Customer relationship management (CRM) has grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry and CRM software is now utilized by the smallest and largest businesses around the globe. The benefits of CRM are numerous and undeniable: more efficient internal operations across sales, marketing, support, and the entire customer-facing organization, as well as increased customer satisfaction through a dramatically improved customer experience.
However, a new undercurrent has emerged in the world of CRM, one that threatens to compromise the benefits described above. Continued consolidation in the CRM space has prompted leading vendors to attempt to offer inclusive "suites" that cover marketing automation, sales automation, and customer support automation. But even with the billions spent on these acquisitions ultimately it's a losing strategy. Given the unique needs of companies managing complete CRM initiatives, a best-of-breed approach that leverages a wide array of features, delivery mechanisms, and diverse pricing constitutes a winning formula for CRM initiatives moving forward.
In theory, IT departments deploying only one CRM product to cover these far-reaching areas could save on costs and reduce complexity. But when one considers the reality of business and the unique needs of each company-big or small-the "suite" approach can offer only limited ROI for any company deploying that suite.
By nature, software suites limit choice and extensibility for customers, and typically halt innovation on the part of the supplying vendor. Conversely, best-of-breed CRM approaches offer far greater freedom of choice, more economically sound deployments, and the ability for user organizations to access more advanced solutions and drive innovation among vendors.
CRM is a unique sector in the enterprise software market in that the requirements placed on the software vary on a near one-to-one basis. This means that every single CRM deployment is different. And having only one type of product to choose from across your entire customer lifecycle can be dangerously limiting.
Let's look at two different companies as examples. One company has 300 employees and provides professional services; another is a large global manufacturer of consumer packaged goods with 7,000 employees. If these two companies chose the same suite provider, each would be expected to use the same tools for its marketing, sales and support-essentially every customer-facing process. But these companies are quite different and have very specific needs when it comes to these processes, not to mention unique budgets. One will have functionality that the other may not be able to use; or the suite may cost more than what the company would ideally be able to pay.
For the industry, best-of-breed also drives innovation. Consolidation, on the other hand, breeds stasis. With many providers competing for market share, the customer ultimately wins. Products are enhanced in a more timely manner, and companies build products based on real market needs, not to simply increase feature checklists in a suite.
Many providers of suites will say that they too can offer integration capabilities similar to other products like those previously mentioned. While that may be true, companies will invariably pay significantly more to access those additional tools and systems. Why? Because suite vendors will still price their solutions as a suite, forcing customers to pay for software that they may never utilize if they are leveraging a smarter best-of-breed approach on top of a suite.
In an IT universe where the cloud makes for fast, simple, and more seamless integration than ever before, it no longer makes good business sense to pay a premium on an enterprise CRM suite. The variety of choice and breadth of functionality available today tells us that best-of-breed has now become the winning strategy for enterprise CRM deployments.