Integrator Builds Customized CRM Solution With Web Services Capability
Extreme Logic used .NET tools to create a CRM (customer relationship management) solution that integrates with legacy data and workflow in record time.
Convincing a customer to let you install a product that is new to the market requires a great deal of trust. Integrator and developer Extreme Logic's (www.extremelogic.com) (Atlanta) longtime customer TSYS (Columbus, GA) is an example of an even higher level of trust. A subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp., the credit card processing outsourcer contracted with Extreme Logic to build a customized CRM (customer relationship management) solution built on a version of Microsoft's (Redmond, WA) .NET Framework, which hadn't even been officially released yet. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Extreme Logic had access to a full-featured beta version, which it felt could meet the needs of a call center application for 600 TSYS CSRs (customer service representatives).
The multitude of private-labeled credit cards has created tremendous opportunities and challenges for TSYS. The company can provide everything from the actual printing of cards and bills to sending out advertisements to managing account and premium information. Customers can choose any or all of these options, including a 24-hour outsourced call center. In upgrading its current system, TSYS had two goals. Getting new customers into the system quickly allows TSYS to begin generating revenue sooner. In addition, TSYS gets paid per call, so the sooner it can resolve a consumer inquiry and move on to the next, the more money it can make.
Each credit card provider can potentially have a different workflow for handling any aspect of its account. For instance, if a consumer calls to change an address, a specific validation process has to be followed, such as asking for a password or mother's maiden name. "It required significant resources to write code for each of these workflows," notes Alicia Ford, Extreme Logic's VP and general manager. "There was also the question of total cost of ownership and scalability. TSYS knew that if the customer base grew to a particular point, its existing solution just couldn't handle the volume."
In addition to increasing the speed of servicing new accounts and retrieving information, TSYS also required tight integration with an existing mainframe system, a significant investment housing data on 228 million credit card accounts. Extreme Logic created a custom data integration service that communicates with TSYS' mainframes via Microsoft's Host Integration Server to bring the mainframe data into the automated workflow.
A Customized Prototype Within A Week
TSYS executives felt that a packaged CRM solution wasn't flexible enough to meet the unique needs of its business model, especially in the area of workflow. In fact, the company spent five months attempting to implement such a package. That project was abandoned because it lacked support for decision logic and failed to integrate with existing systems. Though TSYS realized the need for a customized solution, there were concerns as to whether the Extreme Logic and TSYS teams could meet the dates and deliverables set forth in the proposal. After all, the .NET Framework was a new product with few published technical details, and the six-month implementation period was ambitious.
In creating a solution that would come to be known as ProphIT, Extreme Logic worked closely with its Microsoft alliance manager, who offered support for the product. Because the integrator was able to develop a working prototype within a week, the fears of TSYS executives were allayed somewhat. "The .NET Framework has the core system components most applications need," says Dan Davis, principal consultant at Extreme Logic. "Developers access those through the code they write. This reduces the amount of time spent coding and allows more time for design. Developers can concentrate on the business function, not bits and bytes." Extreme Logic estimates it would have required twice as long using J2EE (Java 2, Enterprise Edition) to create a solution. In addition, Extreme Logic used a custom .NET profiling tool to prevent potential bottlenecks in the process as well as conduct quality assurance.
Combine ROI With A Road Map For Future Enhancements
The first customer to use ProphIT went live in late February of 2002, and additional accounts have been migrated to the system monthly. Previously, it took six months to bring a new customer into the system. Now, a relatively simple set of customer workflows can be enacted in as little as four weeks, helping TSYS realize revenue at least twice as soon as it did under the old system.
Prior to the implementation of ProphIT, it would take as long as 90 seconds for a CSR to receive customer data after a call was received. Now, the customer is identified before the PBX (private branch exchange) switch sends it to the proper CSR. When the call arrives, so does the customer data. The system even jumps to the part of the workflow that is important. TSYS estimates this makes CSRs 15% more productive. Based on an average pay rate of $15 an hour, the company could save about $2.7 million annually.
Initially, TSYS required four servers in a Web farm to run its customer-facing business. After the installation, an analysis found that the CPU (central processing unit) utilization was less than 2%, so two were taken offline. As a result, hardware costs were reduced by 95%, and scalability is practically a non-issue. With native support for XML (extensible markup language) and XML Web services. ProphIT supports efficient integration of new data sources. As a result, TSYS will be prepared for future innovations as Web services adoption continues.
The next generation of ProphIT includes CTI (computer telephony integration), a consultation opportunity for the integrator to provide even higher efficiency and further decrease costs. TSYS and Extreme Logic are also investigating other business units where the ProphIT workflow can benefit the outsourcing provider.
Use Tools To Build Business Assets
In addition to the benefits it can bring to end users, Extreme Logic has found that using tools to build its own technical assets is a smart business decision. Much of the expertise necessary to create ProphIT is based on prior experience in development, both in technology and process. "We use a process called Success Path that is predictive in delivering positive results to our customers," says Ford. "We also own the technical assets. Through many application development projects, we have learned design patterns for what works and what doesn't. Because of this familiarity with the tools and techniques, our development team could lay out the architecture for a solution within three weeks."
The same business concepts of integrating back-end legacy systems and creating systems that are strategic assets apply to many vertical markets. Extreme Logic believes it can apply these design concepts, as well as the code components based on the .NET Framework, to other customers. In fact, the developer recently engaged with CRM provider Firstwave to provide a foundation built around .NET for existing and new products.