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CRM System Implementaion Ten Points for Ensuring Sucess

May 25, 2008
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In practically every industry, companies that are devoting resources to the optimization of their sales process are realizing significant benefits. Many of them are outselling their competitors by 50 percent or more, cutting their sales cycle time by as much half, working more effectively across inter- and intra-enterprise boundaries, and significantly lowering their sales and marketing costs.

According to industry research, CRM implementation efforts fail 70 to 80 percent of the time, and the cost of implementing a CRM solution can be enormous. The Gartner Group reports that the total cost of ownership for a sales-force automation (SFA) product, which forms one component of the CRM system, can range anywhere from $28,000 to $50,000 per user.

But not all CRM initiatives yield such impressive results. In fact, it is fair to say that many CRM programs lead to mediocre or poor results. The success or failure of a CRM program results from the way in which a company approaches the CRM project. The key to success lies in the knowledge and ability you bring to the project. If you know what real problems you are trying to solve, what possible mistakes you can make and how to avoid them, and what technology can and cannot do for you, you are much more likely to succeed. Adhere to the following ten precepts for successful CRM implementation.

1. Gain Top Management Support and Commitment

CRM is not a grassroots initiative. Since it is an all-encompassing strategy, it must come from the top. No one department, call center, or IT manager can drive the cross-functional changes required.

Because CRM involves multiple areas within a company, it is important to get support from all the departments of the company, including sales, marketing, support, finance, manufacturing, and distribution. Only top management would have the clout necessary to get the representatives of various departments working together cooperatively.

Successful CRM projects are ones that are taken extremely seriously. If your top management does not absolutely believe that successfully redesigning your sales process is one of the most important strategic challenges your company faces, then don’t even start your CRM project.

It is the top management which must provide leadership, motivation, and oversight at every phase of the CRM development. A recent study from CRM Today has shown that CEOs are directly involved in successful CRM initiatives more than 40 percent of the time.

2. Create a Full-Time, Dedicated Project Management Team

A CRM initiative is a major undertaking; it requires the full-time appointment of a project management team for the duration of the project. The project management team must form the nucleus of the CRM effort, make key decisions and recommendations, and help communicate the details and benefits of the CRM program to the entire company. For the project management team to be effective, it should include active representatives from top management, sales and marketing, IT department, finance, and members of ultimate user groups.

Each team member should try to formulate the ideal CRM system from the point of view of the work group of which he/she is a member.

You must also seriously consider adding an outside CRM expert to your project management team. This outside CRM expert could be a business consultant or a CRM system vendor. His/her experience can provide a valuable source of objective information and feedback.

3. Allocate Sufficient Budget for the CRM Project

Trying to implement a CRM program as cheaply as possible is another mistake companies come to regret. Often, funding for CRM initiatives isn’t included in the annual IT budget when companies kick off their project. It is therefore tempting to take a low-cost approach to the problem, so as not to cause any waves in the current fiscal year plan.

This approach is extremely prone to failure. Slow hardware response time can turn users off to the point where they refuse to use the system. Part-time programming projects are seldom completed satisfactorily. And buying the lowest-cost technology rarely results in the right choice.

It is worthwhile noting that a standard guideline for estimating the cost of your CRM project is to allow one-third of the total cost for software and two-thirds of the total cost for consulting, implementation, and training.

4. Get Bottom-Up Buy-In From System Users

A critical pitfall to avoid is focusing too much on process and technology, and not enough on the people who will be using the system. Get users involved early in the process to make sure that your CRM automation system addresses their needs. It is tempting to let IT or a few computer-literate users design the system interface in order to complete the project faster. What you are likely to end up with is a system that they, not the users, think is easy enough to use.

The last thing you want is a system that all users loathe. Experience shows that when users are satisfied and comfortable with the final CRM system, the prospect for long-term CRM success is greatly enhanced. Users must evaluate any potential CRM system based on the following criteria:

  • Is it easy to learn?

  • Is it easy to use?

  • Will it save time and increase sales productivity (i.e. will it help them attain their goals more quickly)?

  • Will it simplify contact and enhance communication with customers?

5. Determine the Functions to Automate

Too often, project teams jump directly into the technology of the CRM initiative without first assessing their current processes and determining what exactly needs automating. If you miss this very crucial step, what you might end up with is ways of doing inefficient and ineffective things faster than you have ever done them before. Effective automation must start with a CRM automation audit. The purpose of the audit is to identify the business functions that need to be automated and determine the technical features that are required to automate these business functions.

Prepare questionnaires and conduct face-to-face interviews with salespeople, marketing personnel, customer support staff, and managers to elicit their thoughts on how to improve their work processes. Remember that the people doing the job often know ways to do it better. Take time to work with them and you will learn what needs automation.

6. Employ Technology Smartly

Because no two companies are alike, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” CRM solution. It is, therefore, critical that the selected technology be customizable, open, and capable of integration with the existing computing infrastructure of the organization. Choose information technology and systems that utilize open architecture so that you can enhance and enlarge the system over time without too much difficulty. Look for software applications that are modularized and can easily be integrated into or interconnected with your existing information databases. To accommodate future changes, be sure the technology you select can easily be customized as well as modified.

For firms conducting business between the field and regions or headquarters, or across regions, select software applications that are network compatible and that permit easy data synchronization between field computer and information held on regional or headquarter computers.

7. Test before You Leap

Prototyping your CRM automation system facilitates the phasing in of new technology by allowing you to:

  • Experiment on a smaller and less costly scale.

  • Test the system’s functionality.

  • Highlight required changes in organizational procedures.

  • Demonstrate in advance that objectives can be met.

Rapid prototyping software development tools are available to help you accomplish these tasks.

8. Train Users

Over the life of your sales and marketing automation system, training will end up costing on average one-and-a-half times the cost of sales and marketing automation system hardware and software. Budget for training accordingly, and remember that the best way to foster good work habits is via effective training.

Training should include the following objectives:

  • Demonstrate to users how to access and utilize the needed information.

  • Ensure that users are provided with documentation that is easy to understand and up-to-date.

  • Offer online tutorials.

  • Provide a telephone help line for the users.

  • Ensure that new users can quickly be up and running on the system.

9. Keep Users Committed

Your CRM initiative simply must succeed to ensure the long-term viability of your organization. Keep the users motivated by showing them how the CRM automation system helps them more easily attain their objectives and how it impacts the company’s bottom-line.

While it is important to motivate the people to use the CRM system, don’t make the mistake of being too diplomatic. Do not accept anything less than 100 percent user buy-in. Make it clear that using the CRM system is not an option, but a requirement of employment. As soon as you let a single person get away without using the system, your CRM project will begin to flounder.

10. Keep Management Committed

Your project management team should brief top management on a quarterly basis concerning the status of the your CRM automation systems project. It should report successes, failures, future needs, and growth to ensure that the CRM automation process stays on track

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 25, 2008 10:03 pm

    Can you tell me who did your layout? I’ve been looking for one kind of like yours. Thank you.

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