Category Archives: SaaS

Hey, Mr. Chief Sales, Marketing or Service Officer, Don’t Let your IS Team Pick Your CRM Platform!

When was the last time you went shopping for a new bikini for your wife or a set of golf clubs for your husband?  Most likely never…and why?  Because at the end of the day, you are not going to be seen on a public beach in it or teeing off with your buddies at the next golf outing.  These are purchase decisions that should be made by the user since they will be the person using the item.

Buying a CRM system is not much different.  Most likely the user of the CRM tool is someone in one of the following categories:   sales representative, sales manager, CSO, marketing representative, marketing manager, CMO, service agent, service manager, VP of Customer Service or an individual with operations in their title or area of responsibility.

Your IT team would love to dictate the CRM tool of choice because they always know what’s best for you right?  WRONG…they are always going to pick a system that creates the least amount of IT pain for themselves.  This will happen even if it means compromising user experience, time to deployment, support for Bring Your Own Device “BYOD,” or interactions within the social media space.

If I am a CSO, CMO or VP of Service, I would follow these top five guiding principles as I make a CRM platform selection:

  • Involve your front line staff in the selection process.  Yes, I realize they are busy with their day jobs, but at the end of the day they will be the individuals expected to use the tool and can provide the most perspective on use case/productivity requirements. See blog post on CRM end-user givebacks
  • Ensure that the tool supports the growing trend of BYOD.  A truly effective CRM platform should be a tool available whenever and wherever your front line people interact with customers to drive use, value and the holy grail of CRM success: adoption!
  • Activity, message management & social collaboration are a way of life for sellers, so ensure that the tool leverages the required messaging, calendaring & social platforms that your teams already use pervasively to get work done.  What systems do your teams log into every morning to direct their day, communicate and collaboration with customers and prospects?  See blog post on top 14 must have CRM system features!
  • Integration to back office systems is a must.  This one gets blown out of proportion by customers and vendors.  Your IT team would lead you to believe you must stick within the Geranimals IT shop principles.  All CRM systems that reside in the Gartner MQ for 2011 should provide open architecture and — through industry standard web service calls — can be connected to your back office vendor of choice.  Yes, that means you are not restricted to one vendor for both ERP and CRM, so do not let that dictate your final CRM vendor selection choice.  Often, this can lead to weighing down a well-developed, mature business solution with another that just isn’t up to par as far as quality, performance, or capability.
  • Yes involve IT as an advisor during the selection process to insure the tool you move forward with can be supported by your cloud or on premise technology infrastructure.

Good selling and keep your eye on the prize of high user adoption to prevent CRM strategy failure!

– Tracy

Time to have TSA x-ray your CRM evaluation?

The hot topic of the week of course is the TSA body scanners and the revealing images they produce.  A need to prevent such unwanted exposure has spawned an inventor who created TSA-proof underwear to shield private parts from x-ray machines, prying eyes!  The good news with this debate is that you can opt out of the body scan, but watch out for the ensuing dreaded pat down if you choose to do so.

I am starting to think that customers should incorporate a bit of TSA like x-rays procedures during their evaluation of CRM solutions.  I say this because I continue to run into so many customers who are dissatisfied with their current CRM systems, but are stuck in subscription contracts that prevent them from gaining the value they believed they bought into. My goal with this weeks blog is to try and help you avoid some of the issues I continue to encounter in the trenches.

Below is a short list of items to drill deep on when evaluating your first or next CRM platform to prevent possible regrets or low return on investment:

  •  Hidden Costs - This can bite you in so many ways so look at areas of data migration; early contract termination; costs of reducing users; training fees; data-ownership issues; integration; customization; data storage; mobility & reporting.  In addition, make sure you are not sold on entry level pricing with incorrect functionality if multiple versions are available.
  • Performance – Look for performance white papers and scale testing options based on your data set and configuration.
  • Missing Functionality - A vendor demo can be a bit misleading.  My suggestion is to validate and re-validate your requirements against solution capabilities to insure what you require is core functionality provided.
  • Support -Who is providing this when issue arise? Find out if this comes from the vendor or implementation partner and at what cost per incident?
  • Training Materials - What is free and what will be required to insure driving proper adoption.  See Is CRM training that important?
  • Vendor Stability - What kind of dollars are being invested in R&D and will your vendor be around in 3 to 5 years to support you?  See Gartner Market Share: CRM Software, Worldwide, 2009.
  • Software License Agreements -What happens if your SaaS CRM system goes down?  Does your SaaS CRM strategy have a parachute?
  • Open Architecture - This is important to understand in case you need to develop future integrations or move to another vendor.
  • Deployment Options -What if you decide that a SaaS model is too expensive long term and need to migrate on premise? 
  • Customer Evidence -It is never a good idea to be the first at anything including the first person to go through the TSA body scanner…can you imagine how many people looked at that first image?  Make sure your CRM vendor can provide some form of evidence that what you are asking to do within their system has been done before.

Resources links – See Gartner Blog CRM and Innovation Spending in 2010Forrester WaveSaaS & On-premises.

CRM vendor transparency and incorporation of this x-ray procedure checklist will help create a recipe for making the right choice during your CRM solution selection process.

–          Tracy

Disclaimer – References in this blog post to TSA, body scanning, product and pad downs are not an endorsement or rebuttal of the need or opposition to these topics but I would love your opinion!

Supersized reports with your CRM?

Should we really be super-sizing our meals or anything for that matter?  I think most of us have learned over the past decade that going big is not always best.  I remember 30+ years ago when this picture was taken that an individuals options were limited and ordering fast-food meals provided a right size experience.  So what does this have to do with CRM and reporting?  I see customers trying to implement CRM systems with supersized reporting requirements which can produce a disastrous user experience. 

I was at a customer function this past week and was asked about best practices directly tied to CRM dashboards and reporting.  The customer’s question was specific to report performance and user experience when individuals are empowered to create personalized dashboards or reports.  Could building personalized dashboards drawing from the entire CRM data model bring the CRM system to its knees?

The promise of most CRM platforms today is empowerment at the user level and surfacing actionable analytics to drive productivity.  Most CRM vendors featured in the Forrester Wave report are on the right track with this message, but customers must take the time to think this part of the CRM implementation out to manage expectation and work within CRM systems capabilities.

I will attempt to provide my recommendations when looking at this topic during requirements, planning, implementation build out, go live and ongoing maintenance.  I will try and break down the topic in buckets around reporting requirements, options & best practices to follow –

Reporting Options:

Reporting Requirements:

  • Executive views that provide all up snapshot of the complete dataset.
  • Manager views that provide regional or divisional sets of data.
  • Individual views that provide personal performance or territory analysis.
  • Broad need to view information that resides outside of CRM.

Reporting Best Practices:

  • Limited administration functions of report writing to prevent performance challenges.  Most CRM systems allow role based user access to lock this down to accommodate.
  • Pre-filter a report so that the dataset is manageable in size.
  • Limit a report to display information from a specified time period, rather than displaying all records in the CRM database.
  • Do not make a report with a large dataset or a complex query available on-demand to all users.
  • Schedule a snapshot in Report Manager during a time schedule when the system is lightly loaded.
  • Deploy the report through a CRM tool then use reporting platform to run the report at a scheduled time, with the results posted.
  • Move global dataset reporting outside of CRM for more complex data mining.


  • Phase 1 CRM deployment should be supported with:
    • System supplied dashboards for all user types based on feedback. 
    • Incorporation of dynamic reports that auto refresh upon access will demonstrate strong productivity gains and drive system buy in. 
    • System canned views with option to personalize individual views.
  • Phase 2 adjustments should include:
    • Power user administrative rights to personalize dashboards and reports based on strong guidance. 
    • Feeds via iframe from legacy systems to augment system reporting can be introduced.
  • Phase 3 should open up:
    • À la carte to users you believe understand the creation, use cases and impacts of all reporting types.

Resources links – Microsoft BI, Crystal Reports., CRM Analytics, Forrester Wave, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, iframeSaaSOn-premises & Advanced find.

I always encourage system governance by a user and administrative CRM committee who meets on a monthly basis to discuss how to improve the use and adoption of any CRM systems.  Reporting should be one topic that is an ongoing debate in this process to insure user adoption.

–          Tracy

Does your cloud CRM strategy have a parachute?

I have always wondered why a parachute was not part of a traveler’s lofty airline seat price.  Including this might give some a little piece of mind if anything went wrong between the bad inflight snack options and your final destination. 

I feel software as a service “SaaS” CRM deployments should be looked at in a similar fashion.  So many companies rush in and subscribe to SaaS CRM, but fail to look at a contingency or parachute plan.  In fact, I am seeing a large number of CRM SaaS customers asking for alternatives based on hidden costs and unplanned issues with the original vendor selected. 

Below is my summary of items to consider preventing your organization from becoming a dissatisfied cloud CRM users:

Pros of a SaaS CRM model?

  • Economics (which you will see in the ‘cons’ section as well) – SaaS CRM applications are subscription based with per user per month license fees providing lower initial costs. In addition, having the SaaS provider manage the IT infrastructure means lower IT costs for hardware and the people needed to manage it all.
  •  Time to value – Software subscriptions can be turned on once a subscription contracts are completed allowing users to log in and go.  I would however suggest reviewing a previous blog post on defining process automation to support a successful CRM deployment to get the most from your investments.
  •  Reductions in IT dependencies – Individuals who reside on the business side will like freedom CRM SaaS brings because you can subscribe and go.  Since organizations have no hardware or software to buy, install or maintain you can bypass IT and deploy.
  • Accessibility – If users have a connection and a browser, CRM SaaS applications are available from any computer or any device.
  • Upgrades go away – Because the SaaS CRM vendor manages all updates and upgrades, there are no patches for customers to download or install. This model keeps the CRM vendor engaged in your success!
  • No Vendor Lock-in – Since companies are subscribing on a term contract you have flexibility to leave a vendor and move to other options at time of contract completion.
  • Great way to test or pilot – Since CRM has had such a high failure rate within organization the SaaS CRM model allows for quicker test of user adoption with subsets of users prior to broad-based rollouts.
  • Software compliance – no subscription no use hence no software piracy or overbuying of licenses that go unused if your user count is off.
  • Integrations – Early SaaS CRM vendors struggled with this topic but this has shifted from a con to a pro with so many options including leveraging vendor API’s, web services and third party integration tools.  A great reference article to view is The 10 Building Blocks of SaaS CRM Integration.

Cons of boarding your SaaS CRM plane without a parachute?

  • Economics – I realize this was listed as a pro but if looked at over a 3 to 5 year total cost of ownership model, on premise software can be a cheaper option leaving a customer with ownership.
  • Downtime – One of the largest concerns of a CRM SaaS model is if vendor system goes down!
  • Connectivity – Connectivity in most cases are reliable in major metropolitan markets but ISP’s do go down which can cause remote users possible challenges.  
  • Data security – This has become neutral or less of a con as CRM vendors are meeting industry standard data security practices.

Recommendations or parachute to put in place prior to selecting SaaS CRM vendor:

  1. Understand total cost of ownership?
  2. What is your data migration option if things go south?
  3. Do you have backup ISP if yours fails to delivery access?
  4. What if any hidden costs exist to support requirements of deployment?
  5. Can data be taken offline?
  6. What Software License Agreement “SLA” terms are offered by the CRM vendor?
  7. Can you get out of your SaaS contract if you decide to migrate on premise?
  8. What third party utilities or software can be added in the SaaS model to address gaps in core CRM platform?

I want to close by saying that I am a big fan of the CRM SaaS model and with good due diligence can deliver a strong CRM deployment model.

– Tracy