The Technical Side of CRM
There's no question that business and technology go hand-in-hand in any CRM implementation. There's a lot of information available on how to select the best CRM provider or how to evaluate a CRM package based on how well the functionality matches the requirements of the business.
An often overlooked aspect of any CRM system is the technology on which it's built. This is why one of the primary questions that you should ask when choosing a CRM system is: How well does the CRM system fit in with your company's technology platforms and direction?
The technology platform of your CRM can impact TCO and ROI in a number of different ways, such as hardware and software costs. For example, if your company is a Microsoft shop with Windows-based clients and an SQL Server database, a Unix-based CRM using an Oracle database will end up costing more. In this scenario additional hardware and software may need to be purchased for both client computers and servers, in addition to the purchase of Oracle licenses.
A CRM system that is already built on Windows technology might be a much better fit. You already have the necessary client software and the CRM may be able to use the integrated Windows security.
Keep your company's future technology direction in mind when evaluating CRM software. If there are plans to move from a Windows environment to Unix, then a Unix-based CRM may not have as much of a financial impact and be a better long-term solution.
Technical personnel costs are another consideration that relates to the technology used in any CRM. If you rely on outsourced technical staff you may be able to include installation and support of your new CRM in your contract. But if you have an in-house staff or IT department, you need to ask some pointed questions, such as whether your staff currently has the skills to install and support the system. If not, consider the cost and business impact of training them.
You shouldn't choose a CRM based solely on whether it matches the technical skills of your support staff. But bear in mind that there's a wide range of tasks involved in technical support. Supporting a CRM system includes resolving technical issues on client machines, possibly modifying data in the database, maintenance of the database like daily backups, software maintenance upgrades, and so on.
How well a CRM system integrates with a company's technology can directly affect the success of the implementation. Getting the computer support team involved in the CRM selection process is important--the earlier the better.
Your company's technical staffers can bring a lot to the table when evaluating and selecting a CRM. They know the company's current and future technology platforms, and can provide feedback on how well a CRM system integrates with the existing hardware and software. You'll also want their buy-in, since they'll be installing and maintaining your CRM.
About the Author
Dianne Siebold is director of business analysis at Cimmaron Software, a San Diego-based company specializing in CRM solutions developed using its suite of business component software and the Cimmaron XAP framework. Siebold writes frequently on the topics of technology and programming, and is the author of the Visual Basic Developer's Guide to SQL Servers
(Sybex). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org