Magazine article CRM Magazine

Servicing Software-as-a-Service: "The End of Software" Doesn't Mean the End of Software Headaches

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Servicing Software-as-a-Service: "The End of Software" Doesn't Mean the End of Software Headaches

Article excerpt

TRADE-OFFS A SPECIAL 2-PART SERIES PART 2 THE TECHNOLOGY SIDE

WITH THE ADVENT of software-as-a-service (SaaS), business leaders can deploy CRM applications to their organizations with little to no involvement from the technology staff. Given the problematic CRM projects of the past, the impulse to circumvent the tech experts is understandable--but foolhardy.

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To capture the full value of CRM, most organizations must integrate their SaaS CRM platforms into the rest of the technology landscape. Doing so, of course, requires collaboration with technology staffers. And for this collaboration to be effective, the business side needs to understand the challenges that the technology department continues to confront, even with relatively easy-to-implement SaaS CRM applications.

DATA MOVEMENT

Few organizations, least of all enterprise-scale ones, can deploy SaaS CRM without both importing historical data from legacy applications and integrating the new software with other business-support efforts, CRM and non-CRM alike. For large organizations, these technical activities have been the ones most likely to pose risks, drive costs, and cause failures for CRM projects on the traditional on-premises platforms.

The risks and challenges can actually be worse with SaaS, due to the relatively limited capabilities of the native tools for data migrations and systems integrations. Alternatives to the native tools exist but must be licensed from SaaS CRM platform vendors, from partners working with those vendors, or from the professional services firms that have developed tools and accelerators.

Even so, organizations will find that they have many of the traditional tasks to perform, such as data mappings and detailed interface design (except in the rare case of moving data between one "out of the box" system and another). For interfaces, modification of the Web services in the native SaaS CRM platforms is almost certainly part of the process.

Because of the aforementioned limitations to the SaaS CRM tools, these tasks can be highly challenging. If not done properly, sales reps, for example, will not be able to see account information such as service history, while contact center agents will not be able to look up order and payment status. Worse, sales reps might not be able to see their opportunities or generate their quotes.

DATA STRUCTURES AND MAINTENANCE

The challenges related to data movement are due not just to limitations in the native tools, but also to limitations in the SaaS CRM data structures themselves. In short, with their heritage in smaller organizations, SaaS CRM platforms do not readily meet enterprise-caliber requirements for setting up and maintaining hierarchies for accounts and partners or for controlling visibility and updates to account and opportunity data. A complex sales-coverage model with multiple product lines and routes to market is not easily implemented or supported.

One client, for example, found that handling changes in a 2,000-person sales force required two to three support persons on a nearly full-time basis, even more in the event of acquisitions or territory realignments. As usual, there are approaches to overcoming these limitations, and tools to complement the native SaaS CRM capabilities. …

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