Implementing CRM

"Before you start" is the first in the Implementing CRM advice series from our Principal Consultant and Managing Director Ian Wallace

Before you start

To make your CRM project a success it is important that you think about the project correctly from the start. CRM projects are most successful when you’ve fully considered what you want to achieve.  Just ‘getting in a system’ is often quick to do and may give the appearance of progress but it will rarely deliver all the business improvements that were sought, or those that were potentially available.

Here are a few things to think about as you start to consider your project:
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Be clear about your aims
It sounds obvious but if you’re not clear from the start about the business objectives of your project, you may struggle to get your project off the ground.  Ideally you’ll be able to show a direct link between your project aims and your business plan.  A clear link to your business plan will also help you explain the value to your colleagues. Write down your business aims and objectives for the project before anything else.
 
Think of the future
As you define your aims and objectives think into  the future, what will your organisation need to be like in a year or two's time?  Try to take this opportunity to improve your business processes.  Very many systems just make existing processes more efficient, this is usually relatively easy but may not move your organisation on very far.   When compared to your competitors, think about how your CRM might provide the opportunity to change your organisation to be more effective or more competitive?
 
Keep it simple at the start
You may have grand visions for your CRM system, but the more you try to achieve on day one, the harder it gets and the longer your implementation project will become.  Focus on the a core of ‘must have’ improvements that are a part of the bigger picture and get these working first. Consider starting your project in one department or with one team. It’s much easier to build on early success than to try to do it all at once.
 
Gain commitment
To make your CRM project a success you’ll need to gain commitment at both ends of your organisation:

At the top because you need it to be clear that this is an important project and that you’ll have a senior management support for the changes that will follow in the way your organisation works. In my view, Successful CRM is 80% good management and 20% good technology. The technology is the enabler that makes possible new ways of working.

All the way to the bottom, because these are the staff whose jobs will be changed by the system, the sooner you can involve them in your project (even if its just the occasional briefing) the better the buy in you will have. When all of the technologies are installed, it’s the users of the system and their enthusiasm that will help ensure the success of your project.

Remember CRM is about Customers
Its very easy in the initial phases to spend most of the time looking inward at your organisation and the areas of your business you want to change.  Don't forget to look at your project from the point of view of your customers.  What might they want you to achieve with the project?  Perhaps consider asking some of them for their views on how the would like to see you change and improve the way they are dealt with.
 
Consider the Operational Period form the Start
Once your CRM application is in use, you’ll need to find people to undertake new jobs that perhaps you’ve not considered or previously needed.  For example, who’ll be the guardian of your data quality? This will be an important but potentially time consuming job that will help ensure you always have complete confidence in the data in your system.  The important point here is that there are on-going commitments that you will have in the future in order to run the CRM successfully - failing to think about this from the start will either lead to poor maintenance or surprises for a few staff later on when they find they have unplanned work to fit in.
 
Prepare to Review
Many of the benefits of CRM applications can be very intangible and can be hard to measure; you will know working in your organisation, that things are more efficient and working better but the improvements may be hard to quantify. If you want to be able to demonstrate the difference your CRM project has made in a tangible way, then before you start is the time to measure and record what it used to be like. The criteria you use will be entirely down to you, the way your business works and the things that you hope to improve.
 
Understand that CRM is about Management
Customer Relationship Management is just as its name suggests, an exercise in management, it is not something like painting or drawing where the activity reaches a natural conclusion and change stops.  It is therefore something that is an ongoing and live process in your business.

You’re investigating CRM now because you have a need to improve aspects of the way you manage your companies interaction with your customers.  However, because you have competitors and because your business changes from day to day and year to year, the way your CRM system supports your business should be viewed as something that will need to change and develop over time too.  Used strategically your CRM system has the potential to help your business achieve competitive advantage in your marketplace. To maintain this advantage you will need to keep the way the system supports your business a consideration in your longer term business plans.

To get the best from your CRM plan to make the way you use the system one of continuous improvement, avoiding as far as possible fits and starts of change as you react to new business pressures or changes in technology that require you to revisit the way you work.

 

Read the Next part of this series Implementation

Download the 'Getting Results from your CRM' whitepaper PDF version of this series

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See Also: Questions to ask your team before Buying CRM (on Microsoft.com)