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BAE Systems Electronic Systems sets the example for how to solve technical debt and focus more time and energy on the customers at the heart of the mission.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Elizabeth Whelan – Senior Manager, Business Development at BAE Systems Electronic Systems – and team knew that “this is as much time as we will ever have. This will be very finite, and we need to make the most of it so that by the time people are back to traveling, they have what they need.”
Whelan and team support the larger Business Development organization within BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems (ES) sector, enabling and empowering managers with the tools, processes, and programs they need to meet their mission: researching design requirements and best practices; developing program management plans; and bringing large-scale manufacturing projects to life for defense and commercial contracts alike as they work to support their missions: We protect those who protect us, and, we innovate for those who move the world.
Think: electronic warfare technology and aircraft survivability systems, advanced space electronics, tactical and broadband data link communications, flight control systems, alternative energy vehicle propulsion and power management systems, and more. “Big, complex projects that require a lot of detailed input from a lot of smart people spread across our company. At any point in time, there can be several people talking to our customers about numerous topics as we work cross-functionally more and more,” Whelan continued. “In fact, this level of collaboration has become so foundational that one day our President asked if we had a sector wide customer relationship management tool to keep everyone aligned since our customers see us as one BAE Systems.”
Untangling legacy technology.
The answer to the president’s question was yes, but it had been customized considerably over its decade of use, making it difficult for anyone to see a complete, 360-degree view of the customer.
It is a classic example of the technical debt scenario; the concept that describes the opportunity cost that comes with patching or fixing a dated system over and over again as new needs arise, versus investing in something new and advanced, much like it might be more cost-effective to purchase a new car instead of pouring more money into repairing an old one that is limping along – that has the power to impede any organization.
Instead of allowing legacy IT to hinder them, however, Whelan and team took action. They kicked off an internal audit of the existing CRM system and started flagging custom objects, duplications, and empty reports. “It was a monumental task to detangle everything. Once we’re past the COVID-19 hurdles, and our teams are back on the road, we will not be able to repeat this effort. We needed a forward-looking solution.”
A modern CRM platform on the cloud.
Whelan and team re-platformed the applications and objects that survived their audit on the sector’s redesigned CRM system, built on the FedRAMP-authorized Salesforce Government Cloud. It gives the organization a single, secure system of record that brings the power of the BAE Systems’ ES engine to every contract. Here’s how it works:
- Advanced customer service: Information about a given customer is stored in a profile-like record in Sales Cloud. Teams can use this to browse historical information, update various fields with notes from the latest meetings, tag subject matter experts on specific questions, and more. If one of those subject matter experts continues to stay involved in the account – let’s say it is one of the highly complex projects – they can update the record with the same ease as the owner, giving the broader team the right level of visibility to what might otherwise become offline or siloed conversations.
If a team or subject matter expert runs into a bigger picture question or challenge, they can search the CRM for key words and find information on common topics from other accounts. This empowers each employee to apply the perspectives, learnings, and best practices at an industry level to their individual account. “It gives everyone a better understanding of the customer’s challenges,” said Whelan. “If we want to deliver the best capabilities to those who are risking their lives, then we need to thoroughly understand the background, context, what’s working and what’s not, because that’s how we can be most actionable and most relevant. This strategy enables us to do that.”
- Platform-level services: Shield’s Event Monitoring was added, giving BAE Systems ES an additional layer of security. “You just can’t replicate some of the intelligence that comes out of the box. Now, if a new feature comes out, we can extend those capabilities to our users automatically because everyone is in the same design,” said Whelan.
- Data-driven insights: Using the same out-of-the-box functionality, Sales Cloud’s integrated reports and dashboards give Whelan and team “a full understanding of the health of our business because the information isn’t static, pulled together over the course of several weeks from offline spreadsheets. It’s immediate, dynamic data that is pulled into our reports in real-time with the pace of our business. And that’s what we use to make decisions. Not dated spreadsheets.” Most recently, BAE Systems ES layered on Tableau CRM, which will give them the ability to create a wider variety of web-style, user-friendly reports and dashboards, allowing them to review what deals are in the pipeline, look for trends or patterns that might indicate how to best move that deal forward, pinpoint catalysts, and report back up to leadership accordingly.
“It can be very easy to think of CRM as just a pipeline system,” said Whelan. “But it’s truly a platform, which we are using to translate information from across our organization into value for the customer. This enables collaboration, insights, and knowledge sharing with a much wider team because we’re not limited to email chains anymore.”
Results and impacts.
In their audit, Whelan and team replaced…
- 74 custom-built objects
- 3,000 reports
- Tens of thousands of records
…with one, modern CRM platform. They also consolidated over 200 security controls (sharing permissions, role-based visibility, etc.), enabling BAE Systems ES to move faster without compromising sensitive information. “If we came across a user experience error previously, it would take us six hours to figure out the resolution because there were so many layers to navigate. With this new model, we can figure out what happened within just one minute,” said Whelan. “We’re continuing to focus on driving efficiency and insight too. Recently I pulled together a new report in under an hour, which will save a team member 2-3 weeks of effort every quarter.”
The team is continuing to monitor the number of cases related to the re-platforming, gathering feedback, and refining accordingly.
“It’s been a different kind of busy this past year, but we certainly made the most of it,” said Whelan. “This project has been a great example that, even on the days that you feel like a small cog working from a home office, you are a critical part of a big wheel that is enabling business, engineering, manufacturing, and operations to produce the best innovations possible and bring people home safely.”