Why CRM requests for proposals are often set up improperly!
Blog post by Christian Schipp, Business Development CRM & Group CMO at Ambit Group
I have been advising companies on all aspects of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for almost 5 years. One of my tasks is to review incoming enquiries and CRM tenders. And that is exactly what I am writing this article about.
In the last 5 years I have received approximately 400 enquiries for possible CRM projects. Many companies / organisations are looking for software for sales, service or marketing. For about 70 % of the companies it is a new introduction, as they have never worked with CRM software before. For 30 % of the companies, it is about replacing an outdated CRM system (often combined with a migration to the cloud).
Since these projects are unknown territory for many companies, they look for an external evaluation partner for support, who carries out a needs analysis and helps to create a catalogue of requirements and criteria (functional specification, requirement specification, request for information, request for proposal, etc.). In many cases, we receive a multi-page functional criteria catalogue that we are asked to complete and submit a proposal for project and running costs based on the information in the RfP. In this way, the companies want both an overview of the various CRM technologies and their partners and a comparison of services and prices. This desire for security and the right choice is understandable: after all, these projects all cost a lot of money and time.
Wrong approach that leads you astray!
But to be honest, these kinds of tenders are set up in the wrong way. They don't get to the heart of the matter. CRM projects have nothing to do with software at the beginning. CRM ≠ Tool!
At the beginning there is the strategy. What is the company's ambition? What does the management want to achieve with forward-looking processes in the areas of marketing, sales, customer service and field service? What is the maturity of the organization today? Where does the company currently have its position in the context of the digital transformation? These questions and many more arise at the beginning of a project of this kind.
CRM projects are primarily change projects. They are about processes and organizations. Silos are to be dismantled, a consistent customer experience developed and new business models made possible with data. It is about automation and collaboration, about sophisticated processes around the customer. It is technology that is the means to an end and not the other way around!
An advisory session is a requirement for the success of the project!
As a CRM partner, we must first enter into a consulting process with the respective companies and work out the basics together (CRM strategy, CRM processes). This then enables us to summarise requirements, user stories and the complexity of the future solution. Afterwards, the future solution is designed with the inclusion of other systems (interfaces to ERP and other systems, data migrations) and the overall architecture is determined. This completes the preparatory work and enables an agile implementation.
We carry out our CRM projects on the Microsoft platform. This in itself is not a tool, but a platform. It is a process framework on which the individual processes of each company can be implemented as desired and practically without restrictions. No matter whether your company has 50 or 10,000 employees. You may be in industry, commerce, the NPO sector or any other industry - it doesn't matter as such. With the cloud-based solution, most things can be configured with so-called no/low-code applications. Of course, the CRM applications of Microsoft Dynamics 365 already offer a comprehensive standard. But the core always remains the process of the respective company.
I can assure you that these functional requirements are not the challenge in CRM projects. You can simply save yourself the effort with these lists. If you are looking for a tool, then it is not really CRM...
You don't need software, you need a partner!
Instead of focusing on technology, you should invest much more time and energy in choosing a partner. You will be working with this partner for the next few years. He must be able to lead these demanding projects with his experts, to advise you, to inspire you and to implement the technical solution. And, when everything is live, he should be able to support you there too.
In order for you to manage the risks of this partnership, this partner should be of a certain size and demonstrate stable ownership. And it is to your advantage if he has the highest possible accreditation from his technology supplier (e.g. we are a Gold Partner with Microsoft for Cloud Business Applications (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)). Go and visit your prospective partner and get to know their culture. Let them introduce you to their project methodology and thus gain the confidence to want to go through thick and thin with this partner in the future.
CRM projects are strategic
Finally, another point that is missing in many companies' CRM tenders: management involvement! CRM projects are top-strategic. They have an impact on data, processes and the organisation. They can be the "game changer" for the business model and the company's success. Therefore, CRM projects must be accompanied by the management. Therefore, the partnership should also be sealed on both sides at C-level.
If you want to learn more about the success factors of CRM projects, I recommend the following video (in german only):
Are you planning a CRM project?
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