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Tips To Make Your CRM Project a Success

16 Practical, Tactical Tips for Successful CRM Projects


Analysts estimate somewhere between 30 – 65% of Customer Relationship Management projects fail. (Some studies put failure rates as high as 80%.)

To avoid catastrophe, start by asking smart questions BEFORE you buy. Next, follow these practical, tactical tips for a successful project.

#1 Start at the Top


According to the Project Management Institute, executive sponsorship is the number one driver of project success. Before considering any project, make sure your entire executive team is on-board. Identify a single executive sponsor who will make CRM his or her priority.

#2 Identify Stakeholders


Identify everyone who will be impacted by the project. Common stakeholders include sales teams, marketing, management, customer service and support. Don’t forget…your customers will be affected, too!

#3 Communicate Top to Bottom


Explain to the entire team that you want to improve your sales and service processes, which will include a new Customer Relationship Management system. Share WHY you are considering this project and HOW it will benefit the team. Make a promise to keep your team involved throughout the process, and follow-through on that promise.

#4 Identify a Project Owner


While the executive sponsor is responsible for securing budget and buy-in, the project owner manages the day-to-day activities. The Project Owner (or Project Manager) should be someone who understands the objectives and internal processes. The Project Owner will map the internal requirements with software capabilities and should have some comfort level with the selected software. Because these two skill sets are hard to find, some organizations pair technical resources with business analysts to achieve this need. (Hint: If you choose a simple CRM, the Project Owner will need fewer technical resources.)

#5 Work Bottom to Top


Request input from all of your stakeholders to identify project objectives and technical requirements. Understand those objectives and connect them back to benefits for your stakeholders. (For example, centralizing and sharing contact information helps employees work more efficiently, meaning they can sell more in less time. Also, a centralized contact database decreases the risk to management if an employee leaves.) Prioritize requirements based on feedback from your team; when stakeholders are involved in the process, they are more likely to support and use the system after implementation.

#6 Keep the Users in Mind


The primary reason CRM projects fail is because the end users don’t use the system. Don’t let feature creep outweigh software usability. Imagine implementing a product that does everything you could ever need, but by the time you roll it out it’s so complex it doesn’t get used at all. The solution should be easy to use, intuitive and help the users do their job more effectively.

Break the project into stages, and don’t try to do too much in phase one. Get the basics rolled out, then let usage of the software help drive what is implemented next. For example, don’t create fields that may never be used. Continue meeting with stakeholders and gathering input – they will tell you what custom fields you should add next.#7 Start Small

#8 Start Smart


When creating customer information fields and drop down lists, keep the number of values as low as possible. The shorter the drop down list, the easier it is to use. For example, a drop down list with 40 values makes it difficult and time consuming to select the right option. Remember, you can always add values later.

#9 Avoid Scope Creep


When starting a project, there’s a tendency to want a system that will fix every issue in an organization. Don’t try to make the software do functions it was not intended to do. It’s ok to keep some functionality separate. If you alter processes too drastically to include them in the system, you’ve only succeeded in making the original process more difficult.

#10 Clean Your Data


Take the time to clean up your data before you import it into your new system. There is nothing worse than logging into newly implemented software and finding 3 versions of the same contact and company

#11 Train, Train, Train


Make sure you partner with a vendor that provides support and training. Great resources include live training, videos and documentation. Some vendors provide ongoing, free training and support to keep teams productive.

#12 Give People Time


Make sure your teams have time to use the system. For any new process, it takes time to ramp up and become efficient – make sure to limit distractions during the first few weeks. (Hint: If you choose an easy CRM, the learning curve will be short and fast.)

#13 Keep Communicating


Communicate the importance of using the system. Highlight how stakeholders’ input in the decision making process influenced the selection and design of the project.

#14 Report


Think about what reports you use today and what data you need to make informed management decisions in the future. Ensure the reports are easy to access by the executive team as well as the sales and service teams. If necessary, add custom fields to produce relevant reports directly from the system.

#15 Reinforce


Use the reporting functionality to reinforce usage. Require teams to track activities and tasks in the system and run weekly activity reports. If users keep their “to do” lists in the system, they will naturally use the system to manage their day, ultimately driving adoption. Likewise, make sure every sales opportunity is entered into the system and conduct opportunity and pipeline reviews. Use the system to support positive coaching and maximize the number of deals you win.

#16 Maintain


Inevitably your business will evolve. If possible, choose a system that can be setup, customized and administered by internal staff as your business changes. This will significantly lower the long-term cost of ownership.