3 Critical Factors in Successful CRM Implementations

Implementing a CRM system into an established organization is a challenge in even the best circumstances. It has an impact on so many aspects of your company’s people, processes, and time-worn habits, that beyond the technological challenges, the cultural shift to a company is often a huge one. 

Having been involved in many complex CRM implementations, I have identified three characteristics that are almost always present when things go well and the CRM project comes out a success.

If any one of these are missing, you generally have a problem that often neither money nor time can repair.

1. Must have management ‘buy-in’

Most employees would rather continue on doing things the way they have always done them. Unless they are shareholders, their interests are often very different than the organization’s as a whole.

  • It is the management that has a vision for the future, and sets expectations of its people. When management is on board and excited about the change, that not only demonstrates the company’s commitment, but the enthusiasm is contagious to its people.
  • But more than just being a cheerleader for a CRM system, management is also there to navigate through the inevitable challenges that will pop up. Management support doesn’t end at go-live, either.
  • It is important that they also change their long-term habits. If they have an ongoing dependence on the system for reports, dashboard summaries, and the information they need to make decisions, it automatically ensures those reporting to him/her are using the CRM to provide it.

2. Being open-minded to rethinking how you do things  

The temptation in implementing a CRM is to try to make it reproduce exactly your existing processes and procedures. After all, one of the drivers behind purchasing such a system was probably that it can automate the things you are currently doing manually.

  • Just remember to stop and ask yourself, “is the way we’re doing things now, the best possible way to do things?” This might be the perfect opportunity to sit down and really rethink things.
  • A CRM’s out-of-the-box configuration is usually built on best practice principles, so before you ask your implementation team to tear the system apart to emulate your way, be open-minded to examining some of the default features of CRM. These may actually be better for your organization.

3. Understand how your business works

Seems simple, does it not? Are you reading this thinking, “of course I know how my business works!”. The point here is, you may know how the business works, but do you truly understand how your people go about getting it done on a day-in day-out basis?

  • What are the key workflows that you step through when fulfilling an order / establishing a new client / obtaining product inventory levels / entering billable time / (insert business process here)?
  • What external factors would influence their effectiveness in completing these tasks? For example, how practical is it automate certain steps, or make other steps paperless?
  • Taking the time up-front to understand, document and incorporate those processes into your CRM strategy will pay huge dividends in employee acceptance, and ultimately, productivity after go-live.  Obviously, item #2 in this list is still relevant to ensure you’re not recreating flawed or lazy processes in the new system, but thoughtfully working through each of them in advance is time very well spent.

Remember, a good CRM should serve and support you, not the other way around.



CRM Implementation: 12 Key Questions Answered

What are the steps in a CRM implementation? What are the biggest causes of failure? How long will it take?

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CRM Implementation: 12 Key Questions Answered

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