That's where your analysis of how your existing CRM system stacks up to business and customer needs comes in. Wardley also recommends asking whether your CRM upgrade is something you can accomplish through simple add-ons or whether it will require a major overhaul.
For example, does your CRM system need what Wardley calls a "lunchtime facelift?"? That is, do you have antiquated systems with capabilities that you like, but that may need to be updated through some add-ons, such as social media analytics or the ability to add in data such as a customer's Twitter handle? If so, perhaps those may be changes you can make without major rebuilding efforts.
"Or are you finding more fundamental requirements that your system doesn't have that means it needs a complete replacement?" Wardley asks.
One huge factor in your decision-making will be the age of your CRM infrastructure. "Obviously, the older the system, the less likely that it will be able to accept deep integration with new systems, particularly with cloud technologies," she says.
If you have an antiquated system and you want to have a multichannel strategy, with call center capabilities, online customer service chat, mobile capabilities and social media input, it will likely make things tougher.
What's more, you might not be able to add available modules for mobile and social media features because they are reliant on IP-based technologies that are likely not in your older CRM applications, says Wardley. If that's the case, then you certainly won't be able to move forward with what you have, she adds.
One of Wardley's recent clients found another related conundrum: They learned that their CRM customizations done long ago wouldn't work with other data gleaned from customer loyalty card data. That meant that the combined data couldn't all be brought up on a call center agent's screen when a customer called. The problem was again that new CRM applications don't always like to work well with older customized apps.
"There's so much that's contingent on integration," she says. "If you bought a software package in 1999 and you're trying to deploy a new application today, are they going to work together? Over time it gets more arduous and less likely that you can maintain that application or find the skilled workers who can do it. And even if you do, it keeps costing you money."
Todd R. Weiss covers Enterprise Applications, SaaS, CRM, and Cloud Computing for CIO.com. Follow Todd on Twitter @TechManTalking. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join Todd in the "CIO Forum" group on LinkedIn.com to talk with CIOs and IT managers about the things that keep them up at night.