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Can we implement SaaS CRM in one month?

Is a one-month long implementation promise realistic from a Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor? In your experience, how long should it take?

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The evolution of SaaS platforms over the past several years make this question difficult to answer. What began as a basic set of features in specific business domains offered in an on-demand model has blossomed into highly-customizable application platforms spanning multiple business functions. We've seen SaaS instances deployed in as little as a few weeks in many cases, and well over a year in larger, more complex organizations.

Clearly, there are inherent accelerators in a SaaS model that provide for ready-made environments that do not require extended timelines for the procurement of hardware, perating systems and database build-outs, client certification, etc. However, many of the scoping realities of the on-premise world apply to the SaaS realm. Some questions to ask: Do you want to move beyond configuration to heavy customization using tools like Apex (Salesforce.com) or SuiteFlex (NetSuite Inc.)? Do you need to significantly extend the SaaS vendor data model? How about the volume of data transformation and/or conversion required? Do you need to integrate to legacy systems? What about the readiness of your organization with regard to user adoption challenges and training needs?

Bottom-line: A small and medium-size business (SMB) looking to introduce sales and/or service best practices by deploying a mostly out-of-the-box instance of SaaS CRM might implement within a one-month timeframe. If your requirements are more complex, it's best to ask your SaaS vendor to speak with a couple of customers who have completed comparable deployments in order to make sure you're using realistic timeline estimates.

This was first published in December 2006

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