CRM Implementation Roadmap

The business case for CRM is convincing. Research shows CRM grows revenues, lowers costs and achieves a 211 percent ROI, on average. But there's one important caveat to achieving these benefits. The CRM implementation must be successful. And that's not as easy as it sounds.

For example, a CRM study performed by Arlington Research found that over half of respondents advised "failings from the CRM system are costing the company lost revenue.”

CRM Causing Lost Revenue
CRM Causing Lost Revenue | CRM study by Arlington Research

According to Statista, only 16 percent of businesses consider their company’s delivery of customer interactions across touch points and devices to be effective. And for two decades analysts have revealed CRM failure rates from 30 to 50 percent, on average.

So, to do better, we're sharing a roadmap that leads to the right destination. This isn't your typical CRM implementation roadmap that sequences the Plan, Build, Test and Deploy phases. This generic approach doesn't separate CRM success from failure. Instead, the roadmap below shares the 8 critical success factors that most impact implementation success.

The 8 CRM Implementation Critical Success Factors

While the tasks found in CRM implementation plans vary greatly, the factors that make CRM implementations most successful do not. Weave these methods and tools into your deployment plan and you will make CRM wildly successful and maximize your business results.

CRM Implementation Roadmap
CRM Implementation Roadmap

Start by targeting the most important business outcomes

Some novice implementors believe simply installing software will deliver improved business outcomes. That's naïve thinking. Business outcomes have to be targeted and designed within the application. And because you don't want to take a boil the ocean approach, they must first be identified and prioritized.

A Design Thinking workshop is the fastest method to identify the most important and highest impact user, customer and company outcomes available from your CRM application.

Design Thinking for CRM
Design Thinking for CRM

Design thinking is an iterative, people-focused design method that applies deep empathy for your users and collaboration among multi-disciplinary teams that generally consist of users, managers, SMEs, IT and stakeholders.

In a one-day workshop the company can firmly identify the application software's highest impact and most important success criteria; measured in user, customer and business terms; and according to the people who will most use or benefit from the business software.


Fully leverage CRM automation

Bad processes are not helped by new technology.

The path to achieve CRM automation is to simplify, streamline and automate business processes; in that order.

Here's why the above sequence is important. You cannot simplify a process before it is consistent. You cannot streamline it until it's measurable. And you cannot automate a process before it is streamlined. Otherwise, you just automate a mess which only serves to achieve poor quality results faster.

Agile Value Stream mapping is a great business process improvement tool. It doesn't just improve your existing business processes; it measures the value of what you do to eliminate non-valued-added steps and redefine business processes to be directly mapped to user, customer, and business outcomes.

Agile Value Stream Mapping
Agile Value Stream Mapping

Remember, business processes must be repeatable and deliver verifiable outcomes before they can be automated. Without consistent and measurable results, automation never rises above an aspiration.


Invest in the UI and UX

The CRM industry is three decades old. During this time the publishers have created tremendous innovation and both wide and deep capabilities. However, if not properly tailored, this results in too much of a good thing.

Many CRM systems have become complex, bloated and difficult to use, especially for part-time users and small or midsize companies.

A Forrester report titled, Riding The Next Wave of SaaS CRM, found that more than half of CRM buyers in small and medium-size enterprises were planning to replace their CRM applications within the next three years because they struggled with overly complicated systems that incurred poor user adoption.

It's important to avoid the common practice of filling pages with features and functions just in case they are needed. Scaling back the User Interface (UI) to eliminate unnecessary fields and content sections and re-sequencing what's left in a more natural work stream order will minimize training and improve user adoption.

CRM User Experience
CRM User Experience

It's also important to design your CRM application for the User Experience (UX). That means advancing from a UI designed for simple and easy to consume pages to intuitive and efficient end to end business processes.

The UX starts with a minimalist view and designs complete work streams that are both efficient and predictably effective (i.e., they are consistent and measurable).

Recognize that more features and functions come at the expense of simplicity and ease of use. Expert designers know expansive and unwarranted features and functions are the enemy of simplicity. When it comes to designing both the UI and UX, less is more.

A CRM user interface is like a joke. If you need to explain it, it doesn't work.

For more information on this topic, see our related article, how to design the CRM user experience.


Run an Agile project

If you are considering a waterfall deployment, consider an agile implementation instead.

Agile is group of principals which promote collaboration among self-organized and cross-functional teams, close user or customer involvement, iterative and adaptive implementation methods, and the frequent delivery of incremental software releases.

Agile itself is an overarching framework. Scrum brings specificity to the agile framework. Scrum is the most popular Agile discipline and is particularly well suited for application deployments. It is a prescriptive approach that defines 3 roles, 5 time-boxed events, 6 artifacts and the rules that define progressive execution.

Agile Scrum
Agile Scrum

Agile Scrum works because it time-boxes all implementation events, plans and measures all activities, and reflects on what worked and what didn't so the team incurs continuous learning and increases productivity throughout the implementation period.

Be cautious if you hear terms like “hybrid agile” or “agile like”. These are made up terms that generally apply select pieces of Agile or Scrum. But as the founders of Scrum advise, "Scrum's roles, events, artifacts, and rules are immutable and although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum. Scrum exists only in its entirety."

When compared to waterfall methods, Agile CRM software implementations offer several advantages such as increased user engagement, increased application ownership by the business, outcomes that better align with business objectives and reduced project risk.

Our implementation experience has been very clear than when you follow the agile Scrum framework and its rules you get the forecasted outcomes. When you cut corners, you don't.


Invest in Organizational Change Management

Multiple studies show CRM delivers a technology ROI of 2-8X. Where adopters fall in that broad range is based in largest part on user adoption. And user adoption is improved with organizational change management.

CRM ROI by User Adoption
CRM ROI by User Adoption | Source: CRM Benchmark Report

Many companies need to change the way they manage change.

CRM software user adoption depends on your ability to articulate specific benefits to the people who use the system. A change management program will define these benefits and role-based WIIFMs (what’s in it for me) and demonstrate how the value exceeds the effort. It's easy to describe the organization-wide benefits CRM, but it's harder to boil them down to the benefits bestowed on each person. That's a big part of change management and why it is so important.

Some of the most common change management events and artifacts include things like a change readiness assessment, Comms Plan, business and technology impact analysis, learning and training tools, post go-live intermediation measures and value realization measurements. These steps ensure resistance to change will not delay or derail project objectives.

Charles Darwin first discovered that, "It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change."


Don't skimp on training

Many CRM deployments make two training mistakes. First, the underestimate the amount of training required. When staff don't get enough training, the go-live event is chaotic, time to value is delayed and user adoption suffers. Second, they deliver all training in a single event. That creates an information overload and contributes to staff forgetting over 92 percent of training content within 48 hours.

A better approach is to deliver incremental training throughout the project. Our experience has been that delivering training as part of each sprint cycle verifies the sprint objectives from the users' perspective and builds confidence with the new application. Another benefit is that smaller training sessions increase content retention.

Also, your training curriculum should reinforce the top user outcomes identified during the Design Thinking workshop and the role-based WIIFMs identified in your Change Management program.

Your may want to check out CRM training best practices for more help.


Apply analytics for continuous improvements

Use analytics to show what's working and quickly fix what's not. Use the CRM maturity model to get progressively more value and payback by systemically advancing your application and the outcomes it delivers.

Information is just as important to the business as products and services. But this is a foreign concept for some managers. The most successful businesses are defined by their ability to collect and curate the right data, use data to create differentiating products, services and customer experiences, and apply analytics to make insights actionable at every customer engagement and decision point.

Converting data to actionable information is a complex undertaking for sure, which is why those who succeed will achieve competitive advantage over those who don't.


Establish governance

Governance is needed to ensure the project is meeting time, cost and quality objectives, the team is unified, and any variances or conflicts are swiftly remedied.

A governance framework is needed to bring structure to cadence, communication, reporting and conflict resolution.

Governance will succeed or not based on the following four essential actions:

  1. Transparency, which shares the measures that most clearly show project status and progress, and whether the project is on track or not
  2. Inspection, which is a regular cadence to review the most essential measurements, vet progress and ensure understanding
  3. Adaptation, to implement changes when results show variances from plan, or to steer the project toward an outcome or implement a course correction, and
  4. Accountability, which ensures each person knows and delivers their commitments

Bad news does not get better with age. Governors want information early and they don't want surprises. To assist we both, we generally use an early warning system that includes the below executive dashboard.

CRM Governance Dashboard
CRM Governance Dashboard

See the 8 critical success factors that ensure CRM success and should be included in your CRM implementation roadmap.

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