Nine Best Practices For Avoiding The Pitfalls Of CRM "Cloud" Solutions

Enterprises of all sizes like the low upfront costs, usability, flexibility, and time-to-value of CRM software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. Solutions I see enjoying increasing popularity include salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, and Oracle’s cloud CRM products: Oracle CRM On Demand and RightNow (now called Oracle RightNow CX Cloud Service). The Sage CRM products for the medium-size organization market (Sage SalesLogix and Sage CRM) have been also retooled to include “on-demand” options and SugarCRM is also available in variety of on-demand deployment configurations.

There are many advantages to moving your CRM solution to “the cloud.” But follow these best practices to avoid the pitfalls that can trip you up:

  1. Dig deep to understand total costs. Understanding the true cost of a SaaS solution is important. The cost elements are software license fees, internal labor implementation costs, professional services fees, and user training costs. Additional SaaS cost drivers include fees for extra features like mobile and offline access, industry-specific functionality, storage capacity beyond a preset limit, and premium help desk support.
  2. Spotlight the risks. Vet your CRM vendor carefully to make sure it will be around for the long term, and be sure that you have contract provisions that protect your company if the vendor is acquired or goes out of business. Additional risks for SaaS solutions include loss of control, weaker integration, limited virtualization, and more restricted customization capabilities compared with on-premises solutions. Buyers also worry about physical and data security.
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The Revival Of Digital Asset Management

 

This is a guest post from Anjali Yakkundi, a Researcher at Forrester Research. It originally appeared on destinationCRM
 
By now, everyone knows that engaging and dynamic customer experiences are a key competitive advantage, and “business as usual” will no longer suffice to support these engaging digital experiences. Organizations that don’t embrace this customer-focused thinking will risk missing out on important opportunities and will lose strategic advantages.
 
From a technology standpoint, the key to success will be integrated, best-of-breed customer experience management (CXM) solutions. This includes technologies such as Web content management (WCM), CRM, eCommerce, digital asset management (DAM), site search, and Web analytics.
 
We recently completed an evaluation of the DAM market. DAM is a key process-based solution that focuses on managing rich media content (e.g., videos, images, graphics, and audio). Despite the well-documented importance of rich media in cross-channel customer experiences (consider the amount of video and images on the Web or in marketing content now versus just five years ago), DAM solutions have long been overshadowed by other CXM technologies. These solutions have traditionally been relegated to niche, rich-media-heavy industries such as media, publishing, and entertainment. But as more and more organizations understand the importance of a cross-channel rich-media strategy to improve customer experiences, DAM for customer experience is experiencing a revival in interest across verticals.
 
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Canonical Information Models Play Important Role In API Layers, Increasing Service Reuse

I attended the third annual Canonical Model Management Forum, May 14-15, 2012, hosted by DigitalML at the hip Washington Plaza Hotel again this year. I saw even more signs than last year that canonical models are key to API layers that many firms are building to promote integration. But first, let me share some data from Forrester’s last survey on canonical modeling adoption that I presented at the forum:

As our data shows, this practice is becoming increasingly widespread in firms publishing services that deliver information. Some of the trends I highlighted in last year’s forum post are even more evident this year, such as canonical models’ increasing use in data access layers, as I depicted with this slide:

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What Is A Collaborative Content Hub For Customer Service?

Knowledge management for customer service has always been a difficult proposition. It’s not that knowledge management fails to work; it does its job well, as proven by the numerous case studies that show real ROI, as well as the maturity of vendor solutions. The historical difficulty with knowledge management is that many buyers and users don’t understand the difference between knowledge management and content management — and typically view knowledge management as a heavyweight solution that’s laborious to use.

Perhaps it’s time to lose the too loaded term knowledge management and focus on what it is that customer service agents need to do their job — to answer customer questions in a complete, accurate, and reproducible way. They need access to up-to-date content that is aligned with customer demand and which is created in a collaborative way. This content must also be available to call center agents, as well as agents dedicated to the email, chat, and social communication channels. A subset of this content must also be available to customers via a web self-service site. All these requirements translate into a collaborative content hub.

Here are the main capabilities that make up a collaborative content hub:

  • Easy content capture. You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction) and effortlessly kick it off to be included in your collaborative content hub.
  • Democracy. Everyone within an organization (and customers as well) should be able to recommend information to be included in the content hub.
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SAP Restocks Its Cloud-Zoo With Ariba

SAP Turns To Acquisitions For Cloud Innovations

Just three months after SAP acquired SuccessFactors, a cloud leader for human capital management solutions, for $3.4 billion, it has now announced the acquisition of Ariba, a cloud leader for eProcurement solutions, for another $4.3 billion. Now, $7.7 billion is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time on two companies that hardly make any profit. But it’s all for the cloud, which means it’s for the future business opportunity in cloud computing services. So far, so good; SAP has invested and acquired quite a number of cloud companies over the past years: Frictionless, Clear Standards, Crossgate, etc. The difference in this most recent acquisition is the big overlap with existing solutions and internal R&D.

Following the first wave of cloud acquisitions, SAP was sitting amid a zoo of cloud solutions, all based on different platforms: ePurchasing, CRM-OnDemand, BI-OnDemand, Carbon Impact, ByDesign, Streamwork . . . They all used very different technology, resulting in big integration and scale challenges behind the scenes. The market welcomed with open arms SAP’s announcement 1.5 years ago that it would consolidate its cloud strategy on the new NetWeaver platform for both ABAP- and Java-based cloud solutions.

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Big Data Tragedy

Cloud Inefficiency - Bad Habits Are Hard To Break

We all have habits we would like to (and should) break such as leaving the lights on in rooms we are no longer in and good habits we want to encourage such as recycling plastic bottles and driving our cars more efficiently. We often don't because habits are hard to change and often the impact isn't immediate or all that meaningful to us. The same has long been true in IT. But keep up these bad habits in the cloud, and it will cost you - sometimes a lot.

As developers, we often ask for more resources from the infrastructure & operations (I&O) teams than we really need so we don't have to go back later and ask for more - too painful and time consuming. We also often don't know how many resources our code might need, so we might as well take as much as we can get. But do we ever give it back when we learn it is more than we need? 

On the other hand, I&O often isn't any better. The first rule we learned about capacity planning was that it's more expensive to underestimate resource needs and be wrong than to overestimate, and we always seem to consume more resources eventually. 

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Digital Customer Experiences: The Next Frontier For AD&D Pros

 

Forrester analysts Stephen Powers, Ron Rogowski, and I collaborated on this research.

Digital customer experience has become a key business differentiator, and application development and delivery (AD&D) leaders of front-office, web, mobile, and digital development must step up to support their firm's initiatives. A broad focus on digital customer experiences carries great risks for your firm: too much experimentation for not enough return; too much duplication and waste; and too little use of data to drive and measure business results. To overcome these risks, marketing, eBusiness, and AD&D pros must collaborate on a comprehensive strategy. Today, AD&D pros rarely help lead their firms' digital experience efforts; interactive marketing pros call the shots. Worse, interactive marketing pros see AD&D pros as obstacles to great results. To partner with marketing and business leaders in digital customer experience strategy, AD&D pros must transform their organizations, platforms, and processes. This research describes this opportunity for AD&D — and how to create an AD&D digital customer experience strategy that supports marketing and business counterparts, from vision to implementation to ongoing optimization.

Most firms still don't treat the design, creation, and execution of digital customer experiences as strategic but rather as a special category of marketing-led projects. Digital customer experience practices require a set of competencies that take tactical projects to the next level — requiring leaders of software development, web development and architecture, solution architecture, front-office applications, and project management offices (PMOs) to take on new obligations.

Even leading-edge consumer-brand companies struggle to get the full measure of benefits that a focus on the quality of digital experiences can provide:

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Application Development In The Cloud: Let’s Go Deep

 

Developers are driving cloud computing in new directions and toward deeper enterprise adoption. We see a new pragmatism in our research: Developers favoring collections of cloud-based application services rather than the comprehensive platforms labeled “PaaS.” Growing use of development services attached to SaaS offerings to speed delivery. And developers using cloud environments to respond to the opportunity of mobile apps.

We also see contradictions in our research. Why, for instance, do so many developers demand control of thread and memory management when cloud platforms can shield them from those details?

If we understand where developers are taking cloud computing, we’ll be able to plot better strategies to use cloud for the flexible and efficient application delivery business leaders expect. We talk with many hundreds of developers working in cloud computing environments every year, and so we’ve got a great view of the market. But it is time for us all to gain an even deeper understanding because things are changing.

So we’re reaching out to developers for the industry’s most comprehensive survey on cloud application development. We’ve put together a set of questions that will yield a clear picture of application development in the cloud today – the good, the bad, the ugly, the elegant. Which cloud environments developers use, and why. What kinds of applications they are delivering using cloud, and why. Which languages and application services they prefer, and why. How much code and which kinds of data they host in clouds, and why.

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Evaluating Cisco's Collaboration Strategy

Through a combination of analyst briefings and customer events, Cisco has ramped up outbound communication and marketing of its collaboration strategy in Asia Pacific over the past several months. The foundation remains video (TelePresence), webconferencing (WebEx), and IP telephony, areas where Cisco is a leader. But Cisco understands that to drive growth and expand its customer footprint within enterprise accounts, it must move further up the stack and increasingly compete with both traditional collaboration vendors like Microsoft and IBM and cloud-based alternatives like Google and salesforce.com.

While the strategy still plays to the company’s core networking strength, I question whether Cisco can position itself as a “go-to” vendor in the traditional collaboration space. As our research shows, senior IT and business decision-makers in Asia Pacific don’t currently equate Cisco with collaboration.

To address this challenge, Cisco is pursuing multiple initiatives/approaches:

  • Leveraging its core strengths. Cisco is focused on expanding from existing unified communications (UC) initiatives within customer accounts by leveraging the combination of networking and video to drive value. Cisco is pushing “control” via intelligent networking capabilities (e.g., security, identity management, authentication, access), all delivered through Cisco networking hardware. Simultaneously, Cisco is pushing “flexibility” via device- and platform-independent collaboration capabilities like content, video, instant messaging, and social computing.
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