Wednesday, April 28, 2010

CRM On Budget: How To Develop and Stick To a Realistic Budget for CRM

It seems that having a project come in On-Budget is the holy-grail of project management, especially when it comes to CRM projects. With their 70% failure rate, CRM projects represent a significant risk to a small business' financial health and warrants more "measure twice, cut once" consideration before beginning.

Coming in On-Budget does not mean you managed to squeeze your project into whatever arbitrary budget you came up with when you first started. It also doesn't mean that you started with an overly generous budget.

It does mean that you develop a budget that takes into account an analysis of 4 critical areas:

1. PAYOFF. You need to know exactly how your CRM system is going to generate ROI. This will help you focus your project on the right areas. By knowing how you expect payoff to be achieved, you can plan to achieve it.

2 RISK. You need to figure out where the risk is in your project because "risk=expense". By figuring out what can go wrong, you can take measures to minimize and contain that risk.

3. SERVICES. Be sure to fully account for the variety of services that will be required. A few often overlooked areas that can increase your services bill significantly incoude: meetings, testing time, debugging time and "while you're here..." time.

4. TECHNOLOGY. Choosing the wrong technology is can be a huge waste of money. From the worst case scenario of a totally failed project to having to spend extra money to make the wrong software do things it wasn't intended to do.

What makes putting together a realistic budget so difficult for small businesses is that it's not what they do and they don't have the experience of having done several before. It's not what they do. So, they rely on the Sellers of CRM who have their own vested interest in not scaring off their customers with numbers that are perceived to be too expensive.

By putting together a realistic budget, you may very well find that the project is going to cost much more than you were intitally prepared to spend. It's best to find this out now and before you "sign on any dotted lines".

If you do find out the project is going to cost more, here are a few ideas of what to do:

- WAIT & SAVE. Perhaps you need to wait 6 months until you have a bigger budget. Use this time to get prepared for the project: learn more about the software choices, make sure you're business processes are as fine tuned as they can be, and focus on how CRM software will generate ROI.

- GO AHEAD. It may be more money than you were expecting, but may still be within your budget. If you're clear on how the CRM system is going to generate ROI and you're otherwise ready, go for it!

- SCALE DOWN. If you have a very clear idea of how the CRM software is going to achieve ROI and you can't afford the full project, focus in a smaller area to begin with that will have a payback. Use this payback to help fund future projects. It's always a good idea to start with smaller, high-payoff projects first.

- FIND MORE ROI. If you have a really clear and compelling business case for how a CRM system is going to improve your bottom-line, it's much easier to find the necessary funds to implement it.

- DOUBLE CHECK. Make sure you're choosing the right technology. Cheap software can often be expensive to implement. Double check to make sure you're basing your budget on the right CRM software. You may find that a software that costs more in licensing, ends up being an overall more affordable solution.

Coming in On-Budget means you started with a realistic budget. The Insider's CRM Success System goes into great detail on how to develop a realistic budget and provides the control forms and worksheets you'll need.

Scott Gingrich, founder of The CRM Coach (www.thecrmcoach.com) is the creator of "The Insider's CRM Success System", the world's most complete and only CRM Success System guaranteed to save thousands, developed specially for small business.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

IT Department Skills to Support Microsoft Great Plains and Microsoft CRM

Microsoft Great Plains as ERP and Microsoft CRM as Client Relation Management system is very robust combination and could serve midsize to large corporation as Business System. Being VP IT or IT Director you need to foresee the positions to have in your IT department to do internal MS Great Plains and MS CRM support.

Let us give you the directions, based on our research and consulting practice.

1. Microsoft SQL Server Specialist we specially do not name this position as MS SQL DBA, because both Great Plains and MS CRM are not very complex from the database administration side, they do not use indexes optimization, referential integrity, probably do not require complex transaction log backup/recovery scenarios. On the other hand this position requires Great Plains and Microsoft CRM tables structure analysis and some primary Great Plains data fixing skills via SQL queries, described in MBS Customer source techknowledge database. The best candidate should have some accounting background - to be able to address ongoing issues to MBS technical support.

2. Network Administrator with good Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory skills. Microsoft CRM uses all the newest Microsoft technologies, and Exchange is a workhorse here. In order to install and upgrade MS CRM this guy needs to understand the under-laying Microsoft technology. In the best case - she/he should know Exchange security structure and probably program Exchange handlers, due to the fact that CRM/Exchange connector is not a perfect tool yet.

3. C# or VB.Net programmer with excellent SQL Skills if you are midsize or large company - you should have this position - you will need web publishing and MS CRM customization and its support. Currently Microsoft CRM SDK has C# examples - so C# programmer would be the best fit, it may have more VB code in the future, so the C# - VB balance maybe restored.

4. Crystal Reports Designer/Programmer - Crystal Reports is the best tool available on the market to address both Great Plains and MS CRM reporting needs. This position maybe merged with one of the above.

These people should be probably cross-trained in both Great Plains, Microsoft CRM, Crystal Reports, SQL and C# programming, so you do not depend on the unique skills of one person. In our opinion, which is based on our long term consulting practice - these skills will allow you to keep the cost of IT support reasonably low and avoid paying high consulting price to your Microsoft Business Solutions Partner.

Happy hiring and training! But in any case you need to select Microsoft Business Solutions Partner/Var/Reseller to be your official representative. This is how MBS has its channel working - it assures that Microsoft Business Solutions products are properly implemented. If you want us to be your Microsoft Business Solutions Partner - give us a call 1-866-528-0577! help@albaspectrum.com

Andrew Karasev is Chief Technology Officer in Alba Spectrum Technologies USA nationwide Great Plains, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft RMS customization company, based in Chicago, Arizona, California, Taxes, New York, Florida and having locations in multiple states and internationally (www.albaspectrum.com), he is Dexterity, SQL, C#.Net, Crystal Reports and Microsoft CRM SDK developer.

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