Step One

Conduct a holistic, organizational needs-assessment process that prioritizes the business goals behind the decision to implement CRM.

Understand organizational needs

A working knowledge of organizational needs is essential to the success of any project.

A good vendor will discuss the project with the client often in the early stage to learn the client's strategy and to develop detailed specifications. This is an iterative process, starting from outlines and working down to detailed specifications. It is a learning process on both sides: You know your business and what you want to accomplish and the vendor should know the technologies that will be used to achieve your goals.

While clients often are eager to get going and have tight time frames in mind, this planning must be done thoroughly: if the foundations aren't well-established, the structure built upon them might suffer later.

The goal of this process is to understand the long-term goals behind defining and managing prospect and customer relationships. A common mistake is to leap to a list of desired features (usually provided by vendors) and to evaluate CRM solutions based on a checklist of which solution providers offer the most features on the list.

Start by taking a step back and defining what you hope to accomplish with different kinds of information. Here are some sample to jumpstart the prioritization process:

  • What is the value of the customer and prospect base for each CRM initiative? Every line of business (and probably each category of services or products) has a customer base with its own lifetime value. For most companies, CRM starts with first defining customer bases, then determining a value of each before aggregating those values into a companywide customer value that can be used to justify a certain level of expenditure for CRM over the long term.
  • What is the optimal amount of capital appropriate to protect or maximize the customer value base? Protecting a customer base can take all forms, and one must start with an understanding of where the threats lie: competition, attrition or complacency? Retention can be a function of all three and several other factors, which might affect the use of (and therefore the systems needed for) customer information. Maximizing a customer base simply might mean maximizing the share of the customers' wallet, which could translate into upselling and cross-selling products or services. In this case, leveraging a salesforce automation system should be among the top priorities for the new CRM system. Either way, you must come up with a number that provides a reference point for what makes sense to spend on the project, relative to the potential value of the customer bases to be served.
  • Which provides the greatest return in customer value in the shortest amount of time? And in the long term? This is simply a way to prioritize a phased approach so that the project is getting maximum ROI. Get the low-hanging fruit first and work your way up. Sounds obvious, but it's not. What is often the easiest has the lowest ROI, and it might make more sense to tackle a more difficult phase earlier to generate more financial return quicker. In the ideal world, the order of a phased approach would be determined by whatever it takes to achieve a self-funded project (or as close to self-funded as possible).
  • How would these CRM initiative priorities change over time, given a change in the key drivers of customer value? Let's say you have created a phased approach that touches Business Units A, B and C, and the sequence of development work is based on profit margins among products sold by these business units. Assume that Unit C creates a highly profitable upgrade to its existing products that pushes the potential value of its customers above Units A and B. You need to be able to capitalize on dynamic changes in your market by shifting the focus of the project to the area with the highest return on the development dollar. One more reason why a huge implementation process that slowly works it way through an organization based on factors other than the business climate is less attractive than a phased project created with change in mind.
  • What single metric can all parts of an organization utilize to measure their progress in enhancing customer value? Chances are, this metric has not been defined or valued yet by your organization. It might be something like a ratio of revenue growth as it pertains to the increase in the raw numbers of customers or simply a ratio of prospect-to-client conversions. This metric should be reflective of the organization's business reasons for contemplating CRM in the first place. It could be a measure relative to product flow, customer service, production efficiencies or the reversal of negative trends in profit per customer or lines of business per customer account. Either way, it should be a metric that at the end of each year can be a simple measure of progress for the organization as a whole and each department whose activities directly or indirectly affect the metric.



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.


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