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Customer data basis for CRM, MDM at Schneider

Embarking on a CRM project, Schneider discovered a customer master was vital not only to CRM but to many of its strategic growth objectives.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Creating master customer data helped Schneider National not only salvage its CRM project but build a foundation for a master data management (MDM) program and other strategic objectives, its director of enterprise architecture told attendees at the

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"We found ourselves looking at many repositories for customer information," Pravin Nair, director of enterprise architecture, said in a session at the conference. "There were 50-plus customer information repositories, and those were just the ones IT maintained. We lost count of how many the business was using on the side in Excel, etc."

Currently, Schneider manages more than 11,000 tractors, 15,500 drivers, 55,000 trailers and 22,300 associates in 28 countries. In 1990, the company was primarily focused on asset-based tracking, the "one-way van," but by 2006 it had expanded into brokerage, bulk and financial services, according to Nair. With it, revenues grew to four or five times what the company brought in 16 years before. Executives learned that the customer experience was suffering.

"We rely a lot on some pretty big customers who take advantage of the broad portfolio of services," Nair said. "It was becoming more apparent in terms of the customer experience that who they call and how we interact with them was being hampered by our information problems."

In late 2004, Schneider launched a customer master program and eventually elected to purchase the

Eventually, however, someone suggested looking to off-the-shelf applications and, partly because it had already purchased Siebel for its CRM application, the company added the UCM as well. Schneider had embarked on the customer master project with the goal of enabling the CRM project but quickly realized that in addition to marketing, customer service and sales, the focus had to be on the customer master if it wanted to back its strategic goals for the next five to 10 years.

"We [learned] a lot … from how we did the customer master using UCM [about] how we want to transform all the data," Nair said. "It was really a launching point to our bigger goal."

In fact, the CRM project was put on hold in August 2005 when it ran into some resource constraints and some difficulties with change management, particularly in the call center, Nair said. Customer service staff struggled with capturing activities, issue resolution and changing processes that were based largely on legacy applications.

"We re-looked at that and said the objectives are still valid, but our growth trajectories could not be accomplished with the systems we had in place," Nair said. "We worked it out to make sure CRM would not be burdensome to the customer service flow."

Now, Schneider has been able to leverage the integration between CRM and the UCM. For example, if a customer service representative is entering a new customer into the CRM system, the system records that process without having to add a separate customer master data maintenance screen.

Schneider also has a data warehouse with Cognos running on the top of it and, in 2006, began piping Siebel analytics into it.

"One of our early forays into common enterprise services was, if you want to get rates, we encapsulate the validation into Trillium and connect that back to the Enterprise Service Bus and connect that to any process that's needed in UCM or CRM," Nair said. "Eventually, when we think about full self-service capabilities, that's something we will enable through Avaya back to Siebel."

Schneider's source data comes from a monolithic mainframe-based system that houses customer information such as billing and customer orders. The UCM also ties into a Lawson ERP system on the back end.

"We had created different stacks of systems for different lines of business, and now we have multiple stacks of capability," Nair said. "With order management or customer management, there's a lot of overlap of functions that need to be maintained. Our strategy going forward is to look at things like customer management and order management."

Key customer master lessons

Schneider learned that in order to ensure the success of its customer master project, it was vital to first identify the factors that were driving it and then design accordingly. The company held a series of information definition projects that identified the core processes and involved the line of business working with IT.

Business was also involved in building data quality into the processes and systems, and the company has a data steward program to keep business vigilant over data quality issues.

The change management issue also became a key learning experience when it delayed the CRM project. Schneider now has a change management center of excellence and methodology that follows the change management aspect of any process.

"Don't skimp on robust conversion testing," Nair also advised. "We did have a robust test environment. We wanted to make sure the impact on downstream legacy operations was minimal."

Finally, when coming up with a business case for the customer master, Schneider determined it didn't need one.

"The customer master product was deemed foundational to all major transformations," Nair said. "It does not have a standalone business case. We quickly came to a consensus and got buy-in from the executive team. Looking at the customer master was foundational to lots of strategic objectives. I think, personally, that was fortunate. If we had gone down the regular path of ensuring the rigor for this particular investment, we probably would have gotten mired down."

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