Finding the Right Partner

Enterprisewide strategies are critical to today's CRM projects, Beth Eisenfeld, CRM research director at Gartner, said in her speech at Gartner's CRM Summit last week. To achieve those strategies and solutions, companies will need to blend an enterprisewide strategic vision with business intelligence expertise and business process management skills, Eisenfeld said. CRM enterprise service providers can help companies in their strategies and implementations. Gartner's Magic Quadrant of CRM enterprise service providers ranks Accenture, IBM Business Consulting Services, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Deloitte Consulting, and BearingPoint as the leading U.S.--based CRM integrators, because they have the best combination of vision and ability to execute. However, some niche players or others may be the better CRM partners for particular implementations in particular industries, according to Eisenfeld. The top-ranked companies could face new competition soon. "Enterprises continue to aggressively find ways to lower costs," Eisenfeld said. "We expect a significant increase in global delivery options and an increase in outsourcing." In addition to the U.S. companies offering CRM services, Eisenfeld expects to see India-based firms like Tata Consulting Services, Infosys, and Satia to start establishing a significant U.S. presence, according to Gartner research. Whoever the potential vendor might be, it's essential that the procuring company seek a request for proposal, said Gartner consultant Jane Disbrow. She strongly advised companies to get references, which should be from similar type organizations using the same modules and versions of the product that a business plans to install. These references will tend to be the vendor's best customers, so Disbrow recommended that firms ask for more references than they actually expect to call, and to ask open-ended questions about any problems during implementations and other specifics about the process. If the software is new (so there aren't any customer references), use that information to negotiate a better discount on the software and on implementation costs. In addition to the contract for the software license, the company needs to have agreements regarding maintenance and implementation. "Ensure your understanding of the deal is clearly defined in the contract," Disbrow said. "Make sure that you have a copy of the documentation."
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