The buzz around cloud computing has generated a lot of empty language and speculation. It’s easy to be skeptical, especially if your business is married to an on-premise solution. But beneath the hype, there’s real transformation happening.
Recent projections place cloud applications and platforms at the forefront of IT spending by 2016, with half of all enterprises implementing cloud solutions by 2017. The customer relationship management (CRM) genre has seen some of the most drastic cloud invasion: software as a service (SaaS) CRM purchases accounted for 41 percent of all CRM software revenue last year.
From a vendor standpoint, it’s easy to see why developers are offering more cloud-based CRMs: they’re easier to sell. Adaptability and lower upfront cost make CRM accessible for businesses of any size, but the scalable capacity of the cloud means CRM can still offer power and speed for large enterprises.
From a business standpoint, there’s a core set of selling points most CRM buyers cite as reasons for migrating to SaaS platforms. It’s important for decision makers to understand these variables and decide if it’s time to follow suit.
Selling Points of SaaS
CRM methodology relies on data, analytics, and accessibility, which makes it a particularly good candidate for being purchased as a service.
Here are some of the top reasons businesses are moving to cloud CRMs:
Lower Upfront Cost: Whereas on-premise software requires businesses to purchase an up-front license, SaaS programs are paid for on a subscription basis (usually per month). The cost model moves from purchase expense to operational expense. Since it doesn’t require local installation, a cloud-based CRM can typically be up and running within hours of activation, which means it will save you valuable IT time and expensive server provisioning.
Omnipresence: Since the cloud hosts software and data remotely via the Internet, users have an easier time gaining access from outside the office—at events, remote sites, on sales calls, and from mobile devices. As CRMs (and employees) increasingly go mobile, this feature will prove indispensable.
Less IT Administration: In addition to streamlined roll-outs and reduced server maintenance, cloud CRM offers other advantages that will save your IT department headaches or make implementation easier for small businesses without IT. In most cases, updates are included in the monthly subscription price and are automatically installed as they become available. The same goes for technical support: cloud-hosting assigns upkeep to the developers, which makes sense, as they’re the ones who designed the software in the first place. Depending on the vendor, integration of additional features can also be simpler in the cloud, especially for products such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics (more on those providers here) that have their own app stores.
Data Advantages: Many IT buyers turn to cloud CRM because of the way it handles data. On-premise software usually requires a lot of uploading, syncing, and manual data back-up, especially if your team is partially mobile or works from home. Cloud solutions, on the other hand, promise to keep all data synced in real time at every access point, which gives your team a unified, up-to-date picture of customer records, pipelines, invoices, emails, and so on. Some even allege that data is more secure in the cloud than on local servers, although this is up for debate.
- Collaboration: Sure, licensed software does offer some collaborative features, assuming all of your employees are on the same network, at the same time. Cloud CRM gives users the ability to instantly connect with each other (communicate, manage tasks, receive notifications, share files) no matter where they are, and without requiring the infrastructure of a local network.
All that said, cloud-computing has its critics. Many IT leaders voice concerns about data security and control, support, and hidden fees. These are important things to consider. The cloud isn’t a panacea for every problem that business of the 21st century face. In fact, it isn’t even a singular place, as the lingo suggests. It’s a computing model that still relies on good, old fashioned servers, only they’re hundreds of miles away from your office, being managed and protected by someone else (hence the phrase “outsourcing to the cloud”).
If you’re trying to decide whether or not a cloud-based CRM is right for your business, consider your business goals, the type of clients you deal with, and the sensitivity of your data. Chances are, you’ll discover a lot of areas where the cloud model can add efficiency and cut costs, which is a paramount concern for smaller, emerging businesses. Be excited for innovation and consider what it can do for your business, but don’t indulge for indulgence’s sake.