Problem: Infrastructure makes adding new CRM features difficult.
Solution: An infrastructure extension for now, but the ultimate goal is to move to the cloud.
Jim Finwick knew the writing was on the wall. As the CIO of Compassion International, a Colorado Springs-based Christian organization that helps children in developing countries, Finwick noticed that an existing home-built customer relationship management system called Compass was showing its age. Built on Sybase PowerBuilder, the CRM system wasn't scalable, didn't have an open API and had no way of collecting detailed information about sponsors.
"We had all of these connections that were wired together, and not in a standard way, that created this level of fragility. We knew we needed more flexibility and stability," says Finwick.
His fears were realized in November 2010, when the Compass CRM system froze completely, leading to a half-day of downtime and the loss of about $500,000 in donations. Because Compassion works with 10 regional centers and 25 offices throughout the world that help arrange donations, it needed to minimize the number of software patches and connections its system required. The organization decided to move to a cloud-based IT infrastructure, built partly on the Microsoft .Net framework and partly on Neudesic Neuron, an enterprise bus server that connects diverse systems.
One of the organization's goals is to create a one-to-one relationship between sponsor and child. It has to be able to reassure contributors that children aren't being sponsored by multiple people. That means coordinating data about a child who lives in one country with data about a sponsor who lives in a different country. Ideally, a U.K.-based sponsor, for instance, will be able to get information quickly about a child who needs help, even if that child lives on another continent. That level of integration would not have been possible with the stand-alone CRM system, but it's possible in the cloud.
So far, Compassion has upgraded the Compass database to run on a hosted platform using several technologies, including Neudesic. And Bleum Inc., an IT outsourcing company based in Shanghai, added Web services to the Compass CRM system to help the group get by in the short term. But further out, Compassion plans to upgrade to a full cloud-based ERP system. Finwick would not say when that will happen.