How to...select a CRM implementation partner
You want to know what kind of experience a partner has in your particular industry vertical.
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Complex CRM systems require skilled professionals to install, integrate, and maintain. Integrators want your business, and their success ultimately translates to your success, but not all options suit every need. Follow these five steps to ensure you engage the right CRM implementation partner for your business scenario. 1. Don't be blinded by flowcharts Like many consultants CRM integrators can produce impressive volumes of color-coded, bulleted documents charting their expertise and trumpeting their unique methodology for CRM success. In truth, many of those methodologies are derived from vendor-provided systems. So rather than let them dazzle you with the methodology, learn other things about the integrator, such as what staff it will allocate to your project, and how it will resolve such trouble spots as slipping milestones or changes in the project scope. "At the end of the day, that implementation methodology is nothing more than a commodity," says Barton Goldenberg, president of CRM consultancy ISM. 2. Let experience be your guide More important than any white paper or chart is field-proven experience. "You want to know what kind of experience a partner has in your particular industry vertical and in the processes that you as an organization are trying to address," says Scott Nelson, vice president at Gartner. Expect proof that an integrator is skilled not only with the CRM software and processes you intend to adopt, but in linking seamlessly with other systems and processes you may have in place elsewhere in the organization, such as back-office suites. If the integrator can't provide a proven track record that maps to your situation, ask about other first-time projects the firm encountered, and how it turned unknowns into success. 3. Ask hard questions of real references Don't settle for a client list or integrator-approved case study. Get names and phone numbers of CRM project managers at installed, live clients. Ask them how long they have been fully implemented, what the goals of the project were, and whether they have met their objectives. Ask detailed questions about how the integrator's staff meshed with theirs. Finally, ask how they worked through the roughest patch during the implementation. 4. Consider vendor resources A growing number of CRM vendors provide in-house professional services groups, and the pressures of recent years have forced their prices to be competitive with larger consulting outfits. They also come with extra incentive to create a top-notch implementation. "They can't afford failures anymore, so they will work double-hard to make sure you have success," Goldenberg says. 5. Don't discount your own staff "If you do it yourself, you save money in the long run," Goldenberg says. "You train people to not only implement the initial [infrastructure], but to take it to the next level, so you have a set of expertise and a CRM knowledge base inside the company." The key challenges to using an internal implementation team are enduring the longer lead time as staff are trained in the relevant skill sets, and ensuring that the team is not subject to distractions from other business leaders. Internal CRM integrators must be considered their own unit, answering solely to the CRM project manager, not subject to be called away to extinguish other fires in their former positions.
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