As the economy continues to limp by, you realize your business requires efficiencies. You need to better compete and you want to do more with less. So, you do some research, verify with business associates and come to the conclusion that you need a new system to help streamline and automate operations. Yes, you have been introduced to Customer Relationship Management — a combination of strategy and software solutions may take your business to the next level. Caution! It is a serious move that requires a serious investment — both time and money.
You are now ready to start reviewing the many different vendors and options relating to your deployment. It is somewhat overwhelming but with the help of the internet and perhaps a consultant, you start your review. Once you have narrowed it down to the last 3 vendors, it is time to make a decision. Right before you do this, perhaps asking some Common Sense Questions may be prudent:
• Does the Solution Deliver Business Objectives
Not just general business objectives but objectives unique to your organization or your small business. The specific way your Sales team works. The unique marketing methodologies you utilize. The outsourced customer service company that you use. Or perhaps, something as simple as the various internet devices utilized by your business to get the job done.
• What is the Programs Long Term Value
Is this a permanent Hosted (SaaS) model where you subscribe to the service or is the solution an on-premise solution where you require the right IT staff to deploy and maintain the system. Or better still, is there flexibility — can you move between Hosted or On-Premise? As your business requirements change, does the solution grow with you or will you be going to this entire process again in 3 years? So, what is the ROI again?
Many a time, you look at the cost of the software license (if it is an on-premise solution) or monthly subscription cost (if it is an online hosted solution) and you make your decision based on that. Wait a minute! There is more. What about the cost of training your staff, on-going maintenance and additional services not part of the "package" ?
• Staffing Requirements
Time and time again a deployment has gone south just because the appropriate level of staffing to deploy a CRM initiative successfully was completely neglected. The sooner you realize that this is NOT just like installing a new version of MS WORD, the better! The CRM system will force everyone in your organization to work a certain way! So, not Configuring it correctly can be disastrous! It is absolutely critical that the CRM solution works the way you do business and not the other way! This requires appropriate levels of staffing to review, coordinate and get trainned. It will take time of your managers, your executives, your line staff, your… you get the message — it touches everyone in your organization. So, all staff must be trained on it. Make sure that you have allocated and accounted for the time.
Last but certainly not least — the Risk. What if you do not meet the timeline for deployment? What if the CRM initiative is a Failure? Yes, what if it is? How will it impact your business. Answering these two questions will avoid any undesirable consequences to the health of your business should you have to face them. Having said this, CRM industry has come a long way since the late 1990 and your chances of success is almost a guarantee — of-course, you must follow best practices.
In addition to the above questions, there are best practices that can help ensure a successful CRM deployment. I encourage you to visit our Resource Links. But as always, feel free to ask a question and we will utilize our vast experience to put you on the path to success.
Have a great business week!
About the author: Sundip R. Doshi/CEO of Surado Solutions, Inc.