This article was edited on 17th June 2011 to update some of the graphics used.
This article has its origin in a recent presentation I gave as part of an eSummit for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific (http://www.sagesummit.com.au/) that took place in 2009. My focus is usually purely on communicating the technical aspects of Sage CRM but all of us are having to think more and more about the economic advantages that CRM can bring a business. As you are very well aware we are in a recession that has happened faster and gone deeper than any company has had to face before. It is instinctive to want to just cutback. But we can't just cut costs; we have to strive harder than ever to build the top line. This is something has been expressed very well in a recent whitepaper that Sage published called "CRM in a downturn". Nevertheless as we reduce our costs we are forced to try and do more and more with less, and so we need to be focused on productivity.
Sage CRM as a fully featured CRM system is an ideal tool for a renewed focus on productivity. Sage CRM provides business functions such as opportunity management, customer service, marketing automation, territory assignment, customer self-service, and business workflow.
But investing in Sage CRM is no different than any other business management software investment. It is reasonable to expect quick and measurable returns on your investment. The costs involved in the deployment of a CRM system can be of many different types; these costs can be the absolute monetary cost of licenses, new equipment and infrastructure, the staff costs and effort that it takes in adopting the system.
Sage has created resources that can assist partners quantify the return on investment that Sage CRM provides their customers. These tools can be downloaded from the Resources section of this website. See http://community.sagecrm.com/partner_community/m/business_partner_sales_tools/default.aspx
From a technical perspective, one of the most important aspects that will determine how Sage CRM can save you money is its underlying architecture. It has well-designed application architecture that will accommodate future growth and allow you to adapt to business changes without affecting its performance or requiring an exhaustive re-implementation. Sage CRM’s customizability, adaptability, portability, scalability and extensibility are all functions of its architecture and goes along way to save an organization money.
But so what if Sage CRM has a well designed architecture? How is that going to help anyone save money? Actually, I think that everything springs from the architecture and system design so when we view Sage CRM projects from a productivity standpoint we will see the architecture gives those projects cost saving options both in their initial adoption phase, and when customization initiatives are launched for existing CRM systems. I want to look at the implications of both types of projects; from their initial adoption and their later stage optimization and customization.
It is possible to save money at Initial Adoption?
I said earlier that Sage CRM was easy to deploy but of course deploying or implementing Sage CRM will always require a budget. However there are a number of factors which make the expense more palatable both immediately and in the long run and apply specifically to the difficult economic environment.
The first of these factors is that freedom that customers have in deploying Sage CRM. You can choose whether to opt for an on premise implementation on your own servers and infrastructure, or you can opt for the on-demand version of sagecrm.com.
The On-demand, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version, of Sage CRM represents an attractive proposition for companies that want ease-of-deployment, ease-of-ongoing-administration and a predictable monthly cost. It is particularly compelling for companies investing in CRM for the first time, or for businesses looking for out-of-the-box business process automation. Sagecrm.com provides all of the base features of CRM: sales automation, customer service; marketing; workflow and offers good code free customization capabilities.
So if a customer chose sagecrm.com they could reduce upfront costs as they would only pay access fees on a monthly basis rather than having to acquire the CRM software and supporting infrastructure. The hosted version of sagecrm.com makes new CRM projects less of a capital investment and more of an incremental increase in expenses. This has the related benefit of saving a company from securing financing for a CRM project, which could be more difficult during a recession. In addition to saving a company investment in software and hardware the hosted version of Sage CRM will require less internal tech support.
It is important to note that on-demand, however, is not for everyone and choosing between on-demand and on-premise requires careful consideration. You should focus on your business requirements; both in terms of scale and complexity, over the long term.
The Sage team have written about the main points to consider when deciding whether to go with an on-demand CRM system. See https://www.sagecrm.com/ondemand/DeploymentChoice.asp.
A key fact to point out is that sagecrm.com and the on-premise Sage CRM share the same codebase and database structure so the architecture provides the flexibility to move from one model to the other in the future.
This common architecture means there is no technical lock-in with SageCRM.com. The database for both the on-premise and the hosted version is in a clear well structured relational form. If at a later stage a customer wants to move from the on-demand version of Sage CRM to an on-premise implementation then the database can be provided and assuming the database for the new install is SQL Server then only a few scripts need to be run before the customer can start to use the system on their own server.
Current versus Named User Licensing
Technically Sage CRM supports both Concurrent and Named Users. But please note both licensing model may not be available in every region, you will need to speak with your local Sage team.
Named Users or per seat licensing is based on the number of users who have access to the software. For example, a thirty user license based on users means that up to thirty specifically named users have access to the program.
Concurrent licensing is based on the number of simultaneous users accessing Sage CRM. For example, in a thirty-user concurrent user license, after thirty users are logged on to the program, the thirty-first user is prohibited. When any one of the previous thirty log out, the next person can log in.
The support for both models of licensing means that a customer can choose the most cost effective way of using Sage CRM based on their employee shift and work patterns.
Sage CRM will save you money through easy administration and zero-code customization
Sage CRM provides easy to use customization tools, so companies can adapt the application to existing and future needs. The internal administration screens of Sage CRM make integration, modification and customized implementations easy and cost-effective. Trained users can make frequent and significant functionality changes and additions as their business needs dictate, all without an expensive reimplementation. All the customization is made through the web interface and stored in a centrally located metadata database
Any changes to the applications, such as the addition of fields or user interface enhancements, are delivered “on the fly” the next time the user connects to Sage CRM, essentially eliminating roll-out time associated with providing additional features or enhancements.
Metadata is data about the CRM system. It describes the structure and meaning of the system screens, fields, security etc.
I have written about Meta Data before and a good starting article to learn more is “How does Meta Data create a Screen”.
All administration features of CRM are just products of changing the values of meta data. You would need a well trained and competent system administrator for Sage CRM. But you do not need to call in a programmer every time you just want to rearrange the fields on a screen or add a new column to a list.
But What about Needing to Code?
It is true that when you need to add further tables and custom features to Sage CRM then you will need to code.
Most organizations have the potential to find new ways to utilize CRM capabilities simply because the business environment is changing so fast. Sales and service departments may want to pioneer new uses of Sage CRM with customers and prospects, and other departments will find ways of using CRM information to better manage their areas. Once Sage CRM has been implemented there will be a continual effort to identify and implement new applications of the system. You may want to extend Sage CRM to cover new business areas such as integration with HR and resource planning software or project management. The promised reward for adding new capabilities into Sage CRM is greater productivity, which in a recession means the ability to do more with less.
But can Sage CRM do this? The answer is a very loud yes. Sage CRM has a powerful collection of APIs and SDKs that allow you to build application extensions in the way that you want.
Sage CRM supports development using COM, .NET and web services. There are wizards that allow the rapid creation of new entities within the system and the automatic creation of pages to support those new entities.
The wizard is shown in the screen shot below.
The wizard above is being used to add a new entity called Project into Sage CRM.
The wizard will take us so far. And once the wizard has done its work we can then edit the code in the way that we want.
Developers can choose to code in a wide range of languages including Jscript, VBscript, C#, J# or any other language like PHP that can formulate web service requests.
The range of coding options and the easy to use SDKs mean that development can be swift without the need for developers to learn a proprietary language. The key feature that allows the ease of development is that most of the work is done through the use of meta data.
The meta data defines the entity fields, screens and the security rights and navigation menus, and all the developer has to do is decide how to use the meta data using the API objects.
A Simple to Use System will save you money.
If staff lack confidence in using a system then it will waste your money. Through ignorance they will make more errors and they will require greater support from their supervisors and your IT team. Work rates can be artificially slowed when you what you need is an increase in productivity. Sage CRM has many features that allow ease of use from the day of installation.
Sage CRM has embedded coaching captions that explain the screens and system actions to the use.
And it has inbuilt training videos that provide an overview of the feature to the users
and it has full contextual help.
And as the system grows these features can be edited to include details of the new fields, features and customizations that you add.
But we can also capture the best practice of our employees and embed that into the system. We can build workflows that ensure that everyone follows the winning formula when selling or when providing help to a customer.
These workflows are built in the system using graphical drag and drop techniques. Workflow can be defined for out-of-the-box entities like company, leads, cases, and opportunities and also custom entities like the project entity that I added earlier using the wizard.
There are many articles on this site that discuss the creation of workflow in Sage CRM and development partners can download the recorded training lessons on this site that discuss the creation of workflow within CRM.
Through the use of scripts and procedural prompts, a CRM system can speed the learning curve for service and even some sales functions. This allows you to get the best out of your employees.
Here in this screen you can see the definition of a part of a marketing campaign; this is the definition of an outbound call action and it will build a call list including scripts for the telesales team to use.
Once the call has been defined the users are scheduled to make the calls. The scripts and the questionnaires guide them, making sure that they get as much out of the customer interaction as possible. And wherever and whenever data is captured within Sage CRM it is captured for all the teams and users to access.
Sage CRM's ability to integration with other systems will save you money by cutting out unnecessary work.
Scattered through an organization can be separate systems that each contain their own silos of information. These will be front office systems such as sales persons contact lists, records of customer enquiries, the service roster for customer equipment, etc. Then there is the question of the back office systems, the accounting and human resources systems.
Sage CRM can reduce duplicative systems and processes. Taking a total organization approach to a Sage CRM implementation can often result in the consolidation of tracking systems for client information and/or the automation of manual processes. Across the whole organization this can directly reduce the cost of software investments, system support, and employee time.
Sage CRM can improve communication and collaboration among departments. Order fulfillment, inventory management, and even back-office staffing decisions can be handled more efficiently if a CRM system is used to give operational areas of the firm a window into the current sales pipeline.
We can also save money if we shorten the process through which customer interactions take place. For example we can integrate the Self Service features of Sage CRM with a corporate website to allow sales enquiries or support requests to enter directly into the workflow. We can allow the customers themselves to drive much of the transactions.
Front-to-back office integration also provides for significant time and cost savings through process automation; reducing, or removing the need to re-key and re-verify information as it passes from one system to the next. Examples of these “straight through” processes include: (a) generating a quotation in Sage CRM based on pricing contained in the ERP application or (b) populating an order directly into the back office system through CRM workflow.
Not only would integration save time and money but it also allow new functions to be carried out.
I have discussed the ideas of integration Sage CRM with out systems in the article “Integration with External Systems and the Synchronization of Application Data”
As you can see from the alerts on the page in the screen shot above Sage CRM has mechanisms to escalate issues. You can use the simple-to-define notifications to save money by spotting problems early, so they can be corrected and sales and service processes can be kept on track.
Sage CRM has many tools to allow us to monitor whether staff efforts are being effective. For example, prospect aging reports can identify cases that are dragging on and might need special intervention.
You can find out more about the definition of escalations and notifications in this article about Escalation Rules
When a case or an opportunity is worked on by a user, Sage CRM keeps track of the data changes. It records who did what when and if it is stored in the database then of course we can report on that. Sharing reports can help make sure sales and service employees are giving a consistent effort. Ultimately each sales and service representative must be held accountable for keeping activity levels up. A Sage CRM can provide this reporting and make it transparent so employees know what standards they must meet.
This reporting includes sales forecasting and the analysis of the effectiveness of individual marketing actions and campaigns. And those reports can be then embedded in the User Dashboards.
The reporting capabilities of Sage CRM allow you to be steered toward the most profitable customer types. By using a Sage CRM to correlate customer and accounting information, your organization can develop a profile of the most desirable client types, and direct your sales and marketing efforts accordingly. So you can say therefore that Sage CRM can help you save Money by allowing you to follow the money.
But whether you are an old or new customer we are faced with a current economic environment that makes it is more important than ever that we look at ways in which we can use Sage CRM to become more effective in our customer interactions and more efficient in our use of resources.
It is not just our own organizations that are under pressure but our customers are in the same situation as us. They want hassle free transactions and clear and easy communication with their suppliers; Customer experience will be the key differentiator. Sage CRM will allow you to put clear blue water between you and your competitors.
In the image above you can see a self service screen that allows an authorized customer to place customer support request directly into the workflow.
Although customer relationship management (CRM) systems are already established in many organizations, there are likely few organizations that could not get greater use out of those systems. A recession may be an ideal time to explore new ways of using CRM software to increase organizational productivity. The self service capabilities extend to automated email interaction using Sage CRM's advanced mail manager which can handle inbound emails logging communications in the database and assigning work within Sage CRM.
Sage CRM has a flexible web architecture and implementation options that allow you to make the most out of your budget.
Sage CRM can save you money by allowing you to make the most of your existing implementation budget while not restricting your future decisions
Sage CRM offers you the ability to choose the licensing model that your business needs
Sage CRM provides easy customization and advanced configuration which doesn't require expensive programmers
Sage CRM's powerful API and SDK options make the most of the meta data idea so that went you do call in the programmers to extend the system,development will be quick and easy.
Sage CRM has inbuilt educational features that coach and prompt the user providing them with greater confidence in the system, reducing errors and reducing the likelihood of user rejection.
Sage CRM allows you to define workflows that capture best practice and standardises this across your teams, reducing errors and improving the effectiveness of procedures
Sage CRM offers powerful integration capabilities that can break down barriers in the organization and allow productivity gains to be made and new discoveries to be made about your customers and your own performance
Sage CRM provides system alerts, escalations and reports that can provide an early warning when work is going off track. Prompt corrective action allows you to save money by not losing business
Sage CRM gets you closer to the customer through the self service web and email interfaces allow direct interaction with the CRM data. This can reduce your overheads and can provide the customer with a more personal level of interaction.
It is Sage CRM's simple, elegant and well designed technical architecture that allows you to make particular cost savings.
But I think the final ingredient of the 'secret sauce' is that Sage CRM is backed by a very large network of experienced business partners. The men and women in these organizations have together between them hundreds of years of domain experience. They can provide the expertise in each industry vertical and organizational type. So whether you are in "business to business" or "business to consumer", in manufacturing, services or you require a membership system, if you need help to understand how Sage CRM fits into your business then our partners have the skills to explain the best options for you.
To learn more about the techical topics I have mentioned in this article you can use the keyword list at the bottom of page. Follow the link to find more articles that discuss that topic.