Monday, 13 January 2014

Guest Post: What are You Looking for in a CRM Solution?

Whether upgrading from tracking customers in email or a spreadsheet, or migrating from another customer relationship management application (CRM), your company has decided they want to try a new CRM.  What do you really need?  What will best serve your organization…your user base?  What have you been using…and what from that process is working and what isn’t working?  If you are migrating from an existing CRM, what didn't work in the past?  These are all the questions you have to cover as you work on business processes and requirements for the new solution and here are some things to consider:

Integration with Other Applications
These days, no application is an island so what other tools in your organization does your CRM need to talk to?  These are critical requirements to consider when thinking about the right online CRM solution for yours or your organizational needs.  What should it integrate with?  Google apps?  Outlook?  Other MS Office tools?  Gmail?  These are all important considerations and things you’ll need to discuss with the subject matter experts (SMEs), end users, account managers, etc. who will actually be using the final implemented solution.

Reporting needs are an important consideration with any implemented CRM solution.  Business processes and users play an important role in determining these reporting needs…at least from an initial – or baseline – reporting capability standpoint.  Consider how tasks and milestones will need to be displayed, what dashboard reports your users will want to see, and the ever-important opportunity reporting features required to track sales -- those are critical to your sales/account managers, end users and company management.

Administrative Activities
In the small business environment, choosing a CRM solution that is both powerful and easy to administer is very important because you may not have a full time IT department and your high end users may end up administering the application.  The chosen solution should probably have a pretty easy learning curve to help ensure the greatest overall adoption and usage rate – things that play big roles in customer satisfaction and, therefore, project success.   Specifically, you may want to consider a solution that has some or all of these administrative options or capabilities: 
  • Easy way to invite new users
  • Quickly create and set up new teams
  • Create user permissions
  • Ability to easily customize the solution for both today's needs and future business needs
  • Ability to setup relationships between contacts, organizations and opportunities
  • Easily view and manage pipelines and sales activities

Finally, how mobile is the workforce?  Does the CRM solution need to be taken on the road on mobile devices?  Where we are in terms of technology and remote teams, most likely the answer is a definite “Yes”.  Depending on the organization’s “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, you’ll want to consider a solution with a broad range of mobile device coverage (vs. price, of course).  Likely coverage should probably include: iPad, Google Nexus, and Amazon Kindle HD, iPhone, and Android phones…at a minimum.

I have personally led CRM implementation efforts during my project management experiences – including one large project involving three separate (but related) businesses that were all part of the same company.  Replacement of their three separate CRM solutions with one common solution was the plan – and all of these considerations that I mentioned above were critical discussion points with the ultimate end users and played key roles in the requirements definition process.  Know what the customer needs…not all solutions can answer the call.  Understand what how your customer will be using the end solution and find the right/best tool to meet those needs vs. the budget required to do so.
About the author:  Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer & IT/PM consultant and author with over 27 years of development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. 

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