The California Teachers Association (CTA) relies on a complex and highly integrated IT environment to capture and manipulate data. CTA wanted to add a customer relationship management solution to better support its members. After exploring several alternatives, CTA chose to deploy Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM.
The California Teachers Association (CTA) is very large, with 700 employees and 350,000 education professionals across the state. Signing up new members and retaining current ones are critical activities to the success of the association. These functions rely upon a complex IT environment to capture and manipulate data. “Our whole system is centered on our membership base,” says Thames Kral, CIO for the CTA. “We have a panoply of systems that combine to capture, move around, and push data to our members and employees.”
These systems include the heavy use of Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server to provide a clearinghouse for electronic documents. Another key technology is the Microsoft Identity Integration Server that stores and integrates membership identity information for the association. As the environment grew, managers decided that it was time to add a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to better serve its large membership base.
IT managers broke down their CRM solution alternatives into three groups. The first group consisted of applications specifically built for associations. “There are probably 100 decent membership-tracking applications out there,” explains Kral. The second category was to build a platform in house. “We could have built the hooks we wanted and written the integration engines ourselves,” says Kral. The third alternative was Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM.
||Microsoft [Dynamics] CRM is a core application to significantly enhance our relationships with, and service to, our 350,000 members.
CIO, California Teachers Association
With a list of potential applications in hand, decision makers ran an internal exercise. States Kral, “We asked ourselves, ‘If there was an ideal platform out there, what would it look like?’ That formed the basis for our requirements.” At the top of the criteria list was a highly flexible CRM solution that could integrate well with the CTA’s many existing systems, including Microsoft Office. Also on the list was extensibility so that CTA programmers could easily build upon the system over time to add more functionality that would in turn increase the association’s value to members.
With 350,000 members to keep happy, the selection of a CRM solution was a serious matter. “The reason we bet on Microsoft is that we feel they are doing the right thing in the industry,” notes Kral. “Their unification strategy is spot-on. To me, they’re the player you can count on to be there long term.”
That strategy was a driver in creating a flexible CRM platform. “One of the reasons that we went with Microsoft [Dynamics] CRM versus the other alternatives we considered is that it will be a lot less expensive and significantly more efficient to build upon and support going forward,” recalls Kral. “You can have the best build out in the world but if you can’t maintain it easily you’re dead in six months. We especially like the flexibility of the Microsoft [Dynamics] CRM 4.0 platform that we’re upgrading to now.” In fact, the migration from 3.0 to 4.0 has been so smooth that Kral has already scheduled follow-on projects to take place once this phase is complete.
Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, CTA can see a 360-degree view of its members. “Microsoft [Dynamics] CRM is a core application to significantly enhance our relationships with, and service to, our 350,000 members," says Kral.
- Member data repository provides a key component of the association’s environment. “When we pull up a member, based on membership status and security, we’re able to see everything about them, whether they’re active on the political side of our association, the claims side, or some other area,” says Kral. “Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a key system contributing data to our single view of the entire system. For an organization where its entire livelihood revolves around members, that’s critical.”
- Single view of the truth ensures trust, contributes to retention. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re sending information to a PDA or a CRM screen or a membership screen in a different system, the beautiful thing is that they are all displaying the same pieces of information coming from a central location,” explains Kral. “We can’t have an application displaying incorrect benefit information because it starts a forest fire. Microsoft Dynamics CRM helps us achieve a high level of accuracy that maintains our credibility with members.”
- CRM solution delivers productivity-enhancing tools. When employees from different departments update a member’s record, data is recorded to the same spot within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. “We don’t have different people keying in information three times,” says Kral. “We’re going to go paperless through integration with Office SharePoint Server. Employees will be able to access electronic insurance documents from their desktop, for example, versus having to walk to three different filing cabinets. That will be a time saver, and provide a higher level of service.”