by Sara Shay

Relationship Management – Find Contacts In the Next Cube

Mar 01, 20072 mins
Relationship Building

If you’re in a service-oriented industry like law, banking or consulting, it may be time to take a fresh look at enterprise relationship management (ERM) software. Less well-known than its KM and CRM cousins, ERM helps professionals looking to drum up new business avoid the office-wide e-mail plea for contacts at target organizations. Instead, ERM quickly reports whether a colleague next door or across the country can connect you.

To avoid missing potentially profitable connections, Sheppard Mullin, an AmLaw 100 firm with offices throughout California, installed an ERM system from Contact Networks. The firm, which has nearly 500 attorneys, also has offices in New York and Washington, and plans to open its first international office in March. The expansion “further increases the challenge of finding out who knows whom,” says CMO Victoria Spang.

When an attorney queries the system, the software tracks e-mail patterns to detect relationships, ranks relationships according to their perceived strength and then reports which attorneys have contacts. It’s up to the attorneys to decide what happens next.

The law firm does not provide names or contact information directly, though it could. (Contact Networks lets customers set the level of privacy.) The software can search address books, calendars, e-mail and the like. Sheppard Mullin’s marketing and IT departments opted for the highest-privacy option. Sheppard Mullin also rejected some hosted ERM options because it didn’t want to export information beyond its firewall.

Another key benefit of Contact Networks’ product: No one has to update data. Unlike typical KM and CRM programs, the application maintains and updates information itself.

“It helps us leverage our relationship capital with little human intervention,” Paulson says.