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Adapt Software Discussion Day Archive - 03/13/2002

Adapt Software Discussion Day Archive - 03/13/2002

Adapt Software Discussion Day Archive - 03/13/2002

Author: searchCRM
Subject: Discussion Day March 13th with Adapt Software
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Join us all day today, March 13th, for a discussion with Brian Dunn, Adapt Software's CEO. Brian will be monitoring this discussion board throughout the day, responding to your questions and comments. This is your chance to get answers to your most important questions, so post them now.

Brian Dunn holds a BS in Computer Information Systems from Chapman University (Orange, CA) and has over 20 years' industry experience specializing in rapid custom application development and deployment (RADD) technology using MAGIC (a product of Magic Software Enterprises, NASDAQ: MGIC). In 1993, Dunn founded Info Works Software, Inc., a company with the mission of rapidly delivering custom business applications on time and under budget. In its first year, Info Works developed over 20 commercially available add-on products based on the MAGIC while simultaneously maintaining status as the premier MAGIC Value Added Reseller and training center in the U.S. Info Works also gained international recognition from the publication of three "must-have" best-sellers about MAGIC's unique programming technology, written by Dunn himself.

In 1995, Dunn created the initial release of the ADAPT product based on his expertise in customer interaction and rapid custom software development. By applying cutting edge development technology to CRM, Dunn and his team were able to bring a product to market in a fraction of the time and cost experienced by traditional CRM software developers. Since that time, ADAPT CRM has carved a niche among small to medium-sized companies seeking a customizable CRM solution.

Due to ADAPT CRM's niche market successes, Info Works Software re-focused its efforts from selling custom software development tools and services to delivering customizable CRM solutions with a series of pre-built, real-time accounting/ERP interfaces. The change in direction became more evident in 2000 when the company was re-branded as ADAPT Software Applications, Inc.

Today, Dunn continues his leadership role as Chief Executive Officer. Although Dunn is the CEO of the company, he continues his close involvement in product development and continues to use ADAPT CRM as the foundation to deliver his vision of customizable CRM software to the small-to-medium size business market.

Author: searchCRM
Subject: Challenges in selecting a CRM system
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Brian, what are the major challenges that SMBs (small or medium businesses) face when selecting a CRM system?

Posted in response to: Challenges in selecting a CRM system
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Re: Challenges in selecting a CRM system
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

The message of virtually all CRM companies is the same. All of the competing product brochures read as if they were written by the same company. This makes the CRM decision very confusing for any company -- particularly smaller companies that cannot afford a mistake.

The challenge for you as a small or medium business is to understand your own business. What are your best opportunities to grow sales? Where are the bottlenecks to increasing profits? How happy are your customers? How will you measure success?

The deciding factor should be "how well does this CRM software match the way my business really works?" Businesses should spend more time looking at themselves before choosing from the many choices in the CRM software market.

Author: searchCRM
Subject: addressing SMB needs in CRM
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Having said that, can you explain the challenges that CRM developers such as Adapt face when trying to address the needs of SMB's (small to medium businesses)?

Posted in response to: addressing SMB needs in CRM
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Re: addressing SMB needs in CRM
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

The biggest challenge is making it easy for small to medium sized companies to enjoy the benefits of CRM. In part, this means a low price. Mainly, it means making it simple and quick for everyone in the company to focus on their customers and implement customer-focused business practices. Otherwise, it's hard to make the case for the value of investing in a CRM system. I would say that there are a few basic requirements for a CRM system to be successful in the SMB market. First, it has to possible to implement the entire system in under a month. Second, it cannot rely on database administrators, programmers or other IT staff that a small company is not likely to have. Third, it has to be an enterprise-wide solution, not a scaled-down version of a CRM system that only addresses one department of the company such as sales.

Author: Karen Guglielmo
Subject: How will Adapt and other companies be affected?
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

What does Microsoft's entry in this market mean for Adapt and companies like Adapt?

Posted in response to: How will Adapt and other companies be affected?
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Re: How will Adapt and other companies be affected by Microsoft?
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Like every CRM vendor, we are still trying to understand what MS-CRM is all about. Certainly, we expect it to be an extension of their MS Office product line. For companies looking to extend the capabilities of MS Office, I expect it will gain instant popularity. I'm probably not going out on a limb to suggest it will only work with Microsoft SQL and other Microsoft technologies.

Regardless, our focus will continue to be placed on the unique needs of our customers. For those companies who can adapt their business practices to the generic CRM offerings, there will always be plenty of choices including Microsoft's. For company's who require their CRM software to adapt to their own business practices, they will have to seriously consider customization and even linking to non Microsoft business applications and databases. For these companies, ADAPTcrm should continue to gain acceptance.

Author: mcgetti
Subject: customize?
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

How easy/hard is it to customize your products?

Posted in response to: customize?
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Ease of customization
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

One thing we have learned about CRM is that the ability to customize the software is critical to its success. ADAPTcrm is built using code-free development technology that is based on filling out visual design tables -- not writing programming code. We have taken this same concept and applied it to the product so that end-users now have many of the same capabilities that would normally require the assistance of a programmer or database administrator. So, if you can fill out a table, you can customize the product.

A common example is adding new fields to the system. This is one of the first things you would want do in a CRM system. In ADAPTcrm, we provide a table of all of the fields used to track account, sales, service and marketing data. You can freely add new fields to this table and define all of the properties (like field type, lookup windows, etc.).

Unlike many CRM products, we do not actually alter the physical database structure when you add new fields. Every field you add is indexed for fast searching, and you don't have to worry about getting users out of the system while a database administrator rebuilds files or worry about how to upgrade to the next version of the software. You can just as easily go to another setup table to place the field in the appropriate form and profiles without resorting to complex screen design tools or coding.

When you need to add new features to the product that are not possible using any of our setup tables, you can use a software developers kit. This tool lets programmers extend our feature set without needing to write countless lines of tedious code. Even though we designed it for "programmers," this tool is also table-driven. There is literally no code to write.

This is a big departure from the usual process of writing programming code (most often Visual BASIC or other scripting languages). It makes it possible to customize ADAPT much faster and less expensively than traditional business software.

Author: ksaunder
Subject: ROI
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Does Adapt have a model to calculate ROI with?

Posted in response to: ROI
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Calculating ROI
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

The ADAPTcrm software is packed with prebuilt metrics for measuring ROI, such as:
1. Customer satisfaction levels
2. Sales pipeline growth
3. Marketing campaign results tracking
4. Sales close rates by salesperson, territory, etc.

You can use the pre-built metrics or define your own. All of these useful measurement tools, of course, are only valid if your employees actually enter the required data into the system. We have spent a lot of time in the design of our software and implementation process focusing on how to encourage employees to use the system. This means not only ease of use but also providing real benefits to your employees for using the software.

Calcuting the ROI on CRM software is always challenging because it is based on comparing key business metrics before and after the CRM implementation. Since most companies who use CRM systems did not have a good set of metrics to use before the CRM systems were implemented, it is hard to find reliable data to compare against. For example, if sales grew 10% after the CRM implementation, can you really prove that this would not have occurred without the CRM system.

Most of our customers find that they benefited from ADAPT within a month of implementation, but it can often take many months for them to determine this.

Posted in response to: Calculating ROI
Author: sweeneygroup
Subject: ROI Calculations
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

I caution people not to shop vendors packages based on alleged ROI. From my experience, every CRM implementation involves its own set of unique business processes and systems integration issues. Without substantial requirements analysis and project scoping, it's unrealistic and misleading to expect the ROI numbers presented by vendors to make any sense. Worse, there's no universally accepted method for calculating ROI. So, an "apples to oranges" comparison will likely occur when comparing ROI numbers across vendors. Short answer: Buyer Beware.
- Regards
Paul Sweeney

Posted in response to: ROI Calculations
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Calculating ROI - I agree
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

I agree with your point. We try to avoid specific quantitative ROI claims in our marketing. The best criterion we have found for companies to choose a CRM system is to examine their own business processes and find software that will most closely match these processes. For some of our customers, we were able to specifically identify cost savings from using ADAPTcrm. In more rare cases, we were able to calculate revenue increases. However, measuring ROI for any software product -- particularly one that drives revenues -- is a highly subjective process that varies greatly from one client to another.

The more precisely you can state your objectives from a CRM system, the better you will be able to measure your ROI. The best that we can do as a CRM software company is provide you with tools for measuring key business metrics.

Author: HeatherEsch
Subject: ADAPT Implementation
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Can you describe the key phases/steps of an Adapt implementation?

Posted in response to: ADAPT Implementation
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: ADAPT implementation steps
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

We have long recognized that CRM is really a business practice, not a software tool. Our implementation methodology reflects this. Of course, we handle the typical tasks of software installation, configuraiton, etc. But, we also focus on instilling the business practices that will let companies enjoy the benefits of the software.

Our methodology is based on a step by step plan to gradually improve the work habits of all of your employees to promote customer-focused business practices. Each step is designed to introduce these practices at a comfortable pace in order to minimize your employees' natural resistance to change.

The full details of all of the steps would be too lengthly to list here. The basics are:

1. Requirements Analysis
2. Implementation Planning
3. Configuration
4. Data Migration (if needed)
5. Customization (if needed)
6. Installation
7. Phased Rollout to End Users (includes training and implementation of customer focused business practices)

The process is based on the idea that implementing any new software disrupts employees and introduces change into an organization. Therefore, it should be handled in such a way as to give benefits as quickly as possible rather than spending months of up-front time and cost before benefits are realized.

Posted in response to: ADAPT implementation steps
Author: ChrisC
Subject: implementation averages?
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

How long does an average Adapt implementation take...our project team is not so much interested in speed as we are in making sure we get it done right.

Posted in response to: implementation averages?
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: How long does an ADAPTcrm implementation take?
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

On average, it takes 10 days of consulting time to fully implement ADAPTcrm. Depending on the availability of our customer, the 10 working days might occur in two calendar weeks or perhaps a month. Of course, this is only an average. This is for an average 25 user site. ADAPTcrm supports 5 users and up. By "implementation," I mean requirements analysis, installation, configuration, linking to the back office accounting/ERP system, rollout to all departments, data import from other programs, user training and follow-up support. If the data import requirements are unusually complex, or if there is a need for substantial customization, the implementation time will be longer.

We recommend implementing CRM in phases. The typical phases are:

Phase 1. Basic Implementation - In this first phase, the goal is to promote enterprise-wide sharing of customer, prospect and account information.

Phase 2. Department Implementation - In this second phase, once everyone is using the system to effectively share data, we then implement the department-specific features for sales, service and marketing.

Phase 3. Business-Specific Customization (optional) - In this final phase, we handle adding new features that your specific business might need that are not found in generic CRM packages. For example, you might want a custom order processing system or a link to some other databases in your office.

In the initial implementation (the two week figure I stated), we typically acomplish the first phase and some/all of the second phase.

I strongly agree with your comment about getting it "done right." There are a lot of claims on the CRM industry about fast implementation times, yet the failure rate among CRM implementations is very high.

Author: mlowenstein
Subject: Reasons that most CRM programs fail, or don't meet objectives
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Having just returned from addressing a CRM conference attended by 1,500 in Rotterdam, one of my strongest take aways was that there's a major disconnect between software suppliers and clients over the reasons that most CRM programs fail, or don't meet objectives. Suppliers seem to feel that clients are not well organized to manage these programs, often setting overly ambitious timing and results goals. Clients, accordingly, feel that suppliers over promise and under-deliver, and give them inadequate support, often snarling pre-existing programs and data management techniques in the bargain.

Posted in response to: Reasons that most CRM programs fail, or don't meet objectives
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Why CRM implementations fail
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Depending on whose study you read, CRM failure rates are between 60% and 75% where "failure" is defined as failing to meet the client's expectations. I will try to address your point as specifically as possible. We have found three common causes of CRM failures:
1. Lack of user acceptance
2. Lack of integration
3. Lack of customization

On the first point, both the client and the CRM software supplier share responsibility. As a CRM software supplier, we are responsible for making our system both easy to use and beneficial for end-users. Too often, CRM is pitched to the decision makers of a company for its reporting and management tools, yet the employees who actually will use it are not involved in the decision process.

Clients must also share responsibility for getting employee buy-in. CRM is based on the philosophy that all employees of a company use a common database to share customer data. This means members of all departments should be consulted in the needs analysis phase, and the rollout to users is a process of selling the system to its users, not just training them on how to use it.

The lack of integration is another common failure point that both suppliers and clients must address. CRM suppliers like to sell piecemeal solutions consisting of multiple modules for different departments of the company. A common example is the sales department using one module, the service department using another module and all of the critical customer financial data like sale orders and inventory levels being tracked in an accounting/ERP program. The result is that there are too many different databases and software products all trying to track the same customer. We address this by pre-integrating all of these pieces in our software instead of relying on the client or time-consuming consulting services to get the job done.

The last failure point I mentioned is the lack of customization. Most business software products, such as accounting systems, don't really need to be customized too extensively to be useful. For example, the generally accepted rules of accounting are the same across all industries, so implementing an accounting system is pretty straightforward.

Customer management is quite different. Every customer has unique data to track about its customers and unique processes that serve those customers. For example, one of our clients is a publishing company that uses ADAPTcrm to track advertising sales in its magazines. Another uses ADAPTcrm to sell collectible toys over a Web site. Neither of these requirements are typically built into generic CRM systems.

This means that a company using CRM has to think about how the system will be customized. Either the company must decide to adapt its business to the model of the CRM software, or it must face the need to adapt the software to its own business practices. The problem with customization is that doing anything beyond simple screen formatting requires lots of coding in programming languages like Visual BASIC.

ADAPTcrm's approach to customization is to provide a rich set of setup tables to configure the system and then, when you do need to resort to programming, even custom programming is done in a table-based tool.

With all of the hype about CRM, it is not surprising that many clients feel that CRM companies overpromise. In the end, successful CRM implementations requires setting of accurate objectives and instilling customer-focused work habits, not just installing software.

Posted in response to: Reasons that most CRM programs fail, or don't meet objectives
Author: sweeneygroup
Subject: The Real Reasons CRM Project Fail
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

I believe CRM projects fail for the same reasons that most projects fail: Poor Project Management. Specifically, inadequate communications, poorly defined requirements and functional specifications, scope creep, under-resourced development teams, lack of buy-in and participation by senior management, deficient decision making capabilities, and inadequate leadership skills. Sure, vendors might promise the world, but it's the responsibility of the project team to manage, define, and deliver realistic and achievable results - regardless of vendor sizzle and hype.
Paul Sweeney

Posted in response to: The Real Reasons CRM Project Fail
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Poor project management
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

I think the challenge to CRM companies is particularly difficult. In our experience, companies do not give CRM initiatives the same level of attention and resources as they do other technology initiatives. Yet, CRM projects probably impact more people within an organization than most other types of business software implementations.

CRM is still relatively new to the market and definitely new to small to medium size enterprises, so there is still a need to educate the market about CRM. Poor project management is certainly the underlying cause of CRM implementation problems. In our market segment, our customers are less likely to invest substantial time and money in CRM implementations, so it is necessary to provide them with a well structured implementation plan to reduce reliance on the skill level of the project manager.

Author: searchCRM
Subject: Adapt's place in the market
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

Where do you see ADAPTcrm fitting in the CRM market?

Posted in response to: Adapt's place in the market
Author: BrianDunnADAPT
Subject: Re: Adapt's place in the market
Date Posted: 03/13/2002

ADAPTcrm is focused on companies or business units of 20 to 500 employees. This covers roughly 90% of the companies that are expected to invest in CRM systems. The current mid market CRM offerings tend to be stripped-down versions of high-end packages or piecemeal solutions that involve assembling a lot of separate modules. The traditional offerings rely too heavily on scripted programming if you really want to adapt the system to your own business.

We feel that mid-market companies face the same complexity as their larger competitors, but they don't have the luxury of time or the big IT budgets. Our "enterprise class for the middle class" message is about providing the widest possible scope of features in the shortest possible time. When a company needs to customize or add features, they should be able to do it without the traditional costs of programming. Making CRM simple is what ADAPTcrm is all about.

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