Counting on CRM
- By Jason Miller
- Sep 16, 2005
GSA plans to use CRM to support the Census, and that's just the beginning
'Agencies no longer will have to go through 50 different people to get what they need.'
' GSA's Mary Joy Pizzella
For the 2010 Census, the General Services Administration must find and set up 550 offices, each with a 6,000-square-foot layout. The offices must be similarly equipped, with furniture, computers, telecommunications lines, pens, paper and all those things every office needs.
And by the time the Census Bureau finishes the decennial tally in 2011, up to 4,000 people could be involved in setting up, working in and, eventually, moving out of the office spaces around the country.
It's a big job, somewhat akin to taking a show on the road but to 550 places at once. And one of the trickiest parts of the entire program is managing the lines of communication. IT crews need to link construction project managers, contracting officers from three GSA services, real estate specialists who find the office space, Census officials and the assortment of others'from GSA administrator Stephen Perry on down'who need to know what is going on.
In the past, the job was handled with e-mail and spreadsheets, but they weren't always reliable, said Ron Dovel, GSA's national account director for the Census 2010 project, who also worked on the 2000 Census.
'In 2000, there were circumstances where people didn't get the latest e-mail and weren't building out the latest plans,' he said.Future progress
But the 2010 Census will be different, Dovel and GSA officials say. They expect customer relationship management software installed across the Federal Supply, Federal Technology and Public Buildings services to give GSA and Census officials an updated view of what's going on at each of those 550 sites during the buildup, teardown and at any time in between. They're using Version 7.5 of the CRM software from Siebel Systems Inc. of San Mateo, Calif. The impact, if any, on the Census plan of Oracle Corp.'s pending deal to buy Siebel is unknown. But analysts said after the deal was announced last week that they expected Oracle to support Siebel's software, at least in the short term.
Officials will be able to access information such as furniture delivery schedules or telecommunications wiring plans, and know whom to call with questions or concerns.
'The Siebel system becomes a wonderful database of information for us to manage the project,' Dovel said. 'It helps us understand what the Census' needs are now, and we can respond with solutions that are good ones. Building 550 offices is a huge undertaking, and distributing knowledge to that many people is no small challenge.'
The Census challenge is one of many'large and small'GSA will face over the next decade, and officials believe the CRM tool will make it easier to predict what agencies need and when they will need it.
'We will take advantage of the software's analytic forecast tool and develop a customer action plan,' said Mary Joy Pizzella, GSA's associate administrator for the Office of Citizen Services and Communications. 'Agencies no longer will have to go through 50 different people to get what they need, but we will be able to anticipate what they need.'
In addition to the 2010 Census, GSA will use the Siebel system for large projects such as building federal courthouses and IRS service centers, and a host of smaller projects from IT infrastructure work to buying cars'anything where information helps serve the agency customer better, Pizzella said.
'We hope to get to the point where we can walk in and say the courthouse or the agency will need these things, from computers to furniture to whatever,' said Brad Scott, administrator of GSA Region 6, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. 'This is GSA's way of becoming a strategic partner to their customers.'
GSA awarded Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego a $46.6 million contract earlier this summer to integrate the CRM tool across the agency over the next five years.
SAIC, whose team includes IBM Corp., Siebel and Optimos Inc. of Chantilly, Va., will implement the tool on the Web, linking it to the agency's Lotus Notes calendar and integrating it with five systems, including FTS' GSA Preferred and Data Mart.Information storage
Eventually, every system that holds customer data will interface with the CRM app, Pizzella said.
The system runs on multiple ES7000 servers from Unisys Corp., each with up to 32 processors, and information is stored in Oracle 9i databases.
The five systems send the CRM information through batch processing, and officials are considering use of real-time interfaces, Pizzella said.
The application and database are connected through a Fibre Channel storage area network.
The integrated system replaces disparate ones run by FTS and FSS. The Office of Management and Budget in March 2003 required GSA to combine their investments in CRM applications into one for the entire agency.
GSA developed a business case, went through the acquisition process and now is ready to unveil the system, Pizzella said.
GSA this summer tested the CRM tool with the IRS and Census to work 'the bugs out of the system' so it will be ready for full implementation, Scott said.Benefits of the tool
GSA expects about 950 employees to use the tool initially and that number could expand to 2,500 in five years, Pizzella said. The most frequent users are account managers and those who work with agency customers, she added.
Another benefit of the CRM tool is that it will store historical data of agency requirements.
Scott said GSA officials estimate that at least 50 percent of their workforce are eligible to retire within five years, and the application is a way to capture their knowledge.
'This is something we have never had before,' Pizzella said.
The concept of CRM is not new for the government, with agencies such as the Postal Service, Mint and National Archives and Records Administration using it to meet the demands of their public customers. And the private sector has used customer management tools for years, said GSA administrator Perry.
But officials said an agencywide system will improve how GSA meets the demands of its federal customers.
'CRM helps us understand where our customers want to go programmatically,' Perry said.
'If an organization can identify who is the user of a product or service and what is the value proposition ... the more you focus on that, the more you focus on what is important.'