A few weeks ago, a couple of us from Colibrium attended DreamForce, the gargantuan SalesForce conference held in San Francisco, to hear about new products, gain learning in over 2,700 breakout sessions and promote networking and partnerships for Salesforce's suite of products. While it can be easy to get lost in the sea of 170,000 other attendees elbowing each other for high quality "merch" and lines for celebrity speeches, we had another purpose. We were there to learn and hear directly from healthcare partners and customers about how they have leveraged Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to better run their business. It was fantastic to hear the success stories of how health plans, providers and third-party administrators used CRM software to improve their overall business.

One theme resonated in every single breakout session and keynote we attended: the technology would not have worked without significant process changes. This may be obvious to some, but let's think about it for a second: A CRM platform is the ecosystem that enables tracking, insights and learning about customers. Companies like Colibrium sell solutions that take that native ecosystem and make it specific for an industry, in our case Health Insurance. In our sales and implementation process, we act as consultants who thoroughly understand the current software (if there is one) and processes that are already in place. It makes sense that if you are implementing a new software application, processes will need to be modified accordingly. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.

One of the speakers we heard from was asked how they went about their decision-making criteria for the CRM vendor they chose. In a very honest answer, they said that they compared all the big tech names out in the market, and while each one had a few bells and whistles, there were not drastic differences in the technology itself. They made their decision based on the people and their understanding of their business. Many of the success stories also featured the inclusion of a third-party management consultant who helped the company make the process changes needed. In other words, the CRM applications weren't just a technology implementation; they were the trigger for fundamental changes in how the business is run.

It's that global strategic view that companies are looking for. In the southern United States, it has been common occurrence for many years to sit on the porch drinking an RC cola and eating a Moon Pie. It's kind of the champagne and caviar of the south, they just go together. The same is true for technology implementations and process change. Technology without process change will never produce sustainable value.

The most successful companies understand this. As you think about CRM solutions for your business, keep this in mind. Software companies cannot afford to focus only on technology specifications and widgets. Colibrium prides itself on understanding the business needs of its customers and coming up with solutions to meet those needs. Companies want a partner, not just a vendor. After all, what's a Moon Pie without the RC Cola to wash it down?