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Customer Relationship Management Platform Selection Guide

Speed up the process to build your business case and select your CRM solution.

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) suites are an indispensable part of a holistic strategy for managing end-to-end customer interactions.
  • After defining an approach to CRM, selection and implementation of the right CRM suite is a critical step in delivering concrete business value for marketing, sales, and customer service.
  • Despite the importance of CRM selection and implementation, many organizations struggle to define an approach to picking the right vendor and rolling out the solution in an effective and cost-efficient manner.
  • IT often finds itself in the unenviable position of taking the fall for CRM platforms that don't deliver on the promise of the CRM strategy.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • IT needs to be a trusted partner in CRM selection and implementation, but the business also needs to own the requirements and be involved from the beginning.
  • CRM requirements dictate the components of the target CRM architecture, such as deployment model, feature focus, and customization level. Savvy application directors recognize the points in the project where the CRM architecture model necessitates deviations from a "canned" roll-out plan.
  • CRM selection is a multi-step process that involves mapping target capabilities for marketing, sales, and customer service, assigning requirements across functional categories, determining the architecture model to prioritize criteria, and developing a comprehensive RFP that can be scored in a weighted fashion.
  • Companies that succeed with CRM implementation create a detailed roadmap that outlines milestones for configuration, security, points of implementation, data migration, training, and ongoing application maintenance.

Impact and Result

  • A CRM platform that effectively meets the needs of marketing, sales, and customer service and delivers value.
  • Reduced costs during CRM selection.
  • Reduced implementation costs and time frame.
  • Faster time to results after implementation.

Customer Relationship Management Platform Selection Guide Research & Tools

1. Customer Relationship Management Platform Selection Guide – Speed up the process to build your business case and select your CRM solution.

This blueprint will help you build a business case for selecting the right CRM platform, defining key requirements, and conducting a thorough analysis and scan of the ever-evolving CRM market space.

2. CRM Business Case Template – Document the key drivers for selecting a new CRM platform.

Having a sound business case is essential for succeeding with a CRM. This template will allow you to document key drivers and impact, in line with the CRM Platform Selection Guide blueprint.

3. CRM Request for Proposal Template

Create your own request for proposal (RFP) for your customer relationship management (CRM) solution procurement process by customizing the RFP template created by Info-Tech.

4. CRM Suite Evaluation and RFP Scoring Tool

The CRM market has many strong contenders and differentiation may be difficult. Instead of relying solely on reputation, organizations can use this RFP tool to record and objectively compare vendors according to their specific requirements.

5. CRM Vendor Demo Script

Use this template to support your business's evaluation of vendors and their solutions. Provide vendors with scenarios that prompt them to display not only their solution's capabilities, but also how the tool will support your organization's particular needs.

6. CRM Use Case Fit Assessment Tool

Use this tool to help build a CRM strategy for the organization based on the specific use case that matches your organizational needs.


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Customer Relationship Management Platform Selection Guide

Speed up the process to build your business case and select your CRM solution.

Table of Contents

1. Analyst Perspective
2. Executive Summary
3. Blueprint Overview
4. Executive Brief
5. Phase 1: Understand CRM Functionality
6. Phase 2: Build the Business Case and Elicit CRM requirements
7. Phase 3: Discover the CRM Marketspace and Prepare for Implementation
8. Conclusion

Analyst Perspective

A strong CRM platform is paramount to succeeding with customer engagement.

Modern CRM platforms are the workhorses that provide functional capabilities and data curation for customer experience management. The market for CRM platforms has seen an explosion of growth over the last five years, as organizations look to mature their ability to deliver strong capabilities across marketing, sales, and customer service.

IT needs to be a trusted partner in CRM selection and implementation, but the business also needs to own the requirements and be involved from the get-go.

CRM selection must be a multistep process that involves defining target capabilities for marketing, sales, and customer service, prioritizing requirements across functional categories, determining the architecture model for the CRM environment, and developing a comprehensive RFP that can be scored in a weighted fashion.

To succeed with CRM implementation, create a detailed roadmap that outlines milestones for configuration, security, points of implementation, data migration, training, and ongoing application maintenance.

Photo of Ben Dickie, Research Lead, Customer Experience Strategy, Info-Tech Research Group. Ben Dickie
Research Lead, Customer Experience Strategy
Info-Tech Research Group

Executive Summary

Your Challenge

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suites are an indispensable part of a holistic strategy for managing end-to-end customer interactions. Selecting the right platform that aligns with your requirements is a significant undertaking.

After defining an approach to CRM, selection and implementation of the right CRM suite is a critical step in delivering concrete business value for marketing, sales, and customer service.
Common Obstacles

Despite the importance of CRM selection and implementation, many organizations struggle to define an approach to picking the right vendor and rolling out the solution in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

The CRM market is rapidly evolving and changing, making it tricky to stay on top of the space.

IT often finds itself in the unenviable position of taking the fall for CRM platforms that don’t deliver on the promise of the CRM strategy.
Info-Tech’s Approach

CRM platform selection must be driven by your overall customer experience management strategy: link your CRM selection to your organization’s CXM framework.

Determine if you need a CRM platform that skews toward marketing, sales, or customer service; leverage use cases to help guide selection.

Ensure strong points of integration between CRM and other software such as MMS. A CRM should not live in isolation; it must provide a 360-degree view.

Info-Tech Insight

IT must work in lockstep with its counterparts in marketing, sales, and customer service to define a unified vision for the CRM platform.

Info-Tech’s methodology for selecting the right CRM platform

1. Understand CRM Features 2. Build the Business Case & Elicit CRM Requirements 3. Discover the CRM Market Space & Prepare for Implementation
Phase Steps
  1. Define CRM platforms
  2. Classify table stakes & differentiating capabilities
  3. Explore CRM trends
  1. Build the business case
  2. Streamline requirements elicitation for CRM
  3. Construct the RFP
  1. Discover key players in the CRM landscape
  2. Engage the shortlist & select finalist
  3. Prepare for implementation
Phase Outcomes
  • Consensus on scope of CRM and key CRM capabilities
  • CRM selection business case
  • Top-level use cases and requirements
  • Completed CRM RFP
  • CRM market analysis
  • Shortlisted vendor
  • Implementation considerations

Guided Implementation

A Guided Implementation (GI) is a series of calls with an Info-Tech analyst to help implement our best practices in your organization.

The CRM purchase process should be broken into segments:

  1. CRM vendor shortlisting with this buyer’s guide
  2. Structured approach to selection
  3. Contract review

What does a typical GI on this topic look like?

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Call #1: Understand what a CRM platform is and the “art of the possible” for sales, marketing, and customer service. Call #2: Build the business case to select a CRM.

Call #3: Define your key CRM requirements.

Call #4: Build procurement items such as an RFP.
Call #5: Evaluate the CRM solution landscape and shortlist viable options.

Call #6: Review implementation considerations.

Info-Tech offers various levels of support to best suit your needs

DIY Toolkit

Guided Implementation

Workshop

Consulting

"Our team has already made this critical project a priority, and we have the time and capability, but some guidance along the way would be helpful." "Our team knows that we need to fix a process, but we need assistance to determine where to focus. Some check-ins along the way would help keep us on track." "We need to hit the ground running and get this project kicked off immediately. Our team has the ability to take this over once we get a framework and strategy in place." "Our team does not have the time or the knowledge to take this project on. We need assistance through the entirety of this project."

Diagnostics and consistent frameworks used throughout all four options

INFO~TECH RESEARCH GROUP

Customer Relationship Management Platform Selection Guide

Speed up the process to build your business case and select your CRM solution.

EXECUTIVE BRIEF

Info-Tech Research Group Inc. is a global leader in providing IT research and advice. Info-Tech’s products and services combine actionable insight and relevant advice with ready-to-use tools and templates that cover the full spectrum of IT concerns.
© 1997-2022 Info-Tech Research Group Inc.

What exactly is a CRM platform?

Our Definition: A customer relationship management (CRM) platform (or suite) is a core enterprise application that provides a broad feature set for supporting customer interaction processes, typically across marketing, sales and customer service. These suites supplant more basic applications for customer interaction management (such as the contact management module of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform or office productivity suite).

A customer relationship management suite provides many key capabilities, including but not limited to:

  • Account management
  • Order history tracking
  • Pipeline management
  • Case management
  • Campaign management
  • Reports and analytics
  • Customer journey execution

A CRM suite provides a host of native capabilities, but many organizations elect to tightly integrate their CRM solution with other parts of their customer experience ecosystem to provide a 360-degree view of their customers.

Stock image of a finger touching a screen showing a stock chart.

Info-Tech Insight

CRM feature sets are rapidly evolving. Focus on the social component of sales, marketing, and service management features, as well as collaboration, to get the best fit for your requirements. Moreover, consider investing in best-of-breed social media management platforms (SMMPs) and internal collaboration tools to ensure sufficient functionality.

Build a cohesive CRM selection approach that aligns business goals with CRM capabilities.

Info-Tech Insight

Customers expect to interact with organizations through the channels of their choice. Now more than ever, you must enable your organization to provide tailored customer experiences.

Customer expectations are on the rise: meet them!

A CRM platform is a crucial system for enabling good customer experiences.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IS EVOLVING

  1. Thoughtfulness is in
      Connect with customers on a personal level
  2. Service over products
      The experience is more important than the product
  3. Culture is now number one
      Culture is the most overlooked piece of customer experience strategy
  4. Engineering and service finally join forces
      Companies are combining their technology and service efforts to create strong feedback loops
  5. The B2B world is inefficiently served
      B2B needs to step up with more tools and a greater emphasis placed on customer experience

(Source: Forbes, 2019)

Identifying organizational objectives of high priority will assist in breaking down business needs and CRM objectives. This exercise will better align the CRM systems with the overall corporate strategy and achieve buy-in from key stakeholders.

A strong CRM platform supports a range of organizational objectives for customer engagement.

Increase Revenue Enable lead scoring Deploy sales collateral management tools Improve average cost per lead via a marketing automation tool
Enhance Market Share Enhance targeting effectiveness with a CRM Increase social media presence via an SMMP Architect customer intelligence analysis
Improve Customer Satisfaction Reduce time-to-resolution via better routing Increase accessibility to customer service with live chat Improve first contact resolution with customer KB
Increase Customer Retention Use a loyalty management application Improve channel options for existing customers Use customer analytics to drive targeted offers
Create Customer-Centric Culture Ensure strong training and user adoption programs Use CRM to provide 360-degree view of all customer interactions Incorporate the voice of the customer into product development

Succeeding with CRM selection and implementation has a positive effect on driving revenues and decreasing costs

There are three buckets of metrics and KPIs where CRM will drive improvements

The metrics of a smooth CRM selection and implementation process include:

  • Better alignment of CRM functionality to business needs.
  • Better functionality coverage of the selected platform.
  • Decreased licensing costs via better vendor negotiation.
  • Improved end-user satisfaction with the deployed solution.
  • Fewer errors and rework during implementation.
  • Reduced total implementation costs.
  • Reduced total implementation time.

A successful CRM deployment drives revenue

  • Increased customer acquisition due to enhanced accuracy of segmentation and targeting, superior lead qualification, and pipeline management.
  • Increased customer satisfaction and retention due to targeted campaigns (e.g. customer-specific deals), quicker service incident resolution, and longitudinal relationship management.
  • Increased revenue per customer due to comprehensive lifecycle management tools, social engagement, and targeted upselling of related products and services (enabled by better reporting/analytics).

A successful CRM deployment decreases cost

  • Deduplication of effort across business domains as marketing, sales, and service now have a common repository of customer information and interaction tools.
  • Increased sales and service agent efficiency due to their focus on selling and resolution, rather than administrative tasks and overhead.
  • Reduced cost-to-sell and cost-to-serve due to automation of activities that were manually intensive.
  • Reduced cost of accurate data due to embedded reporting and analytics functionality.

CRM platforms sit at the core of a well-rounded customer engagement ecosystem

At the center is 'Customer Relationship Management Platform' surrounded by 'Web Experience Management Platform', 'E-Commerce & Point-of-Sale Solutions', 'Social Media Management Platform', 'Customer Intelligence Platform', 'Customer Service Management Tools', and 'Marketing Management Suite'.

Customer Experience Management (CXM) Portfolio

Customer relationship management platforms are increasingly expansive in functional scope and foundational to an organization’s customer engagement strategy. Indeed, CRMs form the centerpiece for a comprehensive CXM system, alongside tools such as customer intelligence platforms and adjacent point solutions for sales, marketing, and customer service.

Review Info-Tech’s CXM blueprint below to build a complete, end-to-end customer interaction solution portfolio that encompasses CRM alongside other critical components. The CXM blueprint also allows you to develop strategic requirements for CRM based on customer personas and external market analysis.

Build a Strong Technology Foundation for Customer Experience Management

Sample of the 'Build a Strong Technology Foundation for Customer Experience Management' blueprint. Design an end-to-end technology strategy to drive sales revenue, enhance marketing effectiveness, and create compelling experiences for your customers.

View the blueprint

Considering a CRM switch? Switching software vendors drives high satisfaction

Eighty percent of organizations are more satisfied after changing their software vendor.

  • Most organizations see not only a positive change in satisfaction with their new vendor, but also a substantial change in satisfaction.
  • What matters is making sure your organization is well-positioned to make a switch.
  • When it comes to switching software vendors, the grass really can be greener on the other side.

Over half of organizations are 60%+ more satisfied after changing their vendor.

(Source: Info-Tech Research Group, "Switching Software Vendors Overwhelmingly Drives Increased Satisfaction", 2020.)

IT is critical to the success of your CRM selection and rollout

Today’s shared digital landscape of the CIO and CMO

Info-Tech Insight

Technology is the key enabler of building strong customer experiences: IT must stand shoulder to shoulder with the business to develop a technology framework for customer relationship management.

CIO

IT Operations

Service Delivery and Management

IT Support

IT Systems and Application

IT Strategy and Governance

Cybersecurity
Collaboration and Partnership

Digital Strategy = Transformation
Business Goals | Innovation | Leadership | Rationalization

Customer Experience
Architecture | Design | Omnichannel Delivery | Management

Insight (Market Facing)
Analytics | Business Intelligence | Machine Learning | AI

Marketing Integration + Operating Model
Apps | Channels | Experiences | Data | Command Center

Master Data
Customer | Audience | Industry | Digital Marketing Assets
CMO

PEO Media

Brand Management

Campaign Management

Marketing Tech

Marketing Ops

Privacy, Trust, and Regulatory Requirements

(Source: ZDNet, 2020)

CRM by the numbers

1/3

Statistical analysis of CRM projects indicates failures vary from 18% to 69%. Taking an average of those analyst reports, about one-third of CRM projects are considered a failure. (Source: CIO Magazine, 2017)

92%

92% of organizations report that CRM use is important for accomplishing revenue objectives. (Source: Hall, 2020)

40%

In 2019, 40% of executives name customer experience the top priority for their digital transformation. (Source: CRM Magazine, 2019)

Case Study

Align strategy and technology to meet consumer demand.
INDUSTRY
Entertainment
SOURCE
Forbes, 2017
Challenge

Beginning as a mail-out service, Netflix offered subscribers a catalog of videos to select from and have mailed to them directly. Customers no longer had to go to a retail store to rent a video. However, the lack of immediacy of direct mail as the distribution channel resulted in slow adoption.

Blockbuster was the industry leader in video retail but was lagging in its response to industry, consumer, and technology trends around customer experience.

Solution

In response to the increasing presence of tech-savvy consumers on the internet, Netflix invested in developing its online platform as its primary distribution channel. The benefit of doing so was two-fold: passive brand advertising (by being present on the internet) and meeting customer demands for immediacy and convenience. Netflix also recognized the rising demand for personalized service and created an unprecedented, tailored customer experience.

Results

Netflix’s disruptive innovation is built on the foundation of great customer experience management. Netflix is now a $28-billion company, which is tenfold what Blockbuster was worth.

Netflix used disruptive technologies to innovatively build a customer experience that put it ahead of the long-time video rental industry leader, Blockbuster.

CRM Buyer’s Guide

Phase 1

Understand CRM Features

Phase 1

1.1 Define CRM platforms

1.2 Classify table stakes & differentiating capabilities

1.3 Explore CRM trends

Phase 2

2.1 Build the business case

2.2 Streamline requirements elicitation for CRM

2.3 Construct the RFP

Phase 3

3.1 Discover key players in the CRM landscape

3.2 Engage the shortlist & select finalist

3.3 Prepare for implementation

This phase will walk you through the following activities:

  • Set a level of understanding of CRM technology.
  • Define which CRM features are table stakes (standard) and which are differentiating.
  • Identify the “Art of the Possible” in a modern CRM from a sales, marketing, and service lens.

This phase involves the following participants:

  • CIO
  • Applications manager
  • Project manager
  • Sales executive
  • Marketing executive
  • Customer service executive

Understand CRM table stakes features

Organizations can expect nearly all CRM vendors to provide the following functionality.

Lead Management Pipeline Management Contact Management Campaign Management Customer Service Management
  • Tracks and captures a lead’s information, automatically building a profile. Leads are then qualified through contact scoring models. Assigning leads to sales is typically automated.
  • Enables oversight over future sales. Includes revenue forecasting based on past/present trends, tracking sales velocity, and identifying ineffective sales processes.
  • Tracks and stores customer data, including demography, account and billing history, social media, and contact information. Typically, records and fields can be customized.
  • Provides integrated omnichannel campaign functionality and data analysis of customer intelligence. Data insights can be used to drive new and effective marketing campaigns.
  • Provides integrated omnichannel customer experiences to provide convenient service. Includes case and ticket management, automated escalation rules, and third-party integrations.

Identify differentiating CRM features

While not always “must-have” functionality, these features may be the final dealbreaker when deciding between two CRM vendors.

Image of clustered screens with various network and business icons surounding them.
  • Workflow Automation
    Automate repetitive tasks by creating workflows that trigger actions or send follow-up reminders for next steps.
  • Advanced Analytics and Reporting
    Provides customized dashboard visualizations, detailed reporting, AI-driven virtual assistants, data extraction & analysis, and ML forecasting.
  • Customizations and Open APIs
    Broad range of available customizations (e.g. for dashboards and fields), alongside ease of integration (e.g. via plugins or APIs).
  • Document Management
    Out-of-the-box centralized content repository for storing, uploading, and sharing documents.
  • Mobile Support
    Ability to support mobile devices, OSes, and platforms with a native application or HTML-based web-access.
  • Project and Task Management
    Native project and task management functionality, enhancing cross-team organization and communication.
  • Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)
    Create and send quotes or proposals to prospective and current customers.

About Info-Tech

Info-Tech Research Group is the world’s fastest-growing information technology research and advisory company, proudly serving over 30,000 IT professionals.

We produce unbiased and highly relevant research to help CIOs and IT leaders make strategic, timely, and well-informed decisions. We partner closely with IT teams to provide everything they need, from actionable tools to analyst guidance, ensuring they deliver measurable results for their organizations.

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Overall Impact

$15,426
Average $ Saved

37
Average Days Saved

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Guided Implementation 1: Understand CRM
  • Call 1: Understand what a CRM platform is and the “art of the possible” for sales, marketing, and customer service.

Guided Implementation 2: Build the business case and elicit CRM requirements
  • Call 1: Build the business case to select a CRM.
  • Call 2: Define your key CRM requirements.
  • Call 3: Build procurement items such as an RFP.

Guided Implementation 3: Discover the CRM market space and prepare for implementation
  • Call 1: Evaluate the CRM solution landscape and shortlist viable options.
  • Call 2: Review implementation considerations.

Author

Ben Dickie

Contributors

12 anonymous contributors

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