In our last article in this series, we discussed the most important factor when deciding on a CRM solution: the technology being used. Now, let’s take up the next in importance, which is functionality.
Just as a note, there is no standard set of terminology for CRM features, like for example you find in the auto industry. When you’re shopping for an SUV, a sunroof is a sunroof and will be referred to that way by every manufacturer. With CRM, there are a few features that have the same names from developer to developer, but with others, features are given “unique” names and it gets more confusing. It’s made even more confusing with new vendors coming on the market and renaming everything. Comparing features side-by-side becomes increasingly difficult.
That said, there are some core features that are necessary. But then it comes down to individual evaluation—not every feature is important. Let’s take a look at another commonly used application, Microsoft Excel. Excel has dozens of features—but how many of them actually get used? It is estimated that most Excel users (not power users) commonly use between 5 percent on the low end, and 30 percent on the high end, of available features.
Critical CRM Features For Your Company
It comes down to this: what are the core CRM features that are critical to your company, that fall under the category of vital functionality? We can come back to “the right tool for the right job” as discussed in previous articles. You could cut down a tree with an ax, but a chainsaw will be far more efficient, and much faster.
To answer that question, you need to look to the specifics of your own processes. If you aren’t familiar with those—or worse, if you haven’t fully worked them out—you’re really flying blind. The importance of CRM features will be based on the various parts of your processes.
Pipeliner is the only CRM solution that allows you to totally visualize multiple processes in multiple ways. We allow you not only to create different processes for, let’s say, different divisions of the company or different product lines, but there are several different views of these processes. Process steps can be divided into mandatory activities for completion of steps. You can examine and analyze lost and past deals, within processes, with the Archive feature. You can even map relationships within prospect companies with our Org Chart and Buying Center.
To compliment our visualization, our extremely flexible reporting system allows you to create management reports easily and on the fly.
As time goes on, processes become increasingly automated. Any CRM application you consider should be able to take into account the many applications and data flows you have within your company.
In line with this, at Pipeliner we have created what we call the Automation Hub. The Automation Hub allows you to link Pipeliner with other applications, so that the data flow through various processes is seamless.
Another crucial aspect of functionality is the manageability of the system.
With traditional CRM systems, at least one CRM administrator or outside expert is required for CRM implementation and management. With larger companies that have thousands of employees, more than one full-time administrator can be required. Training of an administrator is costly and can take months. Training of users can take weeks or months as well.
Pipeliner makes it possible for a user or manager to learn the system in 5 hours, as compared with weeks or months of other CRM applications. This means you’re no longer depending on full-time CRM experts and administrators—anyone can learn it. You can bring someone new in, and in 2 days they know what to do and can be independent. There is no longer the worry that you’ll lose a highly trained CRM administrator who is demanding a higher salary or will leave you in a lurch because anyone can learn it. Users, managers or administrators can even learn the system online through our learning system.
How much money can be saved? For a larger company, it could be well over $600,000 in 3 years. The total cost of ownership for an administrator can be well over $100,000 per year. If you need two of them, that’s over $200,000. In 3 years, that’s $600,000. I say “well over” because there are additional expenses such as insurance, healthcare, workspace including computers, and 401K.
I believe that the evolution of the Cloud had a similar intention. In the old days before the Cloud, a system administrator ran a company’s computers, and executives never knew quite what the sysadmin was doing. An executive could walk into the sys admin’s office, look at their screen, and see nothing but a bunch of incomprehensible command lines. System administrators could, and usually did, constantly demand the latest (and most expensive) hardware. “We need a faster server! We need more storage! We need to upgrade the routers, and need faster ethernet!” You basically had to trust what they were saying, as they practically held your computer system for ransom.
But today data centers, server rooms, cooling systems, failover systems, backup systems—all these, on a local level, are things of the past. Now you can just pay a monthly bill to a Cloud service (Amazon Web Services, in our case) and everything is taken care of. It’s very similar to the ease and convenience we have created for Pipeliner CRM.
As you can see, functionality has a significant impact on your CRM solution decision. Here are some important questions you should ask any vendor of any CRM solution you are considering:
- Can you easily compare your company’s processes with your potential CRM solution features, and see a fit? In other words, will the potential CRM application directly address and run your company’s specific processes?
- Will your potential CRM solution show your processes visually?
- Can you run multiple processes in your potential CRM?
- Within your potential CRM application, can you break down your processes into specific activities that need to be accomplished for a particular process step to be considered done?
- How easy and flexible is your potential CRM’s reporting system?
- Does your potential CRM application have the capacity to integrate with other applications to create seamless data flows through various applications?
- Can your potential CRM system be administered by anyone, with brief training?
- Can users be easily trained on the system (for example in hours or days instead of weeks or months)?
Make sure you take all aspects of functionality into account as part of your CRM decision-making process.
We’ll be taking up the remaining important criteria as we move through this series of articles. Stay with us!
Thanks, Nikolaus, for this really the critical features… this CRM remains the ideal CRM for smart companies and industries.