Should ROI Expectations Differ Depending on the Deployment Model?

I just completed an interview with a writer who’s crafting a white paper about open source, cloud computing and CRM. During the conversation, he asked me an interesting question that I didn’t see coming (kudos to him) and one that raises an interesting point.

Should a customer’s expectations for CRM ROI (improved sales, call centers metrics, etc.) change if they’re deploying open source versus proprietary software, or for that matter, on-site versus a cloud deployment?

My initial thoughts, and answer, are no. Regardless of the deployment model, a CRM application should still be addressing the core business drivers it was implemented to help automate, expedite and add efficiency to. Any improvement to sales, customer service, or marketing metrics should be a result of the functionality and user interface, and thus the ability of the end user to address those business processes. CRM is still more about the people than the technology.

That said, the deployment model does have a direct fallout on the ability of that company to deploy an application in a manner that’s supportive of those business processes, and thus, can have an indirect influence on ROIs in the long run.

For example, a company whose CRM project is driven around a mobile or dispersed sales force operating across multiple time zones should probably consider a SaaS application. For many of our customers, the benefits of open source revolve around back-end integration with other mission-critical apps, allowing them to tie important data sets together in support of CRM or industry-specific processes.

Those same customers could probably achieve similar ROI numbers if they deployed a proprietary solution or an on-site implementation, but the software wouldn’t be in as nearly a good position to assist in those endeavors.