Selecting software packages can be very tricky. It often requires you to re-engineer your business processes, human resources and operational systems to achieve the desired results. When selecting an application that is your direct interface with customers, it becomes increasingly imperative to adopt a systematic approach to package and vendor selection. The luxury of pouring financial resources to fix initial errors may not be an option, especially for a small business.
Let us look in greater detail at how to go about selecting the right product and service providers.
Needs Assessment: All levels of your organisation and all departments must be engaged in this process. This is important not only to recognise departmental objectives, but also to communicate the importance of the CRM initiative.
Budget: Make sure you look for hidden costs in addition to costs for items such as licenses, hardware and other infrastructure. These could include costs for implementation, training employees and customers, business re-engineering, increased service requirements from infrastructure vendors and internal IT support.
Implementation: This involves tasks such as system installation, printer installations, user configurations, preliminary training and system testing. While planning, keep in mind the importance of effective implementation. Many companies do not get the expected results out of a CRM solution simply because of faulty implementation by the vendor. Take references and cross-check success rates of prior implementations done by your short-listed vendors. You may also consider purchasing the application from an OEM and having it implemented by a specialised provider.
Technical and Functional Considerations: Ensure you have considered the product both from a functional as well as usability perspective. Functionality will tell you what a product can do and usability tells you how user-friendly it is. Some other considerations may be:
- Scalability – such as volumes of data it can handle
- Supported communication channels – such as phone, WAP and SMS
- Interoperability – such as the ability to import and export data to and from other applications
- Help resources – ample self-help resources during implementation and future advanced learning
Support: Product support refers to both functional as well as technical support. Negotiate both as a package. If you are using different consultants for product implementation and IT infrastructure, make sure you clearly define responsibilities and vendor accountability.