Home Recipe for a successful CRM implementation

By: Phil Rowlinson

Irrespective of the CRM platform; many CRM implementations are considered as failures. A number of studies have reported statistics of failed implementations running between 40 and 70%. With no intent to report or analyze these claims; I have compiled here some practical suggestions learned from personal experience of multiple CRM implementations that you might wish to incorporate into your own project. While not fully constituting a magic recipe, these suggestions when incorporated into your own environment will increase system adoption and success!

Align project goals with Your Company’s strategic objectives

This may sound obvious; however I recommend taking the time and trouble to understand your company’s strategic objectives and how they might influence your implementation. Be it a desire to segment your customer base and devise separate sales strategies for each segment, or achieving lower cost of sales from Internet marketing approaches; or create an industry vertical organization; the perceived success of your project will be greatly enhanced by demonstrated contribution to company goals. In contrast, failure to accommodate strategic objectives will quickly foster system denigration and disuse.

Forward thinking companies will build a customer or CRM strategy into their plan which eases this issue.

Expect and plan for significant change: change management is critical

The potential of a CRM system is unlocked when you utilize the data that you capture in other business processes. Information from (say) a technical support function can be of high value in up-sell and cross sell opportunities for example. Information captured in Marketing or sales process often leads to improved downstream business functions. Some functions, such as the use of CRM data for identifying marketing campaigns, customer segments and product up-sell opportunities that were previously difficult to achieve can now become standard processes. Many systems are modeled on best-practice processes; so therefore the roles, responsibilities and functions are most likely to change, and in some cases be enhanced. Time invested in mapping the “as-is” and “to-be” processes brings large returns, and in addition, the implementation of a new system creates the opportunity for process simplification and organizational change.

Having identified the change areas; up-front communication, buy-in and preparation for the change will ease the initial transition shock of the new system. Be mindful that not all prospective users will adapt or be suited to the new processes, and that management responsibilities might also alter.

Data Cleanliness and Migration

Never underestimate the importance of clean data! If you intend to migrate data into your CRM system from other sources; make provision to clean the data first. Look for completeness, duplication and adherence to standard lists of values.  Dependent upon your chosen system, cleansing post migration can be complex and expensive. Expect to budget extensive amounts of time and resources to the migration: in my experience the data migration can be as costly as other parts of the implementation. Plan to start early your project life cycle: incomplete and inaccurate data will kill your user acceptance and ROI faster than any other factor!

Define and plan processes for maintaining data quality post system implementation. Many implementations suffer decreasing effectiveness as data quality deteriorates over time. Look at processes for account and contact creation to ensure that duplicates are avoided and build reports that track data integrity for example dates on sales opportunities, tasks and events that are not closed in a timely way or leads which are left unassigned or not worked on.

Establish critical success factors, measurement systems and define ROI

Having failed to do this on a number of occasions, I strongly recommend this action. Starting with your strategic objectives, further define the critical success factors for your implementation. These may include objectives such as lead generation, revenue, campaign effectiveness (campaign to cash measurement), customer retention, self-service functions and various business process improvements. Some of the measurements are binary in terms of achievement; some metrics are difficult to establish a baseline for prior to a new system. However, by defining your critical success factors, establishing a baseline (albeit an estimate) implementing your system to deliver on the goals and then measuring the performance improvement, you will increase buy-in, create visibility for the implementation and be able to quantify success and return on investment. Whether you achieve targeted performance increases, you will at least have a measure of success and be able to identify fine tuning actions to reach your goal(s).

Plan a progressive implementation

Circumstances may not allow it, but try to plan a phased implementation in a logical order. You will be able to measure staged performance change, commence harvesting returns earlier, but more importantly be able to show successes to influence buy-in for later stages. Admittedly, many benefits are created from the end to end system use, but regardless a staged approach will lend itself to simpler project management.

An obvious caveat to this point is to ensure that you are aware of all the functional dependencies. Don’t attempt to implement sales force automation without the core data management processes being in place and working effectively.

Build Value for the users: achieve buy-in!

The most frequently stated ‘must’ for CRM success is to secure Executive sponsorship and buy-in. It is true that system-use by key executives will drive system adoption down through the organization, but even then organization wide adoption can still be sporadic. A better approach is to create value for the system by each category of user. Identify each community, understand their processes and critical business issues and design the implementation to address them. In simple terms, try to address the ‘What’s in it for me?’ factor. As an example for Sales: value can be created through sales tools such as automated quotation templates, through demand generation, and tools to assist in interacting with prospective customers.

Of particular importance to a field sales organization is connectivity. Being able to access the system while mobile is of paramount importance. Having to wait for a convenient time to connect usually means that information is not updated in a timely way if at all, and the information that a field sales rep needs is not at the fingertips.

Educate, Engage – Change the Culture

Periodic, targeted communication about the project progress serves to dispel fears. For each user community, identify the change management issues and prepare workshops which communicate up front, and allow discussion on how a specific business function and organization will change in the future.

Create a vision for the project which encompasses the critical business issues and company strategy that is being addressed. Include the business capabilities that the system will unlock, and be open about the impact that will be created on individuals and teams. Share the vision and engage the user community. This serves to forestall later concerns or impediments to a production operation. It also provides an opportunity for the early adopters or champions to surface who can then be harnessed as change agents.

Plan for continuous Education

Your CRM implementation is not just an event. In addition to initial training, provision for an effective support infrastructure that can provide individual help on issues. Nurturing your users at this stage pays dividends to increased user adoption and effectiveness. A strategy commonly used for enhancing the use of the system is to learn success stories from individuals and create bulletins and workshops that reinforce earlier training or provide supplemental techniques. Take care however to provide the incremental education in a form (such as self-paced tutorials) that sales people can undertake when travelling or all too infrequent down times.

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