The Top Reasons for CRM Software Project Failures
Missing Executive Sponsorship
Missing, inactive or inadequate executive sponsorship closely correlates to CRM failure. Staff and management take their queues from the executive team so it is imperative the executives deliver visible, vocal and active project sponsorship.
I have found governance to be the best tool to aid executives in achieving what they want to achieve, but often aren't sure how to go about it. While everybody knows they need project governance for their CRM project, fewer people understand how to apply specific governance methods that will most benefit their CRM project. They struggle to define a framework that brings both visibility and predictability to the project. Instead, they approach governance reactively and endure mind numbing monthly steering committee meetings.
Governance frameworks should define clear responsibilities for every role, collaboration and feedback expectations for each constituency, meeting cadence, the right communications artifacts, critical milestone reviews and meeting agendas that surface truly meaningful content and lead to actionable outcomes.
A governance framework must also give stakeholders and the steering committee what they need to do their jobs. They need clarity in communications. The need communications that deliver transparency, inspection and accountability. They want truth and they want it early. They want the project team to share risks, issues, concerns and bad news objectively and early – so they can advise corrective action at the earliest opportunity. Bad news does not get better with age. And most of all, they want to avoid surprises.
When you deliver real governance, you empower leaders and the project team to view the project through the front windshield, and not just the rear view mirror, and to be able to proactively steer the CRM project to a planned destination, and not just be along for the ride. Maybe that's why they call it a steering committee.
Lack of Systemic, Predictable Project Execution
Agile and Scrum have replaced waterfall implementation methods and become the de facto CRM deployment methodology for good reasons – they accelerate time to value, bring systemic execution that delivers predictable results and reduce project risk. They also help project teams separate the urgent from the important and avoid confusing activity with progress.
However, it's been my experience few organizations do Scrum correctly. Instead, they use pieces and parts largely based on convenience, ignore some of the more challenging rules and then wonder why things didn't work out. As the founders of Scrum attest, "Scrum's roles, artifacts, events, and rules are immutable and although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum. Scrum exists only in its entirety ..." If you expect to get the predictable results of Scrum, you have to follow the framework as its intended. There are no shortcuts.
Lack of Continuous Process Improvement
Your company's quest to acquire more customers, increase customer share and improve customer retention never ends, so neither should your enabling technology.
Like business, CRM is a journey, and successful CRM programs leverage continuous process improvement cycles to constantly refine and optimize the business software system. This may take simple forms such as recurring training after new releases or more expansive forms such as creating a Center of Excellence or pursuing a CRM maturity model.
Even a relatively successful implementation followed by stagnation will result in a steady decline in CRM usage over time. It won't take long until users and managers believe the CRM software incurs more effort than value, and begin working without or around the system.
Preventing CRM Failures with Risk Management
The overarching strategy to prevent these recurring CRM failures is risk management. Every CRM project brings with it a certain amount of risk, and every failed CRM project incurred a risk that was either not recognized or not addressed. Risk management is the process of identifying, measuring, and prioritizing risks; implementing strategies to manage them; and creating plans to prevent, mitigate or respond to high likelihood and/or high impact risks which threaten project objectives.
While it is impossible to eliminate all risk or anticipate all the challenges that may occur during a CRM software implementation, risk management is the best tool available to reduce the likelihood that big problems will occur, and that concerns can be dealt with before they become crisis. Some common risk management tools and artifacts include a risk strategy and plan, a risk register, periodic risk analysis reporting (integrated to the weekly status reporting) and an early warning system. These risk management work products give stakeholders and the steering committee assurance that they are not going to be surprised by something that may suddenly or negatively change the course of the project.
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When you implement real governance, you empower leaders and the project team to view the project through the front windshield, and not just the rear view mirror, and to proactively steer the CRM project to a planned destination, and not just be along for the ride.