Tag Archives: software

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

How important is the next new feature in a CRM system?

Some would say to be the best at playing the air guitar you need a tennis racket, a pick and some great 80’s rock ‘n’ roll.  I would argue the extras are just nice to have “features” not requirements and your focus should be on the user experience.  Universally we all enjoy playing the air guitar and I would guess if we keep from adding too many features to the process all of us could be rock stars!

This is how I feel about Customer Relationship Management “CRM” systems in general.  Just too many cool features with little value add to the intended audience or user experience.  Today buyers are inundated with flashy features that come with little definition such as social marketing, sales methodologies, business planning & lifetime value monitoring just to name a few.

I do believe there is a place for a set of must have CRM system features.  I am also a strong proponent of CRM systems providing both integrations and insight into the social boom.  With this in mind let me take a stab at Kinsey’s core which I believe will set your organization up for greater user adoption, ability to measure results, improved productivity and calculate true return on your investment.

Kinsey’s top 10 must have CRM system features in no particular order –

  1. Simplified UI that keeps the user in a familiar environment – Microsoft Dynamic CRM’s user interface is a natural extension of Microsoft Outlook.
  2. Strong integration to productivity tools for message management, activity management & quote generation – Microsoft Dynamics CRM surfaced through Outlook allows users to manage customer e-mail, appointments, tasks, and contacts from a single business application.
  3. Dynamic reporting – Microsoft Dynamics CRM ha built-in integration to Microsoft Excel which provides users the ability to export static and or dynamic reports.
  4. Automated processes to support the sales, marketing and service processes – Windows Workflow Foundation is an out of the box set of functionality allowing users to automate defined business process.
  5. Ease of configuration to support system change – Microsoft Dynamics CRM administration allows database field creation, forms editing and ability to create new custom entities.
  6. Mobility support – Mobile Express for Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables access to Microsoft Dynamics CRM data in a web browser on a mobile device.
  7. Deployment flexibility – Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides choice and flexibility in how you implement and customize your CRM application so you can achieve the best fit for your business by providing On Premise, SAAS or partner hosted deployment options.
  8. Open architecture to support legacy system integrations – The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Development Kit (SDK) contains information for developers writing server-side code, custom business logic, integration modules, workflow assemblies, and plug-ins.
  9. Collaboration – Microsoft Dynamic CRM supports iframe integration to Microsoft SharePoint to store content supporting team collaboration.
  10. Data integrity tools – Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides the option to create duplicate detection rules to maintain data integrity.
  11. Ok I am going with a bonus feature “Social Interaction Tracking.”  The reason I list this as a bonus must have feature is that the social space is still being defined, not all of your customers have embraced it and the application of ‘social CRM” is still being defined – The Social Networking Accelerator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help you build and maintain social information systematically and efficiently.  With integrations to LinkedIn and Twitter, you can automatically track the activities of your contacts directly through Microsoft Dynamics CRM. 

Watch for my next blog on “CRM system give backs” – what do users get in exchange for buying into a CRM paltform deployment?

- Tracy