Choosing a CRM System

Choosing the best CRM for my business

John PhillipsProduct Updates

There are many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software systems on the market and choosing the right one for your company is challenge. We take a look at the factors any business should consider before making a decision.

We believe that the start of the decision-making process should be defining your requirements. To achieve this, we recommend that you take a bird’s eye view on what your business is about and how it interacts with its Clients and Contacts. Whether your operation is Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Customer (B2C), there will be processes that make your business unique.

You may be facing challenges within your business and have a broad understanding of what the new solution must achieve, but to help weigh up potential solutions here are six important factors for you to consider:

1. Current business processes

Our clients often tell us that they would like a better “joined up” business process experience, that in turn reduces reliance on time-consuming, repetitive manual processes or multiple spreadsheets for completing routine tasks. Business processes within your organisation may have become cumbersome, with service levels becoming challenging to maintain. Your business may also be required to track and audit information to maintain service provision or achieve data compliance.

Some business processes may require that emails are sent when important events occur, or they may enforce business rules when processes are carried out to protect business data quality and ensure consistent handling and reporting. Sales processes such as Opportunity management and qualification, Quote approval before submission,  service and support process with associated Service Level Agreements (SLA), and complaint data handling are often areas earmarked for improvement.

An important point, however, is that you need to focus on what future business processes will be required, and not just mirroring current processes. Given that most businesses would benefit from a more “joined up” automated approach, then most entry-level CRM systems may not be appropriate.

2. Business relationships and workflows

After you have considered your Business processes, look at Business workflows and how they connect your Business relationships, such as Accounts and Contacts with their associated data. Tracking Sales Leads, Opportunities and their associated activities and reminders is essential to a successful CRM sales solution.

Frequently, organisations will have separate systems for their sales and customer service teams; with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, you get the best of both worlds, allowing your sales team to view any issues with customers that may affect the sales process, as well as allowing your service team to be aware of soon-to-close deals. This means your business can have the advantage of a complete view of areas such as Credit Control, Marketing, Events, Sales, Products, Customer Service, Personnel data or Training to name a few. These unique requirements will have data dependencies, business workflow requirements and relationship types that are not best suited to entry-level CRM solutions.

These more complex workflow requirements can easily be managed by a more comprehensive CRM solution, so it is important that you consider the business process requirements against what the proposed CRM package can deliver.

3. Business requirements

As we have discussed, your business will be unique in the way it manages its business processes and workflows. However, there will potentially be CRM solutions specifically developed for your industry. Market sectors such as Not for Profit (NFP), Charity and Healthcare already have solutions specifically developed to manage these industry requirements. Undoubtedly these very specific business requirements will exclude many entry-level CRM packages as they lack the scalability to accommodate the many diverse requirements of these narrow sectors.

CRM solutions that specialise in these markets are provided by a narrow band of suppliers that have vertical expertise in this space. However, you may have to amend your business processes to match those that have been predefined by these out-of-the-box solution providers. Additionally, given that these packaged solutions may be built on older technology, you may miss out or even be blocked from utilising the latest benefits that a more open solution can provide. An example may be the requirement to add a web portal to your CRM solution that enables guest users to add or amend records in real time.

We understand that evaluating these out-of-the-box solutions against a Microsoft Dynamics flexible build may look like a challenge; however, our experienced Consultants know how to cut through obstacles and deliver your individual requirements while still meeting your budget constraints.

4. Integration with other business applications

It’s rare that a company will only have one system in place, so it’s important that your staff have access to the same information regardless of where they look. This means that applications such as an accounts system or e-commerce website may require integrating with your CRM solution to satisfy your business requirements. Even if you do not have any plans to integrate your systems today, it’s important to plan ahead to ensure you have a system that allows future flexibility. If integration is a requirement, then the chosen CRM solution should have an open data source that allows for the implementation of data integration.

One of the most straightforward integrations would be with your email system. Dynamics 365 has native integration with Microsoft Exchange: both on-line and on-premise. Not only can you bring your emails into Dynamics, you can bring Dynamics to Outlook, meaning you have the information you need at your fingertips wherever you are.

Even in the early phase of your project, consider future iterative plans to connect your applications, such as email, accounting package, e-commerce site, marketing solution, social engagement or order processing systems that may require integrating later. Undertaking this discovery work prior to any final decisions on the CRM solution will avoid costly rework should an element of the total future solution not integrate.

In addition to out of the box integrations, Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement has connectors within Microsoft Power Automate. Power Automate allows you to integrate a wide variety systems together without the need for code. There are currently hundreds of connectors to other systems that can, for instance, provide integration with an SMS systems, automate approvals or keep data in sync with other systems.

5. On-premise or in the cloud

Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solutions have many advantages over their in-house server-based counterparts. Most cloud-based applications are sold with service and maintenance agreements built in to the subscription cost. This means that you will not have to train technical staff in how to technically support, upgrade and security patch the SaaS solution, as this service will likely be part of the subscription package. This SaaS subscription method also provides continuous upgrades to the CRM solution, meaning that your business can take advantage of new application roll-outs as they are released with little technical input from your business.

While it may sometimes seem that it’s cheaper to purchase an on-premise solution, often you will spend thousands on upgrade and maintenance costs down the line. By moving to the cloud, you know you will always be on the latest version of the system and can take advantage of benefits of built-in security, backups and the ability to access your data from anywhere, on any device.

Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement gives you the best of both worlds; you can deploy Dynamics 365 to the cloud or to your own servers, thus affording you with the right solution for your business needs.

6. Adoption and Deployment of the new CRM solution

Staff adoption of the new CRM solution is a key element to its success; the more intuitive the solution, the quicker staff will embrace the change. Also consider your current email, contacts and calendar system and how will these integrate to your new CRM solution and provide a faster, more intuitive, adoption.

We have found that a new system typically has a more successful adoption rate if the deployment is phased, as the staff learning curve for an iterative approach to deployment is not as steep, allowing more time for the new processes and procedures to become part of the daily work experience. Phased deployment embraces more team collaboration because as new functionality is released, the more experienced team members can assist others in the adoption of new processes.

Budget will require some thought too; a phased deployment approach is less demanding on cash flow and the budget constraints associated with a full application deployment. If you conclude that your CRM requirements are a little more demanding than can be delivered via a basic CRM system, you may also need to consider technical training and system management. However, most CRM delivery partners will offer this service as part of the overall sales package.

Using the above approach to determine requirements and their priorities will identify the areas of your business that should receive initial focus. The adoption and success of the deployment phases will provide a solid base for future development and investment.

Our qualified Dynamics Consultants are experienced in helping clients determine their business requirements and workflows and can advise on innovative new ways to achieve business goals and helping to providing data metrics views for their clients to quickly focus on the data required to ensure the future success of the business.

What is the best CRM system for my business?

Strategy 365 has implemented Microsoft Dynamics 365 for many and varied clients. We have helped these clients successfully determine their marketing, sales and service workflows, business processes, integration, data dashboard views, security and system adoption requirements.

As a Microsoft Partner, Strategy 365 Limited can provide you with a trial Dynamics 365 solution to investigate the power and flexibility it provides. Why not lean on our years of expertise in the CRM market space to help you determine how you take your business to the next level? Our trained and certified Microsoft Dynamics Consultants would love to chat to you about your organisation and determine new ways for your business to succeeded in today’s digital marketplace.

Alternatively, why not look at our Quick Start packaged solutions? We have designed them to get you up and running with minimum fuss and maximum solution delivery.

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