Today's guest blogger is Jacob Cynamon-Murphy, a Sales Engineer at Sonoma Partners.
Let’s say you found yourself in a situation where you have two different CRM platforms running within your company. One group is using Salesforce.com and an entirely different group runs Microsoft Dynamics CRM. How did you get here? Maybe you had a renegade in the sales office or you're handling the result of a recent merger. Regardless of how you got here, what do you do now?
Good news - you have choices. Whether you choose to consolidate to one system, create an integration bridge between the two, or "live and let live" with two disparate systems, we can help you make the best of a tenuous situation. From a high level, we see primarily three different options on how to handle these multiple CRM system scenarios:
Where do you start? We believe that consolidation is the best approach if there is substantial overlap between:
the data in the two systems
the majority of functionality is duplicated between the two systems
the users of the two systems collaborate very closely or frequently
Integration makes sense if the two systems represent distinct phases of a business process, and there is limited overlap between the records in the two systems, but each system shares key data (such as accounts or contacts).
Example: You use Salesforce.com for lead acquisition and qualification and Dynamics CRM for opportunity management or product/service delivery. In this case, you may not need each member of your organization to be licensed in both systems and could instead create differentiated roles. This solution will keep licensing costs and maintenance efforts down.
Lastly, segregation might be the right option for you. If there is little to no overlap of users or data, there may be no impetus to have the systems talk to one another or, even more drastic, consolidated into a single platform.
One example of this is when one system is used for a completely custom capability, like learning management or HR, while the other system is used for the more conventional CRM scenarios of marketing, sales, and service. Although you end up with two different systems to support and maintain, you don't have to navigate the paths of integration or consolidation.
Now that you understand the basics of each of the three approaches, we want to share some additional thoughts for managing each path.
Let’s assume that you've decided that consolidation is the best approach to address your multiple CRM systems – this means consolidating multiple CRM systems into a single system, and the prior systems cease to exist.
At Sonoma Partners, we find most client choose this approach. Let's talk about what you need to keep in mind when electing consolidation.
#1: Merging Data - Odds are that you have a lot of overlapping or conflicting data, so your first step will be to complete a thorough analysis of your data. You need to identify duplicate records and the best approach to de-duplicate. Often that approach is a merge, but you may have reason to default to the records in one system or the other as "better data."
In any case, it is often best to extract your data from the CRM systems and use staging tables to store the data as you merge, manipulate, and cleanse your records. Without diving into detail, you should know that there are a handful of third-party tools you can use to avoid having to manage this manually.
#2: Reducing User Licenses - One potential benefit of consolidating CRM systems is that you might be able to reduce the number of CRM user licenses you need to pay for! However, when going through a consolidation, identify if the subordinate (i.e. "going away") system has a license expiration date that is prior to the cutover date. You want to avoid falling out of licensing compliance. Since most CRM contracts have annual or multi-year commitments, don’t expect any CRM vendor to offer short-term contracts so you need to plan accordingly.
#3: Integrating with Other Systems - Each of your CRM systems may already be integrated with other line-of-business applications. It is best to review each system and determine where other critical systems are integrated. Before you decommission the subordinate system, you'll want to reproduce any critical integrations into the new master CRM (i.e. "sticking around").
#4: Decommissioning Legacy Apps or Integrations - As part of this process, it's beneficial to review all of the legacy enhancements, add-ons, extensions, and integrations with both the subordinate CRM and the master CRM. Especially if two different groups were developing these solutions in a vacuum, your business may have invested resources in building duplicate features or producing/purchasing an enhancement that the master CRM can do natively. Alternatively, it's possible that the subordinate system could do something natively that you will need to configure or purchase for the master CRM to address the need going forward.
As you can imagine, it's best to know where you are headed before you start down the path of consolidation. The tips above should help you find your way.
Now let’s assume you've selected integration as the best approach to address your multiple CRM systems. Taking this path means you’ve agreed to maintaining more than one CRM system. In addition to managing the licenses, your CRM administrator(s) will also need to manage multiple platforms and user bases. If you go this route, here is what you need to keep in mind.
#1: Choosing an Integration Tool - There are a variety of integration platforms that can talk to multiple CRM systems - Scribe, Informatica, SQL Server Integration Services (with the appropriate connector), and Dell Boomi, to name a few. If you already have a preferred integration tool, and it supports your CRM systems, you really don't need to make a decision. However, if you don't currently have an integration tool in use, take some time to evaluate the options. Some key decision-making criteria you can use are: price, platforms supported, deployment model (is the tool an on-premise installation or is it SaaS), and does your team have existing skills to support the platform or would training be necessary.
#2: Determining System of Record - Since you have made the decision to maintain more than one platform, you need to determine which system, if either, will serve as the system of record (i.e. master data). Occasionally, you will already have another system, ERP perhaps, that serves in this role; in that case, both other systems may be subordinate to that system of record. If you do not already have a de facto system of record, think about which system is used more frequently or is more likely to have higher quality data. It is even possible that you will choose one system to be the master for some data (e.g. companies and contacts) and the other system master for other records (sales data or customer care records, for instance).
#3: Mapping the Data - A DBA or data architect will be indispensable at this stage. When mapping the data, you need a thorough understanding of the data schemes in both systems, which records or record types are 1-to-1 between the systems, and which fields (data columns) correspond between the records. The map defined here will ultimately feed into the integration setup stage, below.
#4: Setting Up the Integration - This is where the rubber meets the road. The best advice I can give you here is to define the integration mappings in your selected integration platform and run them against test instances of both platforms. Salesforce.com and Dynamics CRM Online both offer sandbox and test instances you can leverage and Dynamics CRM 2013 (on-premise deployment) offers the ability to export the full SQL database for import into a DEV or TEST server; for other CRM platforms your mileage may vary.
This scenario offers less opportunity for strategic planning or tactical decision-making as the integration and consolidation approaches probably will. Customers who want a global view of accounts might not like this situation at all. Likewise, running multiple CRM systems means IT needs to duplicate some effort to manage multiple vendors. This includes keeping the right skills on staff, managing multiple roadmaps, negotiating licenses, renewals,etc.
On the plus side, CRM system segregation does offer some benefits that might appeal to certain companies:
You can designate different system administrators for each system so you don’t have to worry about “too many cooks in the kitchen”.
Related to this, IT can probably be more responsive to the business needs since they only need to worry about their own system. They don’t need to discuss system changes or customizations with other departments or groups.
Administrators have more opportunity to really tweak each CRM system to meet the user’s individual needs. Changing forms for different users is easy enough, but having entirely different systems allows administrators to get more aggressive with other things such as field names, currency, languages, etc.
Very little to zero change management to worry about, users keep running their existing CRM systems as-is. No interruption to the business.
Having multiple CRM systems in your organization might work for some companies, but definitely not everyone.
Another variation of segregation is to consolidate some parts of the data from both systems into a reporting system or data warehouse. This approach allows organizations to have true global reporting across multiple systems, but obviously it requires additional work to setup the reporting infrastructure.
In summary, organizations have lots of different options on how they want to handle the multiple CRM platform decision. The “right answer” for your organization, might not be the same answer for a different organization because you should consider many different factors before deciding whether to consolidate, integrate or segregate. Our hope is that this post will give you some food for thought and peace of mind as you work through this situation. As always, feel free to contact us if you need additional advice – we’re happy to help.