Implementing a customer relationship management system (CRM) is usually a pretty major undertaking for an organisation. A new CRM system is a way of re-stating the way a company works; of re-enforcing how an organisation oversees it’s customer interactions.

As such, there are a few things you should try to keep in mind while planning for, and undertaking, your CRM system implementation to increase your likelihood of success. Those of us who implement these systems on a regular basis can vouch for each of these, and most of us can cite examples where ignoring these tips has made life difficult for both the client organisation and the implementation team!

1. Approach the project as a business process improvement, not an IT project

CRM system projects (like their cousin, ERP projects) that are initiated and driven by an IT team are often, but not always, being done for the wrong reasons. Spending the time, effort and capital on a software project that doesn’t aim to resolve a known issue with your business can be an early sign of problems for the project.

Due to the fact that you’re implementing a large software application, IT obviously need to be involved – your IT team may even have people on it who have assisted in CRM system implementations in the past that you can leverage.

2. Know your goals

To believe that your company doesn’t have process issues is to be naive. Ask any worker and she will share with you ways in which their job could be made more efficient.

During the early stages of your project, it’s critical to understand which of these areas you are trying to address and in what way you wish for them to be changed by your new systems.

A few common examples which can be readily addressed with well-implemented CRM software include:

  • Management suffer from lack of visibility of salesperson activities
  • Account managers don’t understand how the sales or service teams interact with their clients
  • Customer service enquiries are “falling through the cracks”
  • Marketing don’t know when they last contacted a customer (or whether that customer has responded in the past)
  • The sales pipeline is difficult to visualise and understand

3. Make sure somebody wins when the project succeeds

If you have even one person who will really “win” when your project succeeds, they will work hard to get that win. Your potential winners will advocate for the success of the project to their peers.

Winning is easy to identify:

  • Time saved on mundane or repetitive tasks
  • Continual problems with data accuracy
  • Large volumes of work to keep up with other people

On the flip side of the carrot/stick driver, and to a lesser extent, having somebody who will ‘hurt’ if the project fails can cause that person to work hard to avoid the pain. Look out, though: not everybody responds well to such negative drivers.

4. Senior sponsorship and team buy-in

Understanding your goals is important, however if your senior employees and management aren’t interested then nobody will use your new system. Your goals will stay unachieved.

Be wary, this can be referred to as a success! The software was configured exactly to specification, it was on-time and on-budget. A month later, though, you have a server consuming electricity and a bill from your implementation company but nobody is using your system. Ouch.

When your project is sponsored by management, it can give weight and credence to the new system. This can help to build engagement with your team early on. By getting key employees involved in the initial stages of your CRM system project, they can have a say in the direction of the system and feel an element of ownership.

Introducing ownership throughout your organisation helps to prevent staff feeling like a system is being forced onto them with little regard for what they do on a daily basis.

5. Understand your business processes

This might sound obvious, but for many organisations it isn’t until they begin formally reviewing processes that their inefficiencies become visible.

A successful CRM system will assist your staff with their roles, not enforce new rules on them without purpose. By understanding how your company interacts with customers, you can ensure that the system is configured in a way that supports these activities.

That said, there is often no better time to implement change in your processes than when you are already identifying your processes and translating them into your new systems.

Resist the temptation to build a system that perfectly enforces all of your existing business rules without due review – take those staff suggestions on board!

6. Partnership with your implementer

Your system implementation partner should help guide you through the process as a trusted advisor, not simply as an external contractor. You are relying on their services due to their extensive experience: hopefully your partner has done many more CRM system builds than you have!

Every time you go through the process of implementing a large business application you learn something new. Sometimes it’s simple, other times it’s more complex. The sum of these learnings should not be under-valued!

So, whilst you rely on the experience of your implementers, giving them the job and walking away until completion is not likely to end well. At all stages through the process, there should be comfortable dialogue between both parties and a good understanding of roles and responsibilities.

The days of big system builds in back rooms are over. Although many organisations aren’t able to work in a truly Agile way (, iteration and open communication are a must. If you and your implementer are not prepared to be true partners, sharing and collaborating throughout a project, you may not get the results you were hoping for.

Be Clever

If you’ve already chosen to build a CRM system for your organisation, you’re already well on the way to improving the management and visibility of the relationships with your customers and suppliers.

By staying wise, selecting a reputable and experienced partner, and being inclusive when it comes to internal team selection, congratulations! The chances are even better that your project will be a success.

For more information on implementing a CRM or  Marketing Automation System contact us at

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