The technology component is the most overwhelming given the ever-expanding number of technology offerings and alternatives. There are two issues related to technology: dealing with CRM software vendors and staying on top of CRM technology trends.
CRM Software Vendors
Let's start with dealing with CRM software vendors. Today's CRM technology will address most, if not all, CRM user requirements. Moreover, there are dozens of competent, financially sound CRM vendors to choose from. Nonetheless, can the CRM vendor's offering deliver what it promises to deliver? The response to this question is not always evident. Here are a few examples. In one case, a leading CRM software vendor claimed its software seamlessly integrated with all back-office systems. Only after the software had been purchased did the purchasing company realize that the integration was not so seamless and required a fairly expensive ($200,000) piece of Enterprise Application Integration middleware to seamlessly connect to its SAP back-office system.
In another case, a leading CRM software vendor claimed that all CRM system users needed to purchase their customer service base module if users expected to exchange data between the sales, marketing, and customer service functions. Fortunately the purchasing company learned that this was not necessary since all functions could easily draw and share information from the common database regardless of the base module used. The purchasing company came very close to paying $150,000 for unnecessary software.
In a third case, one of the largest database software vendors claimed that their emerging CRM software offering would contain the most comprehensive CRM functionality available in the industry. They actually fooled quite a few potential buyers who waited months and months for promised functionality to arrive. Promised functionality never did arrive and finally, under pressure from a variety of sides including analysts like ISM, the database vendor was forced to admit that they would be unable to offer promised functionality. Shortly thereafter, they opened their emerging yet incomplete CRM software's API to third-party software vendors!
Lessons learned: When dealing with CRM software vendors, remember that these vendors face incredible competition (and analyst/venture capital pressure) that may force them to stretch the truth from time to time. Understand this and then make them demonstrate their promises in real time.
Keeping Up with CRM Technology Trends
As concerns the second issue related to technology, namely staying on top of CRM technology trends, this has become increasingly difficult as a result of the proliferation of CRM technologies available in the marketplace. Rather than making the error of trying to keep up with each new technology, companies are well advised to track those technologies that are most likely to impact the CRM industry's future as well as their own company's CRM efforts (Chapter 6 attempts to make sense of the latest technology trends). This may include, for example, customer self-service applications built on top of an effective knowledge base, e-marketing applications such as permission-based direct marketing, wireless and voice recognition capabilities, or the use of major framework tools to consolidate and enhance n-tiered architectures within a CRM implementation. While it is unreasonable to even imagine learning about every new technology trend that is likely to impact CRM, try to keep up to date on the big ones.