During the first CRM wave, implementations were complex and, for the most part, hosted within the Customer's (the company's) premises. Security, data protection and confidentiality were justifications for keeping the system within reach and in house.
The delivery or implementation was mostly through third party systems integrators, like accenture or KPMG, with the result that projects of this nature ran into several million dollars of CAPEX and OPEX and took about 12 to 24 months for implementation.
CRM was almost exclusively for large Customers whereas Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) were economically locked out from providing personalized customer service using CRM. There were only a handful of companies offering CRM solutions: PeopleSoft, Siebel, SAP, Clarify and a few others.
Nowadays there are many Windows Web or Linux based, low cost, full functionality CRM systems available to SMBs. Furthermore, with the advent of Web 2.0, many of these systems are available on a usage basis hosted in the cloud: Software As A Service.
Take Salesforce for instance. Salesforce.com was founded in 1999 and it has been the fastest growing CRM system for small and large sales organizations. The system is offered on a service basis and it requires relatively minimal effort to adapt to a particular sales process.
The end result is that SMBs, or in this case sales organizations with as few as ten sales people or Customer Service Representatives (CSR) can provide the same quality of personalized attention to hundreds of Customers as those companies that serve thousands, if not millions, of Customers. Furthermore, SMBs can manage their accounts with a minimal investment and with the outmost flexibility.
The challenge for an SMB is to choose the right CRM service provider. There are many white papers on the web that provide guidelines for selection of the right vendor.
Please allow me the opportunity to make this the next topic of the blog.