Lessons learnt from CRM implementations

Here’s a few pointers on CRM implementations based on disasters, triumphs, lots of subsequent experience and a good dose of common sense. Most of these apply to all data-driven marketing technology, and really, the process of choosing should start with not knowing what solution is right for the business…

It’s the preparation that matters most – there’s no point in starting to research software solutions until:

  1. Project objectives have been set – this stops the project becoming a sales and marketing wish list and focuses it on solving core problems
  2. A detailed understanding of business requirements has been established – what does the system need to do, who will use it, how, why do they need it, who is affected by it etc.
  3. Processes have been mapped – draw them and ensure they make sense logically and that sales processes, for instance, are aligned within the team. These processes will be replicated in the solution, so there is an opportunity to improve existing processes as well as a risk of formalising bad process within the system
  4. Change management has been considered  – someone who knows about managing people through the adoption of a new system is essential. It’s often dismissed as unnecessary i.e. it’s enough to just tell people to use it, but it’s often the cause of failure. Don’t underestimate the degree to which you are asking people to work differently and how much, whatever they say, people do not find that comfortable or easy to do.
  5. A very good specifications document has been written. Get someone who knows how to write the specifications and requirements document to do this. People absorbed in the business, tend to make assumptions without realising it, as do solution providers. Writing specifiction documents is a skill and experience is vital.

The points above having been addressed, then, and only then, start looking for a system that matches the needs that have been identified (keep an open mind – it may not be “CRM” but sales automation or other similar systems that are really required). Do the due diligence on the solution and the reseller (if applicable). Ensure there is a good working relationship with the solution provider.

The golden rule is this: stop Googling, talk to users and think about the really fundamental objectives. Otherwise the risk is being seduced by features that are not needed, won’t be used and more worryingly draw focus from working out the core functionality that is really required.

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