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Flow chartWe advise our clients on ERP systems on a daily basis, and many of those lessons learned are discussed in our 360 blog. Our blog doesn’t spend as much time discussing Customer Relationship Management software – more commonly referred to as CRM software.

CRM implementations have become more commonplace in recent years as niche solutions such as Salesforce have made the software more palatable for small- to mid-size organizations. Traditional ERP vendors such as Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, SAP and others have built robust CRM offerings – both as standalone systems and as part of larger systems.

While the future of CRM systems is particularly bright, there are a number of trends and nuances that are important to consider as part of your CRM or ERP software implementation:

Clearly defined phasing and implementation strategies. Most organizations that we work with don’t view their CRM implementations as standalone deployments independent of the rest of their enterprise software initiatives. Often, organizations do not have a deliberate plan to ensure their CRM deployments dovetail into bigger-picture enterprise software strategies. The more effective CRM deployments are those that are part of an overall implementation strategy. Many of our clients will decide that they simply want a new ERP system but will evaluate their options with the longer-term vision for more encompassing ERP software. This approach prevents organizations from being backed into a corner of limited longer-term options in the future.

Multiple deployment options. One of the more appealing aspects of standalone CRM systems is the variety of deployment options available. While larger ERP systems also have SaaS, cloud and alternative deployment options, CRM software lends itself even better to these options because of the relatively narrow and focused scope of functionality. Depending on your specific and unique needs, CRM systems can be accessed via the cloud for companies requiring the more vanilla functionality offered by multi-tenant SaaS solutions, as well as on-premise for those organizations that require the flexibility of on-premise or cloud ERP systems.

Tighter integration to third-party ERP systems. Up until a few years ago, potential buyers of CRM systems had two primary options: buy a standalone system that didn’t integrate with external ERP systems or settle for relatively limited functionality of the CRM modules of existing ERP systems. Many organizations find those two options unappealing, which is why the tight integration to third-party systems is so important. CRM vendors such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and others have gone to great lengths to provide customers with pre-defined integration points and tools to help tie their systems to back-office ERP systems.

Greater need for business process reengineering and organizational change management. Given the flexible and robust nature of CRM systems, deployments typically involve a great deal of change to business processes and organizational roles and responsibilities. Most CRM systems entail significant business process reengineering, which then translates into a need for effective organizational change management to help facilitate those changes. While it may be tempting to assume the changes are insignificant or that the software will solve any operational changes on its own, CRM systems typically affect sales staff, who are often among the most resistant to change. Regardless of the type of software you deploy or the exact nature of any associated business process changes, a focus on business process reengineering and organizational change management will ensure implementation success – much more so than any other single activity that you can invest in.

CRM systems have come a long way over the last several years. The above items are just a few of the variables that need to be navigated as part of the evaluation, selection and implementation of new CRM systems.

Learn more by registering for our upcoming webinar series, Panorama’s ERP Vendor Showdown in November.