How does one derive value from a CRM investment over the long term - beyond the first 5 years? How does an association ensure that it doesn't outgrow its technology or get to the point where it is seen as no longer fit for purpose? Its too easy to blame the tech, but the number of times we do implementations for organisations that state their old tech is no longer fit for purpose, when it is really not, is uncomfortable.
This is not to say that the organisation does not need a new implementation, let's be clear. It does, however mean that the organisation has lost parallelism with the tech that they have been using. And it is far too easy for this to creep up on organisations, without them realising it.
The biggest culprit of this outcome is insisting on too much bespoke coding being done at the point of initial implementation. Bespoke coding is:-
- Risky - there is always a risk in doing a one-off and starting with a blank canvas where the risks will only truly be understood a few years later.
- Costly - good developer's time is precious and costly. Also, every tweak that you want made down the line, will need a precious developer's time.
- Stagnant - once you release the piece - it is fixed in time. It will not upgrade itself, and any support will need to be paid for.
Custom coding makes upgrading your CRM tech costly because of all the additional testing you need to do with every new version. The staff time time element puts a barrier in front of your upgrades, and before you know it, you're on an unsupported version of your CRM, without any of the cool new features. When this situation persists, the organisation perceives it has outgrown the tech - but the real problem is that the tech has gone one direction and the organisation has been left in a quagmire of custom code.
The remedy? At the point of implementation, associations need to be prepared to change their business processes to align with how their CRM tech works. (This may sound unreasonable, but think about this - your current business processes were probably formed by the legacy technology you had been using prior to a new implementation...). Always implement with as much out-the-box technology as possible - and sacrifice exact business process till it really hurts - because it will pay dividends in the long term!
Your CRM implementers are going to find it difficult to challenge you on this at this point of your relationship - you are both new to each other and don't want to tread on toes, however, do try to listen to when consultants tell you things like "That is non-standard" or "The software was not built to do that".
Having the blank slate of creativity of a custom solution in front of us is really a temptation, but in the long-run, it is the organisations who align their business process with their technology investment that get the best long term ROI.