I was recently part of a discussion on CRM and the best way to choose a Customer Relationship Management package. With CRM/SFA/contact management becoming mainstream and accepted more and more questions come up about which one of the myriad of options is the better one.
I have been part of sales team for Oracle CRM and Sage CRM. I have also been the user, competed against or part of the buying process for Siebel, SAP, Salesforce and Sage. Here are my thoughts.
First and foremost, the starting point should not be the features and functionality of the technology. The departure point is the needs of the buyer, the existing processes of the company, how they need to change and improve and the goals that need to be realized. If these factors have not been mapped then the company is not ready for a CRM purchase.
Moreover, which software has proven capability in the buying firm’s niche, vertical or broad industry?
Next, remembering that CRM is there to enable the company to know itself and its customers, how does the productivity tool play with the company’s actual data and processes? This is where a customized demonstration including the aforementioned information is very helpful. No, not a generic demo and no not a downloaded sample of the program. Can one see the needs fulfilled in the CRM and can one see the desired improvements fulfilled in the potential package? If any integrations are required, can this be demonstrated? What about the reporting capabilities, formats in which the reports are available and, crucially, their ease of use? Which vendor gives you the best training for their product?
Incidentally, avoid paying for features one does not need and will not use.
I don’t want to get into the hosted versus on-site flavours of CRM discussion here, but should one be considering a hosted or SAAS (Software As A Service)/cloud software (the cloud refers to the nebulous Internet mode of delivery) the question to ask is what happens at the end of the contract period. Who owns the data? How can one receive it from the hosting company? Is there an additional fee attached to these stipulations?
Of course, cost is a factor. SAAS operates on the leasing model (low up-front costs/potentially more expensive overall), while the traditional method gives you the software in perpetuity (except there is an installation cost and time-line that needs to be factored in). As I said, won’t get into this aspect more at this time.
The technology’s capability will only follow the determination of wants, needs, processes and desired outcome strategies. Mastering these has the added benefit that they necessitate consulting and working with the end-users of the product, thus helping obtain their buy-in. What is the purpose of buying CRM if sales, service or the marketing department really do not want to use it?