Archive for April, 2010

7 mistakes to avoid when buying a CRM solution

April 22nd, 2010

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one of the fastest growing sectors of the computer software industry. In order to gain a competitive edge, companies of all shapes and sizes are looking for ways to improve the way they market, sell and provide services to their customers. Many are turning to CRM software as a tool that will enable them to more effectivey manage their customer and prospect relationships before, during and after the sale. Based on our experiences of seeing many business buy CRM, we have compiled a short list of 7 common mistakes that can be made when considering which CRM supplier to buy from:

1/ Selecting a new or very young solution provider with little or no track record of success. Even if their product looks amazing, steer clear unless you can afford the risk of it all going wrong.

2/ Not knowing your business requirements before inviting CRM suppliers onto your premises to bid for the contract. You should analyse and document clearly what it is your business needs in terms of information acquisition, inputs, outputs, and processess before starting to talk to potential suppliers. And it’s a good idea to use your own requirements analysis to help build a Tender document. And never let suppliers or any of their so-called partners or consultants with overt/covert affiliations to the supplier help you write the Tender document.

3/ Not knowing where your CRM supplier might store your data (assuming they’re offering a hosted or Software as a Service (SaaS) solution). Many suppliers use a thrd party to host your data and you should check into their track record for performance, availability and reliability.

4/ Not knowing how scaleable your CRM supplier’s solution is. You’d be surprised how many CRM solutions have been bought only for the client to find that the solution is not scaleable when they see sudden growth or acquire a new business and look at integrating the extra data on their system.

5/  Not considering back-end integration. While this may not have appeared on your first CRM ‘wish list’, ensure you spend time checking that your preferreed solution will integrate with your back-end processes (ERP, Accounts etc). As a minimum, make sure your CRM supplier offers an application programming interface (API) that enables integration. 

6/ Selecting a supplier not a partner. A partner will priovide you with a proven implementation plan and best practices to ensure that your realise maximum value from their solution. A supplier just wants your money and once you’ve signed they will suddenly become harder to get hold of. CRM is not a toy nor is it a single moment-in-time event; you will need professional support, training and assistance on a regular basis.

7/ CRM freeware is good. No, it’s not! A world class product from a trusted CRM supplier isn’t cheap and doesn’t come free. Selecting the right solution provider is an important business decision that can dramatically impact the performance of your business for good or worse.

Microsoft releases 11 software patches to fix 25 vulnerabilities

April 14th, 2010

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water… comes another Microsoft bug fixing release. Microsoft has just released 11 patches in its April security update to cover 25 vulnerabilities across a range of operating systems and software packages. Although this is a big release, IT administrators probably will not have all of the included software packages and configurations installed in their environment and therefore will need to install only a subset of the 11 bulletins. But five of the patches are critical, involve remote code execution and affect all major versions of Windows software. They could cause an interruption in services affecting workflow and productivity levels. Can you imagine a world where Microsoft releases some new software and it works perfectly from day 1?

The cost of IT

April 6th, 2010

The recession has forced many businesses and public sector organisations to put expenditure of all kinds under close scrutiny, and it was no surprise to see that ‘Reducing IT Costs’ was quickly elevated to the top of many IT department’s strategic priortities. But while IT assets are an easy target fo cost reduction exercises, it’s what those assets do for the business that can have a far greater value than their removal rewards. Information flow is the lifeblood of businesses and cutting back on IT assets can quickly strangle that flow. Keeping the assets requires money but that justification can  be made easier by demonstrating: 1/ the value of the assets, 2/that the assets are being acquired and maintained at rock bottom prices through good negotiation, and 3/ that the assets are being fully sweated prior to retirement or replacement. IT management is no longer simply about running a good IT department, it now includes keeping a canny eye on cost management, ROI and contract negotiation skills. Some of these skills you may already have in-house and the rest you can buy in from such cost management advisors like Silver Bullet Associates.  Instead of stripping assets you should first squeeze your IT suppliers.