Vendors and IT execs alike have been singing the same tune lately: Quick wins win over long implementations. Even CRM project leaders are singing along. The song is, If I can show ROI earlier in a CRM initiative without dedicating huge resources up front, my project will not become another CRM failure story.
A number of vendors have even formalized fast-start implementation programs for CRM suite and contact center initiatives. The goal is to help customers achieve initial success as quickly as possible.
This modus operandi has been the catalyst for the great success of some vendors like Salesforce.com, whose no-software mantra has companies up and running within weeks, with promises of seamless upgrades and immediate scalability. Hosted application vendors have gained a strong foothold in a time when budgets are tight and results must be proven fast.
Some industry-watchers feel that fast-start programs aren't suited to companies that need to develop a complete CRM system, but are a better fit for implementing just a single SFA or marketing solution. Robert DeSisto, vice president and CRM research director at Gartner, says that the quick-win philosophy isn't always as fast as it seems. Putting in place a complete CRM system still takes time and resources. "It's not a shortcut in many respects," he says. "You still have to do a pilot, you still have to set and examine all the metrics, only now you are doing it in a much more focused scope.
"However, a quick-win solution may be better than a huge implementation, because of the up-front costs, and companies have stated that they dislike buying licenses up front that they aren't going to use for some time," DeSisto adds.
Even so, vendors are aggressively rolling out fast implementation programs. Big name vendors like Best Software, J.D. Edwards, and PeopleSoft have been actively marketing fast-to-implement software packages to the mid-market. The idea is that small and midsize companies can benefit from fast implementations, since most cannot afford lengthy projects.
Kristina Frankel, a spokeswoman for Best Software, says the company's SalesLogix QuickStart program offers a complete CRM system in 30 days for an upfront, fixed price, with a guarantee. "It's a great way to get started without the huge costs of a pilot program, and after 30 days the company can easily expand from the original number of seats in the QuickStart program," she says.
Frankel adds that Best Software has already made more than 200 QuickStart deals, and has rolled the program out to its sales partners.
Both DeSisto and Erin Kinikin, vice president and research leader for Giga/Forrester Research, agree that quick-win approaches to CRM work best with sales applications. "The sales force often doesn't know what they want until they see it, and a simpler interface with less functionality is often an advantage, not a disadvantage," Kinikin says.
However, Kinikin warns that while getting software installed and running can be done quickly, customizing the applications to a company's specific needs and fostering adoption are always intangibles that cannot be predicted. Sadly, there are no vendor guarantees promising 100 percent user adoption in 30 days.
Just 1 Question
: If 1,000 of Siebel's more than 3,500 overall customers are in the mid-market, then why isn't Siebel top-of-mind when customers and experts discuss the mid-market?
Rich Reimer, director of product marketing, mid-market CRM, Siebel Systems
: Since we are the enterprise leader, people tend of associate us with that market. But we have had a mid-market product since 1999.
Competitors like to discount us in the mid-market because we are a big company. They try and take our strength and turn it into a weakness, and that is a myth that is easy to perpetuate. We have plans to raise awareness of our mid-market solution by doing more advertising, more marketing, and bring to the forefront many of our happy customers. Showing ROI from our mid-market customers is one of the best ways to get the word out.