Your CRM System Simply Can't Automate What Doesn't Exist

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"Oh, and can we just have this one field added to the screen in CRM?"

Let me tell you a story about a company that had a seemingly simple request that actually could have cost them thousands of dollars to complete.

And how you can avoid making the same mistake.

A Simple Request

During a CRM implementation, a distribution company asked to add a field called "Ship Date." As it sounds, this is the date the product is scheduled to be shipped from the warehouse. This field would be used to build a dashboard with a visual red, yellow, green visualizations to show the progress.

Sounds simple so far.

This company has an average lead time of about 12 weeks because the components of the product are ordered from multiple vendors. Whichever one of those pieces will take the longest to arrive dictates how long it will take to complete the final product and the "ship date."

Their idea was that if the order was within four weeks of the scheduled ship date, it would show as yellow on the dashboard, within two weeks shown as red etc…

There is nothing complicated about that. CRM dashboards can be built very quickly.

I would have quoted them just a few extra hours to complete this new request. But I have been doing CRM implementations long enough to know that you can't take anything for granted.

A Simple Question

So I asked, "Who determines the ship date?"

People were talking back and forth, and I was not getting an answer.

That’s when I realized that this process doesn't currently exist. It is a great idea. It is simple to automate. But it’s not always easy to automate a process that doesn't exist.

If they already had a field in their existing system called "ship date" that they had been using for years, adding it to CRM would take a few hours to implement.

When we do not even know who defines the date, it is no longer about creating a field, it is about creating an entire business process. That could easily be a 40+ hour project, which is ten times more than they expected.

If everyone in the company knows that when you put an order in the system, you have to enter the ship date, just like you have to enter the company name and address, then that is an established process.

There is no training, no convincing, and no variables.

But because they don't have a process to enter that one field now, we have to think through all the variables and make sure it works for every scenario.

  • What if the sales rep does not know the ship date, can they still process the order?
  • If processing is delayed by waiting for another team to enter information, how does that impact production schedules?
  • If the field is left blank, will the dashboard be accurate?

From a programmatic and a software perspective, their request was a piece of cake. But, in reality, it was complicated and complicated means expensive.

A Simple Answer

At P2 Automation, we ask all our clients to go through a Design Phase for projects big and small. Based on our experience, we know that this is the most important part of the entire CRM implementation process.

We map out system components and workflow processes during this Design Phase to ensure your objectives will be met. We give you designs that include mock-ups of entry screens, printouts, and workflow streams. You don't need to imagine how your system will look; you will have a "sneak peek" up-front. And when you ask for modifications and enhancements before development begins, it reduces costly change orders like the "promise date" request.

What if new ideas come up during the development phase? Simple. We go back to the design phase to make sure all the details are flushed out so we can determine if that idea is possible and affordable.

For the distribution company I described, the best plan was to first establish a concrete process for the "ship date." Only then would we add it to the CRM system with a corresponding dashboard.

Next Steps

As a CRM consultant, I am happy to help companies develop business processes to streamline their operations. I have worked with hundreds of companies and can bring in the outside perspective needed to solidify your ideas.

Then we can translate those ideas into an affordable, successful CRM project.

Check the online calendar to schedule a strategy session or contact us at

By Steve Pestillo, P2 Automation,

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