XRM in the Public Sector: An Interview with Tron Keefer, CRM Practice Manager of Planet Technologies

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We’ve shared many case studies that focus on private sector companies who improve various business functions through customer data integration, like CallidusCloud increasing their sales team’s effectiveness by linking sales coaching data with the CRM. But it’s not just the private sector that benefits from relationship management system enhancements. The public sector faces a different set of challenges during the set-up of a relationship management system, not to mention hefty regulatory requirements, yet can recognize the same opportunities for efficiencies when data is passed smoothly between agencies.

Tron Keefer is the CRM Practice Manager at Planet Technologies, where he works closely with local and state governments and education departments. Planet Technologies works with these organizations to build XRM (any relationship management) systems for a wide variety of applications, including fleet, investigation, grant, storm water stream management and others. While private sector customers generally install new instances of CRM Online and need not worry about integrating with legacy systems, Tron’s public sector customers are often using decades-old legacy systems created in a time when fewer data constraints were applied. For example, Tron and his team often see ‘date/time’ fields placed in string fields, because at the time of creation, the correct data types may not have existed. The first order of business when Planet Technologies works with a new government agency is to scrub the data that often comes from a range of systems representing a mishmash of solutions – imagine some back ends that use Microsoft Access, while others use SQL, Microsoft Excel or Oracle solutions – yet all this customer data must be passed between systems. Tron’s customers often have multiple systems, and as such, will likely need supplementary occasional data synchronization and migration jobs to maintain high data quality.

Then, Planet Technologies needs to help their customers meet compliance and security standards due to the sensitive nature of some of the information passed between systems. For instance, some records may have health information, which would need to be HIPAA-compliant or others may have payment card information, which must be PCI-compliant. It’s not simply that the application must adhere to certain security standards, but corresponding policies need to be in place too – dealing with issues such as server updates requirements. Then there are procedures to be account for – e.g., what’s the protocol in case of a security breach. Let’s take payroll as an example: a department’s manager may have visibility into his or her employee’s salary information, though that information should not be visible to outside business departments. If this data is passed from a CRM to an ERP system such as GP, Planet Technologies needs to use CRM adapters to go through CRM endpoints (such as Scribe Software CRM adapters) that maintain key applicable business logic. This means any rules will stay present through the migration, whereas a straight data pull out of a SQL database would not recognize the business logic.

Just as in the private sector, the public sector can recognize some serious efficiencies by integrating data throughout departments. In one project that Planet worked on, a customer has a program where healthcare workers visit patients and record patient information. This process was all recorded on paper, and then workers needed to manually reenter the data into a computer. The customer adopted online form builder Formstack that allowed workers to enter data directly into a computer, then ran a report every 10 minutes, powered by Scribe, that pulled the updated data directly into the CRM system, eliminating all of the manual data entry.

Beyond gaining efficiencies, there are other highly important use cases for data integration in the public sector. Consider the case of the Pennsylvania Court system, which relies on court data, like sentencing information, to be fed into other state and county systems. There are obvious reasons why all the state and municipal courts would need that information to be as up-to-date as possible.

If you’re wondering how the public sector is adopting the cloud, it may be as you expect. The public sector remains hesitant to switch to cloud-based services such as like CRM Online or Office 365. Instead, the public sector more often sets up a shared service offering, or a private cloud. Instead of each agency setting up their own exchange server, departments are moving to a single shared environment, which reduces maintenance fees. Specifically, Tron is seeing this happen with CRM and SharePoint where departments want to use and realize the benefits of CRM without supporting such a system on their own. As expected, it takes quite a bit of time for a whole state to migrate to a shared service offering. The transition is happening slowly. Beyond that, the state needs to educate and evangelize the offering to the various government agencies. By moving to this shared environment, the state could eliminate redundant servers and their costs, reduce electricity consumption and recoup maintenance costs.

We are pleased to work with Tron and Planet Technologies to perform data migrations, synchronizations and integrations that improve business processes for the state and local governments of Pennsylvania. What other similarities or differences do you see between CRM in the public and private sectors? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter.

Peter Chase
Peter founded Scribe Software along with Jim Clarke in the beginning of 1996. As Executive Vice President, Business Development, Peter is responsible for establishing and growing partnerships with other leading technology companies in support of Scribe's overall market and product strategy. Prior to founding Scribe, Peter held senior positions in sales, product marketing, and finance at SNAP Software, an early pioneer in CRM software that was acquired by Dun and Bradstreet. He has published numerous articles and whitepapers and is a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events.

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