SELECTING AND BUYING CRM SOFTWARE.The first thing to realize when embarking on a project to select and buy customer relationship management (CRM (Customer Relationship Management) An integrated information system that is used to plan, schedule and control the presales and postsales activities in an organization. ) software is that preparation is key. Make sure that you communicate your CRM package selection efforts internally. Successful package selection requires senior leadership commitment. The executive view around automating the sales and marketing functions using CRM are more recognized as a business tool than as a technological tool. A communications plan that describes the types of package selection accomplishments that support the business strategy and proves that automation delivers the information required to make the key decisions will enable the business strategy to be realized.
At the outset, I must stress the importance of the people, process and technology integration required for a successful CRM package selection initiative. Although important, the technology component often takes on a disproportionate dis·pro·por·tion·ate
Out of proportion, as in size, shape, or amount.
dispro·por emphasis in selecting your CRM vendor to the detriment Any loss or harm to a person or property; relinquishment of a legal right, benefit, or something of value.
Detriment is most frequently applied to contract formation, since it is an essential element of consideration, which is a prerequisite of a legally enforceable contract. of the overall success of the initiative. Keeping this warning in mind, let us now turn to the methods you should consider in deciding on which CRM system vendor to use.
Carefully form a package selection team consisting of the project lead, an executive sponsor, a business lead, a technical lead, a marketing lead and a customer service lead. Call upon the project team or upon heads of the sub-project teams to provide the package selection team the requited analysis.
Initiate Due Diligence Research; analysis; your homework. This term has caught on in all industries, because it sounds so "wired." Who would want to do analysis or research when they can do due diligence. See wired.
Ask vendors questions about their active customers in your industry, and their willingness to provide you with the names and contact information of these customers. Answers to these types of questions will allow you to conduct your own due diligence concerning how well the CRM vendor in question has met the needs of a live, industry-specific customer.
Also, educate yourself about the companies in which the management team members were previously employed. Are those companies thriving or are they no longer in existence?
You may even wish to send one or more members of your project team to one of the many available CRM seminars at which audit implementation details are discussed and you can meet members of industry who may share experiences with you that will assist in your package selection.
v. con·ceived, con·ceiv·ing, con·ceives
1. To become pregnant with (offspring).
2. , the most important aspect of a CRM software offering is not the software functionality, but the related support services support services Psychology Non-health care-related ancillary services–eg, transportation, financial aid, support groups, homemaker services, respite services, and other services offered by the software vendor, Potential customers should make sure that vendors provide access to user group meetings/forums, technical newsletter updates, electronic bulletin board system (BBS (1) (Bulletin Board System) A computer system used as an information source and forum for a particular interest group. They were widely used in the U.S. ), fax-on-demand and/or e-mail technical updates or Internet Web sites with news and information that will allow the package selection ream to assess their effectiveness for ongoing support.
Critical to the selection process, evaluation of the vendor's "hands-on" system administration training courses and user training courses is paramount. These should be combined with a review of certified See certification. systems documentation and context-based systems documentation, Evaluate the vendors' advanced technical training courses, including "train-the-trainers" classes. They should be combined with monthly training check-ups to ensure appropriate use of the software, Make sure to trial run telephone, Web self-service or on-site technical support to system users, through a set of references provided by the vendor. Measure the value of round-the-clock help desk support and the vendor's general support for its CRM software package. These related services are as important as the software itself, and in some cases, even more so. Related vendor services are the key difference between CRM software providers.
Features To Include In Your System
Effective CRM starts with a CRM vision, strategy and requirements-gathering exercise, which identifies the business functions that need to be automated au·to·mate
v. au·to·mat·ed, au·to·mat·ing, au·to·mates
1. To convert to automatic operation: automate a factory.
2. and lists the technical features that are required in the CRM system. While there are several different methodologies available, I recommend one that contains questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, visits with sales representatives in the field, facilitated vision, strategy and requirements gathering sessions, quantitative metrics metrics Managed care A popular term for standards by which the quality of a product, service, or outcome of a particular form of Pt management is evaluated. See TQM. , forced rankings and a final set of deliverable documents.
You can hire a CRM consultant to conduct the vision, strategy and requirements, or you may want to conduct them yourself. If you choose the internal route, be sure to start by assigning a project team composed of internal and/or external personnel who are familiar with all aspects of your business, sales, marketing, technology and the operational characteristics of each of your enterprises.
Regardless of your approach, the requirements-gathering step is critical. If the vision, strategy and requirements are not performed properly, you will most likely be unable to select and implement an effective CRM system. In my experience, companies that took the time to gather requirements properly have more easily and quickly selected and realized the benefits of CRM than companies that did not. Companies that neglected requirements are paying the price in terms of wasted time, effort and money.
Determine The Functions To Automate To turn a set of manual steps into an operation that goes by itself. See automation.
Automating an inefficient business process can be a costly mistake. To ensure that you automate what needs to be automated, your CRM vision should address a "wish list" of how salespeople sales·peo·ple
Persons who are employed to sell merchandise in a store or in a designated territory. , marketing personnel, customer support staff and management would like to improve their work processes.
Define Package Selection Methods And Criteria For Evaluation
Adopt a clear package selection methodology that ensures the selection team stays on track and within scope, This should include identifying selection criteria, match against needs and create a ranking system that is properly weighted to complete your selection, As you begin this next stage, documenting selection criteria will become the critical success factor. Ask yourself which customer-facing or front-office components seem to make sense for your company's CRM automation desires and in what order. Some examples are time management, sales, sales management Sales Management Role and Goal
Importance of sales management is critical for any commercial organization. Expanding business in not possible without increasing sales volumes, and effective sales management goal is to organize sales team work in such a manner that ensures a , field service support, marketing, business intelligence, telesales telesales
the selling of a commodity or service by telephone
telesales npl → televentas fpl
telesales npl → or customer service and support.
An example of components that comprise both business and technical issues are enterprise portals See corporate portal. , e-business, multimodal Two or more modes of operation. The term is used to refer to a myriad of functions and conditions in which two or more different methods, processes or forms of delivery are used. On the Web, it refers to asking for something one way and receiving the answer another; for example requesting access, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) An integrated information system that serves all departments within an enterprise. Evolving out of the manufacturing industry, ERP implies the use of packaged software rather than proprietary software written by or for one customer. integration and data synchronization Keeping data in two or more computers up-to-date so that each repository contains the identical information. Data in handheld devices and laptops often require synchronization with the data in a desktop machine or server. . They are, by definition, industry-driven, and with the dramatic speed at which enterprise application integration is moving, should be carefully considered.
Develop selection criteria around some number of industry-driven features, vendor-related information, business vision and functions, agreed-upon pricing characteristics, a set of technical features, user friendliness/human factor requirements and support metrics. After collecting the results from the previous exercise, use the selection criteria to compare components, features, functions and technological capabilities that meet your requirements.
Selection criteria can be subjective and objective. You can try to identify both tangible and intangibles benefits during this exercise. Following are some examples of what might help define criteria.
Below are some questions to consider during the purchase decision phase.
* Where does the vendor rate on customer service and does the application support enhanced self-service via the Web?
* Does the application support Web-based training and conferencing See teleconferencing. ?
* How long has the vendor been in business, and what is the history of the business?
* Does the vendor have experience with customers in your particular industry?
* What is the vendor's technological direction (e.g., Web strategy, CRM modular approach)?
* Who are the members of the management team and what are their backgrounds?
* How are they financed?
* Is source code included with the product?
* What training do they offer?
* How do they support their software (e.g., what are their service-level agreements)?
* What is included in their maintenance agreement?
* What is their warrantee WARRANTEE. One to whom a warranty is made. Touchst. 181. period and what is their bug-fix policy during this period?
* How do they implement their software?
* How important is this piece of business to the vendor?
Technical Selection Considerations
Use of object-based architectures. The object-oriented design Transforming an object-oriented model into the specifications required to create the system. Moving from object-oriented analysis to object-oriented design is accomplished by expanding the model into more and more detail. approach of using COM/DCOM and CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) A software-based interface from the Object Management Group (OMG) that allows software modules (objects) to communicate with each other no matter where they are located on a private network or the global technologies like ActiveX and JAVA controls facilitates integration with third-party software to obtain additional data and functionality.
Groupware Software that supports multiple users working on related tasks in local and remote networks. Also called "collaborative software," groupware is an evolving concept that is more than just multiuser software which allows access to the same data. integration. Look for groupware products for functions such as single-user and group calendaring/scheduling, task lists and e-mail communication. Even those software vendors that continue to offer their own activity scheduling functionality are now offering variations of bidirectional The ability to move, transfer or transmit in both directions. integration with groupware products. While MS Outlook appears to be the vendor's groupware product of choice for time management and scheduling functions, we are witnessing a reemergence of vendors integrating with Lotus Notes Messaging and groupware software from IBM Lotus that was introduced in 1989 for OS/2 and later expanded to Windows, Mac, Unix, NetWare, AS/400 and S/390. Notes provides e-mail, document sharing, workflow, group discussions and calendaring and scheduling. .
Computer-telephony integration (CTI (Computer Telephone Integration) Combining data with voice systems in order to enhance telephone services. For example, automatic number identification (ANI) allows a caller's records to be retrieved from the database while the call is routed to the appropriate party. ). CRM software vendors are increasingly offering an interface with PBX/telephony switches using this trend. It is driven in part by the increased integration between the customer service component of CRM with other functions such as sales or marketing.
Handheld devices. Of particular significance, these increasingly sophisticated handheld devices are able to synchronize See synchronization. and store CRM information.
Package Selection Method, Next Steps
Interviews with customer-facing personnel will allow the package selection team to gather observations and these will serve as input for the visioning session and the needs analysis questionnaires.
The package selection team should conduct structured visioning sessions with between 2 and 10 percent of personnel (e.g., sales representatives, marketing and sales managers sales manager n → gerente m/f de ventas
sales manager n → directeur commercial
sales manager sale n → , executives, customer service managers, IT specialists) to uncover any functional requirements See information requirements and functional specification.
(specification) functional requirements - What a system should be able to do, the functions it should perform. for the CRM target application. These participants are typically chosen as part of the project team that will participate in further CRM activities and should be stakeholders Stakeholders
All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government. for the eventual CRM target application.
The package selection team should customize a needs analysis questionnaire and administer it to between 10 to 20 percent of potential users of the CRM system. There are typically three different questionnaire types sent to three different decision-making groups, namely customer-facing personnel, managers and executives. While the three questionnaires ask several of the same questions, they also ask separate questions that rake into account the different decision-making responsibilities of these three groups. The questionnaires serve to confirm and consolidate findings revealed during the field visits and the visioning session, as well as force the respondents In the context of marketing research, a representative sample drawn from a larger population of people from whom information is collected and used to develop or confirm marketing strategy. to do a preliminary prioritization of the business functional needs, technical features and user friendliness issues.
The package selection team reviews the business processes to highlight existing business process issues as well as business process requirements, and recommends a step-by-step approach for mapping business processes to the workflow features of the system from the applicable CRM vendor.
Based on the results of the field visits, the visioning session, the needs analysis questionnaires and the business process review, the package selection team identifies the prioritized business functions for use in alignment with vendor package features. In view of your priority business functions and the results of your technical platform review, the package selection team identifies which vendor has the appropriate technical platform alternatives for CRM software, hardware and communications.
Once you have selected the vendor, the package selection team can assist you in implementing your CRM project by enforcing the original set of requirements, primarily in the areas of quality and systems assurance.
Once you have received answers to these questions, you will then need to apply business judgment as to which of these questions are most applicable to the success of your CRM automation project prior to deciding which software vendor best meets your needs. What you need to determine is the fit between your CRM project and the vendor.
Many vendors use third parties to implement some piece of the puzzle, which without very specific terms in the statement of work can produce mixed results at best. Third parties may not be as familiar with the software (or more importantly, with the customer's business environment and processes) as they should or need to be. It is a joint responsibility between the CRM software vendor and the customer to carefully manage the success and quality of a third party's work. If it is left to the vendor to manage the third-party integrator (1) In electronics, a device that combines an input with a variable, such as time, and provides an analog output; for example, a watt-hour meter.
(2) See systems integrator. , risk to the project increases.
These third parties work closely with some or many CRM vendors, helping these vendors to implement their software. Integrator services range from project management to software customization or systems integration. However attractive, this approach can create substantially higher costs for a CRM implementation. This may have a negative impact on the vendor's ability to maintain the sale and should be carefully considered before proceeding with negotiations. It should also be considered that if the integrator fails to do the work effectively, the conflict of interest would rest with the vendor. To address these potential pitfalls, customers need to carefully explore and negotiate the integrator/vendor relationships for successful CRM package selection and implementation.
A Few Other Things To Consider
Package selection teams need to understand the dynamics of today's CRM marketplace, where we are witnessing one CRM life cycle (client-server technology) butt BUTT. A measure of capacity, equal to one hundred and eight gallons. See Measure. heads with a new, Web-based CRM life cycle. The life cycle based on client-server technology largely supports employee-facing CRM systems (aimed at helping internal sales, marketing and customer service personnel), whereas the new Web-based, eCRM life cycle supports more customer-facing CRM systems (where customers use Web browsers The following is a list of web browsers. Historical
Historically important browsers
In order of release:
ASPs are capable of providing a variety of services that can assist vendors to sell their CRM software. As CRM software becomes increasingly complex, and in-company IT departments lack the necessary skills to maintain and support the CRM initiative, the ASP model may be an increasingly attractive alternative.
There are two pricing camps emerging within the CRM software industry. One camp sets a price for their software and does not negotiate from this price. The other camp sets an inflated list price for their software and then discounts up to 70 percent from the list price.
While both camps have their benefits and drawbacks, increasingly buyers understand that there is considerable negotiation room in CRM software vendor prices. This includes substantial discounts for a per-seat basis, substantial discounts for server software, site license deals, delayed maintenance charges, gratis GRATIS. Without reward or consideration.
2. When a bailee undertakes to perform some act or work gratis, he is answerable for his gross negligence, if any loss should be sustained in consequence of it; but a distinction exists between non-feasance and technical and/or end-user training, etc. CRM vendors should be ready to explain their pricing policy clearly to potential users and then to win the order based on value-added services A value-added service (VAS) is a telecommunications industry term for non-core services or, in short, all services beyond standard voice calls and fax transmissions. and not the price of the CRM software alone.
Ernie Megazzini is consultant for North Highland Management and Technology Consulting Services Noun 1. consulting service - service provided by a professional advisor (e.g., a lawyer or doctor or CPA etc.)
service - work done by one person or group that benefits another; "budget separately for goods and services"
Pitfalls In CRM Package Selection
* Lack of a sales and marketing strategy
* Lack of corporate commitment
* In-company politics
* Lack of proper training
* Lack of knowledge
* Resistance by sales and marketing
Solving The Puzzle Of CRM Solutions
Choosing a CRM solution can be a daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin and frustrating frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: task, There are literally hundreds of CRM options as well as vendors who claim to contribute viral pieces to the CRM puzzle. As companies attempt to solve the puzzle, they find that the pieces may not function properly, blend together seamlessly, or reply in a timely manner. These setbacks can cost companies precious time and money. One way to minimize these problems is by looking at the present needs as well as the future growth potential of the business and constructing a CRM blueprint blueprint, white-on-blue photographic print, commonly of a working drawing used during building or manufacturing. The plan is first drawn to scale on a special paper or tracing cloth through which light can penetrate. .
The Need For A Blueprint For CRM Strategy
The Internet has drastically restructured the communications upon which business relationships depend. The old maps are no longer adequate. To understand the impact of the new environment, management must figuratively fig·u·ra·tive
a. Based on or making use of figures of speech; metaphorical: figurative language.
b. Containing many figures of speech; ornate.
2. step outside the company and look at it from the perspective of their customers who now have new, much higher expectations for the level of service from their suppliers.
An objective understanding of the company's current and planned CRM needs is a viral prerequisite pre·req·ui·site
Required or necessary as a prior condition: Competence is prerequisite to promotion.
n. to choosing the systems that will enable the company to deliver on these expectations. It is essential that a company hire someone who is experienced in CRM in the Internet world, one who is capable of helping the client avoid a number of potential mistakes that will cost the company dearly.
Evaluating The Total Supplier-Client Relationship
The totality TOTALITY. The whole sum or quantity.
2. In making a tender, it is requisite that the totality of the sum due should be offered, together with the interest and costs. Vide Tender. of the buyer-seller relationship is composed of many different relationships, including outbound out·bound
Outward bound; headed away: outbound trains.
Adj. 1. outbound - that is going out or leaving; "the departing train"; "an outward journey"; "outward-bound ships" marketing, sales inquiries and fulfillment ful·fill also ful·fil
tr.v. ful·filled, ful·fill·ing, ful·fills also ful·fils
1. To bring into actuality; effect: fulfilled their promises.
2. , the process of customer acquisition initial sales transactions, routine customer service, complaint handling and the automated delivery of marketing literature. Perceiving the company from this viewpoint of a single total relationship is at the heart of the preparation needed to assemble the CRM strategic blueprint. However, the converse (logic) converse - The truth of a proposition of the form A => B and its converse B => A are shown in the following truth table:
A B | A => B B => A ------+---------------- f f | t t f t | t f t f | f t t t | t t element is the key to a successful implementation: every customer-facing employee, from front-office to back-office, must be able to see the same single view of the customer, Changing the culture of the company to become customer-centric is the objective and CRM is the tool to achieve it.
Surmounting The Lines Of Demarcation
This total view of a supplier-client relationship translates into a need for the CRM system to integrate all of a company's communication channels, internal and external, electronic or legacy, into its business functions from sales, marketing and service, through fulfillment and finance, to product development. Achieving this objective enables a company to have a complete and integrated view of all its internal and external relationships and to focus them on achieving total customer satisfaction. The plan must be inclusive across organizational and functional boundaries.
Hidden From View
A common problem in the CRM planning process is that of underestimating the effort that will be involved. Changing a corporate culture is a difficult and resource-hungry task. Resources will also be stretched in every area as day-to-day activities compete with the deployment effort needed, While anticipating the resource challenge is a normal management responsibility, one aspect of the change is frequently hidden from view until deployment is well under way: the existing IT infrastructure is often unable to handle the new technologies that will be necessary. Almost certainly, the existing structure will not be capable of integrating not only legacy applications and new technology, but also future enhancements or new, as yet unconsidered un·con·sid·ered
Not reasoned or considered; rash: an unconsidered remark.
Adj. 1. unconsidered , applications. In the dynamic world of e-business CRM, the lack of future proofing can quickly become a serious Achilles' heel for the company.
Measure For Measure
When it comes to CRM solutions, one size does not fit all. Only install what you need, no more and no less. Too much solution wastes IT dollars and crucial time in its installation. Too little will leave critical gaps in the system that will damage rather than enhance customer relationships. The implications of this apparently simple objective are technically challenging. Whereas traditional company IT systems may consist of independent, standalone stand·a·lone
Self-contained and usually independently operating: a standalone computer terminal. applications and databases, the totally customer-facing structure requires that all customer-affecting applications and data repositories See repository. can interact fully and freely with one another to provide an integrated relationship to service the customer. As a result, the most important technical decision management must make is choosing the infrastructure that will be the integration platform for new and legacy applications and data.
The Best CRM Demands Best-Of-Breed
A common mistake to avoid is accepting that any one application vendor, or any one application service provider (ASP), can provide the optimum technology across multiple applications. In a market where evolution is rapid and continuous, to deploy the best possible CRM, a company must be enabled to use the best available technology from whatever source, and to incorporate new or replacement technologies as they arrive. Products that were not designed to work together must be integrated into a single, seamless service. What is more, deployment of new systems, upgrades or replacements needs to happen while maintaining an uninterrupted and full service. This new approach requires a new way of looking at CRM...a new business model. One model that has emerged to address this need is the business solution provider (BSP BSP
Bromsulphalein, a dye used in the study of liver function. See also sulfobromophthalein clearance test. ) model. Unlike the ASP which hosts applications, the BSP oversees the entire business-process. By outsourcing (1) Contracting with outside consultants, software houses or service bureaus to perform systems analysis, programming and datacenter operations. Contrast with insourcing. See netsourcing, ASP, SSP and facilities management. the most complex challenges facing companies, the BSP can provide specific expertise, oft oft
Often. Often used in combination: his oft-expressed philosophy; oft-repeated tales.
[Middle English, from Old English; see upo in Indo-European roots. en addressing problems that the organization may not be able to solve on its own.
The BSP Business Model
In planning for CRM, some large and small enterprises are turning to BSPs for their outsourced services for the deployment of business infrastructure.
BSPs provide the more obvious benefits such as capital preservation, rapid deployment and packaged expertise, but can also assist during the selection process. Following is a checklist to use when considering using a BSP.
* Does the BSP host multiple vendor-supplied products?
* Does it provide custom products and where necessary?
* Is deployment guaranteed within a fixed period and cost?
* Does the BSP offer domain-specific expertise?
* Will the deployed solution provide a common data management and business analytic platform?
* Will it provide a common management and administration platform?
Many analysts who have studied the needs of companies who are embracing e-business agree that in the new financial environment brought about by merce, the BSP model is a good paradigm to consider for outsourcing critical business infrastructure.
It is not too extreme to state that the impact of the Internet has fundamentally altered the customer environment in which businesses operate. But before responding by deploying CRM technology, it is essential that management ensure that they fully understand how extensive and pervasive the effects of this change are, and then apply this understanding to the particular needs of their company.
Rene L. White is senior vice president of marketing at eConvergent (www.econvergent.com), a company which offers a pre-configured, completely integrated electronic customer relationship management (eCRM) solution to customers as a service.