Looking back on a piece I wrote twelve months ago, I thought it time to re-visit our friends in the maritimes of Canada, Atlantic Data Systems (ADS). Since then, Calvin O'Driscoll and his team have been awarded Diamond Partner status .  For ADS, not only have they become a top Sage partner in North America, but they are also the first to be in the Atlantic Canadian region. From St. John’s, Halifax, and Moncton, & in between, ADS serve customers across the Canadian Maritimes.

For this blog, I thought we would continue our interview format. I first asked Calvin what is it about modular CRM for Sage300 that makes sense to the customers that ADS look after – is it the features that inspire, perhaps the usage they make of it, the 'CRM journey' they need to go on, etc.

[Calvin O'Driscoll, Practice Manager, ADS]

You know, the usual reason customers call is they are looking to solve a specific problem they have in the company. And many of these are around information accessibility - giving company employees anywhere, anytime access to data from right across the organisation - be that financial, marketing, sales or more. This need usually also encompasses providing information that is easy to consume - typically in a dashboard. This 'anywhere access' + on-screen simplicity has been a big hook for all our customers. Essentially they are asking us to help them "see what we need to see quickly & visually" - information in this form is typically company or department metrics - revenue targets, case logging, marketing performance, stocking levels, etc.

The other thing we are seeing more of is a call for visibility & transparency across a business. Just recently we spoke to one company where the CEO has no idea what any of his departments are working on - so much so, that he has to call each department to work it out! For him, te requirement is that complete view, with live information from across the business, anytime he wants.

While many of customers do take advantage of the great workflow capablity in the Sage CRM product, we tend to see workflow requirements evolve over time – typically, it’s not a phase 1 thing. I put that down to many customers not having standardised procedures per se, so it’s challenging to figure that out right out of the gate. It's my view that customers need to ‘be on CRM road’ before they get engaged with workflow. Companies that get on to it first are usually in industries where there are compliance needs – auditing, data checking, etc. Of late, data privacy & validation are driving more usage of workflow & matching reporting, so that's interesting to see.

[David Beard, CRM Principal, Sage CRM]
Talk to me about your lessons from many years of delivering modular CRM to customers. I am interested in how you pitch modular CRM benefits to customers, as well as how you lay out ideas for success & ensuring all parties are well set up to ensure a solid project delivery


We are great believers in everyone in our company using Sage CRM - it is vital to our smooth operation. We use it every day & do almost everything in it. We capture data from across the business & feed into other systems as necessary - like placing 'time billed' information into the accounts & similar. For us, CRM is the ‘entry point’ for everything & everybody.  We needed to standardise – due to our multiple locations & many staff - and we share that 'journey' with all our prospects & customers. It's how we monitor sales, customer service tickets & much more. It's the heartbeat of the business & by using it that way, everyone in the business is an evangelist about the benefits in front of our customers.

In terms of pitching it, we have found our best customers - the ones that get the biggest 'bang for buck' - are those that have many sources of information & they need to bring them together – be that accounts, local databases, other industry specific software (manufacturing, etc.) In almost every customer we talk to, lassoing information & making sense of it (which is the latest, where are the duplicates, etc.) is a time consuming & annoying process for everyone.

Once you have a customer engaged with the benefits of CRM, there must be a plan to deliver a successful project: We explain the journey that customer goes on, no matter how small the company or size of implementation. If you don’t have that, things inevitably go wrong – there's scope creep, perhaps a misunderstanding of expectations, and more. We always ensure that we - and the customer - are conscious of the need to stick to a plan & the budget - for the safety & the sanity of both sides! I believe that’s why some partners fail with projects - they end up looking bad in front of the customer and, in some cases, shy away from future engagements. But it's not the product's fault - that's just sensible project management.

For us quality, timeline & budget are the three critical elements of every project review conversation we have with our customers – and we make it very visual, with red/amber/green (RAG) status as part of every review, no exceptions. These revews, typically to a steering committee and NOT people in the organisation help the separation of personalities from the project and steer the project to the success measures we previously laid out.


Next time - we talk about customer needs, the evolution of business IT, business trends, etc.