The Right CRM Program Part III — Money & Time

This is the final installment of Selecting the Right CRM for Your Company, a series of articles where we discuss the key points you should be thinking about if you’re looking to implement a new system for your business. Here, we discuss the two overarching constraints of any business or software implementation endeavor: time and money. Knowing what features you want, how you want to implement your new CRM solution, and what your implementation goals are ultimately amounts to nothing if you lack a well-developed timeline and the money to back it all up.

Previous installments in this series have covered CRM concerns like environment and location as well as the features and functions that could come with a CRM program, and how all of these things come together to support business goals.

Timeline to Implementation

Establishing a timeline is how you keep your CRM implementation expectations realistic and achievable. Once you’ve narrowed down your candidates and you have a general sense for how big or small your overall business needs are, you can begin to figure out how to proceed with implementation. You can consider a CRM program implemented when two things are true:

  • The program itself is installed. All users have the application available on all appropriate devices. All applications that integrate with the CRM system (Outlook, Google Apps, etc.) are connected. Any data warehousing solutions related to the CRM program are in place, and your IT department is equipped to oversee any relevant duties. Many make the mistake of confusing this step itself as a successful implementation.

  • All users, or at least the primary users, are trained in the use of the CRM program. An installation will not do much good if the users don’t know how to use the system. This part of the implementation timeline can go overlooked, but it will be impossible to achieve 100% adoption if the system does not lend itself to easy training. Some niche users, such as analysts and product research personnel, might not need immediate training if you have no plans for them to use the program in the short-term, so long as you have a solid plan in place to train them by the time that they will need it.

    When you set a schedule for implementation, make sure that it takes both of these factors into account in a way the vendor can support. Does your CRM vendor offer its own training courses or software tutorials? How long does it typically take them to perform (and complete) an installation, and how much lead time is there on that? If a vendor gives arbitrary timelines for completion that don’t have hard dates associated with them, be wary. Do not settle for dateless implementation goals like “we’d like to have this implemented by next month” or “within a few weeks.” If the vendor offers classes, how often are they held? How many trainees can they accommodate?

    The timeline for CRM implementation is a conversation, not a dictate. Your company’s needs will shape that conversation, as will the realistic capacities of the vendor. Talk with the vendor about the timeline you’d like to have, and get the vendor’s opinion for how realistic that is both for you and, more importantly, for them.

    Budget — Long-Term Concerns

    Your CRM system budget will scale with the size of your company. A bigger company is always going to have a larger outlay, whether it’s due to data warehousing concerns or fees per user. The question to consider when looking at the cost of a CRM program from a budget perspective is not “How much do I want to pay?”, but rather, “How much do I want to pay now, and how much do I want to pay later?” Different implementation methods and schedules come with a different distribution of the costs associated with the CRM system.

    As a rule, your initial cost is going to come from two major concerns: initial licensing and implementation. Initial licensing represents the core cost paid to the licensor for the rights to the software. Implementation consists of training, installation, and early support as people learn the ropes of the CRM program. Each of these will make up about half of the initial outlay in your CRM program budget. A perpetual license (as opposed to a subscription-based system) will move a little more of the primary costs towards initial licensing. Depending on your company’s size, however, implementation can balloon in a significant way–and if something is going to take more than half of that initial outlay, it’s usually going to be implementation.

    Subscription Licensing: Cheaper Now

    A subscription-based CRM system requires payments on a fixed timetable, such as monthly or annually, per user. These plans are generally cheaper to ramp up, and for people looking for something that won’t break the bank during its first year of operation, a subscription plan is the way to go. Those costs will keep being assessed until you stop using the CRM program, however, so if you do subscribe to a service you’ll pay more as time goes on. Between two and three years is a baseline cutoff point for a subscription-based system being cheaper.

    Perpetual Licensing: Cheaper Later

    Perpetual licensing represents a one-time purchase of the software, after which it can be used indefinitely thereafter without any additional payments to the vendor. (Sometimes, upkeep fees or fees for increased numbers of users apply.) In this case, the lion’s share of the cost of using the CRM system is paid upfront. In the first year of operation, this is going to be the more expensive option by a significant margin. If you plan to be using the same CRM solution for more than three years, however, this can represent a chance at significant savings.

    Working With a Vendor

    Both timeline and budgetary concerns draw a fact of CRM systems into sharp relief: a vendor is more like a partner than a supplier. A CRM program is a purchase with long-term ramifications on a business, and often comes with support needs and additional payments over time. The company from which you purchase your CRM solution wants to see you succeed, and so needs to be able to work with you constantly and fairly for potentially years to come.

    Take the time to speak with your CRM system vendor honestly about your long-term goals for the service. They can help you set a realistic implementation timeline, smooth over any hiccups in the training and implementation processes, and provide support once the system is in place and running. Maintaining a good working relationship will pay dividends for both vendor and buyer, so take the timeline and budgeting stages as opportunities to familiarize yourself with your new business partner and get a sense for what you can do for one another.

    Don’t necessarily go with the first company that says it can meet your minimum requirements, either. Do your research. If a company says your timeline is unreasonable or that your budget is under par for the features that you desire, ask questions. Keeping up good customer relationships requires a little memory of what it is to be a good customer in the first place.

    Want to Learn More?

    If you are still looking for answers on any aspect of choosing the right CRM program for you, get in contact with us and we’ll do our best to help you in addressing questions about implementation — we have guided hundreds of implementations in a variety of different industries.

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