My original CRM post was turning into a bit of a monster, so I have split it out. I have been involved with CRM at a variety of stages in a number of different businesses over the years and there are always recurring themes. This piece looks at some key points of best practice for successful implementation.

1. Having a marketing strategy which is clearly aligned to the company’s objectives 

This may sound like common sense, but so many businesses overlook the fact that marketing plans should be integrated into the company’s goals. CRM needs to support the direction the business is travelling in and it there needs to be clarity around how CRM will facilitate this.

Communicate this clarity to the business via the comms plan (below) and develop your roll-out strategy around it.

2. Gaining executive-level buy-in and sponsorship throughout implementation and beyond  

One of the key reasons for CRM failing is that senior management don’t buy-in to it. Equally, when CRM has been successfully embedded into an organisation, the key theme has been executive level support and their demanding a flow of quality management information from the system. Pulling the information up through the organisation via non-negotiable reporting requirements has been the single most important contributor to success, in my experience.

3. Appoint a strong project manager   

The project manager will be the ‘face’ of the project, managing information requirements and delegating tasks. They will provide the interface between the software provider, senior management and users.

4. Understand your clients’ and business needs

The whole process is about putting your clients central to your business operations. As part of point 1 above, take this opportunity to crystallise what your clients need and want from you.

As part of the research phase, really take the time to understand the needs of the various teams internal to your business. This will also link into point 1 above. How can CRM support the teams to achieve the goals the senior management of the business has set?

Process mapping  

Mapping the work flow through a business is key to understanding how CRM will impact each team. This will make any customisation of the system easier. This could also be an opportunity to objectively review how things happen and whether they can be improved.

5. Develop a strong network of CRM champions throughout the business   

This localised support is essential during implementation and afterwards,  providing knowledge, guidance, training and report-production on an on-going basis. Involve the champions from the earliest stages, throughout implementation and beyond. They will be the strongest advocates of the new system and help drive behavioural change.

6. Have a clear strategy for roll-out  

Set a clear vision with clear goals for roll-out. Develop a number of quick-wins around your company objectives. For example, this could be creating a single contact database or proactive pipeline management. Focus on these areas first and implement a ‘step-by-step’ roll-out, which doesn’t overawe the business. Roll-out is an ongoing process, taking months or even years. In certain circumstances, new modules and parts will be continually added. It shouldn’t be thought of as a project with a specific end, because it will almost certainly evolve with the business and will require ongoing updates and training.

Be clear about the fact that CRM isn’t a technology, it’s a state of mind.

7. Develop a robust communications plan  

Any change management programme requires the support of a robust communications plan. The key requirement of a CRM implementation plan is to focus on value, both for the business and the user. Frequently CRM fails because client-facing teams of the business fail to see any value in what they are being requested to do. In the case of construction, this is technical people already busy with project delivery.

Communication channels will range from internal communications, training and consistent messaging provided by the executive sponsor, project manager and CRM champions.

8. Have realistic expectations for the short- and medium-term  

CRM definitely isn’t a panacea for any business’s ills. It requires sustained effort to embed cultural and behavioural change, particularly amongst the team which is client-facing. It isn’t realistic to expect a 100% increase on sales within a three-month time period. Manage the expectations of senior management.

9. Data cleansing and integrity   

If you are moving data across from a previous system, even if it was in Outlook or Excel, check and double check the integrity of the data before undertaking a mass upload. If you do this step properly, it will save a lot of time and you will be starting off from a good foundation. Getting this step wrong will compromise the whole project.

10. Training  

A comprehensive training programme is key, along with the provision of a suite of materials to support users on an ongoing basis. The CRM champions should be responsible for coordinating and delivering training programmes, feeding back comments and observations.