CRM for Extension – Digging Deeper

Stephen Judd is serving as the eXtension Foundation Customer Relationship Management Fellow. This post is an update on progress on this funded Fellowship from the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement.

Once you’ve evaluated your candidate customer relationship management systems (CRM) against the basic functionality outlined in my previous post, it’s time to dig a little deeper and see how the CRM addresses the needs identified in your use cases. You should also have enough information at this point to ensure that the candidate CRMs align with your resources (budgetary and technical.)

Use your use cases

In one of the sample use cases, I stated “Reilly would like to be able to accomplish this using a mobile phone shortly after the interaction or through an email application, without having to log in to a separate interface.” This raises the question of whether a candidate CRM system will enable this type of interaction. Does the CRM have a mobile app or interface? Does the CRM integrate with your existing email application? Is there an additional cost associated the mobile app or email integration?

Another use case stated, “Sam uses the CRM to keep track of current council members, their roles, and term on the council for Sam’s county.” It is unlikely that any candidate CRM will have been designed specifically for tracking Advisory Council members. How could the existing features of the CRM be leveraged to track this information? Would it require custom development work or is it something an administrator could configure easily?

Go through all of your use cases and using the CRM Implications section, identify the features and functionality you have identified a need for. For each of these, assess the candidate CRM systems for their ability to handle. Some prioritization of needs may be necessary if the candidate CRMs aren’t able to provide functionality for certain needs.

Understand costs

Given your budgetary constraints, it’s imperative to understand the costs associated with the candidate CRMs. Many CRMs use a software-as-a-service model where the company hosts and updates the application and charges you licensing fees, based on the number of users (staff) or per contact. It will be important for you to have an idea of the number of users (staff) you intend to use the system and an estimate of the number of contacts (people) you plan to track with the CRM.

Other costs:

  • Hosting – if the CRM is one that you will need to host on your own servers, waht is that cost to your organization?
  • Integration – Is there a cost to integrating with other systems (this could be development or licensing costs)?
  • Administration – people from your organization will need to administer the CRM – dealing with new users, permissions, configuration changes, etc. What will be the cost to the organization of those peoples time?
  • Training – What are the resources required to train staff in the use of the CRM?
  • Development – If you plan to develop a custom CRM or customize one of the candidate CRMs, what will that cost?

Documentation and Training

Implementing a CRM will require training users in its appropriate use. The candidate CRMs should be looked at through the lens of the user and how easy they are to use. Examining the CRM’s documentation and support resources is an important step to determine how much you will need to invest in training and documentation development. If you are considering developing a custom CRM, don’t forget to factor in the cost of creating documentation and custom training.

Existing Data

It is likely that your organization already has a lot of information about the people you interact with that you would like to have available in the CRM. You should assess the candidate CRMs to determine how this information can be imported in bulk. Since you’ll probably have information coming from multiple sources, the ability to identify and eliminate duplicate records will be an important consideration.


Determine how long it will take to implement the candidate CRMs. Like most projects, it will likely take longer than you initially think. Does your project have a deadline? Can the CRM be implemented in phases? Who will be responsible for the implementation?


I welcome feedback and questions at 

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