Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Do It Yourself!


3 years back, we had a decision to be made in the team. Should we use a CRM software like Salesforce, HighRise or get an open source one like Sugar CRM, or build one in-house.

For a Bootstrapped startup "money" is this big fat guy sitting across the table, without a care,  smoking cigar and blowing rings in the air - while we fight it out. He finally clears his throat and says - to hell with your arguments this is what you should do - and he leaves the room.

It was decided for us - and we decided to build a simple CRM in-house. The interface is not fancy, no configuration  was necessary - because this is a square peg fitting exactly into a square hole and had no unnecessary reports, and no data upload was needed.

We started with simple categories - Boo, Cold, Warm, Hot, Super Hot, Win.

It did not make sense - so we changed them to Boo, Uncategorized, Nurture, Qualified, Demo, Propose, Negotiate, Negotiate Critical,Collect Cheque and Win.

Whenever the team says - man this sucks or can we have this - it got built. Now we have a stable CRM with even more cool features which a third party can never give - like activating Trial for a customer or giving a demo link just with a click.

And how much did this cost in real money? Almost nothing but did take away precious Developer Hours which could have been spent on the actual product. The pay-off happens in the long term.


Couple of months back we looked at another pain point the team was facing - Support. We have a good volume of Support queries coming now - and is usually spread across phone calls, emails to various members - and we hired a few more folks and the chaos just kept multiplying.

Again we started looking around and there were lot of good options - *desks - on a monthly billing basis. And this time we locked the money man out of the meeting - as he wins all arguments hands down - while we brainstormed what was the best way.

Finally we decided to build it in-house again - and the reason that won the argument was automation. Our users can email us or raise Support Tickets online, reply to them by email - and it all gets into this Support system - the usual Support Ticketing workflow. All tickets can be monitored centrally now - and if someone in the team is off or is stuck with work - one of us can step in and take it over.

The best part is - we can now build lot of automations - we can easily copy the moderator of that user's ADDA, we can trigger a password right from the Support ticket itself etc..  and many more automations that can be built by observing the nature of the tickets over a period of time.

Again - does not cost us in real money - but in precious Developer hours. And btw - we can have unlimited users, unlimited tickets.

Why you should Outsource?

This is not our "core". There are companies who are doing this for a living and they have figured out what is best. We might be "wasting" precious developer hours and analysis re-inventing the wheel. We might be "missing" out on the industry "best practices".

All valid arguments.

Actually we have Outsourced many flows which are not our core - perhaps will write about them in another post.

Do it yourself or Outsource?

Here is some criteria to use :

a. How much money is in your kitty?

b. What is the long term strategy - 1 year, 5 years, 10 years or more?

c. How "core" is this for your startup?

d. Can your development team "sustain" if you do it in-house?

e. Are your processes established or are you iterating? 

What has been your experience - Do it Yourself or Outsource it?

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