Ten questions to consider before buying CRM applications

As customer relationship management infiltrates more small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the options for CRM applications and services are increasingly coming from smaller vendors. These vendors can now compete with

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their bigger counterparts, offering Software as a Service (SaaS) and best-of-breed products for specific CRM functions and industries.

Selecting the right CRM software and implementing CRM to deliver measurable business growth and profit improvement can present many challenges to IT professionals and business managers. But if it's done right, your efforts will be rewarded with significant competitive advantages and bottom-line profits.

Here are 10 questions -- technical and strategic -- to ask when considering an investment in CRM applications:

Top five technical issues:

  1. Should we consider an on-demand SaaS, or an on-premise CRM product?
  2. Should we look at SMB products from the larger vendors (i.e., SAP AG and Oracle Corp./Siebel), or should we look at offerings from smaller companies that focus exclusively on the SMB market?
  3. Should we invest in a standalone CRM product, or would we be better off with an offering from a single vendor that offers both CRM and accounting/enterprise resource planning functionality?
  4. Would an industry-specific CRM product best meet our needs, or should we plan to have customized, more "horizontal" CRM?
  5. Would open source CRM technology be a good fit for an SMB?

Top five strategic issues:

  1. How ready (organizationally and culturally) is our business for CRM?
  2. How formalized, repeatable and measurable are our CRM-related processes?
  3. How challenging will it be to introduce new CRM applications into our organization?
  4. How supportive are our staff members of our CRM plans, and how motivated are they to make our CRM project a success?
  5. How can we become a more customer-focused (i.e., less product-centric) business?

Jim Berkowitz is founder and CEO of CRM Mastery Inc., a company that offers SMBs independent, unbiased CRM solution evaluation and selection assistance, as well as affordable, technology-enabled CRM planning and implementation guidance services. He is also editor of the CRM Mastery e-Journal, one of the most widely read CRM-related blogs. He can be reached at jberkowitz@crmmastery.com.

This was first published in July 2007

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