Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Collaborate in the Clouds with CRM

Collaboration and cloud computing are two emerging business trends that are shaping how businesses work.

Collaborating in the Clouds
Younger workers grow up in a culture of online collaboration, from gaming to social networks to the workplace.  Cloud computing, or software and digital storage that "sit somewhere in the clouds" on a third party server that can be accessed from any internet connected computer, make such collaboration much easier.

The Value of Contact Records
Managing company contacts in such a way is fast becoming the way forward.  Contact information for customers, suppliers, staff and stakeholders form a valuable corporate asset. Easy access to such information saves time, creates efficiency and simplifies collaboration between, for example, a mobile sales force, an office administrator and a CEO.  Contact information can be expanded beyond name, address, phone numbers and email address.  Information about conversations, documents, scheduled actions and more can be added to this client record to start adding intelligence to the database that can be mined for future sales, customer support, market research and more.

Using CRM software
A Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) provides the framework for capturing contact information and records into a giant database and it provides the tools to extract reports from this database.  Such a system provides the intelligence upon which a continued relationship can be built.

Traditionally CRM's were internally hosted in a secure environment to protect valuable contact information from competitors.  Increasingly, effective online CRMs become available with the benefit of universal access from the office, home or from the road.

Online CRM tools
Here are a few online CRM tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses:
Mobileme (developed by Apple)
People Matrix  (adapted for HR)
Zoho CRM (Free, Pro and Enterprise editions)  Check out Zoho - it offers almost more stuff for online collaboration that counterpart Google.

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