Channel Shift Best Practices: What does CRM integration have to do with it?

Have you ever had that shiny object syndrome, where you buy something really cool but then couldn't make good use of it because it doesn't work with all your other gadgets? Well most times, local authorities will find themselves in a position where they've purchased a really expensive CRM system but it does not talk to the back office systems you currently have. This situation might call for a 'Chief Integration Officer'. But what is a 'Chief Integration Officer' and what would he do?

What the last 5 years has looked like

But before we go into that, let’s recap what’s happened in the last 5 years in the world of ICT. First of all, the most prevalent change was rise of social media and the emergent of more and more mobile phones that are capable of doing things in the cloud and things that could match up to what a normal desktop computer could do.

We’ve also seen an increase of tablets, social and single sign-ons to online accounts everywhere. But the most interesting for organisations dealing with customers everywhere, is the rise of the customer relationship management (CRM) systems in organisations both big and small. CRMs these days are like learning systems that help us to understand our customers better and give us the power to deliver even better products and services to them.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? If you’re a conscientious CIO, you’re sure to understand all these changes that are happening right now in your organisation, as well as across your sector.

Ann M Mulcahy Quote

Why would you want a ‘Chief Integration Officer’ anyways and what does it even mean?

Now, they say with this much ‘power’, comes huge responsibilities! And it's not to say that you need to create the position of a 'Chief Integration Officer' in your organisation, but it's important to understand the role of integration within your information architecture.

The NextWeb article titled "How the Enterprise of Things is turning the CIO into the Chief Integration Officer" eloquently describes the challenges we have when faced with managing this amount of data. Take a look…

We are managing more devices that feel and look nothing like a computer or even a phone. Even the servers we use to run our businesses are increasingly anonymous, un-named, disposable and virtual.

In fact, today, technology infrastructure is beginning to resemble a neural network. A network pummeled with bits of data coming at it from millions of devices — things — that few of us ever imagined would be computerized and connected.

It’s this evolving interconnectedness that makes us re-think how we manage the flow of data between things as disparate as cars and traffic lights, lamps and power grids, and paint chips and bridges. This interconnectedness forces us to rethink how conventional rules are applied to a world where things are able to talk to each other without humans getting in the way.

These challenges of interconnectedness are playing out in parallel inside the enterprise. CIOs have a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide the leadership needed to guide their companies through these challenges. Done right, the I in CIO becomes less about managing information and more about managing integration.

We can already see what’s driving this: a wonderful mix of cloud computing, data and the APIs that glue it all together. But inside the enterprise, this is pure chaos. Rogue apps, devices and clouds are causing more and more islands of information to form.

Does your information architecture look like this?

Does your information architecture look like this?

What are the challenges of integrating of disjointed systems?

It’s clear that digital services for customers can be improved immensely through proper CRM integration, but what are the challenges? And more important, how do you solve them?

Example

Challenge:
Connecting back office systems to deliver efficiency and service improvement can sometimes introduce software engineering processes that are steeped in mystery and uncertainty, making it difficult to build on these developments to truly release the potential originally intended.

Solution:
Be clear about requirements and create ‘user stories’. For example: “As a Local Authority, we want to show our customers where flytipping cases have already been reported on a map so that they can avoid making duplicate cases in our systems.” This provides technical teams with clarity over the requirements for end users and how you may potentially use the integration for developing features.


This talk by Andy Heath from Wyre Council’s eCommunications Officer, presents a detailed look at their CRM integration and how their ‘framework’ approach to the integration with Forms and CMS has led to a platform for digital services, which they can iterate over time and continuously improve.



More examples of CRM integration solutions

There are examples of other practical, technical methods for integration, using a number of real world examples and a number of CRM system already widely in use within Government and Higher Education. If you're interested in seeing more integration examples (that is too long to cover in this blog post), hop on over here and get them instantly. It can be really useful to you if you are using either Oracle CRM, Lagan CRM, Sugar CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com and Jadu Q.

Hopefully by observing these examples, you'll be able to put together a 'communication' framework, where the integration work provides a platform that can be built upon and used for any service. But remember, before you start your integration work, the most important question to ask is "What do we want to achieve from CRM integration?"

If you are in need of some inspiration, check this CRM integration guide out.

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