The Perfect CRM

I’ve been talking to people a lot about Client Relationship Management software. I did a previous post on this topic on linkedin and got a lot of great response. The San Francisco chapter of SMPS recently did a big article on CRM in thier newsletter, which I read. I was also talking to the CEO of Cosential about marketing and pricing CRM products.

The question I pose to myself is “what is my idea of a perfect CRM (including contacts, opportunities, proposals).” I’m not going to discuss the basics like “it’s web-based” because let’s just assume those are givens. Here are some things that define my perfect CRM:

1. Built On Open Standards And Extensible

One of the key things I would like to see in a CRM system is giving the users the ability to develop thier own plugins or modules to extend the functionality of the software. A user might need a special functionality that 99% of users do not need. The user should be able to add it into their system without it bloating the core system for everybody else. Building on open standards will make it easier for the user to develop new and specific functionality.

2. User Friendly

How many software manuals have you read? In my mind, one thing that differentiates a great piece of software is an intuitive user interface that doesn’t have to be learned. Everybody talks about how important training is for crm implementation. But you shouldn’t have to attend “mycrm” university to learn a piece of software. In my opinion, that shows a weakness in your product.

3. Core Functionality That Is Truly Core

Like all software, crm systems are often bloated and provide a lot of functionality that the average user will never use. Firms like Adobe tackle this issue by releasing versions of their software that only contain the core elements, like Adobe Photoshop Elements. My perfect CRM would only include functionality that was core.

4. Users Can Easily Import and Export Data.

It should be easy for me, the user, to import data from another system or export my data to use in a different CRM system. Standard, published, and easy to understand pricing I should be able to look at at the provider’s webpage and determine exactly how much I will pay.

This seems like a simple enough concept, but apparently, it’s not. Highrise functionality One of the core things we want to track is who saw who and said what where. One of the things about 37signals Highrise is that they focus on that aspect and try to make it user-friendly.

My perfect CRM system would shift the focus away from the data that appears on a person’s business card and onto the easy recording of interactions with the client or contact. Controls the content of your website. I like the idea of your CRM having a CMS.

Especially if it’s a CMS using open standards. By connecting your CRM and website, you would only have to update or add a project description once. No website should be without a CMS. Maybe someday we’ll say no CMS should be without a CRM.

5. Hosted and Non-hosted Options

Shouldn’t I be able to choose whether I want my CRM hosted on your servers or mine? There are benefits to both, so let me choose. Allows contacts to update their own info. Cardscan, like Plaxo at one point, had a function that emailed your contacts and asked them if their information is correct. I don’t care what anybody says, this is a great function that should be in your CRM. Don’t blame the software for the spammer.


  1. This is great, Matt! Love, love, love #2. Quick question, what is a CMS?

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