Successful CRM Implementation #1: Getting it right first time

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Over the years my team has been involved in a large number of CRM implementations to all types and sizes of company. I think we’ve done a good job overall. One reason for this is our CRM technology was developed for running our own sales distribution company – we learned on the job.But still, today, over twenty years since the idea of CRM was first developed lots of CRM projects are failing or not getting the traction they deserve.

The next four posts are from material we wrote a few years ago, tuned up for changes that have occurred since then (although there haven’t been many.)

If you are just getting into CRM or having a rethink on how your current system is working these posts will be of interest.

Keith Thompson
Sept 13, 2016


According to CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Study, full adoption of CRM systems has dropped almost 20% in the last decade. This at the same time when 80% the surveyed companies have implemented CRM for their sales team. The importance of getting it right the first time has never been greater. It starts with selecting the right system, but the best system in the world is only as good as your implementation.

This paper looks at the critical hurdles to successful sales automation as part of your CRM implementation. It’s possible to buy a complete book on what the next few posts will cover, so don’t consider it as an exclusive guide to getting things right.

CRM systems have been labeled as transformative technology because they literally transform business culture and the way companies operate. Not only is information free-flowing and available to everyone, but processes become well-defined and smooth—they have to be, because they are electronically enabled. If your implementation is for a replacement CRM system then you already know this, and you have probably discovered many or even all of these hurdles.

And you know that implementation won’t be pleasant if the CRM project is poorly planned or spins out of control. To preclude either of these outcomes, the existing state of the business has to be reviewed in detail to see how the new technology will fit. Bad procedures have to be cast aside and effort given to developing new ones that will work with technology.

In this first post, we’ll look at the vision for successful CRM implementation and how to develop, share, and revise it as you go. Secondly we’ll dive into the all-important implementation plan, probably the most important element of your program. The third installment will then discuss reviewing and changing processes, your new and cleaned-up database, laying down rules, sharing the plan, monitoring progress, and timely corrective action.

And finally, because there are so many guides like this that give you a nice, general view of what needs to be done without the nuts and bolts of doing it, we’ve added a checklist in the final installment so you have a specific task list when you start down the obstacle-filled road of CRM implementation.

Lock in the Vision

Because CRM technology influences every nook and cranny of an organization, it’s important that everyone touched by it is made aware of the changes that might affect them. There should be a carefully documented and well-broadcast vision of the company after the transformation has occurred. A large enterprise will do this through a committee, while a smaller company may rely on the vision of just one or a few top executives or managers.

The main focus of the vision should be on why change is necessary, and the answer will likely be because things are not working well at present. The decision to change is usually not immediate; rather, the impact of imperfect processes, data, and communications develops over a period of time until it is clear that something must be done.

So to start, people are dissatisfied with current processes and systems and CRM is being introduced to fix that. This is why the vision must be written down at the beginning of the project, and must include a clear description of the problems and issues that provoked the change, along with the expected improvements at completion. The vision becomes an important part of the implementation plan.

And that leads us to the next installment – Develop the Plan.

CRM Implementation #1: Getting It Right the First Time

CRM Implementation #2: Develop the Plan

CRM Implementation #3: Make It Work

CRM Implementation #4: The Checklist

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