Stories by Grant Buckler

A users' guide to CRM software

Mobility and software as a service are changing customer relationship management and sales force software. Upstart has made a significant dent in the market, and established vendors of licensed software are playing catchup. SAP AG's recent alliance with Research in Motion Inc. is the latest development as CRM vendors try to meet customer growing demand for mobility. And user interfaces are evolving to meet the expectations of people who have grown up with the Web.

Putting the Right Foot Forward

Large IT projects have a notoriously high failure rate, and more often than not the reasons for failure can be traced back to a few simple concepts that were not properly executed. As consulting firms are often key players in large IT projects and have experience with them in a wide variety of environments, we asked several of them to identify common points of failure. To add to our perspective, we also talked to a few CIOs.

Convergence and the CIO

As any orator will tell you, if you want to communicate to the best of your ability you need a good set of pipes. That's why more and more organizations are considering converged networks that simultaneously carry voice, data and maybe even video. They are doing so for two main reasons: the potential cost savings such converged networks promise and the new applications they could make possible. Helping the process along is "the near-universal acceptance of TCP/IP," adds Ross Chevalier, director of technology at Novell Canada Inc. There is no longer much question what the common foundation for converged networks should be: It is IP -- Internet Protocol. Yet at this point in time few are doing much more than looking, or at most bringing voice and data together in limited areas of their operations. Why? First, it remains doubtful how real the promised cost savings are. Avoiding long-distance charges accounts for a significant chunk of the savings that convergence advocates promise, but with increased competition driving long-distance rates down, some doubt there is a lasting gain here. And while combining two separate networks into one should cut management costs, those savings will come only after the pain and expense of reorganizing and retraining the IS and telecom teams that manage existing networks. New applications may eventually prove the more convincing argument for convergence. Unified messaging -- in which users can retrieve voice mail, electronic mail and faxes through one interface -- is one. Another is the integrated customer-service centre, which expands the call centre's role to dealing with customers online and even carrying on voice conversations through Web sites.

Getting it Right on the Web

The recent holiday season was an electronic-commerce milestone in Canada. For the first time, Canadians were offered a wide selection of merchandise through the World Wide Web, and quite a few of us took advantage of the opportunity to shop online. Even though Canada is among the world's most wired nations, Canadian merchants have been a good deal slower than their American counterparts in bringing their wares to the online market. Yet they are beginning to jump on the bandwagon.