Will a cloud-based CRM future-proof your business?

Needless to say, in order for a business to thrive in 2018, it must be prepared to utilise the latest technology. Whether it’s big data analysis, sales forecasting, or even social media and digital marketing, technology holds the key to communicating with consumers on their terms, in the least intrusive way possible, and giving them a clear and convenient path to the eventual purchase.

Modern technology advances at such a rate, however, that businesses can often find themselves unable to stay on trend. It may take a significant investment of time and money to implement a new system across a company, so who can blame a business for being sceptical of adopting smart systems if this technology will be redundant in just a couple of years? This problem is one that plagues prospective users of Customer Relationship Management systems in particular.

The CRM paradox

A CRM implementation is perhaps one of the most transformational yet complex product adoptions that an organisation can undergo, with virtually every department required to cleanse and migrate data, train in using the new system, and then catch up with the backlog of tasks delayed by the change in process. It can be a while before the business really starts to benefit from the new CRM, but this is well worth the sacrifice, particularly if you ensure that your product adoption is future-proofed.

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Once a business has identified it needs a CRM, the first stumbling block it may encounter is whether its solution should be on-premise or cloud-based. It would be irresponsible to advise either way on this, as all businesses are different and should adopt a product that best suits their needs, but there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both.

Should I choose an on-premise or cloud-based solution?

Those with a long history in business will be familiar with on-premise CRM systems, which are installed on local networks and usually administered or developed by a permanent member of staff. A local system is generally inaccessible for anyone outside of the network, which makes it a great solution for close-knit teams that don’t need remote access to the CRM. It also helps with security, as only permanent staff should have access to the system. Some businesses also prefer a capital expenditure (CapEx) versus a subscription-based model (OpEx) for accounting purposes, so the decision will lie across not only sales, marketing, IT, Ops but also Finance.

On the other hand, on-premise solutions can often be left behind as technology advances. Periodic updates are available, but many businesses choose not to upgrade because of lack of compatibility with their customised solution, as well as fear of loss of data or disruption to routine. What’s more, with data stored on local systems being inaccessible from outside of the network, this can sometimes pose a bigger data risk than CRMs accessible from online portals. Users are often tempted to share customer data via email or external communication for networking or sales calls, reckless to the fact that this data could be compromised.

By contrast, cloud-based CRM systems are accessible from anywhere. With a simple-but-secure online portal, two-factor authentication, and a unique login for each user, data is stored safely in the cloud with no need to use any third-party communication platforms to share information. Likewise, administrators and developers can access a business’s CRM remotely should there be any technical issues or requests for a customised solution. Businesses often take advantage of the contract market for cloud developers, saving money on a permanent staff member who can spend a lot of time ‘on the bench’ when things are running smoothly.

The real benefit of a cloud-based CRM system, however, is that it is almost inherently future-proof.

The real benefit of a cloud-based CRM system, however, is that it is almost inherently future-proof. With live updates released regularly, online platforms are constantly being optimised as well as protected against the latest security threats. Whether it’s an improved user interface, adherence to the latest data protection laws, or a major product update, cloud-based CRMs utilise regular, subtle updates to relieve the burden on the user and minimise disruption to the business.

Integration is also made much simpler when storing data in the cloud, with many web-based systems making product integration as convenient as ‘drag and drop’. This is especially useful given the value of marketing via new social media services. CRM platforms, particularly those boasting marketing automation features, have a duty to embrace the latest communications technology for users to get the most out of marketing. In comparison, businesses often find themselves using on-premise CRM solutions that predate the advent of modern social media platforms, so integration is almost impossible without a major product update.

To reiterate, this does not mean that all businesses would benefit from a cloud-based CRM. In industries where the holding of personal or sensitive data is paramount, having a local system is necessary for regulatory and compliance purposes, to mitigate security risks, whilst others must consider budgetary requirements.

Is future-proofing ever truly possible?

While using a cloud platform can help to future-proof your business, there really is no way to predict the direction in which technology will go. Cloud-based CRMs merely offer you the option of constantly staying up to date, giving you every possible advantage as technology advances. For example, nobody could have predicted the recent meteoric rise (and subsequent fall) of Bitcoin value, and by the time CRMs evolve to be Bitcoin transaction-friendly, the cryptocurrency could have already collapsed.

Nevertheless, businesses that are big enough to justify the financial outlay and time investment, and benefit from the seemingly limitless product integrations, should give serious consideration to using a cloud-based CRM system. It at least ensures future-proofing until the next big breakthrough in technology — as for what that will be, your guess is as good as mine.

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