So, it’s settled. Your business needs its own custom CRM. Off-the-shelf solutions just don’t cut it. You’ve weighed in on all the pros and cons, and it’s clear: this is the better option.
But deciding whether or not to build your own CRM is the easiest part. Now, you must face a myriad of other, tougher questions. How do you find the right custom CRM development company? How do you explain what you want? How do you make sure you get a top-notch solution as a result?
Yes, it might be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. This is what this how-to guide is for – it’ll break down the 5 key steps towards getting great custom CRM solutions and serve as your roadmap. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
1. Know Exactly What You Need
Before you even google CRM development services, you need to know what you want to get. For that, you’ll need to conduct a business analysis to narrow down your needs, expectations, and wants.
Here are 8 questions you should ponder:
- What purpose will the CRM serve? In other words, what issues will it solve and what business needs will it satisfy?
- Who will be using your custom CRM? What user roles should be included in the solution?
- What features do you want your CRM to have? (Sort them into 2 categories: must-have and nice-to-have.)
- Which other apps do you want the solution to be integrated with?
- Are there any legal restrictions to take into account? (Personal data protection laws, etc.)
- What platforms should the CRM run on? (Windows, macOS, web, Android, iOS)
- What security risks do you need to mitigate? (Unauthorized access to the database, etc.)
- What are your launch date and budget expectations?
Keep in mind: It’s never a good idea to have just one person give all the answers, especially if that person won’t be using this tool. So, have at least one person from each department/user role to contribute to the product vision.
2. Prepare a Project Brief
Now that you have your answers, you need to organize them in the form of a project brief. It’s the best way to kick off the conversation with your potential development partners.
Here’s a general template you can use for writing the brief:
- Your company. Describe your business: your core activities, your customer base, the number of employees, your location, and so on.
- Custom CRM’s purpose. This is where you describe what it’s going to be for and the app’s user categories.
- Your product vision. This section is going to be the longest. This is where you include your requirements: the feature list, security risks, legal restrictions, third-party app integrations, and so on.
- Expected launch date. Don’t just drop the deadline: explain why you’ve chosen this date and add whether it’s flexible. If you struggle with estimating how much time the development will take, be transparent about it.
- Budget. If you have a set budget and a price range, write it – but make sure it’s realistic first. Costs vary based on the development company’s location and your requirements,
3. Find the Right Custom CRM Development Partner
Typically, the whole search process can be broken down into these 6 steps:
- General search. Ask for referrals from fellow entrepreneurs, go to websites like Clutch and GoodFirms, and/or do some googling.
- Shortlisting. Check out companies’ websites and exclude the ones that don’t fit your selection criteria.
- First contact. Reach out to the candidates via email, send your brief, and ask for an estimate and a model contract.
- Interview. This is where you need to assess what kind of people would be working on your project. Have a call with developers to assess their tech expertise, too.
- Final choice. Compare the interview results, estimates, and make your decision – but don’t rush it, take your time.
- Contract signing. Make sure you run all the documents you sign by legal first.
How to Make the Right Choice
Here are 6 things you should pay attention to during the shortlisting and selection process:
- Location. Decide where you want to outsource your development – offshore, nearshore, or onshore. It will impact the final costs – a developer’s hourly rate is several times higher in the U.S. than, say, in Ukraine or Belarus.
- Experience. Is there a portfolio on the company’s website? Does it include projects similar to yours?
- Reputation. Check the company’s references if they provide you any, as well as its profiles on Clutch and GoodFirms.
- Legal matters. What is their stance on signing an NDA and intellectual property rights? (They should be willing to sign an NDA and hand over the property rights not just for the application itself but the codebase, too.)
- Tech expertise. Are the developers really good at their job – or do they only say they are? To determine that, you’ll need to sit down with them and assess their skills.
- Soft skills. Check how well the company’s representatives communicate with you – it can make it or break it.
Check for These 5 Red Flags
A good rule of thumb is, if your gut tells you there’s something fishy about this or that company, listen to it. But that’s not always good enough to save you from trouble.
Here are the 5 most common red flags that you should keep in mind:
- The company’s representatives don’t ask you any in-depth questions about your business, goals, and requirements;
- They don’t conduct their own business analysis to better understand your internal processes;
- They aren’t keen on letting you speak with their developers to assess their tech expertise;
- They are the typical yes-men that never suggest other ways of achieving your goals;
- They aren’t transparent when it comes to costs and contracts.
4. Kick Off Your Partnership
So, you found your CRM development services provider. Now what? Can you pop the champagne, lay back, and leave the company to their own devices? Not exactly.
Yes, there’s no reason for you to intervene where you don’t have the expertise. For example, if you don’t know what the clean code in this or that programming language looks like, it’s not a sound idea to tell developers how to write it.
But! You should keep your hand on the pulse of the development, nonetheless. Usually, it means getting on a video call with the project manager every week where they update you on their progress.
5. Know What to Expect from the Development Process
Of course, creating a piece of software as complex as a CRM isn’t an overnight feat. You already realize that. But how exactly does a company develop a solution like this?
Well, typically, these are the 7 main stages of software development:
- Discussing project requirements;
- Analyzing specs and planning the timeline;
- Creating wireframes;
- Coding itself;
- QA and testing;
- Deployment and monitoring;
- Maintenance and support.
So, all is said and done, and you finally have your new CRM. Congratulations!
But like it or not, that’s not the end of the line. Now, you have to train your employees to use your new custom CRM. Also, remember to collect their feedback – and act on it.
Besides that, no application can just be left alone for years after it’s launched. Someone has to maintain and update it. So, find that someone – preferably before the first line of code is even written.
All things considered, it might seem like a herculean task to make it happen. And, in many ways, it can be challenging. But the benefits outweigh the costs. So, don’t let this scare you off – and good luck!