CRM Implementation: Use In-house Resources or an External Consultant? by Chris Hooven, Vice President, Business Development, OSF Global Services
Selecting and implementing the right CRM application is a strategic process. It requires thorough upfront analysis of your needs and clear metrics for measuring the expected business functionalities and benefits. In Part 1 of this article series, CRM Purchasing Considerations for the SMB, I outlined several important questions to guide you in selecting the appropriate CRM software. In Part 2, I will detail factors to consider when determining your optimum implementation strategy.Implementing a CRM into your environment can be a budget buster if not done correctly, so let’s look at the pros and cons of two approaches: in-house resources or external consultants.
Most SMBs have an urgent need to generate sales. As a result, organizations may set unrealistic goals in terms of the amount of time and number of in-house resources required to install and deploy their new CRM software. At the same time, these organizations are often confronted with a lack of specialists or development teams who can work together towards achieving (1) a cohesive CRM implementation process, (2) efficient integration with existing systems, and (3) advanced customization for different functionalities. Next to user adaptation, these are the underlying issues behind many failed in-house CRM implementations.
To determine if an in-house approach is appropriate, think through the following questions:
- Do you have the right mix of technical, business analysis and project management skills in the company that can do the CRM implementation?
- How much time can they allocate to achieve a cohesive CRM implementation? How does the time they allocate to the CRM impact other day-to-day needs across the company?
- Do you have skilled developers for more complex customizations?
- Can you ensure user adoption and continuous support for your staff with in-house resources?
The Pros and Cons of In-House CRM ImplementationIf you have answered positively to all of the questions above, then you likely have the in-house potential to achieve a successful CRM implementation. The main advantages for implementing a CRM application in-house would be:
- You are optimizing your development resources
- You are engaging staff who are inherently qualified in understanding your business processes and requirements because they live them every day
- You will gain a set of CRM expertise that remains inside the company
On the flip side, expect in-house staff to require a learning curve for the CRM. Also a more complex CRM implementation will likely consume significantly more than your estimated time and resources. For instance, are you implementing the CRM as a point product or a strategic application at the heart of a company-wide, integrated solution? Integrating a CRM with back-end applications or customizing it extensively is not for the faint of heart. And any implementation that is more time consuming than estimated or lacks proper planning will lead to higher costs and delayed adoption.
The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing CRM Implementation
Time or resource-strapped organizations tend to rely on the expertise of outsourcing providers or CRM partners to do the implementation. It’s a good option because translating your requirements and configuring them correctly into the CRM takes experience. You will also benefit from the business process expertise an external provider has acquired through their previous client engagements. Other benefits to outsourcing your CRM implementation include access to:
- Experienced facilitator to guide requirements gathering and buffer internal disputes
- Experienced project management team to interface with the CRM application provider regarding your business needs and business processes
- Customization and configuration expertise for your specific CRM application
- Best practices across the CRM lifecycle, from initial needs assessment through implementation, training and support
Now for the downside to outsourcing your CRM implementation:
- First, service providers who do not engage in a consultative approach are less inclined to understand your in-house business process and organizational alignment. This will torpedo your implementation efforts from the start.
- Second, if the service provider does not offer proven implementation success for your selected CRM tool, then you are risking lower than expected efficiency and poor implementation. All CRM applications are not created equal.
Which Choice Is Best For Your Business?
Successful CRM implementations require an appropriate mix of technology, methodology and knowledge. However staff availability and customization considerations are decisive factors for every business that is planning a CRM implementation.
Should you choose to outsource your CRM implementation to an external consultant, require client references as well as details about the team assigned to your project. It is imperative they fit culturally in your organization and work seamlessly with your employees. As with the application itself, all CRM implementation partners are not created equal.
Ultimately, the success of your CRM implementation hinges on user acceptance.