Archives For CRM Success

A key initiative here at SugarCRM is to provide to our customers a platform that allows them to create and support extraordinary relationships with their own customers. In the spirit of sharing best practices, we wanted to publish some ideas on how we approach designing and building our platform to meet this objective. True to the philosophy is breaking down the problem and then putting it back together in a way that helps us to reach the best possible outcome.

Background

Designing and building a software application is no easy feat, if it were easy, anyone could do it (well). While many companies have become quite good at managing and building product features leveraging Agile methods, Agile is specific to a specific part of the production lifecycle. Figuring out what the user community actually wants, and going through iterations in design is a different matter all together. In order to attack this issue the two methods that have come into favor during the past 10 years are both Lean and Design Thinking. There are strengths and weakness to both, but what if we take the best parts of each?

It is important to outline the basic principles for each Lean and Design Thinking. Yes, there are many books written on each, clearly a paragraph does not do justice, but will suffice.  A Lean focused product development approach works towards creating a minimal viable product (known as MVP) and leverages data and specific feedback throughout the design and development process. Lean takes a feature/function approach to the product as well, more on that in a bit.  Lean is considered a fast, efficient approach to the whole process, as depicted below:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.21.32 PM

Design thinking puts more emphasis on empathy and creating a stronger bond with the target end-user and the job the user needs to get done with the product in question. This is also known as a Service Design or a jobs-to-be-done philosophy. Where Lean is closer to quantitative, Design Thinking is qualitative. Where Lean is logical and detailed, Design thinking is emotional, detailed and places the product in question within a larger context; the future, my business, the world around us. Visually, Design Thinking looks like the picture below, note the differences from the picture above:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.22.29 PM

In designing and building a platform for a large enterprise, it is harder to think in terms of MVP, because the team is not designing or redesigning the entire product. In this case the team needs to create another vehicle in order figure out what to build, when to build it, and whether it will work (to satisfy our customers).

With respect to building or enhancing an Enterprise platform, should the team choose an approach that favors Lean, or one that uses Design Thinking?

Both.

Resetting the Baseline

In order to make my case, it is important to redefine the rules, if only a little bit. Taking a moment to discuss exactly what “minimum viable product” describes is important to this discussion. By definition an MVP has just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development. While, by definition, MVP needs to deliver just enough of a desired outcome for people to want to sign up and use it, within a Fortune 500 organization, the bar is quite high. The baseline for MVP within the Enterprise domain is different. So much so that it cannot be ignored. Is it possible to look at this from a feature-by-feature perspective?

In the world of Enterprise Software, there is not one target user (persona), there are many more.  Enterprise applications live on a technology stack, and often have domain areas of functionality. Within the spectrum of Enterprise users, some are very analytical, logical and perform tasks in a very specific way, these jobs-to-be-done require repeatability and precision. For others, there is a strong emotional element, efficiency and creativity are a high priority; like sales people for example. For this reason, this reason alone it is enough to now make the statement that one method cannot work. In an Enterprise fast, iterative, quantitative and qualitative design, along with a strong empathetic bond is required to build the right stuff.

Here are the three groups Enterprise application designers and developers need to keep in mind as they design and build software (using CRM as an example):

  1. End-User – Sales, Service or Marketing user, I need CRM to get my job done.
  2. Designer/Developer – Configuration, Customization, Integration
  3. Technology Support – Raw iron (or VM) up to Application layer; OS, DB, PHP

A balanced approach to each of the personas is required to design, build and deploy software that meets the needs of all three types. The balance in approach needs to come not only from how the process takes place, but whom the team talks to and how the discussion takes place.  The question of approach may need to pivot towards the question of how best to get user input into the process, again, not a simple task.

What is Feedback?

“If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would say faster horses,” attributed to Henry Ford – though he never said it, and many are not sure if it was good or bad. In other words, the job that needed to be done was to get from point a to point b, Ford was selling cars, something very new.

Some might contend that the key difference between Lean and Design Thinking is one of practicality and science versus wants and desires.  The quote above, whether factual or not does represent how Ford approached the automotive industry. However, the factory model he built created his legacy and nearly caused its downfall. It was rigid and hard to change. General Motors came at Ford pretty hard in the late 1920s. In 1921, the Ford Motor Company sold about 2/3 of all the cars built in the U.S. By 1926, this share had fallen to approximately 1/3. (5)

The practical value of when and how to listen to customers and/or users is a very complex problem. Any designer/builder of enterprise software should have detailed understanding of their customers and their customer’s problems via both empirical knowledge and observable patterns; domain expertise is a definite nice-to-have. In the end, the team should also feel empowered to ignore customer input, as the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ is often lost in the day to day within many organizations. The emotional attachment to features and functions needs to be heard and considered, but in the end tough decisions made.

Thoughts anyone?

Sources for the discussion:

1 – https://medium.com/art-marketing/lean-vs-design-thinking-6ae7c04453a6#.7ue9w2px9

2 – https://medium.com/lean-product-design/couple-design-thinking-lean-for-your-mvp-80478b8fb9f5#.prs6zjujv

3- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reuse-lose-many-uses-stan-garfield

4 – https://hbr.org/2011/08/henry-ford-never-said-the-fast

5 – http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-user-experience-why-data-not-just-design-hits-the-sweet-spot/

 

SugarCRM is thrilled to be the recipient of an IBM Beacon Award in the Outstanding Commerce solution category.

Winners in the IBM Beacon Awards, a part of IBM’s business partner recognition program, are selected by a panel of expert judges consisting of IBM executives, industry analysts and members of the press. IBM’s Beacon Awards recognize Business Partners who have demonstrated business excellence in delivering IBM-based solutions to clients around the world to drive transformation and business growth.

SugarCRM won for the integrated “IBM Marketing Cloud and SugarCRM” solution. This solution empowers the delivery of exceptional experiences for customers across the buyer journey by leveraging customer data, providing analytical insights and automating relevant cross-channel interactions. The solution provides:

  • Automatic Customer Data Sync: Automatic data synchronization between Sugar and IBM Marketing Cloud delivers a complete view of customer activity across all departments and functions, and eliminates data duplication and inconsistencies.
  • Customized Alerts: Alerts can be set to inform key stakeholders in any department when a customer reaches a certain score or rank. Scoring models can be built based on a broad range of behaviors.
  • Contact Insight: Enables users across Sales, Marketing and Service to open and track all interactions with customers and prospects. Sales personnel can add contacts in the CRM system and trigger automatic inclusion in marketing programs.
  • IBM Marketing Cloud emails sent directly from Sugar: Sales teams can customize pre-configured email templates and use them to communicate personally with their customers and prospects.

Multiple customers, including Rodobens in Brazil, and Henry Wurst Inc., have already chosen to deploy this solution. You can read more about their usage here

To learn more about the solution, see sugarcrm.com/ibm/marketing-solutions

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It’s that time again. In addition to shopping for gifts and attending holiday parties, December is also prediction season. Here are five CRM predictions that we think we’ll see in 2016.

Do you have a prediction of your own? We’d love to hear it. Please post in the comments section below.

1. UX will be big in 2016: Companies that focus on differentiating themselves by providing a fantastic customer experience will thrive. While the “improving customer experience” concept has been a major initiative in the CRM space for some time, what really drives great customer experiences is customer-facing employees having the right information and tools to best serve the customer at exactly the right time. Traditional CRM has fallen short in this area. In 2016, CRM users will have access to enhanced, modern interfaces that incorporate social and mobile customer data to empower the employee to drive extraordinary customer relationships. A fantastic user experience will mean more intelligent CRM practices, which will make it much easier to execute a seamless customer journey from awareness and purchase to retention and advocacy.

2. Personalized Analytics: Predictive analytics will be the next big data trend, and soon salespeople and marketers will use predictive analytics to forecast the impact of their activity and provide more personalized pitches or content to individual customers. Modern CRM applications are beginning to provide greater analytics for the individual user. Nimble, and consumable tools will be embedded into CRM and provide sales, marketing and support professionals with customer preferences and history, helping them engage throughout the customer journey. CRM is moving toward “systems of engagement” that use predictive analytics to cut through the big data noise to uncover actionable customer insights.

3. Data Privacy Concerns will Affect SaaS CRM Deployments: Today’s online privacy concerns and dispersed data landscape have sparked legislation mandating how and where companies store customer data. A well-designed and tightly-integrated CRM is imperative to any organization’s security and compliance efforts. However, the “cookie cutter” model of multi-tenant, proprietary public cloud offerings is not always sufficient for global business. Companies in highly regulated industries, and those who operate globally must address data privacy laws and mandates. In 2016, more companies will opt to deploy CRM with cloud agility, meaning they can maintain security and control of customer data, choose the best public, private or hybrid cloud deployment model (as well as on-premise) for their business, and ensure regulatory compliance. The good news with modern CRM is there are many options for those that are feeling the effects of these changing regulations around the world.

4. Mobile CRM will get even better: Mobile is, and will continue to be a rising focus for the CRM space. One of the great benefits of CRM is that it allows businesses to organize themselves more effectively. However, as the workforce is dispersed and people spend time out of the office, a mobile CRM app is crucial so those valuable interactions while on the road aren’t left behind. In the past, many mobile CRM apps have had limited functionality. As we move forward, mobile platforms will become more powerful. You’ll see smart phones display the latest analytics and dashlets via their CRM.  In addition, users will be able to better customize their mobile experience to get the data they want and transform that data into actionable tasks to address customer needs in real-time.

5. CRM and IoT will become intertwined: Smart companies want to stay a step ahead of their customers so they can provide information before the customer even knows they need it. Smart devices can offer new ways to deliver on that promise. The potential of harnessing the data of billions of connected devices and integrating that data within the CRM to create extraordinary customer relationships is very exciting. CRM platforms will evolve to work with the data that is being generated, make sense of that data and communicate to the people who can benefit from the analysis so they can perform real actions to help the customer. Many innovative organizations have already embraced the potential of smart devices to deepen all types of relationships. Check out our Vetadvisor case study to learn how the organization has integrated Fitbit bands into its SugarCRM deployment.

In part one of this blog series, we talked about the need to align the sales and marketing departments in the age of the empowered customer.

Along those lines, as prospects are converted to customers, organizations will try to retain each customer for the long term and sell additional goods or services. To accomplish this, it is vital to have a total customer view. This means records of the interactions between individual employees and the customer, and also a view of the customer’s preferences and other pertinent information that can help the organization build a stronger relationship.

While many data sources and systems contribute information to develop a total customer view, CRM is the nexus that ties it all together. It should be the place where anyone who interacts with customers can immediately see where the customer is in their journey, where they’ve been, and get an understanding of how to be successful helping them to the next phase of their journey.

To function in this capacity, the CRM solution needs to be an enterprise-grade platform that can seamlessly incorporate data from multiple systems into an inclusive, central view of the customer. That platform must be scalable and non-restrictive – truly able to grow with increased usage across the organization. It must manage the very large volume of customer data to empower customer-facing employees at every step as they aid the customer along his or her journey.

Creating a total customer view is vital to building extraordinary customer relationships. But it’s also important to take that view of the customer and provide intelligence and context to employees at the point of customer interaction.

There is simply so much information available about every individual prospect or customer that it can overwhelm employees if not properly filtered.

So, a modern CRM needs to provide a “consumer-like” user experience that allows employees to easily navigate the system. The CRM must understand the context of the customer interaction and the role of the employee. By providing role-based views and context-sensitive data, users of modern CRM can quickly identify individuals and determine where they are on their customer journey. From there, they can access the information to complete the tasks needed to successfully aid the customer along the journey.

In short, companies that build great relationships with their customers “live” in their CRM. They obtain a total view of their customer and use that to provide the right information to customers, at exactly the right time.

When it comes to buying a new automobile, smart shoppers do more analysis than simply looking at the sticker on the windshield. While some cars may seem like a deal at the time of purchase, factors like maintenance and repair costs, resale value, insurance rates, and even fuel costs determine the true value of the vehicle.

Selecting a new CRM system requires at least the same level of analysis.

Today, a majority of enterprise software is delivered as SaaS (software-as-a-service) and sold via some form of a subscription model, meaning users pay an annual fee to access the software (like leasing a vehicle). However, when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives, the “sticker price” subscription fees can be misleading. Many vendors charge one price to get customers locked in behind the wheel, but customers soon find they are forced to pay more to fully realize the value of the CRM software.

These additional fees can include costs associated with accessing the CRM via a mobile device, making customizations to the platform, and integrating with other technology partners and systems inside and outside the organization.  If you’re not fully aware of these upcharges, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

An Example of Spiraling CRM Costs

We took a look at the largest CRM SaaS vendor in North America – Salesforce.com.

Salesforce customers often pay significantly more than the quoted monthly subscription fee due to hidden fees and other limitations that can increase the total cost of ownership.

Salesforce pricing includes upcharges for system usage, which is often hard to calculate and budget. Upcharges include API calls, which equate to connections to other data sources. Storage-based fees can balloon when large files like PDFs or PPT slide decks are kept within the system. In addition, complete mobile access for some versions can cost as much as $50 additional per user, per month.

Also, building custom mobile applications on the Salesforce platform can cost up to an additional $300 per application per month. Base subscription fees also do not include access and consumption fees for Salesforce’s Data.com offering.

These upcharges can more than double total system costs. Let’s look more closely at the upcharge for API calls. When connecting to external data sources, such as accounting or social media streams, Salesforce sets a limit on the number of times users can send and receive information between systems. Each time a user checks the accounting records of a customer, or augments the prospect information with Dun & Bradsteet data, for example, the system underneath executes an application programming interface (API) call. If Salesforce users go over the maximum allowed number of calls, they are forced to either add more user licenses, or upgrade ALL users to its most expensive Performance edition.

What About SugarCRM?

Sugar is offered under a subscription model similar to Salesforce, but with some important differences. SugarCRM’s PurePrice pricing model means the subscription fee is inclusive of maintenance, and includes mobile access, a Microsoft Outlook Plug-in, reporting, customization and integration capabilities.

SugarCRM aims to limit the “hidden fees” that some CRM providers do not include in their base license costs. SugarCRM is the only CRM solution that offers functionality for marketing, sales and support for one low price. Organizations can customize and build on the Sugar platform without hidden fees or forced upgrades to more costly editions. Additionally, users can make any number of integrations without additional charges or fees.

Finally, Sugar can be deployed either as an on-demand or SaaS deployment, or on the user’s own servers. In addition, Sugar can also be deployed on a number of public clouds, including Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, Rackspace and IBM GTS cloud. Sugar partners also deploy customer instances in their private clouds. In contrast with other CRM vendors who offer a choice in deployment, Sugar is priced the same, regardless of deployment option.

This short analysis provides some basic insight into the costs of buying and maintaining a CRM system. Several pricing and deployment models exist—and it is important to understand which model best addresses the pressing business issues. Before making any decision, be sure to plot out the value to be generated from the deployment, including, but not limited to, the hard dollar costs.

By understanding up-front what additional costs or fees may be incurred, organizations can make an educated, and more cost-effective choice when choosing a CRM provider.

A popular argument for deploying SaaS software is that it “just works.” It is simple for users to get started and use everyday without burdening the IT department. This argument has merit. The cloud has put the power in the hands of the user and minimized the need for IT to troubleshoot software issues. Instead, users can simply open up a browser and be productive.

However, that doesn’t mean technical concerns have been eliminated, they are simply hidden below the surface. SaaS customers need to understand the technical details of service they are using, especially when it comes to mission critical business applications like a CRM.

There are three major areas that can affect your business – maintenance, software upgrades and outages:

  • When is routine maintenance scheduled and how long will the system be down during that period?
  • How frequently are software upgrades made?
  • How will the upgrades affect how the application looks, and relatedly, how much of learning curve will there be to understand product updates?

Think about the consumer services like Facebook and Twitter that you are used to using everyday. There is an adjustment period when even a minor tweak to the service changes “the look and feel.”

Now, imagine coming into work on a Monday morning – and the tools you use to do your job are suddenly barely recognizable due to a major product upgrade? How would that affect your productivity for the short term? Or, imagine as a manager of dozens of sales reps, you get the message that you need to immediately begin training on a new CRM because the old system is “going away.” What if this happens near the end of the quarter?

The IT department is responsible for maintenance and upgrades for software they deploy, and are usually responsible to plan for changes. But regular employees, and entire companies can be negatively impacted by changes both expected and unexpected.

When you rely on software applications to run critical parts of your business, any downtime is costly. The inability to access data, reach and respond to customers, or close deals equates to lost revenue or other hard costs. Research firm Gartner estimates that an hour of downtime for a critical system costs a company $42,000 on average.

And, if you are leaning toward the argument, “an outage is so rare, it won’t happen to me.” SaaS services delivered via the cloud are susceptible to outages. Just last month, an Amazon Web Services data center went down, taking access to Netflix, Reddit and Nest with it.

Now, think about what happens if your sales automation or customer support system goes down. You can probably tolerate a few minutes of downtime, but if it last hours or even a full day, it will dramatically affect the bottom line.

If you unexpectedly, or even with some warning, lose access to your systems – rebuilding that same system with another software product takes time and lots of energy. Costs include:

  •      Purchase of replacement software
  •      Staff or consultants to replicate customizations in the new system
  •      Staff learning curve and training costs
  •      Potential legal costs for re-acquiring data

All of these costs are significant. They can hinder operations at the largest of organizations, and could be catastrophic for smaller businesses. Thus, it is of utmost importance to ensure you have access to your data and system in light of any type of disaster or unforeseen “outage” of your SaaS applications.

By choosing a SaaS vendor with multiple deployment options, open software so the data can “live on”, and a solid business continuity plan – you can deploy cloud and SaaS apps with the highest level of confidence.

In a world that’s increasingly regulated, a well-designed and tightly-integrated CRM is imperative to an organization’s compliance efforts. In the United States, regulated industries with strict mandates like financial services, healthcare, and insurance are often finding that “out of the box” cloud-based CRM systems don’t comply with regulatory requirements.

For example, financial services companies simply cannot tolerate unplanned or provider-planned downtime. Healthcare organizations must adhere to strict HIPAA compliance requirements regarding patient data.

On top of regulatory compliance, outside the United States, many countries have significantly more strict rules around the gathering and storage of customer data. After the Edward Snowden revelations, cloud-based SaaS CRM apps can also bring about regulatory compliance challenges. Some countries now prohibit hosting data on U.S. servers, or require that data is stored within national boundaries. In many cases, the most desirable solution for multinational corporations or companies in highly regulated industries is to deploy servers on-premise. It’s the best way to maintain security and control, and to ensure regulatory compliance. 

If companies in these regions and industries fail to comply with these mandates the penalties can be burdensome, or even disastrous. Being out of compliance in some regions or industries is an issue of breaking the law, and strict financial penalties for noncompliance can be crippling. The stakes are high. In 2014, USA and European banks paid nearly $65 million in fines for an array of violations.

Many SaaS and cloud providers will skirt the issue of data location and ownership with complex data key encryption. The customer data is actually stored in a data center in another country, but cannot be accessed without an encryption key stored locally. While encrypting data is an important security measure, it does not achieve compliance. Simply put, if the data is not in the region or country where the customers reside – compliance and control issues can still arise.

So, if your business is in a closely regulated industry, you need to know whether the CRM system you are considering supports these legal requirements. Additionally, if your business operates globally, or in countries with strict data laws, it is important to ask the right questions before choosing a CRM provider. So what are those questions? We’ve compiled a list. Be sure to get answers to these questions – in writing:

  •      Can you decide where data is stored?
  •      How can you be sure your data is being stored in your region? In your country?
  •      Does the vendor offer on-premise deployment or are they cloud only?
  •      How often can you export your data?
  •      Can data be exported in multiple formats?
  •      Can ALL of the system data be retrieved at any time? Or can you export only the database?
  •      What about unstructured data such as activity streams, call records and other system metadata?
  •      Is the data always “yours” and not owned by the vendor?
  •      How does the vendor guarantee access to your data in the event of or business discontinuity?

If the potential vendor cannot answer these questions (and more important “put it in writing” as part of their SLA) you may want to re-think your choice.

At SugarCRM we have customers in more than 120 countries. We realize companies around the world are subject to many different laws and regulations. Legal requirements in one country or industry may be inconsistent with legal requirements applicable elsewhere. Hence, we offer a multi-tenant cloud service, a private instance in the cloud, and also allow customers to deploy on-premise on their own servers. This gives customers a level of control they can’t achieve in a proprietary SaaS-only model where their data is locked up in one vendor’s data silo. A flexible deployment approach allows our customers to more easily comply with international data security and privacy laws.