In the fall of 2014, Intuit Director of Engineering Jerry Lekhter and his team had a growing problem: how do they give their employees access to more data inside of Salesforce to serve their customers better? And how do they do it without getting bogged down in legacy integration, or requiring their business users to keep multiple screens open to search for customer data?
For Lekhter, these problems are all in a day's work. His team is responsible for supporting Intuit's internal users across a broad range of teams, including the sales force and call centers. I recently talked with Lekhter about how he addressed these integration issues via Progress Software and its connectivity to the Salesforce platform. Lekhter also shared advice on how companies should approach modern integration projects - at a time when massive projects are fiscally problematic and the user experience is paramount.
The challenge: managing legacy CRM data in a Salesforce environment
Intuit now uses Salesforce for CRM; that means gradually moving off legacy CRM tools and consolidating everything onto Salesforce. But not so fast - Lekhter's team isn't necessarily looking to move all the data. He explains:
The problem came to a head in the fall of 2014. Lekhter's team was tasked with onboarding a new business team onto Salesforce - a team that needed occasional access to a wide range of data not currently in the Salesforce system. Lekhter didn't want this team scouring through a half dozen apps for historical data with a customer on the line. "We didn't want to move terabytes of old data into Salesforce for this small group," recalls Lehkter.
One of the challenges we have is that as we migrate everything over into SalesForce, the data we want to put in SalesForce are things like customer data and current customer contacts. But it gets to a point where there's just an awful lot of data from our legacy systems that doesn't need to be in SalesForce, but we still want to provide access to our agents for easy access when they're talking to customers.
For those pieces of data, we were in search of a solution. How do we best present that information over to the sales rep or the customer care rep when they need it, but not bog down SalesForce with that information because most of the time it's actually not necessary?
I asked Lekter for specific examples of deeper data they didn't want to finesse into Salesforce. Examples included:
- Order history (12 months of order history is typically sufficient, but some agents need 10 years)
- Case history (the entire multi-year history of customer interactions are occasionally needed)
- Agent-specific data, e.g. commission calculations - you don't want the agent distracted by a separate commissions app when they are on the phone with the customer.
Another motivation to keep the data where it currently resides: in some cases, the data is held in systems of record; migrating to Salesforce would mean replication and synchronization headaches. As Lekhter put it: "We just wanted to keep the data where it belongs."
But on the flip side, the top priority was providing a better customer experience, which meant giving Intuit agents the right data at their fingertips - in one app. Something had to give. At Dreamforce 2014, Lekhter talked to Salesforce about their Lightning Connect product. After the show, he followed up with his Salesforce contacts. They recommended using Progress DataDirect Cloud in conjunction with Lightning Connect.
Rolling it out - how business users were involved
By January 2015, the decision was made; sandbox tests were underway with a Progress team on-site. I asked Lekhter why they didn't evaluate other options. In this case, a strong relationship had been built up with their Salesforce contacts, so Lekhter focused on evaluating the Progress solution. By February, Intuit had their first prototype, and by March, the first use case was launched.
I wanted to know about implementation complexity. Lekhter told me that each rollout to a new user group took only a week of development. They push new business capabilities into production on a monthly basis. Lehkter credits the ease of development to the heavy lifting provided by the Lighting Connect and Progress connectivity.
Without getting too technical, Lekhter told me that "you can drop a screen and drop functionality very quickly." From a technical integration standpoint, much of what is required is pre-built by Progress and Salesforce. That allows Lekhter to focus on involving the business users, which is a crucial focus of each rollout. Lekhter involves his business users through their experience design (XD) methodology:
Prior to the implementation, we spend some time on the experience design with the functionality that we're trying to deploy. We want it ensure that it's intuitive and easy to use from a look and feel perspective. We want our agents to know how to get to the functionality, how to do it quickly, and to be able to satisfy customer questions with as few screen turns or clicks as possible.
Measuring results and gathering feedback
It's not always easy to put a direct number on "improved experiences." But starting with the business users, what's the feedback to date? Lekhter:
I think everybody loves the access to the data. We've gone through performance testing - the information retrieval is very quick. From their perspective, everything they need is now in SalesForce - the data's there in the page. It's there on demand or on the fly, as they navigate to the context of the customer. They never have to spend time looking for it.
They never have to ask, 'What system is this data in?' It feels like you're in SalesForce all the time. You don't have to go into the billing system; you don't have to go into the commission system; you don't have to go into the order archives. You don't have to worry about where the data is anymore.
As for the customer feedback, Lekhter hopes to measure that over time. For now, they haven't seen any problems come up in their Net Promoter scores that customers fill out after calling in. The ultimate goal? Customer delight. In the meantime, don't pass the customer around like a hot potato. Lekhter:
If the data that is necessary is at the agent's fingertips, then you're not being transferred, you're not being sent to somebody else to get the information. All of that eventually will work into delight. As we say, "Happy agents, happy customers." We focus on delighting the agents, so they can delight our customers.
The wrap - and some advice
At this point, Intuit is all-in on the Progress-Lighting Connect integration. After starting small, Lekhter's team has now rolled out to all 11,000 agents. Looking ahead, Lekhter has identified more use cases that fit this data profile. For June and July, they're expanding the solution to commissions systems. In August, they'll pull in billing history from Intuit's billing systems.
Since many companies are struggling with the integration of legacy and cloud systems, I asked Lekhter for his advice. Short version: leverage integration technologies, and build them into repeatable processes:
Some people think they can build some of these things themselves, and you probably can, but there are companies out there building this stuff for you and making sure that it scales appropriately... If we were to build this ourselves, it would have taken us way longer than the two months it took to get this out the door. With Progress, regardless of the system, whether it's the commission system, the billing system, the order history or the case history, it's all basically one approach, and one way of doing things.
Which brings us to the IT punchline:
We can focus on the experience, and roll out a really great customer experience and let the technology pieces do their thing.
Wrapping out talk, Lekhter and I had a longer discussion about letting data reside in legacy systems while integrating that data with cloud - something David Linthicum wrote about in Don't Use the Cloud Like a Data Wareouse. Net-net: Lekhter agrees - at least for transactional systems: "Ensuring that the data stays where it really belongs, and is accessible to the agent at any given point in time is a delighter."
Image credit: Feature image: Ja zur Integration © drubig-photo - Fotolia.com. LinkedIn headshot used by permission of Jerry Lekhter.
Disclosure: diginomica has no financial ties to Progress Software. I reached out to Progress PR for a customer story based on my interest. Salesforce is a diginomica premier partner as of this writing, though I was not aware Salesforce would be part of the story prior to the interview - nor does Salesforce PR know about this interview - until now.