While many ERP vendors have seen growth slow and markets mature over the last several years, CRM vendors appear to be on a roll. CRM systems such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Sage CRM have made a great deal of inroads in a market that has often times been more skittish to bite off full-blown ERP systems. In fact, due to economic uncertainty over the last several years, we have seen a fairly significant subset of our client base choose to focus on new potential CRM systems in lieu of more enterprise-wide solutions.
While evaluating ERP systems typically involves most or all of an organization’s key business functions, CRM systems tend to be more focused on a specific subset of the company, such as sales and marketing. The fundamental process that companies should use is largely the same as what we recommend to our ERP clients: define future state business processes and requirements, define a short-list, demo the products, plan for implementation and conduct other activities outlined in our PERFECT Fit ERP selection methodology. However, there are a few nuances to evaluating CRM systems as opposed to more elaborate ERP systems.
Below are five unique things to consider when evaluating CRM systems for your organization:
1. Be sure to explore all types of CRM software delivery options. Many CIOs at our client organizations are afraid to consider alternative ERP deployment options, such as cloud, SaaS and/or third-party hosted solutions. However, CRM systems can more feasibly provide options that may not be viable for larger-scale ERP software. For example, regulatory requirements make it difficult for some of our manufacturing and aerospace and defense clients to host financial data in the cloud. These same regulations typically don’t apply to customer or sales information. Combine this with the fact that many CRM systems, such as Salesforce, are pure SaaS solutions and organizations have good reason to consider alternatives to on-premise ERP software.
2. Involve key players from your sales and marketing teams. End-user involvement and buy-in is critical regardless of what type of enterprise software you may be implementing. We have found sales and marketing types to be some of the more resistant to change when compared to other types of client employees we work with (my apologies to those that this overly broad generalization may apply to or to those that may disagree). The fact of the matter is that sales reps aren’t doing their job if they’re not closing deals and a complicated CRM system can get in the way of that objective so it’s understandable that sales teams aren’t always excited about or willing to help with CRM implementations. For this reason, it is even more critical that your organizational change management team and methodology can manage change more effectively for employees.
3. Consider how your CRM software will impact other parts of the organization. Outside of the direct impact on sales teams, CRM software will typically indirectly impact others in the organization as well. For example, customer service reps may have access to new customer information and manufacturing may have more sales orders and product details captured in the new CRM system. Business process reengineering and organizational change management activities should include areas outside of sales and marketing as well.
4. Incorporate your CRM software into your overall enterprise-wide IT strategy. CRM systems often underscore deficiencies in other enterprise systems being used by the organization so they often play a pivotal role in a broader, enterprise-wide IT strategy. Even if your sole short-term focus is to implement a new CRM system, it is important to also consider how it fits into your overall and longer-term plan. This can ultimately have an impact on the type of CRM system you select, how you implement it and how you use it throughout the organization.
5. Don’t back yourself into a corner in the long-term. If you know that you are going to eventually implement a new ERP system in addition to a CRM system, it is important to consider the impact your CRM system will have on future ERP activities – and vice versa. For example, if you are a complex, make-to-order manufacturer of engineering-based products, you may have a long-term need to integrate your CRM sales and product info into your product configuration and manufacturing systems. When it comes to this specific type of integration, not all CRM systems are created equally. Tip: plan for the long-term as well as you can based on what you know about the future at the time you choose and implement your new CRM system.
While the process of choosing a CRM system should largely mirror an ERP selection process, the above tips provide some slight modifications and additional things to consider. Evaluating and selecting the right software is only one part of managing an effective and successful CRM implementation but it is a very important one.