One of my training partners was telling me about one of his client’s purchase of a Microsoft CRM system, as we were out running this morning. As the story went the client had settled on MS CRM as the preferred technology and then went on to find an implementation partner. They solicited two bids. One came in a £60K and one at £250K. On the basis of price, not surprisingly they decided on the former.

I found it interesting that a user wouldn’t seek advice from a CRM consultant in this sort of situation given the wild disparity of pricing, but it didn’t altogether surprise me. This reluctance to engage outside help in these circumstances tends to stem from a number of false assumptions:

That selecting the right technology is the key challenge, and once you are settled on that everything else is straightforward. In reality while technology (and implementation partner selection) is very important, it is by no means the toughest challenge in applying CRM technology. The areas of strategy, process design, and user adoption are far more demanding.

That the quoted price in an accurate representation of what you will end up paying. Since most CRM vendor pricing is provided on indicative or estimated basis what the client ends up paying can be an order of magnitude different from the initial quoted price. The client either has to dumb down the requirements or accept the shift in budget.

That CRM vendors have the ability and inclination to deliver a system that significantly improves performance rather than a system helps them meet their sales targets. The two objectives rarely coincide in my experience.

While I don’t think these myths will be debunked overnight it will be interesting to see if independent CRM consultants do get more involved in situations where the technology for one reason or another is already selected. There are a number of, what strike me at least, as compelling reasons why we should, in that they help the client:

Achieve more – through using experience and understanding of how businesses operate to create the vision for a high pay-back system, and project management skills to make it happen.

At a lower price – primarily achieved by designing the system up front and letting vendors bid on a fixed specification which allows the comparison of like with like in a competitive environment, and reduces costs through effective negotiation.

With less risk – through experience and proven implementation methodologies.

With less internal disruption – by outsourcing what can be highly time consuming internal implementation activities.

I suspect that the role of the independent CRM consultant will change over time as people realize the technology question, while important, is just a part of a more demanding challenge – how do we apply CRM technology in a way that truly changes our business? When organizations start asking this question things are going to become very interesting.

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