It’s always great to hear a CRM success story. We get to hear a lot of them, and are fortunate to often be a part of some of those stories. Of course, CRM isn’t a silver bullet for every business, and sometimes even the eventual path to success has some bumps in the road and a wrong turn or false start along the way.
CRM can fail for a variety of reasons, but one reason that we hear fairly regularly that often surprises us is, “It was too slow, so we abandoned it”. Of all the challenges that implementing and maintaining a successful CRM presents, speed should rarely, if ever, be an issue. Here are a few common things that might be contributing (or the culprit itself) to why your cloud CRM seems slow.
Defining What “Slow” Means
First, when we hear complaints about slow CRM, the overwhelming majority of people are referring to a cloud solution like Microsoft CRM Online, Sugar On-Demand or Salesforce. The reason for this is simple: on-premises, locally installed software is, and most likely always will be, faster and more responsive than a cloud solution accessed via a browser. This applies not just to CRM, but web applications in general.
Accessing something via the internet takes longer than accessing something that lives on a user’s computer. So when users complain about speed (or a lack thereof), most often they’re referring to the time it takes for their CRM to load, refresh pages and screens, and execute commands like logging calls, generating reports, and updating records.
The gap in performance between locally installed software and cloud applications can often be narrowed to the point of having no real-world impact, and the tremendous benefits that cloud computing offers makes it worth investing the time to get it working right.
Beauty and Bandwidth
One of the very first things to consider if you’re having speed issues is the connection itself. Since cloud CRM is web-based, it stands to reason that the faster your connection to the internet, the faster your CRM will perform. Any company using modern hardware, a current and up-to-date browser (like Chrome), and a business-class broadband connection should be getting the maximum responsiveness out of their system.
Conversely, trying to access your CRM from an old or underpowered computer with an older version browser and slower internet connection will naturally yield sub-par results. Even a brand new, ultra-powerful PC would see poor CRM performance if it was trying to access the application with something like Internet Explorer 7 via a dial-up connection. That’s an extreme example of course, but the point is that a good browser and a fast connection are critical to good CRM performance.
Assuming your hardware, browser, and connection are up to snuff, the next item that can most easily affect CRM performance is the CRM interface itself. Most of the major vendors pour a tremendous amount of time and resources into their applications to make them run as quickly as they can on as wide a variety of systems as possible. But each vendor offers very different interfaces and that can have an effect on speed.
Generally speaking, the more graphic-intensive an interface is, and the more items on each screen that need to be refreshed every time a page loads, the longer it will take. Put another way: text loads very quickly–pictures, icons, buttons, and other interactive elements take longer. If your CRM is graphics-intensive, it will (all things being equal) take longer to load than a CRM that is not. It may look slick and cool when you log in, but it’s going to cost you time on the back end.
Moving along, another key component that can contribute to a lagging CRM is the number of 3rd-party implementations connected to it, and the amount of data each additional piece of software is pulling into or pushing out of the system. If your CRM has social components built in (or added on) to include data from sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Klout, or anything else, every time you access a contact record that includes that data, your CRM has to not only load the contact record from it’s own database, but go fishing for updates from each of those social sites and load that in as well.
Heavier weight third party integrations like call center tracking, shipment and order tracking, and marketing automation software often provide a large amount of data. It’s important to remember that every time a page in your CRM is loaded that includes data from sources like these — many of these integrations have to “call home” and go fetch data from their own servers. If third party integrations are not properly optimized and managed, they can quickly create bottlenecks in your CRM.
Optimizing The User Experience
The last element that can have a large impact on CRM speed that a company has direct control over is how well their CRM has been optimized from a user interaction perspective. This is an area that often gets neglected in discussions about CRM performance, but one that plays a very crucial role in the success or failure of an implementation.
One of the main components of optimization is actually familiarity with the system itself. If users have been doing things a certain way for years and years, and are then suddenly asked to do them in a new way in a new system that uses different lexicon — there’s going to be a learning curve and the old way of doing things will naturally appear to seem faster. To mitigate the problem, it can be very helpful to, as much as possible, set up the new system to mimic the processes and workflow of the old system to provide some semblance of familiarity and continuity to users and then gradually make changes (if needed) as users gain competency and speed on the new platform.
Creating a functional and familiar workflow for new users is a component of a larger effort that all businesses should make to optimize the system at all levels to address and assist an organization’s requirements and workflow. It is entirely possible (and unfortunately not uncommon) to both over-configure and under-configure a CRM. A good implementation, whether performed in-house or by an outside party, will take the time to understand the use case, needs, and requirements of a company and then build the system around those things. Companies that abandon CRM often try to do the reverse: they implement a CRM a certain way, and then try and force themselves to adapt to less-than-ideal processes and workflows.
CRM is a tool, and a very flexible one at that. CRM will only produce the desired results when the time and effort to make it work correctly have been given to it. The speed of the system, like every other facet, is something that should be investigated and understood prior to committing to one platform over another, but ultimately should be a minor concern in all but the most demanding of circumstances. Chances are, if your organization hits a wall with CRM and speed is the core issue, there are a variety of possible solutions to try before abandoning the effort altogether.