Monday, January 28, 2013

Monitoring the Skills of Your CRM Team

This is another one of those ‘CRM manager’ posts that occasionally sneak in, mainly because I am running the local CRM team now. However, it is a tool even a member of a team could use to see where the weaknesses in their team are and decide whether to up-skill themselves or, at least, raise it with management to score some points with the boss. In my case I used it as part of my 12 Month Plan for the CRM team.

As the title suggests, this tool is about monitoring the skills of a CRM team to ensure there is a healthy mix for when projects come along or to mitigate the ‘under the bus’ factor.

The Under The Bus Factor

Also known as the ‘win the lottery’ factor, this is a nice way of talking about staff contingency; if you only have one person who can code and they get head-hunted you are either hiring really quickly (a good recipe for getting someone who is not a great fit for the business) or outsourcing and losing profits. In my opinion, having at least two people who can perform an essential skill as well as each other saves a lot of headaches. Not only do they often bring different wisdom and experience to the table, making the sum greater than the parts, but it provides a way to quality check each other’s work.

The Essential Skills For CRM

In my experience, there are three broad categories of CRM consultant:

  • Functional Consultants
  • Developers
  • Infrastructure Experts

Functional Consultants (which is where I place myself) know how the product works from a user’s perspective. They are often the most client-facing of the consultants and conduct things like workshops, deliver training and the like.

Developers are the ones who stretch the product beyond what the Functional Consultant can deliver; when the client insists on a specific piece of functionality and it simply cannot be configured and be practical through settings, the developer comes in to show what the underlying platform can do.

The Infrastructure Experts are the ones who love to design server configurations to make systems sing. Setting up clusters and farms is their thing and they get excited when a client asks for ‘high availability’ because it means they can throw everything they have got at the problem. Even as CRM deployments go ‘in the cloud’ there is the need for an Infrastructure Expert so ensure things work on the client’s side and to ensure the cloud CRM deployment effectively works with local, non-cloud applications.

Often they are also the ones who actually install and set up the base platform.

Despite using three categories, they are not mutually exclusive; there are developers who can deliver training, for example. However, in my experience, consultants have one of these as their primary skill and perhaps a second as a secondary skill. Their primary skill is their key strength but they dabble in other areas.

The Skills Matrix

So let us say we have a CRM team of three: Tom, Dick and Harry. We can assess them or they can assess themselves in terms of the three categories, putting a ‘P’ for primary or an ‘S’ for secondary in front of each skill. I quite like the idea of self-assessment because when it comes to a project and that skill is needed, they have taken ownership for delivering that aspect of the project by stating they are an expert in that skill.

Maybe we end up with a matrix like this:

  Tom Dick Harry
Functional P   P
Developer S P  
Infrastructure   S S

In other words we have Tom and Harry the Functional Consultants and Dick the Developer. Finding the strengths and weaknesses of the team is then a case of reading across the rows and assigning a numerical value to the letters, if you choose. In this case, it is fairly clear the team has a weakness in infrastructure knowledge.

The decision is then:

  • Focus on projects with limited infrastructure challenges
  • Up-skill an existing member of the team
  • Bring in a new person, Jane, whose primary skill is infrastructure configuration

The Expanded Skills Matrix

In the case of my 12 month plan, I expanded these skills out to:

  • Conducting Requirement Workshops
  • Presales Demonstration
  • Documentation
  • CRM Configuration (no code)
  • Training
  • Client-Side/Form scripting (j-script)
  • Server-Side coding (.Net)
  • Infrastructure Design
  • Implementation Setup

From the resultant matrix it became clear where the team was strong and where there was room for improvement. This information then fed into the plan for the team in terms of hiring and training.

I am sure, as the product changes, this expanded list will evolve. It is possible that html5 skills will be needed in the future, as Silverlight skills are needed today. This may be rolled into the Server-side coding bucket or be listed as a skill in its own right.


Whether you are managing a CRM team or are part of one, a skills matrix can give you a quick picture of how the team stacks up in terms of delivering projects. One aspect I like of this approach is it is relatively simple for team members to self-assess. Nothing generates groans faster than asking a team to fill in a skills assessment but by fixing the categories and giving them a simple ‘P’ or ‘S’ scoring system, they should be done in five minutes without too much difficulty.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

haha, I posted my comment about Jane before I read the complete article. Good common sense, but often overlooked information Leon, I enjoyed it ;)