The "I Love You" virus did very unloving things to the computers of email readers who couldn't resist opening the infected note. The malicious message did billions of dollars of damage. And an avalanche of email messages brought down Yahoo in a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack.
These high profile events made companies realize the Internet is full of lurkers and some of them are "evil people. Anyone who logs on to the Internet becomes part of one big, not-so-happy family," says Kyle Poteet, director of sales and engineering for ENSTAR, an Irving, Texas outsourcing vendor. Like the Lone Ranger, this Lone Star supplier protects its buyers from the world's high-tech criminals.
ENSTAR sets up security software so its Fortune 100 clients can safely surf the Internet. It uses space age technology to prevent invasions and monitor networks to determine when an attack is launched.
But the company was typing its purchase orders by hand.
Poteet knew there had to be a better way to process orders. Whenever a request for a quote came into the office, an ENSTAR employee pulled up a Microsoft Excel form and typed the quote, line by line. Each item was a separate entry. After the employee printed the form, s/he would fax or email the quote to the customer.
If the customer faxed back a purchase order, an employee would go into the firm's computer system and type the needed components for that order line byline--again. When completed, the employee printed ENSTAR's purchase order to fax to its vendors.
In 1999 ENSTAR executives realized "our antiquated CRM (Customer Resource Management) system no longer met our business needs," Poteet recalls. That's because its old system was a distribution model designed to track "parts going in and parts going out." ENSTAR decided it wanted to use Siebel Systems for its front office application and PeopleSoft for its back office. Of course, the two applications had to talk to each other.
Should We Outsource?
The next decision was whether to purchase the applications and run the systems in-house or outsource them. The executives began running the numbers and decided they didn't want to spend the money necessary to hire, train, retrain and retain an IT staff (assuming they could find a staff to hire in today's tight tech labor market.) Outsourcing to an ASP relieved the pressure on the company's pocketbook, since ENSTAR did not have to make any capital expenditures for the requisite hardware.
"It made more sense financially and practically to outsource," he says.
But money was not the only motivator. ENSTAR outsourced to, a San Carlos, California ASP, because it was "a company that does this for a living." ENSTAR wanted to employ a Siebel expert because he felt they were more competent in CRM functions than his security experts. He found the ASP model attractive "because we don't have to touch the application." He's also happy ENSTAR "doesn't have to worry about updating."
Poteet likes the idea that is managing his data off site. Now the data is Corio's worry, not his. "If the system crashes, they are responsible for bringing it back up," he says.
ENSTAR hired Emerald Solutions, a Bellevue, Washington systems integrator, to complete the installation of Siebel and PeopleSoft at its offices. Poteet says the first thing Emerald Solutions did was sit around the conference table and ask the ENSTAR executives, "What are you trying to accomplish?" Poteet says that was a relevant question because the Siebel solution "has all the power in the world. We had to decide which components we needed."
ENSTAR realized its sales force travels and would be using the CRM module on laptops but the engineers and inside sales team wanted the software available on their desktops. "We had to have a platform that worked for each group," notes Poteet. In addition, the software had to be available when employees were in the office or on the road.
Emerald Solutions customized the Siebel system for ENSTAR. The integrator put ENSTAR's logo on the screens. It programmed the software so the sales staff could calculate discounts instantly.
Entering Data Just Once
Today the Siebel system has all ENSTAR's parts numbers in its program. Whenever the sales force wants a quote or a purchase order, they just point and click and the program autopopulates the quote. And the system allows the company to email the quotes to the appropriate recipient. "Now we can go from quote to order without retyping," Poteet reports.
In addition to dramatically increasing order accuracy, the point and click system saves time, too. Poteet estimates Siebel has slashed preparation time in half.
As a manager, Poteet really likes Siebel's forecasting ability. Every day each sales person completes a form with a prognosis of what s/he expects to sell to a prospective customer. Poteet can pull up all the forms for the entire staff and chart "the overall impact on the company."
Siebel also has the ability to generate reports on demand. ENSTAR's previous system only allowed Poteet to print reports at the end of the month. "I can see where we stand on a daily basis," says the manager. The up-to-date facts allow him to make more accurate and timely business decisions. "This is a big advantage," he reports.
Siebel also has a contact management module. This standardized this function since one contingent of the sales force preferred to use Act while another group stored their customers in Microsoft's Outlook. "Siebel allows us to consolidate resources," he explains.
Attaching Microsoft Documents
The CRM program includes a service component which ENSTAR's engineering and support group utilizes. The system generates a work order and assigns agreement numbers to all contracts. For the first time, ENSTAR has the ability to attach Word documents to its quotes and contracts. Now he can include marketing literature with his contracts.
"I have all the information I need in one spot. That's the concept behind Siebel," Poteet points out.
All the information on the system is real time. The executive likes the fact that the minute he stores a document, the rest of the company has see all changes immediately.
Emerald Solutions set up ENSTAR's system so Siebel and PeopleSoft are integrated. Purchase orders in Siebel become orders in PeopleSoft.
Overall, Poteet finds Siebel user friendly for people who are already computer literate. "It feels like Microsoft," he says.
As for switching over to an ASP, Poteet says there were the usual glitches. "There were some quirky things in the beginning. Occasionally the Siebel people had to come on site to work things out," recalls the ENSTAR executive. Since then, the company has been operating in a "stable" mode.
His final verdict: Siebel "has streamlined the company's business and my time."
Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:
- Outsourcing to an ASP puts the personnel and hardware responsibilities on the outsourcer's plate, preserving your resources.
- Using Siebel saved this buyer 50% in quote and contract preparation costs.
- The CRM system provides up-to-date forecasting data, allowing the executive to make better business decisions.
- A systems integrator helped the buyer determine which sections of the application it needed and then customized the application according to those needs.