6 Tips To Minimise The Headaches Of CRM Implementations

According to recent research between 30% and 75% of CRM implementations fail to produce the expected results and ROI. There are many different reasons why this happens, but taking on board the following tips should help maximise the rewards of a future deployment.

1. Know your business goals before you begin

This may sound pretty obvious but it’s really quite staggering how much emphasis is often placed on how many features a CRM package provides, rather than asking the basic questions of what the business actually wants to achieve? It is quite common to see large scale implementations of complex CRM platforms where a company only uses a fraction of the full functionality. From the outset it needs to be clear what your objectives are, what do you want to improve and what are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for measuring success.

2. Ask the audience

Research plays a big part in understanding what you want to get out of a new CRM solution, but many companies fall into the trap of letting just a few people decide what it should deliver. This has two drawbacks; firstly it means that those that don’t actually use the CRM solution on a daily basis dictate what is required and secondly it overlooks valuable input from both users (from sales executives through to customer care staff) as well as most importantly, your customers. Ask them – what can we do better? By engaging with all parties from the outset means that not only will you get a more accurate picture of how you can improve CRM but you will also win the hearts and minds of those that will ultimately be using and benefiting from the new technology. We are often involved in projects where the users choose the system – sometimes this takes a little longer but the adoption rates are much higher.

3. Devil in the detail

Whilst a good CRM system will help you to automate many time-consuming tasks, it is the processes themselves that often need to be re-engineered to meet corporate goals. You need the facility to design the necessary steps to become a more customer-centric business. So whether it’s for managing customer data or scheduling the latest campaign, you have the freedom and functionality to create new and innovative processes to improve sales and enhance the customer experience. Choose a product that has CRM integrated with BPM (business process management) tools for process design, automation and analysis.

4. Why re-invent the wheel

Whilst every new process that you introduce must contribute in some way to reaching your objectives, there’s no point in taking on too much up front. Begin with the technology changes that will have the biggest impact on achieving your goals. You don’t need to start from scratch either, many of the products out there already have built-in off-the-shelf functionality that’s already suitable for your industry or type of business. CRM touches all aspects of an organisation so you will also need to consider what data sources you need to plug into the system. Favour open source solutions that have the necessary APIs to share data easily across different applications from Microsoft Outlook to Google Apps. With SOA you can even extend data from your CRM with a wealth of web services. If you’re looking for a faster implementation then consider a cloud-based solution which can be up and running within an hour!

5. An evolving animal

Adopting a phased approach to implementation will help you to walk before you run. Many companies make the mistake of thinking they can throw new technology at a problem and see miraculous results overnight. Automation can save plenty of time but do not be tempted to over-automate. At first it’s enough to automate maybe 2-3 vital processes rather than trying to solve all problems at once. Those in charge of the implementation need to set expectations beforehand and explain that the CRM strategy will continue to evolve as the system is fine-tuned. The beauty of a process-based CRM solution is that you can constantly test different approaches to see what works best. So if certain steps work well for the company’s best salesperson, these same processes can be replicated across the business. To unlock the full potential of your CRM software you need to treat it as a work in progress.

6. Empower your users

Once the initial implementation is completed its success will largely be determined by how popular it is with users and whether it is simple for them to make or suggest improvements. Of course the right quality and quantity of training is paramount to convincing users to get the most out of the system. According to Gartner successful project managers budgeted 17% of the overall project cost on effective end-user adoption activities. Users are naturally adverse to change, so to overcome any reluctance don’t skimp on training. The content needs to cover the basics of how it works but it also needs to highlight why it will be beneficial to that particular user. For instance if a sales person understands that keeping up to date records will help them to achieve their bonus then it is far more likely that it will become a habit rather than ignored.

Once everyone knows how to use the system you need the ability to collect requests from users and easily change processes on-the-fly. Try picking solutions that do not require extensive code but use built-in best practices and BPMN (Business Process Management Notation) so that users themselves can introduce new steps with ‘drag n drop’ functionality, without having to call on the IT department. If you do your homework upfront and ensure that the CRM has the capability of matching both your user and wider organisational targets, then the longer it in place the more value it should deliver.

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Andrey Dovgan, Business Development Executive at process-based CRM specialist, BPMonline, recently listed in ZDNet’s CRM Watchlist 2012.