The relationship between CRM and IT is much the same as the relationship between a triple-decker sandwich and three slices of bread. Without Information Technology (IT), what we know as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) today would be reduced to a paper address book, a pencil and a really good eraser. The technology behind CRM can be divided into hardware, software and a database. In addition to the role of IT in CRM are the organization's policies and procedures that ensure the technology is being used efficiently.
Hardware's Role in CRM
CRM software requires a good server to run on. The server can be on-premises in your office or server room, or it can be "in the cloud," which means it's on a server run by the company that makes the software. The server will require plenty of RAM and a fast processing power so that multiple people can access the CRM at the same time, and so the software can quickly analyze data and create reports as needed. A fault-tolerant drive system and backup drives ensure the data is protected in case a drive becomes corrupted.
Today, users of the CRM software can usually access it from anywhere. A growing number of CRM systems can be accessed from tablets and smartphones using apps created by software companies. These are handy for getting most of the information you need quickly wherever you are. However, to access all of the software's features in 2019, laptop and desktop computers are still preferable. With the advent of 5G wireless systems, these apps may soon become more robust than they are today.
The third hardware component of CRM is the network. In the case of cloud-based CRM systems, any good internet connection is all you need. For on-premises systems, you will need a good firewall to protect data from hackers, with a virtual private network (VPN) or web portal if you want employees to access the system from outside the office.
The Database's Role in CRM
The database is where all of the information is stored. It's essentially a series of tables, much like spreadsheets that are all interconnected. Customer numbers, names and contact information, for example, could be stored on one table. Connected to each customer number would be data on other tables, like purchase history, contact history, product returns or service appointments.
Quite often, in larger companies, the database used by the CRM software is also used by other software systems, like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. For on-premises systems, this is where things can get tricky, because the data needs to be on a database that all of your software systems can understand and interact with.
Software's Role in CRM
CRM software is the IT component that brings everything together, accessing and updating the information in the database and making it available over the network to the employees and managers. Many of the features available from a CRM software package are available immediately out of the box. Other packages make some features standard, while others are available as add-ons. Some of the most common features or modules include:
- Lead Management
- Account Management
- Opportunity Management
- Sales Forecasting
- Sales Pipeline Analysis
- Contact Management
- Activity Management
- Email Management
Integration into social media, like Facebook and Twitter, can also be an important component for CRM and can be a fundamental part of a company's CRM strategy. Not only does it allow you to connect with clients and prospects using their favorite platforms and messaging services, but it can also monitor social media usage to provide additional information about clients and prospects based on their social media usage.
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.