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.
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. Hardware and much of the software requirements are standardized and this infrastructure is provided at a reasonable cost by the SaaS provider. 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 have moved beyond the question of ‘if?’ and on to the important question of ‘which?’ If you represent one of these institutions, you need to carefully evaluate the offerings of the various SaaS cloud CRM service providers to make sure that in addition to a favorable cost structure they provide the openness and flexibility that will allow you to customize your CRM to fit your exact requirements.
Jay Bayer is President/Senior Process Consultant of STI Systems, Inc., a firm specializing in CRM and business process optimization. Bauer has 25 years of experience in sales and marketing management with such companies as CSC, Boeing Computer Services and Motorola, and has been the senior process consultant on more than 300 projects.