The Press here in Christchurch this morning had this piece on CRM systems for SME’s. The biggest surprise was that a traditional newspaper was mentioning something as esoteric as CRM but once I got over that I was pleasantly surprised at the level of understanding of the strengths and value of a CRM for small NZ businesses.
The gist of the article was that NZ businesses need to move from being product-centric and become much more customer-centric. This is another way of describing added value and also very much falls within my previous discussions about building customer persona models in order to truly understand the customers of a service or product.
The article also stated that a CRM should not be seen as a bolt on solution for an enterprise but rather become an integral part of the business. And this very nicely dovetails with my perspective about where service and software providers to SME’s need to focus.
Two words spring to mind – integration and partnership. Providers need to integrate various aspects or tools of a business in a holistic way such that the end result is a seamless process – CRM blends with ERP blends with product development and so on. Partnership is the other strong theme here – no longer should service or software providers see themselves as providing a single occasion service – rather they need to see themselves, and aid the enterprise to see themselves, as an integral partner of the business.
It is for this reason that I believe SaaS will become the pre-eminent delivery model for enterprise solutions in the next few years. And not just because of the cost and deployment benefits – rather SaaS provides a medium whereby the solutions can be attuned and integrated specifically for the business in question, Further SaaS is a much more partnership developing delivery model than traditional purchase/upgrade models.
The challenge here is for SaaS businesses to holistically aggregate the various tools a business requires. This can either be via opening up API’s to allow third party developers to come up with plug in solutions (think the Facebook apps we’ve all seen) or by a provider going it alone and either acquiring or developing the various tools needed.
It’s time for software entrepreneur’s to think much more strategically and try and develop a model of where they see their particular area of expertise developing and how that integrates with other related areas. It is the linkages between disparate but related solutions that will be the defining element of service provision in the future.