Partner View

Should You Jump Into CRM?

Partners need to answer key questions before deciding to get into the customer relationship management business.

Customer relationship management (CRM) generates some pretty impressive numbers. Overall, Forrester Research Inc. estimates that worldwide revenue for CRM solution providers, which hit $8.4 billion in 2006, will reach nearly $11 billion by 2010. Meanwhile, Microsoft Dynamics CRM now has more than 10,000 customers and 400,000 users, and adoption is growing at nearly a triple-digit annual rate.

The resulting financial opportunities for Microsoft classic partners may sound too good to pass up. So should you join the CRM parade? Here are some factors to consider before you decide.

Microsoft has relentlessly promoted CRM to partners. They hear the CRM message in quarterly partner briefings, Webinars and one-to-one conversations with their partner account managers. Everywhere they go, online and off, they're encouraged to add CRM to their offerings.

But CRM isn't like most other business activities that classic partners support, and it takes a major change in approach to succeed in this area.

Following are some key questions to answer before taking the first step toward adding CRM to your business model:

  • Does your company sell other line-of-business applications?
  • Do you sell to business owners and/or sales, customer service or marketing managers?
  • Do you use Dynamics CRM to power your own company?
  • Are you willing to undergo training to master the necessary technical and business product knowledge?
  • Are you prepared to add personnel (or relocate existing staff) so that you have employees who are proficient in selling CRM, conducting business analysis, implementation and programming customizations?
  • Do you currently do any application programming? Do you have in-house or outside access to people with skills in JScript, VB or C# .NET and SQL Reporting Services?

If you answered "no" to any of those questions, you should take a hard, realistic look at your chances of building a successful CRM competency. Remember, while there's a significant amount of opportunity in the CRM arena, the competition is correspondingly tough.

But if you answered "yes" to all of them, here are steps for getting started with CRM:

  1. Dedicate specific staffers to CRM. Get them certified; have them build product and consulting expertise.
  2. Create a CRM lab environment for testing, development and demonstrations.
  3. Create or adopt an implementation framework to use for diagnosis, analysis, design, development, deployment and support.
  4. Develop partnerships with ISV solutions providers that add the features, functions or vertical marketing solutions your practice will require.
  5. Develop, fund and execute a marketing plan focused on selling CRM to both your existing customers and your new prospects.

So, what if you responded affirmatively to those questions, but aren't quite ready to create a new core competency at your company? You may still be able to benefit from the CRM momentum without changing your underlying business model by teaming up with a Microsoft Business Solutions partner that specializes strictly in CRM. In this scenario, you'd bring in such partners when you initiate a deal, let them do the heavy lifting on the CRM side and focus on taking care of what you know best: infrastructure and desktop support.

Ultimately, CRM is about more than technology. It's the business process transformation that takes place with the technology that really drives the return on investment. If you don't have the skills and resources to provide that level of success, then you shouldn't sell CRM. But if you do -- or if you can get there -- get ready to reap the rewards you deserve.

About the Author

Jerry Weinstock ([email protected]) is president and CEO of Internet Business Initiatives LLC, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM reseller, Certified Partner and Small Business Specialist based in Lenexa, Kan. For information, visit