Software // Information Management
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12/7/2005
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Midmarket Firm Connects With Customer Info

Many companies have found themselves with separate databases that cannot integrate vital information. One systems integrator faced just that challenge when working with mid-size semiconductor firm Brewer Sciences.

One of the primary challenges for midmarket businesses is that they often run disparate systems that are not integrated, and use homegrown and small third-party applications to run their businesses. Many companies, as they have grown and evolved during the years, have found themselves with separate databases that cannot integrate vital information. Keith Inouye, VP of sales at Core Services, a systems integrator in Morristown N.J., faced just that challenge when working with midmarket customer Brewer Sciences, Rolla, Mo.

Basically, Brewer had a lot of customer information, but just couldn't make productive use of it. "If used properly, that data's business intelligence information, but for Brewer, it was just a database," Inouye says. Brewer, a semiconductor company, has a global presence, with offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. "True to form, like many midsize companies, Brewer was running the business on a hodgepodge of applications: disparate applications and a lot of homegrown applications," he says. "There was absolutely no integration with a half-dozen databases. They couldn't manage data properly." Combine those problems with being a global operation, and the problem increased exponentially.

"We needed hosting services -- a 24 hour service, since we are global. We needed a data center that had redundancy," says Joe Bales, Brewer's director of IT. "Going into the future, based on the growth of our business, we needed an integrated system. We were looking to consolidate our info into one spot at headquarters."

So Core and Brewer got to work on determining how all of Brewer's information could be gathered, cleaned and mined. It was a collaborative approach, says Bales: "If I talk with a [Core database administrator], he knows our system. I ask him questions, he answers back. It’s like they are an extension of our company…It's like I am talking with a person that works here. We get to know them and they get to know us."

The databases that were to be consolidated included those holding customer, manufacturing and financial data. Brewer, which estimates its growth at 15 to 20 percent annually, needed to get a handle on this information. "As your business grows, if you're not prepared, that could be a big failure," Bales notes.

After some research, the companies decided to implement Oracle’s E-Business Suite Special Edition system. The software incorporates two CRM products, Oracle Sales Online and Oracle Service. The suite was a natural choice for functionality reasons, says Inouye, but it didn’t hurt that many former Oracle employees now work at Core. Key to providing this solution was doing discovery, providing demonstrations of Oracle applications, and ensuring that the system was strong and well documented. “There were to be no gotchas along the way,” Inouye says, adding that everything had to be detailed to prevent the kinds of “one-offs” that become nightmares and plague so many small and midsize businesses.

The chosen suite is a fully integrated, comprehensive suite of business applications for the enterprise. One advantage with the product was its flexibility: Customers can choose to install one module at a time, multiple modules or the complete product. Time was of the essence, so, after six months of discussion, the companies worked on a six-month rapid-fire implementation of the entire suite. "Oracle made complete sense for them," says Inouye. "It was the right choice."

After the initial launch, the team turned to making improvements and tweaking the system. “We are working on more reporting and looking at data mining,” says Bales, “but we pretty much have out-of-the-box functionality.”

For Brewer, the project allowed the company to get a much-needed handle on customer information. Not only will that help Brewer run more smoothly as the company expands, but the CRM implementation will also help it to meet the needs of its existing customers.

Jennifer Bosavage is a freelance writer based in Huntington, N.Y.

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