If you’re a small to mid-size business looking for a Customer Relationship Management solution you are most likely focusing your attention on evaluating and comparing each product’s features, functions and price. And while that may indeed be the key criteria for your decision there are several things that CRM vendors don’t want you to know that could impact your final selection.
CRM software traditionally consists of a suite of applications for managing customer interaction. Basic low cost CRM solutions offer contact management and sales forecasts, where more comprehensive programs add applications for marketing campaign management, project management and customer service.
So what makes one CRM provider better than the competition? The answer often lies under the hood.
Today traditional methodologies for building, running and managing software applications have changed dramatically with the introduction of cloud computing. New CRM applications need to be built for speed and scalability, handle large transaction volumes and be able to operate on multiple devices. They need to scale upwards to handle growth and provide the infrastructure for global deployment and accessibility.
Building applications that address these requirements is not only costly, but requires a high degree of engineering expertise that is rarely available in small or start-up software companies. So what does this all mean to you as a consumer? It means that you may be selecting a CRM solution that may not scalable or will perform well when running reports or doing queries of the database. You may experience a higher level of downtime and you may see very little if any product updates or enhancements to the product. The reason for this is quite simple.
There are actually three types of CRM software products available today.
1. Companies that have transitioned their traditional client server software to the web
These companies have mastered the art of intermingling terminology. They often refer to their solutions as web or cloud based when in fact they are not cloud based at all. They may have put a web based front end on their traditional applications and host them at their datacenter but these systems were not engineered for deployment under a cloud based infrastructure which could be a cause for concern in the future. The best way to determine this is to ask the vendor if their solution is hosted under a client/server architecture or is it a true cloud based architecture.
2. Companies that offer cloud based CRM applications but have not designed their architecture for scalability and performance
As stated earlier building, managing and maintaining cloud based CRM applications requires a unique set of engineering skills that very small companies do not traditionally have or can afford. As such, they take the necessary short cuts to get the product out the door and worry about performance and scalability if they are successful and need to. Sort of the “operate under a shoe string and hope we grow” model. This is typical of very low cost programs that offer limited functionality by design and often limit the volume of data you can store in the system. If you see limitations on the number of accounts or records, the number of e-mails you can send or the reports you can run, this is a big red flag that this system is not designed for scalability of performance.
3. Companies that have built their solution to operate in a cloud based infrastructure and who have the experience and engineering skills to ensure that these products can address the challenging business requirements that lie ahead
These firms have had to navigate through the uncharted waters of the new era in cloud computing and have grown a bit of scar tissue while doing it, but it’s these companies that customers should be paying attention to.
For large enterprise organizations, Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP should be strongly considered. If you are wondering why Microsoft is not listed it’s because they only recently introduced a true cloud based offering and the jury is still out regarding its ability to match the other solution providers.
For small to mid-size companies Commence CRM and SugarCRM are quality firms that have been in business for more than a decade, and have a good track record for scalability, performance and good customer service. There may be others not listed here, but the five that are have been and will most likely continue to be the leaders in the CRM sector.