Friday, December 01, 2006

Building a Complete List of CRM Selection Criteria (or, Learning to Love Vendor White Papers)

Yesterday’s entry about Sage Software’s paper “17 Rules of the Road for CRM” may have given an overly positive impression. In stating that the points in the paper were all valid, I didn’t mean that the paper itself is a fair treatment of the subject. There are other, equally valid points that the paper leaves out.

What are these points? Let's invert Sage’s own approach, which was to highlight the weaknesses of its competitors. Start with a list of the competitors’ strengths.

- point solutions: low cost, fitness to task (either doing one thing simply or providing deep, sophisticated functionality), vertical specialization by industry or business function, and vendor expertise.

- enterprise software: inherent integration (shared data, technology and process flows), sophisticated functionality, vertical versions, customizability, and vendor size (which translates into greater resources, financial stability, and a large base of people familiar with the product).

- hosted systems: quick deployment, low initial investment, easy remote access via the Web, and little burden on in-house technical staff.

It’s easy enough to formulate these advantages as “rules” similar to those in the Sage white paper. Indeed, if you look at white papers from vendors in any of those categories, you’ll see that’s exactly what they do.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Cost, deployment time, integration, functionality, customizability, vertical adaptations, specialized expertise, remote access, technical burden and vendor stability are all important considerations in making a selection. My only point here is that you can’t expect to find them all in any one vendor’s white paper, because each vendor will pick only the points that play to its advantage.

On the other hand, if you collate papers from a variety of vendors, you can assemble a pretty complete set. It's just like Pokemon cards: collect them all!

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