With Infor's New CRM i Edition, users can have an integrated view of both customer and financial data, all from a Web browser.
While it seems that doubt about the IBM i platform permeates every conversation regarding the future of the IBM midrange platform, there is one company that continues to believe in the platform from both a technical as well as a business standpoint, and I'm not referring to IBM.
One could argue that with its roots in the MAPICS ERP package, Infor Global Solutions may be more concerned about IBM i midrange customers than is IBM itself. IBM i customers may represent a larger percentage of Infor's total customer base than they do for IBM. Infor has about 70,000 customers worldwide and, a couple years ago, reported its IBM i customers represented about 25 percent of that, or better than 17,000. Today, that number is reportedly around 14,000, which would represent about 20 percent of its customer base. Rumor has it that IBM's i customers have declined as well but are still substantially well above 100,000 (perhaps as high as 200,000). But who knows how many customers IBM has? In any case, while some people feel that IBM is scaling back its support of the i community, it's clear that Infor is working hard to retain its customers on i and might be viewed as a leader in pushing the platform forward technically.
The company recently announced the availability of a CRM solution specifically for companies on the i platform: Infor CRM i Edition. The Infor CRM solution is no bush-league product, having been a leader among the ISM, Inc. Top 15 CRM Enterprise Software Award recipients for the past few years running. The solution is at the edge of a trend toward integrating marketing and sales across all inbound and outbound channels. Using technology to leverage marketing, sales, and service to increase revenues is seen as a way to offset the squeeze in the economy as well as stay ahead of the competition. Since the technology exists to streamline the sales process and enhance opportunity capabilities, if your competition is going there, you pretty much have to be there too.
CRM today is a rapidly evolving field where the trends seem to include a greater integration with social media applications, increased availability of social-media-type functionality, an increased use of business intelligence tools within CRM solutions, an increased number of mobile CRM offerings, and a greater reliance on the SaaS model for on-demand CRM solutions.
Infor CRM i Edition is a new solution that provides enhanced customer relationship management for users of Infor's ERP products. It provides users with a single, integrated view of customer-related information such as credit limits, financial transactions, orders, quotes, shipments, and more, according to the company.
"Infor CRM i Edition helps our System i customers leverage their ERP data with new capabilities that will help them increase sales revenue, reduce sales costs, expand data visibility, enhance forecast accuracy, and improve customer service," says Kevin Piotrowski, director of System i solution marketing at Infor.
Infor is so committed to the i community that it recently established a business unit dedicated to its worldwide base of IBM i customers. It used its Infor Development Framework (IDF) for System i to help develop Infor CRM i Edition. The IDF is a development tool and series of design blueprints for building IBM i applications. Accessible via a Web browser interface, the CRM i Edition can be easily configured to provide the type of information that supports a company's individual business and to allow data access to different levels of users based on roles.
One of the most common uses of CRM software is campaign management, in which users leverage CRM and ERP data to target subsets of a company's customers with offers that are tailored to specific wants and needs. The solution supports the use of mass email, telesales call lists, and mail merge. It also supports managing marketing events, such as invitations, response tracking, and post-event surveys. Other uses for CRM software include opportunity management, useful for, say, complex sales cycles or situations in which a company sells a broad range of products and has thousands of customers. Other uses are in sales process management, quotation management, and order management.
The software offers users a single place to access all information about customers, prospects, and contacts through a "customer information portal" that is not for customers but rather about customers. The portal provides a single point for information typically found in both a CRM solution as well as that typically retrieved from an ERP solution, such as credit limits, financial transactions, orders, quotes, and shipments.
In a challenging economy, users are looking for CRM software to increase sales revenue by helping their staffs close more sales, increase the conversion rate of quote-to-orders, and reduce the occurrence of discounts while at the same time increasing repeat business. If identifying those less likely to buy in order to direct your attention more toward those who are ready prospects translates into a way to reduce costs, then CRM software can pay for itself in a relatively short period of time. Now your IBM i is not only handling the backend of the business but helping out at the front as well.