I have great respect for CRM vendors and their expertise. For example, Enrollment RX recently posted an interesting blog on the importance of an effective RFP-development process for guaranteeing successful implementation of a college or university CRM. The author outlines five tasks that should be included in the RFP-writing process.:
- Get Business and IT Involved
- Bring a Project Manager on Board Early
- Develop a Project Charter
- Do Demos, and Ask for Proposals, Before Issuing RFPs
- Look to the Experts—Yourselves!
A Good Start
The article is very helpful. However, I would go further than what has been suggested in the area of Get Business and IT involved.
The blogger suggests bringing all the stakeholders—everyone from recruitment to donor relations—together during the RFP development process for a 90-minute meeting to get user input and buy-in. While an hour-and-a-half meeting is better than no meeting (it happens), it is just not enough time to complete this task effectively. Scheduling more time, and sessions, will allow for more specific and thoughtful user input. Identifying specific needs and requirements and ensuring everyone is on the same page will drive more informative responses from vendors. This is the basis for both a successful selection as well as a successful implementation.
Second, I would tweak the suggestion to “do demos, and ask for proposals before issuing RFPs.” Demos should be conducted only after the institution has established clear needs and requirements. Vendor demos focus on features and functions, which is good. But the customer first needs to know what their business needs are in order to determine which functionalities are required.
Fully understanding the institution’s needs before seeing demos helps to focus the demos and can stop the “chasing bright shiny objects” syndrome. At the same time it is important to realize that a vendor may have features or functions that truly add value and should be considered.
It is also important to know if the vendor’s business goals align with the customer’s—and what the vendor’s track record is for strategic delivery.
Needs Analysis: First Step to CRM Project Success
The very first step, before finalizing the RFP or watching demos, should be to conduct a needs analysis, which can be broken down into three phases. (They are discussed in more detail at the links provided.)
Phase 1: Establish Organizational Identity
- Does the CRM project fit with institutional culture, values, mission and statement of purpose?
- What are the organization’s business requirements?
- Is the organization ready for this change?
- Is the staff ready for the change?
- Is the project student-centric?
Phase 2: Develop and Implement an Action Plan
- Set specific goals and outcomes
- Develop and implement initiatives
- Plan for necessary operational improvements
Phase 3: Evaluation
- Establish benchmarks for success
- Set meaningful metrics for measuring business outcomes
- Ensure that metrics data can and will be collected
While vendor input is crucial when considering a CRM system, it is essential for decision makers to keep their goals and business requirements top of mind.