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A complete database of customer information is of key importance to any CRM ven-
ture. Bespoke and off-the-shelf systems are based upon the same database foundation the
shape of which will vary according to the organisation's specific requirements. Even off-
the-shelf solutions can be customisable to meet these requirements as closely as possible. In
many instances, an organisation will already employ one or more databases to hold infor-
mation about its clients and customers prior to implementing a dedicated CRM system.
Database structure is crucial to the efficiency of a CRM venture, and the database
architecture must be sufficiently robust to maintain all the information that is relevant to
the organisation. At the same time, it must be flexible enough to allow numerous and
possibly simultaneous interdepartmental queries, alterations and updates to the data.The
provision of robust data storage and access is a significant feature of any useful CRM
package, but it is the progressive thinking behind its design that makes it such a valuable
tool.With CRM, an individual should be able to access any item of customer data before
cross-referencing, manipulating or adapting that information to make it functional rather
than purely descriptive, dynamic rather than static, and ultimately more responsive a
process of relationship rather than mere atomic transaction. In many cases, these processes
will be automated to a significant degree but it must be remembered that data analysis
cannot be entirely automated. Management must detail what it wishes to gain from the
system before it is introduced.
Bespoke Solutions vs. Off-the-Shelf Packages
CRM technology suppliers tend to fall into two categories: those who target larger
companies and those who target Small-to-Medium sized Enterprises (SME's).The for-
mer category of supplier will offer a full and individual CRM solution.This will include
a specifically tailored software system, complete with the support network necessary for
system maintenance.The latter group is likely to offer a cheaper system (typically costing
between
180 and 300 per seat/copy) that promises to run `out-of-the-box' upon
installation, but which will consequently not meet the needs of every organisation run-
ning the system. Often, a significant amount of `tweaking' will be necessary in order to
integrate a CRM with current technological and organisational practices.
Data Management
Database architecture and design are funda-
mental to CRM software. All of the data that are
to be maintained will be held within a database
(or linked databases).The design must therefore
be flexible enough to hold all of the information
that is pertinent to an organisation or a particular
department and to the relationships in which
each is involved. It must be capable of executing
the sorts of queries which the employees and
customers will find useful and support the stor-
ing and further analysis of the results.
Customer Relationship
Management
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ACT! 6.0
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