Integrating CRM and Content Management

Updated: April 30, 2009

If you think about it, giving employees access to information in your CRM (customer relationship management) and CMS (content management system) in a single interface makes a lot of sense, but it's only recently that companies have started to think about integrating the two systems. This is partly because the architecture of each system makes it difficult to build communications links and partly because companies have traditionally seen these two systems as separate and distinct. But that's changing rapidly.

Gary Walker, senior vice president of Applied Technology Solutions Group for RWD Technologies , which, among other things, helps build middleware connectors between CRM and CMS solutions, said there are reasons the systems have remained separate, but it's becoming critical to link the information in the CRM and CMS. "I think the architecture has not necessarily evolved," he said. "I think people see CRM as an end unto itself, and just now we are getting to a place where people are realizing they have a more critical mass of information than they can manage and sort through easily."

This means it's becoming increasingly important to give employees access to this information in a seamless way . Kyle McNabb, an analyst who covers enterprise content management for Forrester Research Inc., explained that in most organizations, employees have to move outside the CRM system to a CMS to get a related document such as a contract or a customer presentation, which can be problematic and inefficient. "It's always presented a challenge to those using a CRM system, because they had to jump from one application to the next and in doing so they lose context," McNabb explained.

McNabb said he is seeing more interest in linking the two systems, especially when it comes to helping marketing teams design more targeted content for customers. "They want to do something with [the information they gather from the CRM system], and what they want to do is deliver better content to those individuals, based on who they are, their segmentation and, in many cases, what they are actively doing in an online environment."

In Walker's view, connecting the two systems gives customer-facing employees faster access to the latest information in the CMS, while at the same time helping these employees understand who that customer is, as described in the CRM system. These employees are often under time pressure to find the right answers and present a positive view of the company to the caller. In fact, Walker's company has built middleware to enable EMC Corp.'s Documentum CMS and Oracle Corp. 's Seibel CRM system to communicate, and he says his company has concentrated on building these tools for the pharmaceutical industry because it is critical that customer-service personnel in this market have the latest, most accurate information when talking to physician-customers about a drug.

Walker said linking a CRM system and a CMS has broader applications beyond the pharmaceutical industry and would be useful in any customer-facing environment where employees need to make links between customer needs and available content. As Walker points out, it's only in the past year that companies have begun to realize the value of connecting these two systems, but he believes it's an idea whose time has come, and that's why we are beginning to see organizations trying to build these links. Recent moves such as Salesforce.com Inc. 's purchase of Koral Inc.'s content management and Oracle's purchase of Stellent Inc. suggest that you should start seeing more connections between CRM and CMS moving forward. Regardless of the vendor, however, as these systems evolve, it is becoming increasingly important for employees to have easy access to a range of customer information, regardless of where it lives.

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