Dylan Persaud is the Managing Director of Eval-Source, an independent business software strategy and software selection consultancy based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dylan is an industry veteran, and prior to Eval-Source, held analyst roles for IBM Global Services, Technology Evaluation Centers and IDC. In this discussion, Dylan offers insights and lessons regarding successful CRM software selection projects.
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Key take away points in the discussion with Eval-Source Managing Director, Dylan Persaud:
Companies evaluating CRM software systems need to separate 'wants' and 'needs'. Too many companies fail to make this distinction, and end up with CRM software systems that offer many capabilities, however, may be unable to accommodate the most strategic objectives.
CRM software selection project team members with prior software selection experience must exercise caution not to introduce bias based on what they previously learned or what best fit a prior company.
Don't be afraid to ask for help when reviewing CRM software and similar business systems. CRM software selections are very infrequent events, generally not occurring more than every five to seven years for most companies. With such long intervals, and a rapidly changing CRM software and technology industry, companies seldom possess the in-house skills to perform such a meaningful project in a reasonable time frame and acceptable level of risk. Engaging (independent and objective) CRM software selection consultants, even on a part-time basis, can bring structure, reduce the learning curve, lower the time frame, reduce risk of choosing the wrong product and segway the effort directly into an implementation project.
Request For Information (RFI) and Request For Proposal (RFP) documents remain a critical success factor in software selection projects. CRM buyers must be sure to weight their RFP criteria, seek information beyond CRM software feature sets and functionality items, and acquire enough information to calculate Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for each considered CRM vendor solution.
Eval-Source applied 20 vendor solutions to a high number of common business processes to assess fit. What they discovered was that almost all the top software solutions accommodated approximately 68% to 71% of the process requirements, thereby leaving approximately 30% of process requirements unhandled or handled differently. Applying this knowledge allows CRM buyers to bypass the majority (~70%) of requirements that all vendors satisfy and apply more time and diligence to the minority of requirements that separate the vendor solutions.
Additional success factors include executive sponsorship and broad participation by a champion from each line of business impacted by the new system.
CRM software demonstrations have to be used to clearly see and understand how the application software solves or responds to the company's specific opportunities and challenges. To achieve this, CRM buyers should bypass the traditional dog and pony demonstrations, and instead insist upon a custom demo that speaks directly to the company's issues and requirements. CRM buyers are advised to go beyond generic CRM demos and instead use scripted demos which apply directly to the prospects most prioritized objectives. It's also important that every CRM vendor adhere to the same custom demo script so that the vendor solutions can be objectively compared and scored in an apples to apples manner.
Despite the fact that CRM vendors only provide positive references, and there is a growing trend by software vendors to remunerate references with free customer conference passes, services or other goodwill gestures, references remain in integral part of the CRM software selection process. CRM buyers should inquire on implementation challenges, length of the implementation and availability of support services among other reference questions. It's also a good idea to ask what software selection recommendations they would offer having recently completed a project themselves.
Every company is run differently and that's what makes their needs unique. Companies often incur paralysis by analysis and fall back to brand. But when buyers revert to a brand purchase, they're barely scratching the surface to understand how a product will address their specific business needs.