SugarCon Speaker Spotlight: KnowledgeTree CEO Daniel Chalef

CRM systems are really, really great at centralizing very structured data sets around your prospects, customers, partners, employees etc. However, that is just one part of the data equation when it comes down to the reality of doing business in a connected world.

That is where content management systems can help transform a CRM tool into a living system that enables collaboration, while eliminating a lot of wasted time either searching for a document itself – or the right version of that document. I mean, how many times have you sent the WRONG version of a quote or contract to a customer because someone else made an important change without your knowledge?

KnowldgeTree is a company on a mission to clear these headaches out of your business processes. I recently had a great exchange with their CEO Daniel Chalef, who is speaking about mashing up CMS and CRM in the cloud at SugarCon this year. Here are Daniel’s thoughts about the value of CRM and CMS integration, the value of the cloud, and more…

How does a content management strategy complement a CRM initiative?

The use of customer relationship management (CRM) software is no longer optional in today’s business. Busy customer relationship managers — whether they are in sales or customer service roles may spend much of their day using a CRM to structure their activities, manage their communications and monitor customer interactions with the organization.

Along with a CRM, a busy sales or account professional also relies on documents — marketing materials, brochures, contracts, proposals and more. Accessing those documents can be difficult, especially from remote offices. Workers often resort to using email or shared drives to store the latest version of a document, and confusion is inevitable as the document changes hands.

Sales and account management professionals know that responsiveness and relevance can be the difference between making or losing a sale. Every time they leave the CRM interface is time that they can’t be helping a customer or tending to a relationship. Searching for the latest version of a contract, or adding everyone’s changes to a “master document” is a loss of productivity and a waste of time that could be used to build business.

So, why not bring the documents right into the CRM interface via integration with a document management solution?

Makes sense to me. So, what are some examples of a really innovative implementation of CRM integrated with a CMS system?

The workflow tools of a DMS [document management system – my edit] make it possible to streamline the creation and approval process of the tools and collateral that account professionals use every day. When the DMS and CRM are integrated, sales and marketing staff can work together to ensure their timely availability.

In another capacity, using a DMS’ bulk scanning technology to capture purchase orders, invoices, statements, contracts and other paper documents and automatically associate them with customer accounts in the CRM application, provides users with ready access to account content.

How does a cloud-based approach to CMS/CRM integration help businesses?

Any cloud-based application is going to have significant business benefits, including things like reducing capital costs, eliminating the need to invest in infrastructure, avoiding technology obsolescence, minimizing the burden on your IT staff, and also providing a faster rate of innovation.

The most significant benefit of a DMS/CRM integration in the cloud is the browser-based availability of customer-related information and documents from anywhere at any time. This is particularly useful for sales and account professionals who are on the road without ready access to company networks.

But does it really matter if your CRM system is in one cloud environment, and your CMS is in another?

No, it doesn’t matter. With the extensibility of today’s cloud-based applications and the reliability of cloud providers, the experience should be seamless for users. On the vendor side, the applications must be designed with these hooks in mind and must contain the rich mechanisms for them to work together as a mashup.

Ok, then is “the cloud” replacing SaaS, or is it just an evolution?  Or something else?

“The cloud” is an easy buzzword to describe every computing environment that operates outside of one’s own data center. SaaS is a description of a delivery model for software applications. SaaS was – and is still – enabled by individual application vendors running their applications in their own data centers and bearing the cost of that infrastructure. The cloud separates the maintenance of that infrastructure from the purveyors of the applications. In effect, the cloud is making it easier for companies with great applications to deliver them reliably and securely and at a cost that has significant customer benefits.

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