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Connecting the Disconnected

ISM - Customer Centric Business Strategies

Connecting the Disconnected

Professional services firm Ceridian brings its independent salesforces under one CRM roof.

By Lauren McKay – July 14, 2010

When talking about CRM implementations, managers and consultants tend to toss around software speak: scalability, adoption, visibility. But for Ceridian, a global provider of business services, those are more than just buzzwords. The company, which developed within Control Data Corp., branched off as its own entity during a 1992 restructuring. Throughout the ’90s and early 2000s, not only did Ceridian sustain impressive sales growth, but it gobbled up a dozen companies to expand its portfolio of information services and outsourcing.

As Ceridian filled out its solution spice rack with a string of acquisitions, each absorbed company came with its own sales force—and its own legacy sales force automation (SFA) or CRM solution. These were no boutique purchases, either. In 1995, for example, Ceridian acquired Centrefile, the largest payroll outsourcer in the United Kingdom; in 1999, the company scooped up ABR Information Services, the largest third-party benefits provider in the United States.

A tug-of-war ensued. “The problem,” explains Paul Rafferty, a 20-year Ceridian vet who spearheaded the plan, “was [we] had independent sales forces that had no visibility into each other’s turf.” Each sales force thought it had a claim to its own pool of prospects, but the prospects often overlapped with those of another Ceridian unit. What could have been a story of synergy started to look like disjointed chaos.

“The tipping point came when people realized what a [nightmare] it was in the eyes of the customer,” Rafferty recalls. “You reach a critical mass of organizations that are disconnected and it’s foolish to let it keep going.”

In 2001 Ceridian decided to move all salespeople onto one CRM system, a decision that meant giving up a variety of home-grown software and a gaggle of department-level solutions such as GoldMine (which changed its corporate name to FrontRange Solutions in 2000) and TeleMagic (owned by Sage since 1992).

The effort led to a double-digit sales increase by the end of the five years that followed, a period of peak growth without any expansion in sales staff. Despite the glowing results, however, Rafferty—who, as Ceridian’s vice president of sales operations, had a vested interest in what he calls “a million-dollar evolution that affects a couple thousand people”—says the effort wasn’t exactly picturesque.

The first step was to hire ISM, a CRM consultancy that had done some previous work for Ceridian. The CRM market at the time was like the Wild West, Rafferty says; Ceridian needed ISM to play sheriff. “CRM at that point was very different than it is today,” Rafferty recalls. “It was a pretty specialized thing—there weren’t a lot of companies that made it simple.”

ISM suggested Ceridian assemble a CRM team and helped in the request-for-proposal and vendor-selection processes. The shortlist involved 12 vendors, but the team was able to narrow it down to Best Software (which had been bought by Sage in 2000), Siebel Systems (since acquired by Oracle), and Pivotal (acquired in 2003 by CDC Software, no relation to Control Data Corp.).

Ceridian wanted—in fact, needed—something it could get up and running quickly, Rafferty says. “There are Cadillac, midrange, and speed-boat systems,” he explains—mixing a few metaphors in the process. “You hear stories about implementations [dragging on] for years.” Siebel, he says, was too onerous from a budgetary standpoint; Best’s SalesLogix, on the other hand, was simple and straightforward, but didn’t offer the full range of functionality the firm needed.

Ceridian ultimately found Pivotal CRM to have the best combination of features, functions, and price. The firm signed on for 600 installed seats, but rolled out in phases over the course of nine months. First up was the human resources and payroll group that handled all 30 of Ceridian’s locations. After migrating the databases and launching the training programs for that unit, additional business groups were brought on—the time-and-attendance people, the benefits salespeople, and then the 401(k) agents.

Ceridian saw results immediately. “Picture this: You’ve got six or seven sales forces and they are all aggressive,” Rafferty says. Arguments would break out among salespeople because the person credited with the first sale got the commisions for referrals to any secondary business unit. “Pivotal became the only beacon of truth you could lean on,” he says. The system became Ceridian’s de facto tie-breaker, and the company took on a new mantra: If an event’s not recorded in Pivotal, it didn’t happen.

Not only did the digital documentation help managers track salespeople’s performance, but it also helped the company hold onto its sales information. In the past, a departing rep might take her leads with her, but Pivotal eliminated that risk.

Adoption went swimmingly, which Rafferty attributes to top-level support: “If senior management is steadfast, then pushback isn’t tolerated—they say 80 percent of adoptions fail because management isn’t steadfast enough.” As a result of the penetration, Pivotal became the backbone for metrics. The company began implementing “cascading goals” throughout the enterprise: Everyone from the c-suite to the front line now has five measurable goals tied to performance. Three of the goals are generally pulled straight from Pivotal analytics, Rafferty says. “If people make their goals, chances are the company will do okay.”

Many factors contributed to Ceridian’s five-year, double-digit growth, but Rafferty says being able to run consistent campaigns helped with customer acquisition. With Pivotal, Ceridian can apply intelligence to its customer records and better target its direct-mail campaigns.

“For a large company, there’s a lot to get tangled up in,” Rafferty says. “Working in a corporate structure, you spend a lot of time doing things that aren’t adding profit or value to a customer.” However, he stresses the impact CRM can have. “CRM is, in a way, a means to an end,” he says. “And it keeps getting better.”


Company: Ceridian

Founded: Spun off in 1992 from Control Data Corp. (which was founded in 1957)

Industry: Professional Services; Outsourcing

Original CRM Implementation: Late 2000

Go-Live Date: 2001

Any Subsequent Updates: Rollout of customer service solution in 2003


Since implementing Pivotal CRM in 2001, Ceridian has:

  • united a host of formerly disparate branches and sales teams onto one platform;
  • found a “beacon of truth” to avoid conflict in the enterprise;
  • enjoyed double-digit growth;
  • applied analytics and intelligence to formerly lifeless contact records;
  • improved its sales performance management efforts; and
  • provided evidence of the value in CRM of a project-steering team, management buy-in, and analytics.
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