CRM software runs my life

Tag: features

Features vs Usability

Just one more feature...

Just one more feature...

Does adding features automatically mean reduced usability?

Some bloggers strongly disagree with this sentiment, for example arguing features only reduce usability when they are implemented poorly. I would definitely agree with some of his examples, including adding PNG support to browsers which did not affect end user usability.

Another that he gave was Google search, which is a perfect example of an interface that is simple to the nth degree. Clearly Microsoft didn’t learn anything when they tried to compete with it by adding 3 sliders to “tune” your search results. Instead Google addresses this need for additional tuning into it’s back end, which by many counts analyses and balances 10’s if not 100’s of contributing factors. There is a load or cost in adding features, however it can be paid either by your users in your software, or internally through process and/or business analysis. This is a balance however, and factors like scalability, audience and resources all have to be assessed before a solution can be scoped.

So how can you tell if you got this balance right? Usability can be tested independently with a sample pool of your audience, and this doubles as a great way to involve your customer and evangelise them. It does get expensive however, mainly due to the time and specialist software packages required (such as TechSmith Morae). A quicker and cheaper method is to just ask someone who knows, a usability expert.

There is a great article on usabilitynews.com comparing the two types of usability feedback. If it is your first attempt at usability testing (or it requires a full time resource to manage) than an expert is a great way to learn the process and common techniques. The bottom line however, is that there is no substitute for the horse’s mouth. Customer comments and videos provide concrete suggestions that will help to mitigate any external or internal stakeholder objections both pre and post deployment.

Top 5 CRM Selection Criteria

I have now been working with CRM systems for 5 years. It is only recently that I have seen the industry  (finally) mature to a stage where it is no longer engaged in a straight up feature war. This has been driven by two things; a maturity of product offerings and a recognition by customers that they should be making decisions based on an analysis of their own requirements, rather than a feature comparison matrix. To this end, here are my top 5 criteria for selecting a CRM system:

Usability – Without this, nothing else matters. If your users will not adopt and use your selection, it’s a waste of time and effort.

Alignment – What do you want to do with your CRM system? If you are looking to manage contacts & contact activity, you’d consider a completely different slate of products than you would if you were looking to customize a product to support your entire business process.

Product delivery – SaaS vs. client/server is a big consideration. Do you need an offline client, or is a plugin enough? If so, how robust does it need to be? This could direct you toward a client/server solution. Do you have an IT department and any in-house expertise? If not, could direct you toward a SaaS product.

Integration needs – While it is easier than ever to integrate SaaS products with other systems, some scenarios definitely call for an on-premise solution. This could be a limitation of your current software packages that you rely on but have no interface into.

Pricing – Do you have capital up-front? Do you want to buy your solution? If not, SaaS products are much easier to get started with. In some cases though, they can end up costing more in the long run. There is also a great price difference in different SaaS products and even within themselves based on functionality.

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