Integration expertise at its best: Christian Kaimel in an interview

As a Salesforce expert, Christian Kaimel talks to our Head of Operations Marcus Klapprodt in an interview. Christian Kaimel works at e1 Business Solutions GmbH, a company that spun off from the AVL Group in 2001 to focus on process consulting and electronic implementation of business processes. He has supported the introduction and implementation of Salesforce in the group since 2008. In addition, he also consults on external customer projects, is a key speaker at Salesforce, and is thus a true Salesforce luminary.

Christian Kaimel

Head of AVL Salesforce Program and Plaform Development, SFDC Consulting, CPQ and Business Support
e1 Business Solutions GmbH


With almost 12,000 employees, the AVL Group is the world's best-known company for development simulation, testing of drive technology, and measurement and testing technology. The AVL Group operates in the automotive, automation, industrial, and mechanical engineering sectors and is headquartered in Graz, Austria.

Expert interview

Marcus Klapprodt: Christian, your title "Head of AVL Salesforce Platform and Program Development" is quite long – what does it mean?

Christian Kaimel: Basically, I am a platform manager. The classic tasks that are part of the daily business are budget and staff planning. For example, I deal with questions about how many licenses are still available or whether we need new ones for the coming year. In my opinion, the work on optimizing or expanding processes is more interesting. For example, in marketing, campaign management, the process of lead management, lead nurturing, or lead scoring. These are tasks that are required to be completed by me or my team. We have to understand these requirements and be able to implement them on the platform.

One part is marketing, but we have several platforms in use, such as Sales Cloud. Here we have to configure new fields, such as "Opportunity" or "Approvals," or ensure integrations between Salesforce and existing systems. Our quoting tool is our own tool, which Salesforce does not provide, but we integrated. There are constant customization issues here, for example, to search data from this quoting tool in the "Opportunity" or vice versa. It is used to create a considerable number of quotes worldwide. This would be a typical task area of a sales department and a sales competency team, where fortunately I have skilled employees who handle these kinds of issues. We have called them our "competency teams." We have it for marketing and sales, but we also have a service cloud, which means that similar things apply in the service process.

We expanded the service area because there are new requirements and commitments that must be adapted from the process. In addition, some questionnaires need to be sent, expanded, or standardized. This, to have a uniform report or a consistent dashboard, where the next topic such as analytics comes up. These are also topics that we work on in our team.

You can see that there is a wide variety of needs, not only from Graz but also from places like Japan, China, Spain, Italy, etc. In e1 Business Solutions, a second independent organization, we have a different and almost exclusively standard approach. We have a bit more staff than snapADDY, again with SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce experts. However, we try to use Salesforce as a platform almost exclusively in the standard. That means we know both sides: from the standard solutions to the more complex requirements that can be applied. The good thing is that the platform offers both possibilities: scalability, but also the possibility to implement and extend elements in the standard. Issues that also come up are the strategic ones, such as Salesforce Lightning conversion projects. Of course, that is part of my job, to plan things correctly in terms of timing and provide the corresponding capabilities.

Customer projects at e1 Business Solutions

Klapprodt: You've already mentioned the complexity of your projects, but can you explain what the classic e1 team setup looks like in a typical customer project?

Kaimel: We have found that there are similarities in the core problems across all industries. I do not distinguish n whether it is AVL, i.e., an internal customer or an external customer. For me, we have to understand the requirement from the beginning. A classic problem is that the customer has a need, but we don't know exactly where the problem lies.

Once the customer's problem is understood, there are different approaches. Then I can have someone on the team who has a consulting background or an administrator background, who knows what to do in standard customization to solve the problem – this is sufficient. Also, there may be a developer involved when it comes to developing a custom component like Lightning. Then, it is also necessary to provide further consulting, i.e., some coaching and training for the end-users. In this case, there are people in my team who have great communication skills and prepare the training material. Consequently, I can establish the respective team setup.

Impressions as a speaker at Dreamforce

Klapprodt: You have been in the market for a long time and you were also part of "Dreamforce," one of the world's largest technology conferences in San Francisco. You have also participated as a speaker there. What is it about and how was your experience?

Kaimel: To explain it briefly: the "Dreamforce" exists for a few years now and before the Coronavirus, it was a big and emotional event with 170,000 attendees. During the time of this event, San Francisco is in alarm mode. In all hotels and venues, there are conferences. There is even a network with mobile support where you can get directions, what interests you have, who you want to meet, and where the conferences are at that time. It was an incredible experience to make a presentation there.

The idea came up with our account managers in our meetings. We explained how the connection between our Salesforce organization is in terms of master data, i.e., accounts and master accounts. We have a hierarchical setup on the Salesforce side and in SAP we have accounts receivable master data. I will try to make the explanation not too technical: Until 2015, we were using Salesforce without integrations with SAP, but we realized that integration was necessary to optimize processes. From there, we developed a basic concept together with our SAP colleagues on how this process could look like and then carried out the integration technically. Based on this idea and our implementation, I showed the results in the "Dreamforce": How can synchronization or compatibility based on master data and the customer side in SAP work correctly, if customer or account hierarchies are included? Of course, also in IT and security, to find out if everything has been considered and how is the set-up.

Implementation of snapADDY

Klapprodt: You were one of the main drivers behind the snapADDY rollout at AVL Group. Since 2018, we started with tests and trials. At the end of 2019, it really took off. Can you tell us something about the implementation at AVL, focusing specifically on the pain points, the processes, and the goals you have achieved?

Kaimel: The first touchpoint was through our marketing department with the snapADDY VisitReport. Initially, it was used completely offline, with no connection or interface to Salesforce: pure data capture, GDPR compliant. This was the first touchpoint with snapADDY VisitReport for classic marketing events. I received very good feedback on this, for example, regarding the flexibility in the questionnaire’s creation and the implementation of AVL branding in the template. The management was also very satisfied with the way it worked. Then we realized that you also have other products, such as the snapADDY CardScanner, which also has its history. Then we needed to scan business cards and transfer them to Salesforce and, of course, it was practical that this was possible too.

At the same time, we also consulted our IT security colleagues at AVL. In our company, we cannot implement any tool if it was not previously approved by our IT security experts. Our colleagues agreed that we taste and buy some licenses. The tool was then pilot tested – also in the Asia area. Something that is not so easy because of kanji, character sets, and the way addresses are written on business cards. We received positive feedback from colleagues all over the world about data recognition.

Currently, the Coronavirus situation has slowed down our productivity a bit. There are no more marketing events where we can use VisitReport. In addition, fewer business cards get scanned, which means we are using less CardScanner. However, we still use snapADDY DataQuality. There is quite a lot that can be done in terms of integration with leading systems, such as SAP, Salesforce, or Microsoft. So I consider the DataQuality product as a great advantage for us so far – then the data quality is essential. Since I work in the IT environment, I know that data quality plays an important role in every CRM implementation. That's why, with snapADDY DataQuality, AVL has a big advantage.

Added value thanks to snapADDY

Klapprodt: I would like to take another look into the future. What did snapADDY improve for you? As an integration expert – this is not your first project – where do you see the greatest potential for snapADDY solutions?

Kaimel: Well, from my point of view, definitely the data quality and better integration in the systems, because this also increases the usage of the system. Maybe there is also a way to update the data not just on-demand via LinkedIn and all the available connectors. How can I maybe update the data quickly with a badge or a report without having to do it for each entry individually? I prefer to check regularly because as a rule LinkedIn data and similar networks tend to be more up to date than systems data. So, we could think of something like an interface to be able to review updates quickly at a glance. In other words, usability in terms of speed could be in question. Just like the additional even stronger integration into the systems.

Development in CRM systems

Klapprodt: What do you think are the next three CRM trends? What other developments in CRM systems will we generally expect to see soon?

Kaimel: In my opinion, the trends are already there and are not surprising. Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, certain automation of processes, just like Deep Learning. These are things that are guaranteed to come. We have to look at the topics and we shouldn't have such high expectations at all. The cornerstone of everything is data quality and a certain amount of data needed for AI algorithms to work. We already tested things a year and a half ago on the Salesforce side. There, the AI component is called "Einstein." Based on data from the past three years, we could already achieve quite good results.

We will also implement some projects in this area this year because these are the topics that are coming and will keep us busy. Automation and acceleration of processes, because from my point of view, not only AVL, but all companies will have to react faster in the future. That means being able to react directly to customers and to respond even better to them. In other words, the customer is the focus, because I want to provide him with the best possible service, and I want to do it in a reasonable or very good time. This will be a need in the future to achieve the goals.

We thank Christian Kaimel for the interesting insights into his daily work!

The interview was recorded on 04/14/2021 and is available here.