September 1, 2010
CRM’s primary roles within the alternative investments sector are to store and track data, and provide reports associated with investors, potential investors and their associated contacts. However, CRM is also about gaining/having capabilities. For companies that view CRM as a mission-critical application, deep analysis of several key factors such as processes, people, methods and practices, and technology are imperative. Below are some of the strategic considerations associated with a CRM selection and implementation.
Industry Specific vs. Generic
Applications such as Backstop or Pertrac offer screens and functionality that have been developed specifically for alternative investment firms. Alternatively, generalized CRMs such as SalesLogix or Sales Force provide users with more extensive and broader functionality. There is no right or wrong answer as to which application is better. The decision should be based on the needs and preferences of the firm’s users.
Web-hosted vs. Client Desktop
Another key factor is the deployment method. Given the need for safeguarding investor’s personal information, certain firms do not feel comfortable accessing a CRM via a web-hosted application. Whether or not these concerns are warranted is a topic for another day. Utilizing a hosting partner that will ensure that the firm’s mission-critical data remain available and secure is absolutely critical. Also, for hosted CRM solutions in particular, it is vital to evaluate the hosting infrastructure that includes the people, processes, and technology, responsible for assuring application performance and reliability.
While CRM implementations tend to be less complex in relation to other software applications, they do present their own unique challenges. Primary among them is the need to perform a full data cleansing. If the implementation entails switching an existing CRM application to another, the challenges are less daunting. However, for implementations that involve data from numerous sources (i.e. individual MS Outlook folders), significant data cleansing is required in order to remove duplicate contacts and standardize the information into a suitable format for the new system.
This can range from simply setting up personalized filters, home screens and search filters to more complex updates that require changes to the application code. Depending on the level of customization needed and the decision to purchase an industry specific application as opposed to a generic CRM, the cost and time required for customization can be significant.
At the end of the day, the true test of success is measured by the user’s acceptance and ultimate use of the application. A CRM application has a greater chance of being accepted if it is easy to use and if it maintains a look and feel similar to existing applications (e.g. MS Outlook). Applications that overwhelm users with hundreds of fields or unlimited functionality often require significant training to perform the simplest tasks.
By focusing on your underlying business processes and carefully assessing the choices you have regarding deployment options, functionality, vendor experience, and hosting infrastructure, you can certainly achieve perfection in implementing a CRM that can lead to successful business outcomes.