NOTE: This blog was originally posted on Forbes. Read it here.
No matter which CRM solution your organization implements, the overall success of the implemented technology is tied directly to your partner.
These partners are the arbiters of success. A quality implementation partner ensures the new technology solution is designed specifically for your unique needs, that the data from your previous system is migrated cleanly and efficiently into the new system and that your users are trained and set up for continued growth and success.
I have witnessed firsthand the stark dichotomy between technology solutions implemented by qualified and unqualified implementation partners; the differing results are staggering. Before you embark on your next technology adventure and pursue a CRM implementation partner, keep these five tips in mind.
1. The more technology experience, the better.
This might seem obvious, but knowledge, familiarity, and comfort with the requested technology are not always a given. Is the implementation partner you’re considering an official technology partner of the CRM you’re seeking to implement? What certifications does this partner possess throughout its staff? What is the track record of success, and have they delivered a similar project on this platform in the past?
Focus on partners who specialize in one platform’s implementation over those who are more “jack of all trades” partners seeking to cover as much ground as possible. You want a partner that knows the ins and outs of your desired technology solution, not one who is casting a wide net in an effort to serve as many organizations as possible.
2. Look for partners with specific industry knowledge.
Similar to platform specialization, organizations would be wise to seek out implementation partners who truly understand your vertical. There are many implementation partners who think about the nonprofit and education spaces, for example, as “by the way” sectors. “We focus on financial services and health—and oh, by the way, we can also implement a solution for nonprofits.” This is a major red flag.
Some might assume that a major technology solution can simply plug and play regardless of industry, but the truth is much more complex than that. When it comes to advancement, for example, you want your partner to understand the concepts of soft and hard credits, gift processing, and moves management. The vertical knowledge will help reduce the risk, time, and cost of your implementation.
Industry knowledge could also provide value in the design of your solution. A partner that works in your industry will know what solutions are available to address your needs. Should you, for example, build a custom volunteer management solution to address your needs, or is there an app that already meets 80% of your needs?
3. Make sure methodologies match up.
Before getting too deep into talks with potential implementation partners, make sure you clearly understand their methodology for implementing a CRM and ensure it meshes well with your organization’s own methodology.
Discuss the differences between waterfall, agile, and every other methodology in between. Methodology is an all-important facet of continual success, and it will go a long way in showing you that the vendor can replicate the success they had with other clients with your organization.
4. Look for assets and accelerators.
If an implementation partner has worked in your respective sector for a long time, they have likely seen similar use cases among clients.
Do they have any repeatable assets or established accelerators, relevant to your own use case, that could be utilized? If so, this could save you time, money, and effort from your own teams during the migration process. These are common solutions, customizations, and/or designs for a specific use case that will reduce your time to value.
5. Ask to meet the implementation partner’s team.
Technology delivery is all about relationships; you want to know who you will be working with. If possible, ask to meet the engagement manager, the project manager, and any vital members of the implementation team that will be working closely with your own team. In many cases, the implementation team will depend on your start date, and your vendor won’t be able to commit to a specific person. This should not become an obstacle to getting the project off the ground.
Ask to talk with people in these roles who worked on similar projects to gain perspective on past experiences and indicators of success. Establishing communication in the courting process through the early stages of the relationship will pave the way for continued success and smooth out any difficulties that might arise during the project.
While these five steps represent an excellent building block for choosing a CRM implementation partner, remember that your organization is unique and might require additional steps to make sure you find the partner that’s right for you. Take the time to thoroughly analyze what you are seeking to gain from a new technology solution and the outcomes you wish to create with a change.
Above all else, speak with your team and the people that will be most affected by this technology change. While your organization might have lofty, overarching goals that the new technology will hopefully accomplish, those aspirations will mean nothing if you don’t have buy-in from your staff and an understanding of what your people will need to perform their roles most effectively.