Let’s start with a basic premise. That is, most new CRM systems are now moderately to highly customized by the organizations that implement them. CRM continues to become more of a platform than a solution. CRM systems give organizations the ability to build out specific functionality that goes well beyond the out-of-the-box configuration.
Because today’s CRM systems are highly customizable, managers are looking to CRM as a platform upon which to tailor functionality for a wide variety of business process, some of which may have previously been handled by multiple technology applications, including spreadsheets, vertical market apps and homegrown business management solutions.
Building Your Dream CRM System
Consider the following analogy.
Imagine that you and your spouse were planning to build a dream home. In order to ultimately achieve the best possible outcome, the first task should be to come up with a construction specification plan (PDF) for your house.
A construction specification plan defines all of the details of your future home’s construction. It lists the number of levels, the type of foundation, the dimensions of each room, electrical wiring requirements, roofing details and a lot more.
The first step is to define your overall requirements. How many bedrooms do you need? What size bedrooms do you want? Do you need coax cable run to each bedroom, or are you the kind of people who don’t believe in having televisions in bedrooms? The specification plan is mapped to your unique requirements.
Once you have completed the specification sheet, the next step is to take a completed draft of this document to an architect who can then customize a house plan for you. The architect will visually render your home’s specifications.
You’ll then use your specification sheet plus the architect’s house plans to bid out the construction project to builders. With this combination of documents, builders will have a solid basis from which to formulate their bids.
Soliciting Bids Without a Detailed CRM Specification
However, imagine a scenario in which you were to first go out to a group of builders with a very broad strokes description of what you and your spouse want in a house. At best, you’d get a high-level range of possible pricing with a lot of “it depends” caveats.
Similarly, if you go out to a group of CRM implementation consultants with nothing more than a very general idea of your organization’s required functionality, at best, you’ll get a ballpark price range as to what the CRM services might ultimately cost.
Even if you were to start the hypothetical home building process by getting preliminary, high level estimates from builders, sooner or later you will need to go through the exercise of developing a detailed specification plan.
The specification plan is a step that can’t be skipped — that is, unless you were to give the builder carte blanche to create whatever they see fit. But, if the builder were to have free reign, the end result would be very different from what you and your spouse envisioned. The project would end up costing far more than you had budgeted for.
The same thing is true for a CRM implementation. Even if you start with high level implementation bids, sooner or later, you are going to have come up with a set of detailed specifications. It’s a step that you simply can’t skip if you want a system that will help you to more effectively manage your organization’s business.
So, if you’re going to have to take the detailed specification step at some point, why not take this step sooner, rather than later?
When to Develop a CRM Specification
If you document your detailed CRM specifications early in the CRM buying process, you’ll be in a much better position with the eventual builders of your CRM system.
Keep in mind that when you are specifying the details of a house that you and your spouse are really the only two stakeholders. Perhaps your mothers-in-law will be secondary stakeholders to the extent that they will want some input into the process, but that’s another story.
In an organizational setting, there are normally more than just two stakeholders whose vision should be considered. If all important stakeholders are not included in the CRM specification process, it could be like one person of the couple not being involved in the development of home specifications. There could be disharmonious results.
By involving all stakeholders in the CRM requirements process and incorporating those requirements into a specification plan, you will be able to better predict your CRM costs. You will also be able to prioritize the elements of your plan in case expected costs exceed available budget.