A key business question we get asked is "Does the CRM system offer our business the flexibility that we need?"
Having been involved in the Design, Implementation and Support of CRM Systems for over 20 years, we often hear a form of this question from business owners and executives. The good news is that the best software publishers of CRM systems have designed business solutions for flexibility because of the ever changing needs found today and in the future. The bad news is that some are only skin deep.
For example, if an organization is in a growth stage, a CRM solution should offer the flexibility to grow with the company. For a company with unique user requirements, a solution should be flexible enough to offer the necessary customization options.
Taking the broadest possible view of what it means to implement a flexible CRM solution, executives should take note of three particular areas of concern, each of which is absolutely essential to the long-term success of a CRM initiative.
1. Financial flexibility.
Pricing and licensing models that worked for a company at one point in time will not work as well at another point. For example, we often find that a combination of "named" licenses for specific users who need full time access and a "Concurrent" pool of licenses for users who are in and out of the CRM system, works well.
A small, rapidly growing company, for example, may initially prefer a subscription-based on-demand CRM model but later decide that a perpetual license, on-premise model makes better financial sense, in essence shifting costs from operating expenses to a capital expenses due to a more favorable long-term total cost of ownership. As a company's financial situation changes over time, so should its options for licensing a particular vendor's CRM solution.
2. IT flexibility.
Planning for future growth is an essential task for any IT organization. Unexpected changes can strain a company's IT infrastructure, play havoc with budget forecasts, and interfere with other IT projects. In some situations, adopting an on-demand CRM solution may be the best choice, especially for the organizations that lack the infrastructure or staff to support an on-premise solution. In 2010, we saw a significant shift for some of our small business clients as they moved to on-demand, cloud CRM solutions.
On-demand is also an option for organizations that must deal with new branch offices, remote workers, or other types of growth that can overtax an IT staff. On-demand is also useful for smaller businesses who don't want the investment of IT staff - Sage ACT! web has worked well for several of these clients.
The essential point is that your CRM software provider should provide both options, allowing an IT organization to move between the two, or adopt both using a hybrid model as necessary. Having solutions such as Sage ACT! and Sage SalesLogix CRM that supports multiple deployment models provides our clients the flexibility they need to adapt and thrive in changing business conditions.
The ability to manage unpredictability through CRM is an essential factor, especially for an organization that has grown through acquisition and has various sales processes that need to be consolidated through CRM. A CRM system can bring islands of information together and allow the easy sharing of that knowledge across the organizational departments.
3. Application flexibility.
Whether deployed on-premise or on-demand, a CRM solution should adapt to, and integrate with, existing applications and data sources. This includes the ability to integrate with back-office applications; business intelligence and analytics tools; and desktop productivity tools, such as Microsoft Office and Outlook. Flexibility also means that companies can continue to use external data analysis tools as well.
The CRM solution should support a variety of customization options, including custom screens, forms, workflows, menus and toolbars, and scripts. It should provide these features using a combination of open standards (Web services, SOA) and codeless tools that open the customization process to the widest possible set of business users.
Just as important, the CRM solution should be integrated effectively with new applications, such as social media tools that play an increasingly important part in today's customer relationships. Make sure you can enhance your business relationship development with a CRM solution with this flexiblity.
In nearly every CRM solution design we are asked about the flexibility of our recommended solutions. Our experience is various business use-cases is enhanced by my experiences as an application developer and SQL database engineer (in a previous life...). I gain a faster understanding of the "Is it possible to ..." and the "How do you do ..." types of questions from clients and their IT department. We have chosen to be a Sage business partner for both Sage ACT! and Sage SalesLogix CRM solutions because they provide flexibilty options to meet the needs of our clients.
Recent trends suggest that many companies understand the value of CRM as both an on-demand and on-premise solution. The key, then, is finding a CRM solution and partner that understands both deployment options and offers businesses the flexibility to move easily between the two, or to adopt both at the same time.
The CRM business partners most likely to accomplish this task without sacriificing functionality, flexibility or security, are those that can leverage their deep experience in the on-premise CRM market to provide the same functionality in a mature, on-demand solution.
Click on link for more about CRM Flex Test and obtaining the 5 point checklist to find the right mix of features, delivery and deployment options that meet Today's evolving business needs.
Obtain the full eBook now!
Contact use for an insightful, CRM consultation, here....