A year ago if someone asked me if I knew my way around the CRM Software Industry I would have confidently said yes, however, as it turns out the old saying the more you learn the more knowledge you realize you lack, is true. When talking about the CRM Software Industry it is almost impossible to actually say that you know it inside out since there are so many CRM vendors around the world, all developing their technologies at such a rapid pace. As if it wasn’t hard enough for a company to make a decision regarding; what they require, how it can help their business and so on, these technological advancements are always followed with a marketing campaign each speaking of how much this new feature or functionality will help you.
So the question stands at, you think you know CRM Software? This is difficult to answer with all the hype surrounding the industry combined with the relative youth of Web-based CRM and the large number of vendors. It is also difficult to produce a linear comparison since each vendor has their own set of terms and names for features. So where do you begin? You can learn the basics of Web-based CRM Software fairly easily with a quick search on Google, however I would like to mention a few points that are more difficult to uncover; the hidden costs associated with purchasing CRM Software, what to avoid, how your CRM can go beyond simply contact management and where the industry is going.
When a company decides it’s time to make the move to Web-based CRM Software they should first develop a plan on how they expect this new implementation to boost their companies productivity and revenue. The largest roadblock in achieving a fast ROI is all the hidden costs that are not clearly listed on vendor’s web sites. In researching to develop a comparison of some of the major players in the CRM world including Salesforce, Netsuite and Salesboom.com, the majority of my time was spent researching pricing for different platforms, upgrades, implementation, customization and customer support. Salesboom was actually the only one at the time to have a page with their pricing listed clearly.
To just go out and purchase a CRM Edition and think you are done is nowhere near the truth, this is just a base point from which pricing begins. This leads me into what to avoid when seeking your future CRM Software. What you need to look into and ask questions about is; storage limits and the cost of additional storage, maximum number of custom tabs & fields, maximum number of applications you can add, this being particularly relevant for Salesforce, and any other limitation which could later force you to upgrade.
If you have implemented a CRM Software Solution and reached any of these mentioned limitations I’m sure you can vouch for my statement that it comes at a great cost. What is often the case is that the edition a company is currently working with is doing a great job but for example they have reached their storage limits. An edition upgrade for a company with roughly 750 users can amount to around 2 million dollars above what they were already paying. With this upgrade of course comes more features and functionality however they are features and functionality which will not increase your ROI simply because your company doesn’t need them.
Now that the buyers beware and the negatives are out of the way we can focus on the positives. When you implement your new Web-based CRM you have just knocked down all the walls separating your departments or office’s, no matter their location and you did it in real-time. Once up and running your CRM goes far beyond contact management software with vendor’s now integrating front and back office functionality. Netsuite has a strong back office, which makes sense knowing their background in back office ERP solutions; however I find their SFA or front office not to be up to the standards of some others. Salesforce and Salesboom.com both offer a well rounded CRM solution for companies of all sizes, between these two it really comes down to price.
With more than just contact management capabilities CRM Software is a great tool for your; marketing department with in depth campaign and lead management tools, your customer service department since a complete history of all clients and cases are a mouse click away, your back office including inventory, billing & invoicing by taking advantage of real time workflow processes and of course your sales force with features like escalation rules or in more recent times offline and mobile editions.
The other benefit that AJAX will bring us in the future when combined with faster internet speed is the elimination of load time, maybe not completely but at least the majority of it. This sort of functionality is now only seen with On-premise software since all information is stored within your computer or server you don’t need to wait for the internet to download any data. AJAX comes into play here since you don’t require a browser refresh you can continue working while only that portion of the web page is reloaded. I predict that the gap between Web-based and On-premise CRM Software will be much smaller by the end of 2008 and we will see the same trend with businesses leaving their On-premise for Web-based CRM, like was seen in 2007.