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Not long ago, customer service was all about telephonic customer support and call center agents. But In today’s fast times, people do not want to wait for hours on toll free numbers and deal with clueless call center agents to get their issues resolved. Online chat support, even though online, still follows traditional approach to support and requires agents.

 

Online self support, on the other hand, is an alternative approach to the traditional forms of customer support and if implemented well, can definitely complement your existing support system, if not entirely replace it. 

One of the best ways of providing online self support is through a self service customer portal. Especially one that integrates seamlessly with your existing SugarCRM system to fetch or update all your existing customers data.
In this blog we will understand how such a portal will help you provide a better customer experience as well as reduce operational costs for your business.

Bring Down Operational Costs

As explained above, such portals are a great cost cutting tool. Across industries, empowering customers to do stuff on their own without any manual involvement has been a great way to cut costs.

Empower Customers With Knowledge

Self service portals not only solve the current problems of the customers, but also equip them with enough knowledge to solve their future queries as well. A well documented knowledge base goes a long way in preventing any future complaints or issues because the customers already have answers to their questions.

Create a Close Knit Community

Opening a forum in the portal can create a very useful community where customers can help each other on their own without the involvement of any company employee. Not only does it solve issues, but also creates bonding amongst the members.

Create a Personalized Experience

The usage patterns of customers can be easily tracked in the customer portal and combined with their personal info, a personalized portal experience can be provided to them. For example, the sections of the portal that are most relevant to the customer can be presented upfront along with greetings for important days like birthday, marriage anniversary, etc. Such small measures can go a long way in creating a “wow” experience for customers.

Get More Customer Recommendations
Satisfied customers will go out of their way in recommending products and services to other customers. A successful customer portal will enhance you brand image and create positive vibes.

Cross-Selling/Up-Selling Opportunity

Based on the customer's’ previous interactions, products or services matching their requirements can be presented to them in the portal. Thus creating avenues for cross-selling and upselling.
Creating a customer portal doesn’t necessarily have to be a costly or complicated project. At Biztech, we have used the power of SugarCRM and combined it with the most popular CMS WordPress to come up with a customer portal plugin that is both cost effective and easy to implement.

Let’s sit down and have a chat about sales data.
 
Maybe it’s just a bit messy. Maybe it’s totally decayed. Maybe it’s incomplete, or irrelevant, or you just can’t get to the bottom of it all. 
 
Either way, odds are: it’s costing you sales. 
 
Luckily, collecting, utilizing, and preserving your data is easier than you think. Let’s break down how the future of data can transform your sales potential, how you can beat back some of the biggest threats to your data’s integrity—and how you can turn those new data-driven insights into cold hard cash. 
 
Data is Your Sales Team’s Super Power
 
From email response rates, to direct sales—data is linked to your profits. 

In fact, 50 to 75 percent of a B2B marketing campaign’s success comes down to the accuracy of data. And in some stages of your funnel, clean data can net you a 25% higher conversion rate than your disorganized competition. 
 
Now, saying “who cares if my data isn’t perfect” is as good as saying “who cares about a HUGE potential profit loss.”
 
The answer to the second question is “everyone”. The answer to the first question should be the same. 
 
Here are just a few game-changing ways that you can turn big data, into big wins. 
 
Game Changer #1: Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is a crystal ball for lead qualification—and just about every other decision your sales team needs to make. Put simply: it’s taking the data you’ve built up in the past, and using it to predict who will buy in the future. 
 
Predictive takes your current customer database, mixes it with data from external providers, and gives you a holistic view of who your prospects are. Then, using machine learning, it funnels data through statistical models—continuously refining it into concrete patterns. The result? Nearly spooky insight into who your customers are, where you can find them, and when they’re ready to buy. 
 
Why is this a big deal?

The data that comes out of predictive analytics yields some seriously powerful patterns. They can improve customer databases, source net-new prospects, and give near psychic-insights into which prospects are ready to buy. 
 
Or, in a nutshell, as defined by Swift Capital:  
 
“We know 80% of our revenue will come from 20% of our prospects. And 80% of pipeline will come from 20% of our campaigns. Predictive identifies the 20%.”
 
Beyond that, predictive analytics is set to grow...and fast. A recent report suggests, within the period of a year, 36.8% of high growth companies will have invested in predictive. 
 
Hint: if you’re hoping to be a “high growth” company, this is where to look. 
 
Game Changer #2: Sentiment Analysis
 
If you think of data as a set of digits and demographics—you're missing some pretty big opportunities.
 
Introducing, sentiment analysis: data that reveals how your customers (and potential customers!) really think about your brand. 
 
Sentiment analysis software can extract meaning from millions of messages—revealing the positive and negative emotions behind the torrents of text. Now every email, social media message, or chat pop up, can be broken down—dissected by syntax, voice, and tone—and harnessed for a better understanding of your customer base.
 
Why is this a big deal?
 
Sentiment analysis hones the masses of inbound intel your company gets everyday. From that, it creates a nuanced portrait of your market, in a time where that understanding is critical. 
 
Looking forward, the companies that excel, will win on customer experience. Right now, of companies that deliver best-in-class service, 70% rely on customer feedback
 
So for a customer experience that gives you a competitive advantage—you’ll need a better understanding of who your customer is. And for that—sentiment analysis is the key.
 
But if emotional data still sounds a little “soft” to you, know that sentiment analysis doesn’t live in isolation. Pair these insights with behaviour models, and you can easily increase your predictive power—yielding more accurate revenue projections, better leads, and a higher sales volume. 
 
Game Changer #3: Pipeline and Data Visualization
 
Your sales data is only as good as the impression it makes on your team. Maybe moms who like you on social media convert better than the business owners on your newsletter. But if that insight is buried in spreadsheets, it might as well not exist. 
 
Collabsport Connect Pro visually represents contact engagement data—right on your dashboard. We’ve seen this feature boost sales’ teams accountability, and better define their goals and action items. 


 

 

One of our favorite new visualization tricks is pipeline visualization. When you model your sales pipeline, you see (literally) where your deals fall. Your sales team knows when to reach out. Everyone saves time, and you make money. 
 
However it’s modeled, data visualization is the key to understanding your CRM’s data—faster, more accurately, and more insightfully. 
 
Why is this a big deal?

As the wealth of data we have access to grows, data visualization becomes more and more important. Reports show that you’re 28% more likely to find timely information if you rely on visual data discovery tools—rather than a typical reporting dashboard. 
 
Ultimately, data visualization answers the question of: "I have the numbers—now what?" 
 
And that answer leads to smarter insights, more relevant action items, and in the end—an increase in sales. 
 
Inaccuracy is Your Sales Team’s Kryptonite
 
As the sales landscape changes, your team will rely more on data. And the teams who have a handle on their data, will have a clear competitive advantage. 
 
So it’s time for a moment of truth. Ask yourself: how accurate is my data? 
 
And before you answer—take a good look at where your data lives. In all likelihood, that’s your CRM. 
 
83% of senior executives claim their biggest challenge with CRMs is getting their staff to use the software. They're not wrong. Less than 37% of sales reps actually do use their company’s CRM correctly. 
 
Meaning: if your system isn't automated, it’s definitely not fully accurate. 
 
But even if it is, or your team is made up of flawless input robots, there’s a greater threat to your data integrity be aware of: decay—the pesky result of our shifting digital footprints. 
 
A prospect gets a new job? Their old email is mucking up your database. Someone signs up for your email list, but uses a nickname? You might be stuck with duplicates. 
 
Some estimates put the average annual database decay at 25%—meaning every year, a quarter of your records could be irrelevant. 
 
And with visualization, sentiment analysis, and predictive analytics changing the sales landscape—75% accuracy just won’t cut it. 


Here to Save the Day: A Healthier Database
 
So the bad news is: most companies are struggling to reign in their data. 
 
The good news is: once you reign in yours, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. 
 
Here are a few, easy ways to get ahead. 

 

 

1. Give your database a checkup. Keeping your data healthy means giving it a thorough diagnosis. At a minimum, take a look at your: 

  • Email Bounce Rates: Are they much higher than 2%? Are they increasing, or decreasing? 
  • Auto-replies: Are they mostly out-of-office? Or do many indicate a job change?
  • Last Touch Report: Check your CRM. Who hasn’t heard from you in 90 days? 6 months? A year? Those contacts have probably gone stale. 
  • Non-responses: Maybe they're just not that into you. Maybe their contact info, just isn't that accurate. 

 
Throughout this process, data visibility can make all the difference. Investing in software that makes bounce rates or non-responses clear, current, and easy to observe—can go a long way towards making database checkups painless. 
 
2. And do it regularly. Ideally, you should be monitoring and cleaning your database at least once a month. If you’re a small business—make sure to give it a thorough scrub yearly. 
 
And when we say scrub, we mean every single data point. Reports show the cost of dirty data escalates. It’ll cost you about $1 to verify a record as it's entered, $10 to scrub and cleanse it later, and $100 if you do nothing at all.  
 
3. Improve your CRM adoption. So scrubbing your data cuts you from $100 to $10. But if you want that expense down to a dollar per record—your data entry needs to be spotless. 22% of all reported problems to successful CRM implementation were people-related or linked to user adoption. Tools like Collabspot, simplify manual data entry by integrating your CRM with your inbox. Automating this process can save you time, and save your data’s integrity. 
 
4. Prevent duplicates. Duplicates are a plague every database. They waste your sales team’s time, as they sift through redundant prospects. And they skew the results of your emails, tests, and audience insights. Investing in software that automatically deletes or merges duplicate contents, could save you money and time in the long run. 
 
Next Steps
 
The future of sales is data driven. The present of sales is filled with data that doesn’t work. 
 
The companies that grow, are the companies that take data seriously. They’re the ones that harness it: to predict how and when prospects will buy, to mine how their customer base feels about their brand, and to visualize which action items will lead to success. 
 
To be a company leading the future of sales, look to your present CRM. And remember not to look away from it for too long.
 

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can assist your company in everything from storing client data to getting the most from your sales meetings. But it’s offerings extend far beyond front-office applications and sales force automation.

Dig deep into your market with your CRM by applying the data you collect toward better understanding industry trends, seasonal shifts, emerging technologies and more.

Use customized software

One of the greatest aspects of utilizing a CRM is that it is not one-size-fits-all software. It can evolve with you and store valuable information, while helping you best manage leads and prospects.

Manufacturing firms have many moving parts and CRMs give you a bird’s-eye view of your industry. While customer data is crucial, having material stored about suppliers, vendors, affiliates, partners, etc. expands your knowledge base.  

Whether you want to check in with suppliers in one facet of the market or tap into vendor resources, your CRM gives you information at the click of a button. Your business isn’t cookie cutter and your software doesn’t need to be either.

Ironically, some manufacturing firms have had bad experiences with CRM because they fail to use customization. They instead invest only in the default version of the software. They see the feature list of the CRM that includes a range of modules available and insist on activating every bell and whistle.

Instead of a smooth, simple system for managing opportunities, the CRM becomes a tedious, productivity leaching pain. Just like on the factory floor, the best solution is usually the most efficient one.

Even companies with unique structures and pipelines can benefit from CRM. As an adaptable set of modular tools, CRM can be adapted to any manufacturing process, industry, sales cycle, or other factors. It’s simply a matter of embracing the flexibility and customization options of the CRM software.

Listen to customers

This is simple. Pay attention to your clients are telling you about their business. Plug in this intelligence into your CRM and then look at similarities and differences across the board. Maybe you have three customers that are considering entering a new emerging market. Or are struggling to sell one type of solution.

If you only had customer information in the individual minds of your sales team, you don’t see trends. You directly serve your client, but you are missing the big picture.

With predictive analytics capability, your CRM can forecast sales more accurately and better understand seasonal effects on your business. For instance, get the most from your sales and marketing teams by understanding when they are busy with customers and when they have more lag time for creative efforts.

It does not matter what industry you are in or the customers you serve, sales data should always be at the forefront in forecasting, strategic analysis, and planning. Your CRM can provide forward-looking reports that can breakdown financial trends, such as production capacity, production rungs, and raw material purchases.

CRM data can help to improve cash flow, predict sales lulls or spikes in demand, and reduce transportation and inventory expenses. Using CRM-derived data, your analysts can even craft strategies for reducing churn or increasing overall profitability.

Grasping what your customers’ needs are, their foothold in the marketplace and where you fit in, allows you to best serve your clients. It will grow your relationship with them, which not provides an increase in overall sales, but can optimize other aspects of your business as well.

Stay ahead of the curve by applying a CRM software to your business. Download ourManufacturing & CRM eBook to learn how to effectively manage your customer relationships to
increase sales, boost engagement and manage growth.  

For law firms, referrals are the essential first step toward landing new clients. One satisfied customer can send friends, family members, and associates to your law firm for years, and that message is amplified in a social media era. When combined with the potential clients that fellow professionals send your way, these referrals can do most your marketing work for you.

Once those referrals come your way, though, it’s imperative that you provide a top-quality customer service experience. If you disappoint, you’ll find eventually your referrals begin drying up. When a referred client is happy with the services you provide, they’ll be more likely to report back to the person who told them about you, further strengthening your relationship.

Managing referrals can be complicated, though. Attorneys are often balancing consultations and existing cases, which means that small details can fall through the cracks. Through automation, however, law firms can put a system in place that allows them to seamlessly manage all their client relationships.

Relationship Management for Law Firms

Contact management is the foundation of building and managing customer relationships. Before you can provide great service to clients, you first need to capture their information and make it accessible to every employee who might interact with them. Today’s law firms rely heavily on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, which not only capture customer information, but add on a variety of tools that make it easier to provide great customer service.

Tools like Sugar (by SugarCRM) follow the client relationship from the time someone first contacts a law firm to the day the case closes and beyond. Instead of merely capturing names and addresses, attorneys, paralegals, and administrative staff have access to information about each customer, including a communication history and a list of the people they’ve contacted most often. If a minimum number of days has passed without getting in touch, legal professionals can find this information in a CRM tool, as well.

New Client Onboarding

From the initial contact, it’s important that your team have the tools necessary to gracefully transition a new client into your environment. Even the most professional staff won’t impress if the second time a client calls or visits your office, everyone is confused. Sugar includes Process Definitions that let firms set up workflows that automate client onboarding.

With Process Definitions, when a potential client calls, the system will automatically direct the employee to gather basic information and set an appointment for a consultation. During the consultation, if the new client decides to move forward, the system can be set up to move to the next phase of your new client onboarding process, such as offering a retainer and, if that’s accepted, moving to the non-disclosure agreement phase. With a workflow in place, employees are less likely to miss a step, since the system will automatically move to the next stage based on their input.

Relationship Tracking

CRM reduces duplicate entry while also giving employees access to a client’s history with a firm. Sugar also includes referral tracking, which lets firms track all their referrals, eventually making it easier to identify a client’s likelihood of referring someone else. Once enough of these referrals are in the system, the CRM will keep an ongoing list of a firm’s top referral sources to allow them to spend more time nurturing those clients.

Through CRM, employees can also send emails to a large group of related clients at once. This makes it easier to show appreciation for referrals, invite top clients to certain events, or simply send a welcome email to everyone who has recently signed on with your firm to handle their case. With these tools in place, your firm will find it easier to nurture your client relationships and encourage loyalty.

CRM solutions equip law firms with the tools necessary to create long-lasting relationships with clients. Long after a case is complete, firms with good customer service will find that satisfied clients send multiple new customers their way. Best of all, CRM makes work easier for legal professionals, reducing data entry and giving them the information they need to create a good customer service experience for every client.

Sentiment Analysis (also known as opinion mining) is quite a popular term in the current social media age. The explosion of user generated content on social media platforms is a goldmine for brands to understand the sentiment of their customers and followers.
But is sentiment analysis limited to social media monitoring?
To answer the above question we first need to understand what is sentiment analysis. It is all about determining the emotional tone and attitude of customers or users behind their opinions/view about a particular topic or product or brand. The reason why sentiment analysis is so popular in social media monitoring is because social networks are public forums and it is necessary to understand the overall sentiment of people towards your brand to be able to control or even change the sentiment from negative to positive.
But social media monitoring and sentiment analysis using monitoring tools is, by no means, the only way to do sentiment analysis. You can achieve the same goal, perhaps in a much better way, by conducting sentiment analysis surveys through SugarCRM. In fact, conducting a survey is perhaps the best way to understand the sentiments and attitudes of your customers by directly asking them open ended or opinion based questions, rather than relying on machine learning to mine sentiments from social comments. Machine learning can only interpret words but not the context in which they are spoken.
So how do you conduct sentiment analysis surveys in SugarCRM?
Here is a simple three step process to do this.
Step 1: Figure out a way to conduct surveys in SugarCRM.


Conducting survey within your SugarCRM system has many advantages over general online surveys. To do this you can either use a general web based survey tool and integrate it with SugarCRM using a compatible integration solution or use a survey tool like Survey Rocket, which is built specifically for SugarCRM and doesn’t need any third party integration tool.
Step 2: Prepare a sentiment oriented questionnaire.
If you want to understand your customers’ sentiment towards your products and services you can straight away ask them about whether they are satisfied with your products or not. But such a question will not give you an idea of the degree of satisfaction, and hence, will not help you in getting a sentiment score.
So your questionnaire for sentiment analysis should be different from any satisfaction survey. For example, you could ask a question like:
How satisfied are you with our after sales support?

And provide answer options like:

  • Disappointed
  • Somewhat Satisfied
  • Satisfied
  • Very Satisfied
  • Delighted

 

 

You can assign a numerical value to each option for getting a sentiment score - positive integer for positive emotions and negative integer for negative emotions. You can also ask customer to rate you on a numerical scale, but keeping words as options gets better results as words can be easily associated with emotions and hence you will get more accurate responses.

Step 3: Send out the surveys and analyze the results.
Send out the survey to the right set of people whose attitude you want to understand. And once you have got all the survey results you can add up all the scores from individual questions in your survey and the consolidated score for each customer.
As you would have realized, in the above process, the key is to frame the right set of questions. The more variety you have in your questions and the associated set of answers, the bigger range of emotions you will be able to capture in your survey.

The number of software applications in use in banks today is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Loan and credit analysis software, credit card processing, HR and time clock management, and many other routine business functions in banks are all handled through some combination of a software application and a database. At the apex of this technology is the core banking system, handling all basic account balances (think deposit accounts like checking and savings, CDs, and loans), transactions, and customer information. Every single transaction, ATM card swipe, and online banking inquiry reaches the core system in some fashion. Even with all this power, core banking systems fall very short in a few key areas: no ability to integrate data from any bank services that lie outside the firewall, no visibility into customer interactions, and no sales or referral management.

This is where well-planned CRM systems shine.

When customers call any major retailer or service provider today, they expect that the person on the other end of the phone has at least a basic idea of the last interaction that customer had with the business. How many times did that last customer ask for mortgage rates before getting them?  Has this person, who has a six-figure deposit relationship with the bank, recently complained about funds availability? Without some way to capture and display interactions like these, banks are walking through a minefield of potential service failures. CRM makes it easier to track relationships and interactions and keeps customers from having to repeat their story every time they interact with the bank.

Sales and referral tracking are the bread and butter of almost every CRM, and many times can be the main selling point for a bank looking to modernize and energize its sales organization. Sales employees, like mortgage officers and investment representatives, are usually compensated in some way based on their referral submission and sales production. Many times, these programs are tracked on a spreadsheet somewhere in HR or by a manager and exist in a vacuum with no way to verify accuracy or compare to actual customer outcomes. Managing sales and activity goals through a CRM system creates direct connections between goals, activity, and customer outcomes. This means that employees know where they stand at any given point in time, managers have visibility into their sales pipelines, and those things can be measured against improvements and changes in customers’ relationships with the bank.

Who are the clients, really?

A popular phrase that is used when talking about any CRM system is “360-degree view of the customer”, but the reality for banks without such technology can mean partial or no visibility into their customer touch points. CRM starts by building the customer view with data from the core application. This basic data import mirrors the information that is already available through teller applications and forms the basis of everything else to follow. Banks sometimes struggle with getting a handle on all their data that resides in-house, and in most cases that in-house information is just the tip of the iceberg. CRM can integrate and display the information that is stored across the many disparate systems, creating a whole new level of customer service possibilities. Having a whole-relationship view of your customers is no longer a strategic differentiator, it is expected and a real hassle when it’s not available.

Implementing a CRM system can mean some serious changes for a bank, though, and not just because there is more software to learn. Banks live in a world where traditional, conservative business values meet the bull’s horns of regulations, technology, customer service, and information security. Recording and displaying every customer interaction can be an uncomfortable change for some organizations but are gains that are well worth the pain. CRM can be a transformative initiative for a bank when implemented as part of a philosophy of relationship and customer-centric growth.

In our recent articles we explored the history of data integration and what it takes for an automated integration platform to deliver for business users.

 

Next, we’ll look at the top SugarCRM customer use cases for breaking the status quo of data integration using Bedrock Data. The goal is to help SugarCRM customers reap the most value from Sugar as their unified operating system across marketing, sales, and customer success.  

 

An underlying theme throughout these use cases is avoiding the Which system has the right data? conundrum. Aligning your data across systems helps ensure customers are being engaged most effectively,  avoiding confusion and wasted time from mismatched data between systems. 

Use Case #1 - Connect all lead sources to Sugar

You have leads coming from many different sources: your website, webinars, events, and email, just to name a few. An integration platform allows you to connect all of those lead sources to your CRM with real-time delivery which means:

  • You never need to upload another spreadsheet again
  • Your sales team can be more effective with timely lead follow-up
  • You can enforce consistency with how incoming data is tagged in your system (e.g. lead sources, lead source details)...which helps you be complete and accurate with your analytics on these leads. 

Use Case #2 - Provide visibility to reps in the CRM they are using every day

There are key interactions collected through marketing systems that provide insight to sales reps to help them have more contextualized, effective conversations with prospects.  

 

What was the last content on the website they engaged with? What was the last piece of content they downloaded? What was the last webinar they attended?  What event sessions did they attend?

 

These data points can be mapped to custom fields in Sugar, providing sales with visibility in the interface they are using every single day. And with your reps, that’s probably the difference between them seeing the information ahead of a sales call, or not.

 

Use Case #3 - Closed Loop Reporting through Sugar

Bringing historical marketing interactions into Sugar custom fields, allows you to leverage Sugar for closed loop reporting, connecting marketing interactions to sales results.

 

This type of reporting can traditionally get very complex. To combat that complexity, a great way to get the right reports is to  tag certain field such as:

  • Original lead source (where did this lead originate?)
  • Original lead source details
  • MQL source (what made the lead an MQL?)
  • MQL source details

 

Then, use Sugar to summarize the correlation between these values, and pipeline and closed won business. Bedrock Data’s connection of your marketing systems to Sugar provides you with the right feeds of data to make this happen.

Use Case #4 - Manage a de-duplicated database of prospects, contacts & customers

All of these use cases rely on this one - if you have duplicates in your data, you run the risk of making the wrong conclusions from your data, or communicating to someone incorrectly. If you have a record tagged as a prospect, but they are really a customer, you’re going to deliver the wrong message. If you have multiple records and someone updates their preferences, you’re not going to miscommunicate to them.

 

Deduplication has a couple parts to it. If you have duplicates in your CRM data, you want a way to rapidly review those duplicates, and clean and consolidate the data to a unique set of records. Then, on an ongoing basis, as contacts engage with you across multiple systems, you need to ensure the records are aligned across all systems, without duplication.  

 

Use Case #5 - Feed customer database to marketing systems for customer upsell programs

Pushing customer data from Sugar out to the various systems you’re using to engage customers (in a way that is easily segmented by account level data) helps you drive effective customer upsell programs. Most marketing automation systems can be used to score customers based on different upsell offerings, as a way to feed intelligence back to your account management team.

 

Use Case #6 - Align support & sales teams on support status for the customer

Syncing support tickets from a third party support system back to Sugar, provides sales and account management teams with visibility to help them prioritize and tailor sales conversations most effectively. Support data can also be leveraged to identify high potential customer advocates to target for customer advocacy programs via marketing and sales.

 

These are all things you can achieve with Bedrock Data, without writing a line of code.

 

Take full advantage of your Sugar instance. Let's have a discussion to align your marketing, sales, and customer success systems.

 

If you're an ISV looking to expand your app's integration ecosystem, reach out to me directly at aaron@bedrockdata.com

Humans love games. We challenge each other in countless sports, match wits in card and board games, and entertain ourselves with an endless variety of video games. From childhood to adulthood, and even into old age, games are universal part of the human experience across every culture.

With this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that game-like mechanics and design ideas have found their way into other settings, including business contexts. By incorporating game-like systems into non-game situations, it’s possible to make even boring and tedious tasks more “sticky” — more compelling and motivating, that is — to keep people engaged with the job at hand. Handled correctly, this “gamified” system can even steer specific behaviors.

Gamification can be found everywhere: Loyalty card programs, frequent flyer miles, social media check-ins, and even progress-tracking apps are all examples of customer-facing gamified business strategies. But what about a situation where gamification is used by a business to improve results internally?

A “gamified” CRM can be used to improve sales processes, drive employee performance, boost motivation and improve revenue. Check out Intelestream's gamification white paper for more information.

In the context of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, gamification uses similar game-like design concepts to create business processes that are also more “sticky.” This kind of gamification is nothing new — sales organizations have used contests and leaderboards for decades — but always in a piecemeal way.

That’s why we’ve created Splash, our gamified “motivation engine” for SugarCRM. It brings all those pieces together.

Splash is a fully integrated gamification platform, incorporating a variety of game-like mechanics to the day-to-day activities you’re already doing in SugarCRM. Splash’s seamless user experience makes these gamified elements feel intuitive, improving user engagement. There are three core elements to the system:

Improved User Adoption: This makes the platform more “sticky” to users, providing incentives for users to log in, explore the system, and master common tasks.

Engage Employees: Using rewards, challenges, competitions, rankings, achievements, and prizes, workers (or other users) become more engaged with specific tasks and goals.

Drive Measurable Results: By rewarding specific kinds of behaviors — from hitting specific goals to completing a set number of tasks — management can create strong incentives to improve KPIs.

How does Splash incentivize user behavior? Let’s take a look at a few examples:

  • Earning points, coins and levels by completing challenges
  • Gaining status and recognition through leaderboards and competitions
  • Unlocking achievement badges
  • Competing in contests, both as an individual and as teams

Coins are a good starting point to talk about Splash’s version of gamification. Every time a user completes a pre-determined “challenge” within the CRM, like “close 5 sales” or “create 10 user accounts,” the system rewards them with a set number of coins. These coins can then be traded for prizes — these can be virtually anything, from a $10 gift card to dinner with the CEO — giving users an incentive to complete even more challenges. Along the way, users steadily increase their skill and experience with CRM.

Leaderboards are another kind of competition-driven incentive. Some users might keep an eye on the leaderboard every day, and strive to climb their way to the top. Even those users who aren’t interested in fighting their way to the top of the leaderboard can be motivated by this system, as no one wants to be at the bottom. Other metrics, such as overall rank, ranking by month or year, and ranking within a team, encourage even moderately competitive workers to put in a little extra effort.

What about users who aren’t motivated by competition at all? Not all games are about winning or being the best. There are plenty of games where the goal is to explore, collect, build, or collaborate. People play games for all kinds of reasons, and a great gamification platform uses every motivational tool available.

This brings us to another key concept: Achievements. They work much like challenges, but are more targeted to a specific outcome or skillset. In a support setting, for instance, a challenge could be something like “close five open cases.” Once the user has completed that task, they unlock a badge — a virtual merit badge seen on their CRM user page — showcasing their accomplishment.

Achievements like this are a major part of modern video game design, providing the user with both a goal to work towards and a kind of bragging rights when badges are unlocked. For people who are more motivated by collection than competition, achievements and badges can provide a solid incentive.

In addition to being seamlessly integrated with SugarCRM, Splash is also fully compatible with Hoopla, allowing leaderboards and other information to be broadcast to a livestream. Few things are as motivating as knowing your ranking will be shown to the entire office throughout the day. The Hoopla integration provides yet another tool for driving user behavior, and getting people to do what needs to get done.

Splash also comes with an administration interface, where administrators can configure and customize anything about the system, setting details like the point thresholds for levels or the details of specific challenges. It even allows control over the game actions within Splash, allowing elements from custom modules to be incorporated into the system.

This is just a glimpse at the many powerful features Splash brings to SugarCRM. It’s a seamlessly integrated platform designed to dramatically boost user engagement, encourage improvement in KPIs, and protect the company’s CRM investment. And, if that wasn’t enough, it can also make the using the CRM itself just a little more fun.

Splash is now available for purchase from the SugarExchange.

Overview

Business Analytics seeks to revolutionize the way in which business ventures are streamlined and operated. The motive behind Business Analytics is to analyze, develop and manage technical solutions to business problems that a venture might be facing. Apart from that, Business Analysts seek to augment the sales of a company by scrutinizing certain patterns that the company has pertained in the past.

 

Incorporation of in-house Business Analysts is becoming a norm in today’s industries. Companies are now following the latest trends of hiring more and more analysts. Sugar has always been ahead of the game. Sugar has assimilated and integrated a lot of tools and plugins that can be used that would enhance the performance of a business analytics within a business. Let’s look at a few of them:

 

Business Intelligence

Sugar lets you create reports and generate analytics that will aid in evaluating the performance of your company and productivity of your employees. These reports are based on the activities that have been logged into the CRM system. BI tools provide valuable insights that can help improve product quality and operation processes over time. Thus, the management can make well informed decisions and stay one step ahead of the curve in today’s ultra competitive environment.

 

Predictive Analysis

Sugar is extremely competent in comparison to other CRMs when it comes to handling large amounts of data. With Sugar, your analysts will gain the ability to predict how customers will respond to certain stimuli (products & services) based on their behavioral history and past preferences.  This will enable your analysts to more successfully judge and answer the most pertaining questions that exists in corporations; how, when and where to allocate resources for future investments and products?

 

Upgraded Customer Analysis

Whilst using Sugar, your Sales representatives and marketing executives would be able to thoroughly analyze and examine all the customer touch points. These include social media, web click stream, internet, email and inquiries made via telephone calls. Just imagine how valuable this information can be to business analysts. Your team of analysts will be able to better forecast consumer preferences, envision subsequent requirements and resolve other issues that incorporate various business decisions.

 

Business Forecasting

Every venture dreams to make forecasting as smooth as possible. Sugar allows you to review and manage forecasts of your entire team. Don’t forget, Sugar allows you to intelligently identify factors that affect various aspects of your company’s sales, marketing and productivity. Also, Sugar gives you the ability to manage forecasts of each member of the team through a single worksheet. Assigning quotas, adjusting individual forecasts and analyzing the performance of individuals are no longer considered a tedious task. Sugar also allows your enterprise to keep track of customer activities. If you’re at a managerial level in your company, Sugar will intelligently shift your focus to more paramount issues. Hence, it saves the day at not only the sales level, but at the managerial level as well. Thus, it allows your business to observe patterns without overriding complications and provides your company with some brilliant insights into factors affecting sales and marketing.

 

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Are you ready to integrate business analytics with Sugar ? Contact us to get a free consultation session and find out how we can provide you with the optimal CRM solution.

Very often, when we consider boosting our CRM, we start from exploring and comparing features of different CRM systems. After some time, we select an understandable CRM solution that is expected to bring good results.  However, when the CRM implementation is complete, it does not seem to be plain sailing at all. Why?

Because, frequently, when we are looking for approaches to business optimization, we tend to speak with CRM providers about absolutely different things (e.g. automation and data collection a.k.a. accounting). In our12-year practice of CRM implementation, we saw it happen countless times.

Optimization, Accounting and Automation. How to distinguish?

All the factors are interconnected and equally important. Yet, you should understand the differences between them and impact that they have on each other.

  • Optimization (or improvements) is a set of changes made to achieve better results with less effort and/or in much shorter time. But are you sure that these changes are in the very well-known processes? Maybe, you need to implement completely new processes or redesign the existing ones?
  • Accounting is a possibility to collect data for decision making or results generation. However, in most cases, implementing new accounting mechanisms increase either your employees’ efforts or your expenses (or even both). Is it really what we need? Can automation help us or do we need to shift data collection from our side to the partner’s/customer’s side?
  • Automation is a possibility to make a computer execute routine repeatable processes instead of human. But the first thing you need to do is ask yourself whether your work processes are stable and predictable enough to benefit from automation straightaway, or whether they need to be reengineered at first. Are you ready to use CRM automation “as is” or do you have to recourse to CRM customization and adaptation for real cost cutting and productivity improvement?

How to prepare for a dialogue with your CRM provider?

Every company and every situation is unique. In order to achieve the expected improvements, you need to identify and remove obstacles on your way to the goal. If you want to find the best CRM solution, you have to speak not about the necessity of automation or data collection but about your business issues and goals. This will allow your future provider to demonstrate not only software features and functionalities but also solutions and approaches suitable for your company and a specific situation.

Do you want to be ready for such a dialog? It’s not that hard, but you have to be prepared. You can read here how to transform your own expectations and wishes into a set of accurate requirements.

In the previous post in this series, we shared highlights of the history of data integration, to set the stage for the breakthrough of automated integrations for marketing, sales, and support business users.

 

Marketing, sales, and support teams need to quickly adjust their processes to adapt to the continuously evolving preferences of their buyers. Their system integrations therefore need to be easy, flexible and self-managed by these departmental users. This allows them to react to ever evolving business conditions and ensure their connected systems are delivering.

 

These users don’t have time to invent solutions - they need to be pre-built. They need to amplify the key features of those systems to help you get more out of both systems, together. And, with more and more systems in play between these departments, the integration platforms need to do this for an ever expanding set of systems.

 

With that in mind, breaking the status quo of integration requires these breakthroughs:

Breakthrough #1 - A wide breadth of pre-built connectors

There are a growing number of systems that marketing, sales, and support teams use to engage customers. A data integration platform tailored for business users requires pre-built connectors to these systems such that integrations can be activated without requiring any code.

 

Automated data integration platforms need to span a wide range of systems including CRM,  marketing automation, webinars, events, data enrichment, power dialing, e-commerce, subscription management, and support.

 

Breakthrough #2 - Deep integrations to enable key features of the connected systems

Automated data integration platforms need to enable the key use cases of the connecting systems. Data syncs limited to only contact data are usually not sufficient to meet the use cases.

 

A key data object for marketing and sales integrations is the opportunity object, as opportunity data answers the question, “What sales results have we driven?” This is key for connecting sales and marketing activities to business outcomes.

 

Breakthrough #3 - Multi-directional integrations enabling continuous data updates

Connecting multiple sales and marketing systems requires multi-directional syncs. As customers engage across multiple touchpoints, data integration can’t simply be a handoff from one system to another. There is continuous interaction with data gathered and updated every step of the way. One day a customer is on the website, the next day they attend a webinar, the next day they speak to sales rep, etc. - and any data updates collected through these interactions need to be kept in sync across multiple connected systems.

 

An important technical breakthrough here is having a mechanism for managing conflicts. What do you do when the data from one system doesn’t match a connected system? An automated data integration platform allows customers to configure a system of record on a per field basis, to determine the winner for such conflicts.

 

Breakthrough #4 - Easy to use, self-guided interface

For an automated data integration platform to cater for business users, it needs to simplify work that has traditionally has been complex. Just a few of the things a user needs to be able to do cleanly and intuitively are:

  • Field Mappings: Mapping fields across two or more connected systems
  • Data Workflow Triggers: Managing rules for when data should sync - for example a marketing system should house your marketing database - without cluttering up a CRM system - and only sync leads over to the CRM system once they are marketing qualified
  • Error Notifications & Management: Provide error notifications to users and provide them a means to quickly review and resolve those errors. An example of an error is a field mismatch - if you have a field in one system that is a numeric field, for example, the field in the connecting system needs to usually match that field type. Another example is matching values to picklists between systems. If one system requires a set of values for a field, then data passed into that system will need to also match those values to avoid causing errors.

 

Breakthrough #5 - “Just works” behind the scenes

Providing an integration platform to business users means “under the hood” operations that used to be managed by IT teams, now need to “just work” so that the business teams can rely on the systems having up-to-date data.

 

A key aspect of this is system performance, including rapid sync times and handling of peak volumes. When sales reps are following up on leads from a marketing system into your CRM, every minute matters.

 

These are the key breakthroughs that allows Bedrock Data to deliver maximum value for Sugar users when connecting various systems to Sugar.

 

In our next post in this Breaking the Status Quo of Data Integration series, we will explore the top use cases for SugarCRM integrations with Bedrock Data that these breakthroughs make possible.

From enterprise-level companies to SMEs, CRM software adoption continues to grow at a staggering rateparticularly in mobile and cloud-based CRM system technology. And with good reason: sales teams with mobile CRMs achieve their sales goals at twice the rate of sales teams without mobile CRMs. In fact, 91% of companies with more than eleven employees now use some kind of CRM for sales, research, and customer satisfaction. However, initial CRM implementation does not necessarily mean complete CRM adoption. In fact, discrete departments (i.e., sales teams, marketing teams) often fail to fully adopt CRM software completely or integrate it into their sales practices, which means that data and research can be largely incomplete. If your sales reps forget to enter data, then the CRM is less useful for the sales, marketing, and research teams, and can affect your business more broadly.

However, enterprise-level companies are uniquely poised to drive CRM adoption. Larger organizations, with a lot of moving parts, multiple geographic locations, and distinct operational units, are best positioned to reap the rewards of a more comprehensive CRM adoption. Large businesses can most effectively benefit from shared data between accountants, sales reps, marketers, insurances providers, and the like. Even after products have been delivered, CRM software can still track communications, contracts, and invoices across distances. 

More specifically, why should your company push for universal CRM adoption? 

B2B and Enterprise Sales

A quality CRM system is the cornerstone of business-to-business sales. A sophisticated B2B CRM can closely monitor your sales funnel and make up a crucial element of your B2B sales strategy. B2B sales have many different strategic elements, from initial research and specialized contacts to contracts to customer relations that join sales, marketing, manufacturing, and management. A universally adopted CRM system can track sales from their first inauguration to long-term customer service. In addition, it can share opportunities between departments, illuminate areas of possible expansion for your sales team, and standardize customer support.

 

In addition, full CRM adoption can support innovative modes of sales. CRM adoption gives sales teams data from which valuable insights and potential buyer motivations can emerge. These insights must be accessible to a myriad of teams simultaneously, without interrupting the sales cycle.

 

Large-scale enterprise sales have a lot of significant variables. Broadly speaking, your CRM should be able to track large transactions for management, everyone who works with customers, and the customers themselves. Enterprise sales CRMs are designed with large, complex businesses transactions in mind. A fully integrated CRM can have a significant mobility function, working outside the office, which can be key for a larger sales organization. Cloud-based, mobile CRMs effectively take the office on the road, to the sales force, and to the customer base.

Full adoption of your CRM is a vote for customer-centricity

Deloitte and Touche found that business that work to be customer-centric were 60% more profitable than those that are not. Companies that adopt a customer-centric approach tend to be more insistent on a positive customer experience and more successful in retaining long-term clients. A universally adopted CRM allows your business to be more customer-focused and provide that positive customer experience. An integrated CRM prevents functional silos, which prevents data management and sharing. More broadly, brands must commit to central analyze, plan, and implement a clear customer policy. In order to create this policy, all of the distinct departments of your company must be able to view the full needs and histories of the customers to provide that better experience.

Increasingly, customers are demanding more seamless interactions across different channels, with web chat, social media, and mobile apps are increasing becoming the mechanism of choice for younger professionals. A sophisticated, well-integrated CRM can provide a cross-channel customer experience that is smooth and consistent.

Enhancing the customer experience even further

A solution like Tenfold which pulls data from all systems of record including your CRM, your digital analytics dashboard, ERP, and support management program into a single unified view can help you provide a seamless and retention-driving customer experience.

However, the quality of service and engagement you can extend to your customers can only be maximally enhanced if your data is complete and accurate. By automatically logging all data, without the need for manual entry, Tenfold ensures that you have the best numbers to base your decisions and interactions on. Your CRM is only as good as your data–and Tenfold helps you not lose anymore data while showing you info as needed. 

Conclusion

CRMs are the most productive systems to manage sales, collaborate between departments, analyze data, and provide a customer-centric experience. However, CRMs can be unproductive or even a hindrance if they are not properly implemented. It is crucial not only to find the right CRM for your company but to assimilate it completely into your large-scale business strategies.

There are several simple but effective strategies that can make this universal integration easier and more effective for your business, including demanding significant employee training, creating guidance materials, and maintaining high-level user involvement. While it may take some time to sync the CRM to your business goals and management style, the long-term payoff will be efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Systematicity is a necessary factor for business growth as it presupposes replicating, managing and continuous improvement of processes. Implementation of Business Processes Management (BPM) tools ensures systematicity so far as BPM tool leads a user along a defined in advance algorithm and collects data for managing and improving.

But how can one provide an individual approach? The answer to this question is very important in sales processes. Here are some typical situations that are an integral part of an individual approach. Each one can be described in BPM tool with huge difficulties or can’t be described at all:

  • You don’t know in advance how many times you should communicate with a prospect and if a call is enough or a meeting is required as well. If it is, then how many are required: one, two, …? Who knows.
  • You don’t know in advance how many times you need to prepare and discuss an offer with a prospect and with your colleagues.
  • In spite of your standards, a prospect requests a standard contract prior to discussion.
  • Your prospect asks you to make an alternative offer at the final stage of negotiations and you need to return to the previously executed steps.

In sales there is a wide list of “uncertainties” that can’t be defined in advance and assembled into algorithm. But it doesn’t mean that one can’t provide systematicity of sales processes and individual approach simultaneously. To make it possible we must:

  • Split sales cycle into stages. Usually each company has it as stages of sales funnel. The main issue of sales funnel is a subjective definition of the current stage that makes sales funnel a bad source for sales forecasting
  • Define intermediate results and artefacts that need to be achieved at each stage. It allows reducing subjectivity in sales stage definition. Exactly at this point one could meet (and one is going to meet for sure) some difficulties, because the list of results and artefacts depends on a lot of factors (who a prospect is and which products he/she is interested in, what an opportunity amount is, etc.)
  • Define the set (but not strict sequences!) of steps that should be executed to achieve particular results. Any particular step can be defined as a separate process inside BPM tool if it’s appropriate.
  • Provide prompts on how to execute a particular step in the best way with a possibility to collect feedbacks from your personnel for continuous processes’ improvement.
  • Provide your staff with a possibility to decide which steps should be executed and their execution order, including the possibility of returning to previous steps that have been already executed.
  • Control the speed of moving forward, because the “pending processes” are a reverse side of decision’s making freedom.

It will be appropriate to say that you need to carry out the analysis of both actions (who, what, when and under what conditions executes/skips) and feedbacks from the employees (what should be added or changed) on a regular basis in order to improve the processes continuously.

In order to support such an approach, you need to use a special tool. Sugar add-on “Check List” by Integros can be an example of the abovementioned tool for CRM system based on Sugar platform. If you have plans for implementing such tool for lead/sales management, you can get a webinar recording where we will show how it works.

From enterprise-level companies to SMEs, CRM software adoption continues to grow at a staggering rateparticularly in mobile and cloud-based CRM system technology. And with good reason: sales teams with mobile CRMs achieve their sales goals at twice the rate of sales teams without mobile CRMs. In fact, 91% of companies with more than eleven employees now use some kind of CRM for sales, research, and customer satisfaction. However, initial CRM implementation does not necessarily mean complete CRM adoption. In fact, discrete departments (i.e., sales teams, marketing teams) often fail to fully adopt CRM software completely or integrate it into their sales practices, which means that data and research can be largely incomplete. If your sales reps forget to enter data, then the CRM is less useful for the sales, marketing, and research teams, and can affect your business more broadly.

However, enterprise-level companies are uniquely poised to drive CRM adoption. Larger organizations, with a lot of moving parts, multiple geographic locations, and distinct operational units, are best positioned to reap the rewards of a more comprehensive CRM adoption. Large businesses can most effectively benefit from shared data between accountants, sales reps, marketers, insurances providers, and the like. Even after products have been delivered, CRM software can still track communications, contracts, and invoices across distances. 

More specifically, why should your company push for universal CRM adoption? 

B2B and Enterprise Sales

A quality CRM system is the cornerstone of business-to-business sales. A sophisticated B2B CRM can closely monitor your sales funnel and make up a crucial element of your B2B sales strategy. B2B sales have many different strategic elements, from initial research and specialized contacts to contracts to customer relations that join sales, marketing, manufacturing, and management. A universally adopted CRM system can track sales from their first inauguration to long-term customer service. In addition, it can share opportunities between departments, illuminate areas of possible expansion for your sales team, and standardize customer support.

 

In addition, full CRM adoption can support innovative modes of sales. CRM adoption gives sales teams data from which valuable insights and potential buyer motivations can emerge. These insights must be accessible to a myriad of teams simultaneously, without interrupting the sales cycle.

 

Large-scale enterprise sales have a lot of significant variables. Broadly speaking, your CRM should be able to track large transactions for management, everyone who works with customers, and the customers themselves. Enterprise sales CRMs are designed with large, complex businesses transactions in mind. A fully integrated CRM can have a significant mobility function, working outside the office, which can be key for a larger sales organization. Cloud-based, mobile CRMs effectively take the office on the road, to the sales force, and to the customer base.

Full adoption of your CRM is a vote for customer-centricity

Deloitte and Touche found that business that work to be customer-centric were 60% more profitable than those that are not. Companies that adopt a customer-centric approach tend to be more insistent on a positive customer experience and more successful in retaining long-term clients. A universally adopted CRM allows your business to be more customer-focused and provide that positive customer experience. An integrated CRM prevents functional silos, which prevents data management and sharing. More broadly, brands must commit to central analyze, plan, and implement a clear customer policy. In order to create this policy, all of the distinct departments of your company must be able to view the full needs and histories of the customers to provide that better experience.

Increasingly, customers are demanding more seamless interactions across different channels, with web chat, social media, and mobile apps are increasing becoming the mechanism of choice for younger professionals. A sophisticated, well-integrated CRM can provide a cross-channel customer experience that is smooth and consistent.

Enhancing the customer experience even further

A solution like Tenfold which pulls data from all systems of record including your CRM, your digital analytics dashboard, ERP, and support management program into a single unified view can help you provide a seamless and retention-driving customer experience.

However, the quality of service and engagement you can extend to your customers can only be maximally enhanced if your data is complete and accurate. By automatically logging all data, without the need for manual entry, Tenfold ensures that you have the best numbers to base your decisions and interactions on. Your CRM is only as good as your data–and Tenfold helps you not lose anymore data while showing you info as needed. 

Conclusion

CRMs are the most productive systems to manage sales, collaborate between departments, analyze data, and provide a customer-centric experience. However, CRMs can be unproductive or even a hindrance if they are not properly implemented. It is crucial not only to find the right CRM for your company but to assimilate it completely into your large-scale business strategies.

There are several simple but effective strategies that can make this universal integration easier and more effective for your business, including demanding significant employee training, creating guidance materials, and maintaining high-level user involvement. While it may take some time to sync the CRM to your business goals and management style, the long-term payoff will be efficiency and customer satisfaction.

 

Data integration has come a long way over the last couple decades. In this three-part series, we'll provide a brief recap of the history, a perspective on how data integrations are being disrupted today, and how businesses can best take advantage of the disruption to drive effective sales and marketing operations through Sugar.

Part 1 - A Brief History of Data Integration

Data integration is a powerful concept which, believe it or not, pre-dates the Internet. It’s a history full of acronyms and with far too many protocols and platforms to thoroughly document here, so our intent is to give you a good sampling of its evolution over the past few decades.

 

We’re in the midst of a true breaking of the status quo of data integration. As all of the evolution over the past decades has been about “building a better mousetrap,” but all the while focussed on IT as the gatekeeper for data integration.  

 

Our history builds to that today, for the first time, integrations can be managed by business users. We’re breaking through the “IT as the gatekeeper” paradigm.

 

Our history starts with:

 

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)

Data integration pre-dates the Internet as a mechanism for the structured exchange of data between two computers. The origins of EDI are attributed to developments in military logistics. A key moment was the 1948 Berlin airlift where large volumes of data and information about transported goods required transfer over a baud teletype modem.

EDI exchanges remain in place today, typically for highly secure, high-volume data exchange between business partners. They tend to support larger enterprises and require ongoing management from IT teams to oversee data exchange and uptime.

 

ETL (Extract, Transform, Load)

Early data integration methods, dating back to the 1970s, used the extract-transform-load process for data integration. These are heavily structured data integration processes with three discrete, sequential steps:

  1. Data extraction - bringing in data from multiple data sources
  2. Data transformation - adjusting the format and structure of the data to prepare it to be queried and analyzed
  3. Data loading - moving the data into a final target database, such as an operational data store, data mart, or data warehouse  

ETL is an IT-intensive process with powerful but complex tools from vendors such as Oracle, IBM, SAP, SAS, Cognos, and many more.  

Because of the rigid sequence required to get data into an accessible format, ETL systems face challenges around scalability and real-time data access. There are also strong dependencies on system and process design, as improperly designed ETL systems run into significant issues.

 

SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)

SOAP became a standard protocol for web services, leveraging XML to integrate systems in the early 2000s.

SOAP was originally designed by a team at Microsoft lead by Dave Winer in 1998, and version 1.2 of the specification became a W3C recommendation in 2003.

SOAP became a common method for developers to write data connections between systems using a common XML data format. Generally speaking, SOAP is effective for building a one-to-one bespoke integration (e.g. inter-bank communications) but is not optimal for scalability or speed of implementation.

 

REST (Representational State Transfer)

Computer scientist Roy Fielding introduced the term representational state transfer in 2000 as part of his doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Irvine. In between 2008 and 2010, REST reached a tipping point in popularity where it exceeded SOAP and has dominated SOAP in popularity since.

REST has become the standard for most publicly available APIs due to its scalability and speed to implement. REST web services are stateless, which delivers performance, reliability, and scalability. REST services re-use components that can be managed and updated independent of the greater system, even while it is running - a significant advancement from the rigidity of ETL.

That said, the stateless nature of REST also represents a challenge for how it is implemented in connecting systems. REST has no memory, so it relies on the connecting systems to manage audit trails and data history.

 

iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service)

Over the past five years, iPaaS emerged with dozens of vendors providing integration tools to IT teams to develop, execute, and manage integration flows between multiple disparate applications. The technical breakthrough for iPaaS was allowing IT teams to leverage standard cloud services so that they don’t require hardware or middleware to manage their data integrations.

iPaaS represented an advancement in the data integration space, although it’s one whose benefits were largely directly at mid-sized to large IT teams who gain efficiencies through using iPaaS technology instead of developing their own customer integrations through the aforementioned protocols or many others.

Integration Platform for Business Users - Automated Integrations for Marketing, Sales & Support

The alphabet soup of acronyms leading up to this point represent an evolution in the capabilities around integrating data, but they remain in the old paradigm of requiring IT resources to manage data integrations.

 

Empowering business users to manage their data integrations breaks - dare we say, shatters - the status quo of data integrations.

 

Marketing, sales, and support users prefer not to be reliant on IT to create and update integrations for the systems they use every day.

 

Is there a new system feeding leads for the SDR/BDR team? Or a new data field that you want to give sales visibility to for context around leads? How about a new data field tracking the effectiveness of marketing programs through to sales results?

 

These are all adjustments these business teams want to make themselves. Businesses are moving too fast to be stuck in IT development queues for updating their data integrations.

 

In our next article on Breaking the Status Quo of Data Integration, we’ll share our perspective on what it takes for an automated data integration to work for business users today.