Clear trends are emerging in the CRM world. The first is that companies require faster implementations, quicker times to benefit and lower prices. The poor technology climate should yield lower prices overall, but even when vendors do not lower their list or quoted prices, its still a buyers market. In other words, negotiate freely.
The trend toward quickness to benefit and a faster ROI and implementation also exists, but there are complications. Customers require faster returns, and vendors are happy to oblige. Thats why companies such as hosted solution provider Salesforce.com are starting to eat away at Siebels and other traditional CRM vendors sales. Likewise, SalesLogix, Onyx Software Corp. and Talisma Corp. have had remarkable success by selling customers on the advantages of a rich feature set coupled with quickness to benefit.
Companies considering CRM should realize, however, that no CRM solution will be the cure for all that ails them. While many CRM vendors can deliver quick benefits, the benefits derived may not do anything to help solve a companys most pressing problems.
For example, some CRM packages may only deal with tracking customer e-mail and calls. Others may be best at serving up mailing lists for cross-selling opportunities.
Few CRM vendors offer a complete CRM solution. If a company chooses to go the quick route and grab the low-hanging fruit without considering how to get at the rest of the tree, they will face problems later.
This leads to the next CRM trend: packaged CRM suites. A company can choose to implement individual modules of a CRM suite that solve some problems quickly. If the company likes the individual packages, it can go ahead and install the rest of the suite. The advantage is companies avoid the hassles of trying to integrate best-of-breed software, which costs more in entirety and is more difficult to manage later.
The disadvantage is most suites are just marketing strategies right now and are not fully integrated. Take, for example, SAS Institute and Blue Martini Software Inc., which are attempting to couple SAS analytics system with the Blue Martini CRM package. The two systems are packaged but are not completely integrated.
Expect to see the dissolution of these integration issues in the coming years, as well as tightly integrated best-of-breed applications from the smaller vendors that have avoided being targets of acquisition. For now, companies should take these products for what theyre worth and make sure they have extensive service level agreements in place before committing to any application suite project.
The final trend—toward rewriting CRM packages using more open Internet architectures—began several years ago, when PeopleSoft Inc. bought Vantive Corp. and merged the Vantive CRM platform with the PeopleSoft Internet Architecture. The result was an Internet-based CRM package that was scalable, easy to use and deploy, and that possibly saved PeopleSoft from going out of business.
Still, many nonhosted CRM vendors use client/server architectures that are difficult to maintain once implemented.
Siebel was the latest vendor to rewrite its code base and launch an Internet-based CRM suite, called Siebel 7. Expect, as with any package of this scope, to see quirks with the first releases of the product. However, although Siebel did not completely rewrite its core application server, the company now has the leverage to make efficient changes to its main package without forcing its customers to redeploy thousands of clients.