CRM Implementation: 12 Key Questions Answered

If you’re a leader at a company preparing to implement a new CRM system, you probably have many questions. You want to know how to keep the project on schedule, how to avoid cost overruns, who should be involved, and more.

At Encore we implement, advise, and support our customers on Dynamics CRM solutions, and we hear these questions often.

In this article, you’ll find answers to 12 of the most important ones.


Table of Contents

  1. What are the steps in a CRM implementation?
  2. What are the biggest causes of failure?
  3. How long will it take?
  4. How much internal effort will it take?
  5. Who should be responsible for it at my company?
  6. How should we map out our existing business processes?
  7. How can I get user adoption?
  8. What are the biggest drivers of cost in a CRM implementation?
  9. What should be the KPIs?
  10. What should I know about integration?
  11. What about data migration?
  12. What should I look for in a CRM implementation partner?
CRM implementation steps.

What are the steps in a CRM implementation?

The implementation method that we and many other good solution partners use has 5 steps:

  1. Diagnostic: Discovery meeting between you and your solution partner to uncover and validate your basic business needs.
  2. Analysis: Project kickoff. Detailed review of your business processes and requirements.
  3. Solution Modeling: Your partner designs, develops, and tests your CRM system.
  4. Deployment: Checkups, migration, and testing. These activities lead up to the roll-out of the new system.
  5. Operation: Work with real data and use real processes in the new system. Hold a project review meeting.

What are the biggest causes of CRM implementation failure?

The most common reasons a CRM implementation fails to meet its goal stem from the failure to realistically assess and address the needs of the project ahead of time.

  • Failure to properly estimate effort. An overly optimistic timeline or budget will lead to serious difficulties. Make sure your CRM partner helps you determine your true requirements and costs.
  • Failure to control scope. There is a temptation in every major solution implementation project to add “just one more” feature or requirement. Some unforeseen needs are inevitable, but you (with the help of your implementation partner) must carefully distinguish between “need to have” and “nice to have.”
  • Failure to dedicate the right internal resources. It’s often a hard sell to set aside the full-time attention of your skilled people to the implementation. But without them, your CRM project can reach “go live” without anyone realizing that it doesn’t fulfill your real business needs.
  • Failure to invest time and effort to getting user adoption and buy-in. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your CRM implementation is just a technical project. It’s a change management project too. You and your partner should devote effort throughout the process to train and prepare your staff to make the necessary changes in their work routines after the CRM goes live.

CIO reports that at least one third of CRM projects fail to meet expectations. Plan ahead, work with a reliable partner, and make sure your project doesn’t turn into one of those.

How long does a CRM implementation project take?

A small project — one in which you are using almost exclusively the out-of-the-box capabilities of the CRM, without integrations to other systems — can be done in weeks.

A big project, where you are completely revamping complex systems and processes, or creating deep integrations to your ERP or other systems, could take months or a year.

An experienced solution partner will roadmap out your implementation, and break it down into phases so that budgeting and planning can be done properly.

How much time and effort does a CRM implementation take from internal team members?

If it’s a small implementation, you may be able to succeed without allocating specific resources full-time to the project.

For medium to large-scale implementations, you’ll likely need an internal team devoted to the implementation process as their full-time job. You will also need a project manager for this team.

These people will drive user acceptance testing, requirements validation, and explaining processes and requirements to your CRM implementation partner.

Who should be responsible for the CRM implementation at my company?

If your company plans to implement a CRM system, you should ideally designate a staff member to be responsible for the day-to-day decision-making on your end. In my experience, this person should be

  • A decision-maker
  • Capable of saying “no” (diplomatically but firmly) to out-of-scope feature requests
  • Familiar with your business’s goals for the implementation
  • Familiar with your business processes and current system

I find that great people for this role are often from the operations side of the business, as managers or senior managers, who have previous experience as front-end users of the current system.

Many businesses are initially reluctant to dedicate such a valuable person’s time to the CRM implementation rather than to the main line of business. However, you will be much better off in the long run if you do.

How should we map out our existing business processes?

Mapping out business processes well enables your solution partner to

  1. Fit the solution to your existing processes
  2. Advise you on improvements the new solution can bring to your processes

Generally I find that the best way to map processes is to use diagrams, because a visual representation of the process is often much more powerful. Visio or even PowerPoint (with links between slides to indicate connections between processes) can work wonders here. However, a simple Word or Excel sheet can work too.

A partner like Encore can help you do this mapping.

How can I get user adoption after a CRM implementation?

Actually, your user adoption efforts should begin long before implementation ends.

  1. At the start of the implementation process, send a clear message to your whole organization. Explain the company’s current situation, its goals, and how the new CRM will help you meet those goals.
  2. Get feedback from your employees throughout the implementation process. I have seen clients use regular weekly “townhall” meetings to keep users involved. But do be careful when you gather feedback in such a setting, to avoid scope creep caused by runaway feature requests.
  3. Engage a broad base of users in User Acceptance Testing. Your CRM partner should ensure the User Acceptance Testing scripts are created by someone with a strong grasp of your business processes and requirements.

When you reach “go live” day, none of your users should be surprised by how the new CRM system works.

What are the biggest drivers of CRM implementation cost?

CRM implementation costs are heavily influenced by 3 factors: complexity, scope creep, and resource availability.

  • Complexity of the implementation. How much customization is required to meet your business requirements with the CRM product? How many internal systems are you integrating with? Are any of those systems running on poorly understood legacy code?This source of cost should not always be minimized. You need a certain level of complexity and integration to make the new system useful to your staff.
  • Scope creep. Are you able to stick closely to the list of requirements you and your partner developed at the start of the implementation process?To prevent unnecessary scope creep, you want an internal project leader and an external partner who can vet all new feature requests to determine if they are truly essential.
  • Availability of internal resources: Are you and your partner able to identify and assign the key resources on your team who know the business processes and can make important decisions? Once those resources are identified, do any unforeseen circumstances make them unavailable?Although proper planning with your partner can minimize this source of costs, events beyond your control (like an illness) can play a role.

What should be the KPIs for a CRM implementation?

The KPIs for a CRM implementation should include

  • Budget
  • Timeline for the milestones during implementation (not just go-live)
  • Fulfillment of the project requirements
  • Uptime of the implemented system (including disaster recovery and backup functionality)
  • Response time for support cases from the implementation partner

What should I know about integration before a CRM system is implemented?

Thoughtful integration is essential to most, if not all, implementations.

If you have important processes in a legacy system, make sure your implementation partner can integrate the new CRM system with it, so that data can move in and out.

Also make sure the new CRM will work together with your existing productivity, communication, and analytics tools. For many businesses using the Microsoft stack — Word, Outlook, Power BI, etc. — this is an advantage to Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM solutions.

What should I know about data migration before a CRM system is implemented?

During the analysis phase, your partner should work with you to define what datasets need to be migrated. There may be some data you aren’t using any more.

Furthermore, it’s important to do data cleanup before migration. Your user adoption and staff effectiveness will be better if your users know they can rely on the data in the new CRM system.

What should I look for in a CRM implementation partner?

Ideally, your CRM implementation partner should meet these 5 criteria:

  • Understands your business model and strategy
  • Has deep experience and certifications with the specific CRM products they will implement
  • Provides technical validation of your project’s feasibility before implementation begins
  • Advises you on best practices and your technology roadmap
  • Assists with your user adoption and training

At Encore, we serve customers as a Dynamics implementation partner for the whole range of Microsoft CRM and ERP solutions, along with the Power Platform.

We also provide training, guidance, and support to our clients for the long run. If you’re considering a Dynamics solution, and you’d like the advice of an experienced partner, please reach out to us.

How Do You Prep for a CRM Implementation?

Learn the most important elements of CRM implementation planning.

Get eGuide

How Do You Prep for a CRM Implementation?

Get eGuide