Reference Point
a newsletter for customer reference professionals
November 2007

In this issue:

SAP's Scott Acheson - who's presenting at the 2008 Customer Reference Forum - tells how his firm's new Customer Reference Management System (RMS) is delivering rich reference information to the right person at the right time. Which, of course, is not only winning kudos from stakeholders like sales, but also dramatically reducing the burden on SAP's Reference Management teams.

We also update you on new Job Openings for reference professionals.

Please see below.

All the best,

- 2008 CUSTOMER REFERENCE FORUM Join us February 18-20 at the Claremont Resort in Berkeley, CA. We'll have case studies from SAP, SAS, Oracle, Intel and other top programs demonstrating the increasing sophistication and effectiveness of leading reference programs, while also showing how the new world of social media is dramatically changing the world of references.

And stay tuned for more about our most important keynote speaker yet, who'll present results of his groundbreaking research on assessing and leveraging the value of referrals. Please click here for more information and to register.

Insight Marketing, Big Sky Communications and Projectline Services are currently hiring for Customer Reference Professionals. For more information on these jobs click here.

We can let our community of more than 500+ reference pros know about your position opening. To post a job (for now, this service is free), please click here.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a job, bookmark our new job board postings and check it from time to time, at http://www.customerreferenceforum.com/jobs/

Check out our BEST PRACTICES REPORTS for tips on critical issues like: getting marquee customers to participate in a reference program; getting customers to reveal measurable benefits; developing customer communities; integrating your program with sales; gaining executive support, and more. For more information, please click here.

Check out our SURVEYS of Reference Programs and the Managers who run them, here:


Scott is leading the effort at one of the worlds most respected reference programs, to completely revamp its Customer Reference Management System (RMS). The new SAP RMS, which is integrated tightly into its existing CRM, is designed to provide a self service system that delivers rich reference information to the right person at the right time - while dramatically reducing the burden of such activities on the Reference Management team.

Scott will provide additional details in a Deep Dive presentation at the 2008 Customer Reference Forum.

Q. You're working on a project to redo SAP's Reference Management System (RMS). Just to be clear, are you re-working SAP's entire RMS or just a portion of it?

A. The entire RMS application. We have built a new global reference management system from the ground up using our own SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM) 5.0 environment - the CRM system that SAP uses.

Q. What factors led to this undertaking? What did the old RMS system lack that the new one is supposed to correct?

A. The old system was built as part of our R/3 system (SAP's internal, integrated business applications), which was being upgraded to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system in February 2007. This upgrade was going to cause major problems for our old system. The users of the system had been requesting changes and enhanced functionality for years so we took the opportunity to create a new system - one that would meet the stakeholders needs. The timing was good - people were ready for improvements.

Q. What does it mean to "get the right reference at the right time" in the sales cycle? How was SAP's previous system falling short on this? How do you know the new system is meeting this standard?

A. The old system made it hard to find references when needed in the sales cycle. In addition, collateral was not part of the old system so the users had to go to multiple applications to find reference customers and collateral. This tedious process turned a number of users away from the old system thereby creating more work for our limited number of reference managers and collateral owners. The goal of the new RMS system is to empower the end user to allow them to find the references and collateral when they need it and not have to rely on another person to do this work for them.

Q. What was your biggest challenge in building support for the new system? How did you overcome it?

A. We really didn't have a group that did not see the need for the new system. All stakeholders were on-board from the beginning. However, our biggest challenge was to prove to them that this time around we would actually deliver a globally accepted system on time. There had been previous attempts to replace this application that failed and so a number of stakeholders were, at best, only cautiously optimistic that this project would succeed. We convinced these users by making sure that we delivered a solution that replaced all existing functionality with our first major release on-time.

Q. Why are you building the new RMS within the CRM system?

A. We decided to use CRM to develop our new reference management system because we wanted to take advantage of the customer information that is stored in CRM. Not only do we inherit information about each customer, but by being part of CRM, we can associate reference activities to opportunities, and then report on which reference customers are helping us win more deals. That helps us gain a deeper understanding of the true value of the reference program.

Q. What is the major argument for building a stand alone RMS system independent of the CRM system, and why was this argument not persuasive to SAP?

A. The major argument for building a stand-alone system is cost and development time - both are less. However, by building a stand-alone system you are just perpetuating the problem of silos of information. By incorporating references into the overall CRM application it allows you to better understand your reference customers and what it is they are actually doing.

Q. What is the one thing you did in building the new RMS that you would do differently next time? (i.e., your biggest screw-up)

A. Involve SAP IT earlier in the process. We were under very tight timelines with the old application being shut down so we had to develop the RMS application using 3rd party developers. While we of course informed SAP IT of our plans and go their buy-in, we developed the application with little to no actual involvement from IT. Next time around I would ensure that we had more involvement from them from the very start.

Q. How much of the new system was built in house and how much with vendor support?

A. Currently to date the entire RMS application has been built using 3rd party resources. All of the functional design was done in-house by SAP employees, but the actual CRM development was done by 3rd party vendors. Going forward, this model is changing. To date we have had 2 major releases, however, starting with release 3, SAP IT will be controlling all of the development effort. 3rd party resources will continue to be used but not to the same extent as before.

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