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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 ( 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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