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Analysis Over the past few years, CRM implementations have come in for much criticism, especially in the elusive area of ROI. This has caused many companies to re-evaluate their technology implementations and heralded the success of new services delivering CRM functionality over the web – rather than making expensive technology investments.

One company that has sprung up with such an offering is NetSuite, which entered the European market in earnest about one year ago. NetSuite offers an integrated suite of CRM, ERP and e-commerce technology, all delivered over the web as services.

But NetSuite is not talking about the trend for web services. According to Zach Nelson, NetSuite’s CEO, web services provide the communications layer that allows data and services to be presented to customers – but that can only work properly if the underlying data is accessible. According to Nelson, one of the fundamental problems with many CRM systems is that they tend to focus on managing sales pipelines and forecasts, rather than on managing the front-facing customer interactions and transaction history. Rather, in many cases, that data resides in ERP systems and it is problematic to link that directly, in real time, through to data relating to the web site front end. That leaves many companies with gaps in their records, unable to effectively gauge which customers have bought what, how it was shipped, and whether or not they have paid for the goods received.

NetSuite believes that it has solved this problem with its one-system architecture – linking back-end data with customer-facing applications through integration of all data into one system. This allows companies to move from managing sales prospects to the ongoing task of effectively managing customer relationships by actively using intelligence gathered on customers to provide a better customer support experience.

Nelson explains that it has been a long, hard struggle to get the functionality of its technology to the point where it is today. And the fact that the vendor has just released version 10 of its offerings shows just how mature its solutions have become. According to Nelson, version 10 is a gigantic release across all of the components that NetSuite offers – CRM, ERP and e-commerce functionality.

Nelson points to a number of highlights of the new version 10 release, which he refers to as ‘fantasy features’ – that is, functionality that most systems cannot achieve because they are fragmented, with actionable data not natively residing in the business applications and therefore of limited use. He points to the following highlights of the release:

  • Real-time business intelligence – Nelson states that the functionality of NetSuite’s offering now not only allows information to be displayed in real time, but has active agents that can mine databases in order to anticipate customer needs and desires. It uses behavioural intelligence on multiple levels to see, for example, how many people have visited the site and from which URL they were referred – by customer, contact or whatever factor a company wishes. Nelson claims that this places deep, rich analytics right at the heart of a CRM system.
  • Automated upsell – this feature allows companies to mine their entire customer base in order to statistically correlate what they are interested in and what they have bought with suggestions as to what further products they would like to buy. With just one click of the button, this is available to all employees involved in customer service and sales within an organisation.

In addition to these, there are a host of new features in all of the applications offered – ERP, CRM and e-commerce. Having originally aimed its products at SMEs, Nelson claims that NetSuite’s products are increasingly seeing take up among larger companies and version 10 has been built out to specifically answer some of their more advanced needs. For such companies, regulatory compliance with laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley is of over-riding importance – and having all data natively residing in one application, rather than pulled from another system such as ERP, is a large step forward towards there being no single point of failure in any data systems. But that is just part of the story – all companies today are looking to purchase technology and services at an affordable price. This is a suite of applications that all companies should consider in their evaluations.

Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com

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