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The choice is not whether you implement CRM, but whether you implement CRM well 

We don’t have a choice about implementing CRM, the choice is how well we implement CRM

Making sense of the dizzying array of opinions over CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and strategies is no easy task for today’s business leaders. Additionally, the asymmetry of perceived success ensures that everyone has heard about failed projects that took years, cost $millions and still did not deliver what had been promised.

So decision makers and business leaders wanting to understand the options and to lead a successful project are faced with a massive challenge.

If you choose to ignore it, you are really consigning your organisation, and people, to delivering a labour intensive, and still probably poor, service to your clients, customers, members, parishioners, students etc.. After all good CRM will manage the process of looking after your customers or clients , bad CRM just gets in the way.

The choice certainly include the range of technologies, and even some more fundamental choices including cloud or not cloud, and public cloud or private cloud. However, before you get anywhere close to these decisions, there are some others that you need to make. Many of the available technologies will meet your needs. And technology will only speed things up. If your processes and philosophies are already weak, they just get faster with technology, not stronger or better.


The major decision is the approach that you want to take to the project. And this decision is not limited to organisations to have yet to start their CRM technology project – I was going to say CRM journey, but like it or not, you have already started that. This decision applies to every organisation with plans to undertake a CRM project, whether that is a new implementation, an upgrade to get the new features, or extending your CRM functionality, perhaps adding some marketing automation to a solution that currently mainly serves your sales team.

How to resource the project

The first decision to make is how you will resource your project.

Any CRM project will require a wide range of skills in its resources. Typically you will require skills in:

  • Business Analysis - to get the real requirements from the business users and subject matter experts;
  • Solution design - the keystone to a successful project;
  • Project management
  • Data manipulation and migration - users will not be happy if their data is less useful than in their current systems
  • Configuration of your selected technology - while most common systems are based on best practice, you will almost certainly need to make some changes
  • Integration to other legacy systems – either using code or by implementing add-ons
  • Training - often overlooked, and yet one of the keys to project success
  • Support

You will not need all of these skills at the same time, and many people will have several (although it is very unlikely that one person will have all) of these skills.

To resource your project, you have three options:

  • Use internal resources entirely to do the project
  • Bring in a dedicated professional services organisation to run the project for you and hand it over to you when complete
  • Use an external expert to guide the project and then bring in the additional short term resources from internally or externally as required

Whichever of those choice you favour, it is essential to know how each resource is remunerated or motivated - by billable hours, by licence sales or by results as this will affect, or perhaps even drive, the advice that they give you.

Once this key resourcing decision has been made, you can start working on your organisation's key requirements and then on selecting the best technology for you and your organisation. Which technologies you look at will be heavily influenced by the decision you made about resourcing the project.

All of the options have their strengths and weaknesses.

Use internal resources entirely to do the project

If you choose to use internal resources entirely to do the project, you have to find those resources. It is unlikely that you will have the people already inside your organisations, who have both the time and the skills to take on this sort of project. This means that you will have to recruit people, either new employees or contractors, although there are many recruitment agencies who will help you with that, and then provide them with space to work as well as other facilities. If you are recruiting these people, you then have to ensure that you can select people who have the appropriate skills, not just say they have the skills. This means that you need a way of testing the skill level, and vendor certification exams are probably not the best way to achieve this.

The upside of this choice is that all the intellectual property remains with you.

The downside is that although these people are your employees now, they will probably move on before the technology is superseded – the average length of tenure now in Australia is about 18 months – so you will lose the project knowledge unless you include an ongoing program of training so new people can join the team and pick up the knowledge of the people prior to them. If you select this, you will need to include some very experienced trainers in your project team. Another downside is that your organisation will have to provide the overall management of the team, even if you employ some senior people to provide some of the supervision.

Bring in a dedicated professional services organisation to run the project for you and hand it to you when complete

The upside of this choice is that you can expect to get experienced people covering the range of skills required. .

The downsides of this are many: firstly, your dedicated organisation may just resource your project with available contractors once you sign the contract. Secondly, you may find that the people imported to your project bring code from previous projects. This sounds good in theory, but it is unlikely that another organisation’s requirements were identical to yours, so you will end up with something that sort of, but not quite, meets your needs. We are currently helping a health not-for-profit organisation, who were persuaded by their original implementer to take a membership management add-on that had been originally developed for a racing organisation. So our not-for-profit friends have had the overhead of functionality designed to manage racing events, which are very different from health education events. This one example, but it is not uncommon. Thirdly, how will you manage the ongoing support and training of the solution once your dedicated organisation and your team, has moved to other projects?

Use an expert to guide the project and then bring in the additional resources as required

In my opinion, this gives you the best of both worlds.

The best of both worlds

If you bring in an expert to overall run your project, this person should have a deep understanding of your chosen technology, especially the solution design aspects – you may need to use another more technology-agnostic expert to help you select the technology first – and they will be able to work with and guide the resources required to do the work. They will probably have some resources that they have worked with previously who can support them in the project, and they will also be willing to work with any internal resources that you would like to be part of the project. They should also be an experienced project manager. We have seen several projects where a generalist project manager, with no specific technical skills, failed to deliver this sort of project. The expert will also be able to work with you on an ongoing part time basis after the project, which paradoxically, is likely to give you better continuity than relying on your own people. Admittedly, these people are not cheap, but as they are usually only required for a few days per month for much of the project, and required erratically, they are usually an extremely good investment.

You have brains in your head, feet in your shoes so you can steer yourselve whatever way that you choose - Dr Seuss

The quote above from Dr Seuss - author of the Cat in the Hat and other books - describes my feelings about this well.

CRM is not a short term (6 – 12 month project) but a long term strategic initiative. Hence it should be owned by the business, and by senior people within the organisation. It is also not simple, so it is unreasonable to expect people to pick up these skills with a just a few hours of training.

Once you have decided on how you will resource your project, you can then move on to:

  • Working out your requirements
  • Selecting your technology
  • Building your team
  • Scoping your project – this is often overlooked in name of agility, but it is the keystone of the project
  • Implementing your designed solution
  • Testing that your solution meets the requirements and the design
  • Training your users
  • Going live to deliver your new solution to the users
  • On going support of those users and new users as they join your organisation.

There are more articles about many of these aspects of your CRM project on our blog.

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Opsis is an expert Microsoft Dynamics 365 consulting company. Our focus is your Microsoft Dynamics 365 success - not licence sales or billable hours. As Principal Consultant, Gill oversees all business operations and strategic planning and execution, yet she still believes in offering personal attention to each and every client, so as to understand their needs and offer tailored solutions.  We are based in Sydney, with clients in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and across Australia.  We offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 strategy, Microsoft Dynamics 365 scoping, Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation, Microsoft Dynamics 365 technical support, Microsoft Dynamics 365 advice and guidance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 training and mentoring.