How to lead a successful enterprise CRM implementation

CRM implementation

Implementing a new CRM can be a daunting task. The successful completion of the project can be accelerated if certain unavoidable challenges are well understood and prepared for.

Business that want to grow faster need to implement systems that enable a seamless customer experience across marketing, sales and service. The CRM is the crucial system that underpins the sales function, helping them keep track of prospects and opportunities, and providing the valuable lead intelligence that enables consultative selling.

While CRM software is not new, it is none-the-less one of the fastest growing software markets today, expected to account for $80 billion by 2025. No wonder then that there is constant investment and evolution in the technology available, its sophistication and the potential benefits of use. The technology moves fast and new vendors periodically disrupt the market, meaning businesses need to key an eye on how their current solution compares to new offerings, and which ones could help them achieve their goals more effectively.

The potential benefits of deploying a modern, connected CRM are great, and user adoption is key to achieving them. The ease of adoption is a direct product of the implementation, so successful implementation is paramount for realising the benefits CRM technology has to offer.

But implementation is hard, and often frustrated by a set of common issues and challenges. Here's what you should prepared for.

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New technology is great, but it isn't the solution to all problems

The likelihood is that if you are considering, implementing or switching CRM technology, it is because you have identified features that offer you greater benefit over your current solution, whatever it is. That said, no piece or software is perfect and none will be the solution to every single problem your organisation is facing - which is something stakeholders can, from time-to-time, lose sight off.

It is likely that other factors, like people or processes, are to some extent responsible for some challenges and hold the key to resolving some of the frustrations you currently have. New technology may help, but can only do so much on its own.

A CRM system on its own, for example, will not improve customer satisfaction or retention, increase revenue or differentiate you from competition - all of that lies in the hands of the people who use it and the wider business. What a CRM can do is help manage the activities that support those goals in a more efficient and effective way.

Processes will have to change, but this is a good thing

Behind every piece of customer relationship software there is an operational philosophy of how a sales process should be run. This probably differs in some, if not many, ways from your current approach, necessitating a degree of change from how things are done today.

While the operational philosophy of any system can be adapted to a certain extent to fit your businesses requirements, this can only be taken so far. There are guaranteed to be times when you need to change your definitions or processes to align with the software. Failure to understand the operational philosophy, and to identify where it can be adapted versus where it cannot, condemns you to working against your software on a daily basis, rather than using it as a tool for growth.

The solution to this is relatively simple. It's to make sure that all stakeholders, and eventually users, fully understand the way the chosen solution is intended to work, how it aligns to current thinking and where it deviates. In a large sales organisation, the ability to educate others and spread knowledge of this is key to the front-line adoption that is necessary to see full ROI.

Process change should not be thought of negatively. New software and processes will most likely enable you to remove friction from the customer experience, remove bottlenecks within teams, and increase sales productivity - all of which can help you grow faster.

Integration is possible, but not a silver bullet

Even if you are taking a platform approach and building out multiple operations on a single vendor's solution, there will almost certainly be other systems that provide a better solution for specific functions. If you want to create a single customer view and provide a great customer experience, integration may be necessary.

Along with the recent explosion in customer experience technology, integration has become much more commonplace. More and more software vendors have public APIs, that allow the creation of bespoke integrations, and third-party integration platforms have increased in number and capability.

But integrations bring their own set of limitations to the party, which must be understood and built into the overall plan in order for the results to be satisfactory. Connecting two systems via integration in no way makes either system aware of the other, so the configuration of the integration and the mapping of objects, properties and processes needs to be planned carefully to satisfy all requirements.

Furthermore the process of integration, except in the simplest of circumstances, is rarely straightforward, with many of the same factors that can frustrate CRM implementation having the capacity to delay or derail integration.

Data migration is complex and foundational

Moving data from its current location, in old systems or files, into your new technology is, obviously, an essential step in the implementation. But it isn't always straightforward either.

Different systems have different information architectures - different tables and objects. An export from an old system simply may not fit into your new one because of these differences, so a strategy for data migration has to be established.

Migration can, thankfully, be simplified by applying systematic object modelling and property mapping between old and new systems - otherwise known as entity relationship modelling.

The entity relationship modelling process doesn't only define how data can realistically be moved from source to destination, it can also serve another useful purpose. It can be used to educate stakeholders about the differences between old and new systems, highlighting the operational philosophy behind the new technology and justifying the need to for process change at the same time.

Training and documentation is key

Even the smoothest of implementations will yield little in the way of results if front-line users don’t properly adopt the new system and follow the new process that have been developed.

Every single person on the sales team needs to be bought-in to the need for the new system, and knowledgeable and confident in their use of it.

For training to be effective, it needs to be based on a thorough understanding of the chosen system's operational philosophy. But training is only a part of what is needed to ensure successful adoption.

Taking care to assemble and document key information in an accessible format is important if you hope for adherence to processes over the longer term. Vendor documentation may be excellent, but it will not be specific to your implementation, hence the need to create some documentation of your own, even it predominantly acts to sign post users to the vendor's content.

Consider creating an internal CRM user handbook comprising key definitions and processes. Better still, create a searchable online wiki with the information broken down into subject-specific chunks that can be found and consumed when needed.

Successful implementation means faster ROI

Improving the customer experience is fast becoming one of the most important priorities for businesses looking to grow. Successful implementation of your new CRM paves the way effective adoption and the ultimate evolution of your customer experience.

If, using your knowledge of these common challenges, you can prevent your CRM implementation from becoming delayed or derailed, you can begin evolving your customer experience all the sooner.

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