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Monsanto ties together SAP CRM, Portal KM and Cisco telephony

Monsanto revamped its customer service operations with an upgrade to SAP CRM 6.0 that leveraged the KM portal and a Cisco infrastructure.

When Monsanto, the agricultural supply giant, set out some ambitious business goals, its aging IT infrastructure needed to catch up.

The company's IT staff was left to pull together SAP Customer Interaction Center (CIC) and the NetWeaver Portal knowledge management (KM) to help its customer service operations.

In 2006, Monsanto set out a goal of doubling yields in its three major crops -- corn, soybean and cotton -- by 2030. However, Monsanto's infrastructure was not keeping up, Kevin Mullen, business analyst for the order-to-cash team for U.S. sales and support services at Monsanto, told attendees at the recent SapphireNow conference.

So, last year, the company moved to SAP's CRM 6.

As part of the project, Monsanto wanted to improve its first call resolution (FCR) rates. That meant organizing the knowledge management database and providing agents fast and easy access. Previously agents would simply email documents back and forth.

Making this process easier for users was obviously a key goal in the project. But from the beginning, Monsanto was concerned with how content would be stored and managed as the system grew, and a move to CRM 6 alone wouldn’t quell its fears.

Monsanto ended up embarking on a much more ambitious project, adding knowledge management through the NetWeaver portal. It also added remote capabilities with the mobile agent module. It’s tying it together with telephony from Cisco.

"Don’t just focus on the user piece," advised Sukant Palo, SAP CRM project lead with Monsanto. "When you're talking about document management and content management you need to look at the operational piece. Where is content going to be stored? CRM is not there yet. I can tell you that."

Monsanto has a multitude of drives with a multitude of files, Mullen said. It took that and started a CIC library, pulled it into a portal that came to be centralized and indexed to be available for users.

Monsanto has parallel content management systems with different sets of rules, he said -- one for customer-facing processes and another that's internally focused using SharePoint.

"The search functions from Microsoft leave a little to be desired," Mullen said. "Unless you knew which folder it was in, you're not going to be able to find it."

Searching for content within the SAP CRM application was not a perfect fit either. Ultimately, Monsanto wants to make sure that, as last step, it can go to a single-source document repository.

"We wanted the search solution to be integrated into our processes," Palo said. "We wanted not just a Google search but to know what happens as part of the interaction. The CIC out-of-the-box document search was a failure."

If Monsanto was not going to migrate all the content to the CRM system and use the out-of-the-box search, the other option was Portal KM. The company was already using SAP's knowledge management portal for customer-facing operations. So Palo and Mullen elected to allow call center agents to search the Portal KM within CIC. Monsanto built knowledge repositories within Portal KM and tied them to CIC via TREX, the NetWeaver search and classification service. TREX stands for Text Retrieval and EXtraction.

Portal KM has role-based access, and Monsanto was able to build a single sign-on system for agents that respects individual roles.

Thus far, there have been no performance issues accessing CIC via TREX.

"TREX is able to handle and index the size we have right now," Palo said. "Compared to what you can have, it's not so big. We haven't hit that size, though."

Mullen and Palo faced another challenge managing the knowledge repository. In the middle of the project, Monsanto elected to split apart its seeds business and its agricultural chemical business.

"One of the things that's always a challenge when you're working on a long-range project is the business tends to change dynamically in the middle of it," Mullen said. "We ended up having to build two separate roles to support that business split."


Mobilizing the Monsanto agents

Monsanto also took the opportunity to add a mobile agent module to enable some call center agents to work from home. Recent work on Interstate 64 near St. Louis has shut down four- to five-mile stretches at a time, Mullen said.

"That kind of put a crimper on anyone trying to get to work," he said. "We have a lot of folks tied to their desk."

Monsanto runs Cisco's Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) for call management and call routing. The system allows an agent to log on through a fixed-line phone, but it lets in calls only through the queue. Direct calls do not come through. So, for example, agents working at home would need to log off that phone to check voicemail.

In addition, the UCCE system didn't account for the fact that roughly 60% to 70% of calls from dealers are direct to agents (they tend to call agents they've worked with before).

For Monsanto customer service agents, the key contacts are the dealers, the companies selling Monsanto seeds. In fact, prior to the CRM overhaul, Monsanto's caller ID system effectively was agents that recognized the phone number of the incoming call, Mullen said. That meant some direct calls were coming from friends and family, for which Monsanto did not want to start an interaction for monitoring and tracking purposes, but others were coming from dealers, which did require an interaction.

To solve the problem, Monsanto created a "friends and family" database to tell CIC to ignore those calls and not monitor them.

While SAP has telephony capabilities embedded, Monsanto "has already spent the money and has a long-term contract with Cisco," Mullen said, and will be using that for the foreseeable future. Monsanto intends to upgrade to CRM 7.0 in August, and the enhancement pack for 7.0 will have a hyperlink dial-out capability that allows agents to make calls directly from their monitors. Mullen "dearly hopes" that will work with his Cisco platform.

After staying put with older versions of SAP and legacy applications, he is now eager to take advantage of the new functionality within the system.

"We fell into the trap early on of tying ourselves to the requirements of the legacy system," Mullen said. "Contacts in legacy system could have three numbers -- office, mobile and fax. We thought that's what we were stuck with. Once we understood what CRM had, it made our lives so much easier."

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