How to...avoid CRM upgrade and replacement mistakes in 5 steps
The worst thing is to take away an application salespeople are using and liking.
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Whether your company uses "green screens" or a late-model on-demand CRM application, sooner or later the time comes to implement a major upgrade or even migrate to a new CRM system. Before committing to change, consider the following tips:
1. Identify the benefit An upgrade, or a more dramatic rip-and-replace of CRM technology, represents an investment of time, effort, and money. In a perfect world there should be some expected payback on the other end, in the form of better visibility, integrated sales and service, or some other improved business performance. In the real world, also consider such changes as a software product or even an entire server architecture, such as Windows NT 4.0, being abandoned by the developers. Don't make a move without a clear incentive. 2. Stick to the project plan If your company did its CRM homework there may be a multiyear plan for the implementation, maintenance, and ultimate retirement of technology assets. Before racing off for the software vendor's upgrade of the quarter, check the plan. Is the vendor offering something that is already scheduled for adoption or internal development at a later date? Avoid the temptation to leap-frog your own carefully crafted plans. 3. ASP clients--don't give up control Users of on-demand or fully managed, hosted applications have a different problem. Upgrade expenses are probably rolled into the service plan already, as is the upgrade provisioning, but if an upgrade threatens to deprive you of needed functionality or make unwanted changes to a process flow, don't take it lying down. Ultimately, you are the customer and the service provider should deliver the functionality you signed on for. Make yourself heard, and if necessary demand that any missing functionality be restored. 4. Always add, never subtract If your firm started with a relatively bounded pilot of an "entry-level" CRM system or service and achieved good results, it may look like a compelling plan to jump to a more complex system, rather than duplicate that introductory success elsewhere in the organization. The spread of open standards and flexible architectures has touched even low-cost, sales-focused software, making it feasible to build in functionality as you grow without depriving the user community of a system it has already bought into. "The worst thing is to take away an application salespeople are using and liking," says Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager at The Yankee Group. 5. Don't do it? If the situation does not look right for your business, pass on it. If you haven't exhausted the value or fully implemented the features of your existing product, adding a shiny new layer is unlikely to benefit you as much as it benefits the vendor. If your inducement to upgrading is the threat of discontinued support, keep in mind that a growing number of vendors are offering full life cycle consulting services. The nascent consulting organization may be willing to provide support even if the rest of the firm plans to pull out.
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