Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) project implementation requires a lot of moving parts. A CRM implementation will likely require you to have multiple vendors or you might choose to work with a consulting firm. A consulting firm may be your strategic integrator—taking the software you select and assisting in its adoption and integration into your organization.
Regardless of the type of partnership you elect, like most aspects of life, you need to get to know someone before you can build a productive partnership. The same is true for your vendors.
The key to succeeding in vendor management is to share information and priorities with your vendors. That does not mean you share everything without question. Appropriate vendor management practices provide the necessary information at the right time to allow a vendor to serve your needs better.
Gain the commitment of your vendors to assist and support the implementation of your CRM. Here are three tips for a productive partnership and successful vendor management.
Tip No. 1: Identify Expectations
The vendor-institution relationship is a two-way street. Just as your institution can’t function effectively if a vendor underperforms, the same is true for the vendor. One part of successful vendor management is to contribute knowledge or resources that may help them serve your institution better.
As you know, there is a little bit of heavy lifting on the institution’s part to continue to establish that relationship. In some instances, it may not be clear. This is especially true if you’ve contracted with your vendor for specific services and there is a misunderstanding. Maybe you’ve missed a conversation and aren’t sure how those services are delivered. Or perhaps the delivery of services is not in line with the CRM project’s key objectives and outcomes.
Avoid complications by identifying expectations and asking questions of your vendors to help you understand their side of the business. Map out what your institution is trying to do and determine how it directly relates to the vendor’s contracted products and services. Creating clear guidelines and identifying expectations allows you to build a relationship based on good communication—which ultimately boosts trust.
Tip No. 2: Make Adequate Connections
Frequent communication is key to maintaining productive relationships. Communication is relevant to all business relationships, including how your institution can support your vendors and other partners. Actively listening and making connections between team members supports productive partnerships and vendor management.
Keep your vendors informed about your institution’s plans, priorities, and problems, and encourage them to share theirs with you. This ensures both parties understand what needs to be done and prevents small issues from escalating.
Connect people from the institution side to the individual or team from the vendor side. Ideally, match contacts responsible for similar tasks—even if there is a counterpart for critical positions between the vendor and the institution.
Be mindful that creating adequate connections becomes more complicated if there are barriers regarding skill set or language. Try to connect people who would be speaking the same language or those with a similar skill set. Things could get complicated if you have a subject matter expert on the institution side but can’t link up with someone similar in skill set or language on the vendor side.
Alignment with crucial resources and roles in your CRM project is essential—regardless of whether it is the institution-side or vendor-side.
Tip No. 3: Monitor Progress
Monitoring progress from both sides is vital. Establish the mapping from the project objectives and outcomes from the vendor services provided. This will support vendors and your team coming together more efficiently.
Conduct continuous monitoring—initiating an ongoing check-in—to make sure you are on the right track. Sometimes it requires a deep look into “lessons learned,” but ultimately, you can be integrating that along the way. If necessary, adjust how the teams interact and the resources that need to be assigned. Ask yourself these questions:
• Do I need to re-map or establish a reconnection between the services?
• Should I reassess the partnering counterparts?
• Do the teams work well with each other? If not, where is the disconnect?
A CRM implementation is an enormous undertaking, and vendor management can be challenging even with the best intentions. Be mindful of strategy and planning and understand how all that comes into alignment, especially regarding your vendor relationships.