3-tier architecture:

an app architecture that separates user, business, and data services into three separate tiers to achieve better scalability and flexibility. The middle tier is the so-called app server, which handles the business logic and communicates with the database server.

See also [Client/server app]

See [automatic call distributor]
See [app coding interface]
app coding interface (API):

a set of interfaces meant to facilitate the integration of a tool with other tools.

app software provider:

a vendor who provides business apps under a rental arrangement. The app could be developed specifically by the ASP to be available under a rental arrangement or could be available in a standard license package either from the same vendor or from another vendor who allows the ASP to run the app on its behalf (and who probably has similar arrangements with other ASPs). If the vendor functions as both an ASP and a traditional software vendor you may be able to migrate from a hosted model to a package model over time.

See [app software provider]
Automatic Call Distributor:

a piece of telephone equipment that handles incoming calls and distributes them among a set of agents. More sophisticated units allow the caller to route the call through a series of menus to the appropriate set of agents. ACDs can also report on the calls received, where they came from, and how many were abandoned (i.e., callers hung up).


a characteristic of a tool that makes it resilient to failures in the underlying systems. Although high availability is always desirable, it's also very expensive so that's a tradeoff that must be resolved by weighing the additional costs against the cost of a down system.

Back-office app:

an app that handles "behind the scenes" work such as accounting, HR, or manufacturing.

See also [Front-office app]


in a ROI analysis, the point in time when the benefits from the investment balance out the cost.

Business owner:

a manager or executive responsible for one of the business functions that is participating in the project. Business owners' acceptance and assistance is critical in the success of a CRM project.

See also [executive sponsor]

Campaign management:

the set of tools that are used to automate marketing campaigns.


a single support or service issue, which may require several interactions to resolve. The basic unit in support-tracking systems.

Case-based reasoning:

a way to resolve issues by reusing or adapting solutions created for similar issues in the past.

See [case-based reasoning]
Change management:

the set of activities required to implement successful change within an organization, in particular as it relates to people. Change management is often required for a CRM project.


a communication channel that allows instant messaging. In a CRM context, this occurs between a customer and a sales or support rep. It is typically initiated by the customer as an alternative to a phone call or an e-mail interaction.

Client/server app:

an app that includes a back-end server that runs on a shared machine and a front-end client that lives on the user's computer. Older CRM tools perform as a client/server app.

Computer-telephony integration:

a piece of software that allows the CRM system (or any other system) to exchange data and to coordinate with telephone equipment, typically an ACD. With CTI, you can route calls based on caller ID or menu choices chosen by the customer through the IVR interface. CTI allows you to do screen pops, painting the screen of the rep with the information gathered over the phone. CTI also allows you to dial phone numbers based on contact information in the database.


the work required to transform an app from the out-of-the-box version to one that is tailored to the particular requirements of the organization.

See also [personalization]

See [customer relationship management]
See [computer-telephony integration]
Customer relationship management (CRM):

the set of processes and functions that surrounds the customer-oriented functions within the organization such as sales, marketing, and support. Also used to designate specifically the tools used for those functions.


the work required to transform an app from a vanilla app (pretty much as delivered, but with personalized data) to one that matches the processes and requirements of the organization. Customization usually requires skilled coding and results in changes that are readily apparent when compared to the vanilla version, whereas personalization is much easier and quicker. Customization can be extensive to the point that the finished product bears little resemblance to the vanilla app both in looks and in functionality. Also used to refer to the customized app itself.

See also [personalization]

Data migration:

the process of moving data in a meaningful manner from an old system to a new one. Data migration involves matching old fields to new fields, occasionally aggregating data from several systems, and processing information so it matches the new data model.

Data model:

the kind of data stored in a database and the way the data is arranged. For instance, does the database think of customers as individuals or as organizations to which individuals belong? Does the database have a concept of one customer having different sites? Although most CRM systems allow changes to the data model, some changes may be difficult. For instance, if you wish to collect cell phone numbers for customers and the base data model doesn't allow it, it should be easy to add that field. On the other hand, if the CRM system thinks of customers as individuals and you think of them as organizations, the change may be difficult to impossible.


the set of activities required to get the tool into the hands of the users in production mode. Deployment can occur over time if larger groups of users are involved.

See also [rollout]

Development environment:

the set of machines and systems where customizations and integrations are created. It's best to have a development environment that's separate from the testing environment, which itself is separate from the production environment. Smaller companies often make do with just one, but of course it means that any mistakes made in development will immediately have an effect on the production environment.

See also [testing environment]
See also [production environment]

Disconnected user:

a user such as a field sales or service rep who downloads information from the CRM system to a PC or other portable device, updates it while away from the office, and then uploads it back into the shared system. Disconnected usage calls for robust synchronization capabilities so the downloads and uploads can happen quickly and maintain data consistency even if multiple updates occurred.

See [enterprise app integration]

a system that allows customers to conduct business transactions over the Internet in self-service mode.

See also [e-sales]


Electronic Customer Relationship Management. Used to designate systems that provide CRM functionality to the customer via a portal.

See also [e-sales]

E-mail response management:

functionality sometimes integrated into CRM tools that intelligently respond to customer e-mails by sending automatic replies and/or creating service requests within the CRM tool.

Enterprise app integration (EAI):

a technology that allows different apps to work with each other.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP):

a methodology and tools that automate procurement, manufacturing, and distribution functions. Typically seen as a back-office function.

See [enterprise resource planning]

an app that allows organizations to reach customers online for marketing purposes.

See also [e-commerce]


an app that allows customers to make purchases in self-service mode.

See also [e-commerce]


used in support and service functions to mean either a case going from a level-1 rep to a more senior rep or a situation in which a customer, especially a corporate customer, requires dedicated management attention.

Executive sponsor:

the individual who supports a project at the executive level, including "selling" it to the appropriate stakeholders, making sure that momentum is preserved, and helping to remove obstacles as they occur. The executive sponsor is usually not the project leader, except in smaller organizations. See project leader.

Fixed price:

a way of pricing any project, but in particular a CRM implementation project, with a predetermined price based on a particular scope of work.

See also [time and materials]

Front-office app:

an app that automates the management of a function that relates to customers such as sales or service.

See also [back-office app]

High-end tool:

a tool with very rich functionality, extensive customization capabilities, and excellent scaling ability. High-end tools are costly and require significant time and resources to implement, but they afford the highest levels of functionality.

See also [mid-range tool]

History trail:

a feature that allows a tool to record all actions on a particular object, for instance, any changes of any kind to a knowledge base document.


the process through which an app, including a CRM app, is installed, configured, customized, integrated with other apps, and then rolled out to the end-users.

See also [customization]
See also [integration]


the work required to make data or screens that belong to one app accessible to another. Integration can be as simple as a recurring data download, or as slick as a real-time access from one app to the next, typically using data from the initial app (for instance, with a customer service issue on the screen, obtain the current status of the product defects reported by the customer and add comments to that entry). Also used to refer to the finished product of two or more apps functioning as a single app in some ways.


an individual or company that focuses on implementing software solutions, either adapting packaged software licenses (most of the time) or creating them from scratch. Services delivered typically include project management as well as technical work (programming, system administration), and, very often, additional services such as change management, training, etc.

Interactive voice response (IVR):

a part of the telephone system that allows the caller to interact with data by making choices and entering data through their touch pad. Examples of uses of IVR include bank-by-phone systems, schedule-checking apps, and gathering routing input for an ACD system. IVRs were very popular before web portals came into being since they can perform similar functions, although in a much more limited manner since the information transferred needs to be short and the input device is limited.

Internal rate of return:

the percentage of profits brought about by a new initiative, from an ROI analysis perspective.

See [internal rate of return]
IT owner:

the individual that represents IT management on the project. The IT owner is the counterpart of the business owners.

See also [business owner]

See [interactive voice response]
Kickoff workshop:

a meeting of the entire project team that is used to create, validate, and approve the implementation requirements for a CRM project. This tutorial advocates holding such a meeting to create requirements swiftly.

Knowledge base:

a set of documents that relates to a particular topic. A good knowledge base is complete, accurate, easily searchable, and contains as few overlaps as possible. A knowledge base in and of itself is not necessarily automated or supported by a purpose-built tool, although these days most are.

Knowledge management:

the set of processes used to maintain and augment the knowledge base. This includes creating and reviewing documents as well as ensuring that older or incorrect documents are removed or revised.

Layered implementation:

an approach through which deliverables are carefully defined and scheduled so that functionality is delivered in stages that include complete solutions and add on to the previous ones. Layered implementations typically work with fairly short-term deliverables, 60 to 90 days each.


a potential customer, identified through a marketing program, who is not yet qualified to have real potential.

See also [prospect]


the act of entering activities into a tracking system. Accurate logging of all activities is essential to get the full benefits of a CRM tool, in particular in the area of accurate metrics.

Long list:

a list of potential CRM tools (or whatever else you're purchasing) that may fit the requirements you have for the project.

See also [short list]

Marketing automation:

the set of tools that automates marketing functions such as lead management and campaign management.

Marketing encyclopedia:

the set of documents used by sales reps to work and close deals.


a set of quantitative measurements to report back on a business process.

Mid-range tool:

a tool designed to deliver a solid but limited set of functionality, with limited customization capabilities and fairly good scaling capabilities. Mid-range tools are easier and faster to implement than high-end tools and are a good choice if you can live with the limits on functionality they come with.

See also [high-end tool]


a point in a project plan where something special happens, usually when a deliverable is met. The more tangible the milestones, the easier it is to monitor progress.


a characteristic of a system or a process that enables it to handle communications through more than one channel (a channel being the phone, e-mail, chat, etc.) in a way that integrates all the channels together. A system that processes e-mail in a totally different way from phone conversation, with the result that it's not possible to link a customer's phone interaction with the same customer's e-mail interaction would not be a good multi-channel system.

New-wave CRM tool:

a newer CRM tool that offers a relatively small set of functionality, including key items and often some unique ones as well and that can be customized more easily than a traditional tool, although not as extensively. See traditional CRM tool for a different approach.

See [out of the box]
Out of the box:

a feature that comes with the tool, as opposed to a custom feature. Also called vanilla.

Partner relationship management (PRM):

similar to Customer Relationship Management, the set of processes and function to work with partners including sales, marketing, and support. Often used to designate exclusively the tools used for those functions.

Payback period:

in an ROI analysis, the time it takes to recover your investment. The payback period always occurs after deployment and depends on how quickly benefits accrue compared to cost.


the work required to transform an app from the out-of-the-box version to one that is usable including personalized values for drop-down lists, personalized messages, e-mail links, etc. Personalization is distinguished from customization in that it requires little work and no complex coding tasks. CRM apps are often unusable without the personalization work. Also used to refer to the finished product (the personalized app), which can be the finished product for the rollout. Most implementations use both personalization and customization. Also

See also [configuration]

Point solution:

a CRM tool that delivers functionality for one particular business function, or just one particular business problem. Point solutions need to be integrated with others for a complete system, but they have the potential to deliver much better functionality in the area they target compared to suites.

See also [suite]


a web site that allows customers (who can be internal or external) to interact with the organization, and in particular with the CRM system.

Post-mortem review:

a review of the entire project to determine what went well and what did not go well, with the goal of improving future similar efforts. Post-mortems are useful in CRM projects because they often have many phases so the outcome of the post-mortem can be immediately useful for the next phase.

See [partner relationship management]
Production environment:

the set of machines and systems that supports the end-users. It's best to have three separate environments for development, testing, and production, respectively, so the production environment is protected from any mishaps that can occur when making changes to the system.

See also [development environment]
See also [testing environment]


the state of the project where the end-users are using the system to do their daily work. In other words, production occurs at the end of the rollout period.

See also [rollout]

Project manager:

the individual who heads the project, including creating the project plan, managing day-to-day activities, and addressing issues as needed.

See also [executive sponsor]


a potential customer, who has passed some minimal qualification process.

See also [lead]

See [rapid app development]
Rapid app Development:

a methodology whereby multiple prototypes are created and tested immediately with the users until the desired goal is reached. RAD accelerates development projects by making sure developers get feedback early on.

Request for Proposal:

a formal process to describe requirements (here, for a CRM tool, but that can be used for any other purchase) to a vendor and obtain a formal, written description of features together with a bid. Also used to designate the document itself. gives an alternative method to the standard RFP process.


a set of conditions that a tool must meet. The tutorial refers to two different (but related) sets of requirements. One is the tool requirements, that are rather high level (aiming at functionality rather than specific screens) and are used to make tool selection. The other set are the implementation requirements, which are much more detailed and are used to customize the tool. It's important to rank both sets of requirements to distinguish the key requirements from the others and to be able to prioritize various phases of the project.

Return on investment (ROI):

a financial analysis that gauges how the benefits created by a particular tool (or new plant, or whatever) surpass the initial investment. ROI is defined as the profits generated through the tool divided by the cost of the tool.

See [request for proposal]
See [return on investment]

the period of time and the set of activities between the time the app is ready (complete and tested) and the time all users are actually using it. Typical rollout activities include setting up hardware, configuring the network, transferring data from the old system to the new system, and training the users. Depending on the scope of the project and the business environment, the rollout may occur within a brief window or over a long period of time if groups are brought to the project in a sequence.

Sales force automation (SFA):

the field of tools that are used to support the sales process.


the ability of a tool to function with lots of users, and moreover to be extensible to more users through a simple mechanisms (e.g., adding more servers) as opposed to requiring a rearchitecture of the entire system. All systems hit a scalability barrier eventually, so it's really a matter of choosing one that will serve you for the present and the foreseeable future.

Scope creep:

the phenomenon through which additional features and requirements are added to a project after initial requirements are defined and agreed upon. Scope creep can be dangerous since there's rarely an opportunity to do a complete review and replan of the project as features are added. It's also expensive.

Self-learning knowledge base:

a knowledge base system that includes features that leverage usage into improving the knowledge base. Examples of self-learning features include simple things such as counting the number of hits against a particular document, all the way to clever analyses of unsuccessful searches.

Service level agreement:

a set of commitments from one organization to another. Support groups typically have SLAs for their customers that define how issues should be reported and how quickly they will get a response.

See [sales rorce automation]
Short list:

a list of CRM tools that have been verified to meet your requirements, at least to a fairly good degree. You get a short list by analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates on the long list.

See also [long list]

See [service level agreement]

a set of integrated tools that support several different business functions (sales, marketing, service and support). Suite products have the advantage of being pre-integrated, but may not provide so-called best-of-breed functionality for each business function.

See also [point solution]


an end-user for the project that has the special role of advising the project team, including defining the detailed business processes, creating use cases, and participating in the testing and training.

See also [use case]

See [total cost of ownership]
Terms and conditions

(Ts and Cs): the legal description of how a particular service will be rendered.

Testing environment:

the set of machines and systems where testing is performed. It's best to have three separate environments for development, testing, and production, respectively. If you must, you can collapse the development and testing environments.

See also [development environment]
See also [production environment]

Thick client:

in a client/server model, the piece of software that resides on the client machine. Contrast with a thin client of 3-tier architectures.

Thin client:

a client, usually web-based, that accesses both data and the app code through an app server in a three-tier architecture. Contrast with standard client/server apps.

Third party:

in a CRM project, a vendor that is not the tool vendor. Integrators are almost always third parties.

Three Ps:

the three Ps, people, process, and politics, are the most common causes of failure in CRM projects. The tool itself, although often blamed, is usually no more than a contributing factor, if it is a factor at all.

Time and materials:

a way of pricing any project, but in particular a CRM implementation project, based on hourly fees for each of the participants.

See also [fixed price]

Total cost of ownership (TCO):

the sum of all the costs associated to a tool, including not only out-of-pocket expenses such as the cost of the software, but also the costs related to supporting and maintaining the tool.

Traditional CRM tool:

an older CRM tool that has lots of features, offers many customization and integration opportunities, but is harder to use and to customize. see new-wave CRM tool for a different approach.

Ts and Cs:
See [terms and conditions]

the quality of a tool that makes it easy to use, efficient, and effective for the end-user. Usability greatly increases user adoption, hence the overall success of a CRM project.

Use cases:

a set of test cases to test functionality in a tool. A single use case describes one particular task that would be taken by an end-user to accomplish a specific business goal.


a feature that comes with the tool, as opposed to a custom feature. Also called OOB (out of the box).


a tool that specifically targets a particular industry segment such as health care, financial services, government, etc., as opposed to a general-purpose tool.

Voice over IP (VoIP):

a technology through which conversations can be carried through computers (equipped with microphones and speakers) as if over the phone.

See [voice over IP]

a legally binding agreement to remedy issues for a set period after the sale. For CRM systems, warranties last a few months and typically include a commitment to fix problems (bugs) rather than provide a money-back arrangement.

Workflow-based system:

a system that takes work items through a multi-step process, typically through predefined groups of users that each handle a particular step in the process.

Workforce management:

a tool that facilitates scheduling and forecasting staffing in a contact center.