Your organization has spent the time and money to implement an enterprise application integration (EAI) strategy to support your customer relationship management (CRM) initiative; and now it's time to ask the scary question: Is it working? The answer to that question will depend largely on how and whom you ask. Not that success can't be measured tangibly in hard dollars, but increased profits are only the "pretty face" of EAI/CRM success. They matter, to be sure, and the initiative won't be a success without them; but there is so much more to the picture than increased profits. In fact, increased profits are the result of EAI/CRM success, not the measuring stick of it. To measure the success, go behind the tangible revenue increases and look at their causes. If you've done it right, you'll have a mechanism in place that will keep generating – and increasing – those profits for years to come. That mechanism is a well-oiled, efficient organization that can bridge business-unit communication gaps to speak one language – customer satisfaction.

How do you measure the success of such a gargantuan effort? Unfortunately, many organizations don't ask that question until the effort is nearing completion – or, worse, rolled out. However, the question needs to be one of the drivers of the EAI/CRM initiative from the beginning. In other words, the metrics you use for determining the success of the initiative must be directly linked to the business problem you needed it to solve. For example, if your business intelligence efforts showed that your customers weren't satisfied with the level of customer service through multiple selling channels, one of the metrics you'll use to determine success is the current customer satisfaction level. It sounds absurdly simple and obvious; but in the rush for increasing revenues and shareholder value, simplicity is often overlooked.

Other measures include customer retention/attrition rates, improved supply chain efficiency, operating cost reduction, as well as increased efficiency and decreased cost of completing mergers and acquisitions. Most EAI/CRM initiatives are undertaken to address one or more of these issues, so it makes sense to use these issues as metrics for measuring the success of the effort.

Now that it's clear what should be measured, how do you go about gathering the data to obtain accurate measurements? Just as implementing the EAI/CRM initiative required the input of key personnel from all areas of the organization, so will measuring its success. Of course, one of the first business areas to gather data from is finance/accounting. They can tell you how much revenue growth you've had as well as how much profit has been turned on that growth ­ which would indicate better overall front-to-back-office efficiency. They can also provide formulas such as economic value added and total shareholder return that indicate long- term success.

However, sales and marketing people need to be involved too. They have their finger on the collective customer pulse and can provide valuable information on customer churn/retention ratios, product-buying trends and promotions evaluation. Finally, call center people are an invaluable tool in measuring EAI/CRM success. They are the frontline customer contacts, and they can provide invaluable information on customer satisfaction. They can also tell you if the "customer hot-potato" syndrome has decreased – whether or not they have the information at their disposal to help most customers without passing the customer from station to station like a hot potato.

Of course, the information technology team needs to be central to the success- measurement effort, because they are the ones who designed and implemented the solution. They can tell you how well the system is functioning to produce the needed information and how easy it is to meet organizational demands. This information is critical; because if the system is a lumbering behemoth to work with, no matter how much information it produces, it will not be economically viable for long and must be streamlined.

What I'm getting at here is that the success of any EAI/CRM initiative will ultimately depend on the benefits it provides to the organization, whether the majority of those benefits are tangible or intangible. With that in mind, there are both tangible and intangible benefits to look at as indicators of success. Some of the tangible benefits, as mentioned earlier, include increased customer retention/growth, more efficient supply and selling chains, and increased cost savings through those increased efficiencies. All of this will lead – in time – to increased market share. The intangible benefits, although harder to measure, are just as important to the success of the EAI/CRM initiative. They include improved data accuracy, more efficient access to organizational information and increased customer satisfaction.

In the end, the success of the EAI/CRM initiative will be largely determined by the care and planning put into it on the front end, as well as the execution of the plan by the entire organization. Plan for success and take measurements throughout the implementation of the solution. If you are seeing the tangible and intangible benefits I've described here, the hard numbers will appear shortly thereafter in the financial reports; and the initiative will ultimately pay for itself.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access