Following are tips to help local government officials take the confusion out of the growing range of choices in pricing and features available in public sector CRM products.

1. Avoid pricing extremes

The price for public sector CRM, including installation, can vary from a few hundred dollars for off-the-shelf software to more than $1 million. Be wary of the extremes on either end. The high-end systems may include many capabilities better suited to the private sector, and the inexpensive systems may not have the power to handle a small public sector organization.

2. Look for software designed specifically for the public sector

Invest in a software system to manage your organization's collaboration, contacts and activity history that is designed specifically for the public sector. It also should be supported by a company that understands the needs of public sector organizations.

3. Look for systems that allow employees to access information remotely

The CRM system information should be available from any web access point or mobile phone. The information also must be password protected and should be available remotely only to view, not to be altered or deleted. The CRM system should be accessible remotely to look up crucial historical information before and during meetings, for example.

4. The CRM and communications systems should work together

A CRM system should create a master list of contacts that filters down to all forms of communication the public sector organization uses. That includes phones, email, instant messaging, websites, web-based social media, and hardcopy mail and newsletters. A CRM system that will not work with the software that handles other communications systems will require separate lists, meaning duplicated effort and potential accuracy errors. The CRM system should be capable of tying together all of those various communications tools.

5. Top managers must be involved from the beginning of the project

The public sector organization's leaders must be involved in designing the strategy for implementing CRM in their organizations as well as the processes for using it daily. Top managers understand their organizations' missions, and they are the key sources of the most important information that will be placed into the CRM system. If they take charge from the outset, CRM adoption is far more likely to be successful.

  • Read the main story, "Beyond 311," to learn five reasons to expand the use of citizen relationship management software.

Ted Hoisington is president of Garland, Texas-based TH Enterprises. To contact Ted and obtain a free white paper on choosing public sector CRM, visit www.ps-nexus.com.