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Secrets Of CRM Vendor Selection

By on Apr 26, 2011 No Comments

So many options, so little time.

What’s the best way to evaluate which of today’s top CRM platforms your business should use?

That question was put to me last week by a CIO. His business is migrating off of an older version of Siebel, for which it stopped paying maintenance several years ago. (The company’s Siebel environment is extremely stable, and Oracle wasn’t issuing new releases, so why not save — to date — over $1 million?)

Now, the company wants to adopt a new CRM platform. It chose to not upgrade Siebel. Instead, it’s evaluating Microsoft CRM Dynamics, Oracle CRM On Demand, and Salesforce.com. But frankly, senior executives are confused about what comes next.

Steps To Vendor Selection

At Innoveer, we regularly help companies select the right CRM technology for the job. Notably, we’re also technology-neutral.

And therein lies the mandate: Don’t start by selecting technology, which — while important — isn’t the most important aspect of your CRM project. Instead, follow these steps:

1) Identify Pain Points

“What are the main CRM practices that we’re trying to improve through this CRM project?” That should be your very first question.

Finding pain points requires looking at the full spectrum of either marketing, sales or service. For example, maybe the handoff of leads from marketing to sales isn’t going well, as happened with Kronos. Or maybe the problem, as with Genzyme Biosurgery, is needing to boost sales management competencies, to improve sales rep performance. Or maybe it’s just about service issue resolution.

Whatever the issue, we try to boil it down to five or six results that we’re trying to achieve with the CRM system.

2) Prevent User Revolt

Researchers are still searching for a way to produce addictive CRM. Until that happens, the next step is to prevent revolts and actively court users to ensure high levels of CRM adoption.

Consider this approach, practiced by the aforementioned CIO: Don’t pick the software. Rather, let the heads of sales and marketing select the software. Then facilitate the CRM project meetings, provide perspective, and ensure that the shortlist contains only established players. “I don’t want to hear, after I do all of the technology and integration, that no one is using it,” he told me.

As a strategy for preventing CRM project failure, that’s smart. Indeed, making sales and marketing executives own the project means that they’ll be heavily invested in a successful, productive outcome, and drive their employees to embrace the new system.

3) Select Technology

Taking all of the above into consideration, the final step is to evaluate vendors and their technology, based first and foremost on the business’s own pain points. For example:

  • Need marketing and campaign automation? We’d add Oracle CRM On Demand and Eloqua to the shortlist.
  • Need a high-volume, high-transaction environment? We’d likely recommend evaluating Siebel, among other options.
  • Technology-wise, if you’re a Microsoft shop and have a lot of .NET experience, then Microsoft CRM Dynamics might rate highly.
  • If you’re betting your business on the cloud (like Innoveer customer Everyscape), and need extensive custom development, for example via Force.com, then Salesforce.com might rate highly.

As that suggests, always consider your organization’s existing technology infrastructure. Also remember that almost always, more than one technology option will meet your needs, even if it costs a little more or a little less.

4) Blame The Consultants

A classic “use case” for consultants is to help businesses manage the different requirements of internal business groups to arrive at a highly workable end result. Or as I say, at Innoveer, it’s our job to make most groups not happy.

Finding ways to compromise is tough. For example, Innoveer is currently wrapping up a vendor selection project — for SFA — with a client based in Indianapolis. Now, the business is Microsoft shop, and the IT department is pushing for Microsoft CRM Dynamics. But the sales group really, really wants Salesforce.com. And that’s a tricky situation to manage.

Can you imagine a CRM system without data, or integration with other systems? Or the first time something didn’t work, the IT group saying, “You picked it, you make it work.” On the flipside, can you imagine selecting a CRM system dictated solely on the technical constraints of the business, with no one using it?

For finding the best fit that leads to a successful CRM resolution, having an outside consulting firm — such as Innoveer — helping can be a lifesaver. No matter what happens, blame us. This dynamic can do wonders for organizational cohesion and focus.

Furthermore, if the end result is a project that helps the business eliminate current pain points and embrace cutting-edge marketing, sales and service capabilities, using CRM software that everyone ultimately adopts, through the project team having correctly identified current business problems, worked with existing processes, managed the people issues, and selected the right technology? Blame away.

Learn More

To help organizations pick the right technology for the job, Innoveer’s vendor selection workshop helps businesses perform a rapid CRM effectiveness analysis, either of your overall CRM program, or one of its components — marketing, sales, or service. By identifying pain points in your existing processes, we can benchmark your organization’s current CRM practices against industry norms, as well as the competition.

To help make your CRM program more successful, also review our “top 10″ marketing, sales and service CRM strategies to see how your program compares to best practices and our benchmarks.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user D Sharon Pruitt.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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