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Considering CRM consolidation amid corporate merger mania

David Taber | Oct. 2, 2014
Let's face it: Wall Street rewards corporate combinations nearly as much as it does corporate divestitures and spinoffs. When companies merge and reorganize, it doesn't take long before you hear the call for consolidating CRM systems. Indeed, we've come across several Fortune 100 companies with more than 100 separate CRM instances. We know of one with more than 500. You can bet they have task forces trying to figure out the system consolidation strategy.

Anti-Unification? Communication, Workflows Matter Even More

If all this points you away from consolidation, what's the alternative? The first order of business is to give users extra visibility into records outside of their CRM instance. Typically, this is just reports or read-only views, and the answer is either a data mart or some clever query writing. If you can keep the use cases for this cross-system visibility fairly narrow, costs can be pretty well contained.

The second functional requirement is often for alerts or reports to keep one user group apprised of relevant actions taken by another group. While there are a hundred variants of this requirement, most of them are overstated (and thus over-engineered as cross-system workflows or two-phase commit transactions). Look for ways to use email, the ubiquitous simple tech, as the alerting mechanism across your organization. You can go surprisingly far with workflows and some JavaScript.

Things get more interesting when there's a functional requirement for transactions that span systems, particularly for use cases surrounding order entry and support cases. Thanks to the miracle of external keys, iFrames, JavaScript remoting and jQuery, a fairly usable cross-system window can be built pretty quickly.

To make all this happen across multiple systems, you need to develop common system administration practices, development tools, documentation (gasp!) and at least a weak form of customer master. There are tools to help with all of this, but the first order of business is a common set of management principles and incentives that will make the multiple systems work over time as an effective federation. Too much laissez-faire and you'll see those multiple systems collapse into cacophony and confusion.


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