Modified mySAP CRM system helps medical device maker

Executives at Varian Medical Systems weren't convinced mySAP CRM would work at first, but additional SAP software helped bridge some functionality gaps.

SAP has had a hard time keeping up with Varian Medical Systems Inc.

We had a rocky start because SAP's system hadn't matured, and they just didn't have the functionality.
Satish Subramanian,
MIS manager and CRM project managerVarian Medical Systems Inc

The Palo Alto, Calif., company went live last Tuesday with the first stage of its mySAP CRM implementation -- yet it has been a give-and-take process as it worked with SAP to create an advanced system to meet its business needs.

The company, which designs and manufactures equipment and software for treating cancer with radiation, struggled with a slow customer service process under SAP's R/3 system, especially as it became an increasingly software-oriented business. Varian's executives hoped that the addition of mySAP CRM was just what the company needed to improve service to its software and hardware customers.

"We had implemented some tools under R/3, and they were not really meeting the needs of the growing company and our customers," said Satish Subramanian, MIS manager and CRM project manager at Varian. "While we had some other systems, we were primarily SAP based … [That's why] we wanted to go with mySAP CRM."

A pilot group of six help desk agents began using mySAP CRM and SAP's Industry Service add-on product last week. The company was hampered by some implementation problems and choose the add-on software because the mySAP CRM software lacked the functionality that it needed.

"We had a rocky start because SAP's system hadn't matured, and they just didn't have the functionality [with that version]," Subramanian said. "In the end they got it done."

Varian's choice is not unique, according to Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager at Boston-based Yankee Group.

Existing SAP customers often find mySAP CRM more attractive than Siebel Systems Inc., SAP's best-of-breed competitor in the CRM space, Kingstone said. While mySAP CRM does not have the functionality to match Siebel, existing SAP customers often choose another SAP product rather than integrating Siebel.

"CRM is so personalized," Kingstone said. "The question is always: Does [mySAP CRM] have the right functionality to meet my needs? If a company has the back-office setup [with SAP], mySAP CRM can be a huge benefit."

After deciding to implement in October 2003, Varian discovered that while it liked some functionality of mySAP CRM, version 4.0 was limited. The company employed a full-time staff to work on the project in April 2004, and after experimenting and prototyping, realized what it was up against.

"We did what we could out of the box, but it was not enough," Subramanian said. "Fortunately, that was the time SAP was developing the Service Industry add-on [September 2004]. It looked very attractive to us."

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Varian's new system, complete with the SAP Industry Service add-on and an IRC Web client, enables customer service representatives to search customer history as soon as the customer places a call to a help desk location in the U.S. and Canada.

Varian will continue adding users to this pilot group for the oncology support center; they expect to have 20 users by the end of May. In the next phase, which is expected to go live in July and August, the company will transfer communications from the help desk agents to a field engineer dispatch group, and by September the company hopes to begin its European rollout.

When the implementation is completed, agents will be able to search possible solutions to a problem and e-mail those solutions to the customer. The system will allow agents to escalate tickets if the problem is not resolved and will provide alerts to make sure the situation is resolved in a timely manner.

Despite problems in the initial stages of the implementation, Subramanian is nevertheless very positive about his experience with SAP.

"[Deciding on the SI add-on] was probably the turning point of the project," Subramanian said. "If that hadn't come, we might have put the project behind us."

Part of the reason for Varian's success has been its unique staffing methodology, Subramanian said. They hired a small but very dedicated group that was devoted to the progress of the implementation and has been involved every step of the way.

While many companies would use a large team of consultants, Varian hired Srini Katta as its full-time consultant, since Katta had worked on many CRM implementations in the past. The rest of the team worked on the physical testing of the system, while Katta and Casper Kan, a consultant who was provided part time by SAP, also provided consulting services.

It is not only the IS side that is pleased with the system. The company's help desk agents, many of whom work remotely at home offices throughout the country, have been pleased with the speed and ease of the new system.

"We are just scratching the surface of mySAP CRM," Subramanian said. "CRM has so many other things to offer, and we are trying to figure out [how those work with] the needs of the business. We've laid the foundation now, and this will benefit the entire organization."

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