The most inspiring project manager I have ever worked with, Peter challenges you to get on with your task but has no fear to get down and dirty to deliver what is required. His support in meeting tough challenges is unparalleled. Peter is a rock you can rely on. Peter is a man you can count on.

Edwin Senjobe, Evolve Mobility

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Stopping the guessing process in CRM projects

I have to be honest, I’m a little frustrated from experiences in the CRM consulting sector. Why so? Well, I've sat on both sides of the fence and been an independent observer of projects from the very earliest stage through to go live and I’m beginning to feel that the traditional model of bid, negotiate, analyze, design and build is broken, dysfunctional and just leads to a whole heap of problems.

Stopping the guessing process in CRM projects

I have to be honest, I’m a little frustrated from experiences in the CRM consulting sector. Why so? Well, I’ve sat on both sides of the fence and been an independent observer of projects from the very earliest stage through to go live and I’m beginning to feel that the traditional model of bid, negotiate, analyze, design and build is broken, dysfunctional and leads to a whole heap of problems.


I remember listening to a presentation by Mahan Khalsa, many years ago but so relevant today, where he described the process of consulting organisations bidding for business as a guessing game – and he said ‘You can tell how much we are guessing with the size of the bid document’. He has a mantra of – go everywhere and ask everyone – don’t guess. I strongly recommend that Analysts, Consultants and Project Managers check out his book Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play: Transforming the Buyer/Seller Relationship.


I think there is blame on the client and the supplier side but in essence it comes down to – you guess, tell us how much and then we’ll kick the bid about as the number flies around – and then we’ll ask you to justify why the price has gone up / down. This process really corrodes trust in the partner relationship at an early and sensitive stage and can often set the tone for a project for months and years to come.


From a partner’s side, I often think that these organisations are too quick to throw a number in without any supporting evidence – of course, when they are asked to back that number up, it becomes very difficult (most sensible people would say impossible) – since the original number was a guess anyway. But, I do think that partners fail to be transparent at an early stage to show what their bid is made up – people, resources, licences, timescales. And, they often fail to put in a service that helps both parties agree the shape of the project end point.


So, for the ‘successful’ partner, they often face either taking on a fixed cost project (we don’t trust your guesses) or a time and materials basis (they don’t trust the client’s requirements) – neither in my view is a true partnership.


Oh, and in the meantime – no one has done anything constructive, but the printers and email servers are in overdrive.


For all Microsoft partners, I would remind you of one of the earliest stages in Sure Step – Solution Envisioning. This is the stage where you work collaboratively with the client to establish a vision of the future that is enabled by the technology. My instinct says that the best projects employ this technique early and thoroughly, so that by the end of this process, it is very clear on both sides what is required and what needs to be built.
Of course, many clients don’t want to get this close to a partner too early – perhaps they are running a competitive tender process. Well, think about doing this with each partner but limit the time with them to a few days – at least you will learn something from the process. For partners, get this into your bid so that this happens up front – whether it is paid for is up to you and the client – but don’t jump too quickly into analysis as you will lose sight of the key people and the key objectives of the project. I don’t believe that project kick offs or analysis sessions or sprints can ever make up for the absence of this activity.

I actually think the problem is that through the fractured and tortured guessing process described above, partners and clients end up on opposite sides when they should be working together to produce the best possible outcome. Ok, let’s be real for a second, there are politics on both sides of the fence that often drive the process in strange directions – but we have to get real with those audiences too – focusing on getting the guess(es) right or justified is unproductive and won’t get us any easier to the conclusion.

Two suggestions for you:

Clients: stop asking partners to use a crystal ball to guess a project cost – either accept it will be a guess and subject to change or help them identify the true cost by sitting down early and collaborating on a solution.

Partners: be transparent about your guessing process – your assumptions, the resource models you ‘think’ you will use – but use the Sure Step tool of Solution Envisioning that Microsoft built you – it works.


To both: if you want to have someone work with you on an independent basis with an objective view, then we can help – we don’t base our business model on licenses or implementation days – our target is to get the project focused on success and all parties working efficiently together. We are trained and experienced in Consulting, Project Management, Sure Step and Dynamics CRM but critically we are great facilitators.


Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been proven to be a game changer for organisations across the world – but, the chances of success will be hamstrung by a dysfunctional process before the project has even begun.

Peter.

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