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CRM as a Service encourages better business

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CRM (Customer Relationship Management) has been a hyped acronym for many years and can mean many things to many people. Many still debate the terminology, does CRM really describe what it’s used for? Or, how much does it really cost, what ROI can really be achieved, how to get users to adopt its use?

Fundamentally CRM provides a way to manage customer information, share it securely, track customer interactions and record activities across the business is required by most business sectors and sizes. Sure there are specific, often niche, requirements that at times can be better served by more specialised applications, but for most these requirements are pretty similar and easy to achieve with broader CRM applications.

By its nature CRM is aggregating information centrally and sharing with a focused purpose. Long before we were talking about cloud computing, CRM was already headed there. According to Gartner Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery of CRM applications represented 34% of total worldwide CRM application spending in 2011. In that year more than 50% of all Sales Force Automation (SFA) spending was on the SaaS platform. By the numbers alone we can see Cloud CRM is at a tipping point.

How does this effect supply channels and why does the cloud change the possibilities and potentials in this arena? Increasingly there are a number of important supply chain demands in that CRM can assist with aiding top and bottom line business benefits.

According to Gartner Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery of CRM applications represented 34% of total worldwide CRM application spending in 2011.

Recording relationships between multiple parties of suppliers, customers, contractors, alliances and consultants is an important part of understanding a supply ecosystem. Knowing who your supplier options are, who they have relationships with and who they compete with can aid in faster and more effective business decisions. This is CRM in its element, managing connections, interactions and information.

Organisations and how they relate today is ever more complex. With contractors working for multiple companies, directors being on the board of multiple organisations and sister, parent and subsidiary company relationships are increasingly difficult to understand. CRM systems make it easy to record these relationships between people and organisations thus making it easy to spot relationships that could be important. Not overlooking the detail enables you to leverage these relationships to the benefit of your finances.

A challenge with CRM systems across supply channels is that invariably they will all adopt CRM specific to their needs. Often these channels will be reticent to have a system forced upon, meaning a mix of CRM systems will be used throughout that supply channel. It is unlikely the same CRM system will be used. Larger companies can afford well-known and more expensive CRM systems that the smaller to mid-sized firms cannot. Licensing, deployment and configuration costs can price businesses from adopting the bigger brands.

By its nature CRM is aggregating information centrally and sharing with a focused purpose. Long before we were talking about cloud computing, CRM was already headed there.

Cloud computing is increasingly come to mean bridging different, distributed services across a shared network. APIs and open data have seen services from LinkedIn and Twitter to cloud storage like Dropbox join the mix of enterprise tools. There are some single winners, Google and Microsoft’s Office 365 vying to be the productivity suite of modern offices, but we are also seeing CRM gain equal footing.

CRM services can easily be integrated in the business processes. Using exporting and importing data via configured templates can make it easy to share data, either manually or in an automated stream.

Opening up your CRM to suppliers as well as customers through APIs, forms on your website, etc. can make the data you have more useful. Imagine having partners able to manage and update their own details, to update product books or product information. Their participation reducing the management time you and your staff have to invest. A web-based CRM system, hosted in the cloud, offers significant advantages.

Positioning CRM as a Service (CRMaaS) while a mouthful as an acronym is where businesses can easily improve the bottom line. Managing relationships, suppliers and customers has always been important but now these relationships can partly begin to management themselves.

With customers able to view and update their own details or even review reports relevant only to them businesses can keep their IP secure while fostering closer relationships. Aggregating data and sharing the reports is a step better than cataloguing orders, invoices, contact details and connections. A wider CRM system can enable you to better map customer orders and tighten your supply chain accordingly. This also increases the visibility and reporting of sales margins, supplier reports, product analysis and all within easy reach of sales and marketing. Coordinating different aspects of your business has never been easier.

Utilising CRM in the same manner as SaaS products creates a system that can, and with greater flexibility, make it easier to access and share information across supply channels. CRM has been headed to the cloud for sometime. Now as cloud computing matures and the public begin to see the benefits businesses should be encouraged to adopt a CRMaaS approach.