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The cost conundrum

At one end of the CRM spectrum, small, simple implementations can now be very easy to understand from a price and commercial perspective. If you have a few users in a small organisation, you can go onto the websites of salesforce, Microsoft, Zoho or whichever product you’re interested in and very quickly find a list price, generally shown as per user per month.

This is a fantastic simplification over the days when you’d have to price in a server, various licenses for server operating systems, databases etc., and come to a bespoke agreement over a support arrangement.

However, things are never quite as simple as they first appear. There are now a plethora of licensing models, different “editions” or versions of solution, and a minefield of add-on components which incur additional cost. Some of these are relatively easy to understand, but difficult to get a clear view of cost on at the beginning – for example, how much disc space will be required in a year’s time? (top tip – don’t assume the disc space used to store data in a CRM solution is the same as it would be on your laptop – there are audit logs, additional metadata, and a host of other complexity that means it’s a bit of an art form to estimate).

If those are the things that are easy to understand, the hundreds of sessions we have with clients discussing the price lists of the major CRM products has proven that working out what Solutions, Apps, Editions, Components or “Success Plans” you need is anything but straightforward. If you’ve already bought a base product and got an implementation partner, they can probably help, but if you’re at the start of a CRM journey or looking to migrate from an existing system, understanding all the variants across a range of CRM products really does take deep experience. Over the last few years this only seems to be getting harder, as product vendors’ marketing departments try and out-do each other by matching functionality and options.

Once you’ve understood all the complexity of the core CRM tools, with a straightforward implementation you’re probably nearly there. Just decide what support and maintenance contract you need – and be wary that you can get any cost-effective support for your size of implementation, and that the provider is sufficiently knowledgeable. Cantata provides “unlimited” support, our clients prefer this to the pay-as-you-go options which leave users with unexpected bills when things go wrong.

For more complex implementations, with perhaps more advanced reporting, or integration requirements, the complexity of pricing has only just begun. Should you look at hybrid cloud storage options to reduce costs? (data storage costs can be prohibitive in CRM systems). Do you need to run complex reports that can’t be catered for within the “out of box” tools provided by your CRM system – and at least consider different options to what can be very expensive recommended Business Intelligence tools from the vendors. Do you need to add functionality that requires code to be developed, and if so, where should that sit? Will you need additional cloud-based infrastructure, and if so, could you save budget with containerised solutions or dedicated servers for content management, etc.?

All of these are problems that can be readily addressed, and are issues that we work with every day. Being forewarned at the start of your implementation or migration can save cost, reduce risk, and often open up options that may not have been considered – some of which can be transformative to the success of your CRM initiative. It seems that the more developed CRM systems have become, and the more “online” and available they are, the more important it is to really understand what you’re going to encounter on your CRM journey.

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.