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CRM Without Workflow is not CRM: How to Maximize Sales and Service Productivity
Customer relationship management (CRM) is also known as :
Customer Service ,
Consumer Relationship System,
Client Relationship Management,
Enterprise Relationship Management,
Consumer Relationship System,
Employee Experience Management,
Customer Experience Management,
Customer Experience Solutions,
Customer Relationship Management Strategy,
Workflow enables businesses of all sizes to realize the enormous benefits that
were previously only available to large budgeted enterprise-level organizations.
Since there are multiple vendors offering hosted CRM applications, we believe
the buyer´s toughest (and most important) decision is finding a vendor that offers
the many benefits that come from a real Workflow engine, similar to that used in
multimillion-dollar CRM deployments.
The benefits of Workflow are well documented. Three primary benefits stand out:
- Lower costs
- Improved productivity
- Faster processing times that come with the automating your business
You may have heard similar statements before. However, in this paper, you'll
learn the difference that a true workflow engine delivers to help you fully
maximize your company's investment in hosted CRM. Truth be told, CRM alone
is not enough as not all CRM providers have a real workflow engine to permit full
After the initial burst of enthusiasm for CRM in the late 1990s, CRM as a
category suffered a confidence blow as enterprise-level systems were not
embraced by the employees who were supposed to use them. Although
workflow-enabled, the complexity of the user interface of these expensive onpremise
CRM applications ultimately doomed these projects to failure. For the
most companies, these platforms were expensive, and not worth the
Times have changed on both fronts. The hosted ASP model offers businesses
any number of powerful, affordable CRM applications delivered over the Internet.
However, few of these hosted CRM applications embrace the benefits of "true"
Workflow in their application architecture.
This paper is dedicated to the premise that Hosted CRM without Workflow is
simply not CRM. We argue that unless you can automate your business rules
and deploy business processes (whether sales, customer service or marketing)
seamlessly within your organization -- you´re not getting the value that both
hosted CRM and Workflow truly offers.
This paper is divided into eight sections:
- What is Workflow
- What Workflow is not
- A Simple Example of Workflow at Work
- The Benefits to Your Company
- The Benefits to Your Customer Service and Sales Staff as well as your Customers
- The Six Essential Elements of Workflow in a hosted CRM Application
- Key Workflow Terminology You Must Understand
- Where to Start Your Planning Process
What is Workflow
Workflow is the automation of your business processes through which documents,
information or tasks are passed from one participant to another according to a set of
Top-tier hosted CRM applications are built around workflow, and optimized for your
unique processes. As such, the right CRM application can dramatically improve
efficiency and productivity and bring new levels of automation to sales, customer service
and marketing operations.
While Workflow is managed by software, it is more about technique than technology.
What Workflow is Not
Workflow is NOT:
- Email routing for alerts or notifications
- Simple integration with an email client
- Contact management
- Information sharing between users
The above capabilities are useful in many instances - but they fail to truly map to your
best processes and automate daily activities.
Workflow in CRM must be built-in from the ground up - not added as an afterthought.
A Simple Example of Workflow at Work
As mentioned previously, Workflow enables productivity benefits by automating
sales, customer service and marketing processes, according to custom rules.
Let's take a look at what this may look like in real-world setting.
At stage one of a sale, a sales rep is required to input data about a new prospect.
Workflow will not let the new opportunity move to the next stage until all requisite
information has been filled out. Upon completion, Workflow flags the item as
complete, and routes it to the appropriate queue or database.
At stage two, the sales rep reports the potential revenue from the new prospect
to management and forecasts the projected earnings in the company's sales
reports. Workflow automates both tasks simultaneously and delivers the
appropriate information to the relevant audience - without the wasted time of an
additional email or face to face meeting.
Stage two also requires management to verify the opportunity, notify the
accounts department and check inventory for product availability.. Workflow can
automate all these requests at the click of button - including what happens if
inventory doesn't have the requested products - thereby freeing both the sales
rep and the manager to concentrate on closing the deal, not mundane tracking
and checking tasks.
Without Workflow-enabled CRM, your staff is expected to remember the sales
process and when to report and forecast revenue. In addition, management
involvement along the way is inefficient, and increases the likelihood of errors.
The following diagrams graphically illustrate the difference Workflow delivers.
Diagram 1. Without Workflow
Diagram 2. With Workflow
Although this is a very simplified example, it does serve to demonstrate the huge
benefits Workflow offers.
One might say that the processes described above aren't too difficult to deliver
with basic email and vigilant management and tracking. But at what cost to the
business? Workflow automates the delivery of the business process - and if
planned correctly, it can help no matter how complex the task or set of rules for
On the customer service side, the Workflow process can be described similarly.
Workflow can deliver standardized responses to customers, provide the ability for
your company to deliver on promised service levels, offer customized support,
and enable self service. All this can be done simply by routing incidents from one
stage to another according to your defined customer service rules.
Benefits to Your Company
Although Workflow is best understood in specific scenarios, we can summarize
the broad benefits:
- Reduced Operating Costs - Most businesses using Workflow report
that their transaction costs are reduced. Why? Because as we have seen
from Diagrams 1 and 2, the need for staff to manually move an incident or
activity along the chain is eliminated via true automation. Activities and
incidents are sent to queues, while thresholds and routing paths are
deployed to automate alerts and notifications. Potentially troublesome
scenarios are identified early, improving the chances for a quick
- Improved Productivity -- Routine and repetitive activities are automated
and processed around the clock, reducing turnaround time significantly.
As a result, staff and management can focus on their jobs, rather than
tedious report generation and risk assessment scenarios that may
contradict the best practice rules of your company.
- Faster Processing Times - Workflow supports parallel processing, so
multiple activities can be completed simultaneously. By combining
automation with parallel processing, bottlenecks can be eliminated
Less tangible, but noteworthy, workflow benefits include:
- Higher Employee Satisfaction. Few people enjoy dull repetitive work
where mistakes frequently occur. By automating tedious procedures, the
staff feels liberated, and can contribute to much higher value tasks.
- Improved Change Management. With true workflow organizations can
continuously redefine its business processes to maximize effectiveness.
For example you can optimize your customer service processes to make
sure your staff responds as quickly as promised.
- Quality. Fewer mistakes from automation mean a huge increase in quality
of service for existing and potential customers.
- Improved Communication. Current, accurate sales and customer service
data, improve communications within departments, across departments
and office locations, and with their customers or third-parties.
- Decision Support. Complete and accurate information on incidents and
opportunities is conducive to well-informed and effective decisions,
especially when the data conforms to best practice rules and experience.
- Improved Planning Capability. With accurate and trusted operational and
forecast information resource planning becomes easier.
- Inter-Organization Communications. Workflow can support activities that
stretch across many organizations (such as supply-chain support
processes), improving efficiency across the board.
Benefits To Your Service and Sales Staff and Customers
- Improved customer service. Armed with accurate and timely data on
recent customer interactions, service issues and problems, customer
service staff can make well-informed decisions about how best to deal
with customer requests.
- Higher levels of customer satisfaction. Build a reputation for
excellence in customer service by providing the service and support they
need before they ask for it.
- Improved quality of service. Because managers are able to give better
service to customers. The time to do the work is reduced, fewer mistakes
are made, and information about incident or issues in progress is readily
available enabling you to respond and provide the most appropriate
service to your customers.
- Improved sales effectiveness. Because sales staff can be made or
asked to follow a pre-determined process that has been identified as
being the most successful way to you´re your products or services, you
can repeat best practices each and every time.
- Close deals faster. By following your best practices rules set out in your
business processes, you can ensure your staff don´t waste time on deals
they can´t win and do concentrate on deals they can win faster.
- Improved accuracy of forecasting. Because sales staff are no longer
forecasting in a vacuum or based on a "feeling", they are forecasting
based on a set of business rules that have historically proven by your
company to be more accurate in their results.
Okay, so now you know what Workflow is, what it is not, and the many benefits
that are available to your company and to your sales and customer service staff
and to your customers. How do you get there you ask?
Before we tackle that, let´s look at the six elements of a Workflow platform - each
are essential components to realizing ROI from a CRM application.
The Six Essential Elements of Workflow in a Hosted CRM Application
- A Process Engine: This is central to the concept of workflow - it
executes the business process as defined by user. Further, the engine
should track progress continuously and ensures that the correct
sequences of process steps are followed as dictated by business rules.
- Usability and Process Definition: A non-technical business user should
be able to define business processes in terms of work queues,
thresholds, and the business rules of the process that are then executed
by the process engine.
- Process Management: The Workflow system should measure processes
in real-time, providing the requisite feedback on how each element of a
business process performs, and target areas for improvement.
- Integrating People, Processes, and Applications: Workflow should be
able to communicate with legacy applications (i.e. accounting, ERP
systems) and the appropriate people as required by each step of the
process. This integration layer ensures that a wide range of different
applications and technologies can be combined with the Workflow
platform to tie the total process together.
- Connecting Users to Processes: Workflow should be able to connect
all appropriate users inside and outside the business to the Workflow
process, including remote employees, business partners, suppliers and
customers. Workflow can benefit each constituency, provide each group
plays a role the Workflow process.
- Industry Specific Business Processes: Workflow should be used as a
framework to provide specific "template" processes, providing a starting
point to model a business' specific process needs. For example, your CRM solution should be able to provide off-the-shelf customer service
processes for hi-tech industries, or pre-defined solution driven sales
Key Workflow Terminology You Must Understand
The following is a general summary of some of the key terminology used to
describe Workflow and will be particularly important when asking questions of
your CRM solution provider to determine if they provide the Workflow capable
solution your require.
||These are forms that customers can design, that are used to capture information about a customer request or "incident".
||These are forms that are designed to capture information about a sales opportunity enabling your new customer leads to be routed successfully to the appropriate queue and the appropriate information captured and stored.
||Like an "in tray" this is a place where incidents or opportunities are stored for access. Queues should be easily accessed at the front end by your staff with the appropriate security level access.
||A sequence of conditions that determine how incidents or opportunities are routed between Queues and enable responses according to the interaction between documents and people.
||A set of permissions and functions that determine what a user can do within queues.
||Settings that determine the flow of an incident or opportunity through the system.
||The ability for a user to decide how information within a queue is routed, as opposed to a system business rule doing this automatically.
||Informing customers, staff or management what is happening with an incident or opportunity and performed in an optimal manner.
||A pre-defined set of rules that automatically enforces how problem incidents are dealt with by superiors within the organization.
||A set of customer defined rules that determine how quickly a customer or sales lead should be responded to. This is often determined by the type of customer, incident, or product involved.
Where to Start Your Planning Process
The first phase in preparing your company for Workflow-enabled CRM involves
mapping your business processes to define all of the manual and automatic
internal processes of your company, i.e., setting your business rules according to
the requirements of your sales or customer service departments.
From there, you will determine how you want your staff, customers, sales leads,
incidents and processes to interact with each other whether they are a person-toperson,
person-to-application, or application-to-application types of interaction.
Once this has been established we suggest you use one of the many Workflow
diagramming applications to visually represent the process or complete a
business rules planning form that your CRM vendor should be able to provide
you to help guide you through this process. We would also recommend you
speaking further with a CRM consultant who may specialize in your vertical
market and assist you in further developing your best practice information.
Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC)
Workflow and Reengineering International Association (WARIA)
About the Author:
Paul Johnston is President and CEO of Entellium, a
Seattle-based hosted CRM provider. Prior to establishing
Entellium, Paul co-founded and managed two Workflow
software companies, selling one of them to OPTIKA, a
provider of enterprise content management and business
process automation software, based in Colorado. His 15
years of management experience include product
development, marketing, sales and consulting with a
strong focus on imaging, document management,
Workflow and CRM applications.
Founded in 2000, Entellium is an early pioneer of hosted
CRM solutions serving global customers like Pan Pacific
Hotels and Resorts, Standard Chartered Bank, and TELUS
Communications as well as a growing number of small to
medium sized businesses who use Entellium to deploy
CRM applications to automate and manage their business
processes. Entellium is headquartered in Seattle,
Washington with an R&D Center in Malaysia and
worldwide sales operations managed via an international
For more information:
Please contact us:
Via the web: http://www.entellium.com
Toll Free Phone: 800.539.9973