How to Get Your CRM System Up and Running Quickly

By Geoffrey James

There are two basic stages to any CRM deployment—implementation and customization. There are three ways to implement and customize a CRM system—external implementation, internal implementation and on-demand implementation. Regardless of the implementation method used, customization must be approached with caution lest it create delays in deployment.

Each of the three implementation methods have unique advantages and disadvantages.

1. External implementation. This involves hiring an outside company to implement a CRM system that will run inside your data center. By using an external implementer, you theoretically are buying expertise and experience because the implementer has received training and/or certification from the software vendor. That expertise does not always come cheap, though. You should be prepared to pay an implementation multiplier of 50% to 250% of the cost of your software purchase. What’s important in this case is to ensure that the technical personnel assigned to your project are appropriately skilled and, more importantly, will remain available throughout the implementation. There have been cases where CRM customers have been assigned a talented project manager only to have that manager yanked off the job because the implementation provider received a higher bid from another client.

2. Internal implementation. Using your internal IT resources to implement and customize your CRM system also has pros and cons. Once the CRM software vendor has properly trained your IT personnel, you can look forward to substantial costs savings in the long run. You also will gain internal expertise that could prove valuable in the future. Your internal resources will, by definition, be on a learning curve, however. That means you must plan for inevitable mistakes and project delays.

3. On-demand implementation. There are a number of companies that do not wish to hassle with owning their CRM implementation, perhaps because they lack sufficient internal implementation resources or the budget to hire external resources. Such companies generally opt for an on-demand CRM system, even if they eventually plan to buy and own their own CRM system sometime in the future. If you go this route you must be prepared to hand your customer data to the ASP, even though that data is the core of your business. Also, you must be aware that it might not be cost efficient for the on-demand CRM vendor to tailor the software to match your every whim.

Customization presents a different set of challenges. Making a CRM system useful typically involves configuring or customizing the software to meet your company’s unique needs. For example, a CRM system’s graphical user interfaces (GUIs), whether on-demand or on-premise, might be customized to reflect the specific needs of each group of users. The sales reps might want their opening screen to show all open sales opportunities, for example, while the customer service reps might want their opening screen to show all outstanding customer service incidents.

Similarly, business functionality within the CRM system might be customized to meet unique business needs. For example, a company that manufactures textbooks for university students might customize its system to automatically send samples or comps to professors, a function not standard in most off-the-shelf CRM systems. While customization clearly improves the usability and attractiveness of the implementation, if not carefully monitored it can become another activity that delays deployment. To avoid this, develop a customization plan that clearly describes the phases in your customization efforts prior to commencing your customization work.

The above is adapted from information provided by CRM consultant and expert Mr. Goldenberg, who has helped numerous companies select and implement successful CRM systems. He can be contacted at 301-656-8448 or through