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The Limits of SaaS in CRM: Gag Rules may Quash the Reality.

by Michael Maoz  |  July 18, 2011  |  2 Comments

I’ve been traveling quite a bit the past few months, visiting clients across western Europe and the United States. As much as I’d rather stay close to home base, there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face with clients. The intimacy of sitting at a table, having a coffee or tea, and talking brass-tacks about what keeps them up at night from a business perspective is hard to replicate on the telephone. Here is one nugget that I heard twice in one week from clients: they were unable to publicly discuss their failed CRM implementations for sales and customer service automation because of (what they described as) Gag Clauses or ‘non-defamation letters.’

Respecting them, I cannot mention anything that might point at a country, industry, or product, but it was fairly shocking to see a software as a service (SaaS) implementation that I had understood to have gone well had, in fact, been painful and still a source of irritation. Another client had tried to deploy an ‘on-premise’ solution from a major business application provider, only to stop the project and sue in court to recover their money. The model is not the critical element here.

I am not in any way suggesting that there is a hidden and massive list of horror stories. What I am stating is that the whole story of the complexity of SaaS deployments (where, for example, the product lacks industry template, and where there is a need to support multiple roles and complex sales processes) is not being told necessarily. The ‘Success Stories’ are heavily covered and written about. The glowing testimonials are at everyone’s fingertips. But what about the failures? Do you really think that they disappeared in the bad-old-glory days of CRM 1999-2004?

Dig deeper – whether you are looking at an on-premise, hosted, Private Cloud, or multi-tenanted SaaS – at how the product performs to your specific use case based on references with whom you have spoken. It was just about 300 years ago that Alexander Pope offered this advice in his “An Essay on Criticism,” and I still hear my 6th Form teacher reciting it:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

Basically: if you have a complex business process, versus simple stuff like entering and retrieving data, completing forms, and facilitating social exchanges, make sure you have done your due diligence on the vendor: from software, custom development, maintenance of custom objects, and the integrator resources required to get something up and running. The Cloud is a beautiful thing, and for some uses it is still in its early days. I’ll be publishing more on this on Gartner.com in two weeks.

If you have your own story, let me hear it – maybe by email rather than posting it here – unless you have not signed a Gag Rule!

Category: applications  cloud  crm  innovation-and-customer-experience  it-governance  leadership  saas-and-cloud-computing  strategic-planning  vendor-contracts  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio


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  1. […] The Limits of SaaS in CRM: Gag Rules may Quash the Reality. […]

  2. […] The latest comes from Gartner’s Michael Maoz, who relayed what he’d recently heard from some clients. They had “gag clauses,” or non-defamation letters, which prohibited them from publicly discussing their …. […]



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