On-demand CRM and SaaS Takes Hold In The Midmarket

by Jim Berkowitz on January 23, 2008

Here are several excerpts from an article by Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer for Search CIO-Midmarket.com, On-demand CRM and SaaS Takes Hold In The Midmarket:

Users at midmarket companies will get more out of a customer relationship management (CRM) system delivered through Software as a Service (SaaS) if it’s integrated with back-end systems like financial applications.

CRM is kind of a standalone listing of who your customers are, but in an ideal situation it should be linked to sales activity and that sales activity should be tied to those financial systems,” said Jeff Kaplan, managing director of Wellesley, Mass.-based consultancy THINKstrategies Inc.

Peter Marston, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., said CRM users can have a better understanding of what their customers want and need when their CRM system can access live financial and sales data from the back-end systems.

“A lot of times there’s transactional data you’ve had with customers in the past,” Marston said. “There’s a need to reach out to existing customers or to try to get trend of information. A lot of sales guys will want to have that data. They might use it as an opportunity to upsell.”

Marston said many companies, particularly smaller ones, will try to go without integration, but midmarket companies can’t afford to go without it.

“For larger organizations the tendency is to have a greater fluidity of information exchanged and to have it more accessible to more individuals,” Marston said. “On the lower end of the scale, smaller businesses don’t have as much of a need because their business processes are much simpler in nature.”

Different approaches

There are many directions a midmarket firm can take when integrating a SaaS-based CRM system. Kaplan said the options are all over the map because there are so many different deployments of CRM.

“Many people, whether it’s a traditional CRM system or an on-demand variety like Salesforce.com, don’t realize until they begin to do that deployment the additional work it takes to integrate it with a financial management system,” Kaplan said.

Doug Harr, CIO at Ingres Corp. in Redwood City Calif., also uses Salesforce.com as his CRM application.

“What we’re trying to do is put something in place that could be implemented quickly and grow with us as we grow,” Harr said. “We wanted to ensure it could handle our transaction volumes out into the three- to five-year range.”

Kaplan said it’s never really that easy to integrate on-demand CRM with your back-end systems, but it’s not as challenging as you might think.

“There’s a whole set of third-party solutions aimed at integration issues,” Kaplan said. “There are some appliances, there are a set of independent tools or connectors that vendors have created. And there are even the hands-on skills of professional services companies. Some companies have crated APIs that make it relatively easy, but even they will deploy professional services at times to help clients with processes because there might still be some manual mapping of processes to make the configuration work properly.”

Check out the complete source article for more discussion about how several companies handled their integration needs.

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