Interview with John Hoebler: ‘SaaS is Definitely A Competitive Advantage for Small Businesses’
Currently, SaaS CRM enjoys the growing popularity and today we offer you an interview with John Hoebler, managing director at Cross Country Consulting and seasoned technology advisor and cloud expert.
In this interview, John provides us with helpful and practical examples that give some pieces of advice about strategy development, advantages of the cloud CRM and database management.
1. During your career route, you deal with the technology implementation and strategy building. John, would like to change the area you currently work in? Can you imagine your life without applications for business streamlining?
I have been in the professional workforce for over twenty years. When I first started we still used green screens, transferred data manually on floppy disks, and didn’t have internet applications. To complete basic business processes, I had to process a lot of manual paperwork, walk it around the office and then manually follow-up. My only analytics were when I looked at paper reports once a month and I had little visibility on where my requests were in the business process flow. I can image it, because I lived it – and things took longer - business applications have streamlined key processes, eliminated manual steps and provided outstanding real time analytics.
2. Nowadays CRM opens new horizons to small businesses, but surveys state that almost 70% of software implementations fail. Is the problem in a poor strategy or companies choose the wrong CRM application? What should SMBs pay attention to while select the CRM provider?
It is primarily a strategy problem, although selecting the wrong solution is also part of strategy. Companies should look for a business solution architect to work with them early in the process. The architect will work with them to document their requirements based on today’s business and look ahead into the future to determine what additional requirements they may have based on their overall business objectives. The architect will then use their leverage of the market to determine a short list of solutions for consideration. During the evaluation process, the architect will work with the vendor to demonstrate how the products meet the companies requirements via use cases (use cases document major process flows for core common processes). After selecting a product, the architect will stay with the company throughout the implementation. They play a cornerstone role on the project as the project leader and cornerstone team member that sits between the business and the vendor. They help to ensure success by design and developing solutions that make the best use of the technology while melding them into the company’s business processes. The architect also plays key roles of change management, test lead, and calming influence for the rest of the team.
3. Usually, the success of on-premise CRM implementation depends on the hardware. Small companies with a tight budget can’t afford such additional expenses and turn to the cloud solutions. Has the SaaS other benefits? Can it make SMBs more competitive?
SAAS is definitely a competitive advantage for small businesses. They can leverage functionality and best practices that are built for large enterprises right in the software. For example, automated lead routing is a great example. Previously, companies would need to manually do this task, but many of the SAAS CRM products have this built into their system. Here are a few other reasons:
- No More Costly Upgrade Projects. Most organizations need to upgrade their applications and all of the infrastructure it runs on every three years to stay current with the vendor’s latest release. The upgrades are expensive in terms of real dollars and also in terms of opportunity cost, with little tangible benefit offered to your organization. While your IT team and key business users are spending months upgrading the application they are not focusing on key organizational objectives. Why spend time catching up to your vendor’s release versus improving your business?
- No Infrastructure. With most cloud vendors, you receive your production and test applications within 24 hours of signing your contract. You do not need to procure, install, configure, manage and upgrade any additional infrastructure. Gone are the days of worrying about databases, servers, operating systems and additional third party software required to run traditional on-premise applications. Why do you care about a vendor’s technology “stack”? CFOs can focus on running their business rather than focusing on the applications that their business runs on!
- Continuous Opportunity to Improve Your Processes. Most cloud vendors push new releases out two to four times per year. These releases are typically packed with many new features. A month before the upgrade, your organization can review each new feature’s applicability to your business in a preview release. This preview gives you an opportunity to determine if and when to implement each feature. The cloud vendor will then upgrade your application, and all other customer’s applications, typically in less than twelve hours.
- Limited Ability (temptation) to Customize. Cloud based applications rely heavily on configuration versus customizations. Some vendors provide limited ability to customize their application to meet your unique business needs; however, organizations should ask – are my core Finance needs really that unique? When implementing cloud applications, organizations are given a wealth of configuration choices that they can choose from for core finance processes. For most organizations, these options are excellent and encourage a company to alter their process to meet the system versus altering the system to fit the process. By reducing customizations, organizations can implement cloud solutions faster, less expensively, and with less risk. Organizations also will not need to maintain and upgrade these customizations over time, vastly reducing your total cost of ownership.
- Better Security. Cloud applications are highly secure. Cloud vendors invest heavily in high tech physical and application security protocols. Your applications are running in secure data centers around the world, providing you with peace of mind for the security of your data. Cloud vendors also provide better “up-time” and disaster recovery than most companies can deliver internally with on-premise solutions.
- Less Training Required. Most cloud based applications are built with the latest advancements in application usability. This includes designing the applications so they are not only intuitive to use, but also so they work effectively on both web browsers and mobile applications. By extending business processes to mobile devices and consumer like interfaces (vs. traditional transaction processing), organizations can reduce the need for end user training because your applications function just like your every-day consumer applications.
- Easier Integration with Other Systems. Cloud applications come in many sizes. Some are meant to be comprehensive business applications that cover most of your needs, while others are point solutions that solve a specific business problem (e.g. spend management, budgeting). Regardless of the solution, they have a common architecture that allows them to share data with each other. These APIs allow you to develop integrations with your application eco-system efficiently using common technologies. In addition, since there is only one version of the cloud software (see #2), vendors only need to build an interface from their latest version to the other vendor’s latest version, making them easier to build, more efficient and easier to deploy. You can easily plug and play additional applications to meet your unique business needs.
4. The adoption rate of the software relies upon the CRM strategy and system administration. John, in your opinion, what are the key elements of strategy development that will increase both the business performance and end-user adoption?
It is really all about change management. Change management begins with identifying all stakeholders early in the process and engaging them from the get go. It is important to understand how everyone is impacted by the project both externally and internally. After creating the list, begin the process of engaging the stakeholders. Some stakeholders simply need to be made aware of the project while others are going to be key project team members. You will need to make sure everyone has a voice, explains their part of the process, is aware of progress, understands how the change will impact them and that they are ready for the change when it happens.
5. Workers frequently complaint on the complicated data entry and a lot of duplicated records. Are there any ways to streamline this process?
Certainly – most cloud systems today provide the ability to build smart rules and defaults right into the system. For example, based on your user profile, it may default in your home department, supervisor or other preferences. Based on past transactions that you entered systems learn how you code the data and offer suggestions based on past transactions. Others allow for electronically importing data from other sources, digital imaging – OCR technologies, and voice entry similar to Apple’s Siri.
6. With CRM, companies can operate the larger amount of customer data and use it more effectively. However, the cloud solutions have storage limits. How to segment records into meaningful units? What data could be deleted without ill effects?
Many cloud applications today do not have storage limitations, although, companies should consider effective archive strategies (never deleting!). For example, accounts and contacts that have not had any activity in the past three years seems like a good candidate for archive.
7. User training should be underestimated and requires thorough preparations. Some companies have a large employee turnover. How to plan and perform these trainings? Can you give some practical tips?
A great simple tip is to have online training videos that cover short specific topics. This will allow the learner to access them anytime and anywhere. The reasons the videos are short is that it allows people to learn in “bits” versus all at once. For new employees, joining a company and learning processes and systems is overwhelming. By allowing them to learn at their own pace and “just in time” when they need to know a certain skill or process will help with the transition process. Also as new employees come on board, they should contribute to a running knowledge repository and FAQ document. By having your new employees state their questions (and answer it themselves) it can create an effective guide of new employees training new employees vs. a company veteran with all of the knowledge explaining all of the topics. We’d like to thank John for sharing his first-hand experience and outstanding expert view. His pieces of advice on CRM strategy and implementation will be useful for our readers and help them to advance their businesses. P.S. Want to exceed your limits with new CRM? With Trujay, you may fight off the obstacles and challenges of data migration. The service enables the automated, fast and direct switch between various CRM platforms. Launch a free demo and make sure that the process deprives you of programming, data importing and human interaction.