Wheelhouse tackles CRM integration

Wheelhouse Corp. last week announced software that aims to make it easier for companies to manage customer-related data residing in multiple applications.

Available next month, Wheelhouse CRM Director is the first packaged software product from the Burlington, Massachusetts, startup, which initially focused on professional services. Through its services work, Wheelhouse says it grew its expertise in integrating data from disparate customer relationship management (CRM) applications, and used that expertise to build CRM Director.

From the start, Wheelhouse didn't set out build new CRM functionality - there is plenty of software that does that, says Frank Ingari, founder and chairman of Wheelhouse. Instead, Ingari focused on the difficulty of managing customer-related data, which is a major reason why CRM projects fail, he says.

Different CRM systems have different ways of recording customer information. Plus, business units and channels tend to create their own custom business definitions - for what defines a high-value buyer, for example. Keeping data consistent is a constant challenge since "adds, changes and deletes" dominate CRM usage, Ingari says. If silos of data are not aligned, system quality goes down. That's the challenge CRM Director aims to solve.

CRM Director gives companies templates to create standard, reusable business definitions, which are then mapped to the different CRM schemas in various applications. But it doesn't require companies to retrofit any of their existing data schemas to match the standard business definitions, according to the company. Rather, the maps are used to reconcile CRM data and direct movement across systems.

The software complements existing application integration middleware, Ingari says. Whereas middleware handles the actual data transport among applications, CRM Director sets the course for that data exchange, he says. It lays out the sources and destinations of data moving between operational and analytic CRM applications.

Companies can alter the definitions and maps as business processes change. "CRM will be the most dynamic enterprise system ever built for almost any company," Ingari says. "If you're not making changes, you either have a dead CRM system or a dead company."

In conjunction with its professional services and packaged software products, Wheelhouse also offers its Application Management Center (AMC), a venue for companies to build and pilot their CRM systems before taking them live on their own production networks. As a staging site, AMC lets Wheelhouse assume responsibility for the integration project early on, during the period of highest risk, Ingari says. After design and development are complete, the system gets turned over to the client to maintain locally.

Wheelhouse customers include Barclays Global Investors, Eastman Kodak, Mazda, Merrill Lynch, Newsweek and Wells Fargo.

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