The failure rate of CRM implementations is outrageously high. This seems to be the case regardless of the technology or the company implementing the software so it must be fairly clear that this failure is because projects aren’t well executed on the inside. We learned a ton of lessons on this and the big take away for us is that the external costs (enormous as they are), the partner relationships and the software itself are largely irrelevant if the project doesn’t have a highly focused, skilled and proactive team. After failing on this a few times I think we have cracked this now (of course it has nothing to do with me personally although our success did coincide with me getting out of the way!). Here’s my 10 bits of advice about rolling up and supporting a project team:
Assign people who know the business and don’t get bored
If you have people in the business who have been there a long time, understand the future direction and have a passionate attention to detail, these are the people you should assign to your CRM project. You also need these people to be completer finishers or else you’ll end up with a half-baked mess that’s no good to anyone.
Give them the time to work on the project
This is the hard bit – chances are the people you’d identified above are already carrying a big chunk of the business on their very broad shoulders. You need to find a way to give them the time to focus on this project so you should back fill, hire, replace or move stuff around to make that happen.
Don’t build for the business as it is today
During the project you’ll get asked a ton of questions about how things should work. While it’s easy to make decisions based on how things are today, you should try to avoid this pitfall at all costs. Comments like “we only sell in this way” or “our customer always do this” could be the most expensive throw away remarks you’ll make. The normal rules of being an entrepreneur apply here – think big but act small.
Get obsessed about data
If your project is a success your CRM will become the bible for all forward forecasts. It’ll tell you the value of your future contracts, the size of your pipeline and the extent of your marketing reach. It will tell you any lie you want it to if your data is wrong and it can get really wrong really fast. There are people in Learning Pool who are obsessed about the quality of the data we hold in the CRM these days – we don’t always get it right but we do aim for 100% accuracy and I’d recommend you do too.
Engage with the partner
Once you’ve selected a partner you’ve got to stick with them – leaving them for days on end to respond to questions will cost you money (mostly they work on a time and materials type basis) and avoiding thinking things through in an effort to just get something done will hurt you in the long grass. Your partner is on your side so use their expertise and help them earn their money.
As you roll out new functionality and new configuration you’ll be making changes to things that work all the time. It’s really tempting to take the “sure what’s the worst that could happen” approach but testing in a separate environment is absolutely worth the time it takes. Breaking even a small thing can cause you days of pain and make your users doubt the integrity of the system and regression testing of stuff that used to work is especially key. It’s always a pain in the ass, but testing before you go live with anything is worth it every time.
Senior people must practice what they preach
It’s a pretty trite comment that system implementations rely on senior management buy in but when you are implementing a CRM in a small, growing company I think this really matters. We’ve implemented CRMs before and paid lip service to this but with our Dynamics implementation we recognised that we were asking our people to fundamentally change the way they work and how they do their job. The mantra we employed of “if it’s not in CRM it didn’t happen” has caused pain at times but it’s been worth it for sure. The senior team has to lead by example by keeping their contacts up to date, maintaining their pipeline and using CRM to drive decision making.
Decide who’s in charge
There’s only two or three people in Learning Pool who have system wide access to CRM and we intend to keep it that way. Too many cooks, chiefs or meddlers is always a bad idea.
Communicate progress regularly
We adopted an iterative rollout schedule for Dynamics which meant that we both rolled out to the business in phases and switched functionality on as we went. This meant that we needed to keep everyone in the loop as we went along and we were honest with progress, and lack of it as it happened. I’m not sure if this added value but I am pretty certain that without it we’d have lost buy in really early and the project would have been doomed.
Don’t just listen, look at what is causing the problem
There are inevitable gripes and complaints about the system when you roll it out and it’s easy to lose patience with this when you are putting out a hundred fires. One of the things the team have done really well I think is that they’ve sat with the users, listened to what they’ve said and then watched them struggle with a particular issue before addressing it really quickly. The fixes are often easy and when they aren’t, a workaround is usually possible but seeing it with your own eyes means that you have a chance of fixing the problem.
So that’s my implementing CRM experience – thanks for everyone who’s fed back on this mini-series which I’ve enjoyed even if you haven’t! Maybe there’ll be a blog in a years’ time with tales of unbridled success and exponential growth. I certainly hope so and in the meantime, keep letting me know if any of this helps with your own project!