But CRM is a big investment.
Not long ago, it was a massive, up-front investment that few small business could afford. But as more CRM providers move from on-premises models to cloud-based SaaS models, that investment has spread across the life of the system instead of being front-loaded at implementation.
Put simply, cloud-based SaaS CRM has made CRM more accessible to more companies. But those licensing fees have left many companies wondering whether they can save even more money by building their own custom CRM system.
So should you buy or build CRM?
To answer that question, you’ll need to break down the costs and benefits of building vs. buying your CRM. And although there are many ways you can break those costs and benefits down, make sure your cost-benefit analysis includes these six fundamental questions:
1.) Do you have specific needs that cannot be met by a pre-built system?
A custom-built CRM system can be tailored to meet your company’s exact needs. This is one of the main selling points of building your own CRM. We hear a lot about how unique each business is from companies considering a build-your-own strategy.
But we encourage you to remember two things: most of our businesses aren’t as singular as we would like to think, and industry-leading CRM systems are already highly customizable.
Some of those customizations are built-in as configurations; others will require third-party add-ons, or even code-based customizations (in-house or contracted out, depending on your resources).
Regardless, it is much, much easier to modify an existing CRM system than to build one from scratch.
If your business process presents truly unique challenges that off-the-shelf CRM systems can’t meet without a major overhaul, then you may want to consider building your own CRM.
But just because every business is technically unique does not mean each business needs to build a unique CRM system. Every snowflake is unique, but one shovel will clear your driveway just fine most of the time.
2.) Do you already have development and support personnel on staff?
Custom-built CRM systems combine the up-front cost of older, on-premises CRM with the long-term upkeep costs of cloud-based SaaS CRM, all while putting the development and support responsibilities on you instead of the software provider.
As a result, large, enterprise-level operations often have a massive advantage when it comes to developing custom CRM systems.
After all, If your organization already has the personnel and the know-how, then one of the biggest barriers to custom CRM is already out of the way (provided, of course, your staff can spare the hours).
Without those personnel, you’ll need to factor outside development into your cost-benefits analysis. This is something most small businesses can’t afford, but which larger operations often can.
And don’t underestimate the cost of support! If something goes wrong, your team will need to handle it in-house. Tech support hours are your hours. Server maintenance downtime happens on your time.
Now, if you have already determined that your company needs CRM but cannot effectively use an existing system, this is all part of the cost of doing business. But if not, then these are costs that absolutely must factor into your decision.
3.) Do you know how to train your users on a new and unique system?
CRM is not a magic wand. Your employees won’t magically know how to use it just because you built it in-house. You’ll need to train them to use the system optimally, and you’ll need to champion that system early and often.
Again, some organizations will have a major advantage here. If you already have experienced training and/or consulting staff, then this probably won’t be much of a stretch for them.
But if not, keep in mind that training is much harder to outsource if you build your system in-house. If you contracted out the development of your CRM, then you may also be able to contract out the training, but there’s no guarantee there. Odds are, someone in your organization will have to train everyone else.
4.) Do you already run your own server?
If so, great! Assuming your servers can handle your custom-built CRM system, you’re in the clear on this one.
If not, you’ll need to factor in the cost of hardware, dedicated Internet connections, bandwidth, power, space, repair costs, and support staff to run your servers.
Alternatively, you can rent servers, though that can costs thousands per month for the quality and stability you’ll need to run a reliable CRM.
Depending on the size of your business, either of these options could easily exceed the monthly costs of SaaS CRM. Once again, larger organizations are more likely to have the resources required to actually save money from this angle.
5.) Can you afford maintenance and unexpected downtime?
Most businesses will also need to plan for increased downtime when running their own servers. SaaS giants like Microsoft operate a huge number of redundant servers, and can offer 99.9% uptime. Can you?
For 99.9% of businesses, the answer is no. That doesn’t mean running your own servers will be impractical, but it does mean you’ll need to build some pretty robust offline capabilities into your CRM so your sales and support teams aren’t helpless if a server goes down at 1pm on a Wednesday.
You’ll also need to understand the average cost of downtime in terms of lost business and/or productivity, not just in terms of parts and labor. After all, if your CRM isn’t all that valuable, it’s unlikely you’d have spent all that time and money to build it in the first place!
6.) Do you need to start implementing CRM soon?
If so, then you’re probably better off finding an existing CRM system that works for your business. With our OnTrack CRM Success System, you can have your organization up-and-running with Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales CRM in as little as a month.
Custom systems take time to develop even before you can implement, train, and adopt them into your business. As a result, the timeline from decision to use is significantly longer with custom-built CRM.
If you already know that you need a custom-built system for your business, then the sooner you can get started, the better. And in the meantime, you’re likely going to need some sort of stop-gap system, which you’ll need to factor into your budget.
So should you buy or build CRM?
Large organizations with lots of existing IT resources whose needs can’t be met by existing systems OR who can save money by eliminating long-term subscription costs without sacrificing too much reliability are typically the best candidates for custom-built CRM.
On the contrary, most small businesses are better off buying an industry-leading CRM system and tailoring it to their needs.
So should you buy or build CRM? For most readers, the answer is “buy.”
But even if you opt for a pre-built system, it’s important to remember why so many businesses find custom systems attractive in the first place: your CRM needs to fit your business.
Most industry-leading CRM systems are designed to appeal to many different business models, but CRM is not one size fits all. Not every CRM system is the right fit for every business. But we do believe that Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers the best value for most small businesses. Is yours one of them?
Contact us today so we can learn more about whether Dynamics 365 is the right fit for your business.
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