Why your CRM requirements stage determines your project success

If you don’t know the essential requirements of your CRM inside-out and have a clear route towards obtaining them, then project success may remain a distant dream.  It’s only by being certain that your CRM will do what is required of it that your goals can be reached. And the only way to guarantee this is to precisely map out your requirements.

This is a vital step so you would assume that all companies spend a lot of time on it?  Right? Wrong. Knowing what you want to gain from implementation is a key consideration, but businesses continue to fall at the first post, ending up with a costly white elephant in the room.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that naïve CRM purchasers wrongly think that all CRM systems are the same, which may rush them into purchasing a system. A recent CRM research found that most businesses spend about 13 weeks selecting their system. Functionality can vary tremendously and what vendors tell you about their system is not the best way of making an assessment.  Your business is unique and so the CRM that you provide for it has to be a perfect match.

Your CRM requirements document

You will not be surprised to know that your CRM requirements document is vitally important. But given that so many businesses struggle to put one together, you need to know what to include.  When compiling your CRM requirements document, don’t fall into the ‘Goldilocks & the Three Bears’ trap! This means don’t make it too high level, too low level, or too complex; suppliers need to be able to understand it.

You also need to know where your business wants to be.  By having a clear vision of the future, you can determine what the CRM must do to get you there. This must translate into pinpointing the technology required.  Only by doing this can vendors quote a price based on your requirements. 

Your CRM requirements document must be compiled before vendor selection if you don’t want to find yourselves working backward.  You need to know the specification and actual cost of the system before you begin talking to a chosen vendor. This way, vendors can provide you with personalized offers that are accurate and in line with what you are looking for.  It’s pointless getting vague estimates and then providing the CRM requirements document afterward.

So what should a CRM requirements document show?

It is imperative that your CRM requirements document details all of the following:

  • The business objectives that will be met via the project
  • The current processes that need to be dealt with by the system
  • Functional requirements
  • Migration of data and integration requirements
  • Reporting requirements
  • Current systems that need to be supplanted
  • Preferred CRM technology platforms
  • Your desired project budget

The benefits of providing a clear CRM requirements document

By clearly defining your CRM requirements, the benefits are immense.  Because you will have clearly defined objectives, the new CRM system should bring with it a clear value.  Failure should be far less likely due to you having distinct goals in place. Investment will be focused on the areas that matter, meaning less chance of wasting money on system attributes that you don’t need.

As you work through the CRM requirements stage, you will be carrying out a full audit of your business processes, bringing functional requirements to the fore. You may be surprised to find that your understanding of what is required improves.  At the same time, you avoid going with CRM technology that isn’t a good match for your organization. 

Vendors will be able to work with your CRM requirements document and provide accurate pricing.  You will avoid the pitfall of making a choice based upon an estimate, only to find that this vastly increases after the discovery phase.   You can save as much as 40% by clearly defining your CRM desires up front.

By having the same shared vision, a lot of time can be saved and budgets can be adhered to. Your project should also progress much faster as all of the time-consuming work has already been done. Once you choose your vendor, they will know exactly what they have to do to implement the project.  

Before you can compile your CRM requirements document, you need to enter through the CRM requirements stage.

What does the CRM requirements stage actually involve? 

During the CRM requirements stage, you should be examining all of the following:

  1. Determine what you want to achieve
    Here you will dig deep, considering why you want to invest in a CRM tool.  Investigate issues creating problems at the moment and how the CRM will resolve them. Make lots of notes.  Don’t be afraid of casting your net too far as all business problems which need to be resolved can fall within this section. Once you have a list, look at what needs to change with regard to efficiency, performance, sales volumes, and data access. You will then be able to focus on the CRM features required.
  1. What pressures will the system need to cope with?
    Look at how many people will use it and how much data it will need to cope with. Always err on the side of over-estimating as it is far better to have too much capacity than not enough.  Adding it later on is always more costly.
  1. How will CRM be accessed?
    Cloud or on-premise? This will have a big impact on your budget. Look at the kind of users who will need access.  Will any of them be mobile? What implementation services will you require? Is your current hardware up-to-date? Also think about the physical location of the CRM, security, and backup procedures.
  1. What features are absolutely essential?
    Break this down into features and then consider how they will meet your requirements. Only go for those that will be used and will enhance functionality.  Don’t make the mistake of only looking at the processes of the sales and marketing departments. Customer services also need to be included. Even accounts and legal departments may need to tap into the CRM, so ensure smooth and adequate use between all key departments.

This is why the CRM requirements stage determines your project success.  You cannot afford to get it wrong, ending up with fancy software that does nothing to improve business efficiency or customer retention.