Waiting For The Next CRM Feature


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I was inspired by a tweet How Important is the Next New Feature in a CRM System, until I realized it was all about Microsoft CRM. Of course, they have all the features you would ever want.  And it might be shinier and slicker looking than some of their competitors.

What stood out was the list of the feature categories and I realized that not one of them focused on a job that had to be done. Do these features get your job done? If they did, maybe we would have that simple system that everyone talks about…instead the behemoths that CRM systems have become. It’s all about the next new features, so get used to it. You asked for it.

I would say that next new feature isn’t that important.

In Search of the Simple System That Grows As You Grow – A Platform

I am a geek at heart. I like features. I build features. I use features. But after a lot of years of dealing with features, I’ve found that they have the most value on a marketing brochure. More often than not, getting them to work the way you need to work, is an exercise in futility. I guess it wasn’t convenient for the programmer who designed and built it to think through who’s actually using it. Nor are the features I need ever sitting right there in front of me. How many clicks does it take you to get to your most used feature, or how many clicks does it take to execute it? If it’s more than one or two, you, the customer, were definitely not in the minds of the people that designed it. It was all about them.

So as I was reading this blog post, I had high hopes, right up until I saw these bullets. These are your typical features that get checked off in a backwards CRM implementation. It was simply a list of features Microsoft CRM is currently touting. Nothing against MSCRM, it’s a solid product. Social media at it’s best – there is no value being added by publishing a brochure on your blog. If the IT department is selecting your CRM platform based on specs like those below, then you should read more about CRM strategy because your IT department understands networks and hardware!

  1. Simplified UI that keeps the user in a familiar environment – SIMPLE?
  2. Strong integration to productivity tools for message management, activity management & quote generation
  3. Dynamic reporting
  4. Automated processes to support the sales, marketing and service processes
  5. Ease of configuration to support system change
  6. Mobility support
  7. Deployment flexibility
  8. Open architecture to support legacy system integrations
  9. Collaboration
  10. Data integrity tools
  11. Social Interaction Tracking

At the end of the day, if you’re a sales person that’s out pounding pavement all day, how important is social interaction tracking or collaboration? I know there are a lot of really bright people out there creating cool features left and right and I don’t want to make them feel bad. But, how are they helping you do your job? Do they really add value, or are the just adding bloat to an already cumbersome application? Last time I checked, tweeting out, or reading tweets, was not part of my job. How about yours? Maybe social media people, but even the marketing people traditionally looked for ROI, so explain how tweeting does that again? Don’t make anything up now!

Can Feature Bloated CRM Applications Be Turned Into Agile Platforms?

Are you obsessed with your new smartphone? How many of you have an iPad? Have you stopped to think just how different the experience is with these devices than you’ve traditionally had with your PC? Exactly, there are no bloated apps that do everything! Everything you download has, for the most part, a specific and simple purpose. A compass, a conversion calculator, a Twitter client, a Contact list or an Email app. Even on the pad devices, unless you hit an existing web application, you’re seeing simple and straightforward utilities. Whether they deliver value or not, they are all simple and task oriented because you just can’t fit anything else into these small spaces.

Sure, you could build an app that is 100 levels deep – but you can’t build it sideways – so navigating that would be next to impossible for the average worker. I’ve seen apps for SalesLogix appearing out there, and they try to deliver a lot of the basic functionality of the product in a single app. But what’s the point? Can you really fit all of this into a smart phone? And worse, do all of your customers do the same jobs and tasks – or at least the exact same way?

SLX Apps

Or does it make more sense to take advantage of the platform and break things up into the tasks people do? Even the job may be too big for a single app, in my opinion. New products, like Nimble, are building the platform first.  And the way it’s designed will allow developers to deliver apps that perform specific tasks – whether they reside in the standard Nimble interface, or as standalone on a iPhone. Some will be awesome, and some will suck. But, hey, that’s life!

On the other hand, SalesLogix, a well established product, is able to tap into a protocol developed for all Sage products called SData. While Sage and/or it’s business partners will undoubtedly attempt to recreate the entire application for delivery to a smart phone or tablet device, I think the really smart consultants will begin creating job and task focused apps that do one or two things really well. In fact, much of their service work could end up being the design of specific widgetized apps for their customers’ unique set of needs. Anything they make can also be sold in an app store, by the consulting firm, or by the customer – depending on the deal that’s stuck. SData should make this sort of thing extremely easy for SalesLogix developers – the ones that learn Java that is.

I meet sales people regularly because they are simply the biggest consumers of CRM software. And guess what, more often than not, I hear them say they just need to spit out a quote, or enter an order. Sure, they have to schedule appointments, make phone calls and send emails too. But, many of them don’t really need anything else. So why are we giving it to them? A bloated do-everything application installed on a computer that takes 15 minutes to boot. Does that sound like something a mobile warrior wants? A lot of these people would kiss the ground you walk on if you just gave them a icon on their iPhone, or Android, desktop that helped them do the top 3 or 4 things they need to do each day. “Oh, but CRM is so much more than that” I hear you say. Yes, it is. But for a mobile salesperson, it’s really not.

Is The Next New CRM Feature What Gets You Up In The Morning?

If it is, then you’re probably a programmer at one of the CRM vendors, or possibly someone who buys the hype that this wonderful new feature is going to solve all of your problems.  I typically talk strategy and all that boring stuff here. But at the end of the day, we are trying to align our workforce to the work processes and flows we need them to interact with, and support. Aren’t we really creating obstacles for them with each new feature? Do some of these features make it more difficult to get their job done, through winding pathways and extra clicks? It’s worth thinking about.

If your job is to design a solution around a job or even a set of jobs, doesn’t it make sense that each user’s experience should be just about that job? Give them access to all of the information if they want it. But, also give them a direct top level path to their job in a single click. To me, that’s the best next new feature – Solution Provider 2.0.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. It’s an interesting debate to consider whether new features are cluttering the industry or whether they’re helping to advance CRM solutions. Having read through countless new features’ descriptions, and tried my hand at a few, I’m torn as to which side of the fence I stand on the debate. On the one hand, yes, it’s a bit on the ridiculous side when a company touts the latest innovations of a new feature—one that does nothing new, innovative, or to help you advance your bottom line sales. Rather, it’s more of a marketing tactic than a new product. Yet on the other, where would we be if we didn’t have years of trials and errors in testing/using new features? Our cherished features today weren’t necessary treasures in the beginning. We needed to sift through the vast lands to find it, try it, and like it. Plus, years of tweaking and improving upon features have resulted in bona fide features today. I say bring it on: I’m ready to continue sifting through the mundane in order to stumble upon the hidden treasure!


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