Successful CRM Implementations


Over the last decade I have been directly involved in CRM implementations for large companies with hundreds of end-users to micro-companies with as few as 5 users. Over that time studies that anywhere from 20 percent to as many 65 percent of CRM projects have either failed to meet expectations or failed completely. Why attempt to implement a project that seems so likely to fail? The reason is that you have competitors in your industry that have or will successfully implement a CRM project. That success will translate in to better sales and better customer service. There are many factors that can contribute to the success of a project and most are common across companies of all sizes. No matter the size of your company here 6 factors that will contribute to a successful project.

Executive leadership: The executives, or in some cases the owners of the business, should have direct involvement in the project. CRM implementation’s can be hard work for those involved, especially the end-users, if the company executives are not fully invested in its success the end-users will not be either. Executives must lead the change inculture that must happen for a CRM project to reach its full potential. They need to demonstrate to everyone that this project is important to them and the company, and that they wil see it through to the end. If the front line users sense only partial buy-in from management they will not be willing to put in the additional work. After all, they may be very happy with the current process. The number one example of this is training. Training is an integral part to an implementation yet is left off the budget and deemed unnecessary. Proper training will yield the results the executives are looking for and leave the end-users feeling supported.

Front-line user input: Perceived benefit will drive a successful implementation. The best way to achieve this is to actively solicit input and identify key stakeholders from all levels, including the front-line user, to be an active member off the steering committee. After all who is going to buy into a new process that did not include their input? Ultimately they will provide invaluable insight from a user’s perspective. Executive and users both want a system that will make their positions more valuable, productive and in the end…easier. Executives are looking for a system to provide them a view of the performance of their employees, prediction of future sales (pipeline), and customer and prospect information. End users must be able to easily and accurately capture and record information in a way that integrates with their work load. Their input is necessary for success.

Clear goals: Successful CRM implementations have clear objectives, a well defined roadmap and specific metrics that will be used to measure success. Start with the reason the project is being considered and then conduct a thorough evaluation of your business processes. During this evaluation consider; any issues and obstacles that may be in place or arise during the implementation process. Then evaluate what problems will be solved, which processes will be improved, what departments will be effected, how individual roles will change and how the organization will benefit. Once these are considered and evaluated establish clear goals and identify your metrics that will be used to measure success? Clear goals will provide a map to success.

The Right Software: “It’s never the tool” is something we say frequently and I believe it is true, most of the time. The software is rarely the culprit for a failed implementation, as stated above there are many other factors that should be considered first. When it comes time to choose the software the clear goals of the project become essential. Too often companies are seduced by the bells and whistles of the software and ignore the functionality that is needed for the processes of the company. Many times the system chosen is far too complicated for the resources the company. Also, consider what features are needed verses wanted; the wanted features are often ignored once the projected is executed. Choose a software package based on the problems it will solve for your company, not on its functionality.

Implementation stages: Implement the project in stages, too many times I have seen projects fail because it had to be done all at once. All the planning and testing will not account for real world obstacles that will occur. Implementation in stages accomplishes a few things: One, it allows for users to acclimate to change slowly. Second, changes that are identified at one stage can be implemented before the next stage is rolled out. Third, cost of implementation can spread over time. 

To wrap this up; construct a diverse steering committee with executive leadership; gather input from all levels; plan and define your goals, pick the right software solution (not necessary the one your neighbor has), implement in stages and finally train, train and train.