Cloud-based CRM: Beware Bad Data and Silly Object Models

The marketing around cloud-based CRM systems is all about how fast they can be created and deployed, how they can scale up (or shrink to fit) to any business situation. But theyre still IT systems, and a lack of discipline still spells trouble.

Over the course of too many years, I've said that you can't make a user interface that's too easy for users. But cloud-based software vendors have essentially done just that. System setup is now deceptively simple, and too many sales pitches tell stories of how users can set up a cloud-based system themselves.

The problem is, users (and junior consultants) will feel empowered to set up cloud-based systems up without a plan or even a model for proper system execution. The cloud system's GUI will let them do so. A few months later, the system will be mired in bad data (that was too sloppily imported), a silly object model (that was too easily created), and a cacophony of business rules (that were never vetted).

Here are some important steps you can take in order to avoid pain later on.

Agile != Ready, Fire, Aim

Too many sins of omission have been committed in the name of Agile. Agile projects may be light on documentation, but they're supposed to be heavy on domain expertise, user feedback, and — most critically — technical excellence. So don't let anyone make the excuse that because the project is Agile there isn't time to think through classic IT issues.

In cloud CRM systems, some of the messiest novice errors come from a misunderstanding of the object model. Leads are confused with opportunities. Assets are confused with products. Entitlements are confused with contracts. By using these terms interchangeably, undisciplined users will end up asking for extra fields to be added in the wrong places.

Consequently, imports and ongoing data feeds will be scrambled. Because the data is in the wrong place, the users will soon ask for triggers to denormalize fields or replicate entire objects. Later, they will ask for functions and triggers that are essentially reinventing the wheel of standard CRM functionality.

This isn't just cloud CRM systems: nearly any cloud DBMS can be easily misconfigured with data models and entity relationships that won't serve the business need.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
Download CIO's Winter 2021 digital issue: Supercharging IT innovation