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Aplicor Manufacturers Enterprise-Wide ERP Software & CRM Applications
By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor
Aplicor CEO Chuck Schaeffer was interviewed recently about his company, which manufactures ERP Software and other applications. He spoke about Aplicor and how it meets the needs of its clients – as they look to gain a competitive advantage.
• Q: Who is Aplicor?
o A: Aplicor is a software manufacturer of fully integrated, enterprise-wide business software systems which include CRM and ERP Software applications. Our business systems are designed for global middle market companies and delivered as a service in the cloud computing model.
Our CRM application includes marketing automation, sales force automation, customer support and partner relationship management, and helps our clients achieve key business objectives such as improved marketing campaign effectiveness, increased sales win rates, increased customer share and decreased customer churn.
Our ERP application includes financial accounting, project accounting, supply chain management and light manufacturing, and aids our clients in automating business processes across the organization, deceasing cycle times and making all the company’s data easily and quickly available to knowledge workers and decision makers.
• Q: Who are Aplicor’s clients?
o A: Aplicor supports companies in just over 160 countries. Some of the larger companies and brands we support include the federal Government, such as the Department of Commerce, Department of Health & Human Services, NOAA and other federal bureaus, as well as commercial organizations such as Tyco, Intel (News - Alert), Jaguar, Land Rover and Prentice Hall.
• Q: How’s Aplicor different?
o A: First, Aplicor is different than most cloud providers as we deliver an enterprise-wide business system. By delivering a single, fully-integrated system, our clients are not required to incur system integration costs and patch together disparate systems from multiple vendors. Within the application suite, we deliver three unique competitive advantages which are: user experience, business process automation, and business intelligence.
With our new technology Silverlight presentation layer, we deliver a rich user interface and permit users to define their own workspaces, panels and navigation. The UI supports multiple concurrent sessions and gets away from the hard-wired, vendor-imposed navigations of the past. The net effect is to advance from a rigid user interface to a more flexible, intuitive and enjoyable user experience.
Our focus on business process automation is to automate tasks and activities which streamline work processes, shorten business process cycles, and increase user productivity. We allow customers to define and implement their own business process automation routines with our workflow designer. This tool allows a non-technical person to define a condition or triggering event which, upon occurrence, prescribes a number of system behaviors to execute.
Our business intelligence objective is to help decision makers make better decisions. This is accomplished with a suite of tools, such as dashboards, data warehouses and online analytical processing, which deliver key performance indicators, metrics and analytical information to people who can use that information. The tools allow knowledge workers to flex, manipulate or interrogate the information for deeper insight or to model the data according to different decision alternatives. We learned long ago that companies don’t achieve competitive advantage by putting data into an information system, but instead they can achieve competitive advantage when they can get data out of the system and into the hands and heads of the staff which can act upon it.
• Q: What’s Aplicor’s social media strategy?
o A: Our social media strategy is a work in process, but consists of three key objectives and a suite of supporting software tools to accomplish those objectives. The three goals we aspire to help our clients achieve are: increased customer engagement with the enterprise, increased engagement between customers, and improved customer response.
One of the tools we’re designing, to promote increased customer engagement with the enterprise, is called ‘broadcast integration.’ It essentially permits customers to create queries using keywords and masking techniques which monitor the online social streams, retrieve relevant data and forward records to staff for follow-up. This type of tool permits companies to engage with prospects and customers across many different channels and on websites which they don’t control. Integrating customer comments and records from online channels with the CRM software system contact record provides a more holistic customer view or a 360 degree view of the customer relationship.
Another method to enhance increased customer engagement is using enterprise customer feedback. Our approach to this goal is to extend our surveys (and) functions to be more dynamically relevant to customer type or other customer attributes. Feedback benefits are clear, and specificity improves feedback and becomes more actionable. Customer feedback is extremely useful in influencing product designs, R&D, service delivery, company messaging or promotions. Also, when customers are part of the solution they much more eagerly embrace, adopt and refer the solution to other customers.
To facilitate increased engagement between customers, we’re looking at tools we call ‘Users Helping Users,’ which is effectively a customers-helping-customers’ online community. This is an extension of our current self-service portal, which permits customers seeking responses the additional support channel of other customers. The benefits are more than just offloading customer support to other customers. It’s providing an additional method and channel that many customers prefer. There are an increasing number of consumers and customers that do not want to talk to a CSR (News - Alert) and simply want to go online for answers, and who prefer the more candid answers and dialogue that come from peers.
Our third objective of helping customers improve their own customer response is largely about discovering problems that are not shared with the company directly but are instead shared online. Sometimes called social listening, we’re exploring a two-fold approach – first to further leverage our broadcast integration to query and return online content – and second – to provide integration with pure play social listening tools such as Radian6. Social listening is a lagging indicator of a problem, but is also quite possibly the last opportunity to resolve a customer issue before the customer leaves the company or the issue goes viral and becomes a much bigger problem for the company.
• Q: Can you provide examples of social media being employed?
o A: Much of our social media strategy is based on alliances with partners and existing-market-share-leading social solutions. Taking an alliances approach is more practical than trying to become a one-stop, social-CRM vendor, which is really an impossible task with the diversity and continuous innovations being introduced in the marketplace. For example, rather than create our own social network tool, our approach is to take a more open or ubiquitous approach to all or most collaboration products. We’re building an integration to SharePoint, then will come an integration to Jive and then based on the use of open standards technologies in those cases we’ll provide a packaged XML web service to integrate CRM system data with existing social communities, such as Google (News - Alert) Groups, LinkedIn Groups and others, as well as facilitate integration with new vendors as they get introduced and adopted by our customers.
To further our social strategy, we’re also sponsoring a community portal at www.forecastingclouds.com. This industry site is part of a thought-leadership campaign to facilitate an online forum focused on cloud computing business applications. Our goal is to attract and engage members to communicate, collaborate and share first- hand experiences, best practices and lessons learned for the benefit of all participants. We’ve tasked Chris Bucholtz as Editor in Chief to spearhead the effort and he’s shown early success in reaching out to the industry’s top thought-leaders and seeding the online content and conversations.
To keep forecastingclouds.com relevant, the site is delivering a mix of syndicated, curated and original content as well as market research. The key tenets for this community portal include delivering remarkable content, staying vendor neutral and transparent, and engaging a diverse community, which includes thought leaders, practitioners, customers, vendors, journalists and other interested participants.
Ed Silverstein is a contributing editor for TMCnet's InfoTech Spotlight. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Ed Silverstein