Should You Use CRM Platforms to Manage Documents?

  • 10-Jun-2014

In a webinar last week on options for enabling salespeople to access documents, one alternative I discussed was to use your incumbent salesforce automation / customer relationship management (SFA/CRM) platform for document management. Many CRM platforms now provide interesting capabilities like basic document lifecycle management and file sharing as part of their core services.

Advantages

This option has several advantages. If your salespeople already spend considerable time in one of those environments, then they can carry out basic file sharing and document management in context of their everyday business flow. So for example, if salespeople use your CRM for managing leads and prospects, then documents such as brochures can be managed as part of lead management process.

Similarly, customer related documents such as bid responses, contracts and other similar documents can be managed in a CRM system in tandem with your standard bid and sales processes. Essentially, your salespeople can access documents “in the flow” of their daily work without having to go to another, disconnected application.

The second key advantage is that when you use an existing platform, you save on licensing costs as well as potential integration costs with an external document management system.

Disadvantages

But there are trade-offs in using this approach. If you are using multiple different systems, you will have documents spread all over and there won't be single "source of truth".  Also, this approach is like a walled-garden, meaning you may not be able to see and use those documents outside of that CRM platform.

Finally, mobile access presents yet another challenge. Mobile interfaces into CRM-type tools could prove overly complex for simple file sharing. In fact, salespeople will frequently need a different mobile app for file-related functionality when separated from that platform’s core functionality. Also, you will likely not get advanced features beyond really basic ones -- such as sync across multiple devices and so forth.

Salesforce.com is probably the most well-known example here, although several other platforms offer similar document and file management services. In fact, Salesforce offers multiple options, most notably Salesforce Files (earlier called Chatterbox). However, that offering is undergoing significant changes in the wake of Salesforce’s acquisition of connector vendor EntropySoft. Salesforce has had multiple changes to its document management strategy and that should give enterprises some pause.

Fortunately, you have many more options to enable your salespeople to access your company documents, including using a document management platform or licensing one of the cloud-based file sharing and sync tools.

We evaluate all the major players in our recently-updated ECM and Cloud File Sharing evaluations. As always, you can obtain a sample here.

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