CRM stands for ‘Customer Relationship Management’, but the term is rarely utilised outside the context of technology. Add to that, the current commoditised and super accessible state of Cloud CRM solutions, it should come as no surprise that the web is crawling with a plethora of resources which deals in implementation and offers software options rather than the actual concept of CRM as a strategic tool of management.
I will follow tradition and take you through my observations, takeaways & lessons learnt from the various CRM platform implementation journeys within the enterprise B2B domain – only a few scrolls away.
But some context first. I would like to think that our most recent FTSE250-scale, single instance, multi-lingual and multi-currency Dynamics365 cloud implementation (which includes 25+ add-ons and interfaces) should make this post highly relevant for CRM professionals who are in the process of implementing their 1st CRM SaaS or migrating their legacy CRM capabilities over to cloud SaaS.
It is also worth noting that this recent CRM endeavour was part of a 3-year long organisation-wide transformation programme, and in addition to Technology & Systems, 4 more work streams had to work towards delivering the future state of our organisation and to service our customers with the best-in-class products, in accordance with the company’s best practices blueprint. In all this, the Technology & Systems work stream’s mission was to:
- Provide scalable cloud platforms and enable global interoperability with an “IaaS-first & SaaS-first” approach;
- Ensure easy and rapid onboarding of the then-decentralised country offices onto the target global infrastructure and the SaaS enterprise applications stack;
- Plan a smooth transition to “business as usual” and keep up with the pace of acquisitions and post-acquisition integration activities.
So, without further ado, here’s my list of “Enterprise CRM: Lessons Learnt & Takeaways”.
1. Platform Selection:
Understand the characteristics of your organisation first and then carefully narrow down the list of potential CRM vendors.
First things first. Compile your “Requirements Traceability Matrix – RTM” and agree on your must-haves. Remember, builds of B2B CRM differs greatly from those of B2C and despite all the advancements and commoditization, there’s not a single magical CRM that does it all. Don’t give in to the bells and whistles, think beyond the spec sheets and speak with the vendors. Initiate a “Request for Quotation – RFQ” process and seek the evidence on features through product demos and customer references, wherever possible.
2. Implementation Partner Selection
Assuming you have followed the advice and spoken with the vendor, you now should have a list of recommended partner practice names for the task at hand. It is perfectly OK to turn to previous partners and invite them to the “Request for Proposal – RFP” process as long as a fair evaluation & selection process is in place. The one with the highest scoring might not necessarily be the best fit and the last thing you need is to end up with a partner better at hacking the whole RFP process rather than at nailing the actual implementation. Here’s what you need to ask yourself:
1) The Consultative Approach – Are the partner resources challenging your requirements in a constructive manner and recommending alternatives in their responses?
2) The Cultural Fit & Companionship – Can you picture yourself celebrating the success with the partner team? Not just once, but many times throughout different stages of the implementation?
3. Guiding Design Principles
The Customer is almost always not in the room. Agree on no more than 5 guiding principles with senior users from functions, that work closest with the organisation’s end customers.
Start with reviewing/re-engineering your processes from the customers end while compiling the requirements for your new CRM. When in conflict, take guidance from these 5 principles and make an effort to promote such designs that above all else favour the needs and interests of your customers. Investing in the overall journey of the customer is far more likely to yield better retention, satisfaction and top-line growth prospects. Therefore, choose carefully when agreeing on your v1.0 design requirements.
4. The Integrated Stack:
Data interchange between your core CRM platform and integrated endpoints can be subject to additional costs or capped API allowances.
Even if you’re willing to pay more to funnel data, most SaaS cloud service points will limit the number of queries you can execute in one form or the other. While scalability is the core promise of cloud computing and SaaS the ultimate benefactor as the vendor’s sellable product, you will still need to optimise resource consumption and stay on top of the platform-specific changes. Leading CRM platform ecosystems encompass native integration tools and methodologies, API plans and capacity add-ons to select from.
The key to success – both functionally and financially, is to employ platform-certified technical experts or to incorporate enterprise architecture services into the partner support agreement.
5. On Ugliness. Data Migration:
Arguably, the most complex and ugliest step in each implementation.
Often times, the data will lack the necessary depth in the source system before making it to the new CRM. There will likely be limited room as to how much enhancement the source system’s relational model can handle – assuming you will cease to invest in the legacy stack, defer fixes and data enhancements to the post-rollout phase.
You are the de-facto change expert in the room, and it is your responsibility to call out the potential shortfalls. Always incorporate contingency funds into the project for activities related to data quality and minimise exposure to old data (or data of low business value), through frequent data deletion and minimisation.
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