What Are the Variables to Ensure a Successful CRM Implementation?


Let’s face it, not all CRM (Customer Relationship Management) implementations are successful. Many of them do not deliver to their expectations – while others just plain fail.

So how does this happen and how can one prevent himself / herself from falling swiftly on one’s sword?

Let’s start by defining what a successful CRM implementation should looks like.

We find that the word expectation gets tossed around quite a bit during a CRM implementation. The staff have expectations regarding the “New System” and how it will solve some or all of their business needs. The executive sponsor has expectations regarding return on investment, and the business partner or consulting firm has an expectation that the customer is prepared to implement and has allocated enough resources to do so.

In order to fulfill the above expectations, it is imperative that a successful CRM implementation is structured in a manner to achieve success. This includes preparing and executing on a number of predefined variables.

Let’s explore some of the most important variables to ensure a successful CRM implementation:

  1. Executive Ownership – Someone near the top of the customer’s organizational chart will needs own this project. This is typically the executive that gave to go ahead for the capital expenditure and manages all expenses associated to the implementation. Executive Ownership is imperative as key decisions will need to be made and the overall project will need a voice that is expressed down the ranks of the organization.
  2. Build a Project Team –  A project team should include a variety of individuals across the overall spectrum of the company.  This include SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) from all disciplines. It is important to form a group of individuals that can work together in a team environment while also being cognizant of the overall size of the team. This will vary based on the overall size and scope of the project and will typically range from 4 to 8 individuals.
  3. Set Realistic Expectations – Typically, clients do not employee individuals to strictly work on implementing software.  The staff generally have other responsibilities and as such, have a limited capacity for working on special projects like CRM implementations. It’s important to set realistic expectation that align with the desired return on investment while balancing the overall capacity of the staff. Staff burnout can quickly lead to an under resourced project team with spiraling ramifications to the overall project.
  4. Spend the Time up Front – This includes defining all of the pain points with your present CRM solution or lack thereof, gathering all of the requirements and allowing your partner to properly specify the eventual solution. This should include a full written specification and visual / interactive prototype.  Remember, your partner is experienced in gathering and documenting requirements. You are paying them for their experience and expertise in this area. Spend more time focused on defining the requirement and reviewing / updating the specification. This will lead to less time spent testing and reworking.
  5. Project Management – Most consulting firms employ project managers but not all CRM implementations are managed from the client’s perspective using a qualified Project Manager. Keep in mind that you are experts in your organization and someone will need to steer the ship from your perspective.
  6. Stay within the Project Scope – We’ve all heard about the “Never Ending Project.” This typically occurs when either the project scope has not been defined properly or the project manager allows for work to be completed that was not included in the original scope of the project.
  7. Find a Partner with a Proven Track Record – There is no replacement for implementation expects. A successful business partner has a staff that is rich in experience that will help guide you through the implementation process.
  8. Tie CRM Reporting to Performance Management – One reason why some CRM implementations fail is that typically, a business will continue to exist without one. That’s not saying that they aren’t beneficial. They most certainly are if your organization is interested in taking business to the next level. They just aren’t essential like an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). Invoices need to go out, cash needs to come in and bills need to get paid. As such, it’s important tie the reporting outputs from CRM to the individuals responsible for contributing to this valuable data.
  9. Continue to Reinvest – Once the initial implementation is complete, it’s important to continue to critique and enhance your initial investment. It’s not much different than building a house. The structure and interior may be complete but the landscaping needs some attention. Making continual investments will your CRM solution will produce healthy ROI and happier employees.

By paying attention to the variables above and proceeding in a structured manner, you increase the odds of a successful CRM implementation that meets or exceeds expectations of your team.

Learn more about Sage CRM implementation.