Why Your CRM Integration Consultant Doesn't Know Anything

The old joke about management consultants as "people you hire to tell you the time that's on your watch" still rings true. When it comes to CRM consultants, though, the overwhelming impression is that they know even less about your business. Here's what you can do about it.

By David Taber
Thu, August 23, 2012

CIO — Software implementation consultants have been around for more than 30 years. By now, virtually everyone has a cloud practice—even firms that have simply transitioned their SOA practice into the hotter market. Of course, there are new cloud consultancies, but most tend to follow the same mold.

The economics of software implementation consultancies haven't changed much either over the last decade or so. Almost everyone follows the pyramid model with some or all of the following traits:

  • The partners at the top typically have significant business experience and domain knowledge in a couple vertical industries. You'll see them mainly in the sales cycle, though, so their experience is rarely available to your project. As rainmakers and practice leads, they are not billed for that many hours on client work. Their time is too valuable, and most clients wouldn't want to spend the $300 to $500 an hour they charge.
  • Your project team's most senior members will likely be business analysts. They'll be pretty good at business process analysis, and they might have some expertise in your industry, but it is extremely rare for them to have serious operating experience inside business units or executive experience. Their recommended best practices, then, might be something they've seen, but not actually lived or run.
  • Your team's project lead is typically very good at project management, but his or her domain knowledge is typically focused on managing fixed-price consulting projects . This a very different set of issues than your business faces—unless, of course, you run a consulting business.
  • Finally, the development staff and technical specialists are all too often offshore. Does this lower the cost? Sure. Does it make business sense? No way. Even if the staff has had some business school training, the business sense that's been developed is in a very different context from the U.S. market (or whatever market you are in).

Don't Automate Outdated Ideas

There's another issue in this discussion I can't skip—your behavior as a buyer of integration services. By focusing the bid on fixed price, you've instructed the integrator to focus its energy and skill on lowering cost and risk. You've said, "Just get the job done," not, "Get me domain experts who can help ensure that I've asked for the right thing."

Is there any wonder the integrator can't focus on delivering business value? I won't beat this one to death, but, simply put, you can't change the integrator's behaviors unless you change some of the choices you make as a buyer.

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