CRM Implementations: What Have We Learned?
Document Info Company: Harvest Solutions, LLC Author: Sidney C. Lejfer, President Doc Type: Articles Introduction
The Customer Relationship Management Industry continues to mature. CRM software products have evolved and provide features and flexibility that were only a dream not that long ago. CRM implementation methodologies have been refined overtime, designed to provide cost effective consulting services. Despite all the improvements in both product and implementation strategies, companies have been besieged with failed CRM programs.
What Went Wrong with CRM Implementations?
This is a very good question and there are many slices to the blame pie. Let's talk about what went wrong and what to do in the future.
Insufficient Needs Assessment - Many companies just don't know what they need, nor do they understand what a CRM system can do for them. Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, it all starts with a comprehensive needs assessment. If you have the capability to facilitate this process in-house, great! If not, you need to engage a project manager or facilitator to help with this process. Each department from your organization should participate with representation from staff, middle management, and executives.
If you don't know what you want, how do you know what to automate? For political purposes, it is important to engage each discipline in the process to ensure a buy-in for the project at all levels. Too many companies do not engage a broad enough group of people in this process.
Incorrect Product Selection
If you don't identify what you need, how do you know what to buy? Companies end up with products that either don't have the features and flexibility required to meet their needs or they end up with a product that is just too complicated and expensive to implement. In either case, you end up with frustrated users and a CRM program that will never be accepted by the end-users. It is essential that a proper needs assessment is completed and requirements prioritized in order to match the appropriate software product.
In many cases, you are better off not doing the project at all if it is not budgeted correctly. Otherwise, you end up cutting corners on areas like training and support, which seem to be the easiest to cut but results in the greatest damage to a CRM system.
Implementing a CRM system is not easy. There are so many factors involved today including technology, setting and meeting the appropriate expectations, expanding scope, and corporate politics - all play a part in the process. Selecting the appropriate vendor who can handle the technology, project management, and the other issues noted above is crucial.
CRM Implementation & Development
If one area can blow a budget and cause the downfall of a project it is runaway implementation & development costs. How do you control and manage this area? It goes back to the needs assessment phase. It is vital that you conduct a thorough needs assessment and prioritize the requirements. You should identify a couple of key requirements to implement and develop as part of an initial phase. This has to be a commitment by both corporate management and the implementation vendor. Other requirements would be implemented in future phases.
Pilot Program and Rollout
Another critical point of failure in CRM implementations is an inadequate pilot program and rollout. If a software product is not tested on a select group of people, you could have a potentially flawed product rolled-out to your entire organization. You need to select a pilot group, test and review, and continue with a systematic roll-out to the remainder of your organization.
Many experienced CRM experts feel that inadequate training causes most failures in CRM systems. Your training requirements need to be considered as a critical part of the success of your system. You need to select and train your instructors, develop training materials, and schedule the courses to meet the needs of your organization.Training does not end with one training course. It is an on-going process, offering advanced training and refresher courses throughout the year.
You need to assign responsibility for the support and maintenance of your CRM program. It is too easy to assign your database administrator the additional responsibility when they may not have the time or expertise to support the system. Once the system goes down and there is a delay in addressing the issue, you will lose credibility with the end-users and they will stop using the system.
As in many areas of business today, it is time to return to basics. In order to have a successful CRM system, you need to adhere to a step-by-step process including needs assessment, product selection, vendor selection, implementation, development, pilot program, roll-out, training and support. If you follow all these steps and address the critical factors as described above, you will increase the probability of implementing a successful CRM system.
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