Michael Harvey, EVP of Centric CRM, on the Big Switchover

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

Michael Harvey, EVP of Centric CRM, on the Big Switchover

The news as of the second cup of coffee this morning, and the music is Tom Waits' Mule Variations album:

Recently Concursive Corporation, for its first major announcement after changing its name from Centric CRM, released a new version of its core software suite. The new application, Concourse Suite 5.0, "integrates CRM, Web site creation, content management and Enterprise 2.0 technologies into a complete front office product," according to Cent- … excuse me … Concursive officials.

Michael Harvey, EVP of Centric CRM, answered some questions for First Coffee before the big switchover:

FC: Why now for the name change?

MH: For some time, our vision and product development have been expanding beyond the bounds of traditional CRM. CRM traditionally focused on aggregating large amounts of customer data segregated into the three silos of salesforce automation, marketing automation, and customer service. For those who actually are familiar with the term CRM, it often brings to mind visions of large, late and over-budget IT projects enacted by big companies.

ConcourseSuite is a complete front office product that includes capabilities associated with traditional CRM, to be sure, but also includes capabilities like Web content management, enterprise content management, team collaboration, and even business to business networking. We wanted a name for a company that reflected this much broader mission and set of capabilities. Shipping a brand new version of our main product seemed like the ideal event for announcing the new company and product names.

FC: How strong do you see the shift in collaborative, community-oriented CRM across the entire CRM market?

MH: I think the genie is truly out of the bottle in terms of how customers want to deal with businesses in a wired, always-connected world. They expect online access to information and ordering, they want to be able to communicate with companies at the time they want and in the manner they choose. They want to be able to post comments and reviews and connect to other customers to share information. Almost every successful business, no matter what size, is going to have to embrace, adapt to, and adopt these means of interacting with their customers, partners, suppliers, affiliates, and other key stakeholders.

Interestingly, most businesses who are implementing these sorts of capabilities are not thinking of them as CRM. Rather, they just look at it as Business 101 in a wired age. In some ways, I think that smaller businesses are almost at an advantage compared to larger companies since they are starting almost from scratch. It is much harder for a large business with a legacy CRM system to figure out how to "bolt on" community collaboration tools to their system, rather than starting with something that, from the get go, has been engineered for a wired world.

FC: What future do you see for social networking as part of CRM applications?

MH: Many of the dynamics in consumer-oriented social networking sites will be adapted to the business world: user-generated content, micro-publishing, ad hoc teams and groups. These capabilities will have to be modified, however, to support the needs of businesses. As much as we might like to imagine otherwise, for the foreseeable future, most companies will continue to have hierarchies, will continue to organize activities by project and measurable goals, and will continue to measure success via profits.

This means that business-networking tools will need to provide robust security models, role-based permission systems and access controls to corporate information. A credible business-networking tool will need to offer more than just a souped-up wiki.

For ConcourseSuite 5.0, within a single application, a business can now stage and manage all of its Web content, tie that content directly to contact information in the CRM, grant portal access to users, publish the product catalog that it maintains within its CRM to an integrated e-commerce system, set up workspaces for team collaboration that include discussion forums, news postings, and project plans, and more.

FC: What does the name Concursive conjure up for you?

MH: Concursive is a made up name derived from a real but obscure word, "concursion." Concursion is a synonym for "fusion" and literally means a "running together of people, things and ideas." Words like "concourse," "concurrent" and "concur" are all derived from this same Latin root: con carre, to run together.

There is also an implication of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. So for me, and for any others who care to investigate, Concursive will conjure the notion of many elements coming together to create something powerful.

We are also making use of the term "concourse" for our products. A concourse is a place where people meet and connections are made. As discussed above, in today's wired world, those are essential components for successful business.

FC: How do you think it will change the market's perceptions of your products?

MH: Your phrase, the market's perception of a company's products is basically the text book definition of "brand." So what we are talking about here is our brand. Building a successful brand is a long-term process that depends on many factors including corporate identity elements -- name, logo, colors -- with customer experiences with the company's products and, increasingly, the ability to actively participate in some sort of ecosystem that forms around the company.

I think our new name does several positive things. First, it eliminates any limiting or even negative associations that might exist around the term "CRM." Second, it explicitly, if subtly, states our mission which is to create a dynamic fusion of capabilities that empower today's businesses. We are sitting right at the epicenter of the convergence of software, communications, and services.

FC: The product certainly seems to have a strong many-to-many emphasis. Are there business verticals where you find that particularly useful?

MH: The many-to-many aspects of ConcourseSuite is indeed a differentiating attribute. It derives from several capabilities including a true multi-tenant architecture meaning that a single copy of the application can support lots of independent businesses, each of whom in turn can have large numbers of users.

What this means is that we are effectively offering a Salesforce.com type of system in a box to our customers. We also enable something that we call the "Extended Enterprise" in which a company might choose to host a multi-tenant system themselves for the benefit of their own affiliates. This type of deployment model works very well for franchisors, for example, or dealer networks, or agent networks like realtors and insurance companies.

FC: With ConcourseSuite 5.0, what had you heard from your customers about their partner data-sharing needs which affected the final version of the product?

MH: Businesses increasingly want to be able to collaborate in ways that go beyond simple e-mail or IM. These collaborative relationships can form between workgroups within an enterprise, with connected partners" and, of course, with customers. We have put a lot of effort -- and will continue to put a lot of effort -- into making these types of collaborations easier and more productive.

We have customers such as franchisors who want their franchisees to be able to seamlessly trade contacts and leads, for example, or contribute names to a corporate database for an outbound marketing campaign. It makes sense for them to be able to do so directly from within the tool that they use to manage their contact lists, for example, and so that is the kind of thing that we are enabling.

Another capability is support for Portlets. This essentially makes ConcourseSuite a platform for third-party applications. The Portlet standard is an industry open standard that any developer can code to, and can be as simple as little graphical dashboards, or as complicated as applications that integrate data from multiple legacy systems.

If read off-site hit http://blog.tmcnet.com/telecom-crm/ for the fully-linked version. First CoffeeSM accepts no sponsored content.

Featured Events