September 13, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
Helping local businesses get off the ground and expand is becoming a cloud computing-based endeavor for Boston’s Office of Business Development (OBD).
In early October, the agency will finish deploying a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for tracking businesses receiving the agency’s services. The tool will be hosted in the cloud on Salesforce.com.
The OBD helps businesses secure government grants and loans, apply for licenses, develop business plans and other forms of assistance. The CRM is designed to manage that workload more systematically and to enable the OBD to quantify and analyze the type of help it offers businesses. This way, it can determine how best to use its limited resources. After each inquiry from a business, agency staffers will electronically log the name of the business and any necessary data about the business’s needs.
OBD director Rafael Carbonell said tracking the OBD’s progress at serving the various businesses will be made easier by using this new system.
In the past, OBD employees typically have been stuck checking several databases to monitor the progress of the office’s clients. Much of the agency’s funding comes from disparate federal sources, and each source has its own database at the OBD. The new CRM links to all of these databases, giving employees a one-stop-shop for accessing the information. Agency workers also had to frequently log details about clients on handwritten notes in files, as opposed to the electronic format provided by the CRM, according to Lucy Warsh, spokeswoman for the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development.
“From a budget standpoint, [I can track] what dollars are being allotted to each project and how that tracks with our overall budget for that year,” Carbonell explained.
The new system is powered by hosting and CRM provider Salesforce.com, which also supports CRMs at the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Boston Main Streets, a nonprofit serving small businesses. Using the same vendor will allow the OBD to sync its system with those two organizations. The three of them sometimes share clients, so when the system is updated about a client at one agency, the others will get the information.
Consulting firm Acumen Solutions is helping the OBD customize the Salesforce.com product to the agency’s needs.
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