There are numerous articles focusing on the importance of integrating your new CRM with your existing software. And, they're wrong – integration isn't important and they've all lied to you. Ok, perhaps it's not that cut and dry. But is integration the most important part of a CRM? Hardly.
Here's the thing, integration is just one aspect of a very complex, very robust piece of software. If you get a CRM system that integrates with every single other software you have but it doesn't do the basic things you need it to do, what's the point? At what point does integration become more important than function, and vice versa? It's all in how you weight it.
For many, CRM represents the Holy Grail of business technology. It is a critical tool to anyone who needs to manage client data (i.e. marketing, sales, operations, advisors, etc.). Each of those departments or functional areas may use a host of other software to help them do their jobs. It's just not realistic to find the "unicorn CRM" that integrates seamlessly with all of it.
Instead, it's better to decide what you need it to be able to DO. Let’s take a quick review of a basic yet standard software implementation plan...
- Define what you want to achieve with your new CRM - improve customer service, increase sales, track inbound/outbound, etc. (your requirements go here).
- Determine your requirements for technology and support - do you have in-house IT folks or will you need to outsource? Are you determining your mobile needs? Is CRM integration to your website - where you may be generating the majority of your leads - more important than integrating with HR? Is that importance conveyed somewhere?
- Consider your budget and where to run your CRM - how much do you want to spend and will you be using in-house servers or cloud? (usually determined by your IT capabilities)
- Match your needs to what the market offers - notice that your needs come first in comparison to what the market offers?
The importance of meeting those needs - defined in the first step - far outweighs the importance of integrating with your existing software. Or, at least, most of your software. After all, CRM is often considered the hub of all client-relevant information. So, why would you want to hamper that capability by placing integration as a higher priority than functionality? Would integration be nice? You bet. So, how do we determine its value in comparison to all our other requirements?
HOW TO WEIGHT INTEGRATION
Weighting occurs during the first step of the software implementation plan. As you create the criteria for your ideal CRM, determine the value you place upon each criteria. For example, how important is CRM project management software to your team? If it's important, then it needs to be identified as such when evaluating potential software solutions. Is it important that certain types of reports can be quickly generated automatically? Then that criteria needs to be identified as well.
To help you simplify this process, here’s a brief view of our Software Score Sheet, identifying suggested criteria you might want to include when evaluating software.
Mark the most important criteria with an explanation point or a star (or use a numbering or color system).
Pro Tip: Your important criteria may be different from other functions' criteria. If that's the case, have the heads of each department choose their own, and then create a master priority list based on the most common criteria chosen.
Take this into your software demos and sales calls to easy compare solutions and see whether or not they would fulfill the needs you outlined.
Once everyone "weighs" in on their priorities (see what I did there?), you'll get a better idea of whether or not CRM software integration is that critical or not.
To get even more out of the software score sheet, get it with 4 other software selection and implementation tools in our complete Technology Toolkit for RIAs. Click below to download the toolkit.