Your company is ready to move away from the silos of data contained in spreadsheets, documents, wiki-pages, and the MS Access customer database that a former employee put together seven years ago.
You’ve decided it is now time your company implemented a coherent, centralized, accessible, and coordinated software platform that will help you to better service your customers’ needs. The platform you have chosen is Microsoft Dynamics CRM because of its easy integration with other Microsoft products including Office and Outlook, as well as its robust features for marketing, sales, and other business processes.
Now you need to choose a consulting company to help you plan and implement your CRM system.
The most important items that you need to consider about the company include:
- The company’s skills and experiences with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. You can ask for certifications, examples of past customer implementations, and what the company believes are their competitive advantages over other firms.
- Their business analysis and planning process. What is the consulting company’s method for ensuring that your system will achieve your company’s ultimate goals? Ask for their implementation plan, and the steps and benchmarks they will undertake during the process. This will provide you with insight regarding how close their end product deliverable will meet with your vision.
- The company’s history and current position. You want to understand their situation because you want them to be around to finish your implementation. How long have they been around? Are there any plans to move the company to another part of the country?
Once you are comfortable with the consulting company of your choice, the one that you want to implement your CRM, there are other factors for ensuring you get the value you want in the end – faster and cheaper.
These factors require an investment of your time and attention:
- Clear understanding: you want to be certain the selected consulting company understands your organization’s processes and workflow. As much as it is up to the consulting company to have a business evaluation and analysis process in place, it is up to the client to be involved as much as possible. You cannot assume the consulting firm really understands what you want until you have listened to their feedback during implementation meetings, seen their documentation, and perceived that they do comprehend your vision and ultimate goals.
- Sponsorship and stakeholder involvement: the more time you dedicate upfront will lead to fewer headaches and revisions later on. In the end, if your CRM system is not exactly what you want, and the consulting company needs to do revisions, this will unfortunately cost you more money in billable hours, and create delays so that you won’t be able to launch it in the timeframe you want.
- Take ample time on the front end to provide feedback to the consultants, and include the executive sponsor and all stakeholders in the conversation. Stay involved during the implementation process to provide feedback to consultants and minimize surprises in the end. Stakeholders who should be involved must include not only your department heads, but also your frontline and back-office workers and other subject matter experts. They are intimate with company processes as well as customers and vendors, and in the end, they will be the ones who need to use the system on a daily basis.
If you don’t follow the above steps before and during the implementation, your CRM could end up like this:
Nobody wants their porch built over railroad tracks, and no company wants to build a CRM system that is the equivalent of this.
If you had two consulting firms to choose from, would you choose example #1 or #2 below?
- This consulting firm promises an engagement that begins with a partial rollout of the CRM application to department heads. After this is accomplished, their process includes meeting with the heads of the sales and operations department. Once the meetings are completed, their next step is to make customizations to forms and reports. Their final step would be to rollout and train everybody to use the system and its processes and workflows.
- This consulting firm proposes an initial engagement to perform a business evaluation and needs analysis. They want to produce a system-design document which is based on meetings with you, your department heads, and your other employees and subject matter experts who will be eventually using the system. During these meetings, discussions would take place as well as Q&A sessions about how your company currently does things, and what process-refinements and automation could be built into the CRM system to fit the needs of the business and improve them. From there, a secondary engagement would take place to build the system and roll it out to the users and train them.
In the first example, your company may be required to bend its processes to match those of a generic one-size-fits-all system, and probably also leave the department heads to “encourage” the end users to adopt the system.
However, in the second example, your company has what it wants – a solution TAILORED to your business, with buy-in from all levels of your organization.
Here are some final takeaways to keep in mind before beginning your CRM implementation.
Be sure your CRM consultants:
- Understand your business and its actual processes BEFORE they start the CRM implementation.
- Are asking about the workflow and processes well in advance of “how do you want a form to look.”
- Document the design PRIOR to implementing your CRM solution.
- Take the time to go over the system design with you PRIOR to implementation.
If you need help implementing your Microsoft Dynamics CRM system, contact the experts at NexusTek.
Dale Laushman is a NexusTek Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant, engineer and expert. He has successfully implemented dozens of CRM systems.