How to select a CRM System that meets your needs

By Jelani Harper
Updated: July 06, 2011

The key to selecting a Customer Relations Management (CRM) solution which is suitable for a particular enterprise lies in its initial assessment of its current and projected needs for such a system. Contributing factors which may determine a particular type of CRM include security needs, size and efficacy of an IT department, as well as the degree of flexibility and autonomy desired and previously implemented within a business’s current communication systems. CRM is offered in hosted or on-premise form, open source or otherwise, and can often be specific for call centers or configured for common applications such as email integration.

Evaluation Process

The best method for evaluating which type of CRM is most suitable for a particular enterprise is to facilitate a diagram of existing communications and customer architecture that indicates at what specific point CRM will affect this infrastructure. Depending on the results, management can ascertain what the most important requirements will be for the proposed solution, as well as whether it should be enterprise or departmentally based.

Hosted

Hosted CRM products work best for enterprises which are usually small or mid-sized, and which typically don’t require a lot of specialization for their customer service needs. The hardware is housed and managed from a remote location, while its software is accessed on-demand with uniform system requirements and connectivity choices, all of which is paid for in low monthly installments. This is an efficient solution which requires minimal implementation time and is readily assisted by inclusive service plans.

On-site

On-site CRM solutions are generally utilized by larger enterprises, as they require a significant amount of up-front capital to procure. Consequently, the installation and management of such systems are primarily handled by in-house IT departments, which greatly benefit an enterprise by allowing for a superior degree of integration and customization compared to hosted products. Additionally, security levels are optimized since all date is kept in-house without third party intervention.

Open Source

Open Source CRM products can be found in hosted, on-site, and in hybrid solutions, and are valuable to enterprises which desire high levels of autonomy and flexibility with their customer management. Open source products are highly mutable since their product codes are unveiled and subject to as much manipulation, and specificity, as the customer desires. Open source products are both commercial and accessible by free email download, and can involve the support of a surrounding email community for many potential user issues. However, uncertain code quality and system failures may occur in communal based open source products.

Additional Features

Other criteria which may determine an enterprises’ choice of CRM include whether there is enough demand for CRM for call centers (which may be hosted or onsite), significant need for CRM to email integration, and whether the primary purpose of a CRM is for sales or customer service support. Ideally, information gleaned from the aforementioned architecture diagram will indicate such needs, and direct an enterprise to a suitable solution.
 

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