Case study: Tower

ERP vendors have a challenge ahead of them trying to cover the waterfront of CRM and supply chain, says the general manager of development for Tower Insurance, David Callender. Your ERP system can't do everything well and won't solve all your problems, he says.

ERP vendors have a challenge ahead of them trying to cover the waterfront of CRM and supply chain, says the general manager of development for Tower Insurance, David Callender. Your ERP system can’t do everything well and won’t solve all your problems, he says.

Tower Insurance is the arm of the Australasian insurance giant that specialises in house, contents and car coverage. All the divisions in the nine-branch, 2000-person group use PeopleSoft and CRM system Vantive (now owned by PeopleSoft) “to some degree”, says Callender, whose role covers both IT management and marketing.

“If you talk to a number of executives and they explain their strategies from a relationship-management point of view, what they’re trying to do the next two or three years, I think it would be beyond any software developer to put an ERP solution out that would cover all of those bases.”

ERP packages meet some of the CRM requirements “quite well”, but companies shouldn’t look for “a magic wand”, he says. It might do 70% of what’s expected very well, he says. “Vantive is never going to solve all your problems, and I don’t think PeopleSoft would be wise to pretend it does.”

Companies should look at how the software fits into their business strategy, overall policy administration, financials and general system and process architecture.

There is further challenge in terms of integration, he says, and the question of how easy a new software package will be to meld with current and future applications would be one of Callender’s top five concerns. ERP vendors need to work harder to open their products to other applications and keep software functionality up to date, he says.

Tower started using Vantive software and PeopleSoft financials before PeopleSoft bought Vantive. Tower Insurance uses Vantive for recording and managing customer contacts, and is now looking at future uses. The health insurance arm uses it for workflow, in terms of noting links to doctors’ records and the like. A centralised customer database, available to all parts of the group, allows bulk marketing campaigns.

Callender says he would probably make the same choice of software today. Both performed as expected, with “no surprises”. Vantive’s support was seen as a plus, and the product was compared with other prominent CRM suites, such as Siebel. The group has bought and recently implemented PeopleSoft HR.

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