4 Steps to Succeed in the Evolving CRM Landscape

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In today’s increasingly competitive world, companies are looking to accelerate their pace of business to stay ahead of the competition and maintain profit margins. More and more often, this requires identifying comprehensive and scalable solutions with cross functional benefits across sales, marketing and customer service.

It’s no longer enough to simply buy and implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM and expect to be off to the races. Critical customer information must be freed from silos, allowing various business owners to have the real-time customer insights they need to make better decisions and improve performance. The benefits of this information sharing are significant. For instance, in a recent study conducted by Scribe, we found that integrated CRM data leads to better accuracy and consistency of customer information in 63% of businesses, plus a reduction in time spent accessing multiple systems for 44%, and the ability to achieve a holistic view of the customers for 41% of companies who responded.

To achieve acceleration, the process of sourcing and implementing solutions has changed greatly in the last decade. Successful businesses implement change from the top, identify the business cases to improve and secure executive buy-in before setting the detailed requirements for a solution purchase and app configuration. Beginning with the end business results in mind is key to driving strategic purchasing and integration decisions.

Smart businesses also rely on the help of strategic integration consultants to see the big picture, who ensure the solution is working properly and encourage solution adoption. In fact, we find that successful Dynamics CRM implementations nearly always benefit from the participation of a systems integration consultant. To that end, I connected with Lucie Schulze, Director of Marketing and Administration, and Julinda Prekop, Senior Account Executive, both of Ledgeview Partners, to understand how they tackle CRM implementations and data integration projects. Ledgeview prides itself on providing holistic solutions for their customers to drive valuable business results – more than just a simple, once-and-done implementation or integration project. Here, Lucie and Julinda share the evolving process of a successful CRM implementation.

Take A Top-Down Approach
As CRM investments have grown more strategic to businesses of all sizes, it has become critical to have executive buy-in and alignment on business needs. Today’s CRM implementations affect more than just the sales team, as companies view CRM as the customer data hub. In our State of Customer Data Integration survey, businesses rate full integration between CRM and Customer Service applications as top priority (68%), followed by CRM and business intelligence systems (66%), CRM and sales force automations applications (60%), and CRM and marketing automation applications (60%). For business leaders to make well-informed implementation decisions, they must have a strong understanding of what business processes need to be improved and must work closely with other executives to achieve this.

Be Nimble
When replacing legacy systems, businesses need to make sure they don’t lose important customer or prospect data in the transition. At the same time, adoption of the new CRM system is critical to its success. To achieve strong adoption while keeping data integrity high, both businesses and system integrators are looking for flexible, nimble integration methods and platforms. CRM users must see immediate benefits from using the new system, while retaining access to the core data from legacy systems. This duality elevates the status of the CRM system into a ‘total customer data hub’.

It’s All About Adoption
As you know, a CRM is only as good as its users. Storing valuable customer data is nearly worthless if no one is accessing the CRM.

Ledgeview worked with Bolt Express after a botched deployment switch from ACT! by Sage to Microsoft Dynamics. Due to some technical challenges affecting performance, Dynamics users were frustrated by the software and quickly began working outside of the CRM – not ideal for a system intended to increase productivity! The Ledgeview team swooped in and worked to improve Dynamics’ performance, thus improving employee satisfaction and CRM adoption.

Integration as a Process
Once upon a time, integration was viewed as a ‘once and done’ occurrence. As the CRM landscape has evolved and data lives in more sources than ever before, businesses now view integration as a process – as a way to make incremental business improvements over time. It’s a stretch to think you’ll implement a CRM from the outset that acts as a total customer data hub. To achieve this, businesses layer in integrations over time, breaking it up into manageable pieces, but operating with a strategic approach. 

Consultants like Lucie and Julinda help a business identify the lowest-hanging fruit, easy opportunities to improve the CRM through simple integrations. In one example, Ledgeview’s customer is an online services company that helps lawyers-to-be prepare for the bar exam. Ledgeview worked with the client on an integration that captures the sign-in information of the law student to pass back to the CRM, allowing the company to easily authenticate the visitors and confirm that those who are signing up should have access to the online materials, and develop a more holistic view of the lawyers over time.

Navigating the increasingly complex CRM world can overwhelm even those of us who have been in the industry for years – let’s hope that the advice shared in this article can make it easier and less daunting for those of you who are looking to update or overhaul old systems with new ones.  

Lou Guercia
As President and CEO for Scribe Software, Lou is responsible for Scribe's direction, continued growth as a leader in mid-market and enterprise integration as well as the company's entry into the cloud through integration-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings. He is a member of the SIIA Software Board of Directors and the MassTLC Cloud cluster.

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