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Driving Value to the Frontlines With Front Office Performance Management: Cloud9 Explains

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Listen to my podcast with Swayne Hill, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cloud 9 Analytics. In this podcast we discuss the latest in CRM and performance management analytics, and exactly how it is helping companies derive value from their analytics and deliver it to the frontlines of a company.

Listen to or download the 9:06 minute podcast below:

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PS: What are some of the limitations of CRM systems?

SH: Well, as it turns out, CRM systems are very good at automating a number of business processes that occur all across the front office with an anchor in SFA but they do very little to support the management process that corresponds to and rides above these various business processes. So it's missing important elements to be able to support those kinds of systems like a data warehouse, right. These are transactional systems tuned for hundreds, thousands, millions of users to make small changes every moment and when you ask them a tough question they tend to sort of come to their knees because they haven't been designed to support complex questions asked of the information. So they're not very good at supporting the management process. They're very good at supporting the business process.

What do you see as the major challenge that leading organizational sales forces face when it comes to CRM?

Well, a good question. We'll build on this concept then. So what happens is when you automate a business process like a sales cycle, or a marketing cycle, or a support call, when you automate the process around these specific business oriented transactions or customer ended transactions, you gain efficiencies across the team. So you get faster at doing what you do, which is a good thing and you gain consistency across that process.

However, when you ask the question, well, should I do anything different as things change? How do I know whether or not what I'm doing is actually effective? These are the questions of the management process, which happens to be a little more cyclical and requires different base of information and different support. But one of the big challenges organizations will have will be now that we've got great efficiencies, how do we know when we're doing the right things and how do we know when to change?

What exactly do you see for the SaaS business analytics market for today?

The SaaS business analytics market is a $1 billion market and it's the sub segment of a larger business analytics market, which is $26 billion and growing. The SaaS sub segment is 22% compound annual growth and its really being driven by a mass adoption of core, SFA, and CRM systems in that in the SaaS world and unmet expectations for the management team in the wake of the deployment of these systems and its all being fueled as well by really the lack of IT resources. And as the economy grows, the companies wanting to invest again but invest very carefully in these systems.

I've been part of this business analytics world for quite a while and seen from different perspectives. What's really left unsolved is how do you get the value of these analytic systems straight out to the business user and this SaaS world has just exacerbated that problem. Business users are taking delivery of their transactional systems but they're left wanting when it comes to analytic systems. So in the market today, there's tremendous opportunity for companies who want to come to the table and solve some of those problems of how to get analytic value out to the frontlines.

So now, how do you define front office performance management?

Front office performance management is the solution to this problem of how to get analytic value to the frontlines. Front office performance management is really the next evolution of business intelligence systems but as applied directly to business problems on the frontline. I think they're more analogous to performance management systems as we knew them in the back office. For years, finance who conveniently -- typically, owns IT has decided quite a while ago that business intelligence tools weren't quite enough for them and they had a strategic management process that they had to automate in order to drive cost down.

And so up grew companies like Hyperion, OutlookSoft, and Comshare, and a whole series of other companies who did budgeting, and planning, and consolidations around the principle of performance management and automating that planning, execution, optimization cycle for finance, and for the company's longer planning horizons. For the front office, it turns out that they have similar -- the management across the front office has similar process support needs. I plan but I plan weekly not annually. I execute every single day and I care about changes and movement in the data so that I can adapt our team's behavior for the next iteration, which happens to be starting next Monday.

So performance management for the front office is really taking the principles of performance management borrowing them from the back office, breaking through some barriers that exist in the business intelligence world generally, and getting these solutions straight out to the line of business management team that helped them plan, execute, and optimize the management process.

Essentially, what I'm hearing is just a more dynamic system. Now, what does Cloud 9 have going on in this space and what would you say sets you guys apart?

What we're doing in this space is really focusing on the needs of the end user. I referred earlier to some of the business intelligence tools challenges. What we've learned after being in the market for the last year and a half with performance management solution is that you need to solve a lot of technology challenges in order to bring a solution to the business user that's a) highly adoptable. These people are having their expectations set by other consumer services on the web. So if you come at this new community with an old enterprise heavy weight system, not only the perception of the usability of it but what it took to get there, it's just not going to fly.

So we've focused on the end users. Start with the end user's business problem, create a company that can scale and produce applications across a variety of very specific needs so that the application appears immediately relevant to the end business user. And because we've solved a lot of technology problems that normally stand in the way of these solutions; we're able to deliver a really lightweight onboarding and deployment experience.

For example, very early even in the sales cycle, our customers can experience what it's like to be live and up and running with a fully functional application in the performance management space within a day or two. It's a very, very lightweight experience. So that really tends to set up apart even before they become a customer we feel entirely different than anything they're used to seeing before us.

Now, what do you see for the future of performance management landscape?

Yeah, so we started in sales because that's really the center of gravity for revenue and performance management systems for the front office are all about driving revenue growths where their counterparts in the back office were about containing costs and standardizing that annual practice of planning and budgeting. The front office cares about revenue growth. They got to make their number next month. They got to inform all the parts of the organization about what's coming through good transparency and reliability of the forward-looking pipelines; that's just the lifeline of the business.

So starting from sales, we envision performance management systems being available for marketing managers, service managers, support managers, product managers, everyone with a stake on the revenue side of the business should benefit from this. So we see performance management driving out across the entire front office or customer facing functions. Again, grounded in sales with fuse into the sales pipeline but certainly extending upstream and downstream from that to cover all front office activities.

1 Comment

CRM kills service as it based upon a series of flawed assumptions.

Splitting the service between front and back office sounds like a great way to cut costs but actually drives up costs. It means that the failure to deliver services right goes up and customers get trapped in-between the front and back office.

In ever more frantic attempts to draw value, they try and try and the system time and again, increasing costs. These costs are hidden by the CRM system. In fact the CRM system undermines the variation that customers present with and stops staff meeting this varied demand.

An IT system cannot manage performance. It is a fantasy presented by those wanting to sell software.

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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