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Salesforce Sales Cloud strategic choice to tackle data silos

Companies are moving to the Salesforce Sales Cloud, in part, because of data integration woes. Here's how two companies stitched disparate systems together with Sales Cloud.

As companies hone their sales efforts, integration among sales systems and other applications becomes paramount.

Without data integration, sales teams are at a disadvantage. Data is locked in siloed systems, standing in the way of closing sales. Some companies are turning to the Salesforce Sales Cloud to stitch data systems together.

San Francisco-based Doblet Inc. knows this well. As a provider of a network of on-demand cell phone battery chargers -- as a downloadable app and in venues in San Francisco -- Doblet's sales reps have many needs. They need to manage accounts while they're in the field and join information from the company's custom back-end database with its CRM database, which houses customer account information.

By integrating that data with the Salesforce Sales Cloud, Doblet can better inform sales reps who are at a venue optimizing the company's devices. Previously, Doblet used RelateIQ, another CRM system, but it lacked APIs to combine system data.

With Sales Cloud, "Through an API, the data is sent over to Salesforce," said Doktor Gurson, CEO and founder of Doblet. "When someone goes to a venue to do a check-in, the sales rep can look at the details in Salesforce app [and] can see how many people are charging in that venue." Doblet sales reps no longer have to toggle between apps to see data that resides in different systems: They can simply view it in one user interface in Salesforce. "In terms of annoyance -- let alone efficiency -- it's way better," Gurson emphasized.

Industry experts said combining data sources is no longer just about the IT department getting systems to work together. Today, it's critical to having a competitive advantage. "Reconciling customer records has gone from an IT problem, and is rising further and further up the strategic roadmap," said Stuart Sim, a director of the advanced analytics practice at West Monroe Partners, based in Chicago.

Integration with the back office

The ability to share data among systems is paramount, according to a recent survey by Progress Software Corp.: Of 200 respondents, 48% said integrating on-premises systems is their most pressing challenge in implementing Salesforce; 45% said integrating legacy systems is their most pressing challenge. Similarly, according to Blue Wolf Group LLC's State of Salesforce 2015-2016 survey, 70% of 2,500 Salesforce customers struggle with data integration and data quality.

And data integration might be the reason reps can't up- or cross-sell as much as they would otherwise. FlightStats Inc. knew it could get more information about whether customers had purchased the right product or service if it joined CRM data with other back-office systems.

FlightStats provides airlines and individual customers with real-time flight status, airport delays and other information. The company, based in Portland, Ore., was using SugarCRM, an open source CRM platform, but it switched to Salesforce Sales Cloud in mid-2015.

The company made the switch partly because it was running up against the limits of its data silos. FlightStats knew sales could grow if it could join data from disparate systems. Joining customer payment information, which resides in Intact financials, with data from its CRM system could give the company insight into which of its services benefit customers, or which ones might need tweaking, said Jim Hetzel, FlightStats' vice president of business development for aviation and distribution.

For example, a sales rep can see if a customer subscribes to a service that indicates flight status but would benefit from a service offering notifications and alerts. This can be viewed by looking at CRM and invoicing data -- without having to toggle between applications to do so.

That ease of use was also a key selling point for Sales Cloud. "When you have a team of salespeople, you want an easy-to-use system that's intuitive. Otherwise, data doesn't get entered," Hetzel said.

"Today, it takes a lot of steps, a lot of gyrations to see how a customer is performing," he added. "Having it integrated in the Sales Cloud will be a time-saver." The company is working its way toward this integration, which will go live in March.

Data quality is also an important issue for FlightStats, and Salesforce Sales Cloud templates prevent manual data entry that can introduce errors into customer accounts. Templates, workflows and continuous data hygiene efforts help keep customer accounts up to date and accurate, without a lot of manual intervention.

A 'fan of centralization'

For Doblet, other key features of the Sales Cloud include the ability to code with development tools, such as Visualforce and Lightning, and to integrate third-party apps with Sales Cloud. Doblet uses Geopointe, a GPS mapping tool available on the Salesforce AppExchange, so sales reps can map their route as they go to different venues to optimize Doblets.

I am a fan of trying to keep things in one place, rather than fragmented.
Doktor GursonCEO and founder, Doblet

"Geopointe allows reps to check off the venues they want to check in on, and it can auto-generate a route for them," Gurson said. Combining this tool with workflows in Sales Cloud also gives Doblet important data on sales-rep performance. The template, created and configured in Sales Cloud, records when a sales rep checks in and out of a venue. A Dashboard provides analytics to Gurson on metrics, such as the time it took to optimize a device at a given location.

Combining tools and centralizing the information in the Salesforce Sales Cloud has enabled efficiency gains for Doblet. "I am a fan of trying to keep things in one place, rather than fragmented," Gurson said. "At my first company, everything was all over the place. To get one bit of data, you would have to hunt through different applications [and] websites. That was inefficient. We have been focused on ensuring that we keep everything in one place."

West Monroe Partner's Sim said data integration is going to be the difference between a good customer experience with a company and a negative one. "Everybody recognizes that to address the customer's needs, unifying data sources is essential. It has moved from a data issue to a critical business focus."

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