White Paper: Putting organisation into the Corporation

For many businesses, success can come down to a simple act of communication. This is why more companies are turning to contact...

For many businesses, success can come down to a simple act of communication. This is why more companies are turning to contact databases for managing information

It seems businesses want more and more done, by fewer people and in less time than ever. While technology continues to empower business, it has also driven growth to seemingly uncontrollable limits. Everything is more powerful ( and faster ( from systems to processors and even the pace of communication. The accelerating rate of technological change seems matched only by businesses' ever-growing appetite for it.

Today, computer manufacturers and software developers are rushing to meet the technology demands of corporations looking for competitive advantages. Everyone, from software and hardware vendors to the users struggling to stay on top of it all, is searching for the Holy Grail of IT ( seamless, scalable information management and systems integration.

The first glimpse of an integrated and centralised future for business information systems began with the growth of Local Area Networks (LANs), which gave rise to the groupware software category. These products allowed organisations not only to store data centrally, but to make that data shareable across the LAN. At about the same time, Personal Information Management (PIM) and contact management products began to appear. These applications focused on customer asset management but strictly from an individual's point of view ( not the team's and certainly not the enterprise's.

The need to combine relationship and information management systems into a single business solution gave birth to the Sales Force Automation (SFA) category ( turning it into a $1 billion market in just a few short years. Unfortunately, the high implementation and support costs associated with SFA products have all but excluded small to mid-sized businesses from adopting this technology.

Under the predominately healthy economic conditions of the past decade, sales and revenues have taken off for many businesses, exceeding all but the most optimistic predictions. This has forced many companies to deal with more data than they had ever imagined even having to store, let alone regularly access and query. In addition, with the latest technology revolution ( the Internet ( organisations have also had to extend their databases far beyond the physical reaches of their discrete LANs.

Now, to maintain this explosive growth in data, many of those early adopters of the LAN are feeling the pull towards SQL databases and client/server architectures. More and more, as larger corporations try to track and maintain customer relations in the currently available contact management systems, they are encountering a contentious hurdle ( scalability.

Many of these larger corporations have developed their own contact management applications. They are running on beefy AS/400 systems in order to use SQL databases to maintain the vast amounts of information that is being generated by people throughout the enterprise. Smaller organisations that began with applications running on either Novell or NT servers had, for a time, effectively handled up to hundreds of transactions and users. Although efficient enough for small to medium-sized businesses, the servers in these organisations began to face limitations when it came to managing large amounts of data. Also, high economic growth, seemingly overnight, has turned many of these mid-sized companies into large enterprises. The problem is that their applications, particularly their contact management databases, have fallen behind due to inherent structural limitations.

The reality of a limited information management database is one that most growing businesses don't want to face. Computer hardware and software developers have recognised this problem and are addressing the needs of these stalled corporations looking for solutions through strategic partnerships.

Compaq and GoldMine Software have developed an enterprise-level contact management solution with GoldMine 4.0 and Compaq's ProSignia 200 server. GoldMine's client/server version with SQL support will effectively host any data store. The Compaq-GoldMine package will be marketed to small and medium-sized businesses that need to manage customer relationships and develop business opportunities. The solution blends the ease-of-use and affordability of today's contact managers with the power and scalability of higher-end sales force automation software without the associated cost and complexities.

The integration of these products means that even companies without in-house IT staff and huge budgets can still provide their teams with the top-of-the-line tools to succeed. The most important benefits for contact management users in a client/server environment are scalability, portability and security.

However, that's not the only type of software that corporations rely on to manage their operations. Applications for accounting, manufacturing, marketing and support are also imperative to a business' daily processes. In this light, the importance of adopting a client/server architecture that supports openness and enterprise-wide data integration can not be overstated. For this reason, a workgroup contact manager plays the key role in centralising communications about a corporation's customers and prospects for users across the organization.

Once these applications have been tied together and data stored on the server, the security of that information becomes an equally important issue. The use of a client/server database ensures that a company's most sensitive asset ( the names of its customers, prospects and leads ( remains secure.

Compiled by Rachel Hodgkins

(c) Jett Vercruse 1999

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