Importance of a Sales Force Automation solution in any sales organization is no longer a topic to be debated on. It is now a part of basic hygiene of the sales process across the globe. Those who are already using some SFA solution are either driving improvements in the existing software or looking out for a more capable solution. And those, who are yet to roll-out such a solution, are surely hunting for a sophisticated software that can fulfill all their needs. Whatever may be the case, a proper and detailed due diligence must be done before you finalize any vendor. While it is understandable that in SaaS model switching cost is not too high, but we also need to consider the effort and time spent by top management in finalizing a solution and subsequently driving the adoption. Keeping in mind all these factors, it makes complete sense to do a thorough review of the capabilities of your shortlisted vendors.
In one of our earlier articles, we spoke about how to shortlist your SFA vendor. But that was purely from the perspective of product feature, implementation methodology, post implementation services etc. However, there is a major aspect that is worth to be discussed separately and in detail. How do you evaluate any SFA solution purely from technology point of view? While this is a question that will not be asked by the business team, but the IT team should definitely ask this question and get satisfactory response before going ahead with any solution. But how do you do it quickly, and properly? Here is a list of most important technical aspects that you should check on.
Cloud Platform: Almost all the SFA products are available on SaaS model and hence the backend servers are hosted on some cloud platform. It is important for you to check what is the platform being used by the solution. A reliable and globally acknowledged cloud computing service (such as AWS, Google Cloud, Azure etc.) comes with pluses such as very high level of SLA, state of the art server security, well defined back-up and disaster recovery process etc. So, if the SFA solution you are going to implemented is not hosted on an established cloud platform, you may have to handle many risks which are difficult to mitigate.
Technology Stack: Technology is advancing at a pace faster than what we could probably imagine. You need to verify whether the solution of your choice has a strategy in place to embrace all the latest changes and adopt the innovations. For example, is the iOS version of the app developed in Objective C or they have migrated to Swift. If not, you will be in a vulnerable position the day Apple announces no more support for Objective C. Similarly, if your preferred vendor is not working towards implementing AI in its product, you are definitely going to miss out on lot of exciting features very soon.
Compatibility with Regular Upgrades: The SFA solution that you will be using will eventually be run on devices of your employees, be it a mobile phone or a laptop. Operating system of the mobile phones are updated on a regular basis and similarly the browsers that we use for running web applications. While these updates are meant for overall benefit of the end users, at times it may affect the regular functioning of your SFA solution unless changes are taken care of. For example, iOS version 10 came with lot of UI changes which made many iOS apps unusable till necessary actions were taken and new version of apps were released. Similar changes are going to happen in Android OS also and your SFA solution should always be proactive to account for such upgrades.
Compliance with Regulations and Permissions: As there is enhanced scrutiny on data privacy worldwide, rules and regulations for app permissions are changing rapidly. Recently Android changed its policy on permission for SMS and Call Log where it was made mandatory to submit a permission declaration form or else the apps will be delisted. While this specific instance may not be relevant for SFA solutions, such changes are quite frequent now a days. Hence, you must check with your prospective SFA vendor what processes they have in place to handle such situations proactively.
Integration Capabilities: As you move up the ladder of automation, integrating all your solutions, including SFA, becomes a mandatory step to perform. Even though that may not be your immediate requirement, you must check on how capable your SFA solution is integrating with your existing IT landscape. Some basic things to be evaluated are whether the solution comes with pre-developed APIs to receive and transfer important master and transaction data, whether the solution is capable of adopting all of the commonly adopted integration methodology (including age-old FTP file transfer) and whether the back-end data structure of the solution is integration friendly.
Application Security: While server-side security can be taken take by the cloud platform being used by your SFA solution, the application side security must be implemented in the solution itself. You would definitely don’t want to be in a situation where the cloud service provider has suspended your live SFA solution because the code base has been hacked. Hence, you must check whether all the necessary application security measures including database encryption, implementation of OWASP guidelines, HTTPS authentication etc. have been taken care of or not.
Analytics Platform: You cannot foresee all your reporting / dashboarding requirement on day 1. Neither would you like to pay additional development cost for every new report nor would you like to have a dedicated MIS team to prepare necessary dashboards using the raw data downloaded from your SFA solution. Hence, it is very important for you to check it upfront what kind of analytics capability the SFA solution comes with. Have they integrated with some leading data visualization software? Do they have in-house analytics platform to cater to changing reporting requirements? If the answers are not positive, you may get yourself in a risky proposition.
While the above list is definitely not an exhaustive one, but it can serve as good starting point if you want to do a quick round of technical evaluation before finalizing the SFA solution for your organization.