4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering CRM Software

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Whenever there is question about going forward with a new enterprise-wide application, I believe there are a few critical questions that have to be well thought out and answered in order to make the decision on whether or not to proceed. My questions come from each of the roles I perform at my job. The questions are:
1. As an Operations Manager, I want to know if this is going to make the company more efficient, NOT just another application that our end-users have to add to their toolbox.  We all know that the heavier that toolbox gets, the less likely we are to use the right tools.  I also want to know if this application provides a meaningful way for me to look at the data in our system and provide useful reports which we can use to increase our productivity.

2. As an IT Administrator, I want to know if the application plays well and coexists with my other server room applications, and if there are any integration points to our other applications.

3. As an end-user, I want to know if the application makes my work easier, or if this is just another vehicle for me to enter information to so that whomever on the other end can generate more reports.

4. And as a New Yorker, I want to know what’s in it for me?

Ever since we have been working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 1.0, the answers to the above questions have signaled to me that it is an application that we need to be using. With the current version 4.0, (and the upcoming CRM 2011), the answers are even more positive.  Dynamics CRM has allowed our Sales team to share information more easily; Sales Managers can see the pipeline more clearly; Support folks can be more responsive and Customer Service professionals have the right tools to keep a client’s many touch-points in order.  In order of the questions asked, Dynamics CRM has the following to offer:

1. As an Operations Manager, I feel comfortable asking users to make Dynamics CRM a part of the end-user process. It is easy to use since it is web-based and embedded within Outlook, and can be accessed inside our network and via the web.  The interface is very intuitive and user-friendly and does not overburden the user with too many fields or windows.  We are able to use the application toolset easily to customize screens, fields, and reports.  And - this is especially important to my job - we are able to collect information and report on it in a meaningful way. This gives us good tools to work with when reviewing past performance, evaluating current situations, and planning for the future.

2. As an IT Administrator, I am happy to see that Dynamics CRM takes advantage of the Microsoft stack and is easy to maintain on our Windows Servers and SQL Server. Active Directory integration means we don’t have to maintain separate users and since the application is a very popular one for Microsoft, support, when needed, is easy to come by. The useful third-party applications we found were installed easily, and integrations to other back-office apps are easy to create.  Backup and maintenance are simple enough, using both the application toolset and the SQL Server tools.  And once installed, the end-user experience is one that requires little IT involvement since users can create their own workflows, configure their own user preferences and have so many access options.

3. As an end-user, I appreciate that Dynamics CRM is easy to use with the same functionality whether I’m accessing it via the web, from my Outlook toolbar, and from either in or outside of the company network.  It’s much easier to keep and share information in CRM than in Outlook alone, where I have to dig through past emails to forward information to those who need it besides me. The fact that I can create my own workflows and create and save advanced searches enables me to automate my common tasks without needing an administrator’s assistance.

4. As a New Yorker, I always want to know how everything is going to affect me personally.  Since we’ve been using Dynamics CRM, I no longer have to ask other users, such as Account Executives, what a client’s contact information is. I don’t have to ask our client support people for access to another system to view cases that I need to know about, and I don’t need to ask IT for different access instructions or logins.  In other words, Dynamics CRM has made my job here easier, not harder.

Dynamics CRM also can be exposed through a number of other applications, such as SharePoint and SQL Reporting Services, which makes it even more useful.  Of all our company-critical applications, Dynamics CRM has become one of our top most useful and usable mainstays.                                                                                                                                

By Scot Bobo, Operations Manager at InterDyn AKA, New York City’s Leading Microsoft Dynamics Partner

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