Although functionality should be your paramount consideration in choosing a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, you should also list your technical requirements to ensure that the product will work in your company's specific environment. The following are some examples of IT issues to consider:
- Integration and connection requirements. Will the CRM technology interact with existing database systems (such as Oracle and DB2)? Does it conform to certain standards (such as XML) and integrate with other enterprise software (such as SAP)?
- Processing and performance requirements. What's the maximum number of transactions -- and customer records -- that the product can handle? How many concurrent users can it support?
- Security requirements. Does the product limit end-user access on an individual basis and provide reports on system access? Are access controls easy to manage?
- Reporting requirements. Is the product versatile in pumping out preformatted reports and ad hoc reports?
- Usability requirements. Are there online help screens? Can the system be personalized for each end user? Can end users easily access other corporate systems through a CRM portal?
- Function-enabling features. Is there workflow management capability? Is there an e-mail response engine that routes incoming e-mail to specific representatives? Does the software do predictive modeling of the customer's propensity to buy?
- Performance requirements. What's the acceptable response time for CRM activities or reporting? Is the response time 30 seconds or less for Internet users? Can the system generate prospective customer lists in an hour or less?
- Availability requirements. Are the product and accompanying database both available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week? Are there self-diagnostic tools that can alert systems administrators to slow response or likely downtime?
Dyche is a vice president at Baseline Consulting Group in Los Angeles. She is the author of The CRM Handbook (Addison-Wesley, 2001), from which this article was adapted. Copyright 2002, Addison-Wesley, Boston.