In the CRM purchasing process, a common sequence of events for CRM buyers is to first go through a round of vendor demos and to then decide on and commit to a specific CRM vendor. After the purchase of the CRM system, the next step is to go through the exercise of defining detailed CRM requirements. Finally, a CRM implementation is performed based on those defined requirements.
However, if there are definitive plans in place to move off an old CRM system and onto a new one, it can often make more sense to alter the sequence of some events. A less risky path for many organizations may be to go through a detailed CRM requirements definition exercise in advance of actually committing to a specific CRM vendor.
An up-front, detailed requirements definition is different from a traditional, CRM RFI/RFP exercise. RFI and RFP documents and spreadsheets can often become exhaustive collections of “must haves”, “should haves” and “nice to haves”, which lack overall depth and are more feature-oriented than process-oriented.
A detailed requirements document should include, among other things: definitions of CRM-related processes; specification of tables and fields; mobile device use cases; required business rules and workflows; legacy system integration touch points and flows; user access rules; adjunct solution requirements; and data migration maps.
What are the benefits to defining detailed CRM requirements before committing to a specific CRM vendor?
1. Develop a Services Budget Early On
A lot of excitement can be generated around a chosen CRM solution. However, if a services budget is not factored in early in the CRM buying process, the process can grind to a halt once an implementation services estimate is received. In the worst case, all the time and effort that was needed to decide on a solution is squandered when the final decision is to delay moving to a new solution because of unexpected services costs.
In some cases, the clock may have already started ticking on a CRM subscription before a services budget is determined. If this happens, the new CRM system can go through a costly “shelfware” phase.
2. Speed up the CRM Buying and Implementation Process
Companies that send out RFIs and RFQs may be inadvertently slowing down the overall purchasing process. The assumption is that vendor demos, based on the information provided in an RFP, will result in a clear consensus as to which CRM system to select. However, a demo-driven buying process can often result in even more confusion, as most CRM vendors are able to provide ample evidence as to why their solution is better than the competition’s.
Ironically, the overall process can be sped up by slowing it down. Being more clear earlier in the buying process about specific CRM requirements can result in a quicker decision.
If senior management are involved in discussions during the requirements gathering and definition process, light will be shed on business benefits of a new CRM system that they may otherwise have been aware of. This alone could drive a faster decision.
3. Get CRM Vendors to Demo More Closely to Requirements
If detailed CRM requirements are defined in advance of vendor demos, vendors will be able to better understand and therefore better address specific requirements during their demonstrations. The demonstrations will be more tailored to a company’s specific needs if detailed requirements are provided to the short vendors rather than an extensive, high level list of requirements within an RFP.
4. Decide What Related Systems or Add-Ons May Be Needed
CRM systems have an increasing number of related technologies.
Here’s one example. For many companies, a majority of leads are generated via website traffic. It’s therefore becoming increasingly common for companies to evaluate marketing automation systems concurrently with the evaluation of CRM systems.
If, in this example, marketing automation requirements are defined up front, which marketing automation system vendors to consider and how each available system integrates with a given CRM system could become important CRM buying criteria.
5. Gain Additional Time to Refine Requirements
If the detailed requirements phase begins early in the process, there will be more time to make iterative adjustments to those requirements. Often, detailed requirements are passed around and reviewed. Over time, the requirement document may be updated, or previously defined requirements may be re-prioritized.
The earlier in the process that detailed requirements are defined, the more opportunity there is to fine tune requirements in advance of a CRM implementation.
A requirements-driven CRM evaluation process can provide a number of important advantages over a traditional, demo-driven or an RFP-driven process.