CRM System Selection: Ignoring the Detailed Requirements

Why do some companies go to the trouble and expense of documenting detailed functional requirements only to completely ignore these requirements later in the CRM selection process?

Documenting the functional requirements is a fairly obvious step when looking to select a new CRM system. How to use the requirements as part of the selection process isn’t quite so obvious. Lumenia consultants regularly see companies who’ve gone to the trouble and expense of documenting detailed functional requirements only to completely ignore this valuable information later in the selection process.

Say you’ve done the right thing and gone to the trouble of documenting your requirements – how should you use this information to maximum effect in the rest of the selection process?

The first thing to do is to include the requirements in your tender documentation and ask the vendors to respond specifically to each requirement. Their responses will then allow you to compare the relative functional strengths and weaknesses for each system.

But can you trust their responses? Surely it’s in their interest to overstate their capabilities (to some degree at least) in order to stay in the game?

In practice, vendors tend to respond honestly when they know that the next stage in the process involves scripted demonstrations. It also helps if you tell them that the tender responses will form a part of the contract documentation for the selected vendor.

The second step is to use the requirements as the basis for the demonstration test scripts: then you get to see how well the systems match your requirements and business processes, and you get to judge how truthful the tender responses were.

It’s no good having demos if they’re not based on your functional requirements. It really is amazing how often we’ve seen companies miss out on the value of this step in the selection process by providing vague scripts and agendas for the demonstration sessions. There’s no doubt that it’s absolutely vital to be as specific as possible if you’re trying to see how well a system matches your business.

There are a number of reasons why this is so important:

  1. Vendors won’t protest if the scripts are vague and non-specific, as it gives them license to show off what they consider to be the strong points of their system. However there’s no guarantee that what they show you will have any relevance to your business.
  2. If the vendor shows irrelevant functionality it’s likely to frustrate the audience and leave everyone dissatisfied. While the system might still be suitable for the job you need it to do, the vendor hasn’t demonstrated that it can meet your functional requirements.
  3. Vague scripts and agendas will also mean that each vendor is likely to take a different tack in terms of how they approach the demo. While each individual demo might work out OK, it will be very difficult to compare what you’ve seen on a like-for-like basis.

Documenting detailed functional requirements is just the first step in finding the right CRM system for your business and should be used to drive the selection process. It’s critical that all this good work isn’t forgotten about later in the selection process.

This blog was written by John Donagher, Principal Consultant at Lumenia. If you would like further information on CRM System Selection please send an e-mail to John Donagher.