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Throw Everything You Know About Gathering CRM Requirements Out The Window

I asked a potential client during a recent meeting to describe his method for gathering requirements for his upcoming CRM project. While thumbing through the list of must-haves he gave me, he told me about his round-the-world trip. In order to compile the list of requirements, he flew across several continents to ask members of his sales team: What do you want?

“If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

Believe it or not, asking a sales team member what they want is the traditional approach to gathering requirements for CRM systems. If you’re adopting the traditional approach I hate to tell you, you’re doing it all wrong.

When it comes to gathering requirements you can’t ask people what they want, you need to witness what they need. Holding a 60-minute meeting in a conference room isn’t going to give you the meaningful insight you need to build an application that saves your end users time and your company money. If you want to build a CRM application that will ensure user adoption you need to buckle your seat belt and go along for the ride.

The Ultimate Question: Will Our Sales Staff Use It?

RidealongIT and sales professionals know that many CRM systems fail due to poor end user adoption. Therefore if you are making the investment and taking the time to invest in a CRM system…everyone should be laser focused on how to make sure you can achieve high end user adoption. The best way to plan for a high adoption rate is to gather requirements by observing your end users in the field while they conduct their day-to-day tasks.

Decision makers need to put themselves in their sales staff’s shoes (or let Sonoma Partners take the walk for you) and pay attention to their day-to-day activities. The best way to gain insight into these activities is to play the role of the silent observer and spend some time watching. 

What types of things should you be looking for?

  • What are all the various systems and tools the users leverage?
  • What are the data inputs and outputs of each system?
  • Do they have any external files (Excel spreadsheets, Word documents) that they pull out to “really” do their job?
  • What is their hardware situation? How often are they using mobile devices vs desktop/laptops?
  • How often do they connect via wireless versus hard wire?
  • Which web browser are they using?

Really understanding how your sales staff actually gets their job done (instead of how they say they do!) will help you build a CRM system that connects technology with your business process. 

Beware of the Conference Room

Nothing says failure like a plan made in a conference room. It’s easy to hold a brainstorming session and ask attendees to bring a comprehensive list of requirements that they would like to see included in the mobile app.

Unfortunately, what usually comes out of these sessions are unnecessary requests for more: more integrated systems, more data fields, more information, more complexity. We see it often and refer to it as the over-engineering scenario. Clients get tied up thinking about capabilities they may one day want rather than what they need today. What is the result of over-engineering your CRM system? Opportunity, account and contact forms with 150+ data fields each…and none of these data fields will ever get completed!

Our advice? Follow the 80/20 Rule. Focus on the 20% of the information that matters most. Your CRM system will be more valuable if everyone completes the 20% most important data fields, versus having a few users complete 80% of the data. Gathering system requirements by observing end users in the field is the best way to help you identify the 20% of fields your users need to do their job best.

What’s the Objection?

So why do CRM customers still use the traditional approach to gathering CRM requirements? We want to debunk some of the primary objections we hear when trying to convince clients to enlist a silent observer.

  • Our sales staff is too large to get an accurate sample. If your organization has a large sales staff that is spread out geographically, it’s easy to assume that getting an accurate sample size is impossible. The truth is you don’t need to interview everyone to get a clear idea of how your staff uses your CRM. In our experience we find that a handful (yes, that’s about 4) of observations can shed light on the prevailing trends your staff faces. 

  • Our sales staff doesn’t know what they want. We hear this a lot from IT departments. Traditionally IT plays a leading role in CRM software selection even though they never touch the final product. You need to internally remove this stigma and trust that your sales team not only knows what they want, but has an idea of how the technology can improve the way they work.  

If you’re ready to toss the traditional method out the window, our skilled user experience architects are ready to pull up a chair and observe. We’re here to help and build a CRM application that will positively impact your workforce and your bottom-line. 



Topics: CRM Platform Selection Enterprise Mobility