By: Linda Daly
Companies must take a bottom-up approach when adopting a customer relationship management (CRM) system, according to Neil Young, Solutions Architect, Ergo Software Solutions. Failure to involve staff on the ground - and garner support for the implementation of the system - could lead to its failure, he said.
"If you don't get that adoption correct at the start, negativity can spread quickly. You need senior level sponsorship, but the key to success of any CRM system is to take a bottom- up approach and get your staff on the ground involved," he said.
The implementation of a CRM system means getting sales teams to work in a fluid manner to use structured tools. There were three core components to CRM: sales, marketing and customer service, but it extended beyond those elements and could be a core functionality of firms' systems, said Young.
"Typically organisations have customer management systems in some form or other. There are tangible and intangible benefits. Having structured customer data will streamline sales processes, improve the customer view and offer a 360-degree view of the customer's interaction with the business."
Achieving that 360-degree view can be a key driver in introducing CRM technologies into an organisation. A good CRM system will provide a 360-degree view of all customer interaction points, from the customer service desk to the initiation and tracking of a marketing campaign.
It will integrate existing systems that contain key customer information such as accounts or stock control. Any CRM system should be rolled out on a phased basis, said Young.
"Don't take a big bang approach. It's important that you pick certain areas of the business that you want to concentrate on, and roll your CRM system across these in a step-by-step approach. Don't just roll it in across all sales, marketing and customer service functionalities immediately."
In December 2011, industry analyst firm IDC forecast that the worldwide CRM applications market would reach $18.2 billion in 2011, up 11 per cent from 2010. The sales, marketing and customer service elements of the CRM market were to achieve double digit growth in 2011, it said.
Cloud-based functionalities have boosted the market, as they free firms of lengthy and often costly CRM implementations, according to Young. "Cloud-based systems have definitely changed things. Obviously Salesforce.com led the way there but Microsoft has now come to the table, and is offering easy-to-use and cost effective CRM software."
Indeed, the entry of Microsoft into the CRM market has resulted in somewhat of a shake-up of the sector, as the IT giant has made CRM a key, enterprise-ready piece of its cloud services strategy.
Microsoft first entered the market in 2008 with Dynamics CRM, but ramped up its offering in 2011 with the launch of Dynamics CRM 2011 and Dynamics CRM Online. Both systems added increased integration with Microsoft Office 2010, allowing users to access customer information through the familiar dashboard of Microsoft Outlook.
The latest versions offer a platform to firms for building a line of extended CRM applications, allowing users to track capabilities beyond the typical CRM scenarios.
Dynamics CRM 2011 can be personalised to meet the information needs of the user, customised to create globally available option sets and tailored to meet the needs of certain roles. This latter element provides users with fast access to the information they need while also restricting access for some roles.
The integration with Microsoft Outlook has meant that firms can track what customers are doing with their outbound email, giving them a greater sense of what works when it comes to CRM. Among other features it also links CRM with social media, providing users with leads from sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. "We've seen Dynamics CRM change the market as it really is at the leading edge of cloud computing," said Young
Developers are taking advantage of the Windows Azure platform to develop custom code by Dynamics CRM Online. Tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio are an added dimension. For users, the beauty of the cloud-based Dynamics CRM is that it takes away the need for lengthy deployment of in-premise servers. For the uninitiated in CRM, adopting a cloud-based system is more appealing.
"What we find with the cloud is that it's an easier jump for firms to make to CRM," said Young.
Despite the rise in cloud based CRM systems, Young foresees continued use of a hybrid model. "Large companies in particular will have some element of in-premise servers, but also some in the cloud. The cloud is very attractive and it definitely has its purpose, but some companies will be in the cloud and some will be on premise. A hybrid model will exist," he said.
Microsoft is set to release the latest version of Dynamics CRM in the second quarter of 2012, as it looks to improve accessibility for clients. Using the theme CRM Anywhere, the firm is focusing on extending its mobile solution to support a wider variety of browsers.
The update will include a cross-platform native mobile client for Windows Phone 7.5, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices, and will be aptly named Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile.
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