Incremental Innovation: Find the best tools for now, not the best tool ever

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We all know it’s easy to become stuck in a certain pattern of work, but what if there’s something better out there for your team?

This was a big question Newmind had to address with our CRM software about two years ago, and it ended up defining how we help our clients solve problems. While the testing process will differ from organization to organization, what’s important to remember is that you’ll never know what tool might be a better fit, until you buck up and run a test.

A Quest For a Better CRM

Without boring you with details, Newmind Group needs a lot out of CRM software—mostly to play nice with our invoicing, estimating, and accounting processes. Our setup was split into three parts: a standalone CRM tool, an invoicing and estimating tool, and a separate suite of tools for backend accounting.. There was some custom development and automation here and there, but every department was using a separate set of tools. We were getting by, but intercommunication was a hassle.

Trials and Failures

We were thinking, it’s going to be better for Newmind in the long run if everything is using the same toolset, so that reports and other data is all in one place—all the accounting data, all the CRM data, all the invoice data was all in one place. Knowing this, we quickly narrowed our search for tools down to a handful of options, and then found one that seemed potentially suitable—we’ll call it “The All-In-One”

Instead of putting this entire testing process under the charge of one individual, we designated parts of the testing to various people on our team, though in splitting up all the accountability, implementation became a big struggle. In spite of these logistical problems, we ran with The All-In-One for about a year and a half, and realized that, while this was “kind of” the all-encompassing tool we’d been seeking, it delivered mediocre results on all our major processes.

Breaking it down

Leadership decided that it’d make the most sense if we moved to best of breed tools for each department, and each line of business. Splitting those needs up, and creating a criteria of needs and wants for each affected party. The big difference this time, was that I decided to lead this search myself—I met with all of the departments one-on-one, and began to compose this criteria from an organization-wide standpoint.

This is partly just so nobody falls through the cracks—when you’re breaking down these needs by department, it’s important to speak to the individual units, not just the leaders! Investigating the needs of those individuals will give you the clearest picture of what tools and features are being used on a daily basis. From there, you can begin to paint a picture of how the entire organization is working from a birds-eye view.

The Research

Once these criteria are created, research on solutions can begin. For Newmind’s situation, I ranked 3 levels of success that I’d be hoping for:

  • One tool that fulfilled all the needs for all departments
  • Multiple tools which communicate adequately with each other
  • Multiple tools with no built-in integration at all, leaving custom development or 3rd party integrations to bridge any gaps

As you can probably imagine, there is are a ridiculous number of tools available for these business-related tasks. So the important part in creating your criteria is to determine what is truly the must-have tools in each department.

For example, we determined that our biggest must-have, of all departments, was robust reporting for our CRM and sales tool. All the other needs in CRMs are features that are generally universal across all CRMs, so it was easy to just look at how the tools compared in their reporting. After narrowing down the best CRMs for reporting, we were able to find one that also fulfilled almost all of our other must-haves!

The Solution

There were several critical steps in finding Newmind’s solution—breaking down our criteria of needs, researching solutions using a hierarchy of fulfillment—but the most important piece for us was to have one person dedicated to planning this out and implementing it.

Assigning this research and feedback between multiple isolated departments will reduce the perceived workload, for sure, but keeping one person accountable for overseeing this change management was the clincher for Newmind Group’s solution.

It was a major time commitment, but I knew that going into it—and I think it helped to remember that I didn’t have to find the last CRM that we ever have to use—perfect, one-in-a-million solutions don’t just come out of thin air! But we found the right CRM for Newmind Group for the next few years, and so far it’s been the perfect solution.

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