The Ideal Condition

This blog will be focusing more on the design of CRM system solutions than on project management (though there will some of that stuff in future). With that said let’s start at the best place for CRM design; the end.

When a CRM project kicks off and all you have are the initial requirements and expectations the first thing to do is to start at the end; think about what the ideal system would look like when it’s all over. The tender documents and project initiation will have some of the info but what you need to think of is more generally what kind of CRM system you think would be ideal. For example would it be a highly bespoke system? Would it be primarily supported by the in-house team or by a vendor? Would it have a high level of automation? Which team(s) will be using it most? Will there be lots of forms for different teams? etc. The goal here is not to get definitive answers to these questions but rather to set up your thinking for the next step in the process; the design kick-off meeting.

As early as possible schedule a design kick-off meeting with the project principles and discuss what the goals for the system should be. This shouldn’t include discussions about project time, resources or costs. Rather it’s a high level discussion about how the design process will work and what the overarching goals for the system are. Topics to discuss are:

  • What can be supported by the CRM team post-live (JavaScript, reporting, customisation, etc.)? It is important to know what the CRM team can support so you don’t design a system that they cannot maintain.
  • Should core functionality be used wherever possible or create custom solutions? This is a tricky question to answer at the start of a project but generally you want to get agreement on whether to keep with what comes “out of the box” as much as possible and change business processes to fit or the reverse; to create custom solutions in CRM to fit existing business processes. Every CRM project will have a mix of each but at this early stage if you can get a preference on which way to go it will help guide the later design work.
  • Should the CRM try to automate business processes where possible? Or should the goal be to have simple processes and forms that the users can manually use?
  • Which people & teams will be the primary users of the CRM? If there is a conflict later about resources or design which group should get priority?
  • Who will sit on the design authority group? This is critical, the design authority will be responsible for reviewing and approving the work and any issues encountered. The group must include the CRM manager or primary user who will be responsible for the system post live. The design authority should not be made up of only consultants, vendors or temporary project team members.
  • Finally, what would success look like? In a general way what would the project team consider a successful CRM to be (other than on time and cost!)

After the discussion create a design briefing document that formalises what was discussed and agreed. The document shouldn’t be too long winded, you aren’t trying to create a technical design here (also it would be far too early for that!). It is also not a straitjacket for the later design process, the decisions made on the discussion topics are there to inform the rest of the project. They are to be the best intentions and goals, it is very likely that some of them will be broken as the project progresses. One certainty about a CRM project is that things change. The ideals and goals gathered at the start may not all be relevant by the end. The design brief is intended to set realistic initial expectations for the design process and as a reference point for when the actual work starts. It will also serve to formalise the review and approval process with the design authority group.

The purpose of this exercise is to get an idea of how the CRM should go before you get far into the project and the opportunity for foresight disappears. This should make the design process easier and give some structure and insight for when conflicts or resource constraints occur. Travelling is much easier when you have an idea where you are going.



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