Deanna: Robert, you have a significant amount of experience not only in software development, but also in building economic development platforms used everyday by economic developers globally. I’m curious to know what you see as the main challenges for economic development organizations that are integrating a new product, such as a CRM, into their day-to-day operations?
Robert: I would say the biggest challenge for any CRM project is budget. We find that CRM projects can be of varying scale, ranging from the small 3-10 person IPA using an off the shelf system to the 3-400 person national IPA with offices all over the world requiring a globally connected bespoke customised CRM. It can be very challenging and take a long time to get all of the key stakeholders agreeing and setting aside a reasonable budget.
Similar to budgeting, I would say that allocating the resources (people) required for a CRM project can also be a challenge. These are organizations that are already operating with a small team and typically do not have the expertise nor the spare capacity to undertake such a project. Conversely, hiring external consultants to advise and execute such projects can come at a high price.
Deanna: I agree withyou and have seen first-hand the consequences of purchasing a CRM “within budget” only to find out as soon it’s completed that it will not meet the organization’s basic tracking and reporting needs. Which brings us to another challenge for organizations, which is the importance of knowing the CRM system requirements at an early stage, and the desired goals of your team. If your organization does not have a clear vision for what it wants to achieve with its CRM, not only will your budget be negatively impacted, but user adoption could also be hindered.
Now that we’ve identified some of the challenges, what recommendations can you share which might make the CRM process easier?
Robert: Absolutely, after years of working with economic development organizations around the world, we have identified a few key recommendations. These will vary depending on the size of an organization, but here are a few considerations:
Hire the services of an expert in the area of CRM (external or in house), with experience in rolling out best practice CRM systems to economic development organizations of similar size and structure.
Sample and research several vendors and choose the one that most closely aligns with your organization’s workflow and structure. Is this CRM designed with a generic sales process in mind or does it take into consideration the full economic development lifecycle? Choosing a system that compliments your day-to-day processes will minimize potential customisation overhead later.
Carefully identify the key stakeholders (your CEO, Board of Directors, City Manager) and the end users of the system (Economic Development Managers and Coordinators). These personnel are the people who understand the organization’s core processes and requirements best and are critical to the selection, design and customisation and eventual use of the CRM system.
If your business attraction managers and aftercare/BRE managers are not prepared to fully get on board with the CRM, and embed it in their daily work life then it quickly becomes useless. A CRM can be a scary and disruptive technology so it is critically important that at the kick off stage, the reasons for undertaking such a project are laid out and clearly communicated to the users.
Properly define the different processes that your organization is responsible for delivering on - will you need to report on the number of new jobs created, capital investment targets, aftercare/BRE activities, webinar attendance, etc? Define each step in the process, who is responsible for delivery and what actions and outcomes are required. Also include what external influences and challenges will hamper progression of these steps.
If the plan is to implement a CRM for the first time or migrate from an existing one, then it is going to be one of the few opportunities to fully review these processes, take into account best practices, operational efficiencies, and past performance / experiences to inform the best way forward.
Deanna: Wow, this is a really comprehensive list of recommendations. Thank you for your time and for all of the great insight. I firmly believe if organizations can grab a hold of just a few of these then it will make the process of implementing or migrating to a new CRM that much easier.
Deanna started her economic development career a decade ago at the Greater Houston Partnership. Over the next few years at GHP and then at Entergy, she worked with her colleagues on business attraction and expansion projects across the U.S. Gulf Coast region. Her niche is implementing and managing CRM systems to track economic development leads, which fits nicely with her role at Wavteq. She's also a Certified Scrum Product Owner, which means she understands how to help clients capture essential product requirements and streamline the process of implementing a new CRM.
With twenty years of technology and consulting experience, Robert Pasley has provided significant leadership in the conceptualisation and design of intelligence platforms and productivity tools specifically for economic development. He has played a key role in the evolution of Wavteq’s own suite of software-as-a-service (SAAS) systems and development of numerous bespoke applications for investment promotion agencies. In addition, he was the original architect of fDi Markets for The Financial Times.
Wavteq Amplify is the investor development solution designed by economic development experts.