The User Interface
The front-end software will vary according
to the requirements of the organisation.The
CRM environment with which employees
interact is usually Microsoft Windows based.
But some packages offer a Web-based front-
end in addition to or in place of the familiar
desktop environment, increasing the scope of
the system to cater for mobile and remote
operatives. Most packages allow for such func-
tions as data input, data update, data query, and
the generation of statistics to analyse and iso-
late business trends.The majority of CRM software packages are compatible with email
packages such as Microsoft's Outlook, whose address book calendar and task list are
increasingly essential to eCRM. A dynamic log of customer contact with the organisa-
tion should be held; this could give telephone-based staff access to details of email
enquiries and other previous contacts with the organisation, thereby assisting them in
quickly contextualising the customer's call.
Integrating legacy systems
Characteristics of popular and effective CRM packages include information sharing
between different LOB's, allowing data from existing packages to become increasingly
applicable and serviceable within a CRM context. An example of this is OnContact's
CRM software, which incorporates bi-directional integration with Outlook.
The overall structure of the organisation therefore becomes increasingly integrated,
encouraging cross-fertilisation of information held between databases. A more dynami-
cally accomplished and synergetic outcome should follow.Through these networks of
information a CRM makes data that were previously hidden from view available to a
range of user communities within organisations.
Hosting CRM applications
CRM software may be held in one of three ways: on the client's own computers (the
approach on which all previous discussion has focused), on the vendor's side (ASP-
based), or as a combination of both (MSP-based). Server-centric, ASP-based vendors
such as PeopleSoft allow customers to `rent' their CRM applications, and the software
and data will normally be held securely on a remote server.This approach is popular
among smaller organisations that have less, relatively uncomplicated data to store.
Although rare, one major risk is that a host company may collapse taking priceless data
down with it. Contingency plans must be put in place for such an eventuality.The
option to upgrade to a more involved package may be considered where an organisation
wishes to begin operating beyond its current sphere. Essentially, the risks of CRM must
be carefully weighed against financial savings made from its use.