CRM Solution Software

CRM Software Solutions

CRM software blueprint
An Executive's Guide to CRM Software

Top 10 Factors for CRM Implementation Success


Theory and pontification in the majority of cases fail to delineate the reasons why one CRM implementation project is successful, and another results in an abysmal failure. Even despite well circulated implementation research, and guided advice such as the CRM software implementation reports, success results are mixed at best. Legendary examples of success and failure exist and understanding clearly helps provide planning perspective.

CIGNA, for example, implemented an expensive CRM system in 2002. Several years into the project, the implementation failed, and the company lost approximately six percent of its health care membership, a considerable disaster.

 In 1992, Hershey implemented an integrated Enterprise Reporting System (ERP) and a CRM solution at a cost of over $100 million dollars. The system went live prior to its key Halloween sales and distribution period.  Although warehouses were stocked, orders fell as much as 15 days behind due to erroneous or missing customer information, inadequate employee training on the new system, and the misalignment of business processes with the system. The company missed its third quarter projections that year because of the implementation failure.  

How many heads met the block in either case? CRM does not need to stand for Career Reassignment Move.

However, brilliant examples of success abound. The Limited, which owns Victoria’s Secrets and Lane Bryant, implemented a CRM solution which gave a 400% Return on Investment directly related to the new cross-selling features of the system. UK insurer, Allianz Cornhill, increased their quotation-to-sales success rates by twenty percent following the introduction of a hosted CRM solution. The Seattle Mariners’ baseball team implemented a CRM solution which is in use daily by every department.  Seven years after their 2000 project, many profitable customer-driven initiatives are a direct result of their new ability to tailor a fans’ experience. The Mariners’ new All-Star Club program grew out of mining their client database to analyze what fans wanted; prime seats, parking, food and drinks, but without having to commit to all eighty-one home games. Before the club even launched, they had a waiting list.

Done correctly, implementing a Client Relationship Management system results in company-wide shared knowledge, customer understanding and tangible benefits, including increases to the the top and bottom lines. One recent Bain & Co, Inc. study shows an entity can boost revenues by as much as eighty percent if they can retain only five percent more of their current client base.

A critical factor for CRM in particular, is not simply selecting the software from the company’s needs and requirements, but from the company's clients’.  Driving the implementation from a customer’s viewpoint results in the maximum value set for the business. The acronym refers to Client relationship management, not salespeople or marketing or service personnel. No, it centers on the client first and foremost.

Think about it. As part of the process in selecting a CRM system, any smart business should poll the departments involved and develop an objective needs analysis specifying the absolute minimum functionality of the software as well as the bells and whistles that may favor one system over another.  Of course, that’s the traditional approach for any systems project, but for many entities, top management selects the software without consulting all of the user communities and affected stakeholders. Involve the employees in developing the requirements for the system; or face the increased possibility of change management difficulties and user adoption challenges.

Detailing the vital business processes associated with the minimum required functionality is crucial to success. Even more important however, are the alignment of the business processes involved and the development of new procedures across effected departments. Developing a multi-faceted approach to existing operations and improving them prior to beginning the software implementation sets the stage for a victorious solution installation.

Consider the experiences of Schwan's Food Service Group after management gave them the go ahead to develop a CRM action plan. Before embarking on the action plan, the team analyzed the base factor around which a system would be implemented, and after careful analysis of current operations, they re-aligned each process for optimum maximization based primarily on client input and interaction.  These optimal methods became the building blocks for the selection criteria of the software solution, and proved to be the driving factor in a resounding triumphant installation; a remarkable achievement given the size and complexity of the Food Service group. The victory is even more impressive when the vast number and diversity of the client base is taken into consideration. Although, the successful implementation was attributed principally to business process re-alignment, another facet ranked high as a contributing factor, that of dividing the project into small manageable segments, and rolling it out to a limited selection of the client database.

Select the right software using various agreed upon criteria - and not based upon vendor induced capabilities (however dazzling). Software functionality, however, is one of several factors involved in choosing a CRM solution. Of equal importance to functionality is the vendor’s proven success rate, reputation, and stability. The best features in the world have no impact whatsoever if the CRM dealer files Chapter 11 after you purchase.  The Internet is a valuable tool for uncovering recent adopters of software and obtaining information about their experiences. For a publicly traded vendor, data on financial stability is readily available. A private vendor should be willing to share bank references and the number of sites currently using the software.

Delineate a project keeping in mind that the majority of successful CRM implementations are ongoing and broken into phases, which take 6-12 weeks per phase to achieve the projected goals. Be sure to develop a comprehensive, detailed and time-based project plan with resource allocation, benchmarks and work breakdown structures. The lack of a detailed mapping for any project virtually guarantees failure.

Involve the software vendor in the plan. Any reputable vendor will not enter into a contract for a CRM implementation without first identifying the scope of the project. Although the onus for defining the implementation scope lies with both parties involved, the purchasing company and the selected vendor, the buyer beware scenario rules.

The first step of the project plan should be clear identification of the CRM implementation’s minimum goals.  Goals must be specific and measurable to be of value. A project plan divided into short, defined phases is more lucrative than one that is all encompassing. Recognizing the three interrelated departments involved with CRM, and prioritizing the wants and needs of each to the few basic features necessary for initial user adoption is vital. The first and most critical segment should be designed with success in mind.

Clear goals which can be measured must be identified for each phase and each target has to be associated to a specific time period. As a safety precaution, build in appropriate fudge factors for unpredictable events, such as sickness or evolving current events.

An underlying basis for the majority of successful system implementations is executive sponsorship. This necessitates the involvement of key decision makers and these patrons’ patent, publicized conviction in the project. Simply put, if those at the top of the pyramid do not actively and vocally promote the implementation project, it will not be enthusiastically adopted and may not be adopted at all. An executive champion in an unmistakable position of authority that can be the deciding reason a Client Relationship Management system installation succeeds or fails. Of course, for senior managers to promote a project, a certain amount of vision and leap of faith is required, much as it is for any entrepreneurial enterprise.

Correct composition of the project team is vital to project success. An optimum project team comprises representatives from each of the three departments - Sales, Marketing, and Support - as well as any related executive sponsors, vendor consultants, Information Technology staff and other affected stakeholders.  The team must have a clear leader with the authority and ability to make decisions otherwise it will flounder. For each departmental branch, it is common to specify a named champion or subject matter expert (SME).  As an added contributing factor to success, identify time frame turnarounds for decisions crucial to the project’s success. It is rare that a project related decision should ever take more than 24 hours to resolve.

Recognize that user adoption of the software is one of the most vital measurements of success. Gain broad participation early and motivate all employees with this in mind. Tie user by-in by incenting or requiring several key daily activities which force utilizing the software. Many success stories center on the utilization of pull and push incentives, or rewards and rules, to ensure a high rate of user buy-in.

Roll out the software to a carefully selected representative sample of personnel prior to launching it company wide. It is easier to respond and fix issues if fifty employees are using the system rather than five hundred.

Develop a plan for the unexpected. By nature implementations are dynamic, and in addition, the unpredictable normally occurs. There are no recorded instances of perfect implementations where unplanned changes did not arise during the project. Key to success is a detailed change management methodology, which delineates the impact of any change on the project with particular emphasis on budget and timeline creep. Financial and time overruns are two early indicators of failed or disastrous implementations.

Provide adequate, timely, training and support. There is a commonly cited statistic that over forty percent of Client Relationship Management projects fail because of inadequate training and/or support after the software is deployed. Training of the team should occur in conjunction with the implementation and should reflect the dynamism of the project’s progress. The importance of go-live support cannot be overemphasized, and even if an implementation is successful to this point, absence of support once the software is in the early adoption phase may rapidly crash it into abject failure.

Scrub your data early. The underlying assumption of most CRM adoptions is that the data the system utilizes is accurate and relevant. The old adage, garbage in, garbage out, is responsible for many a failed implementations. Prior to the software selection process, scrub the data to be utilized until it is error-free and de-duplicated.

Include a post implementation review plan as a stage of the project with associated goals and an appropriate timeline. Studies show that implementations which plan this review are more likely to succeed than ones without this benchmark step. Although this seems evident, a large number of projects begin without delineating this critical period.

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