ABOUT THE VENDOR
Burlington, Mass.-based Wheelhouse was founded in 1999 by Frank Ingari, who decided to launch his software company as a services company first. He figured that solving CRM problems for companies like Merrill Lynch, Mazda, Cablevision, and Wells Fargo and partnering with vendors like Siebel, E.piphany and Oracle would give his company an inside track on what software product this huge market really needed. Wheelhouse announced its first software product, Wheelhouse CRM Director, in February 2002. Wheelhouse CRM Director is an enterprise application that aims to address the main reason CRM doesn't always deliver the expected ROI: the inability to manage customer data across the enterprise. The product lets companies define, map, and manage standard business definitions to coordinate customer data across disparate systems.
ABOUT THE CLIENT
CMP Media LLC is a high-tech media company providing information and marketing services to the entire technology spectrum -- the builders, sellers, and users of technology worldwide. Its diverse products and services include newspapers, magazines, Internet products, research, direct marketing services, education and training, trade shows and conferences, custom publishing, testing and consulting.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
Through its CRM integration software and services, Wheelhouse strives to align and integrate analytic, operational,
CMP realized that they had overlapping audiences for their publications, and they wanted to determine which customers were receiving more than one of their products -- i.e., who were the real company loyalists. So the company decided to look at a consolidation strategies, and to eliminate data silos to see who their customers were across products. The second goal of the project was to facilitate promotional targeting. SearchCRM spoke with Tom Kraemer, CMP's Group Director of Customer Relationship Marketing, about the project.
SearchCRM: What were you looking for in a CRM vendor?
Kraemer: We started off by talking to the CRM software companies, and we wanted a vendor that could provide us with software that was easy for the user to understand, and that was comprehensive in its scope of product line -- so we didn't have to pick and choose from several different vendors and figure out how to glue stuff together. And most important of all is that we wanted a vendor who could provide us with full service for a completely outsourced solution. So we didn't need to worry about hardware or staffing, and we could have the expertise right out of the box.
SearchCRM: How many vendors did you look at?
Kraemer: When we started out, I spoke with the editors of a couple of our magazines and asked who I should talk to. There were about a dozen companies that we initially considered. That was then whittled down to a final two or three, and eventually we settled on E.piphany as the software, and they brought Wheelhouse in as the professional services partner and the hosting company. So the software is E.piphany, but Wheelhouse has done unbelievable customization for us.
SearchCRM: What was the most challenging aspect of the vendor evaluation?
Kraemer: It was a learning process. When we first started out, we were thinking data warehouse. So we moved into CRM not only to put stuff in one place, but also to be able to use the data in our ongoing operations. The most challenging aspect was finding out the capabilities that vendors had and then being able to compare them vendor to vendor. From the side of our data, the most challenging aspect was finding out how the vendors would handle question and answer data. Many vendors said, "That's interesting -- we've never done that." They didn't make it to the next round.
From a technical standpoint, there were really only a few requirements that were established by our information technology people -- things like what operating systems would be used, what hardware was going to be in place. The theory was that a system that's built on systems that are in compliance with our internal technical requirements would be easier to communicate with our internal systems.
SearchCRM: Was there any implementation on your end at all?
Kraemer: Virtually everything was outsourced. There was a virtual team on our side that acted as users and requirements clarifiers. But the technical implementation was entirely outsourced between E.piphany and Wheelhouse. My impression was that 80 percent of the professional services horsepower was on the Wheelhouse side.
SearchCRM: How did training go?
Kraemer: We didn't know we had training issues until Wheelhouse asked us as we were getting close to the implementation and were moving into production, "How do you plan on introducing this to the users?" So they were very helpful there, and in fact they put together a training proposal for us that turned out very well. We used two trainers from Wheelhouse that were experts in the E.piphany system.
We trained about 20 people as the initial user team. The training was done on-site here at CMP. We divided the people up into two teams and alternated days so they'd have a day when they'd go through the training, and the next day they could experiment with it on their desktop. Over the course of two weeks we did a complete training that included four days of classroom time and two days of the folks from Wheelhouse coming around and answering operation questions as the users were poking around with it on their desktops.
SearchCRM: Did you experience and internal resistance?
Kraemer: Not really. There's been a lot of management support for the project, and that has really oiled the wheels very nicely. We find that there was a difference in the receptiveness of users who had no other system to rely on. Those folks were jumping all over the system the second that it came up. The folks that had been using an audited circulation system took longer -- they would do comparisons between the old and new systems. There was a period of time where they had to build up the confidence that the system really did what it was supposed to do.
SearchCRM: Can you give me an example of how you use the system?
Kraemer: The most frequent use of the system is to select names for promotion, whether it be for renewal or for planning cross promotion. Shortly we'll begin doing response analysis and looking at the factors that influence response.
We do a lot of analysis of our customer base -- just finding out how many customers we had was an enlightening experience. We're finding out what products tend to result in multiple-product customers. It was interesting to find that we had a large number of people who are brand loyal -- they've been with the brand for many years, and not only received the magazine, but also the e-mail newsletter, and would occasionally go to our events.
It's proving to be very useful in terms of identifying data gaps -- for example if we have an e-mail address for one product but not for another product and it's the same person. We're beginning to experiment with cross-pollinating that data to fill in the holes, so we get a much more comprehensive view of the demographic characteristics of the customers.
SearchCRM: Do you have advice for companies thinking of starting a similar project?
Kraemer: What we originally did is say that we have data coming from seven sources and here's what the data layouts look like from each of these seven sources. To their credit, the Wheelhouse folks said we may want to look at normalized input. At the time, we felt that it would be too much of a challenge getting seven vendors to change to a standard input format, but in fact we have now gone to a standard input format which is based on the least common denominator format -- so it could come off of someone's PC as an Excel file or off a mainframe computer as a CSV file, and the system would still be able to handle it. If we had considered that more seriously at the start of the project, it would probably have bootstrapped the whole project much more efficiently. If you're starting a project from scratch, it's definitely something that's worth looking at, because it gives you much more flexibility as you're going forward. There are a lot of uses for that kind of capability.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in March 2002