Skip to navigation | Skip to content | Skip to footer


Follow our blog to keep up-to-date with the most recent industry news & updates. Alternatively, you can browse our archive below.

How the CRM vendors are helping in this pandemic


At the risk of over saturating everyone with news of the COVID-19 virus, I thought it would be very useful to outline what some of the top CRM vendors are doing to help in these strange times.

My thought is that if ever there was a good time to move from your old on-premise CRM system, if you still have it, then this is it!

With everyone now having to work from home on their or a company laptop, Tablets and smart mobiles, this is where cloud based CRM is really coming into its own and I wanted to see how the software leading vendors are making it easier to migrate with possible roll-out offers and packages.

Furlough Impact

With Covid-19 and many staff going into furlough, then they are not able to work, having a single cloud view of the customer is now more important than ever as those colleagues helping out will be expected by clients, to know their account and their business, so having an up to date CRM has never been so important for businesses.

Trends since 2010

Whilst this is not the time to dwell on this, recent stats have shown us that in the space of 10 years, we have moved from 20% cloud based CRM in 2010 to a staggering 87% of all CRM being cloud hosted in 2018. However, this still means that possibly 1 in 5 companies have a legacy on-premise CRM which may not be cloud facing, possibly more in UK as this was a US based source.

So, back to the question, how many of the key cloud vendors are recognising this and putting into place some offerings to take advantage of.

This post is based on what I listed as my Big Five in a post from a few years ago (time for an update?)

Let’s look at the key platforms first.

The “Big Beast” CRM Platforms

These are the major cloud based CRM vendors in the UK identified in my post, offering a wide range of modules from Sales, Customer Service and Marketing to full E-commerce and Customer portals on the same platform.

You just need to choose and add the module that will best fits your business. The real beauty of course is everything is integrated, so choose the application modules you want to start off with and then add as you require. A big change in functionality really since my last post has been the advance and integration of AI or Machine Learning into many of these applications, but that is a theme for another day.

Each of the platforms have their own eco-systems of tactical applications to meet particular requirements, for example e-signature.

So now let us have a quick overview and for each application and in each I will highlight if and what their Covid-19 inspired offer is currently, although this is of course subject to change fast.

Starting with the two leading platforms as identified in my post from 2018 which reading this again it still relevant.

Dynamics 365 platform

With so much money being spent on this application suite by Microsoft in the last few years this has now rapidly expanded to now offer a full CRM/ERP suite. Recently, a branding restructure relabelled the suite into the Dynamics 365 and Power applications, all of course integrated with MS Outlook/Office 365, so you now have the following applications available on a CSP or monthly invoicing option. Core modules for readers of this post would possibly include:

• Sales

• Customer Services

• Marketing

• Portal for communities and self service

• Finance via Business Central

• Power BI –for reporting

With the new UCI (Unified Client Interface), the look and feel is the same on all devices (desktop, Tablet and Mobile) making this easier to adopt if you are used to O365. In addition, LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 as well as a point of interest.

Whilst, not of course CRM, with so many modules, the Dynamics Business Central is the finance module for small to mid-sized companies and if your finance team are still on legacy desktop or server based system this is well worth a look.

Covid-19 Offering: Some add-on capabilities, for example Remote Assist for field based technicains is being offered free for 6 months to client with Customer Service module. This module is also available for certain sectors as well, e.g. HealthCare, Charity. For the day to day headline module pricing, no change.

Note: If you are on the Dynamics platform and are using the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) offer enabling you to pay monthly, don’t forget that if you have people on Furlough then you could move those affected with say Full licences into Team (at c.10% of licence cost) licences or remove and reactivate these licences later. Check with your CSP provider on your options here.

Salesforce platform

Salesforce has been the leading proponent of cloud CRM since 1999 so were early advocates, now of course known as one of the leading CRM platforms. This platform continues to grow and has made major acquisitions in the last few years. Core modules for this post audience are likely to be:

• Sales

• Customer Services

• Marketing.

• Communities (Portals and self service)

• Ecommerce

• Tableau for reporting as well as Power BI (with standard connector to Salesforce)

In addition, for existing customers, they are some add on modules which are free to use, helping to support co-workers internally. There are also Trailhead e-learning modules specially to support this.

Covid-19 Offering: Offering small businesses a pack of information, including an extended, 3 month trial sign-up to Salesforce Essentials package.


Another consideration for smaller companies on restricted budgets may also be this product which has a wide suite of add-on modules, but is not as well-known. Certainly over the last few years, my personal experience has shown that this tends to be for smaller organisation since I have not come across this much in the mid-sized market as frequently as say just 5 years ago. Module of interest are likely to be:-

• Sales

• Customer Service

• Marketing

• Omni-channel or Self Service

Again a wide variety of add-on and eco-system of associated apps

Covid-19 Offering: Current offer is for up to 3 users FOC plus a new low priced simple solution, called Bigin for those moving away from Spread-sheets.

In fact, as I pointed out in a post a year or so ago, the last five years have seen the Top CRM vendors focusing a lot on improving their eco-system of partner and third party app that can integrate into their system, for example many client have integration now with e-signature and CPQ software apps

Niche Applications

Within this group, are the niche players which whilst they may not offer a full platform approach, but are able to offer strong Sales and Customer service functionality as well as having partnerships with other strategic vendors, for example in Email Marketing Mailchimp.

Pipeliner CRM

Over the last few years, this has steadily expanded and last year, entered the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales systems. So if you are sales specific and keen to focus on this aspect, then this is an easy to use visual CRM with the key features you would expect as well as lot of integration to other applications through its eco-system. There is a nice ability for online and offline capability, useful for field reps with the app. A free 14 day trial is available


Since SAGE withdrew their offering which was pure cloud based back in late 2017, I have excluded this application since this is now only available as a Server based or Server hosted solution, which kind of takes us back to the start. However, SAGE CRM was always cloud facing and accessed via a browser, so as long as your system is maintained if you are on SAGE CRM then this post is unlikely to be relevant. Whilst there is a dedicated Covid-19 hub, this support appears to be mainly focussed around financial implication information and e-learning.


Within recent years, this has expanded from a Marketing Automation vendor into CRM and now offers a full platform approach. Recently launched its own Hubspot CMS as a rival to WordPress dominance and continues to attract new clients in the UK with attractive offers

Covid-19 offering. Has reduced its Starter Suite pricing for new prospect and clients by significant amount for next 12 months. It has also suspended email marketing limits and made an number of add-on features free to trial for 90 days

Setting up the new system

Whilst choosing the next CRM Cloud solution is only one key decision, and of course if you are not sure, then we are able to give you independent of vendor advice on which may be the best-fit solution for your business. That is just the first step. To get the most out of any CRM you will probably need help to configure and train your users.

And amongst the CRM consultancy community we recognise that you may need or want to get some set-up quickly so are able to offer tailored packages to both configure the system and migrate core data from your old system as well as being able to deliver online training and e-learning training for repeat use and reference.


This post is not intended to direct you to one application or the other, after all that was what my Big Five post helped with a few years ago, but if you need help and support choosing a CRM, or just in setting up your chosen CRM, then that is a good time to make contact since it is likely you will have other systems linked or needing to be linked in the future as well as part of your own business application eco-system.

Finally, my apologies if anything is already out of date when this is published, but as you will appreciate, this is a moving target and vendors are adjusting to the changes almost daily it seems since I started to write this.

29th April 2020

Is UAT the secret to CRM Adoption and Engagement Success?


UAT or User Acceptance testing is widely used when introducing new software systems in large and complex ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) projects and in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) projects.

This post reflects on why in my view, particularly in CRM of all IT projects, this can be a crucial if not a critical factor in a projects success and in the subsequent roll-out and engagement of Users. Many authors over the years have noted a high failure rate in CRM projects and again, my view is that inadequate UAT amongst other factors, will often be a root cause, but why is this?

What is it?

First let’s just clarify what UAT is.

User Acceptance Testing is usually towards the end of a project and will pre-date User roll-out and full training delivery depending on your project methodology, for example ‘waterfall’ or agile.

As a general rule, after any configuration or customisation changes to your system and internal supplier testing, time is then allocated to a select number of customer users to test what has been changed in context and ensure that this works or behaves in the manner which is acceptable and meets stated and documented requirements.

Usually scripts or usage cases are already prepared by the client or consultant to test the key usage scenarios effected by the change.

Any deviations are then fed back in some form of log, often called a Findings and Issues list showing items needing to be addressed/discussed by the Project sponsors. These findings may be rated by priority or impact and urgency.

How these are addressed will then be decided. But once these changes are made, these will then be tested again in another round of UAT until passed and accepted.

A simple enough process in theory and practice!

Why do it?

The core reason for UAT is to ensure prior to the new system or changes being handed over, there is a sign-off of the system to ensure it meets client specifications as shown and agreed in any Functional System Design documentation or Blueprint specification. Think of this UAT as the final check-list prior used and walked through when agreeing to accept a new car. In much the same way, often there will be a milestone payment associated with sign-off to focus all minds attention to the detail!

The focus on UAT is on how the system behaves. However, often during this process, a subset of real data may be added as Test Data prior to final migration and this may be tested too, but, I will touch on this aspect again later.

My experience shows that always there will be a Findings and Issues log that comes back from the Customer after their UAT. Often these findings may be minor and easy to fix, but sometimes major changes may be identified. These major changes are of big concern and a plan needs to be agreed and the impact understood in terms of the project plan.

Dangers and Risks

In many projects under tight time deadlines, the risk is this Testing and UAT period can be rushed or too short or that not enough trained personnel or not enough End Users are given the necessary time and tools to test and report thoroughly. How the feedback is documented can also cause an issue.

However, with good Project Management, these Risks should be clearly identified and early on in a RAID Log. This is simply a project planning tool, usually in Excel for identifying key Risks, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies. At start of any project, the Project Manager should identify any events, activities, resources that could impact on the successful completion of the project. This should be a weekly or monthly Update to project sponsors as the project evolves.

What to do what not to do

Any good testing will have a Finding and Issues log from UAT and don’t forget you may have more than one round of UAT. Some suggestions now on what to do and what not to do:

To do

• Selected Users need to undergo some form of system training before they are involved in UAT, so they must understand the system as if they were new Users, not come to this fresh with only limited exposure.

• UAT must be built-in with enough time for testing and a fixing allowance of time before Go-Live. Having it too close to this date runs risk of having to move it out the go live date which will not be welcome and impacts the business and the projects reputation.

• Have good script or usage scenarios available, easy to read and answer. Again, this requires adequate preparation time, don’t leave this to the last minute

Perhaps the most important point, but also one of the hardest to meet is:

• Allow adequate time for fixes. Most of the time, if there is a good cleat blueprint, good project management and enough resource allocation then many issues tended to be minor such as screen form design issues where users may want certain fields moved around or drop downs added too.

Also, it can be useful to split your UAT Testing into two work streams: User UAT and a separate Data Migration UAT team. They may be the same team but ensure different time is allocated or a different room, for instance swapping over. Trying to combine the two may result in missed testing since Data Migration UAT needs careful diligence and is not exciting, so allocate separate time to this. The quality of data can impact the project and I’ve covered this in other posts in the past.

What not to do!

• Don’t rush this process

• Don’t do a last minute allocation of resources with no adequate testing time in their diary

• Don’t forget these User need some Training first

• Try not to have your Testing by different people spread out. Ideally aim to have a minimum time in a “locked room” scenario. So there are no email or other distractions to enable people to focus 100% on their testing. Reflect on how best to achieve this in your project.

• Try not to do fixing “on the fly” before all your first round of testing is completed by all Users. This can just create complications…”Finish the testing, log it, fix it” is a good mantra.

• Don’t skimp on the Findings log detail. Ensure you are providing a good log and detailed description for everyone to be clear on the issue and for other to be able to replicate your findings. This will save time tooing and froing on clarification.

This is a short list, but no doubt experienced practitioners can add to this immensely, but for now let’s focus on the big picture still.

Resource Allocation

Choosing your Project Team and your internal Testing Team should involve a mix of Users and ideally at all levels and all impacted departments. If you can, you want champion End Users and sometimes, whilst it may be tough for ourselves, those Users who are the most vocal and even resistant to change can be your most effective champions if they can be turned around. In my experience oftentimes, they will also appreciate the fact they have been asked to contribute in the first place. More importantly, you want them onside.

As mentioned above, for data migration testing you want people who are very detailed. Data migration issues can really deflate a new project rollout, so attention to detail when reviewing is a vital skill. Hence I think this should be considered a separate work-stream.

A final note here, which is if you are struggling for resources, don’t be afraid to ask others including your consultants for help.

How to recover?

But what happens if for whatever reason UAT has not identified all the key issues. You then either go to User training and find out problems during the training, not the nicest experience for a Trainer or later only after Go Live.

This can still happen. Often the root cause is traceable down in my view down to three core reasons:

• Usage scripts not having right information or enough scenarios or being well written and easy to follow, or no scripts at all!

• Not enough adequate Testing time. Rushing the test time or just not allocating enough time or people not being disciplined to use this time. Again, having a whole dedicated day and ‘locked room’ will help here.

• Right mix or level of Tester. Possibly the Testers were not familiar with all the processes they were testing, it can happen, especially if time or resource is tight.

To recover the answer is pretty simple. You many need lots of bodies and take action early and fast to get back to a recovery position. I’ve said it many times in post before, but I believe the first 90 days after roll-out are critical.

But you need to see the signs, so if your users begin to say things like:

“It takes longer”

and more importantly can prove it, take this as a good sign! It is feedback at least and concern for the business, or:

“I can’t easily find what I need “

This last is often easier to fix, where often it is a question of improving the screen design and layout.

As in all things it, prevention is easier than cure

But act fast and recognise you have a problem and don’t blame the Users.

They are simply trying to do their job. Your job is to listen and validate first, not moan at the Users, whatever they say there will be kernel of truth there, the key is in then finding how big the impact actually is. Ignoring these warning signs will lead to a system with poor User adoption or worse a reluctant adoption and can lead to lost data, wasted time and eventually even employee de-motivation and churn.

Benefits of getting it right

Rather than me, I think, it is worth noting this comment from a leading CRM Project Manager with 20 years’ experience.

“Good UAT and the resultant follow-up and fixing is one of the key ingredients to successful adoption. Avoid ‘rushing’ it, but remember this also needs a strong Project Management focus on both sides here…

Let’s not forget, this process is all to do with User Adoption and User Engagement. And the key to any CRM new project is this User Engagement in my view. This means that not only do your Users embrace the new system and can use it well, but they develop a strong a sense of ownership. Any ideas that come up then will be for positive improvements rather than just negatives.

Failure in that first 30 - 90 days can kill a system and is probably single biggest source of system change and failure in CRM projects.

And finally

So, don’t underestimate power and importance of good UAT.

This post is really all about appreciating just how important this stage can be to your User Adoption and Engagement success.

Don’t rush it!

Ensure as a client you do give this process the necessary resources, ‘time to test’ and allow for ‘time to fix’.

In essence, this all comes back to good project planning and choosing a Partner with the skills and project experience to deliver your CRM Project on time and on-budget.

28th February 2020

12 CRM tasks to do this Christmas

So, we are now at the end of another year. The next few weeks until end of the first week in 2020 are a great time to reflect and plan for the New Year.

For many of us working in Sales and Marketing, those who are working will likely have some additional time on their hands as meetings start to dry up from today, so this can be an ideal time to look at how you can get your team to update and fine-tune your CRM to maximise those first few months of 2020.

The Tasks

So, I have chosen 12 key tasks that I think you should look to complete over these next few weeks across both Sales and Marketing departments and in no particular order:

1. Top 20 Accounts key contacts. Ensure that the team have updated who is still there or who has left and flag this fact. Make sure for at least your key contacts that they have their correct job titles (use LinkedIn to confirm). At the same time make sure you have their first name in correct. Personalisation continues to be a key themes in marketing communications and you want to be accurate here.

2. Leavers as Prospects. Those contacts who have left, make a list (this should be easy enough to do with a tag or flag (speak to your Administrator on the best way to do this). Review and make a short list if they are worthwhile contacts to follow or contact or indeed connect with. Next find out where they have gone. Most people update their LinkedIn profile when moving to a new job within the first 30-90 days. Now these could be new Leads for the New Year or ‘low hanging fruit’ as they say.

3. Account Profile enrichment. Make sure you review all key information and that your top Accounts and indeed all your Customer Accounts have accurate up-to-date information. So, again using LinkedIn, you can review their industry and also number of employees. This can be a good indicator for many businesses and may also show your growth in numbers (if over 30 employees) and can help you size your clients very easily. Take the opportunity to any new key contacts you come across. The key here is ‘back-filling in critical information. A good example here could be Year End. For many companies, knowing when this is, may impact upon their sales cycle. If you have large amount of Account data to tidy up, you may want to consider a Managed Services or exporting of data to a data enhancement agency, for example Experion.

4. Update LinkedIn profiles. From a marketing perspective, it is sometimes useful to review your key team members own LinkedIn profiles. It may be that many people have only put in the 'bare bones' with no overview of their role or the company in their summary. You can encourage this by providing some template descriptions on the company and their role with key words known to resonate and this will help give a more consistent corporate profile and persona.

5. Connecting on LinkedIn. Encourage your team to make new connections over this festive period with key contacts helping to build your corporate network ‘reach’. Many people are delving into their own profile at this period and are more likely to be more active and quickly accept an invitation. Remember to send a personal invite to connect and don’t just use the standard invite ‘I’d like to connect’. This will give you a better conversion ratio.

As stated earlier, with far less interruptions and day to hassle, this is a great time for reflection and ideally, hangovers notwithstanding! conduct some deep-dive analysis. The period from Boxing Day to New Years Eve can be a ‘grey’ in-between period’ if you are working, but make the most of this time since now you are least likely to be interrupted by any last minute projects. So…

6. Review last 6 months Leads. Check out any evolving patterns here. So the obvious of course is the source of these Leads, but also check out when these leads were created (if from a website form) you will have exact detail and don’t forget to look at key search terms. Have these been entered into the Lead detail? If not, ask why your sales team are not giving you this information. You should be constantly reviewing long search terms and not just as in our case for example, using ‘CRM’ as a key word. Check if this level of details is being asked and tracked and if not you will need to your next briefing for your team.

7. Confirm your best Lead Generation sources. Have a deep-dive into why and how these sources are working. Look at any changes in patterns. Also, as a useful metric, I used to review each year the total % of Leads to Visitors as a metric to see if this ratio was being maintained. It enabled me to pinpoint a drop-off and change my approach.

8. Blogs. These can be incredibly useful, but also can be overlooked in any analysis since sometimes direct links to Leads may not be so clear. Blogs and Post can give you lot of ‘reach’ and social media exposure, so have a look at these again to see if any can be updated or revisited for say next year’s list.Don’t forget to ask the Sales Team here as well, they may have some anecdotal evidence from Leads, but more importantly are a great source of ideas. What questions are their Leads/Prospects asking them?

9. Check contacts status. Use the “last modified date” and review the bounces on your last few emails. And don’t forget to update the record. This will help improve your ‘Open’ rates and reach, but sometimes can be forgotten. It can be tedious if you do not have an integrated marketing solution such as Dynamics 365 Marketing or Salesforce’s Pardot for example. But if are using a stand-alone Email Marketing solution like Mailchimp then it is important to review to ensure you are in sync with your data. Research to see if there is an integration available direct or via 3rd party app or if in doubt ask ourselves. There may be another route to sync data between CRM and Email we are aware of. But, if there is no integration in place already, then this should be something to consider for 2020.

10. Share ‘bounce’ information. This info can also be useful for sales teams, so don’t be afraid to share ‘bounce’ information especially on key accounts. This may enable the Sales Team to go back to their LinkedIn and check if they have missed say a key contact/influencer moving on (see comments above) and review.

Planning for 2020

Looking forward now to next year, you should already have some ideas of what your focus will be and possibly campaign ideas. However, this is also a good time to do some research on the key apps you are using, so my final two key suggestions are:

11. Review the Road-Map of your application. Whilst this post is not a deep-dive into recent CRM Application road-maps, this is worthwhile task. But, also don’t forget most vendors only announce their next release feature list publicly within a few months of planned release. Below are some links for each of the following applications on recent changes: Dynamics 365, Salesforce, Pipeliner CRM, SAGE CRM, My view here is you should be looking at how either better Automation or AI may help both you and your sales team.

12. Consider Sales Enablement. This is something that can be a large subject and will also depend to some extent on the nature of your industry and sales cycle. So for example, if you have multiple influencers in your deals then Sales Enablement software should be something to consider. Within this review any existing capabilities within your current system to enhance the Sales Team usage, adoption and provide them with more information. For example, Dynamics 365, has Sales Insights and Customer Insights. Although probably the most common extra sales enbabler is to look again at LinkedIn Sales Navigator. With recent licencing changes, this may now be a more attractive proposition and there are key benefits with sync to CRM.

Whilst this post is not about Digital Transformation, inevitably, you are knowingly or not probably embarked on this journey in any case and are looking at how you can use new technology to positively impact sales, marketing and customer service.

These are just a selection of ideas for this Festive period if you are working where the day to day pressure is less and you can take the opportunity this gives you to spend some time to review and plan. My suggestion here is to focus on just one task per day (in between festivities) to help move your own system forward and ensure you are setting yourself up for a successful 2020.

All that remains is for me to wish everyone who has commented/liked or just taken the time to read my Posts this year, a very Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year.

16th December 2019

Dynamics 365 Licencing -a 'rough guide'


Microsoft announced back in July some significant changes to their Dynamics 365 and Power App licences which have now taken effect from this month. This post aims to give you a brief overview and some additional resources since licencing changes can often be overly complicated.

So, a few questions, I will try to answer in this post include:

1. Why have they done this?

2. Why now?

3. What are the changes

Firstly, the title. Why “a rough guide?” Well, I am not licence expert, so in trying to make an easy to read overview of the changes based on two key documents I am having to possibly over simplify. These documents are big, with the guide on Dynamics 365 licencing being 66 pages whilst the Power Apps Licencing guide is 21 pages), plus there are numerous additional seminar slides and docs. So, there is a lot out there and even resellers struggle sometimes to absorb all this detail into a simple format. For your own circumstances, you will see I always recommend talking to your own partner. Now back to those three questions…

1. Why have they done this?

First, a quick disclaimer here. This is only my opinion together with some insight into vendor thinking gained from working with software vendors over many years. But the cloud based app market is changing across multiple vendors and my view is that more and more they are looking to price more on consumption or usage of their licences. In Microsoft’s case, some of the bundles may have been, shall we say over generous and of course the main point of any bundle is to encourage take-up and again usage. You will read later how this works.

2. Why Now?

Effectively, it seems that since Microsoft are wanting to move to a consumption model, so you buy what you need to consume and this may also make it easier and clearer to do comparisons for clients. This also encourages User focus and possibly reduces the internal overheads such as helpdesk and partner helpdesk resource from say clients with the full Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement licence plan sites with multiple apps.

3. So what are the changes?

First, let’s talk a little about Dynamics 365 Licence types and Editions


Essentially, for most clients, there are two main types of licence for Users:

Full – This gives Full access to the Application and is really only limited by the rights or permissions assigned to that User.

Team- This gives a much more limited access with reduced “write or create” rights, but with extensive Read-only rights. The key here is a Team licence is roughly 10% of the Full User licence, so it is well worth reviewing your business processes and User roles and mix, something we do when Scoping a Project, since you can see the subscription savings potentially could in large sites be significant.

Note: There is a Device licence but this over-complicates this post, so I've not dwelt on this.

So you either can access the module or edition you have as a Full licenced User (although this may be restricted by your actual User rights or permissions).

Looking at an example. A Sales person may create new sales opportunities, but their permissions mean that they cannot see Manager’s Opportunities). So their access was controlled by User rights or permissions even with a full Licence. Whilst a Team licence User may have limited write or create access rights. So, in this example, they could create a new contact, but couldn’t create a new sales opportunity, even for it was only for themselves, they would need to be a Full user.


Within the Dynamics 365 suite there are a set of applications and each Application may have one or two Editions. At the moment, in practice this some apps have a Professional Edition with a more limited feature set and an Enterprise Edition with a far richer feature set. Currently this Professional edition option only applied to Sales and Customer Service apps and this does have a reduced price, aimed at the SME client base.

So for example, Dynamics 365 Sales Professional has no Marketing lists nor Sales Playbook or ability to add Competitors to an Opportunity. It also doesn’t link to some of the Sales Insight tools or LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

For most clients, the 'core' Dynamics 365 Applications in consideration, excluding any ERP apps are:

• Sales Enterprise and Pro Editions

Customer Service Enterprise and Pro Editions

• Professional Service Automation

• Field Service


In this post I am excluding other enterprise editions for simplicity, for example Dynamics 365 Retail or Business Central

In addition, there are several add-on apps for example Customer Insight, Sales Insight, Customer Service Insights, and LinkedIn Relationship Sales etc

Changes in October

So, moving back to the crux of this article, Microsoft’s big change this year is to move to pure application only editions, with no bundles. So, every app has its own SKU (Stocking Unit) or item code.

User Licence Pricing for the module apps will be based on your choice of core or ‘Base’ Enterprise Edition application and then if you need too, you then add or ‘Attach’ another application. This is based on highest priced unit, so a Professional Edition does not count as ‘Base’ application.

As always, an example illustrates this best.

Until October, you could buy the Customer Engagement Plan App, this gave you in effect, Sales, Customer Service, Field Service and Professional Service Automation (PSA) apps all in one licence bundle (and if you had 10 or more CE licences then you also had the Marketing app included) together with a Portal. This User Licence was of course at a premium of around 21% per user per month to individual apps.

But, from 1st October, you now buy the “Base” application you need say Sales or Customer Service and if you need the User to have access to both apps, you will now pay for an ‘Attaching’ application licence. This is paying for what you consume. So, if you then needed a User to have three apps, say adding here also Field Service (possibly unusual) you would now pay for the ‘Base’ licence and then each of the two ‘Attaching’ apps. This is the basis of the consumption theme previously mentioned.

Let’s work this out at List prices for an example 10 User Full Licence system (excluding VAT)


A 10 User Dynamics 365 Enterprise Customer Engagement Plan (Tier 1)* was £86.70 per user per month, so £867.00 per month.

*(Tier 1 was for up to 99 users)

Don’t forget, you may have gone for this as it would have included a Portal and the Marketing app (albeit limited to 2k marketable contacts) as well as Field Service and Professional Service Automation (PSA).

But that was really 6 apps (Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, PSA and Marketing and Portal) all bundled under one licence, even if they were not used or consumed.


First decide on what each Users main or “Base” licence will be and if they need another licence version.

So, Enterprise Sales App is now the ‘Base” application at £71.60 per User per month and then per for the “Attaching” App you add £15.60 per user per month. Now you are paying £716.00 per month.

If some Users need another app due to their job role, you ‘attach’ this App (unless it is Marketing, priced per org) each at £15.60 per app. So a User needing Sales and Customer Service is now £87.20 per user per month and adding now a third app, say Field Service would push this up by another £15.60 now rises to over £100 per month for that User.

However, my experience suggest this would be an unusual situation for one User to need all these apps.

And then we have the Team licences...

These stay pretty much the same, although it is important to remember since the start of year, a Team Licence cannot create an Account, a minor but important change.

The key in all of this licencing is having a Partner who understands not only your business but how to ensure your annual subscription footprint is minimised and this may mean taking a long in-depth look at your User roles to avoid for instance the three apps in the example above for one User.

I mentioned above, Dynamics 365 Marketing. This can be stand-alone app or when using Dynamics 365 is treated as a slightly different attaching app and is priced per organisation or tenant and then price tiered on the number of actively marketable contacts, starting now from 10k contacts.

Anything else to be aware of with these licence changes? Just two items of interest from CRM focus:-


Originally, a part of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan, this now become part of the Power Apps licensing family and the pricing is now very different. This is again based on consumption or views. So clients need now to think carefully here about for example a Customer Service help-desk Portal and how many views you may have. But, here we are in the midst of getting into some deep consultancy looking at and exploring various options, so if doubt here, it is best to call your Dynamics 365 Partner .

Data Storage Capacity

Another change announced earlier this year was how Dynamics 365 data storage is managed and this is now split into three core area for each tenant with the starting point being:

Log capacity: This is 2 Gb. Used for auditing purposes, e.g. tracking a field changes over a time period.

File capacity: This is now 20 Gb plus 2 Gb for every Enterprise User. Used for storing attachments or files, e.g. note attachments, email attachments

Database capacity: Now 10 Gb plus 250Mb for every Enterprise User. This is your contact data, notes on calls, cases etc.

Why is this important? If you are on Office365 you get a storage component there as well, so now you can look at the combined storage across licence numbers, type and Office 365 User numbers and type. Again, if in doubt talk to your CRM Consultant.

Again, working through the licence scenario before, for 10 users. You now have a Dynamics 365 data storage split as follows.

Log Capacity-always stays at 10Gb

File Capacity is now 40GB ( =20 GB + (10* 2Gb))

Database capacity is now c. 12. 5 Gb ( 20 Gb +(10*250Mb))

For most sites, until we get too complex, you can focus mainly on the File and Database storage capacities as this changes the more licences you have.

But beware, when creating a new instance, or adding a Portal since this also consumes storage capacity. For instance, each Portal once added takes a min. of 1Gb from your allowance as soon as it is created.


After 20 years in the software industry, licence changes and licence type structures are always changing, whether this be due to the advent of the cloud or a vendors own preferences and management or marketing initiatives, this is another change that just needs to be managed.

The business application software world is in constant change and actually that is on reason I find it enjoyable working in this industry. The key is in understanding these changes and how they impact upon your business. In my view, this is a key reason why you need to partner with CRM consultants who can really understand your business and can advise you accordingly, but are also in a position to build a close working relationship to let you know in advance of these changes and the possible impact on your business and give you advice on what to do to prepare or change if need be. This is now a key aspect of my day to day role, be this talking to new prospects or existing clients.

As mentioned at the start of this post, it is a ‘rough guide’ to these changes and is not exhaustive. How this impacts you should now be taken up with your own Dynamics 365 partner



What happens now if I am on the old licence type?

This is the most common question but we recommend you always check with your reseller consultancy, but general rule of thumb is be ready to change at your annual subscription renewal to the new licencing, unless you have a special set of circumstance, as always, if in doubt ask. We would recommend you now conduct a Licence Audit soon with your CRM consultancy to review this impact prior to any renewal date.

A Disclaimer

All thoughts and opinions in this article are my own as are any error or omissions. Condensing complex documents into a single post or blog can be challenging, so always check with your own dedicated reseller, CSP partner or in this instance with Microsoft directly.

Useful Sources

Dynamics 365 UK Pricing. Licence guide is available at bottom of the page

Power Apps pricing.  Licence guide is available at bottom of the page

Note: As we know URL’s change but these are current at time of publishing.

31st October 2019

Gordian Knot -slicing thru data issues in CRM


Now we are in the quieter summer months, this can be a good time to review your data. We find clients start to consider if their CRM system meets their current requirements and if it is time for a change or a major overhaul later in the year. In any case, whether you decide to “to stick or turn” on your system, these Summer months are the ideal time to be looking at your data afresh. Starting this work now can save a tremendous amount, especially if you are considering implementing a new Customer Relationship Management system later this year.

Most clients existing system(s) will have an abundance of available data and if you are moving to a 2nd or even a 3rd generation CRM, then you will have learnt that data migration is always one of the key discussion points and constraints and can have a big impact on the delivery timing for your new system.

Inevitably, this topic needs much internal discussion on what data to bring over and why and each of your different stakeholders may have conflicting opinions and views. So, data can be a key sticking point.

So, let’s examine some of the catches/obstacles you need to consider. In my view, these fall into three core areas:-

Legacy data. Your system may have been in place for many years and has lots of data on accounts, leads, contacts and opportunities (both won and lost!), not to mention possibly numerous cases/tickets if you have full blown CRM and not just a Contact Manager.

Data quality. With older systems it is almost invariable you have a lots of poor quality data. Over the years, your different Users will have partially only filled in their records. Typically on a contact, many times, we find just a first name or no email address or job title. Another key missing element is that whilst your Accounts records may have key fields, again, many of these records may be missing up-to-date information or even still be only partially completed, even if they are still active Clients. For instance, telephone numbers, industry sector, website and even full address data may be missing, all very frustrating to those using CRM diligently, but we've all come across this and as I’ve said before in my posts, my view is your Users need must ‘own’ their system, it’s a key factor in adoption success.

GDPR. We all knew this came into effect last May, so this needs careful consideration and you may need to use some external advice here, if in doubt refresh yourself on the key principles at the ICO site Arrgh! I hear you say, not that topic again, but wait…

The key in any review and especially in looking at a new adoption is that what is actually needed is clean, good quality and accurate data. This is always the best starting point when moving to any new implementation. A good rule of thumb is to consider data minimisation principles, so only store the data you actually need.

As I said above, if your system has been in use for a long while, it inevitably will become cluttered as people enter data in differently over the years or people move on and what meant something to them, is now just meaningless.

So you now have a golden opportunity to rejuvenate your records.

Whilst you will need to Scope out any new system to fully understand your current and planned processes and people involved and build a configuration and deployment plan, one of the biggest issues which needs careful preparation and inevitably your time is still going to be this data.

Data Migration

Don’t underestimate this from a client perspective, to your consultants, data is just often data, you are the experts on your data. For example, a typical SME company may have in the region of 5,000-10,000 or more Contact and Account records, together with ‘000’s of associated activities.

In addition, you can expect thousands of linked emails, although some CRM systems may not be connected to the email system, still cited as a key driver in say moving to a more modern cloud system such as Dynamics 365 or Salesforce.

Any consultant will tell you, whilst you can Scope and document your Requirements in Workshops and then work out how much time is needed to configure and train your Users, the most difficult estimate for time, still most often comes down to Data Migration. In fact, whenever we quote, whilst we can give an initial estimate, we always need to add in the caveat, ‘subject to sight of data/subject to scoping”.

Over the years, data is the most unpredictable item to estimate from the outset and this comes back to the need to often bring in large amounts of data, with nearly every project involving data that has been ‘stored’ in many different sources. Having a single centralised 360 degree view of your clients, perhaps is still the key business driver in adopting CRM.

This is because you may find you have:-

Large amounts of data. From many years usage as mentioned above.

"Silos” of data. For instance, separate CRM or related systems (sometimes we find different instances in the same company) and numerous other systems holding contact data such as Email Marketing or Marketing Automation together with invariably some Excel spreadsheets which have been used for a specific point solution.

General reluctance to not delete. Or abandon all this data, after all, there must be “nuggets of gold” in there!

All in all, this can represent a big tangle of intertwined ropes or in fact a large knot of data!

The Gordian (data) Knot

Clearly given the references above, our job is to help you slice through this Gordian (data) knot and surprisingly, this has been made simpler in 2019.


Well, come to the rescue –those GDPR regulations!

When considering your own Gordian data knot, the GDPR impact needs to be considered, so in many ways, getting rid of your old and redundant data and instead focusing now on the current and most relevant data where you have a legitimate interest is assisted by these regulations. So, you can now look at all this legacy data age afresh.

Remember, whilst I mentioned above, the age of your data, this is just one thread in this knot. The next themes I think you need to consider are:

Relevancy: What do we actually need? Customer data, prospect data, old lead data? For contact data, what do we have? Just a single name, no surname or job title? Again, as above. Are there any activities against the contact?

Source: Where did this data came from, do you know it? Do we want to retain the source, if you have recorded this? This can clearly be important for any marketing analysis going forward

Is this really useful data? As I said above, just a single name, no email address, no job title? Where is the value here, again, what is the relevance? Is it accurate?

Last contact. This should be relatively easy to sort on, often this may be in your system as maybe a “last update” or “last modified” system field. This may be a hidden field, so ask your administrator.

Activities. Most systems have default import templates for contacts and accounts data, but where it becomes more difficult is in importing activity data. Here you need to think long and hard. Do you really need all the email interactions and call/contact activities and history? Again, are they all relevant?

Enrichment of data. This is really an extra question. But, something to consider at this point, typically this may be around Company or Account data. Should you just import or take the opportunity, time permitting to look to enrich your data?

Don’t forget when dealing with these questions, in many cases, you may be able to just keep a single licence or archive of the old CRM system for reference during your transition period. But set a limit is my advice and again, be aware of GDPR implications and discuss with an expert first.

Now, you are ready to be hard and like Alexander take a slice to this data.

My view, as briefly mentioned above is that, for contact data, and this is what we are generally talking about, Account or Company data is up to you to choose, but again, this can be simple. The key for contacts is now to focus on the last modified or last updated date and if you have email and full contact details. This should act as stated above as a great filter.

I am assuming you have already done some work updating and enriching your data due to GDPR compliance, so your latest data should be the most valuable. If you are importing over activities for the future, this can act as another filter. So, if there are no activities or no contact update in say the last 3 years and no email, why bring this data across? Data minimisation principles should apply again here.

Our Goal: The Single view of the Customer

Remember, this is what we are all striving for.

Having the most complete view of the customer or contact and the most up-to-date and accurate information available. The higher the quality and accuracy of this data, then the better your User adoption will be. Making sure you have done this pre-migration work will now pay dividends and make this an easier migration in my view. My advice is to only import the best quality and most up-to-date and verified data you can into your new CRM system.

Your Users will expect this as well in my experience. As I say, this is such a golden opportunity to cleanse data and get to that Golden record where your Account and Contact details are up-to-date and accurate.

Time spent on preparation and identification of what you need to do for any data migration cannot be rushed. As we began this post, these Summer months are a great time to start thinking about this. Don’t underestimate the time and discussions needed to get a clear view of what and why you will do an action. It is vitally important to document these decisions, since many decisions may be made on different types of data, so have a single Data Migration decisions document with these decisions recorded so you don’t lose track of why certain data was omitted or archived. If in doubt, or you are unsure, this is a good time to engage with a GDPR expert and/or your CRM consultants.

Final Thoughts

My aim in this post to try to ensure you do not over-complicate this problem and more importantly you start well in advance of any commitment to a new or your first CRM system and to start to consider all your data sources, so when you start any detailed planning you have already considered many aspects of your data migration project beforehand.

CRM consultants without fail, will tell you that the higher the quality of this data, then the easier the transition to a new or your next system will be. This preparation in advance will give you more time to think about say using Managed Services for example to enrich data such as Accounts prior to this being imported.

If in doubt, speak to a consultancy like ourselves who can help you understand your own Gordian data knot and ensure you don’t slice this too early and not without some careful preparation and thought.


Note: This post is not intended to offer definitive advice on GDPR, so as stated many times, if in doubt about your own circumstances or project ensure you discuss or work with a GDPR consultant or expert if you have concerns.

3rd September 2019

CRM app at end of life-what to do now? 

This summer, in fact in only one months’ time, Sage becomes as shown in the famous Monty Python parrot sketch, ‘dead’ or EOL (End of Life) in IT parlance!

A quick timeline refresh:-


Autumn: SAGE announced no new clients being taken on. Continue to support existing cloud clients.


• Winter: SAGE announces being made end of life by 31 August 2019, so all clients have to move!!

If you are still on this version then you need to be making a decision now!

Time is running out.

Having said that, I’ve been talking to other Sage CRM clients who are now increasingly worried about the future direction of this application and as an ex-reseller, I do share their concerns. I first worked with SAGE CRM and took this on as an accredited reseller way back in 2004, when to us, it was and still is in many ways, an excellent product and had the best of both worlds: On-premise and On-cloudor in the parlance of the day as SaaS (software as a service) option.

Even as late as 2016,as an independent reseller, I was still recommending SAGE CRM since it architcure was still rich and it had great features, was a solid robust platform with ,intuitive interface. In addition, it had a great configuration and customisation capability and a flexible licencing model, including concurrent users, albeit at a premium. In fact, an ex-client as recently as this March, was asking me about putting in Sage CRM into their new company for 10 user team.

Let me be clear in this post, this post is not about knocking Sage CRM, this is I hope, about adopting a cool hard view on what you can do now if you are on the legacy platform.

SAGE CRM has been great application and I’ve had plenty of endorsements from clients over the years who have moved to this as 2nd generation CRM. Of course they have been a few gripes, mainly about mobile or Outlook integration, but the same issue has been found with many other older CRM systems over the last few years as User expectations and the world moved to smart phones in the last few years. Office 365 has been a key driver here, together with iPhone in making client feels so much more comfortable about cloud apps compared to say 10 years ago

So, where are we now?

For SAGE CRM users wishing to stay on the SAGE CRM platform, then the choice is to migrate to the SAGE CRM on-premise app, and soon!

Alternatively, if wish to stay fully cloud based (and I am ignoring the hybrid option to host your own server somewhere here for simplicity in this post) then you need to go to market

If you have been a user, then the choice of on premise is probably not your first choice since you have already embraced the cloud so we find that many people don’t intend going back to on premise server based installation. After all, there were compelling reasons in the first place why this wasn’t chosen option.

Two questions are being asked

• Have I left it too late?

• What to do now?


Almost to be honest, but now you do need to move quick to get at last a copy of your data

Next, start to look at what your options are and quick. These fall into two broad choices:

1. Migrate to on-premise Sage CRM

And pick it all up on your own server or go hybrid, and put on to a hosted solution. This will enable you to carry on. Buy SAGE are not being particularly helpful here in my view with only limited access to the system!

You will now need to buy licences and recreate everything on your new installation, so in effect you are back to square one almost with some core data. Mmm!

2. Move to new CRM

My view is this is the best option, if you are going to go to through all the trouble above, why not?

According to recent stats less than 20% of new CRM business goes onto a on-premise solution, so why would you want to carry on and then possibly having to go through the same process again if the vendor next decides they no longer want to support this last app in a few years’ time, this is a risk you may not want to take.

Which Apps?

So, the obvious first choices in my view are consider - Dynamics 365 or Salesforce. There are other apps, but these are far and away market leaders, just look at the most recent Gartner report. Other apps I know well include Pipeliner CRM, now recognised in Gartner as a niche sales focused app

But, which one to choose? Which would I prefer here?

Let’s think how Sage CRM works

• Its browser based

• Its fast

• Its intuitive

• UX is clean and now since version 7.3 is bright and modern, in fact you could choose from 4 themes

Add to this, nowadays you probably want a robust Mobile experience

All the leaders app fit here, but let’s consider the two market leaders mentioned above and a few pros and cons.


Pros. More like SAGE CRM. So my belief is probably easier sell -infor user adoption and administrator adoption, after some training of course. Again, my view, but the configuration, after adjusting seems more akin to how SAGE works

Cons. Really the only issue here is one of licencing and on-going investment price. This may put some client off, but having said that, consultants opinions is that when compared to other apps, then as it is so much more configurable and feature rich. Features for User and the overall implementation project is likely to be less that other application, if performed by accredited consultants.

Dynamics 365

Pros: Flexible monthly licence option available. Two core licence types, Full and Team can save on-going costs and can mix application. Enterprise and Professional versions available, Enterprise has some extras modules if you have 10 users or more included, depending on Licence app type. Office 365 integration as you’d expect is strong

Cons: None that are obvious, Dynamics 365 and Office 365 work well together and the new unified interface makes this a much more attractive app than just a few years ago. To maximise usage, engage with consultant who know the application well.

Like all things in IT, having a clear understanding your requirements and documenting these can help to clarify the best choice early on.

And a word on some of the other Apps

There are literally 00’s of CRM apps out there, but if you are in a rush and unsure of which app to choose, my recommendation is always start with the market leaders. You may feel you pay a bit more, but there will be a proven pedigree, not to mention clear investment strategy and product roadmap available so you can move in confidence.

A Requirements list may help you narrow this down or speak to one of our Team if you are unsure and reviewing different Apps, we can advise and even undertake a full Fit-Gap Analysis if required.

And what about data?

This is probably going to be the hardest element and in the short time available now, you may need to make some tough decisions on what data you are able to bring across and quickly.

Typically in SAGE CRM terminology, you will need as a minimum: Company’s, Persons, and Opportunities and of course if you use them, then Cases, Solutions etc. With regard to your Communications, these should be exported for reference, but may prove to be tougher to import into any new system. Look at if you have any Custom entities, e.g. Assets, Samples etc since these also need exporting. If you use Quotes and Orders, then export as well.

Once you have the data, you can at least reverse engineer a solution if you need too, but something that you should do, time permitting is use this as an opportunity to review your ‘As is ‘ processes and consider if these need updating today. The core data, once a system is configured, can usually be a reasonably quick process to import unless of course you have had lots of customisation.

What to do now

Don’t hang about!

If you have now yet chosen a partner, then look at this now!

Speak to a consultancy with deep SAGE CRM experience they can leverage to talk about your system set-up and look at how quick you can get core information from the system to buy you some time whilst you consider the best solution. The great thing with cloud is you just need to sign up, usually with a trial or just a single licence to get started.

My final thought taking into account we are now in the holiday season. If you can, ideally, you should hold a Scoping Workshop straight away to enable some sort of consensus on an outline blue-print of your requirements to be documented.

25th July 2019

Convergence of CRM+ERP: Myth or Reality?


Over the last year, I have noticed that increasingly we are being asked to review whole system CRM and ERP requirements. I find that clients are now looking for a totally integrated and streamlined system or future system.

So why is this?

Reflecting on changes over the last few years, I think there have been three key drivers at work here:-

  1. Emergence of Cloud into mainstream
  2. Platform approach
  3. Vendor ecosystem growth

Let’s examine each of these key drivers?

1/ Emergence of Cloud into mainstream

It is now rare indeed where we came across a mid-sized organisation looking to stay on their legacy on-premise system, be this CRM or ERP. Most IT departments I talk to are now pushing for cloud based solutions and without going into the well-trodden path of comparing cloud versus on-premise benefits, the main factors driving this in my view are:-

  • Cloud is now mainstream. The last five years have seen a dramatic change in attitude, 10 years ago, we had the innovators, now every-one wants to be cloud focused. A Bitglass 2018 analysis of more than 135,000 organizations showed cloud adoption has topped 81 percent – a 37% increase since 2016 and a 238% increase since 2014
  • Office 365 has been a key business driver here for many organisations in moving to the cloud, so Microsoft have done an excellent job. Some figures suggest over half of organisations have now deployed Office 365. After all, once your email is cloud hosted, seen as your Users most sensitive app in daily use, where next?
  • Cloud access and security concerns allayed. Vendors have spent large amounts of funds in ensuring security with specific Trust websites, for example Salesforce and Microsoft on this topic
  • Uptime Availability. With 99+% service levels available, this again supports this cloud transition and increases business confidence. What internal IT department would be able to afford to offer 99+% availability, let alone guarantee this all year round!
  • Subscription or pay as you go model is widely accepted. For many, this is now their preferred pricing model. Clients like to budget and with cloud offerings, the iceberg analogy applies but in reverse, where most of the costs are all highly visible, there are no ‘hidden costs’ such as unexpected server replacement, maintenance and services upgrades.
  • Always up-to-date. With regular upgrades built-in the subscription. For instance, cloud enables Microsoft to have 2 upgrades per a year and Salesforce 3 per year, SAP Hana has a major update per year and this is replicated across the cloud, removing or reducing another IT headache.
  • Inter-connectivity. The linking between these cloud apps is one of the secrets to the success for the rapid rise in cloud deployment. All of a sudden, the big expensive integration problem can become a lot smaller and more manageable with cloud apps.

2/ Platform approach

The CRM and ERP vendors have spent many millions of dollars in moving their offering to the cloud, so that today, all major mid-market vendors have a platform offering, be this Oracle, SAGE, SAP and Microsoft whilst Salesforce has always been cloud based since 1999. In fact, I would argue you would be hard pushed nowadays to find any major on-premise new application launches in the last 5 years in the Western World where you have an advanced IT infrastructure and ever-improving broadband speeds.

There has been this massive investment by the likes of Salesforce and by Microsoft since 2015 on creating platform suites. This is replicated across the Software world with Oracle and SAP. But, first what do we mean by a Platform. Well for me, the explanation sums this up very easily as “a platform is a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed”

Taking two examples I know well, Salesforce have their Lightning platform, upon which vertical industry solutions have been built, including for example, Veeva, a primarily life sciences application, whist Microsoft’s Azure and Dynamics 365 platform using the common data model is becoming widely used as a foundation platform and across industries, here for instance Peppermint, a legal solution, built on Dynamics 365 and SharePoint has been successful in its vertical market.

This platform approach has been widely adopted by other leading software brands such as Oracle Cloud platform and SAP with its SAP HANA platform.

A key business driver is the need for a single shared view of the customer, currently not as easy as it sounds with older legacy systems. Indeed, a recent survey from Salesforce in their State of IT survey from 2017 highlighted this as key objective. This problem for many CIO’s is still being hindered by having multiple legacy applications that are hard to integrate. By adopting a Platform approach this can be a major factor in starting to resolve and reduce this issue over the long term.

Now as clients are embracing buy into the platform approach, it is this platform upon which applications are developed by both the vendors themselves and their ever expanding eco-system of third party partners.

3/ Eco-system growth

The third key driver in recent years in my view has been the tremendous growth of integrated vendor supported and promoted eco-systems. All the major players have been actively encouraging and supporting third party companies to produce add-on's or build vertical solutions on their own market place to augment their core offering and fulfill functional niches. Taking just four examples, Salesforce AppExchange, launched its own marketplace for third party applications way back in 2006 and now has over 3500 apps available that interconnect and which are all downloadable from their marketplace for any client.

Similarly, Microsoft has its own marketplace for third party apps, called AppSource, whilst Oracle has Oracle Cloud Markeplace and SAP its own SAP App centre. Indeed, such is the importance of this new market for apps, Forrester, the industry analysts, are now measuring these marketplaces in a new Forrester Wave annual review.

The strength of these online marketplaces for the vendor’s platform is in being able to offer their clients tried and test tactical solutions to missing functional or process needs and supporting their core product offering. Of course, added to this, the major add-on niche application players such as email marketing, e-documentation and marketing automation strive to have their own inter-connectivity app on these marketplaces to the key CRM/ERP vendors to support their own offering.


Today, the major providers are able to offer the complete CRM-ERP solution with their platform integrated with a marketplace eco-system of third party apps. And to take just one example from Microsoft as an illustration, their Dynamics 365 for mid-sized organisations has over last few years expanded to now offer a complete Lead-to-Cash suite of core applications, so for example this could include:-

  • Dynamics 365 Marketing: capturing visitors to your website converting them into Leads
  • Dynamics 365 Sales: Supporting engagement in the Lead to Opportunity process and creating Quotations and activities
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central: Financial transactions, shipping through the core ERP system ( better known as well-respected Navision ERP product)

Any niche functional gaps such as e-documentation for example can be fulfilled with a choice of approved apps from their online marketplace app ecosystem, Appsoruce

The key point is in this example is there is: One Vendor, One Platform, One Eco-system is now able to support this whole end to end Lead-to-Cash process in the cloud at an affordable price and without the endless integration issues of previous on-premise software.

As I stated at the start of this post, suffice to say, more and more clients are taking less of a tactical approach and are now considering first their overall CRM and ERP requirements and are recognising the remarkable transition of the last few years in being able to move to a single Platform. Clients are now looking at their plans much more holistically in a way that was probably not feasible or possible even just 5 or 6 years ago.

The myth of a single platform approach even just 5 years ago is now rapidly turning into a reality across the whole IT sector. You can argue if this is 100% complete for all the brands mentioned, but the direction of travel is clear and certainly in the next 5 years, they will be no more myth just the reality of an ever converged CRM–ERP solution being an achievable goal.

In my follow up article to this post, I intend to give some pointers on the next steps if you are just embarking on this transition to the cloud.

28th February 2019

Pastures New? - Delivery options in CRM


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.

Project Complexity

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.

Salary Sources:

*Indeed search West Midlands, **Indeed search West Midlands

Picture Credit: Pastures New - Artist: Paul Corfield

27th November 2018

CRM today: Build your own or off the shelf


I must admit that in 2018, I feel a bit surprised that I am still writing about the choice between a bespoke or custom developed solution and the benefits of off-the-shelf CRM software.

But for many companies with some technical software expertise, they have seen the choice as more complex than just choosing between different pedigree systems. If there is technical resource internally or often available locally, then you may consider your choice as being between:

  • Build your own CRM
  • Off-the-shelf CRM

"Build your Own" ...Before you start

This option has in recent years become less of a factor as Cloud based, subscription Customer Relationship Management systems have brought the initial up-front licence costs down significantly. This was often a key reason for reviewing this choice and the benefits of cloud have also moved the choice of implementing CRM from an Capex (capital expenditure) decision to more of an Opex (i.e. operating costs per month) financial and budgeting decision.

But for some organisations, this can still be seen as a relevant choice where they may have strong connections with external partners or more likely where there is a high degree of internal software development expertise. Other clients may feel that their needs are so unique that a custom solution has to be developed.

However, whilst this may seem initially to be a good solution and may be seen as cost effective since you own both the IP and the software, you do need to be aware of some of the pitfalls that in 20 years in CRM I have frequently come across when clients make this decision, or more relevantly After they have made it.

At first sight, a straight-forward comparison between developing your own and the cost of the off-the-shelf licences and services may be easy to calculate. But, first take some time when you compare these costs against your own developed solution to review and estimate the Total Cost and commitment.

Whilst the comparison at first glance may appear more cost effective, say over a three or four year time frame for Build your Own, if you have the relevant skill-sets. But you do still need to undertake some extra care and due diligence and look below the iceberg surface at the other, sometimes hidden costs including:-

  • Management and Project Management time. This can often be the biggest consumer of time and effort, not to mention stress.
  • Understand true cost of focusing on non-core activity. Even if you are a software development house, ideally you want your highly skilled and expensive developers working on fee able activity.
  • Linking to MS Outlook. One of the most common issues encountered when replacing internally developed or bespoke systems is there is no link to email or it has not worked or been updated, so you may be back to having islands of information.
  • Other Office 365 links. Users expect integration with MS Word, Excel as standard.
  • ERP systems integration. You may have to develop your own links and then support these, for example to your ERP or Finance software.
  • Hardware costs. Even if Cloud services are now preferred, there is still a hosting subscription cost and commitment here.
  • Marketing Integration. These applications are almost always off-the-shelf solutions, after all, who wants to recreate an email marketing tool when you have MailChimp, ConstantContact and many others already available? Unless there is integration in place, this will lead to yet another island of information outside the bespoke CRM.
  • Staff costs and morale. Working on an internal project can a take up a lot of time and effort and be wearing on the developers and the project team, since often there is no clear documentation or specification plan and whilst this can be seen as a somewhat Agile approach, the project can continue longer than anticipated.
  • Upgrades. Once the system is rolled out, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, but then a new requirement appears. A good example in the last few years is the advent of Social Media and how this is now included within most CRM systems. This development was driven by competitive activity and market requirements. Bespoke systems may struggle to keep up with new and evolving needs.
  • Planning and documentation. Again, as above, it is rare indeed for a system to be fully and thoroughly documented. Time is usually focused on a core brief and then ‘getting on with it’. Projects are often seen as smaller tactical solutions to begin with, but can then acquire a life of their own as more features/functions are asked for.
  • Competency. With over 300 systems or more now to choose from according to just one leading software review site, most organisations competency is in their main business and not in developing a CRM system. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, and the unseen management and other costs mentioned above can all take away from the central competency of the business.

And finally let’s not forget…

  • Mobile. Every major vendor now provides a Mobile app capability. We live in an increasingly smart phone age so your system will need to have mobile capability. This is involves even more development work and testing, but without this option, you will find sales buy-in and adoption can be especially tough.

When added together these visible and hidden cost should be estimated and compared against the somewhat clearer costs of purchasing an off-the-shelf system, professionally implemented and configured.

I would argue that these actual hidden costs, often not fully allocated or estimates at the outset can end up being a lot more than first envisaged.

And after you started the project...

Whenever a prospective client says they are going down the bespoke route, in my own system, I never see this as a Lost Opportunity, just merely delayed. Within less than two years, I find that in many instances, bespoke development clients become very receptive to my calls and we will start talking again in earnest about off–the-shelf solutions with some of the more common project experiences being:-

  • Escalation of costs. ‘Mission creep’ happens and costs started to increase against the original estimate and plan.
  • Never quite fully rolled out. Again, ‘Mission creep’, more functionality, like Mobile for instance is deemed as needed for full buy-in.
  • Sales and Marketing team enthusiasm wanes. There may still have to use systems outside of the development or they start to compare against off-the-shelf systems, already available with the richer functionality they require.
  • Developers needed elsewhere. A common reason is where there is a reallocation of resource to an important client project, so the project is delayed or shelved or only partially rolled out.
  • Need to constantly develop the system. If internally developed, extra requests can continually come in, leading to User frustration and disengagement.
  • New people arrive. And review and demand a full solution with rich functionality and inter-connectivity ‘like we used previously’.
  • Poor project management and the system plan overruns.

“It never did fully meet requirements.”

  • Issues with the supplier(s) This is probably one of the biggest reasons and can be split down into:-

o Personal issues. A falling out as developer could been family or friend (especially relevant in smaller SME type projects).

o Specification issues. These were never fully met, leading to a communication break-down.

o Size of Project and Company. Smaller developers are often keen to win the business and may price attractively, but they may underestimate or not have full resources needed.

o Supplier loses interest or disappears. So many items are never completed.

o Supplier costs escalated. This relates to the two points above.

  • Lack of Automation. Processes were too task intensive, automation is frequently not built-in or requested until later, adding to this sense of ‘Mission Creep’ or cost escalation or both!

All of the above are reasons that I have come across where clients have then come back to an off-the-shelf solution after some painful experiences, you may have more examples!

Why Off-the-Shelf works...

When comparing with an off-the-shelf solution, the key difference is that here all your costs are visible, unlike the iceberg approach of build-your-own, where good estimating and project skills together with judgement are needed in forecasting costs over say a 3 or 4 year time-frame.

Like the Iceberg in the picture above, build-your-own can have many unseen and unexpected costs, not always easily estimated and sometimes as the examples I have given of ‘After’ the project started show, many of the most costly issues appear only after the project has commenced.

So, in spite of the first sight cost benefit felt by some companies, I would argue that with today’s cloud based software subscription model, with ever increasing functionality coming from leading market players such as Microsoft's Dynamics 365 suite and SalesForce Lightning platform, you need to be brave indeed to consider a build-your-own as your solution, however, big or however much resource you may have available at this moment.

The big players are investing heavily in R & D and in acquiring companies that can augment their own offering. This level of spend is unprecedented and in just the last 2 years alone, just Microsoft and Salesforce have approaching £40 billion on acquisitions aimed at evolving their capabilities.

CRM today is a very different beast from just 5 years ago and these companies now offer so much more than just traditional offering with most of these advances coming in the last five years as the opportunities offered by cloud computing have been developed.

Leading players like Microsoft and Salesforce are keen to augment and fill in any perceived functionality gaps and are rapidly moving towards offering the complete CRM-ERP integrated suite. Both these and many other systems have strong eco-systems of powerful third party add-on apps used to fill niche gaps and which are fully supported.

When all this rich functionality is taken into account and the fact that as cloud based systems, for instance, Salesforce release three updates per year, whilst Dynamics 365 release two major updates a year, this in my view becomes a very strong proposition, unlikely to ever be matched by any internally developed offering.

So, the question I posed at the start of this post is still relevant and it is this:-

“Why would a new to CRM client, even with their own software development expertise, really try to build your own in 2018”?

My view, is that there are just too many pitfalls to catch the unwary, too many sometimes 'hidden' costs, just like the iceberg!

The key to success is for clients to focus on their own core competencies and to take advantage of the massive investment in CRM by the Big Vendors and the almost boundless opportunities now offered by the cloud business application model.

Building your own as a choice in 2018 should only be for the brave!

If you are considering off-the-shelf or developing and building your own system, as a first step before you commit, we recommend talking to us. You may find this a refreshing experience as we can take an CRM independent viewpoint of the market leaders and do not have to just offer you one vendor. We can even undertake Fit-Gap Analysis to help you make your selection choice and support your own due diligence.

27th September 2018

Selecting a new CRM system in 2018 - Is it now a two horse race?


With the Grand National tomorrow, this started me thinking that reviewing the CRM market and my experience over last 12-24 months talking with clients, increasingly, I get the feeling that choosing a new CRM system for most mid-sized companies is now a two horse race between Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Salesforce..

Of course, there are a range of other vendors’ just behind, depending on the industry and your own particular requirements may nudge some of these forward so that for you it may become a three or four horse race.

But for the rest of the time, it’s a bit like Grand National, there are a whole host of runners or applications in the field, but realistically there are only a few that are likely to be on your short-list and have a chance of meeting your requirements. My estimate is that there are at only say around 6 or 7 mainstream Customer Relationship Management key players that can really meet the needs of the UK SME market. Whilst there has been an explosion in cloud based system in the last 5 years, there is a danger in that clients who are not fully aware of the CRM marketplace can find all sorts of nearly rans, but the key thing is are they likely to stay the course?

Market Leaders?

It is very clear these are without doubt the two market leaders and have been for a few years now, these are the Big Beasts as I referred to them in an earlier blog from 2016:-

Dynamics 365


First, let me explain since clearly Dynamics 365 and Salesforce are powerful CRM applications and may not be so relevant for example in a small micro-business (say 1-10 employees) you may think the focus on this post is that if you are an organisation requiring CRM and have say around 15-100 Users or at least 10 users, then in this User size space, Salesforce and Dynamics 365 will pretty much feature on your short-list to review and if they don’t then you must have a good reason.

Both applications have an incredible pedigree, are cloud based and importantly are investing heavily in their future road-maps. They are the market leaders against which other applications should be measured and Microsoft Dynamics 365 in particular with its seamless integration to Office365 is now according to Forrester Wave ahead of Salesforce in the global marketplace. This is likely to be no short term changing of place as the launch of the Dynamics 365 suite in 2016 massively increased the range of applications and footprint and this is now making itself felt. Microsoft’s investment and acquisition spree in the last few years is over $40 billion as its adds and embed functionality, for example with its LinkedIn purchase alone in 2016 costing $26 billion and out-bidding Salesforce. The results of this purchase are now being felt in the latest releases with ever closer integration as you would expect. After all, Apart from your CRM and Email/Word and Excel for most Salespeople their key tool is using LinkedIn.

So, why are they becoming the mainstay CRM in 2018?

My list below really summaries what I believe are some of the key factors in these two applications increasing dominance:

• Cloud focussed. This is probably the single most important factor in the future growth of this sector. If you are cannot offer a cloud based application, then you are in effect fast becoming a legacy application in my view.

• Commitment to CRM Marketplace with a clear business focus from the top. Satya Nadella, since 2015, CEO of Microsoft is the person credited with bringing CRM to Microsoft in the early 2000’s and along with Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce are both visionary leaders passionately committed to this sector.

• Massive investment in R and D, for example both apps now include extensive AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities embedded to improve productivity.

• Strong and visionary Road-map for future, AI is just one example from above.

• Massive infrastructure to support clients around the world. Salesforce has 28,000 employees with $8.9 billion income whilst the bigger Microsoft has over 150,000 employees and nearly $90 billion income.

• Acquisition funds to infill gaps and add innovative new features/functionality with Salesforce recently purchasing Mulesoft’s integration software for $6.5Bn.

• Strong CRM pedigree over many years (I would suggest a minimum of 10 years is a good indicator of an applications ability to sustain itself in this competitive market).

• Wide and Large International Client base (Dynamics CRM/365 has over 4 million users whilst Salesforce is similar with a similar number according to my research). These are big installed base and explain the next two points.

• Extensive reference sites for nearly every sector along with Case studies.

• Strong eco-systems (Email Marketing, Marketing Automation as a minimum.) with a wide variety of application and each have own third party linked software marketplaces, Appsource and AppExchange a testament to the size of their client base.

• Strong links to the Office 365 suite of applications, taken as read of course for Dynamics 365, as it shares a common data service.

• Ability to scale from small implementation and to add functionality as the business grows on a modular basis and this has now been taken further with Microsoft Dynamics 365 suite incorporating and re-branding key ERP applications to give Dynamics 365 Finance and Dynamics 365 Operations.

• Strong and experienced Partner Channel to deliver quality implementation. Both Microsoft and Salesforce have many thousands of partners worldwide, often specializing in vertical markets. This is key to giving clients choice and importantly a strong partner base again reinforces the two horse race analogy.

This list is not exhaustive, but does give you some idea of why these two Big Beasts, now dominate the mainstream CRM market. For many clients, choosing between these can be somewhat bewildering, hence one of our services is the Fit Gap analysis where using our long term experience of working with these applications, we can measure how each will meet your requirements list and the best fit. This is increasingly being taken up and as independent CRM consultants is something that many clients are choosing as a service to enable them to make this key long term investment decision.

So what about the other ‘also-rans’ or the ‘Rest of the field’

Possibly this is far too strong a statement, but in my view is there is no such thing as perfect software for all businesses and every industry sector, with Pharmaceutical CRM for example where the off-the-shelf approach is for heavily verticalised solutions, such as Veeva which are made specifically to fit the demands of that market.

Also, there are a number of other applications such as SAGE CRM which can offer something, albeit with not the same level of current investment, in comparison, I suspect millions of £s compared to hundreds of millions or even billions being poured into R and D by the big two. But these and other applications still have a part to play, so there will continue to be niche applications, for example Pipeliner CRM has a focus very much on the Sales Team enablement sector and the visualisation of data and more importantly continue to motivate development and innovation in CRM.


But my contention in starting this post still holds, and that over the last few years, I have started to notice that other applications when you get to the 20 Users or more requirement who need CRM for their Sales, Marketing, Customer Service departments and especially where you have full time marketing people in support, then these bigger applications with their strong eco-systems of related applications such as Marketing Automation, then alongside the caveats mentioned, it is these two Big Beasts that come to the fore and should be on your short-list.

The need for a strong eco-system, especially with Marketing Automation is one of the main weaknesses for smaller CRM systems. Simply put they don’t have the market presence in terms of client sites or user numbers to warrant the level of investment and this means other software vendors, for example in Marketing Automation, vendors such as Hubspot and Thunderbird are focussing on the Salesforce and Dynamics and investing to enable them to offer native or more simply put ‘one click integration’, again pushing these two to the fore.

This is part of the key to their success and there is now such a wide range of applications inter-connected, you can manage the whole business process from Lead to Prospect to Customer and this can include invoicing and even through to a complete integrated CRM/ERP with the Dynamics 365 suite. All this from the same stable! (my apologies if am I taking this horse racing analogy too far now!).

It is this level of investment in moving forward and providing a rich eco-system to integrate with which is what clients want to rely on going forward. Investment decisions now are on a 5-10 year time frame, CRM is no longer just a short term tactical decision for the business to fix sales’ as in the past, but now forms part of Digital Transformation project and so a long term strategic perspective is taken. Clients need confidence in the future long term roadmap and stability of the application.

How can you choose between these applications?

For many years now, we have found that whilst vendor presentation can be informative, surprisingly each vendor appears to match perfectly your requirements, and whilst budgets may be broadly similar and where there is an element of doubt, we have recommend engaging in a Scoping Workshop which is product agonistic and where your detailed requirements can be documented in a Functional System Design or Blueprint document. Whilst often there may be a preference, but in those instance where the field is still open or clients are torn between the two or more key vendors, then our experience as mentioned above as independent CRM consultants really can now come to the fore, based on 20 years of working in this marketplace, we will often recommend if it is very close or seen as a difficult choice to conduct a full Fit-gap Analysis. This in my view is a powerful way to endorse your final choice or indeed to help to cement your choice, since you are aware of the application fit to your business requirements from an out-of-the box fit percentage to customisation required. This Analysis report can help to justify what are board level decisions when moving or embracing a new CRM system. With maybe two or three applications in your final short-list, this analysis can help to show how each application will meet your needs both now and into the future. From a partner perspective, this is also of benefit since this analysis can help to justify the final choice with an independent analysis and can give clients the extra peace of mind and a detailed report to know they have taken their due diligence to the next level.

And the cost?

Typically once a detailed requirements document has been scoped and agreed, the a lot of the hard work has been done so a Fit-Gap will take as little as two or three days of work depending on the number and which CRM systems are involved and of course depending on the length and complexity of your requirements, to then build and present a Fit-Gap Analysis document. Interestingly, in some instances, we don’t provide a recommendation but merely a conclusion, since this is for you as a client to decide what the next steps are. However, let me be honest here, often there is a clear winner for your business, but we also need to take into account not just the detailed CRM and Eco-system requirements but other aspects of your business as well in terms of future requirement and your existing business infrastructure and policies.

So, if you have got down to the last two or three horses, heading for the line and are still not 100% certain, then a Fit-Gap Analysis combined with a product agnostic Scoping and Requirements Workshop can be an excellent way forward to establish the clear winner for your business.

What to do now?

If you are interested in finding out more, have a live project or are at the point where you are finding it a tough call to choose, then why not contact me and I am sure that I can give you some illustrations in all probability of similar projects and requirements to your own.

13th April 2018