Even before the CRM system is specified, researched, and purchased, there should be discussion amongst all the functional groups within the company that might be impacted, and that will be pretty much the entire company. In these discussions, the previously defined vision will begin to permeate through the organization. Just like any project, if there is no plan to translate the vision and change into a working system, things are bound to go awry.
The plan will include an overview of what has to be fixed and a detailed operational description of how and when to do each step. Key people will be assigned as stakeholders and will take charge of the piece of the project that they control or influence. Goals must be set, expectations must be aligned with real tasks, and measurement criteria has to be identified and assigned.
These can vary in scope depending on their expected impact. A sales manager may set down the goal of having an accurate day-to-day bookings forecast available. Someone in sales administration may want to see clean customer information in one place. A CEO may demand real-time information about, well, virtually anything. CRM is so all-encompassing that each company will have its own unique set of aspirations. The important thing is to get them written down in a plan. That is the only way the success of the project can be monitored.
Success can only be judged against initial expectations because things will change. The original proponents may leave the project or the company; original sources of discomfort may get fixed and forgotten; other needs may evolve and take over the field of view. For instance, a CRM project may have an initial goal of consolidating customer information and improving response time in customer service. The expectation is that if this happens, sales will automatically go up.
If sales don’t go up even though the customer service is much better, the CRM initiative may get blamed. The poor sales could be caused by number of factors and that’s why the plan and measurement is so important. In order to gauge the value of the investment, the company must record all the initial expectations and the frame of reference for them to be judged in the future. If expectations get modified because new barriers are exposed, they must also be recorded along with proposed methods of resolution so the plan is an ongoing review and measurement of progress.
Much has been written about the failure, rather than the success, of CRM projects. Much of the problem can be traced to bad or incomplete documentation of goals, expectations, and action plans, coupled with an ineffective review of progress against those documents.
If changes in business culture are necessary for CRM to work, these must be identified and become part of the expectations section of the implementation plan. That way if sometime in the future the CRM project is faltering because the culture was not made to change, the true reasons for failure are apparent, and can hopefully be remedied.
A simple example illustrates this. One of the goals will be to maintain good quality of customer information with no duplicates, no misspellings, and all appropriate contact data available and correct. To ensure this, the team decides that they will only let this information be entered by one person, a database administrator. But things change and there is no database administrator, and all users are allowed to enter customer data any which way they want. Some do this well, but others don’t. The data becomes quickly corrupted and incomplete, and everyone gets tired of using it. The Implementation Plan would show what the true problem is. Without it, the CRM system would take the blame.
Top management must sign off on the plan and the vision and there should be provisos for what happens if there is a change in management. Often, CRM projects suffer because the vision disappears when the people who carry it leave the project or even the company.
The last piece of advice concerned with planning the CRM project is to not tackle too much at once. Yes, these projects are large, but they can always be planned to occur in a logical, staged order. If good customer data is a primary requirement, do that first, and do processes next. Often the sales team needs to move onto a common sales method ahead of the company-wide roll out to CRM and this will take time to do and discipline to enforce. Identify the objectives, rate them in terms of importance, and then decide if the plan can accommodate a graduated installation of the project.
Next up – making it work.
CRM Implementation #2: Develop the Plan