You’ve decided on your technical solution. Now you want to choose a CRM partner to help you make it happen. This decision is at least as important (if not more so) than the technology decision.
There are few really bad CRM technologies out there, but there are some ‘CRM experts’ who can make the technology really bad!
The right partner will help you meet all the challenges of your project. That could be technical issues or business issues. They can draw on previous experience in multiple businesses and industries, then share that knowledge to improve your CRM implementation. They’re also in touch with how needs change over time, so can plan for future scenarios and help you prepare for them.
With so many companies claiming expertise, how do you choose a CRM partner wisely?
Here’s our list of points to consider.
Are you looking for a business strategy partner or simply technical support?
In most cases, there’s huge value to be gained from partnering at a business strategy level. This is because CRM is so much more than simply technology – the most successful solutions are all about building the best business processes to support your business, then configuring the technology to support those processes.
A good CRM partner can draw on the experience of all their previous projects for both business and technical best practice. They know how CRM is implemented across multiple businesses and industries. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. You can benefit from that knowledge. It helps you improve your processes, workflows and reporting, as well as fixing your technical solution.
In a small number of cases, you may need to choose a CRM partner based purely on technical competence. Perhaps you need a straightforward version upgrade. This might be because you’re using CRM online, or because support for your current version of CRM is about to be terminated. (Check support dates for different versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM here.) Or you may have completed a pilot and want to roll out fully tested functionality to other offices.
One note of caution – if you’ve just implemented a new CRM and it’s not working well, that’s a bad time to choose a purely technical partner. Issues with a brand new CRM are usually due to poor alignment between the business needs and the technical solution, or failings of change management, rather than technology. At this time more than any other, you need someone with a business perspective to help you get back on track.
You need to make sure that your partner is completely familiar with the software you have chosen to implement. They should be willing to guide you through all the updates, upgrades and announcements. They should also be willing to create a long term roadmap that includes the post-implementation period. This will ensure that the CRM helps you manage your business processes better. It will also help minimize the associated hassles.
Opsis specialise in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We have team members who have worked with every version of the software, right from CRM v1.0 to CRM 2015. So we know the product backwards. We know what it can do. If you’re using or planning to use Dynamics CRM, we’re a great fit. If you’re not, apply the same logic but look elsewhere!
Specifically, expertise in CRM. You’re implementing CRM, so that’s what matters! But how do you measure the quality of that expertise?
Most technology partners will proudly display any certifications or partner statuses which they have been awarded by the vendor. These carry weight in the market – but should they?
Consider this advice from Richard Boardman of Mareeba:
“I’d be wary about recommendations from the software vendors about which resellers they think you should use. A lot of buyers will treat these recommendations as gospel, however they are invariably based on factors that suit the software vendor rather than the purchaser, for example, if the reseller is likely to make a quick sale (rather than implement the software well), or if you happen to sit in a reseller’s designated ‘territory’.”
In Microsoft’s case (Opsis are Microsoft Dynamics CRM experts, so they’re the vendor we know best), partner status is gained more by making licence sales than satisfying customers. Partners who work in a large market (like the US) or in multiple markets are likely to make more sales than those operating in a small market like Australia. What’s more, CRM Online licences are considered differently. So ‘partnership’ actually measures the number of licences sold, rather than expertise in CRM implementation.
Remember too, that a significant proportion of first CRM implementations fail to deliver. It’s not until a second or a third partner is engaged that the client gets real value. Yet licences and related partner status are credited to the first partner!
The one thing you want from a CRM partner is business value. Who better to ask than their previous clients? Client references are a far better indicator of likely results than vendor awards. Check the website of any potential partner for case studies and testimonials. Even better, ask them if you can speak to a client personally.
To be honest, the overall size of the partner company is irrelevant. What really matters is the size of the partner’s CRM team.
Vendors like Microsoft offer a whole range of business software solutions, not just CRM. Many of the larger vendor partners want to offer that whole range – and they do. But that doesn’t always mean they have lots of experience in Microsoft Dynamics CRM specifically. In fact, they may even contract boutique CRM specialists (like Opsis!) to help them when their major clients need CRM. Make sure you choose a CRM partner, not a generic Microsoft partner.
On the other hand, a ‘CRM consultant’ working solo may not be able to resource and support your project properly. Most individuals tend to be stronger in either business or technical issues. A group of CRM experts gives you access to deep expertise in multiple areas. It also allows for brainstorming and second opinions if a complex issue presents itself.
The basic rule is to look for a good match between the size of your CRM project and the size of your partner’s CRM team.
The perfect partner will honestly state what they can or cannot do. There are far too many ‘providers’ in the market who will promise anything to make you sign on the dotted line. But once the ball starts rolling, you may be in for a rude shock.
The industry is really diverse. Hence no CRM specialist can master everything. A partner should honestly present what they can or cannot do early in the process. This helps preserve the business relationship for the long term.
This may be frustrating during the sales process. You might want to confirm timelines right away – but from an Opsis perspective, we don’t want to make a commitment to deadlines until we completely understand your processes and requirements. We need to define the task properly before we can say how long it will take. But once we set the deadlines, we work night and day to meet them! Of course we could just rely on the ‘unforeseen circumstances’ in the small print, but we’d rather not.
Every CRM expert should have an established methodology for implementing a CRM solution. It’s how they ensure good results every time. Ask prospective partners about the method they follow. Ask them to define every step of their process. Make sure they justify all those steps. Then ensure that all these steps complement your goal and your business culture.
Of course, CRM consultants may have more than one methodology. For example, if you’re looking to implement a CRM where none exists now, Opsis start with rigorous scoping. For CRM rescue projects, where a CRM is up and running but not delivering, our first emphasis is a health check or gap analysis. This helps us (and the client) understand where the solution is failing.
There is overlap, but the focus of the methodologies is different. They address different starting points, but both lead to the final goal of a successful CRM.
The perfect partner will take the time and effort to fully understand your business. This includes understanding the way you work and the goals you share as an organisation. If your two businesses jive well together, then all relevant business processes will be effectively transformed into CRM workflows.
At Opsis, we live and breathe CRM. We sit down with your business stakeholders and your IT team to fully understand your requirements. We put ourselves in your shoes before we make any recommendations. It’s vital that we and our clients are able to work together. Without open communication and trust, it’s challenging to deliver real value from CRM.
Partnerships are like comfortable beds - easy to get into, harder to get out of. So make sure you invest the time to choose a CRM partner who really matches your needs, for now and for the future.
Opsis is an expert CRM consulting company. We are not an IT company, nor a management consultancy, although we often work with both of these. Our focus is wholly CRM, and particularly Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We are based in Sydney, NSW, with clients in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and across Australia. Our range of CRM services include CRM strategy, CRM scoping, CRM implementation, technical support and CRM training.