| By Dylan Persaud
New Technologies, Deployment Models and Social Tools Are Changing Evaluation Criteria
The rapidly changing business environment coupled with maturing technologies and social customer implications has caused a shift in CRM software evaluation. However, many of the same principles and processes are still staples of a proper software evaluation project. The same solid methodology that integrates people, processes, technology and research still holds true.
Our research and clients indicate that software evaluation is changing far more than in prior periods. Software selection criterion that were previously most evaluated have taken on less importance as they have become table stakes among vendor solutions, while new differentiating technologies have come to the forefront—such as cloud computing, SaaS, IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), SOA (Service Oriented Architectures) and social CRM technologies. These new deployment models, services and technologies have introduced new evaluation categories that have lead to more options, and more confusion, in the CRM software evaluation process.
Organizations are continuing to evaluate features and functions as before but as many companies have learned the hard way this is not the end all and be all to evaluating software and choosing the best fit solution. Companies are now emphasizing new areas such as business agility, business process management, vertical market expertise, globalization and more focus on the strategic technology fit.
Business Agility includes the capability of the application software to quickly adapt to changing business conditions and processes without software customization and vendor engagement. Many new business systems are incorporating richer user interfaces and easier configuration options to enable the customer to do most of the changes themselves. Since many systems are on par with respect to features and functions, self-configuration is heavily being considered within the evaluation process. For more extensive changes to the CRM software, vendors are delivering visual, drag-and-drop PaaS toolkits which permit customers to modify the software objects, forms, fields and navigation without changing the source code or affecting support and upgrade capabilities.
Business process automation is now a unifying link that can reside inside or outside the application software in which you are evaluating. The business process engines contained within the CRM software often allows integration and unification of disparate systems. This can be a method that software vendors use to combine functionalities and collaborate among their own different applications; often the result of mergers and acquisitions. These new business process engines allow for decision making capabilities, improved business intelligence (BI) visibility, internal and external collaboration, and the abilities to define workflows, data flows, creation of approval triggers, and support of application changes to be tested without disruption to current processes through data modelling. Business processes may be extensible and can facilitate sharing information upstream and downstream to suppliers and partners.
Vertical market expertise is now often given a higher priority than before. Organizations now realize that software is pretty much equivalent in functionality and use the expertise of the vendor as a differentiation point to select the best partner. Organizations sometimes mistakenly compare a vertical market solution to the horizontal applications which are often more general in nature. The ability for a CRM vendor to distinguish itself with an industry specific solution may prove very helpful to the CRM buyer as it should demonstrate that the CRM vendor truly understands their business and consequently their functionality, automation, reporting and support requirements.
SaaS and cloud applications that include multi-tenant architectures, SOA, IaaS and PaaS have thrown many organizations for a loop as they must now evaluate additional aspects of the application more closely as to align the technology with their business strategy. Integration using the cloud, Web 2.0 technologies, web services, browser–based applications and cloud administration/backup/recovery options are now more closely considered with a more significant weighting in the overall software evaluation process. It is often these technologies and services that support globalization factors as well since more companies have more decentralized subsidiaries. Multiple location or global companies with two–tier business software strategies must consider global software features sets (multi-currency, multiple languages, time-zone synchronization, compliance, etc.) and real-time data sharing issues to continue to support staff and customers effectively. Again this has become a major shifting point in the CRM software selection process along with the appropriate weighting when scoring in the evaluation process.
As illustrated, many factors—such as business agility, business process automation, vertical market expertise, globalization and technology fit—have changed the CRM software evaluation landscape and subsequently the software evaluation process. As these factors bring new business opportunities and lower total cost of ownership (TCO), they are now more heavily weighted and can dramatically influence the outcome of your software evaluation. It's important to remember that CRM software is a mature market with approximately 70% feature set overlap among most vendors. It is the final 30%, which includes these newer evaluation factors, that provides differentiation and ultimately the best fit for any particular business.
Categories: CRM Software Evaluations
Tags: crm best practices
Author: Dylan Persaud