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10 Criteria Every Small and Midsize Business Should Use to Evaluate a CRM Solution

by Steffen Fischer | SAPinsider

October 1, 2003

by Steffen Fischer, SAP Labs SAPinsider - 2003 (Volume 4), October (Issue 4)
 

Steffen Fischer,
Director, SMB Solutions,
SAP Labs, LLC

Why do small and midsize businesses seem to universally recognize the benefits of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), yet still rely on Rolodexes, spreadsheets, and contact management systems to manage their customer relations? For a small or midsize company, CRM implementation, integration, training, and ongoing TCO can seem like too big a burden. As a percentage of revenue and manpower, the cost and complexity have traditionally been too high.

Scaled-down versions of the solutions deployed at large companies are not very alluring. They may offer lots of sales and marketing functionality, but they lack the means to then integrate that functionality with all the business processes with which CRM must work. Why would a small or midsize business go to the expense and effort of adopting a solution that delivers high-end functionality but can’t fully integrate these activities back into supply chain or product development activities? At the end of the day, you need to align procurement, manufacturing, distribution, and other supply chain processes with your current and anticipated demand chain to fulfill orders.

This is why SAP developed SAP Solutions for Small and Midsize Businesses, including SAP Business One for smaller businesses and mySAP All-in-One for midsize businesses.

These offerings provide ready-to-run CRM solutions that can be easily integrated into any of these enterprise processes. Moreover, implementation is quick and easy, yet the capabilities offer similar benefits to the mySAP CRM solutions we sell to our large enterprise customers. The CRM capabilities can be served up via a portal, which presents users — from entry-level employees on up to senior management — with an intuitive, consistent interface so access to functionality is always easy.

A quick and easy implementation, a compelling set of features, and an inviting user interface are important criteria for small and midsize businesses to consider when evaluating CRM solutions — something more and more small and midsize businesses must now do. (Rolodexes can take you only so far. Those who remain mired in the old ways are losing considerable ground to those leveraging the benefits of a CRM solution like mySAP All-in-One or SAP Business One.)

What other criteria should be exercised by small and midsize businesses when selecting a CRM solution? When evaluating CRM solutions, I suggest no less than 10 criteria be examined:

1. How easy and intuitive is the user interface?
CRM solutions based on portal technology are the best way to go. A portal offers users the ability to tailor the way they interact with the CRM application, much like they would customize a Yahoo site to fit their specific interests.

2. How quickly and easily can the solution be implemented?
Does it offer an accelerated implementation approach to minimize demands on your resources? Rapid implementation techniques can reduce costs by more than 50 percent.

3. How easily can it integrate with your supply chain, product development, and financial processes?
Remember, CRM doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and it delivers the most value when embedded in the solution!

4. Can the solution easily scale as your business grows?
Take into account not only number of users, but also specific roles and functions and the need to support end-to-end business processes, which are constantly changing.

5. Does it incorporate best practices?
Rather than reinventing the wheel, the solution should leverage best practices including preconfigured business scenarios, which offer quick time to solution with minimal risk.

6. Does it offer you company-wide visibility into your sales and marketing processes?
The right CRM solution can help you gain a competitive advantage through increased customer loyalty and retention, more in-depth customer insights, and an accelerated product time to market.

7. Are there ample consultants and resellers in the market to assist you with your implementation and ongoing support?
Look for business partners with both long-term business support services as well as expertise with cross-functional, strategic solutions such as CRM.

8. Is industry-specific expertise built into the product?
The best CRM solutions are not plain vanilla. CRM solutions need to offer integration with industry-specific solutions, and support roles and functions unique to vertical markets.

9. Does it provide you with CRM analytics?
That is, does it provide the means to analyze collected data and generate reports that help your analysts and management to better understand your customers and then turn that knowledge into action? You should be able to measure performance, predict trends, plan for marketing success, and make the most of customer relationships.

10. Can it operate on the Web?
CRM systems need to work across the company as well as with your business partners. Look for a CRM solution that has the flexibility and open access to accommodate future change in business and technology.

In the past, small and midsize businesses couldn’t afford to adopt CRM. Today, you can’t afford not too. Competitive pressures leave you little choice in the matter. To secure customer loyalty and retention, more in-depth customer insights, and an accelerated product time to market, you need a CRM solution.

As you move forward and examine your CRM strategy, be mindful of these evaluation criteria. Don’t settle for anything less. As a small or midsize business, you face the same challenges as large businesses in terms of maintaining customer satisfaction, acquiring new customers, and retaining current customers.

For the same reasons that big businesses for years have relied on SAP solutions to improve their operating efficiency, enhance sales and partner opportunities, and improve customer relationships, small and midsize businesses can now do the same.

For more information about SAP Solutions for Small and Midsize Businesses, please visit www.sap.com/smb or call 800-880-1727. For more about SAP Best Practices for mySAP CRM, please visit www.sap.com/solutions/ crm/smallbusiness.

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