Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Finding the Time for CRM

Continuing last month’s thought on when is it right to move to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, another item that prevents the jump to CRM is the time needed.  Many feel that they simply do not have the time to commit to design, the meetings, the training, and the other factors that create the downtime used for the implementation.  In short, all of this is for lack of a better term, “time that we’re not making money” and it can be a roadblock when deciding which CRM to implement.

When making the jump, you need to decide what type of path you want to take in consideration of time.   I’ll use my “buying a house analogy” to clarify.  Consider the house to be your CRM where the data is the furnishings that you need to put in there – and find room for much of the time.  If you want to hold off on moving in to your new house, until everything is perfect (refinishing floors, walls, redoing kitchens, etc.), there are CRM systems out there for you.  You’ll spend a lot of time planning, covering all bases for data, reports, completing all customizations so that all is perfect and ready for launch.  Let’s just say that awkward “where are we going to put all our stuff?” conversation won’t be needed. 

However, some like to just move in, get dirty and fix it as you go (that’s more my style to be honest) which can work very well, allowing for changes as your staff adjusts their techniques and processes to coincide with the technology.  In the beginning, you will end up accounting for the necessary processes and data imports (and customization), knowing that add-on products, other changes and further training will be needed.  This is like storing that extra stuff in the basement until you know exactly there you’ll put it (if at all).  However, as the comfort level of the team increases, the space and time for advanced training and enhancement also increases. 

Then there are the “install and walk away” type implementations.   A little server work, some brief training and away you go on your way to selling and using your CRM.  Customizations will inevitably come later, but at least the initial time spent is very little.  You and your team will need to learn and pick up things quickly, but companies realize that they need something and are satisfied with the out of the box as it is better than what they had before.  Remember moving into your first house and you thought, “How will I fill up all this space?” You had a couch, a bed, and a TV and the house seemed sway too big.  However, within no time you filled it up albeit leaving that dining room empty for a couple of years.  

A quick side note, keep in mind that beyond the initial implementation, you have to take the future enhancements and training into account for time spent.  You’re very rarely “finished” with a CRM implementation as with any sales process that evolves and changes, your CRM system also has to adapt to those changes.  Consider your home – are we ever done changing it, improving it, or renovating?  There is always maintenance which comes with the territory, but keeping the value of any home (or CRM system) requires some upkeep and changes throughout the years. 

All that being said, this time spent during the implementation (training, design, configuration, and testing) as well as future design and enhancements is a cost.  It’s not as easy to calculate, but it’s a cost and something to consider when discovering the best option for you and your company.  As I said in my last post, you’ll never really be ready, but the smart business person realizes they have to invest the money to make the money – consider all this time to just be part of that initial investment.  Find the software and consulting team that will work with you based on not only your budget restraints, but your time requirements, another cost that is often overlooked.