Building a standard global software environment

The idea of implementing a single management application across the whole enterprise sounds great but do business run the risk of sacrificing to much for a "vanilla" application?

The idea of implementing a single customer relationship management (CRM) application across the whole enterprise, rather than having to deal with multiple instances of the same application in different business units and countries, holds undoubted appeal. Time and money can be freed up by only having one application to deploy, license, maintain and upgrade. Training becomes much simpler in a standardised software environment. Plus, there are far less integration headaches to deal with.

On the flip side, a single-instance deployment often results in a “vanilla” application, due to the increased difficulty in catering for business unit customisation and differing regional needs. If this means some parts of the business have to miss out on helpful, or even essential, functionality, the financial and time savings benefits can be reduced. For example, different privacy and data handling guidelines apply in different countries. 

Following are six essential criteria that will help you to decide whether a “single-org” or “multi-org” CRM platform approach is right for your organisation.

Organisational structure

Is the enterprise currently centralised or decentralised, and will this change in the near future? Are the back-end technology platforms centrally controlled? Detailed analysis of operations is critical, especially for companies that grow through acquisition.

Global reporting requirements

It is much easier and faster to generate real-time management reports, forecasts, and create a 360-degree view of customer data under a single organisation structure. Creating a reporting regime in the multi-organisation environment is still possible, but it becomes more complex. Master data management strategies become increasingly important and additional work will be required.

Business process synergy

When business units share similarities between products and sales processes, a single instance approach to deployment can deliver operational efficiency and visibility. However, mandating standardised processes globally can be challenging. It doesn’t just require evaluation and prioritisation of real business drivers, but also strong change management, to transform behaviours. Obtaining buy-in from every region will take time.

Collaboration needs

When a common customer exists, leveraging a single instance of an application will make it easier to share data between geographies and segments. It can also help to encourage company-wide collaboration with applications like Chatter, and better align marketing, sales, and service processes.

If, however, your organisation has geographically segmented customer bases, discrete business units or business lines that don't need to cross-sell, the autonomy offered by a multi-instance deployment may be of more practical value.

Flexibility

As already noted, agile custom development with most CRMs is easier under a multi-instance or multi-organisation approach, as it allows direct regional control. Not only can different groups use different editions, but there is also no risk of impacting other business segments, so less time is spent gaining buy-in. A single organisation approach requires a solid governance strategy, to ensure changes to modules, fields, and workflows that have the maximum business impact globally are prioritised.

Data concerns and administrative capabilities

Regulatory compliance, data security, storage, system integration, and even sheer data volume can all impact the ideal choice in organisation structure. Company culture also plays an important role. If an enterprise is driven centrally from a global headquarters, a single management hub or administrative strategy may be preferred. If the company operates with more regional autonomy, an approach that provides localised control might increase the administrative burden, but it may ultimately make a company more responsive to regional demands.

There is no right or wrong answer to the question of multi- or single-instance application deployment.  The idea of operating the same application across the enterprise and creating a standard global software environment makes sound business and financial sense. Sometimes, though, an organisation will find the maximum advantage is best achieved by allowing variances in the way an application is set up and used from country to country, or between business units. Ultimately, an intimate understanding of the needs of your employees and customers globally must inform the decision of whether a single-org or multi-org strategy will help your company achieve business objectives faster.

Patrick Bulacz is the services practice lead, ANZ, at Bluewolf.