Client Relationship Management (CRM) platform for sole practitioner

Two years ago I wrote a short product review article for CPAs on the topic of Client Relationship Management Software (CRM) that was based on my own experience trying to find a suitable platform for my own sole practitioner financial advisory business. The article titled Tech Product Review: Client Relationship Manager (CRM) Software was published in July 2012 by the New Jersey Society of CPAs. Since then, I’ve reported that the field remains unsettled and that I am personally not satisfied with any of the available solutions.

Apparently I am not alone in my discontent. The following passage comes from an undated white paper at www.outlookwise.com: “A recent Butler Group report found that 70 percent of CRM implementations fail. A Gartner study found that approximately 55 percent of all CRM projects failed to meet software customers’ expectations. In a Bain & Company survey of 451 senior executives, CRM ranked in the bottom three categories among 25 popular tools evaluated for customer satisfaction. The findings of a poll of 100 SME organisations with CRM implementations revealed that while 60% of sales directors insist that CRM is fundamental to their sales processes, a quarter have lost customers directly through their ineffective use of CRM technology”.

My conclusion for the sole practitioner: Better organization of business information would help any professional in any occupation but CRM platforms are “overkill”.

Now I am focused on bringing a practical working solution into a Microsoft Office 365 platform. It shouldn’t be so difficult yet I find little evidence that this has been done successfully by others already. The goals are relatively simple:

  • A system that is Outlook contact-centric but links to other documents
  • Cloud-based and available across platforms
  • Allows for occasional sharing of specific items as needed (but not full time team access or collaboration)
  • Record details of interactions for easy retrieval later
  • Allow for easy future calendar prompts that link to the contact and the prior tasks/notes
  • Incorporates a financial planning “fact finder” that is easy to access as a core component
  • Does not require launching another program just to see basic information
  • Does not slow down basic Outlook functionality
  • Does not involve another monthly fee (I have enough of those already)

We probably shouldn’t be saying “online security”

This is an email I sent to a person at my CPA association that handles industry publications.

“May I propose coverage of a hot industry topic that seems to deserve more attention than it is getting:

“Online security”, particularly with regard to the Microsoft Exchange platform and Google Doc platforms used by so many CPA firms for email and document management. The disclosures over the past few months and especially this past week should, IMO, be shocking to the CPA community.

See
http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_on_the_issues/archive/2013/07/16/responding-to-government-legal-demands-for-customer-data.aspx for other references.

In short, it seems clear that a) NSA has cracked the best security systems used by Microsoft and others for industry data, b) U.S. has released bulk data to other country security offices especially Israel) without and c) Microsoft, Google and others want to say more on the topic but are subject to government restrictions that prevent public discussion.

In light of all this news is seems silly for us CPAs to continue using the term “secure” in the same sentence as “online”. As a practical matter, I just think more CPAs should be up to speed on what’s going on and modify our professional and client conversations accordingly.”