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More to BDO Seidman SugarCRM migration than time and money

When an internal CRM application needed a performance boost at national financial firm BDO Seidman, the answer lay in open source SugarCRM.

For most enterprises, saving time and money is all the incentive they need to switch from a proprietary customer relationship management (CRM) application to an open source one.

This was the case for BDO Seidman LLP. But before an implementation of a SugarCRM system could be called a success, a unique set of needs for the firm's nationwide referral network had to be addressed first.

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Valerie Kozikowski, a partner with the BDO Seidman Business Resource Network, said the goal of the company's current CRM business system is to enhance communication and share resources between BDO Seidman and its Alliance members.

"Our needs are somewhat unique due to the fact that our Alliance member firms are referral sources, customers and salespeople," Kozikowski said.

BDO Seidman LLP is a professional services firm that has provided financial advisory and consulting services to businesses for the past 95 years.

As part of an international 600-member network called BDO International, BDO Seidman comprises more than 30 main offices and 250 independent firms across the U.S., which are called Alliance members.

For these main offices to communicate and track the activity of the independent offices, BDO had initially deployed a custom-built internal application.

In December, BDO Seidman announced that the custom system needed improvement and that a distributed CRM system was needed for employees and partners.

Just a spoonful of sugar…

Kozikowski's firm had never dealt with SugarCRM before, but she said that the lead project manager for the migration project was familiar with open source software.

Helping matters was the fact that BDO Seidman's IT team was very open to the SugarCRM application and regularly volunteered time and effort to work closely with the vendor's own team when it came time to integrate the product into the environment, Kozikowski said.

"The flexibility of the application and the fact that the application has been converted to various languages already was appealing," Kozikowski said.

And the flexibility of the project, called BDO Link -- which was developed jointly by SugarCRM and the BDO Seidman IT team -- allowed the firm to quickly enter a "first phase" and improve opportunity, resource sharing and executive reporting.

Eventually, the firm will offer SugarCRM Professional to more than 9,000 BDO Seidman and BDO Seidman Alliance member employees.

"We are in the first phase of a pilot with the new application [and] we will likely move to a second phase of the pilot roll out in [February]," Kozikowski said. "The application will be rolled out to 30 offices and 250 alliance members in stages over the course of 2006."

For BDO Seidman, the rollout of a co-developed platform with SugarCRM initially presented a distinct challenge.

"Our needs are somewhat unique due to the fact that our alliance member firms are referral sources, customers and salespeople depending on the nature of the opportunity being pursued at any given time.

"The importance of this business system is not to save us time and money, but rather to enhance the communication and ability to share resources among and between members," Kozikowski said.

Today, Kozikowski said that her firm is in the middle of the first pilot phase. Using feedback from the initial deployment of BDO Link, she expects to drive some future enhancements and or changes to the application.

When asked if she has any advice for firms that are curious about going open source with CRM, Kozikowski said that the cooperative efforts between internal IT and a SugarCRM team are integral for success.

"Both SugarCRM and BDO Seidman dedicated resources to the project and focused their efforts on the project milestones, deliverables and business requirements," she said. "Without the focus by both organizations, the customized portion of this application would not have been delivered as quickly or completely as it has been."

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