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Getting started creating: A request for proposal RFP for Customer Relationship Management CRM

May 19, 2008
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Outlined below is a detailed look at the stages and steps involved in choosing the right CRM solution for your organization. Your decisions in this section will form your organization CRM blueprint going forward.

Stage 1: Plan the Plan

Before any significant amount of work can be done on selecting CRM software, it is essential to know exactly what the scope of the plan will be and who will be involved in its development. You also need to clearly state your intentions to senior decision makers so there is up-front understanding and support for the software evaluation and selection project. Formally document who will manage the project (Project Manager), who will support it (Sponsors), who will provide input (Stakeholders), and who will assist in the project’s execution (Team Members). Also document the major milestones involved in selecting (or building) the CRM solution for your organization.

Stage 2: Evaluate Business Processes

During this Stage you will identify the processes that may be affected by the CRM acquisition. These processes will be documented and dissected. The Project Manager, Sponsor, and Stakeholders will identify processes that can be streamlined by the CRM system that will result in the greatest positive financial impact for your organization. These are the processes on which you will focus when gathering requirements and looking at potential CRM solutions in the following Stages. Based on your financial analysis, create a Business Impact Report and Business Case for moving forward with the CRM project.

Stage 3: Identify Business Needs and Requirements

Gathering and writing business and system requirements can be an overwhelming task. Some may argue that the amount of time spent gathering and writing requirements would be better spent looking for solutions, but until you know what you need, how can you effectively look for it? According to the Standish Group, poorly defined business requirements are the leading cause of project failure. This is as true in software development as it is in software selection projects.

Start by acquiring a list of common attributes and features for your CRM system.

You can begin with the feature lists presented here, and go into more depth with a ready-made RFP temp like the one I mention in an earlier post. Using this list, sit down with stakeholders and determine which features are required by the organization, which ones would be nice to have, and which ones do not apply. Help the stakeholders to uncover other organizational CRM requirements not presented in the lists. Use a business requirements template, like that provided in previous posts to document your business requirements.

Stage 4: Research Alternatives:

Now that you’ve documented your CRM requirements, it is time to begin researching the software solutions that are available to suit your needs. You can do your own searching for CRM vendors in a number of ways:

  • Search the Internet via a search engine like Google, using key words like “CRM,” or “Customer Relationship Management”.

  • Consulting reviews and evaluations of CRM vendors from other sources such as ISM Guide, Gartner Group, and CRM Magazine.

  • Hiring a third-party consultancy to advise you on the CRM solutions that best suite your needs. Consider ServiceXen.

Stage 5: Short List Solutions

During this Stage, you will shorten your long list of software alternatives. You will consider options for meeting all of your essential requirements, such as building the software in-house, customizing pieces of a commercial solution, or bundling several solutions together. You will also critically analyze your short list of solutions and prepare for vendor demonstrations. Use a tool such a excel to help you weigh the importance of key requirements against each of your short-listed vendors to determine which product best suits your needs.

Stage 6: Evaluate the Vendors

You will be preparing and sending a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) to the short list of vendors. Evaluate the various vendors and their solutions based on the following criteria. Use a pre-made RFP template possible to speed up the process. Evaluate each vendor’s response to the RFP, along with its presentation. You must also critically analyze the stability and viability of each vendor. Consider each vendor’s financial stability, its market share and position, its competitive strategy for the future, and the technical merit of its offerings. Ensure that you also check each vendor’s client references.

Stage 7: Select the Solution

The last stage of the CRM selection process is to meet with stakeholders to agree on the solution that best fits the needs of the organization. Take the time to negotiate the best possible contract for your organization, taking into consideration any unique issues or concerns that your company may have.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2008 6:51 pm

    This is an excellent reference for any company looking to move to a CRM Software solution; many times businesses don’t know where to begin. I would also suggest when searching online using engines like Google to include specific phrases that apply to your business and needs, for example if you are in the auto industry and sell tires you may search terms like “Tire Store Sales Software”, this may narrow down vendors slightly faster. There will most likely be many possible vendors who can fulfill a business’s CRM requirements; this is where you must take into account other features like customer support programs. Just to get things rolling for some people a few vendors that are typically on the top of the Web Based CRM Software industry would be Salesforce, or Netsuite.

  2. May 22, 2008 11:49 pm


    Thanks for your comment!

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