CRM TCO

We here at Edgewater have had a surprising number of customer conversations recently about skyrocketing CRM costs associated with a very popular hosted CRM package (that shall remain nameless).  In many cases, the conversation goes…

“The CRM initiative was driven by the business (which is great), and initial costs were palatable.  One or two years down the road: deep discounts are a thing of the past and the seat count has doubled or tripled.  Looking to the future all that can be seen is increasing cost; and there are not a lot of options for containing those costs.”

 An obvious question comes up – Can you justify these costs for a CRM platform?  CRM has tremendous benefits of course if it’s really leveraged, but does the annual cost of admission have to be so high?

Our answer is no.  You do have other platform options.  Quite frankly, the best CRM solutions are very similar in look and feel, are very configurable, and have almost identical capabilities.  We’re helping lots of customers adopt MS Dynamics CRM which we’ve found to be a very strong solution.  And it’s a lot less expensive.

Some good news: if you’re in this situation, you’ve probably got a really good understanding of what can make CRM successful at your organization.  And in most cases it has very little to do with the software.  Maybe there are things you’d do a little differently if you could go back.  Maybe a shift is an opportunity. 

If you’re thinking about easing that annual renewal burden but are concerned about how to go about it, here are some things to consider.

Configuration

By now you know that using the web based configuration/admin interface is relatively simple.  You spent time up to now understanding how CRM should work, what your custom objects look like, how they interact.  That’s the hard part.  And you’ve probably learned some things along the way.  If you could do it over again, you’d x, y, and z.  As opposed to looking for a tool that will port your existing configuration, spend a few days building out your configuration and fixing your mistakes with a new tool.  It can be quite painless.

Data

You’ll need to convert of course.  But the good news is that you should (hopefully) have all of that data in one place (your CRM solution).  Your initial adoption may have (should have in most cases) involved getting customer data out of multiple systems which is tough.  The great news is that you probably don’t have to do that again.  And there are low cost options for loading it into a less expensive solution.

Adoption

One of the biggest problems with any CRM implementation is low user adoption.  So if you’re facing high renewal costs – that actually good news!  And what would rolling to a lower cost solution look like?  Pretty simple actually, it’s not like client/server days.  Rolling a new web application out is as simple as sending a URL.  And rolling an outlook-integrated client is a pretty simple effort if that’s your preference.  Everyone needs to use email after all.  You’ll also be surprised at how quickly your users will adapt to a new tool – again, the best CRM products are very similar.

Reporting and Integration

You may have also spent quite a bit of time with reporting and integration.  These things are obviously extremely important to successful adoption.  So it might seem like a mountain of work – but think about where you spent a good deal of your time.  Data field identification and mapping.  If you’ve got a good set of requirements, start with that document, add another column to your mapping tables (and make sure you don’t change your requirements).  You can start right with implementation.

If the TCO for that very popular hosted CRM package has got you reeling, why not look at other options?  It’s not going to be any less expensive next year.  Now you know what it takes to make CRM successful.  You can leverage the good work you recently completed to get yourself on a more affordable platform.  Focus on configuration, data, adoption, reporting, and integration when planning your re-platform.  There’s no need to start from square one.  Next year at renewal time, you’ll be in a whole lot better situation.

Of course, it would have been nice to do a complete TCO analysis in the first place.  But that effort probably didn’t make your budget last year. J

Recession proof approach to managing IT spending

InfoWorld is listing five outside-the-box ways to cut IT costs, a topic which is sure to resonate in this week’s economic climate. While the recommendations make sense, their approach perpetuates an outdated and problematic relationship between the CFO and IT. Instead of focusing on across the board budget cuts, placing IT on a level playing field with other business functional areas, it might make more sense to look hard for savings opportunities within the core business functions and evaluate the total costs of operations for finance, HR, Marketing, etc. IT capital expenditures and support costs would be modeled into the total cost of ownership.

We’ve seen this TCO analysis work well for our private equity clients, who have varying tolerances for capital expenses versus ongoing costs, so we typically provide them with a month by month CAPEX projection for the transition period, and an estimated monthly operating cost model that includes IT, BPO monthly fees, and FTE costs for running a particular segment of the business.

When business decisions are made within the framework described above, strong leadership is required to align competing stakeholder needs. Instead of IT project teams, we pull together business transformation teams that serve up the necessary information (costs, risks, organization impact, business process impact, regulatory concerns, etc.) so that major business initiatives can be evaluated from multiple perspectives:

Business Architecture perspective: How does the proposed project impact the organization structure and the business processes? This perspective is owned and represented by the COO and the executive leadership of the affected business functions (e.g., HR, Marketing, Sales, Product Development)

IT Architecture perspective: What are the impacts on our enterprise IT architecture and its interfaces with third parties? This perspective is owned and represented by the CIO.

Financial perspective: What are the CAPEX and ongoing costs? What is the estimated impact on revenue? This perspective is owned and represented by the CFO.

A project execution framework should allow for multiple checkpoints for these key stakeholders to approve the scope and direction of the project over the course of its full lifecycle.  The approach makes sense for any business, but within the private equity portfolio, it can be the key to driving asset value in ways that pure financial engineering approaches are unlikely to attain.