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Denise CRM Software: Best Practices for Implementation


III. Technology Best Practices: Strategy and Execution

"Technology" is the third and final tranche of the CRM implementation process. In this area, success requires that the system be up and running quickly, show incremental value through continuous iterations and deliver measurable and predicted value at predefined milestones. Software technology success is a function of the best practices below.

Best Practice: Start By Choosing the Right CRM System

The days of implementing a monolithic, on-premise Customer Relationship Management system from a Tier 1 enterprise applications provider have given way to an era of functionally rich, but much simpler to implement, subscription-based solutions. This newer era of software as a service (SaaS) CRM systems can be set up in a matter of days and weeks, as compared to the months required to deploy monolithic systems.

For enterprises, and mid-market companies in particular, the "right" CRM system today is functionally rich, is often SaaS-based, and offers the right balance of features and ease of use. The right CRM system lets functionality be "turned on" incrementally and easily, allowing benefits to be achieved quickly from the first phase of the implementation. Subsequent phases can add users, functionality or both.

This capability is much easier executed in today's Web-architected SaaS CRM applications than in monolithic enterprise software applications of the past. Choosing a monolithic CRM system designed for large enterprises will result in the time-consuming "turning off" or de-configuring of unnecessary functions. However, even when unnecessary software feature sets are removed from view, they generally continue to incur IT labor and costs during system administration, software maintenance, software customization and new version upgrades.

Velocity and Momentum are Enabled by a Best Practice Implementation Plan

CRM implementations that move slowly increase risk and defer ROI. Further, they can be delayed or cancelled altogether without any benefits being realized. For this reason, the implementation plan must:

  • Start with the strategic vision that aligns the company's business objectives with the CRM software. These goals may include an increase in sales conversions, an improvement in customer support metrics, or other metrics relevant to the function or area in which the system is being implemented.
  • Break up the big picture into small implementations that can be delivered quickly, showing incremental successes and building on those progressive accomplishments.
  • Roll out other capabilities over time, again linking them to the bigger-picture strategy and objectives.

Examples of a sound approach that deliver strategic value and tactical improvements include:

  • Bringing Sales, Marketing and Customer Support into an integrated system may be the overall goal, but putting one group on at a time may be more feasible, enabling a focus on achieving benefits within each specific area.
  • Launching the CRM system to a specific pilot group to get experience and validate design and configuration concepts before rolling it out to a larger group.
  • Building integration to third party reporting or fulfillment systems can often be included as a second or third phase. This eliminates the possibility of technical delays in building that integration, which in turn affects the time to benefit of the overall implementation.

Application Integration enables enterprise-wide data flow

Beyond the core CRM system, its integration with other applications is an essential part of the deployment. Typical CRM software integration points include data sharing with legacy accounting software or ERP applications, whereby front office functions such as web leads, quote management or sales order entry must share information with back-office functions such as customer credit availability or inventory items details - or be an integral part of the complete order fulfillment cycle.

To achieve enterprise-wide data flow, best-practice integration leverages common tools like (XML) web services or application programming interfaces (APIs) and permits the (customer) company's IT organization to build or adapt those web services or APIs for their internal use. This frees the customer from having to rely on the vendor to manage the change or upgrades inherit in integrations. If the CRM vendor does not have the web services or APIs out of the box, the vendor should offer to custom-build them for the customer at a reasonable price.

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The days of implementing a monolithic, on-premise CRM application from a Tier 1 enterprise software provider have given way to an era of functionally rich, but much simpler to implement, subscription-based solutions. This newer era of SaaS CRM solutions can often be set up in a matter of days or weeks, as compared to the months required to deploy monolithic systems.


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