Implementing CRM -'Implementation'

"Implementation" is the second in the Implementing CRM advice series from our Principal Consultant and Managing Director Ian Wallace


This is the stage of many CRM projects that frequently has the most consideration given to it and as a result it is often the easiest to get right.   Nevertheless, here are a few of my suggestions for things to consider when undertaking the actual implementation stage of your project.

Ian Wallace

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Work in Phases
Your team may be be very keen to have the system in and running as soon as possible.  However a phased approach will often make it easier to to deploy your system and allows you to build confidence as you expand its use.  Phasing your project is not always necessary but will often make the project easier to manage both technically and as a cultural change in your organisation.  If you plan to implement a pilot phase then I have a few more comments on these below.
Be Prepared!
To help ensure your project completes on budget make sure your internal team and other staff assigned to the project are fully prepared and really have the time they need to contribute properly to the delivery of the project.  Your internal IT team will be much more comfortable with the new software on their network if they are present when your system is configured and can help ensure that your internal policies are observed.  Equipment which is not present and staff that do not turn up for training will all increase the time it will take to deploy your project.
Keep everyone informed
This may be a big change in your business and must be managed with due understanding of your staffs feelings and the impacts it will have on them.  If you've never read about how different people react to change and ways to help carry them with you, this is an excellent time to look at one on the many books on the subject, my personal favourites include Belasco's 'Teaching the Elephant to Dance' and the (rather heavy) 'Managing Strategic Change'.  I've actually already suggested some ways you can help your team prepare for change in the 'Before you Start' part of this series.
Define Key Roles Early
It's important to define key project roles early on.  On some larger projects some roles of these may derive from a project management framework such as PRINCE2.  Others such as your future database administrator are good practice for a CRM system.   Try to involve staff who will have the responsibility for day to day administration and management of the system once it is fully deployed as much as possible in the implementation.  On smaller systems this may just be one key person but in larger deployments you may have to bring together staff from different departments to ensure a success.  Coordination in this way help to pick-up potential problems early and ensures that later team members will have a good understanding of why the system has been built in a specific way.

Have a change control process
Start a change control process that allows you to review and consider changes that are proposed after the implementation starts.  This is an important way to control costs and keep control of the design of your system.  Its a good idea to keep this going once your system is live. 

Check Converted Data Samples Thoroughly
The conversion of data from previous data sources is a common part of many CRM projects and you will often be offered samples of converted data to check.  It is vitally important that you take the time to do this thoroughly.   Have someone who familiar with the data in the old system do this task.  The reason that this is so important, is that our consultants will have carefully converted your data and made many checks on the conversion.  Unfortunately there are some conversion problems that can only be detected by a person who knows and is familiar with that data.  Converted data can look perfect to an unfamiliar eye and still contain subtle flaws.  The reason you should take care is that it is often very easy to correct a problem at the sample review stage.  Once you approve the conversion and the system is deployed it may be very difficult if not impossible to make such a correction.
CRM Pilot Pitfalls
As a general rule I believe you should avoid stages of projects I describe as ‘pilots’, in particular it is important to avoid pilots that involve one person in each part of the business.  There are lots of reasons why this is a poor way to start.  It is in my opinion by far preferable to have a ‘First or Evaluation Phase’ during which one team or a small but complete part of the business will use the system. 

If a milestone point for deciding whether to proceed further is required in a project – set a timeframe, clear evaluation criteria and phase objectives. 

A First (or Evaluation) Phase:  Requires sufficient analysis and design to be completed such that it is possible to build a unit of complete system.  It is a foundation stone.  It should incorporate the work of an entire team who can work together and demonstrate the benefits.  Once proven, this can be extended in stages throughout a business, unit by unit, building success on success.

A Pilot/Prototype:
should be used for only a limited time, it's usually a quick evaluation with specific evaluation criteria.  Since pilots are often undertaken on a minimum budget to prove a point, at the end you should be prepared to throw it away and build the real thing.  This invites two problems: If the system works well, there is a temptation to use something that was not built to last as the basis of something bigger.  The second problem is you often need to implement most of the system to try it out in anger - hardly an inexpensive way to quickly try something!

Pilots that try out the system by enabling only one user in several departments are usually a bad thing.  The users can not usually use the system in a real way since none of the colleagues in their department share information with them.  All of the departments need to be online before you can start and what's more, the participants may need to maintain information in two systems in order to keep the business records complete for the remainder of the business for the duration of the evaluation.



Read the Next part of this series Getting Results

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