Online experiences shape our opinion of cloud computing and with use of the cloud expanding, people and companies are in search of trusted technology experiences.
More companies are testing the waters with cloud computing – especially with CRM. The cloud promises better computing power and cost savings as well as the ability to securely access the same data from either your laptop or tablet or smartphone. Since that data is going into this magical place known simply as “the cloud”, there are no doubt initial concerns about data security. People have a wide variety of personal and business experiences with the cloud (both good and bad) and hence look for trusted technology experiences.
The inspiration for this blog post came in part from a recent round of Twitter direct message viruses. You may be familiar with these messages saying something along the lines of “someone is making very bad rumors about you” followed by a link daring you to click. These direct messages on Twitter were from my industry contacts, people I really trust, people and enterprises that are quite knowledgeable with technology and wouldn’t dare send a virus, right?
Unfortunately, these colleagues unknowingly picked up the twitter phishing virus. It was no doubt an inconvenience for them, a little embarrassing maybe, and a reminder of how cautious people and companies still need to be regarding our technology experiences.
Let me ask a few quick questions regarding trust and personal computing:
- Do you trust every Twitter link?
- Do you trust Facebook with your personal information?
- Do you trust every smartphone app that requests access to your location?
The answers to those questions probably lie with your own technology experiences and I would bet dollars to donuts that you have become more cautious on social networking sites. Those recent experiences may have also helped form your opinions related to cloud technology in general (maybe, maybe not).
When looking for trusted technology experiences, here are my top considerations regarding CRM in the cloud.
1. Pick an Industry Leader. Who developed the CRM? It is a name-brand company with solid cloud experience and lots of research and development (like Microsoft). Can you trust John Doe’s open source app emporium with your company’s data in the cloud? Um no. Hence, pick an industry leader. Read the post on the recent Analyst Round Up to see CRM industry leaders (and see where Microsoft ranks).
2. Cloud Track Record. For some CRM industry leaders, the cloud is still rather new. Specific to Microsoft, many people I talk to are unaware of Microsoft’s long experience with the cloud. For more than a decade, Windows Update and Hotmail have been served up via the cloud. Xbox Live has more than 5 million users worldwide (all cloud based).
3. Financially Backed Service Level Agreement (SLA). For business critical enterprise applications and services that run in the cloud, access to CRM should be extremely reliable. Microsoft CRM has a finacially backed SLA with 99.9% uptime. You should demand a good SLA with monetary adjustments for unscheduled downtime. Be careful, there are still a handful of CRM industry leaders that don’t offer a financially backed SLA – no matter how much you try to force them.
4. CRM Focused Implementation Partner. These days you can “turn on” most CRM systems in the cloud and start using them right away. So why bother with a CRM implementation partner? While we’re at it, why bother with gathering your unique business processes? I mean, can’t you just change your process to match the way the CRM works out of the box? Yes and no. Yes, an organization can and should utilize the rich features that come with the cloud CRM system out of the box. No, not all organizations have the exact same processes and not all users will take to a CRM that is out of the box. Take the time to plan a strategic long term roadmap with CRM. Do this with a qualified CRM partner with cloud experience. A partner that you have vetted and trust with your technology. Gather and document your unique business processes (how you do what you do) including requirements such as data and systems integrations and BI/reporting needs. Then scope out in logical phases how CRM in the cloud will support each process with a clean user friendly (I want to play with this CRM) interface. This places emphasis on the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). After all, your users have to use the CRM to get any ROI. If your company has installed or ‘turned on’ a CRM in the past and it failed, you might have a keener understanding of the importance of this effort and the importance of a good partner. Lastly, pick a CRM implementation partner where CRM is the primary practice and not treated as an afterthought. A strong CRM partner will make a huge difference.
In summary, the use of the cloud will keep growing – especially CRM. Twitter viruses and such will still be with us reminding us to be careful. Companies want their cloud data safe as well as convenient and will seek out industry leading products and services they have come to trust. For technology support, expertise, and guidance, companies will turn to those experienced business partners that have earned their trust.
Need help or more information related to this topic? Please feel free to contact me.