Kiwi-born Helen Robinson calls herself the black sheep of the family because, much to their chagrin, she didn't follow in the footsteps of her academic siblings. Instead, at the age of 17, she ventured into the business world, landing a job in IT, and gradually carving out a niche for herself in the channel. Her independent streak has stood her in good stead, landing her at the top of her game.
Today, she is CEO of Pivotal's Australasian operation, a post she's held for three years.
What's your professional background?
Helen Robinson (HR): I come from a big family. I'm the black sheep of the family. All members are highly qualified and have high expectations from a tertiary education perspective. But in my last year of school, I said, blow this, I'm off, and fell into technology in 1982 in the computer department at an importing and distribution company. I learnt massive amounts about business accounting and computers.
I worked my way up and became the data processing manager at that time. I got head hunted by another company, a conglomerate of 10 different companies from distribution to retail to manufacturing doing business analysis and go-to-market strategies. By the end of 1987, I started my own IT consultancy business until 1998. I was also subcontracted to run the largest IBM reseller from 1989 to 1991. I also helped set up and run a division of a company called MasterPack, which resold the Pivotal product. That was my first exposure to Pivotal and to CRM.
How does Pivotal define CRM? HR: To many people, it means different things. You could see it from a contact centre perspective, screen popping; outbound telemarketing, inbound; single view of customer information; contact management and sales force automation; and from a helpdesk and field service perspective. If you look at government, it's all around case management, core repository of information and exposing that and automating in every possible way you can.
What parts of the market has the company found success in? HR: The financial services market is a key vertical, particularly the boutique-type financial services space including funds management, asset management and superannuation. The not-for-profit industry is another success area, and we do very well in the fast moving consumer goods space.
Certainly, manufacturing medical technology realms are hot, as well as government and services. As part of our channel strategy, we want resellers to focus on these specific market areas as opposed to falling on top of each other.
There's also a big opportunity for resellers to go after the mid-to-large enterprises that have their heads in the sand and still want to build their own systems. They are back in the early 80s and don't realise out-of-the-box functionality is here.
Are there any significant channel moves this year? HR: In January, we appointed a channel services manager. We launched a new partner program, which is designed for three different types of partners: implementation partners, resellers, and product alliance partners.
The reseller is responsible for going to market. We work with them from a business planning perspective offering sales and marketing, services and technical training. Implementation partners have the responsibility for implementations only, and then product partners, where we incorporate some of their technology into our products.
Prior to the new program, we worked more on an ad hoc basis. The desire was there, but not the formal commitment and that is what we changed. The program is much more structured, and there's someone taking full responsibility for driving revenue within the channel.
What CRM solutions are resellers peddling most of in the Australian market? HR: Traditional CRM takes the lion share of sales, which includes the single view of the customer and core repository of information. One of the complexities about CRM is the diversity of business in which it gets deployed. As such, our resellers must truly understand the way a business operates in order to be successful with CRM. It is an ongoing process, a phased approach, with CRM as the company continues to adapt and change to the climate in which it is operating - so there's an opportunity for the reseller to continue to do business with them.
What is a top trend pervading the CRM space? HR: An integrated business is not so much a trend, but has become a business necessity. Areas such as government have been particularly bad at this in the past, where they have approached business as a stick-and-plaster approach. They have a need and they put a piece of software on the top. They have another need and they build a piece of software. So all of a sudden they have silo-based disintegrated systems. So integration is a key success factor with CRM and with ERP systems.
What are some of your interests outside of IT? HR: I do a lot of speaking and voluntary work. I'm also a gym addict, believing in the healthy body/healthy mind concept. Food and wine and entertaining are other interests.