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Case Study: Using a Software as a Service (SaaS) Model to Deploy Analytics
LucidEra Answers the Call for Phone Works

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsMonday, July 07, 2008

Company Background and Business Problem

Phone Works is a professional services company designed to help organizations develop and implement sales strategies by building new inside sales teams or by optimizing existing inside sales groups. Their use of Salesforce.com to manage their customer relations and sales process was limited by their inability to look at historical data. While Salesforce.com provides a comprehensive look at the current picture of business through static reports, Phone Works was unable to look deeper into the organization’s inner workings to determine trends and to manage the sales cycle progress. They required the ability to access historical data alongside their current data and analyze the information to gain better insights into their overall performance as well as be able to identify trends.

Business Solution

As a smaller organization without an internal IT infrastructure, Phone Works’ natural inclination was to look for an on-demand solution. In addition, Phone Works’ reliance on the SaaS model due to their use of Salesforce.com, limited their solution choice since they wanted to keep the same model for their analytics. The ease of use, lack of internal support requirements, and keeping costs low were also important factors. Because LucidEra was developed to enhance Salesforce.com and add business intelligence on top of Salesforce.com Customer Relationship Management (CRM) offerings, they became the natural choice for Phone Works. In addition, Phone Works’ lack of internal technical resources and large budget to implement a full-scale business intelligence solution simplified the overall evaluation process and solution selection.

Although Phone Works did not undergo a formal evaluation process, they had a previous relationship with Ken Rudin, LucidEra’s CEO, thereby making the overall choice much easier, based on their familiarity with the company and product. The benefit of this previous relationship also transferred over to immediate buy-in as the employees quickly saw the value of adding the LucidEra solution to their organization.

Due to the nature of SaaS, the implementation process was seamless for Phone Works. From the end-user perspective the main areas of involvement were granting LucidEra access to their Salesforce.com information and making sure they added all the information they wanted to track and measure to their Salesforce.com data.

Benefits and Challenges

General benefits included the implementation, structure, and sense of autonomy. 
Although the implementation of LucidEra followed the general structure of how Phone Works accessed their information and managed their business in the past, some of the challenges they faced included identifying and capturing the appropriate data as well as realizing that the benefits of using LucidEra would not be seen immediately as historical data was required. This means that data had to be accumulated over several months.

Phone Works started using Salesforce.com in 2001. Their positive experience with using a SaaS-based model and the lack of need for internal technical resources and onsite software installations made other SaaS software offerings the obvious choice. In general, these reasons present some of the key benefits to applying SaaS within an organization. For organizations that lack a robust internal IT infrastructure or resources, or feel that a particular department’s initiatives aren’t considered a top priority with the IT department, outsourcing a business intelligence solution gives end-users a sense of autonomy. Furthermore, the implementation process involves granting the service provider access to the organization’s data, as opposed to the general and sometimes cumbersome steps required for a traditional BI implementation.

The overall structure of on-demand solutions is enabling organizations to access information via a Web portal. Analytics can be accessed along with other organizational applications, making access easy. Additionally, because on-demand solutions are offered as a service, the design and delivery is focused on user friendliness with the service provider playing the role of expert as opposed to having to rely on internal IT staff or a designated super user. 

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

Using Phone Works’ experience, organizations can gain valuable insights by learning from what others have done before them. For instance, for an organization considering an on-demand BI or analytics solution, the ability to learn from the experience of others to enable better decision-making helps the organization avoid potential pitfalls. Although Phone Works’ implementation of LucidEra was seamless and provided analytics as an add-on to their current CRM application, there were additional unexpected lessons learned that can be transferred to other organizations considering LucidEra or a general on-demand BI offering that extends beyond Salesforce.com. Some of the general lessons learned by Phone Works were on how to collect the right information to provide immediate value and new ways of analyzing sales performance.

Identifying trends and collecting the right data to perform in-depth analyses takes time. Because Phone Works took an incremental approach to collecting data, they only began to see the benefits of their sales trends analysis after a few months. To see immediate results Phone Works should have collected data for several months before the installation in order to be able to identify trends and analyze the business immediately. Yet it may be more beneficial to not make assumptions about the information that is to be captured. For instance, because Phone Works did not have a preconceived notion of the data, they were able to get insights into what was being captured that went beyond simple sales performance. Additionally, the company was able to identify the intrinsic value of the data and what data required capturing and what information did not provide added value by being within captured.

Phone Works discovered new insights into their business through analytics. LucidEra enabled the organization to identify how the sales cycle process was progressing from stage to stage. Prior, the company had always tracked the average time to complete the sales cycle. With LucidEra, Phone Works was able to see the movement between each stage of the sales cycle and could, for example, identify gaps and any stalling within individual stages or in the overall process.

Takeaways

The use of analytics on top of operational systems is becoming more widespread. Consequently, the ability to access data easily and identify trends is shifting from a nice to have requirement to one that is essential in developing and maintaining competitive advantage. Phone Works’ use of LucidEra provides a good example of the successful use of analytics on top of day-to-day operations. 

The following offers organizations some takeaways to consider when looking at a SaaS model for BI:

  • Although it may be important to identify and capture data in advance, organizations should not become limited by that data
  • Organizations should actively look for correlations between data to identify new uses and insights
  • For organizations familiar with on-demand, using a SaaS model for BI offers quick implementation times and seamless integration
  • Reasons to consider an on-demand solution include no need for internal IT infrastructure, lower costs, and easy access

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is a monthly columnist for DMReview and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.

 

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