by CIO Staff

How to Build CRM from the Ground Up

Jun 15, 20022 mins
CRM Systems

Humana and Aetna are deep-pocketed insurers. Destiny Health is funded by a deep-pocketed insurer, and Definity Health is a 4-year-old startup that relies solely on venture capital. Despite these radically different starting points, the CIOs of all these companies have built the technology that drives their new health-care plans in remarkably similar ways. The lessons here are universally applicable to any industry where CRM and customization will play a role. They are:

Start simple so that you can move quickly. “We focused on getting the bare minimum working,” says Deborah Casurella, CIO of Definity Health in St. Louis Park, Minn. “The interface was basic. Everything was basic. I told the company we’ll pretty it up later. The first order of business was making sure we could process claims accurately.”

That doesn’t mean don’t have a plan. Even as Casurella threw her plan together, she knew she would have to rearchitect her data model to prepare the system for scaling to thousands of customers. CIOs must also plan policies for protecting confidential data, such as prescriptions, online. Then there’s long-term planning: “I’m planning infrastructure so that sometime down the road when you need a physical you’ll be able find out what you’ll pay at five different local providers,” says David W. Goltz, CFO and interim CIO of Destiny Health in Bethesda, Md.

“Partner before you buy. Buy before you build.” So says Bruce Goodman, CIO at Louisville, Ky.-based Humana, who relies on no fewer than eight partnerships, chiefly one with EDS for core systems. Whatever building he did came in the Web design arena.

Build to scale. It’s no use moving fast if you’re building to support a limited number of users for a pilot and, once successful, realize the system won’t scale. Goodman has already rolled out his system to 14,000 employees and hopes it will eventually be used by millions. Goltz relies on an Oracle-Sun Microsystems combination he keeps flexible. “We can scale it quickly; we can change it quickly,” he says.

“Don’t box me in.” Says Casurella: “We’ve changed and evolved in 18 months more than even I imagined. I won’t box myself into a technological corner. I have to think about where IT will be in three months.”