Technology-hindered remote salespeople and increasingly complex financial products drove Boston-based Eaton Vance Distributors Inc. to upgrade its CRM system this year.
Eaton Vance, an asset management firm, controls approximately $150 billion in client assets, according to Todd Larson, vice president and director of enterprise applications services at the company. A Financial Times story cited Eaton Vance as the 15th largest fund manager in the industry.
Eaton Vance has between 60 and 70 wholesalers that use Saratoga Systems' Avenue product in the field to sell through distribution channels. The firm has spent most of the past year making the move from Saratoga's iAvenue 6.5 to iAvenue Web. Saratoga's CRM software is not on-demand but, rather, accessed by a Web browser that requires ActiveX controls. (CDC Software, Saratoga's new parent company, will release its on-demand product later this year.)
The new Web-based software cuts the laptop out of the equation and allows reps to store and access data on BlackBerrys alone, according to David Lefcourt, manager of the sales intelligence group at Eaton Vance. Lefcourt also said Saratoga's vertical knowledge was an important factor in Eaton Vance's continued use of Saratoga for CRM.
"We're in financial services, and we might have products or offerings that are outside of the normal off-the-shelf processing," he said. "You're not going to find a CRM package off the shelf that knows your niche product."
Eaton Vance also chose a mobile provider – Waltham, Mass.-based Pyxis Mobile -- that caters almost exclusively to the financial services market.
In total, Eaton Vance has about 250 CRM users, with about 100 internal sales reps and a compliance department using the application in-house, in addition to the remote wholesalers.
As well as iAvenue Web, Eaton Vance uses an ETL tool, BI and analytics software, and an enterprise scheduler. A data warehousing tool is in the works.
Making the upgrade decision
Why did Eaton Vance decide to upgrade?
"We knew that there was a lot of need out there, in terms of putting a lot of product information on one screen," Larson said. "And we knew there was pain associated with doing downloads."
Other drivers behind the upgrade decision were increasing numbers of financial products and increased complexity of products at the company.
"We started creating databases to track sales info for those [new] products, and they were unique in such a way that we couldn't merge them into existing databases because the product information was different," Larson said. The new version of Avenue was a better way to accommodate the new product data, he added.
Keeping users on the newest version of Saratoga software is important to Eaton Vance, Lefcourt said. The company has been a Saratoga customer since 1993, when it was running the DOS version, according to Ray Dugas of Waltham, Mass.-based Market Builders Inc., Eaton Vance's longtime consultants.
"If you stay up to date [with the software], it's an upgrade rather than a migration," Lefcourt said.
Enabling external wholesalers to access the information they needed on their BlackBerrys was a key business driver behind the CRM upgrade – and also one that enticed users, Larson said. The wholesalers were thrilled to access and store updated financial figures, such as fund performance numbers, while on the road.
With the upgrade, Eaton Vance also saw the chance to enhance capabilities for approximately 100 internal salespeople. The sales team was looking for improved functionality with contact management, tracking, and literature request capabilities. The firm's compliance department has also been using the CRM system as a tool to track internal SEC-mandated compliance efforts.
CRM upgrade rollout and user adoption
Getting users on board for the upgrade required selling the benefits of the new system to the sales force, according to Larson.
"We sold it to salespeople as a cure for issues they were having," he said. The team first rolled out the upgrade to regional managers, who must download numbers for groups of salespeople.
"We gave it to the people who we thought really needed it," Larson said.
Today, instead of connecting to the VPN and downloading the previous day's sales data via the Avenue application, as they did before, sales users can access the information online while on the VPN on their laptop or another computer. At the same time, according to Lefcourt, Eaton Vance rolled out a secure sockets layer (SSL) VPN for remote users and modem tethering for users' BlackBerrys.
Jason Cyr, Eaton Vance's CRM application specialist and analyst -- and a member of the upgrade team -- developed training videos for the wholesalers using screen recording software. Cyr designed these videos to complement the in-person training session each user received when the upgrade was rolled out.
Mobile functionality integrates with CRM for secure data access
Eaton Vance is ahead of the game when it comes to mobile capabilities, according to Dugas.
"In the financial services world, just about everybody is on a BlackBerry, but many of them haven't really integrated that in with the CRM system," he said. "We've got a few clients [including Eaton Vance] who are really integrated and put the data out [on mobile devices for their wholesalers]."
Eaton Vance has been a Pyxis customer for about three years, according to T.L. Neff of Pyxis Mobile, a vendor that provides mobile capabilities primarily to the financial services market.
"Security is paramount in financial services," Neff said. "A mobile device is more secure than a laptop."
Pyxis can encrypt data on a BlackBerry and remotely wipe it clean of potentially compromised data, according to Neff -- even if it's outside of the coverage range.
Consultant relationship's benefits for Eaton Vance
Dugas pointed out that Eaton Vance's upgrade success is due in part to its well-defined customer-consultant relationship.
"They're a great customer. They know what they're doing. They do whatever is required for them to get done extremely efficiently; then we do our thing," Dugas said. "And we know where the boundary lies. We've figured that out."
When asked why he turned to consulting help, Lefcourt said that Market Builders filled the project management role and provided oversight for the upgrade.
"There were two areas [where we were looking for help]: the request for proposal (RFP) phase and then project oversight," he said. "They are an outside influence, someone in that third-party project manager role, who can make sure we're not rushing it or making mistakes …. I think the most important part was getting the RFP right."
Market Builders also configured the Saratoga system based on customer requirements, Dugas said.
"We assist them in doing things to change both the underlying data they want to collect, by changing what we call the schema, and also we do a lot of things in terms of changing the user interface," Dugas said. For example, they built a spot for literature fulfillment.
"We don't write any code," he said. "We can configure this with a toolset."
Upgrade return on investment (ROI)
Eaton Vance didn't perform a formal ROI analysis for this recent upgrade. Lefcourt sees ROI as evident in end-user adoption and in streamlined processes.
"The return is not quantitative but qualitative," he said. "We have a number of homegrown apps and synchronization processes. After the upgrade, those things will go away."
As far as costs are concerned, Lefcourt called the upgrade "a budgeted large expenditure; it'll be an investment."
When doing a CRM software upgrade, businesses should allow some leeway, Lefcourt advises.
"Go with the 80-20 rule," he said. "If you hit the big items, especially if the end users are happy, you'll have plenty of time to work out the other things too."
Larson sees customer knowledge as imperative for a successful upgrade.
"The most important thing is knowing your customer, knowing their business and what they do every day," he said. "You've got to have your house in order, and in the middle is CRM."