Sales Force Automation Diagnostic Question #2 Can the Bear Ride a Bicycle?


I ran into someone at a conference who wanted his SFA system to also do his billing.  I want to go on record as saying a database is a database and anything is possible.  But if you want to train a bear to ride a bicycle, it’s usually a good idea to start with a bear.  In the last eight years, SFA has exploded with core capabilities and compatible software (witness and their original AppExchange).  However, it still is prudent to ask, “Does the system have the core functionality required to meet our needs?” (i.e., Are we sure the bear isn’t going to eat us before we get the training wheels off the bike?)

Perhaps the biggest dichotomy and area of potential disconnect is the difference between systems that model the sales process and those that model the customer relationship process.   It’s easy to think of a SFA system as a database for managing the sales pipeline up to and including the sale, and a CRM system one that manages the interaction after the sale.  Many systems successfully bridge the divide.  But, we need to be careful before asking this bear to ride a bike.  It’s been my experience that SFA and CRM exhibit the characteristics of two very different bears.  If you want to manage revenue and not pipeline, you need to take a look at the core functionality and which side of the nexus you are on.

Sales Force Automation and Customer Relationship Management

Just as there may be different sales processes to model, you should also make sure you have an understanding of which side of the progression you are interested in, or both. 

The next thing to consider is how much of the function is standard “out of the box” and how it would need to be configured (What can an average bear be expected to do?).  After that you can consider “customization” or adding additional capabilities through other software programs.  For example, do you want your SFA to interface with Jigsaw (an email provider)?

So the key questions you can ask at this point are:

  1. Does the SFA system model the specific process you want?
  2. Does the SFA system have the core capability in order to perform this model?
  3. Is this something we want the SFA to do, or is there another way to do it?  Apply the KISS (Keep It Simple) principle here.
  4. Do we need to re-configure or incorporate another add-on to the SFA?
  5. Do we need or want to “customize” the application? (Note: I won’t get into a detailed discussion about the differences between configuration and customization)

The tough part about diagnosing problems in this stage is making sure you know whether or not you really want and need the bear to ride the bicycle. 

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