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Best of breed or all in one?

Early Customer Relationship Management solutions used to be integrated into a complex ecosystem of other vendors’ products. As the market leading solutions grow their offering through development and acquisition, can one vendor solve all your challenges?

As part of our CRM consultancy services, Cantata spends a significant amount of time understanding, and explaining to our customers, the wide and complex offerings from the major CRM vendors. Recent acquisitions, and a competitive market where vendors strive to match and exceed each other’s product offerings, have meant the scope of functionality in the Customer Relationship Management market has exploded.

The likes of salesforce.com and Microsoft now offer rich CRM solutions encompassing everything from complex reporting to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning options – often at significant cost. Meanwhile, newer entrants such as HubSpot are providing CRM capabilities in their own right, having developed from specific areas such as digital marketing. The promise is of fully integrated, seamless experiences – the reality often involves substantial trade offs and compromises. Additional capabilities gained through acquisitions of third party software vendors often take a while to integrate successfully, and there may well be complex considerations about whether the versions of software that are compatible. Integration of ERP capabilities to CRM is a good example –determining which versions of ERP solutions fit well with different CRM versions is a significant undertaking. On several occasions we have had clients who assumed, for example, that Microsoft ERP solutions would integrate with their Microsoft CRM tools, before realising there are a wide range of different versions, deployment options and integration approaches. This hasn’t been helped by those ERP solutions being sourced from different acquired vendors, with different development paths over the years.

The race to provide offerings for all needs can also provide gaps in capabilities, which may only become obvious during implementation; there are deficiencies in some of the integrated marketing capabilities within CRM solutions, for example, and we often recommend integration to third party digital marketing solutions to ensure scalable solutions with the tools and analytics capabilities marketeers expect. In some cases, such third party tools have extremely comprehensive, and well proven integration to the core CRM platforms, but as ever implementation experience of the different options is vital.

Review of capabilities needs to extend to future-proofing of the solutions, through ensuring a flexible, configurable platform. Webinars demonstrating glossy front end functionality rarely include a detailed view of how the system will be used and developed going forward.

Pricing is also a complex consideration. Where once, a license fee (perhaps divided into full functionality or a “read only” capability) would offer all the functionality available, pricing of the more capable CRM solutions is now most often split into different “apps” or functional capabilities, and there are often costly additions to meet needs across the areas.

Where “best of breed” solutions often were more complex to integrate and costly, there may be options to ease the integration challenge, and reason to question preconceptions around pricing. For the potential purchaser of a complex CRM environment, though, it has only got more complex to understand the broad range of options available, and how they work together. This may account for the significant increase in demand that Cantata has seen for independent advice around CRM solution selection and design.

Cantata is the UK’s leading independent CRM consultancy. If you are interested in continuing a discussion on this topic, or would like to be added to our mailing list for exclusive access to Cantata’s CRM research and thought leadership pieces, please contact us.