CRM and the Cloud

CRM in the Cloud or Cloud services refers to CRM software applications which are hosted on the Web and made available through a Web Browser.

In this way there is no need to manage hardware and software on premise.

CRM and Big Data

Big data, in the context of CRM, relates to large volumes of data used for (mostly predictive) analytics.
Data can be collected from various sources including customer channels, transactions and other customer activities such as product usage.

By applying analytics to these large volumes of data customer patterns, associations and trends can be identified. This can then be used to predict behaviours and outcomes.

Benefits can include better decision making, predictive modeling, and benchmarking.

This means that, for example, Marketing, Sales or Service reps can be equipped with insights to identify hot leads, close sales faster, predict when service issues can blow up.

CRM Vendors

CRM vendors include:

  • Microsoft CRM Dynamics (online and on-premise solutions)
  • SAP CRM & Cloud for Sales
  • Oracle (Sales Cloud & Siebel CRM)
  • CRMNext
  • Zoho CRM (Free / Community version available)
  • SugarCRM (Free / Community version available)
  • SuiteCRM (Open source CRM – Sugar CRM fork)
  • Capsule CRM
  • Infusionsoft
  • AgileCRM (Free / Community version available)
  • You don’t need a CRM
  • Nutshell
  • OnePageCRM
  • Pipeliner CRM
  • Pipedrive
  • Capsule CRM
  • webCRM
  • BluWave
  • Odyssey CRM
  • vTiger (Free / Community version available)
  • SplendidCRM
  • Zurmo (Free / Community version available)
  • Salesbox
  • Highrise CRM
  • Teamgate
  • Skyward CRM
  • Really Simple Systems (Free / Community version available)
  • Batchbook CRM
  • Accelo
  • Fat Free CRM (Open source CRM)
  • Bluecamroo
  • Hubspot CRM (Free version)
  • EspoCRM (Open source CRM)
  • Oro CRM (Open source CRM)
  • Salesflare

Many of the above applications are suitable for small businesses and SMEs

Marketing functionality

CRM Marketing refers to tools or features which automate or help manage marketing processes.
This could include:

  • Campaign management
  • Lead management
  • Web and social media management
  • Multi-channel customer journey management

CRM software applications

A multitude of software solutions have been developed to manage customer relationships.

While there are differences between these applications there are a number of common features which provide functionality to manage key aspects of the customer lifecycle.

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Service

Social, mobile and analytics (including big data) are new generation features.

These solutions address the key customer management processes: targeting, acquisition, retention and collaboration. Underlying these pillars and core to the success of the organisation and the CRM application is understanding the customer and managing the experience.

Enhancing CRM functionality

The CRM application will require enhancements as needs change. This can be done in-house or can be outsourced.

  • Designing and developing new reports
  • Adding and updating fields
  • Managing workflows and processes
  • Performing data imports
  • Updating page layouts
  • Maintaining user profiles to manage data visibility
  • Integrating with other applications and data sources
  • Adding new functionality

Data management

Data in the CRM application is the lifeblood of a successful implementation. The benefits of CRM cannot be realized without relevant and current data.

Typical data management tasks are:

    • Managing duplicate data
    • Ensuring that data is correct, up to date and comprehensive to meet business needs
    • Maintaining data integrity when sourcing data from other applications
    • In general data quality management encompasses accuracy, completeness and currency (how up to date is the data)

To limit bad quality data from entering the crm application do the following:
Identify each point of data entry; this could be manually by users, third party applications or databases, or other internal systems.

For each source assess the data quality level, and identify the specific problem areas.

For users this could be:

  • Lack of training
  • Ambiguous field names
  • Lack of data validation

There may be different reasons where data is sourced from third party and internal systems.

Zaheer Ismail

Getting the most out of your CRM implementation

Key areas to focus on when implementing or improving a CRM system.

  • What CRM-related problem are you trying to solve? Focus on these rather than all available features
  • How will you incent employees to use the CRM system, you need to answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question
  • Who will sponsor and continue to back and promote the project?
  • Is the application easy to use? especially compared to what is currently being used?
  • Is there an adequate training and refresher program in place?
  • How will you ensure that the data will be kept current?
  • What other systems and tools can be integrated with to make it more useful? Email and calendar tools, ERP/accounting, human resources, social media, management information, etc
  • Is the CRM application accessible via a mobile device?
  • Think about how would you analyse the data in the application using Analytics tools to improve customer satisfaction, pipeline conversion, customer engagement, etc

Zaheer Ismail