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The Top Five Mistakes that can kill any CRM Project

Implementing CRM in your business isn’t as simple as buying a piece of software off the shelf - CRM implementations are complex projects, full of pitfalls that the uninitiated may not have planned (or budgeted!) for.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a powerful tool that many companies are looking to invest in; either to upgrade their existing legacy capability or even to implement a standardized CRM for the very first time. The benefits of doing so are numerous – CRM lowers costs, increases sales and gives companies real time, detailed views of their sales funnel and customer bases as well as sales force and marketing activities.

My years working with CRM have shown me that while no two CRM implementations are exactly the same, there are certain typical issues that seem to pop up over and over again, regardless of the implementation size or scope.

Here are five of the most common missteps would-be CRM teams can make.

1. Not Picking the Right CRM for Your Business

Not all CRM software is created equal. The CRM market is saturated with packaged solutions, each with its own strengths and weaknesses and vastly different pricing models based on capability. However, picking the right CRM for your business is more complex than it seems. It’s important to keep in mind not only what your business will be using CRM for as well as how your business will be using CRM. Will your users want to track emails and tasks in CRM straight from their Outlook client? Will you be integrating a document management solution such as SharePoint? Will your sales force need a mobile or tablet application to make accessing CRM on the road more convenient? It’s important to understand the real-world requirements of your workforce before the CRM tool is selected. Including thought leaders from diverse areas of the business will not only ensure maximum buy-in and ownership, but also that the tool you end up with truly fits your needs.

2. Allowing Ambiguity or Lack of Definition around Business Practices.

Putting a tool, no matter how good that tool is, around a set of broken or inconsistent processes will at best result in underutilization of the CRM tool, and at worst could exacerbate the existing problem. Spend time on your processes in advance of beginning development and customization of your CRM tool. Align best practices across business units where possible, document your results and make sure everyone gets trained on the new way of doing things. Migrating everyone’s activities to CRM will be a much more seamless process if users aren’t trying to adapt to a new way of doing things at the same time; something that could lead to resistance and unfair resentment of the tool.

3. Not Integrating CRM with Other Key Business Systems.

CRM is undoubtedly an important system to keep your business thriving and growing, but it’s far from the only one. Important decisions about which systems CRM will integrate with should be made early on in the project lifecycle. As mentioned previously, the capability to work directly within Outlook may be beneficial for users who live and die by their email. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are another popular integration point – CRM systems that integrate with ERPs can pull order, product and pricing info in real time, greatly reducing the opportunity for data inconsistencies, and empowering the sales force with more tools than ever to surprise and delight their customers. Transparent, reliable integrations add tremendous value to CRM, and can lead to improved adoption rates and superior user satisfaction.

4. Establishing unreasonable goals.

It’s easy to think of CRM as a “magic bullet” – it often gets sold that way! However, the reality is that a large-scale CRM rollout will not typically be done in one fell swoop, and it’s important to establish realistic expectations with users and leadership about what functionality will be rolled out and when. Many CRM tools are flexible enough to allow for the incremental build-out of a solution, which allows IT Departments, User bases and Partners to bite off more manageable chunks and deliver periodic system updates and functionality enhancements. This gradual approach has the added benefit of allowing users to submit feedback in between phases of the project, empowering the CRM implementation team to take steps to improve the user experience prior to the next roll-out.

5. Not Giving Appropriate Priority to How the Data Will be Brought Out.

CRM is a tremendous tool for standardizing organizational data and improving consistency in capturing vital sales information. However, simply capturing and storing this information does little to improve organizational efficiency or improve sales. To accomplish this, you need to be able to query, transform and interpret your CRM data in an easy-to-digest format that can readily be communicated and turned into actionable goals.

Many of the most popular CRM solutions currently on the market feature built-in reporting and dashboard functionality that may be sufficient for your business. Understanding the capability of your selected CRM system, and incorporating reporting and metrics into your system design will be a critical element in quickly realizing some return on investment from your shiny new CRM.

You may also discover that your chosen CRM solution does not have all the tools and features you need to effectively analyze your data. In this case, an external Business Intelligence (BI) suite may be the answer. Your chosen vendor or implementation partner should be able to go through the various options with you and determine the best fit for your organization, whether that is something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet plugin or as full-featured as a data warehouse suite.

Making the choice to implement CRM in your business is almost always a smart move. However, it is extremely important to remember that it is how you implement CRM that may very well determine how easily the system is accepted into your business. Working with an implementation partner that has experience in the CRM arena and a proven track record of delivering CRM projects on time can help you avoid the common mistakes listed above, as well as many others.

In follow up posts over the next several weeks I’ll be diving into these topics in more detail with additional insight on how to avoid making these mistakes, anecdotes from my experience deploying CRM in companies of various shapes and sizes and of course some insider tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way. Stay tuned!

Whichever route you choose to bring CRM into your organization, be open minded, patient and persistent – remember, anything worth doing is rarely easy! However, with the right mindset and foresight, it can be a very rewarding and enriching experience for yourself and your organization.

Feel free to contact me directly with your CRM related questions at

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