Solving Real, Complex CRM Problems – A SaaS vs. Cloud Perspective

I just read a recent blog post on Cloud CRM deployments by Gartner’s Michael Maoz and I think he hits on a very important point – while also missing a very important point.

Michael is absolutely correct that many of what he calls enterprise “cloud CRM” deploymeappsorangsnts have failed to handle the kind of complexity that even the Siebel Systems-era, on-premise deployments managed. However, I think he is not using the right terminology here. When he says “cloud CRM” in terms of these limited scope deployments – I believe a better term is “SaaS CRM.”

To be clear, when I talk about “SaaS CRM,” I mean a CRM tool or set of apps delivered ONLY via the Internet. And, that app is being hosted ONLY by the vendor that develops that software. Now, “cloud CRM” means a set of CRM tools or a platform that can be run in multiple cloud permutations: hosted and managed by the user on a public cloud like Amazon, hosted by a reseller or VAR partner, managed by the user on a private cloud stack, etc. In short, “cloud CRM” has a far more flexible definition – and provides the user far greater levels of ownership and power of choice.

A truly cloud-based deployment can, and does, offer the kind of flexibility and ownership of code and runtime that allows for the management of complex problems a la Siebel circa 2000. However, limited multi-tenant SaaS products (and even some SaaS platforms) must, by nature, limit individual deployments to insure performance and availability for the masses.

Every day, we see more companies with complex, cross departmental process-oriented approaches to CRM look at us because we offer that level of ownership, flexibility, scale, etc. – while also being “in the cloud.” When you look at large organizations like IBM, or even mid-market companies like Sennheiser – they are not simply using Sugar for case or opportunity management, they are looking to transform their business, their approach to IT and and their application development. We are helping companies take on agile, and devOps IT models. This is a concept that is limited with the SaaS model where the vendor absolutely owns the delivery of software.

Michael asked people to prove him wrong, but I think it is less about being wrong in his assumptions, and instead more accurate in his description of the types of CRM deployments and the level of complexity each deployment offers.