“This is what I need; how much will it cost and how long will it take?”
These are usually the first questions I am asked about a Microsoft Dynamics CRM project. It could be about implementing a new system. But existing Dynamics CRM users also ask this about a Dynamics CRM (now Dynamics 365) upgrade, customization or even a report.
It may seem frustrating at first that I don’t automatically provide the answers. But there is a very good reason, and everyone will be happier in the end.
Correct answers must be based on setting realistic expectations. Before I can answer the main questions, we need to completely understand what your needs are. I will start by asking some leading questions of my own to get as much detail as possible.
Then I may throw out some suggestions or play ‘devil's advocate’ to present alternative ways to look at your problem. For example, "have you thought of doing it this way?" or “did you know that you can leverage this piece of CRM to accomplish 80% of what you're looking at, so maybe it doesn't make sense to do extensive and expensive customizations.”
Once I understand the business requirements I can finally answer your question about costs and provide an indicative estimate. In other words, a rough cost projection that can be used for budget planning purposes. This will not be a formal quote. But it does provide an indication of the level of effort, costs and implementation timeline. For an in-depth project, it might be a wide range; for a smaller project that has well defined requirements, it can be a tighter range.
If the reply is, “Yes, that is what we need; that’s within our budget; let’s move ahead,” then we can schedule the project and provide you with a working timeline.
Next, we’ll move on to the functional design phase. The outcome of the functional design phase is a functional requirements document (FRD). The FRD is a collaborative effort between you team and our team where we work together to translate the business requirements into how they will function in the new version or new custom feature. At the end of this process you know what you are going to get and we know what we must provide.
Now we can provide a fixed fee quote for the Dynamics CRM project since it’s based on the agreed upon Functional Requirements Document. Any subsequent changes not outlined in the Functional Requirements Document will be handled through a change control process. New requirements follow the same process, just on a smaller scale. We define and document the requirements with you and provide an estimate on the level of effort, cost and time required.
I feel strongly that the reason we have happy Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers is because we work hard to eliminate surprises. The expectations have been acknowledged and included in the schedule. We know what our customer wants. The customer knows what they are going to receive, how much it will cost, when it will be completed.
The only way we can do this is by NOT answering the cost question up front, but by really fleshing out the requirements and expectations. By asking questions, offering options and agreeing on the best course of action, we can all move forward with confidence.
“How much will it cost and how long will it take?” Those are the right questions to ask your Dynamics CRM partner. Just don’t expect the answer to be simple. It may take a little longer, but it will be worth it in the long run.
By Ryan Plourde, Crowe Horwath, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Gold Partner www.CroweCRM.com
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