Part 3 – Finding the right partner

CRM for Associations Super Blog Series

In Summmary

  • A CRM vendor or partner needs to provide you with confidence and a good relationship up front so have a checklist about your values and needs.
  • You should always get proposals from 2-3 partners to ensure you have something to compare when it comes to cost, timeline and approach.
  • Remember the GOOD FAST CHEAP triangle and how you cannot get all of these met, so you must assess proposals and your own requirements accordingly


Technology projects should really be called people projects. Humans connecting with other humans to create a positive outcome. Implementing a new CRM within your Association isn’t a small thing. It takes budget, time and dedication.
That’s why it’s so important to have a vendor and partner on board who understand you, who you enjoy working with and who exceed your expectations.
In the previous articles, we talked about starting with your Association’s goals and finding the technology to support those. In this article, we’ll be talking through the top things you need to consider when choosing a vendor or partner for your CRM project.

But first, what is the difference between a vendor and a partner?

A vendor authors the software or application (e.g. Microsoft).
A partner delivers the app, customises it and provides ongoing support (e.g Brennan). Sometimes the vendor and the partner sit within the same organisation, sometimes they are different. Often vendors will have multiple partners so when you decide on a product you like you still have a choice about who to partner with in terms of implementation.

What to look for in your vendor and partner?

This checklist provides a guideline of things to look for in your vendor and / or partner:

  • That your functional and tech requirements are met
  • The vendor has road map and R&D expenditure into the product, so they are continually evolving and improving it, allowing you to take advantage of improvements
  • The vendor and partner have good reputations (read reviews, check out industry forums)
  • There is a good partner network and ecosystem
  • Even if you originally choose one partner of a vendor, there is the flexibility to change if needed down the track (i.e. you are not locked in)
  • The size and financial backing of the vendor or partner
  • Any specialisations they have, including recent projects

How ongoing support will look – do they only want to deal with you on the project or is there good ongoing support on offer and customer-for-life engagement process

Requesting a proposal

Once you have your shortlist of vendors or partners, you need to select 2-3 and send out a ‘request for proposal’ or ‘request for quote’.
That requirements list you developed during the previous article – this is where that comes into play.
Put all your functional and technology requirements into a document and include this with your request.

Evaluating the proposals you receive

To adequately evaluate the proposals you get back, you need to look for all the same clues you would with any business partnership. Consider the promptness and thoroughness of each response, attention to detail, and specificity of the proposal.
Some other key points to look out for include:

Have they indicated a probable timeline?

1-3 months? 3-6 months? It is crucial to know long they think the project will take and what the scope of the project is.

What is their project approach?

The main two approaches these days are:

  • Waterfall approach with big bang delivery


  • Agile approach with phased delivery – beginning with MVP (minimal viable product)
  • A good partner will work with you on what will suit you best in terms of how to approach the project.

Scenario demonstration

Part of any evaluation is a demonstration. You may want to come up with a few key scenarios you want your system to achieve and your partner should be able to demonstrate solutions.
Some will have these pre-built, some will customise them – so you may not get to see everything. But you at least want to see a genuine response and feel a sense of confidence they can meet your needs.
Finally, the proposal should include best and final pricing. Get your management and board to review the proposal.

Remember the GFC rule

No, not that GFC. We’re meaning when GFC equals the GOOD FAST CHEAP equation.
As a general rule:

  • Good and fast = not cheap
  • Good and cheap = slow to deliver
  • Fast and cheap = not high quality

Keep this triangle in mind as you get your proposals back including factors such as timeline, your own urgency, budget and other issues. As the project evolves these three variables will come into play and will keep changing – so you may need to keep adjusting your values and goals along the way.
Thankfully, the next article in our series will delve into just that – the essential steps for a successful CRM implementation.

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