Cloud-based CRM has significant advantages. However, you have to do more than put your CRM System on the cloud if you want to have a truly successful implementation.
“The many benefits of cloud-based CRM deployment do not necessarily guarantee success. That depends on how well you integrate your CRM system with your actual business process. ”
- Jay Bauer
SaaS (software as a service) cloud computing, the latest technology being advanced for CRM deployment of CRM solutions can save users substantial amounts of time and money versus conventional CRM implementations residing behind firewalls. A simple comparison of traditional and cloud-based options reveals how and why.
Most CRM systems today, particularly those used by large organizations, are implemented on large in-house servers that sit behind the corporate firewall. Access is enabled via secure LANs (local area networks). Remote applications are linked to the system using a synchronized methodology or Citrix.
Traditional client/server CRM systems have been used for a long time. They are very stable. However, the nature of these systems requires that remote copies of the database be resident on the users’ laptops or be accessed by secure Citrix connections. If the remote copies are lost, stolen or compromised, this data may be compromised or fall into the wrong hands.
In recent years the client/server model has given way to web-based CRM implementations. These systems are accessed over the intranet or extranet, which replace the traditional LAN or Citrix access methodology. The data is accessed only while it is being used, so hundreds of copies of the database are no longer circulating outside the firewall on laptops.
However, the web-based implementations still rely on large amounts of server infrastructure, which must be purchased and maintained behind the firewall. So they are still quite expensive to own and operate.
With the latest deployment option, SaaS cloud-based CRM, the entire implementation is out on the web, and protected by advanced security systems. This approach has substantial advantages over its predecessors, the first of which is accessibility. Users can log into the CRM system from any location with Internet access.
Cloud-based CRM implementations lower costs in several ways. Cloud-based CRM systems are accessible from anywhere there is Internet access. Hardware and much of the software requirements are standardized and the SaaS provider offers this infrastructure at a reasonable cost. What’s more, since there is no hardware or software to maintain behind the firewall, the CRM budget item for IT support is drastically reduced.
You can also develop and launch your CRM system a lot faster from the cloud. With either the client/server or the web-based approaches to CRM, you normally need to build separate environments for development, testing, production and disaster recovery before you can focus on your real objective–robust CRM that improves both customer satisfaction and sales force efficiency. With cloud-based implementations you can skip all the preliminaries and get to the heart of the matter- implementing a CRM system that maps seamlessly into your business process.
With all of these advantages, why wouldn’t an organization adopt a cloud-based CRM implementation strategy? Because some institutions have made executive-level policy decisions that all proprietary and sensitive customer data must remain behind the firewall. These currently firm policies are likely to change as “the cloud” develops a longer historical record for impregnable security.
Many other organizations are confident that the cloud is very secure because it passes all major banking and financial testing procedures. They are currently looking to the Cloud to remedy many of the deficiencies of previous CRM deployment options.
Assuring Your Success
Now, a word of warning. While putting CRM on the cloud reduces costs, improves accessibility, and shortens development cycles, it does nothing whatsoever to insure that your system will achieve its primary objectives. You want a CRM system to be a success, i.e. to improve sales force efficiency while enhancing customer satisfaction and retention. The many benefits of cloud-based CRM deployment do not necessarily guarantee success. That depends on how well you integrate your CRM system with your actual business process.
Here is a little known success secret: Design or redesign your CRM system twice. First, do it from the bottom up, taking into account all your revenue producers’ needs for doing their jobs better. Then design it again from the top down, incorporating the same live data functions to build management tools for analysis and reporting. The Bottom Up/Top Down approach will give both management and end users what they need most: actionable information and lively tools for responding to it.
As you design and implement your cloud-based CRM system, you will also want to make sure that you: keep business processes flexible for agile adaptation to changing business conditions; have all customer-facing individuals on the same system so that customers get consistent, unified responses to their needs, no matter who in your organization they are dealing with; eradicate islands of automation that limit anyone’s access to vital information; and establish a customer retention plan that can be managed entirely from within the CRM System.
A well-conceived CRM development process represents a very small percentage of total CRM cost but has the most direct bearing on whether or not your CRM System will be a success or a failure. The stages of such a process may include a needs assessment, a more in-depth requirements analysis (RA), design, software customization, testing, installation, legacy migration and training. If you take some of the money you saved by putting your CRM on the cloud and invest in doing each of these steps right, your CRM system will be a sure winner.