The Importance of Server Robustness in CRM

Market Overview

Businesses today are selecting enterprise applications including customer relationship management (CRM) systems based on how well the system fulfills the functional needs of businesses. Since it is a daily struggle for survival in the IT world, the new motto of vendors is to deliver maximum transactions leading to more customers. If successful, this new strategy will generate a much bigger need for CRM usage, but it also may lead to scalability issues.

After a CRM system has been selected and implemented, there is no denying its inevitable importance to the company especially when it matures into a company's growing needs. Scalability is a word that has become synonymous with enterprise business growth. In order for CRM software to produce maximum return on investment (ROI), firms must choose a platform that is scalable to the company's future needs and is able to seamlessly add components as the business expands. Scalability gives rise to the questions of flexibility, reliability, cost, and most importantly the robustness of the system.

For an enterprise solution, scalability and reliability are important characteristics that makes a server robust. The Costa Mesa, California-based (US) CRM company, Touchtone is one of a very few companies that has developed a robust CRM package based on these principles. Wintouch eCRM is a hosted CRM solution designed by Touchtone Corporation to run on IBM iSeries servers. IBM's iSeries is an open-standard system, and has the capability of integrating diversified hardware and software. Moreover, IBM claims that iSeries can virtually run any technology. This coupled with the reputation of IBM's servers as reliable, seemly makes WinTouch a robust system.

IBM today is recognized not only as a leader in large IT projects, but also as a major player in the small and medium businesses (SMB) arena. With over 650,000 iSeries and AS/400 servers systems installed worldwide, the growth of Wintouch eCRM as a native OS/400 software is undeniably tied to IBM's existing market. Even though Wintouch eCRM is confined to the IBM iSeries, it can leverage the performance reputation of IBM servers to gain prominence in the market.

Product Definition and Market Impact

Touchtone's application service provider (ASP) solution, Wintouch eCRM, is a Java-powered, enterprise-wide customer service, sales force, and marketing automation software suit for iSeries platform. Touchtone is a member of IBM partner network and has therefore taken the IBM path by developing a native OS/400 CRM solution. In other words, Wintouch cannot be operated in a Microsoft Windows environment.

Wintouch eCRM, takes full advantage of the robust iSeries and also offers an alternative to Windows operated customers. The system can be hosted both on and off-site. If hosted off-site at the vendor's premises, Wintouch eCRM 6.0 can be considered a platform independent solution which may make it an ideal solution for mid-size and larger businesses. Using Wintouch as an ASP solution, businesses avoid paying a one shot licensing fee. Instead users can rent the application from the vendor and avoid the hassle of deploying and managing it. Furthermore, users can add and reduce capacity as needed. In an IBM OS-based environment, Wintouch can access real time data from other existing applications through an effortless integration with every department. This may improve overall productivity and help companies achieve better ROI.

In a heterogeneous environment, the Wintouch eCRM platform independent and Java-applet solutions are easily accessed by Windows, Mac, or Linux through internet access. Batch updates can be used to integrate data from non-OS/400 based applications. The solution also allows the use of Web services allowing access to services from third party providers such as MapQuest or Google.

One of the greatest features of Wintouch is its Green Screen Emulation, claims Rich Hall, Touchtone's vice-president of sales and marketing. For those addicted to AS/400 green screen emulation, Wintouch provides an integrated one-click 5250 terminal emulator to quickly access, view, and update. Drag-and-drop features together with easy customization capabilities make it a user friendly system.

From a security point of view, Wintouch provides sound security measures. The system protects against the unauthorized access and copies of data and database records do not reside on the individual users' desktop or laptop units. The iSeries server also has built-in virus and hacker protection to help remedy troubles that are common in other operating systems.

Strategy and User Recommendations

For companies that have an AS/400 environment, Wintouch's CRM solution can easily integrate with existing back-end systems like ERP and other applications, including homegrown applications. This helps identify opportunities and close more business by conveying information about sales and the needs of customer service representatives. By selecting the ASP version of Wintouch end users will have the freedom to focus on their core business rather than on technology and maintenance. ASP solutions provides access, to the application from anywhere with internet connection, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Wintouch saves cost of operations by utilizing a zero-footprint, zero-install Java applet on the client-side, which eliminates client installation, administration, and maintenance on PCs. However, the downturn for medium to large-sized customers without an AS/400 environment is the complexity of integration with existing legacy or back-office applications.

As an IBM partner member, Wintouch also offers an on-demand service. Wintouch customers with very seasonal business needs could benefit from an on-demand CRM application. The on-demand solution can help users save money without implementing the software because of its pay-as-you-go policy.

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