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Blogs in 2017

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Preparing your CRM for 2018


What CRM Work should you being doing now and over Christmas?

With Santa now entering his busy period and the last four working weeks, well 3 hectic weeks with a slow week between Xmas and New Year, What should we be doing now to prepare for 2018.

This is a great time to take stock and do any database preparation work...

Key Tips

So, my number one tip this year is:-

Start to Prepare for GDPR. This new regulations impacts from next May, so you only have a few months to get ready and decide what to do and when. There are a host of useful articles around, in particular a useful free whitepaper can be found here.

-GDPR will dominate the headlines in the New Year and for those of us in CRM, we are already having an upsurge in clients asking question and considering moving to the more modern and flexible cloud based CRM systems such as Dynamics 365.

-Don’t underestimate the time it will take to absorb GDPR information and at the very least you should assign a quiet day to read information and formulate an action plan. Such as contacting experts to review your system. A good starting point is this free White Paper download from one of our partners

GDPR aside, what else should you be doing? Here are my top tips for making the most of the next four weeks:-

Ensure you have Backups of all your files. Now is the time to check this with your IT, especially if you have any planned maintenance work and indeed have an on-premise CRM installation. For cloud CRM users, this should not be a concern.

Don’t do any major data imports or data deletions. Whilst this appears to be a good time to ‘tidy up’ the system, now is not the time to do major changes to the database. Key people are often pre-occupied or off on holiday and others many not give you the time you need as their minds may be understandably sometimes not fully focused in the last week.

Don’t go changing or improving workflows or automation. Our experience shows that your Users want to come back to the system pretty much as they left it. They won’t thank you for improvements made as they will have their own ideas on what they want to focus on in that first week back in 2018.

So, that’s really a few Don’ts’

…And the Do’s?

Do some investigative work on your database.  But please no changes. For example, identify all those key contacts with no email address or incorrect emails or where your Christmas Newsletter had a bounce. Start to look at and possibly flag these records for when the Users come back.

Consider running some duplicate testing. This will be welcome as long as you don’t actually merge anything, it is always the wrong parent-child that is merged! Again, consider flagging these records ready for User investigation and approval in those first days back.

• Review which custom fields are filled in. For example, is the “number of employees” field always completed. Is it needed still or are there other fields more important that perhaps should be moved around the screen? Remember, screen design is a key ingredient in User adoption. Again, be wary until Users come back

Look at your existing Reports and also your key Metrics. Which Reports are used and do these need updating? What are the key metrics from the year, how do they compare to last year. Are these being accurately measured?

Review your Active and Lapsed customers. Again, don’t make any actual changes, but create a List or Group for your Users to review when they return. You should have clear written guidelines on what a “Lapsed Customer” is based on your industry.

That first week back after New Year can appear to be slow as customers and suppliers pick up where they left off and many sales people are reluctant to make calls on the first day, so this is a good time to possibly ‘ask’ if they can review work like this that you have done over the holidays.

Week One- CRM Review Meeting

So, book in now a CRM Review meeting in that first week. This will give you a chance to provide information as stated above for feedback and also, if you have done your homework, a key topic on the Agenda will be GDPR and this topic needs to be introduced since there will need to be changes which will impact working practices and the CRM system design in the New Year.

Let's hope that this list of some key  Do's and Dont's gives you a short list of ideas on how to maximise your time over the next few weeks and especially in the quiet period between Boxing day and New Year.   If there is one message for this blog, it is to use this time  to help to prepare your CRM system and look at what you need to do to make it GDPR compliant ready for the challenges of 2018.

Finally, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas….


6th December 2017

Evolving CRM.  What is Digital Transformation?


The World of CRM is changing and nowadays a CRM project will be just one core component in a Digital Transformation project. Whilst this concept is gaining more and more air time and notice, this blog really attempts to identify what Digital transformation really is and what you need to consider for your business. So the four questions we want to answer are:-

• What is Digital Transformation?

• How do you go about it?

• Do you need it and why is it so topical?

• What does it look like?

In this article, I want to focus on the first two aspects…

What is Digital Transformation?

The term Digital Transformation is now gaining a lot of traction and increasingly being added to Tenders. But this really key term has come about over the last few years and from a CRM perspective means CRM and the concept of CRM remains at the heart of these projects. Put simply, without a robust and well aligned CRM system, digital transformation will either not happen or be effective. It will be like a car running on just three tyres!

How do we define it?

A good and simple definition, from Wikipedia, as good a source here as any , and a definition which is easy to relate to:-:-

“Digital transformation is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspect of human society…

The transformation stage means that digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods.”

This last sentence appeals since it uses technology and recognises that in today’s increasingly online digital world, technology acts as a disrupter.

In essence, we see that from a business B2B perspective, this enables us to gain an end to end understanding of the whole Lead to Prospect to Customer and Customer to Advocate process and how this impacts your business in today’s digital world. From an application perspective, it is the merging of the various software vertical sectors for Marketing Automation software blended into and aligned with your Customer Relationship Management other systems such as Web sites, email marketing etc so your clients have a complete throughput of digital data from their first digital engagement as a suspect to prospect to customer.

Previously, CRM was central, but we added bolt-ons were created for tactical marketing usage such as Email marketing, Social Media integrations and now this whole process can be defined and created almost as seamless process, depending on the applications chosen.

We can see this as an outer and inner ring, with the CRM being at the centre, since at some point all contacts will be drawn to the CRM centre after qualification criteria have been defined.

Do we need it?

Digital Transformation has shown repeated success and most Footsie100 and Fortune 100 clients now have digital transformation in place or have initiated and implemented them over the last 5 years.

This concept is now rolling into the SME market where the applications themselves have evolved tremendously in the last 5 years to offer true value and with the cloud, seamless integration between and within applications.

How do you go about it? The First Step

Digital Transformation project will often go through a number of stages, buy the first stage is Awareness of the need for some sort of digital transformation strategy and plan.

So, in my view the first step is to understand and audit your existing business processes and how your clients engage with you from the initial introduction to after they become a customer.

You will probably find that many new clients over the last five years have first engaged you through some sort of on-line activity, now in 2017 this can take many forms

• Website Visit (either known visitor or tracked)

• Social Media including LinkedIn approaches

However, you may still engage through more traditional methods including trade shows and referrals, but they key concept here is that for most new clients and indeed many existing clients, they will have engaged with you in many ways through some sort of digital journey.

You need to understand or try to understand this journey and then review the ‘gaps’ in your process. Typically, for many, this could be that there is no clean line into their CRM system.

Once in CRM, then most contacts can then be tracked and followed, up but this outer rim of engagement can often involve different system which may or may not be talking to each other.

A typical engagement may be to use Hubspot, for Marketing Automation and integration with your website, an application we have used extensively since this has native (i.e. in-built link) integration with ‘best of breed’ CRM applications such as Dynamics 365 and Salesforce.

In fact, your whole website can be hosted on website or just sections such as landing pages. This integration will often act as your first point for the Client journey with information, at some point then passing through into your CRM system, possibly based on key criteria, which will talk about in a later blog.

Where to Start?

So, as a first step, prior to looking at a whole project, we recommend you audit your existing systems I use and you may be surprised, so feel free to request our Beginning your Digital Transformation project Checklist.

A future blog will then consider what happens next and explore the stages you need to go through to develop and plan your Digital Marketing Strategy?

31st August 2017

Do you need a CRM MOT?

Is now the time to perform a MOT on your CRM system?

Now this week Summer finally arrived, this is a good time to consider if your system is up to speed and performs well and if your Users are getting the most out of the software.

At this time of year, the system tends to be used on a daily basis for updating of day to day activities, opportunities, cases, so in our experience, this is a great time to conduct a MOT or better know perhaps as an Health-check or Audit.

For many B2B Companies, September can be the start of an intensive sale and marketing campaign focussed on achieving year end targets, be that sales for in closing Opportunities or Marketing for maximising lead generation and ensuring Sales have a steady supply of Marketing Qualified Leads.

So, why undertake a CRM MOT now?

From the mid-year onwards, you will now have a host of good data you can review, for example on:-

• Leads and Opportunities

• Campaigns

• Accounts and Contacts

• Cases and SLA Compliance

• Reports and Dashboards

• Data Quality

  • User Interactions and training

You can review this information and over the next 2 months develop or refine your plans and make sure you system is ready, so for example you can:-

• Make any needed changes during these quieter months (complete with updating your training materials such as Playbooks).

• Look to ensure that your overall system and processes are optimised or tweaked as needed.

• Looking at any specific additional training requirements for your Users.

• Looking at where you can clean data or reduce deduplications

• Review System performance and integrations.

All in all, then, this Summer is an ideal time to focus on how your CRM system can be optimised and made ready to meet your year-end targets.

What should a CRM Audit include?

Here are some suggestions from our experience, grouped by function and assuming you have a full CRM system (i.e. Sales, Marketing and Customer Service functionality), rather than just a legacy Contact Management system where not all the items below will be relevant. Within a blog, we can give you some indicators, but a typical Audit may range from ½ a day to a full or even more days depending on the depth and documentation outcome you require. As a starter, here are just some of the items we look to cover:-

• Marketing: Lead generation, Sources Review, Campaign effectiveness, Lead to Opportunities conversions metrics, number of Marketing and Sales Qualified Leads (and differences).

• Sales : Open Opportunities, Opportunity conversions, Opportunities velocity, Legacy open Opportunities (there are always some!). Won and Lost reasons review, Marketing feedback loop effectiveness.

• Customer Service: Number of Cases open, Average per month rates, types of Case, Trends, Closing and Response times, SLA compliance, Knowledgebase articles, top 10 Case problems review.

• Portal or Self Service usage: If you have a portal, how effective or engaging is it, who is using it, who is not using it? Can we develop this more? Is it saving us time or money or can it in new areas (e.g. adding Self Service knowledgebase articles or reviewing these, new ideas).

• Reporting: The audit gives us a chance to reflect on how useful the current reports are and if these should be made into dashboards or do we need to create any new or amend existing reports. Are they being used? Should they be automated?

• Technical Review: Performance issues particularly, speed, storage sizes, email integration issues, other integration or data feed audits.

• User Review: Who is using system and who is not? What is the average frequency, (look at actual log-on, log-off times). What is the nature of usage e.g. mobile or desktop usage. Are there any outstanding User engagement issues or requests. Any mobile usage and trends are important to review since nowadays this can be a key indicator of Sales Team usage and how easy the tool is to use via your mobile device. This can be a key questions in any User Feedback survey.

• Data quality. Here we are looking at duplicates, quality of data, especially amongst new records created this last six months.

A CRM system more than any other software relies heavily on your Users enthusiasm, sense of ownership and their willing adoption. This half year or Summer review is we think the perfect time to conduct a User Feedback Survey or questionnaire. Since this time of year gives you an opportunity to gain direct feedback from your Users. Let them know you are reviewing the system and you welcome their input and suggestions. This can throw up some enlightened ideas and helps to reinforce your User Adoption and ownership success. Importantly, you may be able to initiate quick wins and response prior to the September blitz.

From this Audit and User Survey, you can also review and better understand the need for any refresher training either due to ‘gaps’ in knowledge, understanding or because you are amending the system.

If you have time, it may also be useful to look at training needs and competency by Role/User.

As you can read, whilst this is not an exhaustive list and we cover a lot more items in a full one day review, you can see potentially there is a lot to consider. Our ebook on this subject adds to this list.

Who should do it?

Again, our experience shows that overall having external consultants such as ourselves can give you additional insight, shared best practices and offer a wider experience and that an internal audit may not pick up all this up as well.

What result should I expect?

A good question. And of course it does depend.

But when we do a CRM MOT/Audit we put together a detailed report on performance and feedback, hence the usefulness of the User survey or questionnaire and depending on audit time booked, then more information on how the system can both be improved and what changes should be made can be included

We are also as mentioned can offer additional insight and recommendations on your overall CRM Eco-system as well and how this can be better balanced and improved. 

So, all in all July and August are the ideal times to slot in a day’s health-check audit as well as the fact that CRM consultancies themselves are usually in this period pretty flexible and able to fit this in between projects.

This gives you then the balance of August and maybe the first week or so in September to either make changes, arrange refresher training on a process or just to ensure your plans fully align with your refreshed system capabilities.

Taking the opportunity now to organise your CRM Audit or MOT in can help you reap dividends quickly and can help to ensure that focus and feedback are on how it is going to deliver over the final four months of the year. Useful insights into the system performance should mean you are able to make minor adjustments to improve overall performance levels.

Finally, if you are interested in the ebook on this subject, please contact us here to request your CRM Audit ebook

25th June 2017

The CRM and Technology Gap

Mind the Gap!

It is always worth reminding ourselves that when we introduce CRM, it is very easy to customise and configure the system to suit your own processes, but of course, as numerous companies have found, this can lead to a number of issues...

Typically these include:-

• Costly and or just time consuming customisations as opposed to configuration. By customisation we mean coding, for example small pieces of javascript.

• Upgrading problems. We come across many companies who have so customised their system that when a new version comes out with significant database schema or other differences, the upgrade itself can be a timely process and often needs rigorous and lengthy testing and then coding amendments first.

• Users can get lost and also not always fully understand their process when applied to CRM.

So, when introducing your system, you need to be aware first and foremost of both your existing processes, so, some of the questions we ask are:-

• Are they right?

• Are they documented and more importantly clearly understood?

• Are they actually needed?

• Can we change or modify them to fit the system better?

For example, we had one customer who insisted that their renewal contract for their clients, had to be based on joining dates, clear enough, but that this had to be based against whether it was before or after 21st? of the month . So it moved to 1st or 30th of the month each side of the line for invoicing!

Why? Because that was what was always done. Rather than just base it on the date and then invoice.

Solving this issue in the CRM system chosen by them (we had come into rescue the project), involved around 1-2 days of extra work. Taking the configured or out-of-the-box solution would have saved them £1500….and for what? To their clients this difference meant nothing, they just assumed an annual renewal date as per car or home insurance. To them it was just an annual renewal date!

There was no benefit to anyone, apart from we had 2 extra days consultancy! But, this meant 2 less days from their budget and from our perspective, 2 less days where we could have added some value. There was no value in this process.

Delving through the archives, this illustration is a great example of why you need before or during your scoping of any CRM project to take the opportunity to re-look at your processes and take time to consider if they can be modified or changed to better suit the CRM system and most importantly save you cost and time and effort in customising the system this process.  This is what we call mapping the Technology Gap


So, in any CRM Project, you need to understand if there is a ‘gap’ between your existing process and how this can be applied to your new CRM system.

Ask yourselves the key questions as we have stated above to identify if there is a  ‘gap’ between the actual process and how this can be applied within the CRM system.

Does it need costly and time consuming customisation or can the process either be amended or improved to better fit the software, saving you time and money in the long run. Can it be improved?

This is the essence of what we can the “Technology Gap” and this is why when we are looking at Scoping Workshops, understanding  or when you are looking at how to optimise your CRM system, you need to consider the three pillars of CRM planning:-

• Technology

• Processes

• People.

This blog focuses on the need to review and if required adjust your processes.

We see this as an opportunity to gain feedback, ask questions and not just accept the status quo. With Business Process Reviews, you can find that, often you will be able to simplify a process or certainly reduce its complexity.

Bearing all this in mind, it is why a key starting point before the CRM Scoping workshop can be a Business Process workshop held either internally or with our help and it is why companies such as ourselves who are looking at the complete Lead to Customer process and involve not just CRM, but Marketing Automation will offer this as a key part of the service.

22nd May 2017

Data Nightmares in CRM!

As we come to the end of another CRM project, in this instance by far our biggest challenge has been the data migration and importing. This project has had more issues than usual, but the difference here was that I was very closely involved with the whole data migration project and so have re-learnt some invaluable lessons!

What are the lessons learnt from these last few weeks, when I was back in the data migration trenches so to speak!!! Here are some invaluable lessons, worth repeating!

Agree ALL data sources in advance

Never accept or confirm your quotation until you have all the data available and have seen this. Anything that is added after an agreed list of Sources should be costed separately, this protects both you and the client. As an example in this project, we have 3 separate core sources, but in each source, were myriad individual spreadsheets

Lesson learnt: Data migration costing is Always “subject to sight of data”, now we are adding the caveats (up to 2k records in one source and “ALL data Must be seen in advance.” Data sent after the cut-off date will be treated as NEW and costed accordingly!

Insist on common format

Again, whilst in this instance a common format template was issued, individuals then decided to re-label columns and add new columns to their own data, so almost creating their own individual data format!. So we had to check and ensure every excel column matched before import, despite a common template being issued to prevent this!

Lesson learnt here is Client need to be aware of time this can take and again this is chargeable.

Press for unique ID if possible.

If not create one as invariably you may be asked to add more data at some point and this can be time well spent.

Lesson Learnt: This can save a lot of time in re-work, there shouldn’t be any of course, but in the real world….

Ensure Client reviews and looks at their own data first.

Much time was spent in trying to put data into some sort of shape. So, for instance, in telephone field there were email addresses, in postcode there were Towns and in towns Zip codes. This was due in part to various source exports.

Lesson learnt. This is for the client, since they will better understand issues and avoid paying for re-work which they could have done before submitting.

Ensure a good import utility tool

The lesson here is to cost this in initially, invariably data once starting to be looked at gets more complex especially in a new system where data sources are often excel with multiple contacts. Most CRM system struggle with this, especially as it is often the case there are no matching ID or unique fields created, so deduplication is needed.

Lesson learnt. Include this as an allowance always since at some point, you may need as you see the data arrive and requirements grow from simple to the ‘is it possible or can you just add this?”

Within the ebook download request, we include more Lessons together with an additional list of Data Import ‘Gotchas’ that should be reviewed as well.

A final lesson is:-

Allow for adequate Client Testing time

The client importantly must have their project team or designated testers available for a ‘first pass’ testing for EACH data source and these do need to be signed off. Yes, this sound very bureaucratic, but time and again, clients give data imports only a cursory look, glad to see their data moving across from the old system, but then don’t look at the detail. For the consultant importing, this is just ‘data’ and they don’t always see the minute differences or nuances that can be in there in placing information in slightly differently. Invariably it is a new look and format for the new CRM system, so time must be paid and checklists created!

Lesson Learnt: UAT team need to have a conference call and test and review data closely.


When speaking with clients, the term ‘best endeavours’ is really the most apt, since we are so reliant on the quality of data and more importantly data consistency. But, here Is the good result, as discussed with this client, they now have a single centralised database in their Customer Relationship Management software. This now means that the new system data is consistent, accurate and de-duplicated data, thus preventing the myriad ‘silos’ of information building up again.

Yes, Data Migration is time consuming and can be expensive and this is do due to the complexity of source data and mapping data across to new system. IT project suffer from this, and it is one reason why the Big Banks and Government have so many big failures and delays, since Data Migration can be a nightmare and you can lose sleep, so take these lessons to heart!

More lessons and some important data gotcha’s are contained in the downloadable ebook Data Nightmare Lessons in CRM.

27th March 2017

Using the Carrot and Stick in CRM

We have all heard of the carrot and stick analogy and this is often applied to Sales teams.

Customer Relationship Management software projects, in addition to good system design and choice, in particular are very dependent for their success on the following factors:-

  • Sales Team culture

• Existing sales and marketing processes

• Ability to take ownership of their data

• Enthusiasm and commitment to CRM

A lot of time is spent on these topics, in education, design and in cleansing data and of course in training.

However, the history of CRM is littered with projects that have not been successful, and whilst you can argue what this actually constitutes, nonetheless, in my view, uniquely, CRM adoption does depend to a large degree on the attitude and commitment to the system by the Sales Team, more so than in comparison with other more regimented software applications such as ERP.

In any sales team there will be a mix of some who readily adopt and update the system on a regular basis and embrace the benefits and usefulness of the software in helping to manage their day to day activities and reporting, whilst for others, they may well be, shall we say, less than enthusiastic.…hence the consideration of the use of the Carrot and the Stick.

So how can we use this approach when introducing a new system or indeed in revitalising a project?

Let’s split the two elements down with Carrot Factors being now relabelled as Motivators and Stick Factors being the Non-Compliance Motivators or in plain language, Penalties!

Motivating or Carrot factors

Save time. Yes, an extra 5 minutes adding information when it is still fresh can save time and embarrassment in future. I always say whenever a price is mentioned, record this in your notes since every customer and prospect always remembers a price that is quoted. This also saves times for others, so 5 minutes now can save either you or others an hour further down the line!

Less conversations with the Boss! The Manager can see information now easily so this should lead in theory at least, to fewer internal ‘update’ meetings and those that happen should be more focussed.

Less time producing Management reports or even, now don’t have too! If the system is kept up to data and data is inputted correctly (there are aspects here of good system design) then Reports just need to be generated on the basis of a click.

More and better Qualified Leads. Marketing rely on good quality data and their campaigns will be better focused and targeted with an up-to-date relevant source system.

Better Opportunity Conversion ratios. So, it follows that if the data from marketing is better, less time is wasted on chasing ‘tyre kickers’ and the engagement with prospects should be improved, which can lead to shorter lead times and better conversions.

Less chasing from Marketing. If contact data is correct, marketing can rely on the quality of data, making better engagement campaigns and less chasing, for example ‘Titles’ not being completed is a pet hate of mine over the years.

Fewer internal meetings or corridor meetings, and those that are needed, can with information from CRM, dive straight into the point and be shorter.

Finally, with any good design and implementation, there should be less paperwork for the Salesman…..always a big motivator since both Management Reports and Marketing Reports should be able to be taken directly from the system and confidence in a well-maintained and up-to-date system will in turn give Management confidence. A poorly maintained system conversely could lead to more of the above since data gaps will become self-evident. E.g. No Closing date, No update on an Opportunity Stage for weeks, No Titles, Missed Closing Dates or just no notes or activity on the Opportunity!

….which nicely leads us onto, shall we say Non-Compliance Motivators or in reality the Stick!

Compliance Motivators or the Stick factors

Here we need to consider ideas like:-

• Terms and Conditions. My view is that this works best with new appointees since the use of a system should be a key part of any new contract, in the same way as there is a duty of care to look after the new car, laptop and mobile, so using the CRM system is actually a key Role/Duty for any Sales Rep and they need to update the system on a daily basis.

Performance Bonuses. A common example of this are those tied to Sales Opportunity, for example, if it has not been created before the sale, none or more likely, a reduced commission applies! After all, the visibility of a Sales Pipeline in CRM is frequently a key reason for its introduction as well as accuracy.

Account or Ownership Disputes. One of the great things about CRM is that it tracks and date stamps the creation time and who created a record. So you can use this in disputes in terms of who created, gets ownership. Those that register the account first are the winners in any dispute, as the system proves this!

Expenses Payments. These can be cross-checked or indeed based on completed Appointments and some systems do this or there are integrations around. Possibly a bit onerous and often a sensitive subject!

But, my favourite mantra in any problem or conflict is that “If it’s not in CRM, then it didn’t happen!”

Before you apply both…

Firstly, you will need to consider and ensure that the sales teams views and input has been taken into account during the decision making process and there has been active engagement in any Scoping and System Design Workshop meetings. If the teams or chosen key members are actively involved, ideally with changes made and agreed to with the team, for example ensuring there are not too many fields on day one, this will help with adoption and usage without the need for too many or too onerous non-compliance motivators.

Secondly, my view is that the benefits of CRM should be sold in first to the team and that these are Big Self Evident Carrots and that the balancing Stick should be small. In fact, the bigger the Stick, then this is symptomatic of possibly more deep rooted problems and it may be time to revisit the design and choice of system being used, so you do need to recognise sometimes, the software itself may be the problem or this highlights other problems with the sales team.


When planning a CRM implementation, as in many software and IT projects, the psychology of the Users needs to be understood and taken into account, but consider beforehand the culture of your team and ensure you are aware of what the main motivators or carrots need to be and whether you need a big or small stick. Make it clear to all about not only the importance of the system, but why non-compliance has to be penalised, even if you reduce these penalties to a minimum, invariably there are lines of conflict between salespeople or teams and this is one of the great things about CRM, you can say “if it’s not there, it didn’t happen” and date stamping enables you to wield out those that are trying to ‘pull the other one’.

Now your own thoughts and feedback?

Whilst writing this blog, it became apparent that there are lots of possible ways to help motivate and penalise and I’ve tried to highlight just a few ideas in each category, so this does not claim to be a complete list of all factors. It would be interesting to hear readers own views and ideas of what Carrot and Sticks you have used and what results you have achieved. Indeed, what is your most successful Carrot factor!

20th February 2017

Changing your CRM in 2017

If you’ve had your CRM for a few years now, then you may now be looking to change in 2017.

According to Gartner, over 80% of new CRM systems will be cloud based by 2020 and we are pretty certain that in the UK, this figure is at least 60% now if not more and has increased substantially since around 2012 as we came out of recession and companies started investing in software again...

There are a few key reasons for this and borne by our experiences, we think that two of the main reasons are:-

Hardware investment. The focus has been since 2010 on reducing hardware expenditure and in reducing IT staff overhead. Clients are trying to reduce their hardware infrastructure and capital investment (capex) costs well as their day to day operational costs, including in-house IT staff by looking to outsource more. Over the years, the cost and need for hardware, even with virtual servers still means investment and someone needing to maintain and upgrade these servers.

Office365. With the massive take up of Office 365, cloud based applications are now mainstream for many clients and in daily use on their smartphones, hence this has been another driving factor in encouraging more cloud based application adoption. Of course, this is also driven by Microsoft Dynamics CRM focus over the last few years to make cloud based CRM the first choice amongst start-ups and SME's.

However, whilst it is not all sunny skies, since you are now locked into either an annual or monthly recurring payment, but at least your investment will always be up-to-date and it is not your problem when upgrades are released. Strangely, upgrades seem to be more stable when released by cloud providers on their own hardware!

So, if you are looking to change this year, then what should you be looking for in choosing your next CRM system?

Here are five key factors that influence us when we are reviewing new CRM applications for clients:-

Pedigree. Our view is that having a robust and well known and respected application is a key element in reducing your risk.

Evolving CRM. Sounds obvious, but some systems and especially older legacy on- premise applications appear not to be so keen to develop and continue to develop their applications and again, this doesn’t appear with cloud based systems who are always keen  for others to integrate with them, giving you the ability to create your own CRM eco-system.

Cloud based. This means in our view, you effectively just sign up and start using the system. There is no need to do anything else or indeed worry too much when starting your trial as long as you have previously done some due diligence on your chosen application.

• Support network. Here, we think this is a key factor, so you need to ensure that the vendor has in place UK support, be this in terms of partners or the vendors own staff. Invariably, you may want some customisation, specialist training or indeed just someone to call to ask a question.

Customer base. Ideally, you may want to talk to other clients or just know they have a reasonable size customer base in the UK and this is led to some extent by their strategy but also the point above. Having no UK or partner base should probably be seen as an ‘amber’ light warning sign that the base is not big enough yet to sustain dedicated resellers or UK based staff.

With over 300 applications available in the CRM market, you don’t want to take a chance with some of the smaller applications that may not last.

Our final recommendation is that you find an independent CRM consultant such as ourselves who are able to suggest, recommend and endorse the best solutions and create a short-list of the most viable solutions for your business. Given our extensive experience, having a wide network of industry contacts gained over 20 years in the industry means we can give our clients the best advice we can.

A great starting point is to request our CRM Checklist. In CRM, the key is in choosing the right fit application to match your business requirement and your team. Not doing this can end up costing you money, wasted time and stress!

11th January 2017