CRM Software Directory

Countless pundits have opined near countless theories about best practices related to software selection, implementation, and management of CRM systems. Based on surveys, studies, research, and a CRM software directory there is no lack of expert opinion for those about to embark on a CRM software selection project. However, while theory and generalizations prevail, readers often seek practical and specific recommendations that they can immediately apply to their CRM initiatives. Rather than contribute more of the same to the theoretical mass, this post takes a different approach – I asked CRM software vendors for their most practical advice and best practices with the highest impact.

There was consistent feedback that the most successful adopters planned complete enterprise customer relationship management solutions but sequenced their projects into manageable phases and delivered incremental and measurable progress over time. Most adopters struggle with the amount of change management that comes with new CRM software as invariably processes and culture evolve in conjunction with the technology. Phasing the roll-out by CRM function, business unit, or geographic location provides the implementation team increased focus, manageability and predictability. The key to a successful phased project is to thoroughly understand the larger scope and to link the design and configuration decisions for each phase into the grand strategy. So don't mortgage your future and settle for a system that has near-term fit but does not provide a long term solution. Once you have selected a CRM software system, begin the project by thinking about how to phase the roll-out so that you deliver early value and gain continued momentum toward the long-term destination.

While SaaS CRM systems may offer advantages in the areas of initial cost reductions, reduced implementation time, any location access, impressive uptime and outsourcing of a non-core competency to third party experts, they can also receive a cool initial reception from IT staff or users who are accustomed to client/server or legacy on-premise customer management systems. This is only natural as these legacy systems encounter no Internet latency, don't leverage web browsers for display and do not extend beyond your network's security to connect to the outside world. Software selection teams need to be prepared for cultural resistance, provide education and be able to offer measurable advantages and disadvantages for both the SaaS CRM and on-premise CRM delivery models.

There are few things more important than making sure you get the right people on the CRM software selection and deployment teams. CRM provides the framework for all customer interactions and imposes a degree of process discipline on sales, marketing, and customer service staff so that business processes occur with consistency and predictability. If the customer management strategy and supporting application software are the front line for customer acquisition and retention, it warrants the design and engineering of your most talented staff. While there is also a necessary role for IT representation, whether on premise or SaaS CRM systems, executive sponsorship should normally come from the business side and the design team must be stacked with business people. Seek out people who think systemically and understand the need for process. The sales person who achieves quota every year through the depth of his client relationships may not be someone who will appreciate the need for CRM software and may therefore not be much help in process design. That's not to say we circumvent this sales person, instead we use him in a highly leveraged model where we get his input on the business practices that make him effective and embed those techniques in the CRM system for all to benefit.