitchen, Esri Canada’s Vice President and General Manager, at a recent ITWC webinar sponsored by Dell Canada. “We didn’t have a 360 degree view of the customer,” he said.  “We were all chasing information that was not at our fingertips.”

After six years, the project is producing remarkable results. “Now, when a customer calls, we understand everything about them,” said Kitchen.  This is what customers expect today, said Brad Evans, Dell Canada’s Technical Director.  “They want the right information at their fingertips to use whenever they like.”

Tips to consolidate company information

Transformation projects at Esri Canada were approved only if it could be shown how they would benefit customers and improve productivity, Kitchen said. As well, each initiative had to be web and cloud-based, so it could be scalable and used anytime on any platform. Finally, projects had to make customer information accessible from one source for all staff.

To achieve this, the company began by implementing SalesForce. In 2014, it added Marketo, marketing automation software to manage customer profiles to ensure that communications would be tailored and relevant for each customer. “This resulted in record attendance at our events and high readership on emails,” said Kitchen.  Applications to manage events and training for customers and employees were also added to the mix. The event management software allowed Esri Canada to go paperless when organizing events, saving 750 thousand pages per year, Kitchen said.

The company is now starting to automate its professional services. What are the keys to ensure a successful implementation? Kitchen said companies should always take a business-driven approach to focus on the problem they are trying to solve. They should use out-of-the box technology as much as possible to minimize customization. As part of its process, Esri Canada relied on technology and experienced business experts to keep things on track. “It’s also important to have senior management sponsorship because these projects affect everyone,” said Kitchen. “It’s a cultural change. People were happy to see us being progressive and to contribute to the success of the organization.”

Dell has played a key role in collaborating with us on GIS solutions that address social, economic, business and environmental concerns,” said Kitchen. “Not only do they provide the necessary products, but they also have the flexibility and scalability that Esri Canada requires.”

How the customer experience has changed

With 16 offices across five time zones in Canada, Esri Canada can now support its customers as a “complete organization,” said Kitchen.  “We’ve all called organizations and been bounced around.  We don’t need to ask specifics. We know what products they own, their technical environment, what projects they’re working on and what training they’re doing.  It has changed the customer conversation and allowed us to work together as a team to resolve issues. It really is a win-win.”

Consolidating customer information has also improved efficiency for management and staff, he said. Managers no longer need to contact staff members to get updates.  Instead, dashboards allow managers to ascertain how a program is performing against targets in a matter of seconds.  “We can do more coaching and collaborating,” said Kitchen. “We’re no longer looking at static, historical information.  That’s like management by the rear-view mirror. Now, we can lift our heads to look at the horizon and less at our shoes.”

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Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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