Issue 3.3
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Realizing the Vision of CRM with a Federated Architecture

The benefits of customer relationship management (CRM) software are well-documented. Organizations that use CRM effectively can retain more customers, boost satisfaction and dramatically increase revenue.

Yet not all organizations are realizing the full value of CRM, whether it's because of low user adoption, poor implementation, inadequate training or ineffective data integration. And there are added challenges for organizations that want to deploy CRM across numerous divisions or geographies.

Why? In many cases, large companies have opted for all-encompassing rollouts of CRM on a single global installation. With just one software instance to access, companies can theoretically gain good data visibility and clear insight into operations on a global level.

But that software instance many not provide that functionality required by a particular division or geographic region. And the problem with a monolithic approach is that it interferes with the autonomy a particular business, region or division many need to work effectively given local business customs, practices and conditions.

Fortunately there is an alternative to both the limitations of smaller-scale CRM implementations and the constrains of a single, global installation – an alternative that affords flexibility without sacrificing insight, Federated Architecture.

A federated system architecture uses data integration to tie together multiple CRM implementations to help address these issues. Federated architecture allows companies to deploy more than one instance of CRM, while ensuring that critical data remains in-synch and up-to-date across the entire organization. With synchronization across multiple CRM instances, collaboration is possible across regions and divisions, while individual groups can maintain their independence and optimize operations where necessary.

Using Federated Architecture for Control and Flexibility

In a single-instance CRM implementation, all business units and regional divisions conform to a data structure and similar business rules that suit the majority's needs. Standardization may come at the expense of the real business value of the solution, and despite this standardization, the large number of users and sometimes-competing requirements make it hard for IT teams to react quickly to changing business needs.

In contrast, when disparate groups and regions have optimized deployments that are tied together via a federated architecture, they can quickly and independently make the changes and modifications they require to the CRM system, without impacting the rest of the organization. Multiple instances of CRM software are connected by a hub-and-spoke model that ensures data is accessible when and where it's needed by other divisions' or groups implementations.

This kind of flexibility can actually improve the performance of business units. For example, if a particular division within an organization wanted to add functionality into the CRM system in order to fulfill a requirement that is very specific to its business, the prospect of modifying the application within a monolithic environment would be a cumbersome one, requiring input and reaction from the larger user community. However, a federated approach provides the group with the autonomy to control how it uses data, models new business entities and makes screen modifications – to advance its own productivity without isolating customer data that needs to be shared across the organization.

Empowering Departmental Deployments

In most industries, there is a need to share some customer information across multiple lines of business. However, each line of business may have data that only it should see for legal reasons or it may have specific data requirements that are not common with the other business units.

A federated architecture gives each department the ability to control this aspect of its operations. For example, consider the equities group within a large banking institution. Regulatory or privacy requirements may preclude this department from sharing specific customer data with the retail banking unit. By implementing a distinct instance of CRM for each department, only select, authorized data will be synchronized across the organization. Data that needs to remain within the division that owns it will stay protected within the appropriate business unit's CRM instance.

A federated approach also allows each department's CRM instance to include forms tailored to that department's functionality, for greater responsiveness and agility. A single, monolithic implementation would require evaluation of security models across the organization, modifying access permissions and introducing increasingly complex procedures for auditing.

Putting Regional Deployments Back on the Map

Mobile sales representatives need to be able to access critical customer data quickly and easily from the road. But the response time and latency are still serious issues when it comes to CRM implementations, especially when serving a global customer base. For example, a sales representative working in Europe but trying to access the CRM server back in California may be hampered by network latency. This can be a major barrier to employees getting the data they need to work effectively.

That obstacle can be cleared by multiple CRM instances supported by a federated architecture. Servers placed in geographically strategic locations can reduce the round-trip time for each data packet, enabling quicker system response. Customer data is only synchronized to other regional instances when there is a need to share that information (for instance, for a global customer), while regional customer data remains in the local implementation – further enhancing system performance.


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