Why CRM Implementations Fail, and 8 Steps to Ensure Yours Doesn’t

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A CRM system is the ultimate business resource for streamlining operations across sales, marketing, and customer service, ultimately improving efficiency and productivity. Moreover, a CRM is vital for the success of any organization that seeks to continuously build relationships and manage countless interactions with customers. And a CRM also delivers an extensive array of tools that not only support external activities but also internal operations by integrating existing applications.  

Given all these benefits, why do some CRM implementations fail? There are many reasons: unclear objectives, misalignment of business processes, lack of planning and budget, just to name a few. Also, the process underpinning a CRM implementation can make or break it. Therefore, having a deeper understanding of how to avoid a CRM implementation failure can greatly improve your chances of beating the odds.

Let’s look at eight steps to ensure that your CRM implementation doesn’t become one of the unlucky ones:

1. Identify the organization’s specific needs. Identifying your organization’s specific needs, then figuring out exactly what a CRM implementation will accomplish and outlining the benefits it will provide, is crucial. Due to the various options and approaches to CRM implementation that are available, many organizations may be confused on where or how to begin.

A CRM can meet customer needs and simplify business processes, but it is not a band-aid fix to every problem within an organization. Begin by answering the following questions:

  • Are you introducing a CRM for the whole organization or only part of the organization?
  • Does a CRM fit your organization’s structure, and will it satisfy your requirements?

In addition, certain problems can occur during the initial implementation process. Again, having clear objectives and establishing time-bound and measurable goals is highly recommended. Also, identifying operational requirements, processes, and gaps can prove to be vital before an implementation.

Identifying these long-term goals and vital processes can assist in designing a more effective CRM as well as establishing deployment, training, and ongoing support initiatives.

2. Determine expectations. Are you implementing a CRM to improve efficiency? Or are you implementing a CRM to streamline sales and marketing, or other business processes? Reviewing the architecture of your business to determine your expectations is key. You also want to take this time to evaluate and assess what you want to achieve, because making sure business processes are aligned is imperative for an outstanding implementation. Organizations tend to implement a CRM for the following reasons:

  • Make best use of the marketing budget.
  • Optimize the sales process.
  • Gain insights into campaign performance, through analytics.
  • Obtain a clear understanding and view of the customer journey.
  • Improve the lead management process.
  • Reduce customer churn.

3. Select the departments. Will a CRM implementation impact sales, marketing, customer service, field service, or project management? Selecting the departments that will utilize the CRM and will benefit the most from it is essential. Who are the actual users and how will it impact them? Answering these types of questions while thinking through how your organization will coordinate, track, and manage prospects and customers throughout the sales life cycle helps determine the departments that stand to benefit most from a CRM. Going through these types of exercises will help identify the actual users and may lead to an enabled sales department that easily identifies customer behavior trends, a marketing department that fine-tunes marketing campaigns on the fly, and a customer service team that excels in customer satisfaction.

4. Establish a budget. Are you looking to self-implement a CRM or hire an implementation partner? Deciding whether to perform a self-implementation or hire a partner will involve assessing licensing costs, actual implementation costs, and user costs as part of your CRM implementation budget. Self-implementations may be cost-effective in the short term, but as an organization continues to grow, expectations and requirements change, and meeting additional needs becomes necessary.

In contrast, hiring a CRM implementation partner will assist in getting the most out of your CRM as it relates to the design, customization, integrations, training and ongoing support that an organization needs. Also, understanding the various costs associated with the implementation and the features required is essential when ensuring that costs fit your budget. So begin to establish a budget by answering the following questions:

  • What is your budget for implementing a CRM?
  • Are the separate licensing costs okay alongside the actual implementation cost?
  • How many users will use the CRM system? 

5. Create an implementation plan. Creating a robust CRM implementation plan is a significant milestone. Make sure to define roles and responsibilities for every member of the implementation team, including members within your organization and for the hired partner, if necessary. Keep in mind that having a well-balanced team with representatives from all key stakeholder groups—including senior management, end users, and project management—is important. Moreover, include a plan for managing change, the implementation process, data migration processes, integration, testing techniques, training, and ongoing support.

It can also help to ask if there will there be rollout phases. A CRM may be implemented in short sprints, a single phase, or multiple phases. Therefore, clarify the implementation plan and rollout process to all the team members along with the integration plan for existing software. Create your implementation plan by answering the following questions:

  • Have you clearly defined the roles of your team as well as the implementation partner?
  • Do you have a change management plan in place?
  • Do you want to implement the system in small sprints or all together in a single release?

6. Integrate with existing software. Do you want to integrate existing systems with the CRM? If yes, which systems? Figure out how you will integrate existing software to enhance business processes and decide if existing systems will strengthen and improve productivity. A CRM that provides integration capabilities with an existing enterprise or LOB system is highly beneficial. For example, e-commerce vendors may want to integrate their e-commerce website to improve data flow for better decision making.

7. Introduce and train employees. Introducing employees to and training them on a CRM system is imperative. It’s difficult to adopt users if they are ignored. Ensuring user adoption from the beginning will help with the design and structure of the CRM. Understanding user needs and pain points will help the project team choose the specific features that will provide value.

Also, allowing users to provide expectations and feedback will aid in improving the CRM and user adoption. In addition, scheduling training sessions and providing user manuals will better prepare users. Therefore, introducing the CRM to all users and training them facilitates user adoption and improves usability, acceptance, and confidence. Some best practices include these:

  • Informing employees about the new CRM before implementation.
  • Generating curiosity among employees and asking them what their expectations are for the new CRM.
  • Scheduling training sessions for all users.
  • Providing user manuals and asking them to practice and provide feedback.

8. Ensure ongoing support. Hire a well experienced technology partner that will not only help throughout the implementation process but make sure that the chosen partner provides continuous support after the CRM implementation is complete. Maintaining and managing a complex CRM system may be challenging, especially if you don’t have the resources or experts within your organization. A partner that has a support desk that offers a 9-to-5 model or a flexible support model that relates to your business hours is truly worth it.

Final Thoughts

Implementing a CRM can vastly improve your marketing, sales, and customer service processes and efficiency. There are many things to consider before designing and customizing a CRM implementation—identifying specific needs, determining expectations, selecting departments, establishing a budget, creating a plan, integrating software, and training employees to ensure your CRM implementation doesn’t fail. The key to success is careful and thoughtful planning.

Payal Vyas is a senior project manager for Microsoft Dynamics CRM practice at Indusa. She is specialized in Microsoft technologies and ensures smooth execution of CRM projects from kickoff to release.

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