How much can I expect to spend on customizations to a CRM system after initial costs?

Business case: a client engages a consultant/implementation partner to customize a CRM system.  Customizations should be kept to a minimum, but should include some new fields, page layout changes, a few basic business process automations (workflows / emails / tasks) and configuration of complex sales quotes for custom-manufactured products.

This project I would break out into 5 mini projects (I’m focusing on Salesforce as the CRM of choice, I haven’t worked with MS Dynamics, and I assume you don’t want to implement Siebel CRM):

  1. Getting the base CRM system up and running (no fancy customizations or integrations)
  2. Cleaning/deduplicating the legacy data before
  3. Importing the data and building the proper relationships (e.g. positions first, then users, accounts, contacts, opportunities,..)
  4. Dealing with fancy customizations / integrations
  5. Training

I’ll go through these with hour estimates.  The budget will result from these hours times the hourly rate  agreed upon between the consultant / implementation partner and the client.

Mini project 1 – base CRM set-up:

15-20 hours

  • adding fields
  • editing/creating new page layouts
  • some simple (email) communication templates
  • a few simple workflow rules/tasks/field updates
  • pricebook and products set-up


Mini project 2 – legacy data clean-up / deduplication:

30-60+ hours

Sorry, I was joking about this being a mini-project.  This is more of monster project depending on how much data there is and how poorly it was maintained previously.  Do not at any cost underestimate the power of horrible data.  Most legacy data is horrible.

The instinctive reaction might be to think it’s just a bunch of Excel files that need to be imported.  Wrong!  Say this is a migration from ACT! to Salesforce, this might as well just be an excellent reason to shoot yourself in the knee.  ACT! doesn’t have the concept of companies/accounts being required, so there will be a lot of junk data with missing or bogus company information.

In Salesforce the account name is required for every contact (unless you convert the Salesforce system to use Person Accounts [not recommended!]).

I did an ACT! data migration after the data set (some 20,000 records) supposedly had been cleaned up by a third-party vendor (at a cost of $12k) who specialized in this type of data clean-up. 

Unfortunately I spent an additional 60 hours cranking through Excel files with VLOOKUPs to get the data into the right format and exclude all the garbage in it.

If 30-60 hours of data clean-up sounds too unreasonable (from an implementation partner’s perspective on billing or the client’s perspective on paying), a way of saving on the budget is to place the responsibility on the client.  Provide the client with your data templates and invite the client to help do the work.

It’s likely the client will come back on the verge of the knee shot and ask the implementation partner to please take this horribleness off their plate.

Mini project 3 – importing the clean data in a structured manner:

12 hours

Once project 2 is out of the way several weeks later, this part isn’t actually too bad.

Mini project 4 – customizations / integrations:

15-80 hours

Assuming the standard Salesforce quote editor isn’t going to do it for the client (which is understandable), you will need to look at 3rd-party vendors/solutions to handle this.

If you’re looking for a CPQ solutions (advanced configurator/custom price builder), you could use CPQ Software | SteelBrick.

  • It’s licensed software –> monthly licensing fees
  • Set up products/pricing/price books
  • Set up advanced configurator logic and business rules.

Set aside 40-80 hours.

Another option is to use Conga Composer to build fancy-looking Word or Excel templates based on the existing Salesforce data.  Pricing here is $15/user/month with a 5-user minimum.

You will need to build reports that feed into those templates.  Give that another 15-20 hours.

Integrations with other system will take additional hours based on:

  • the target system
  • the integration software
  • whether tweaks need to be made or the entire interface needs to be custom-built from scratch.

This effort could span anything from twenty to hundreds of hours.

Mini project 5 – training:

35 hours

For example’s sake let’s go with:

  • 20 users that need to be trained
  • across 4 different job responsibilities ==> 5 training groups.  
  • training materials need to be prepared for and customized towards these different groups of users and their different day-in-the-life scenarios.  

15-20 hours for the materials preparation

15 hours for the actual training (2-3 hours per training group). 


This is a sample layout of a project and associated hour estimates based on a sample fictitious project. The actual estimates could be vastly different, but without detailed requirements this should be used only as a high-level guideline.

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