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Overcoming the Real Challenges of a CRM Migration Project

Humans can build smart AIs, develop immersive games, build space stations, and manipulate genes. We can do an amazing range of extraordinary things, so why can’t we fully automate migrating from one CRM system to another? With the pace of technological advancement you’d have thought this would be really easy – but more often than not, it isn’t.

When so much is possible, why does CRM migration remain a challenge?

This is a good question. I have been migrating CRM systems for nearly 20 years and, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I know the process inside out.  Yet I still become involved in projects that are complex, time consuming and costly, even when they involve the best tools and deepest experience.

Part of this results from the increasing scope and flexibility of CRM systems themselves. Different CRM infrastructures, high levels of customization, and unique business processes all make it difficult to develop a one click solution to transfer CRM details. Even when there is only one CRM application is involved, for instance when migrating from Dynamics CRM on-premise to the cloud, the data transfer process can be tricky.

On top of this, the difficulties grow as data volumes and complexity increase. With so much to consider, what is the be best way to approach a CRM migration?

Prepare, prepare, prepare – and then prepare some more.  

While this may sound obvious, many companies continue to underestimate the amount of effort involved in their changing CRM systems and dive quickly into the mechanics. Without a realistic assessment of what is involved, however, time and costs quickly blow out and it’s easier to make mistakes than it is to correct them.

In fact I have often been asked to step in and fix CRM projects that are turning sour, and the culprit is frequently the result of incorrect mapping, inconsistencies, and other data errors that could easily have been avoided with a more thorough scoping phase.

Scoping is especially important for catching one of the biggest complications – bad data. Problematic data ranges from poorly formatted and incomplete details to “newly discovered” client information. Knowing the structure of what needs to be moved has repercussions for matching, reformatting and omissions.

Even with diligent preparation, however, there is another potential obstacle that is easy to overlook.

How does new CRM system’s setup and configuration affect data transfer?

The manner in which information is moved is largely dependent on where it will go so the importance of correctly setting up the new CRM system cannot be stressed enough. For instance, before old opportunities can be transferred the new system has to be configured to accommodate ownership and teams, project types, product codes, product details, service codes, pricing, associated pick lists, and so on. These parameters may be the same as those used in the old system, or they may be completely different, either way they need to be in place before opportunity information is moved.

The new setup also has to be approved and agreed by all parties using it. Too often the end point becomes a moving target as different data owners jostle for priority. A typical example is the management of territories. The structure of territories may be setup completely differently in the new CRM system, effecting the way that transferred contacts and opportunities are assigned. If another business group later decides this is all “wrong” and wants changes this can result in a total mess – information transferred across in one format will suddenly need to be changed. Buy-in and final agreement of all relevant parties on how the new CRM system reflects business processes needs to be sorted before data is moved, not after.

Understanding and Agreement are Critical Tools for Success.

A new CRM system consumes a lot of time and money and benefitting from this investment requires thoughtful management of the data migration and CRM setup. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successfully information is transferred if the CRM system isn’t configured to use it properly. To do this, understanding and agreement on the business objectives and associated operational processes and data flows, is imperative. For it is only when CRM migration is tackled as part of a much larger picture that the anticipated gains from the new CRM environment can be fully realized.

Close More Business with Improved Lead Management

As most companies appreciate, understanding client data is tremendously important for identifying business opportunities. It’s also crucial for effective lead management which helps close more business, something that’s especially important as the year draws to an end and sales deadlines loom.

As a recent business graduate I’ve had to look at (and analyze) a lot of information over the last few years.

And I mean a lot!

Collecting and evaluating data, and appreciating its implications, is recognized as crucial for a successful business, and as an intern at InaPlex I was able to combine my college experience with a wide range of projects. For several months I had the chance to look first hand at operations in several different companies, evaluate their data flows, and provide advice on improvements to their business processes.

One project in particular stood out to me. It involved a client using HubSpot for lead generation and Salesforce for lead follow-up. The structure of the company’s sales team was pretty complex (although no more than you’d expect for a large, international company) and I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a way to move leads quickly and surely to the right people with either the existing CRM or marketing automation tools.

InaPlex solved the company’s lead transfer problem by developing a lead router that incorporated lead validation and round robin allocation. An app was also developed to clean incoming leads and use business rules to determine the most productive follow-up action for each lead. Together, the router and app identified leads, flagged them for action, and distributed them to the appropriate team and person almost instantly.

The solution was developed using a combination of custom code and Inaport, our ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) engine, and could be managed easily by the user to accommodate changes such as illness, staff turnover, or modified business rules.

Removing the need for a full-time lead routing position was one of the key objectives of this project; however I was intrigued to learn how massive the benefits of efficient lead management also were. Many studies, such as the Harvard Business Review’s The Short Life of Online Sales Leads and Dr. James Oldroyd’s The Lead Response Management Study, clearly highlight the dramatic benefits from fast lead follow-up. The biggest gain by far from this project was that it led to qualifying more leads and winning more business.

This is just one example of many projects I worked on where close mapping of business processes and data flows identified the need for a custom app. InaPlex works alongside knowledgeable Partners to build apps quickly and economically, so there is still time to refine your lead management approach before the end of the year. This could help with current sales targets, and would certainly position your company more strongly for 2018.

Nicola Evans, a recent graduate of Berkeley’s Haas Business School, has worked with InaPlex during holidays while home in Newport Beach. She’s a big fan of hiking, reading, dogs, and having fun with friends. She now works with a Financial Consultancy in San Francisco.

 

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Fast, Secure Access to Cloud CRM with a Custom API

In recent years, CRM systems have gone from managing client details and interactions to providing a platform for client services. While this makes it easy to track client details, it can also introduce challenges if clients want to access their service provider’s database.

Security issues and data complexities can make it hard for service providers to give clients direct access to their CRM database. One solution is to build a custom API for external applications to plug into. The API does the hard work of collating details and managing security, and clients easily get secure real-time information.

InaPlex recently built a custom API for a major Realty Adviser that provides a property appraisal service for banks. Implemented by Clarus IT Solutions, the service is setup in Dynamics CRM which has been heavily customized to manage the entire appraisal process. Documents associated with an appraisal are stored in SharePoint,  a web-based, collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft 365.

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When a bank requests a property appraisal the Realty Adviser raises a work order in its internal CRM system and assigns the work to a certified appraiser. There are many approved appraisers per bank, and the same appraiser can be used across several different banks.

The appraisal process is tracked from beginning to end through the work order. There can be multiple reviews of an appraisal and many different companies and people involved, all of which need to be logged, documented and tracked. A hard-copy report and supporting documentation are provided weekly to the banks for reconciliation against their internal records.

One Bank, a major client for the Realty Adviser, wanted to have access to work order details in real-time from its own internal systems. Its staff needed to know whether the work order was open or closed, its current status, and view any associated documents and appraiser details. It also needed access to be online, responsive and available 24/7.

Giving the Bank direct access to the Adviser’s database was problematic. Not only was it difficult to restrict enquiries to the Bank’s information (especially as some details, such as appraisers, can be shared between banks), but the process of locating and extracting associated SharePoint documents was sometimes complicated.

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Clarus IT Solutions, with its deep understanding of the Realty Adviser’s Appraisal Service, realized that the most flexible and secure solution would come from developing a custom API. InaPlex was asked to assist with building the API because of its strong Azure platform expertise and deep API experience.

InaPlex created a web services API that isolated the Service provider’s database from the Bank and built functions that could retrieve information on request, even where this involved consolidation across the CRM and SharePoint systems. Information included:

  • A list of all appraisals
  • Documents associated with any appraisal
  • Details on any particular appraisal
  • Details on all appraisers certified to work with the Bank
  • Documents associated with any particular appraiser

It was straightforward for the Bank to incorporate these API functions into its existing applications and give staff access to real-time enquiries from their internal interface.

As a result of this approach, the Bank now gets work order details quickly, easily and seamlessly, even though they are stored in a third party database and distributed across different applications. There is no longer any need for manual reconciliation, and Bank staff is able to respond rapidly and accurately to problems and enquiries. Meanwhile, the Realty Adviser is delivering a vastly improved service to a major client for a lower cost, and without any risk to the integrity of its own data.

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As John Jenkins, President of Clarus IT Solutions, noted, “Direct access to our client’s complex CRM setup would have been a security nightmare and difficult for everyone to implement. Instead, by building an API, we delivered exactly what the client needed without jeopardizing data integrity. Given the clear benefits, I see this sort of approach becoming increasingly common, especially with cloud based CRM solutions.”

Without an API, viewing the Service Provider’s data would have been messy, time consuming and risky, as well as more expensive to setup and maintain. A custom API for accessing cloud databases can be a tremendously effective way of providing secure, real-time visibility of external information. For companies offering client and/or Partner services, or complex field updating, developing a custom API as a gateway to the cloud may well be the smartest approach to take.

Clarus IT Solutions specializes in Managed IT Infrastructure and CRM Consulting Services, in particular all aspects of IT infrastructure management and CRM implementation, management and support. Clarus IT is a certified InaPlex Partner.

 

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