What makes a successful CRM implementation?

Consultant IT Director Ken Hampton has spent his career managing multiple IT operations. Here he shares a checklist of ten lessons learned from working with SME businesses in the UK.

The impact of the pandemic accelerated demand for CRM systems. Companies wanted access to customer information in real time and the ability to connect platforms and technologies with their data. Many SME companies with ambitious growth plans turned to Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) mobile and cloud packages that can flex and scale with their business and customer requirements. 

All business face similar challenges with Commercial-Off-The-Shelf package implementations whether they are CRM, finance, HR, or ERP packages. Selecting the right system, integrating it into your IT architecture and improving your business processes all need to be managed carefully. 

Of course, every implementation will be different dependant on variables like company culture, the package fit, and vendor capabilities. But for every Commercial Off-The-Shelf package implementation there are ten consistent signs you’re on track for success.

Checklist of Lessons Learned

Choose wisely and adapt your business to the system, not the other way round

You have identified ways to increase efficiency and productivity through business process improvement, and selected a flexible, scalable system that meets these requirements now and for future growth.

Know why you are doing it 

You have clearly and unambiguously defined why you are doing this project, what you aim to get out of it, and what it does and does not cover. You’ve included the overarching vision, the detail and business case elements.

Engage key people

You’ve got the right senior management sponsor, and a team of your best middle managers and end-users. You’ve back-filled the high-performers, freeing them up to work on this project.  

Start early and go fast 

Your key people are dedicated to the project early, and move at pace. They’re not delayed by firefighting elsewhere, or by BAU activities.

Do things in a natural order 

You mapped your business processes and made sure you understood the business requirements before you committed to a package or a supplier. 

You made time to evaluate carefully and deeply and weren’t swayed by sales speak and shiny features you didn’t need.

Know what you need, and what you don’t need

You clearly understand what your red lines are. Your sponsor understands the detail and priority of these, and is willing to push against them. You defined your requirements in solution-agnostic terms. You keep ‘minimum productive product' at the forefront of your mind and don’t expand unnecessarily.

Be willing to compromise  

But don’t move on your red lines. You continue to deliver against the vision and the business case. You call ‘a bridge too far’ early and don’t punish team members who speak up.

Match the approach to your culture 

You do the minimum to keep forward momentum while managing project risks i.e. you won’t adopt a bureaucratic formal methodology if your culture is more flexible. (But beware of ‘agile’ as a synonym for ‘no planning’.)

Manage the change 

You don’t skimp on doing what is needed to bring everyone along. You communicate. Often. Train frequently and little. Address the WIIFM  = what’s in it for me and WAMI = what’s against my interests concerns at all levels.

Don’t cut corners on interfaces, data migration, reporting and testing 

These four facets of the project often trip up package implementations, even if the system does what is needed. Don’t skimp on any of them, even though they typically come late in the project life cycle and are often squeezed.

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