A current scenario: We have been engaged with a client who is looking to move from, in this instance, their old on-premise Microsoft CRM 2013 system to Dynamics 365 cloud and are now seeking consultancy and support in migrating as a result of their new Cloud First IT strategy.
But. This client is in a quandary over which is the best delivery option for them, since until recently they employed two long term contractors who supported the system and helped heavily customise the system to meet their needs. But both of these have left in recent months to pastures new! A theme we may encounter again!
A common problem?
This is a mid-sized organisation with over 35 Users and with their own processes and customisations needing a steady stream of work to be done to continually evolve their system, rectify faults and amend and update processes. They are now looking to move to the Cloud model for the standard reasons.
The nature of this project could just as easily be for Microsoft CRM or a migration from Salesforce Classic for instance, both of which will be needing a high level of application knowledge and technical and consultancy skills to effect a smooth transition and importantly to take advantage of new features and the new User experience in each application.
What are the Options?
My view is that there are three core approaches to delivering this project that can be considered and we will examine the pros and cons of each in more detail. The exact costing figures are less easy to guesstimate since for any particular project day rates and the amount of time and effort will be different depending on the complexity of your installation and to some extent your geographical location. So, to keep things simple, the three key options are:
• Employ your own staff
• Hire a freelance Contractor
• Hire a CRM consultancy
Is there another option I’ve missed or just a hybrid of these options? In this post, we will try to be concise and just consider each in isolation, although some form of hybrid option may be more likely in reality.
We need to consider this over a time frame and to take in account the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) costs here as well over say a year. As always, there is more to this problem than meets the eye and so we need to take a more holistic and strategic perspective in our due diligence approach for each of these options:
In this post, we consider the top 5 pros and cons of each option. However, a longer version of this post was published on LinkedIn with more focus on some of the Cons you need to consider
Option One: Employ your own Staff
• You have a fixed monthly cost to budget for
• Full time availability (min. 35 hours per week, every week)
• Lower day rate than all the alternatives, even with employer NI, holiday’s
• Able to cross-use on other IT projects
• User reassurance and available for training and support 5 days a week
• An experienced full time MS Consultant/Developer will be over £40k* per year plus costs of NI/Pensions and any other benefits.
• They are on holiday 20-25 days per year plus 8 Bank Holidays (and you pay for any sickness)
• Vision. Will they have a short term tactical focus to maintain their role? Do you need a more strategic approach?
• Knowledge Limitations. We have come across instances where as a Developer, they want to develop and so may create additional work and complexity, for instance, new entities when an existing entity could have been reconfigured to meet a requirement or module added. After all, Developers develop!
• What happens when they decide to move to new pastures…They get a better offer, life changes mean a move or health changes have an impact?
Option Two: Hire a freelance Contractor
• You can employ on a short term contract, say just for 3 months
• Flexibility of contract is possible, you may find they could do just 3 days per week for example
• You can dismiss them easier and find replacement(s)
• You can get others in to support your key contractor at key times
• You can employ for an initial project surge and then drop down the time required per week/per month
• Their day rate will be higher than your own staff. For Developer skills allow for £450-550 per day, depending on locations and skill-set**
• Will they be onsite every week? Experience shows they often shuffle a client’s days around. This is something most consultants will let you know about. It’s part of the payoff, but annoyingly can be at short notice
• How up to date are they? Are they to busy ‘earning’ to stay abreast of new developments
• Do you still need some sort of CRM Helpdesk as a fall-back?
• What happens when they get offered another project…that pastures new again?
Option Three: Hire a CRM Consultancy
• Pay as you Go. Most consultants invoice on time and effort basis, so you only pay when you decide you need the project consultancy.
• Reference ability and experiences. Your supplier will have done this and other migrations a number of times. You can ask for this information and lessons learned.
• Art of the possible. A good CRM consultancy should be taking a holistic and Strategic view and helping you roadmap the future. In this instance, we are reviewing the Microsoft suite of applications to help innovate, reduce the licence footprint and save clients time, for example through Workflows. A great example is the use of Power Apps to create simple task related mobile apps, say for a Client Meeting Review or a simple Site Assessment. Apps are simple to use on smart phones/tablets and the data syncs straight back into Dynamics 365, possibly saving a full User licence.
• “Pool of Resources”. A key difference. You are not just reliant on 1 or 2 people, but have a dedicated technical and on-hand Helpdesk Team, every working day.
• There are No Pastures new! Businesses are there to retain and develop their customers to enable them to grow their own business. Customer retention is frequently monitored and measured by the major vendors such as Microsoft and Salesforce, so there is a further strong incentive to client retention and good customer service.
• Higher day rates than either Option 1 or 2, but these may be negotiable somewhat on a project basis. Rates range, by location and required skill-sets from £900 to £1500 per day.
• Initial cost can be a lot higher for any project or surge costs.
• You may fall out with your partner, but of course, it is still easy to change partners.
• Partner may try to in-build and then own their custom code locking you in. This is less likely nowadays due in part to the vendors’ annual upgrades and lessons learned and a good partner will focus on a Configure First approach to reduce or eliminate customised code.
One of the key considerations when comparing these various options is to fully understand the complexity of your project apart from the actual user numbers and modules being used. If you have a simple, very much an out-of-the box system, clearly the risks in your migration may be a lot less. By reviewing these Pros and Cons for each approach in delivery may help you determine the risks and likely financial impact. Don’t underestimate the complexity of migrating to a new CRM system, especially when your CRM has been used for a long time internally.
Many CRM systems installed over the last few years have been customised to a high degree to fit the process requirements of the business organisation at the time. Typically, this may involve in Microsoft CRM terms the use of plug-ins, new entities, java code and similarly in Salesforce Classic, extensive use of new Objects and the use of Apex code to meet the gaps of the application at that time or as we mention above, a Developer may have preferred to customise rather than configure.
With the launch of Dynamics 365 and Salesforce Lightning editions, the extension of out-of-the-box capability configuration and in-built functionality in both applications has been incredible. So in just a few years, what would have been a customisation or specific custom code requirement may now be a simpler, and more upgrade proof, simpler configuration solution instead… providing you know the application of course!
As a CRM consultancy you need to be up-to-date on the application, aware of what is possible and importantly closely aligned with the vendors to understand their vision and future roadmap. Sometimes, this will require lateral thinking, such as changing or migrating a process to fit with new functionality, but this is where a Configure First approach again pays dividends.
In fact, I would argue that the more complex the system, then the more likely you will want to reduce your own degree of risk and call in experienced, external help who can provide you with client references and learning as part of your due diligence and selection process. What to look for in choosing a CRM Consultancy has been covered in an earlier LinkedIn post.
Modern Customer Relationship Management systems are ow cloud based, but at the same time in recent years the leading applications functional capabilities have become so much larger than just the traditional CRM of a few years and have additional modules such as Self Service, Social Media engagement to full Marketing Automation as part of their core offering. They have the ability to link with multiple additional applications, not least of which are from their own vast eco-systems of approved 3rd party apps.
Today, my view is that it is rare indeed for one or two people to have the depth of resource to be able to invest the time and effort in keeping their knowledge up to date across such a wide spectrum of features whilst still having the ability to support and configure this depth of functionality. Their distance from the vendors themselves can often mean they are only aware of changes and developments sometime after publication.
For many mid-sized businesses, engaging with a specialist CRM consultancy can in the long term lead to both a lower Total cost of Ownership and a stronger CRM system more aligned with the vendor’s development roadmap and less reliable on just one or two individual’s knowledge.
So, my conclusion is that for these organisations, taking on-board your own permanently employed and dedicated staff or even full time contractors may not offer you the value for money you first think and may in fact prove to be a more costly decision in the long run compared to selecting a specialist consultancy with its own pedigree, ‘pool of resources’ and closer relationship with the vendor.
*Indeed search West Midlands, **Indeed search West Midlands
Picture Credit: Pastures New - Artist: Paul Corfield
27th November 2018