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Lotus, c-commerce and CRM

Part two of our c-commerce series focuses on CRM.

This is the second installment in a three-part series on collaborative commerce. Last week, we took a look at Lotus in the world of collaborative commerce. Today we spotlight CRM, or customer-relationship management.

As collaborative commerce remains a priority for Lotus, this means Lotus is putting more focus on its CRM, Sametime and QuickPlace offerings. Just how is Lotus doing that?

Barbara Lalas, Lotus' CRM Solutions marketing manager likens CRM as "an iterative process."

"The more information the customer gives me then the more I have," she explains. "And, if I'm smart, I'll build better products and target more people."

The elegance behind CRM is not having to reinvent the wheel all of the time. "I can answer questions as they arise and then store the information so that I can reuse it the next time the question comes up," she said.

For those wondering where the line is drawn between knowledge management (KM) and c-commerce, Lalas emphasizes that KM is simply "accessing knowledge from within or without your organization, but c-commerce takes you through the entire process."

Sametime, Lotus' real-time collaboration product that gives users secure instant messaging and Web meetings, and QuickPlace, where team workspaces are created via the Web, can be a big boost to CRM in the enterprise, Lalas notes.

For instance, here is a common Sametime scenario: There is a live HELP button on a company's Web site, and when clicked by the customer, a browser window pops up and the customer interacts -- in real time -- with the company help desk.

Lalas says that Sametime flexibliity permits you to implement simply the chat functionality or its enhanced capabilities such as sharing a URL catalog screen. With URL sharing, she notes, then both the company and the customer are looking at the same thing at the same time.

Brian Adler, Lotus' B2B e-commerce solutions marketing manager, says that from a CRM point of view, the real-time aspect of Sametime is "very useful if I can turn around and find references [within the enterprise] to the five people who can help me answer the [customer's] question."

QuickPlace, Adler notes, enables "inter-enterprise production design." When you're not in the same time zone or geographic zone, he explains, QuickPlace acquaints new team members with the project so they can see what's happened before and can get up to speed more quickly.

If you're an extremely large enterprise, don't worry if you don't have a Domino installation in every port. That is, if you have a non-Domino installation, Lotus can still make Sametime and QuickPlace work for you, Lalas says. "They are infrastructure independent."

There are three major areas within CRM in which Sametime and Quickplace can further the enterprise, according to Lalas:

1.) The collaboration must be set up among the enterprise and its customers -- be they manufacturers, retailers or users. Sametime and Quickplace environments are initiated so that users can communicate with one another other and plan the project.

2.) The next wave occurs with every project, as Lalas points out, when changes need to happen. "Exceptions are the rule," she notes. Sametime can be used to set up an application-sharing environment when a major problem rears itself and QuickPlace comes into play so that users can keep track of the process from there on out.

3.) Finally, there must be collaborative forecasting, where manufacturers and retailers can remain in touch throughout the process.

The next big wave in CRM, according to Lalas, is to "be able to do live Web interaction." However, Lalas wouldn't provide specifics just yet.

"Our forte is collaboration. What we're doing is applying what we're good at and applying that to the world of the value chain of commerce. The new thing is building on our strengths."

Part 3 of our 3-part series will focus on XML in the Lotus world of collaborative commerce.

Here are some related Links worth checking out:

Lotus Solutions for Customer Relationship Management
Start at the source. Case studies, news, the "Winning Strategies" newsletter
available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF and, of course, links to IBM.

Customer Relationship Management Center From CIO, this is a good place for in-depth articles and background information on CRM.
TechTarget's search-specific site that brings you daily online news and newsletters,
editor's choices for Best Web Links, discussion forums and technical advice.
A hotbed of CRM news. Check out the latest citation on the site, "Aberdeen
Announces Top 10 CRM Implementations of 2000."

IBM's Customer Relationship Management Index IBM serves up solutions and services for the CRM realm.

Early adopters of CRM see the benefits
This March 2001 article from details how two early adopters of CRM software --
Direct Line and Nationwide Building Society, are reaping rewards.

Sametime Home Page

QuickPlace Home Page

Here is the first installment of our original series on collaborative commerce. This feature explores the c-commerce arena and how Lotus Development Corp. defines its sphere of influence.

Wendy Maxfield is a contributing editor based in Littleton, Mass.

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