Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It is all in the details.

Before I got into the consulting world, I worked at a CRM vendor where I had the fortune of working alongside some very talented individuals.  

There was a special level of understanding within the group that facilitated many tasks, especially when it came to elaborating new features to the development team.  Given this special synergy, communication amongst team members tended to be rather efficient, virtually eliminating the need for long, drawn out meetings that would usually make us want to stab our eyes out.  

Unfortunately, environments like this are not common place and simultaneously, the nature of software development requires clear and efficient communication amongst the parties involved.  Lacking this communication usually results in one of two things (or both):
  • Unexpected delays
  • Undesired results
In the world of software development, one cannot afford to leave requests open to interpretation or one might not get what was envisioned, and correcting problems will usually result in missed deadlines.  

Perhaps you are wondering about the relevance of these points to the CRM consulting world.  Allow me to explain.

Within the context of the CRM consulting world, communication goes a long way, not only for basic principles such as project updates, but also relating the desired goals of your CRM implementation.

It is unreasonable to expect a CRM consultant to know your desired goals as they are not necessarily the same from business to business.  Remember that they are not part of your organization.  Thus, it is the responsibility of the project owner to clearly communicate the manner in which you conduct business and desired end goal to the CRM consultant.  

Conversely, the job of a CRM consultant is to provide guidance in selecting the appropriate CRM system by translating the goals into functionality that could be provided by available CRM solutions, as well as ensure the technical aspects of the selected solution are being implemented in such a way that leads to the desired goal.  

As such, the best piece of advice that I could give someone that is in the process of working with a CRM consultant is to not leave anything open to interpretation.  These type of scenarios are better served by an abundance of information, rather than a shortage.

This is especially true within the context of customizations.  Here is a good example that highlights the importance of details:

Customer request: "I would like the ability to track the industry corresponding to the accounts to be stored in my CRM system."

Now, the problem with the above request is that it leaves a lot open to interpretation.  Think not? Here are a few things that come to mind regarding the above request that might change your mind:
  1. What kind of field should it be?  Drop down? Multi-select? Free-form?  Other?
  2. If free form, what is the maximum length that should be allowed for the value?
  3. Does the field need to be set as a required field?
  4. Where on the screen should the field appear?
The CRM consultant should be asking these type of questions (amongst others), to minimize the need for them to interpret the request.  Should they fail to do so, it may be time to look for assistance elsewhere.  Likewise, If one does not respond to the queries, one should be prepared for delays and/or undesired results.          

In summary, a successful CRM implementation is heavily dependent on good communication between the CRM consultant and the person driving the CRM initiative at a given organization.  

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