Up in the clouds - how CRM and IT are going asset-free

By: Gareth

Date: 19 December 2012

Up in the clouds - how CRM and IT are going asset-free/change ahead sign{{}}Whether you call it cloud software, or SaaS (software as a service), the premise is the same – your customer relationship management (CRM) system is accessible online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from any computer, using a secure login.

We have moved away from the fear of holding our data online, and are gradually moving towards total acceptance of the cloud as a way to increase efficiency and deliver CRM systems.

Indeed, 20% of businesses will own no IT assets by next year, according to research carried out by Gartner last year. They declared 85% of those surveyed would increase their use of SaaS or cloud technology over the next three years.

And when Microsoft say they’re ‘all in’, that means it’s cloud or nothing. On-site IT is on the way out within the next five years.

It’s a cloud war

You could call it a ‘cloud war’ with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM going head to head and Oracle entering the fray with Oracle Public Cloud.

The drive towards cloud services doesn’t just benefit the end user – it benefits the providers, too. It’s win-win, because it gives the providers greater room for investment in their technology. What’s more, it’s competitive, ensuring cloud technology is developing faster than any other.

So what are the main drivers for uptake of cloud CRM services? Why are people switching now and not when they are forced to?

It always involves cost

We are moving towards a new IT world – one in which assets are not held within a business, but by the provider, and supplied online.

It’s not just happening in CRM, it’s happening in HR, email, accounting … even music – when’s the last time you bought a CD? There are online services that hold almost every song ever recorded. They’re part of the cloud too.

This CRM world where everything is hosted online provides huge savings for businesses – not just in the upfront cost of the service (which is always lower than on-site), but in the ongoing maintenance of the system, and in the deployment of an internal IT team.

So yes, cost is a driver. It always has been, and it always will be. Cloud CRM is, put simply, cheaper to implement and cheaper to maintain.

Make it easy and they’ll use it

Within your business, everyone needs a reason to use CRM, otherwise any CRM project will be dead in the water. However, alongside that reason, simple, easy access is a must.

Nobody wants to spend five minutes trying to log on to a system that they can only ever access from their work computer. After all, the reality is that the workforce is becoming more fragmented, with remote and flexible working becoming more popular.

Cloud CRM is, if anything, a reaction to changes in the workplace that are happening right now. Indeed, it’s a reaction to the many changes that are happening with the ways in which we interact with technology.

We want everything right here, right now, wherever we are. Cloud CRM brings that attitude into the workplace, and increased uptake is therefore almost a given. Make it easy, and you remove barriers.

Integration is key

Microsoft Dynamics is a good example of why integration works well. This CRM product links into Microsoft Office, allowing you to share documents through libraries.

A successful CRM system should never operate in isolation. It needs to be part of an overall business cloud strategy – one that is driven by someone who has an overview of all your business departments and strategies.

Equally, the integration of external data such as billing means your cloud CRM is perfectly placed to act as the fulcrum around which your customer intelligence revolves.

Keep it flexible and scalable

If we have learned one thing from the last five years of financial difficulty, it is that flexibility and scalability have to be built into everything we do

The pre-2007 years of spend, spend, spend are a distant dream – we have all become experts at sourcing flexible, scalable solutions that allow us to maximise our spend. Cloud CRM meets that demand.

Businesses can start with an initial project team on SaaS, and expand their user base more quickly than with on-premise systems, which incur a fixed cost. The pay-as-you-go nature of cloud CRM means that businesses pay for what they get, and in this environment of austerity, this is a message that resonates well.

So – we’re going asset-free, we’re going online and we’re saving money and driving uptake. That’s not a lot unlike us, at home, in other environments such as music provision or even the shift from DVD to online delivery of movies.

The only surprise is that it has taken us so long to shake off our hesitancy and take the plunge into cloud, where everyone wins. 

Gareth Cartman is a business blogger with a particular interest in direct & digital marketing, data marketing and outsourcing.

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