Evaluating Hosted CRM

Jesse Hopps

Until recently, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software had the unenviable reputation for being difficult to implement in many mid-sized enterprises. Reasons for project failure included high start-up & maintenance costs, I/T resource requirements, lack of user adoption, and large changes to existing business processes.

Fortunately, vendors have recognized these issues and have adapted their products accordingly. Currently there are many hosted CRM solutions that can be quickly implemented at reasonable costs. Read this summary to learn the benefits of hosted CRM and understand the current marketplace.

What is a Hosted CRM System?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a business strategy that covers methods and technologies used by companies to manage their relationships with clients. Information stored on existing customers (and potential customers) is analyzed and used to this end. Automated CRM processes are often used to generate automatic personalized marketing based on the customer information stored in the system.

There are two major types of CRM system: in-house or hosted. Hosted software, or 'on-demand' as it is often called, is delivered via the Internet. Examples of common hosted software systems include Hotmail, Travelocity.com, and online banking.

Hosted CRM System Benefits:

  • Monthly Subscription-Based Pricing - most hosted CRM systems provide a very attractive subscription-based pricing model. Ranging between $20-$125/user/month, these systems are affordable for mid-sized enterprises.
  • No I/T Resources Required - organizations that have do not have I/T resources find exceptional value from the hosted model, as systems users and administrators can have little or no prior technology experience.
  • Very Quick Implementation - most deployments can be implemented within a few weeks. When compared to in-house deployments of 6-18 months, the hosted model becomes a much more viable option.
  • High Availability - Application Service Providers (ASP) deliver these hosted solutions and provide Service Level Agreements, which guarantee availability. Although these systems have been known to go down from time-to-time, there is a better chance that your in-house system would be less reliable.

Key Mid-Market Vendors:

  • Quaero SpringBoard Hosted CRM Solutions - this package combines Campaign Management, Predictive Modeling, Marketing Resource Management, Web Portal, Report Builder, and Marketing Knowledge Center in a very flexible and affordable manner. Customers can select which modules they require and develop a completely customized system that can later be brought in-house should their requirements change.
  • Salesforce.com - unquestionably the market-leader, Salesforce.com provides very user-friendly Sales Force Automation, Marketing Automation, Customer Support, and Reporting capabilities. Their platform integrates with many third-party applications, and they boast over 400 applications that are available on their AppExchange, a directory full of on-demand applications.
  • RightNow Technologies - this vendor provides Sales Automation, Marketing Automation, Voice, Analytics, and Service & Support applications that can be combined in a product suite to meet customer requirements. With 1,700 customers, RightNow Technologies will continue to compete in this space.
  • SugarCRM - known for its open-source architecture, this platform is very easily customized by internal application developers. Coming in at around $40/user/month for their Professional version, this solution is less expensive than Salesforce.com, but with only 90 employees, may be less viable.
  • NetSuite CRM+ - this solution is available in two versions with their 'PLUS' edition offering standard CRM capabilities plus Order Management, Incentive Management, Project Tracking, Customer Portal, Website & Analytics, and Partner Management which they claim Salesforce.com, Siebel On-Demand, and Microsoft CRM do not offer out of the box.
  • Siebel On-Demand - recently purchased by Oracle, Siebel On-Demand is a new offering from Siebel was a market-leader for in-house CRM systems. Particularly effective for customers who already have mainly Oracle systems, this solution is geared for larger enterprises.

Action Plan:

    1. Discuss with Steering Committee - have a brief discussion regarding your organization's ability to track Sales, Marketing, & Customer Service activities to determine if migrating to a newer, more advance system makes sense.
    2. Evaluate Existing Systems - conduct an audit of your current systems, such as excel spreadsheets, client lists, or CRM software to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your current environment to determine potential impact. You should also use our CRM Readiness Assessment to measure your organization's readiness to implement an enterprise CRM program and/or system.
  1. Make a Decision - determine if your current systems are adequate, or if a new CRM system is required. If you need a new system, have a discussion regarding the benefits of a hosted CRM solution versus an in-house system.
  2. Document Requirements - work with Sales, Customer Service, and Senior Management to understand what your requirements are. Next, prioritize these requirements so that you will be in a good position to compare vendors.
  3. Assess Hosted CRM Providers - create a short-list of potential vendors and book a few demonstrations to learn about the pros & cons of each solution. Use independent research firms, or buyer's guides to save time with this exercise.
  4. Select a Solution(s) - based on your key requirements, determine which system can meet your requirements and budget. Include stakeholders from each department who will be using the system in the decision-making process, as their buy-in and adoption of the solution is absolutely essential.
  5. Conduct a Pilot - test the system with a small group of users for a 30-90 day period. Adapt your business processes to accommodate for the new system and analyze performance results. It is critical that your new system enables more sales, improved marketing tracking, and better customer service, or else it is not worth the time & resources needed to migrate from your old system.
  6. Roll-out to Enterprise - once the business case has been proven, scale up your deployment. Have each department come on-board one-at-a-time so that you can build momentum and internal system knowledge incrementally. Appoint a system administrator who can head up the training process.


CRM systems are one of the top investment priorities for mid-sized enterprises this year. Learn how the hosted model for service delivery can provide strong return on investment, and get your pilot started immediately.