Monday, September 15, 2014

When buying CRM systems, do consider multiple business partners for each platform

multiples day 

One of the great benefits of the generic CRM systems (Salesforce, Dynamics, CiviCRM etc) is that there are many business partners for all of them (aka resellers) who could help you implement such systems. But if you are considering such solutions during your procurement and you just have one supplier per platform pitch for your project (e.g. just one Salesforce reseller, one Dynamics reseller etc) then you will be missing out on all sort of possibilities.

For a start, each partner/company of course has their own approach to implementing such software for charities. And if you find that their approach, ethos or people are just not right for your organisation then you could be automatically eliminating 'their' platform but based more on the company than the software/solution. And that might be reducing your options in the wrong way. (Of course, it is quite understandable that you don't select a company because they aren't right for you, but I would suggest you should give yourself scope to understand alternatives apart from said company for said platform).

Then there is their knowledge, skills, background, experience and so on. And their beliefs and ideas as to how best to do such implementations. If you don't look at multiple suppliers for each CRM system then you will only see that system through the eyes of one company, and I think that presents quite a risk for you in not necessarily seeing the best of it - or conversely, understanding its weaknesses.

What if you have a business critical requirement such as processing direct debits or managing online event applications and you hear from just the one supplier that this can't be done on 'their' platform - then should that mean immediately that you can't use that system at all? Or as bad, what if you only select one supplier and they tell you they can easily do that function and then two-thirds down the line it turns out that they can't, then have you wasted an opportunity in understanding that platform better?

Even if you only review two such suppliers for each platform then you will learn so much more from each one, and thereafter even if there is one who you definitely don't want then it is still quite feasible you will learn something from them which you can use with the other business partner. (And even if you don't, then even that will tell you something as to how good and how much more appropriate your chosen partner is!) And remember, as per my recent blog post, you can also consider Pre-Qualifying meetings before short-listing to a final one or two suppliers per system, thus enabling the potential for even more comparisons.

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