AJ Binnie is an unusual global IT director, driving as he does IT strategy for international loss adjustor Cunningham Lindsey across 60 countries, 600 offices, and 7000 staff from New Zealand.
Right now, Binnie is revelling in a greenfields CRM rollout that took just 16 weeks from whoa to go. SAP's Cloud for Sales is now live in the company's US and Australian businesses, and will be switched on in the UK soon.
Binnie, a speaker at SAP's All Cloud Connect Summit in Melbourne this month, told ZDNet.com the IT team began studying its CRM options last April, well before the business came asking for the system, driven by a business strategy focused on growth.
"We recognised there would be a requirement for a CRM system before the business, and we did our homework before the business approached us," he says.
Things got more serious around September last year when the Australian and US businesses began asking for a CRM solution.
As a matter of principle, assessing cloud options was part of that research. SAP was already in place for finance in the US business, so it made sense to have a look at what that company could do.
Whatever was selected, it had to deliver a single global instance to service what Binnie refers to as "many countries/one company".
"We wanted to ensure the teams are collaborating on clients," he explains.
As well as being geographically dispersed, Cunningham Lindsey has teams servicing almost all areas of insurance, from product liability and fine art, to catastrophe response, mining and major engineering projects.
Speed of implementation was also a key requirement.
"We wanted to be able to stand something up quickly so the business leads could manage the growth push."
Cunningham Lindsey was a new adopter of CRM, having used spreadsheets to manage its customer relationship processes until now. That brought some advantages in that the company didn't need to worry about legacy systems during the rollout.
Adopting the cloud also significantly de-risked the project, Binnie says, in part by eliminating the need to buy additional infrastructure.
"In a traditional project if it falls over you still have all the kit you purchased," Binnie says.
A big challenge, though, has been ensuring adoption and use of the system.
"We did not have any major technical issues," Binnie says. "The issue was getting people to use the system."
That includes ensuring data is entered fully and correctly to avoid "garbage in, garbage out".
Australia was to be the first geography to go live on Cloud for Sales, but the US's need was more urgent, so the rollout there was prioritised. 16 weeks after the first workshop with SAP, the US went live in late November, with Australia following in January.
The UK rollout is "well underway", Binnie says.
"The US guys absolutely say they are seeing efficiencies, particularly from the mobility piece."
Loss adjustors and other team members have access to the data they need in the field and can update the system from their mobile phones via an app, ensuring information is always up-to-date.
Cunningham Lindsey's CRM rollout is happening in tandem with the adoption of cloud-based Microsoft SharePoint for collaboration and document management.
Ian Kinsella, SAP's customer vice president for Asia Pacific and Japan, says there isn't a typical CRM deployment. While some opt for cloud from the get-go either in greenfield implementation or as a replacement for client-server systems, others are taking a hybrid approach, keeping their client server systems and using the cloud to improve accessibility and usage.
Stand-alone cloud systems can also be used until a business's needs "move beyond vanilla", he says.
Agility and empowerment of staff were major drivers of adoption at Cunningham Lindsey.
"The business is expecting IT to be first, and deliver solutions quickly," says Binnie.