Step Four

Ground rules for working with a technology partner that puts the power in the hands of the network professionals charged with achieving a satisfactory return on their CRM investment.

Sometimes there is a fine line between a vendor and a partner. At other times the differences between the two are vast, but the success of both are intertwined. The reference checking outlined below is evidence of how the industry works. Word of mouth has generated the majority of our business for years, and remains one of the few ways to separate hype from reality among vendors trying to sell you services for CRM projects.

A response to an RFP must address the specifics of a project, but you must feel comfortable with the potential partner as a company. You should be confident in their team's credentials, knowledge and skills. Their managers should be highly experienced individuals that will explain all of the capabilities, technologies, possibilities and core competencies - yet also listen and learn everything about the client's industry, competition, vision and organizational needs.

Any organization evaluating a potential partner wants to know several things, including:

  • Can this partner get done what we need to get done in the time frame we need?
    It sounds simple, but it's essential: Get references. And call them. Get a complete client list and call some that are not listed as references. Chase down the people who worked with this provider and get the inside scoop. Make sure you call more than one company, just in case you get that random aberration.
  • Can we work well with this partner?
    Communication is the most critical factor in having a positive or negative experience during your implementation. How often will they give you a progress report? (Don't be afraid to ask, "What have you done for me lately?" Depending on the project, weekly or biweekly might not be too much to ask) How inclusive is their development process? Will they show you draft plans with Gantt charts that outline when each step of the project is complete? Is someone available as an on-call contact? Ask for his pager and cell phone number.
  • Will working with this partner produce value for the money spent?
    Will this partner guarantee to be on time, on budget? You don't always get what you pay for. The state of California learned that when it recently was overbilled tens of millions of dollars for software licenses for more "seats" than they have employees. Never count out the smaller players. Without the overhead that large national vendors have, small shops can not only come in under the rates of bigger companies, but will devote more people to projects. Their stake is bigger in your project, because a negative reference could put them out of business. Often the amount of attention and devotion to the success of your project will far surpass what you would get elsewhere. Speed has value. Even if the rates are the same, an efficient, phased project that can correct for changes in strategy or business focus as it is rolled out usually provides a better ROI than a giant implementation that is less capable of accommodating corporate change.
  • Is this partner going to be around for the long haul?
    A long history does not ensure a long future. Arthur Andersen is proof of that.. A firm with three to five years under it's belt with solid project experience and a stable team is perhaps more viable than a behemoth whose employee turnover rate rivals the inflation rates in most developing nations. Key indicators include whether a company appears to be positioning itself for acquisition rather than focusing on providing the service they are in business to provide. Are they posturing for shareholders or is it a private firm with the freedom to do what needs to be done for the sake of the success of the client?
  • Do they stand behind their promises?
    Will they guarantee to deliver on time and on budget? If your potential partner is not willing to agree to strict parameters regarding milestones tied to compensation, then their confidence in hitting their mark should tell you something. Ask their other clients and get it in writing.
  • Will your organization become the biggest obstacle to your success?
    No partner can make this happen on their own. You have to do your part, too. Most projects require the availability of client staff and executives to participate in the needs-assessment process in order to get a read on the business goals that are driving your CRM effort. If key people are not made available, no partner can deliver on time. There are few types of corporate change initiatives as labor intensive across all lines of business and among so many levels of employees as are CRM projects. The commitment to seeing it through must exist from the top of your organization to the bottom in order to let a partner come in and do its job.

Vendor Evaluation Checklist
Implementation Resource Requirements  
License Fees Critical
Implementation Costs Critical
Software Maintenance Fees Important
Operations/Administration costs Critical
Costs for Future Modules Critical
Vendor Stability & Viability  
No. of years in CRM industry Important
No. of total employees Less Important
No. of employees/staff to be assigned your project Critical
No. of implementations Important
Vendor Support  
Training and Education Critical
Technical Documentation Important
Technical Support Services Critical
Vendor Contractual Requirements  
Source code in escrow Critical
Can we modify source code Critical
Professional services offered Important
Payment terms, conditions Less Important

Consultative role

Look for a partner whose approach to your project is an educational one-all involved parties should learn something that will benefit the resulting project. Many organizations unfamiliar with the technical aspects of CRM development projects also are unfamiliar with how their business goals translate into site design, architecture, software and hardware choices. Credible partners are sensitive to the possibility that their position as an experienced vendor carries with it the ethical responsibility to educate their clients and inform them of the best solution, even if it means a smaller project. Only if the client knows the possibilities can he utilize them to their benefit and realize his organization's CRM potential. The organization should be stronger at the end of the CRM project than it was before the project. The right partner can strengthen your organization while empowering it with the technology needed to reach your s objectives.



PixelBrick (Ceonex, Inc.) stayed on schedule and on budget... to release the project ahead of schedule! We look forward to working with PixelBrick (Ceonex, Inc.) on future projects.

Keith Gill,
Vice President,
Marketel Systems LTD.


...outstanding design work and timely implementation...a fabulous website that accurately captures both our mission and spirit...

W. Michael Draper,
NetworkWorld, Inc.


Ceonex - scalable  business  solutions