Is CRM Worth a 2nd Opinion?
On the first day of the New Year I ended up in the Northeast to spend all day with a client that came to us last year from another reseller. We have a significant number of these customers and we hear from companies like this several times every month. One of the reasons many people come to work with us is for the expertise we carry in not just ERP but also areas like CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Sage has a range of options for CRM products and they are all integrated to various ERP applications. In addition, there are also some options for 3rd party integrations between various Sage products that have been around for years.
I decided to write this because there were a number of things that we see regularly when discussing CRM with clients that did not use us for their original implementation. As with any application there are nuances with each dealer and their approach to implementing a particular technology and we are not looking to challenge or evaluate the creative license or methodology a firm uses when configuring or setting up an application like CRM. What we do understand is that there are two distinct bodies of knowledge when it comes to the consulting and implementation of an ERP system and the undertakings of deploying a CRM system efficiently and effectively. And, going back on more than 10 years of track record with bringing on these types of clients, we have consistently seen a number of areas of concern when it comes to how CRM has been implemented and the information that has been communicated to many organizations trying to have a complete front and back end that complement each other nicely.
The first thing to understand is that the approach to implementing ERP and CRM are drastically different. When deploying an accounting solution, it’s not like you get a second shot at configuring the GL or deciding that you need Project Accounting after you find out your chosen system isn’t particularly robust in that area. The nature of CRM is that it is highly flexible and in many cases you don’t need to have all of the answers on day one. In fact, one of the best practices is to get a foundation set and then modify the solution to meet market demands over time. Many CRM shops use the phrase, “Rapid implementation and gradual customization.” When it comes to customization the CRM tools are very adept at handling modifications without hampering upgrades or needing source code.
The other great pitfall we have seen in the way of implementation relates to the experience of the consulting partner with the particular CRM application that integrates with the ERP systems they support. In many cases there are limited resources and ERP consultants take on CRM like they would another module of the ERP system. There is inherently nothing wrong with this other than the fact that in many regards the CRM capabilities are just as robust and expansive as what you would find in an ERP system. For this reason we find that in most cases it is extremely challenging to be an “expert” at both ERP and CRM. The bigger challenge is that in many cases the consulting firm does not communicate their lack of expertise to the client.
We have found in many implementations that there are challenges related to data migration, core functionality, integration and customizations or workflows that are possible within the CRM framework. As a consultant it is difficult for many small firms to admit that they are not experts in this area and many times we find out that customers have been told that functionality or capabilities do not exist in CRM. The response by many of these clients is that they were told that the company deploying CRM was “certified” on the particular application they chose for CRM. As those of us in the industry know too well there is a vast difference between certification and competency.
At the end of the day most organizations are looking to get the most out of their systems to increase productivity and efficiency of their people. We truly understand this and this is why we like to perform forensics and analysis for all of our clients that come to us from another partner so that we can quickly assess and provide recommendations or at least validate the work that has been done. If you have previously tried to deploy CRM or would like to understand how we can help you improve your bottom line with an integrated system (even if the front or back end are not from Sage) then give us a call and we can give you a second opinion.