Making Sense of XRM

Updated: September 16, 2010

What is XRM?

Think of it as the natural evolution of CRM. We all recall from our days in school that "x" is the variable in mathematics that refers to anything. The same concept applies here - the "x" can be any process, ,or group, or type of workload you want to manage. XRM is the concept of using a CRM platform to build business applications that manage things other than customers. Put another way:

  • Where CRM supports sales, marketing and customer service teams, a XRM solution can support any team in your organization.
  • Where CRM automates marketing, sales and service processes, a XRM solution automates any relevant business process or relationship
  • Where CRM tracks interactions, activities, or tasks, XRM does the same - for whatever "X" is.

XRM can sharpens your competitive edge

As I have discussed earlier, businesses need to maintain a competitive edge in this down economy if they want to keep up with their competition. Responding quickly to market pressures and opportunities quickly is one such way to gain that competitive advantage. That's why a technology framework that provides rapid development of new technology tools is so important. And that's the beauty of XRM.

XRM is a flexible development platform that leverages a traditional CRM framework to accomplish what would normally take highly skilled IT developers far more time, money and resources. For instance, most CRM solutions contain automated workflows that typically are used to elevate client support issues, or elevate business opportunities through a sales pipeline. But while the original intent may have been to manage support and sales, the fact is that those workflows can be repurposed to manage other types relationships (there's that "X" again).

What Can XRM do for Your Company?

The best way to demonstrate XRM's potential is through examples. Consider these three scenarios drawn from client files; although company names are withheld due to privacy issues, each example is real and shows XRM's versatility.

Scenario 1: Track Documents and Productivity

Challenge: An accounting firm had difficulty keeping track of tax returns as the paperwork progressed through the work flow. A return would be dropped off, and the documents would be worked on by various accountants depending on the nature of the return and an individual's availability. There were written procedures detailing steps to be taken, by whom, and how each step in the process should be performed. But there was no ability to track the efficiency of the overall process or the individual tax preparers. Worse, when a client called, there was no way to quickly locate a return or determine how far along in the process it was; employees would have to manually rummage through files or ask around to find out who was currently working on it.

XRM Solution: The firms CRM solution was tailored to set up an automated tax return tracking system. At each step in the preparation process, returns could be checked in and time-stamped. This allowed managers to analyze the whole process, and fine-tune where needed to increase efficiency. It also provided clear views into the productivity of individual accountants.

Scenario 2: Improve Compliance

Challenge: A government agency needed a single platform to track numerous activities related to its mission, activities that were running on disparate systems. For instance, there was no system-wide alert when a vendor's required license was about to expire. Nor was there any mechanism to alert departments of potential collection issues.

XRM Solution: The agency created system-wide alerts by customizing automated workflows so notifications could be sent to the proper individuals - for example, notification that a vendor license was about to expire, or that a insufficient funds issue had arisen. In the latter case, the new XRM solution went a step beyond issuing a simple alert and initiated letters, assigned tasks to individuals, and sent e-mail reminders to facilitate the collection process. The integration with Microsoft Office enabled mail merge of Word documents, so compliance letters could be sent automatically to the appropriate people and agencies, and reports could automatically be generated in Excel for analysis.

Scenario 3: Streamline Donor Communications

Challenge: A non-profit organization needed to track services performed by contractors on behalf of its social service clients, and tie that into the system that managed its facilities as well as the donor management system.

XRM Solution: A customized CRM solution allowed all data relevant to the non-profit's operation to be stored in one location, and made the data easily accessible. This made it much easier and more efficient to solicit large corporate donors.

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