Platform selection: Forget the features

To successfully implement change — it’s about people and process, not just the platform choice.

Businesses get stuck on making a decision about which platform they need to buy to solve their problem. However they give little thought to the internal costs of introducing a new platform/ system. Businesses also need to consider the added overhead for the different teams — it’s not just Marketing that will be impacted by the introduction or change out of a CRM tool for example — IT, Data analytics and Customer Service will all be impacted. Process will also need to be changed, created and implemented to ensure the platform is adopted and optimized across the business.

From my 15 years of experience setting up CRM/ Communities working in Marketing, the last 8 years working with start-ups I’ve used and researched and implemented many CRM, Community and Customer Service platforms. Assessing their functionality based on a list of requirements is only the beginning. Companies like Gartner attempt to compare functionality, producing tables each year like the Magic Quadrant which attempt to assess platform providers functionality however there is not enough consideration for the other costs involved in these changes. Comparing functionality alone doesn’t give a business an indication of success. It fails to illustrate the additional investment required in terms of other integration and human resource costs. Businesses risk investing money in costly tools which aren’t fully utilised or adopted. When most businesses only use a fraction of the functionality, the reality is the incremental benefit of using an entry level product vs a high end product is minimal. For a start-up, unless you achieve scale the ROI on a high end platform will be difficult to justify.

Consolidation = Same sameness?

The consolidation of tools and agencies, bigger companies buying out specialist software companies means it is now much easier to access and integrate tools, it is also creating an environment where platforms are less differentiated. Businesses getting caught up in platform selection often fail to give much thought to how the different siloed departments will adapt and adopt the new technology. Post-implementation, the platform often hasn’t solved the problems it set out to achieve because the people and the processes haven’t adapted. So, how can platform providers help create better success and support business change? It isn’t a case of simply just installing a program and collecting the subscription revenue, they need to be able to support the change and adoption of their service throughout the business.

My predictions are that there will be a continuation of consolidation of tools and agencies, with bigger software companies buying out specialist software companies and agencies. This will benefit the start-up, giving them access to the tools that they need to transform their business, which will be easier to integrate and afford and the platform selection anguish will be reduced.

What can platform providers do to support successful business change?

On their own this will be tough, as business culture plays a large part in accepting any change. Encouraging collaboration across teams when setting out requirements and ensuring the company is continuing to involve them throughout the project is one way to help acceptance and adoption. The other is to be clearer with the additional costs in terms of internal effort and additional spend to support the new platform.

Set the right expectations at the outset in terms of true set-up costs (time + money) will help both the platform provider and the new business bring in the change needed and spend time throughout the project aligning the processes and people.