Management and administration of a CRM application is an often overlooked and highly underfunded responsibility.  In many cases, the sales and service leadership in an organization believe that administrating a product like Salesforce.com is easy and straightforward.  

In truth, the application is on the whole fairly easy to use, designed well and by being a SaaS solution, removes much of the IT administration burden.

But the role of Salesforce.com administrator is much more than a few minutes every day.  It doesn’t matter what business you are in, if you are in a competitive business then things are changing every day.  The sales and service organization is never static — territories change, processes change, organizational structures change, products and services change, etc.  The CRM system you or a consultant configured will rarely stay in place for long.  This is one of the great advantages of cloud solutions, is that you can continue to tweak and reconfigure every day to be responsive to your market demands.
Keeping up with the current CRM infrastructure can be time consuming (e.g. adding territories, adding new fields to capture and report on new information, creation of reports that provide new insight) by itself.   The appropriate time should be allocated for that.  Looking for new opportunities to take further advantage of the platform you already purchased is another skill that will help you continue to scale and defeat the competition.
We’ve seen a variety of models that have worked well.  They each have their advantages and disadvantages.
  • Insourcing
  • Complete outsourcing model
  • Strategic outsourcing
The insourcing model basically means that you hire in-house for all administration tasks.  As in any case where you have employees, you have optimum control of your resources, when you need it.  You also build expertise in both the CRM tool and in how it is applied to your specific business which is an optimum situation.  There are several disadvantages to this model though.   Your organization may not be large enough to require a dedicated administrator.  If you have one administrator you also need to consider risk mitigation – what if that person you hired ends up being suboptimal, or more commonly, how would you handle the situation if that administrator leaves.  For organizations that have multiple administrators this problem is alleviated.  If you work with a consulting organization you can cross-train another consultant or two to be up to speed.   For a part-time, insource model, you must understand that Salesforce.com activities will compete with other responsibilities and so you must make sure that enough time has been allocated so that everything you feel is important can get done.
The opposite extreme is a complete outsourcing model.  Many firms recognize that their core competence is in their business and not on Salesforce.com administration and are happy to outsource all of the non key aspects of their business.  The advantage is particularly acute if only part-time assistance is required – while you pay more per hour than an employee you don’t have to deal with overhead.  In addition, consultants are experts in their field, so you know you are getting someone who should know how best to apply Salesforce.com to your business.  The disadvantage is that you may not have as much control over the administrator as you do over your own employee. In working with a partner you need to understand when the consultant is available and what you expect with regards to response time.  Expertise in your industry is another consideration.  On the one hand, some consultants know more about your industry than you do, having worked at your competitor’s or in similar industries. On the other hand, they may never get the opportunity to live in your organization day-to-day to help them be ultra-responsive to your business needs.
The strategic outsourcing is intended to get the best of both worlds:  insourcing for cost and responsiveness benefits and outsourcing for things that are expensive.  It is very common to have consultants come in to do an assessment and configure the system optimally for the administrative owner to operate.  In addition, consultants can come in to do “peak” activities like a big data import, big data cleansing operation, a customer portal set up or to write some code to trigger a certain workflow activity. This is a strategic use of expertise.   Risk mitigation must be taken into consideration.  For some activities, particularly code development, you need to consider how the system will be maintained and improved.  The project rarely ends when the code is completed.  New bugs that are found must be fixed, new features need to be added because the opportunity cost of doing so is high.  Again, one option is to train someone internally to handle this or to plan to arrange for ongoing support to further improve the system.
The most common model though we see is the strategic outsourcing model.  However, one size never fits all, even for companies within the same industry or of similar size.