What is an independent CRM consultant – and what does independent really mean?

by Richard Boardman on December 24, 2011

Photograph courtesy of net_efekt

As I mentioned in my last post – what is a CRM consultant, there are – perhaps confusingly – a wide range of people who use the title ‘CRM Consultant’, but who actually perform very different roles in the world of customer relationship management. One species is the Independent CRM consultant, whose role is typically to provide an independent perspective on matters relating to the selection and implementation of CRM technology. Vendors have something of a vested interest in selling software, and so there are key points where organisations typically look for outside independent advice. These include:

Project feasibility and planning – helping organisations determine whether and how to undertake a CRM project

Detailed requirements definition – to avoid being locked into a vendor/product or choosing the wrong technology before requirements/costs are fully identified

Vendor selection – to help organisations identify the most appropriate CRM technology and implementation partner

Negotiation – to help purchase cost effectively and on the right terms

Project oversight – to help monitor the vendor is delivering the envisaged solution and isn’t cutting corners

Project turnarounds – for when CRM projects go astray

CRM system reviews – to help organisations work out whether to continue to develop an existing system or move on to pastures new

The key word here is ‘independent’. When organisations seek independent advice it’s important that it is genuinely independent. Situations where this is not the case – at least in my opinion – include:

Implementation partners who, by virtue of the fact they sell a range of CRM software, position themselves as independent CRM consultancies.

Independent CRM consultancies that, while not selling CRM software, employ CRM product specific developers

In both these instances, however independent the advice may or may not actually be, with the benefit of full disclosure, consumers of this advice will always wonder if the recommendations are tainted. Are you being advised to implement CRM software because it’s the right thing to do or because the advisor wants you to buy their software or implementation services? Is the software they recommend because they happen to sell or implement it, or because it’s really right for you?

It’s not that such organisations are necessarily the wrong people to work with, but if the independent aspect of the advice is important– and I would (potentially with some bias) argue that at points in many CRM projects an independent perspective can be critical – then it’s important to qualify the term carefully. Independent should mean no vested interests. No software to sell. No developers. No commissions from vendors, and no axe to grind.

As independent CRM consultants we emphasise the importance of due diligence when choosing CRM software, the same advice also applies when selecting the independent consultants themselves.


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