Ready, set, transform: Tips for a successful CRM transformation engagement

Successful CRM implementation is within your grasp.

By [email protected] April 9, 2019
James McKay is Simplus Sales Director for NSW based in Sydney.

Have you heard the term “digital transformation” being used a lot lately? Chances are, the answer is “yes.”

To meet business and competitive pressures in the current marketplace, the demand to improve operational performance from CRM programs has grown significantly. In 2018, for example, CRM software worldwide totalled $27.7 billion–a 15.3 percent increase from 2015. This can be a tricky proposition, whether you are migrating from one platform to another, looking to optimise your existing CRM program, or implementing for the first time. Navigating the CRM ecosystem and developing the business case for change requires careful planning and, at times, painful soul searching. 

Much has been documented about the significant failure rates of CRM implementations, so here are some helpful tips to plan for a successful CRM transformation engagement.

1. Avoid rip-and-replace thinking. 

Just like it sounds, this lazy strategy is an admission that your existing CRM platform is too restrictive and inflexible. Replacing an antiquated system with the latest technology will not solve your problems. The same challenges of the old system will continue to manifest in the new system. 

As you contemplate the next steps for your program, take advantage of this opportunity to identify existing business and IT challenges that are not CRM-related. Do some internal housekeeping to help standardise or harmonise core business processes, improve operational efficiencies, and refine your long-term IT strategy. These business improvements will drive clarity for your program and help feed the design of your new solution.

2. Align executive stakeholders and build the business case. 

Expectations and opinions will vary across different executives on how your CRM program should evolve relative to their area of leadership responsibility. Program consensus is key, so build the business case to create a program charter with core guiding principles that leadership can stand behind and sponsor. The business case for CRM should be directly linked to your organisation’s overall corporate strategy. Set clearly defined business goals, objectives, targeted business outcomes, and well-defined metrics to measure program success. Executive alignment, along with a well-defined business case and program charter, will set a clear direction and path on how your CRM program will evolve over the course of 6–18 months.

3. Define the art of the possible. 

The depth and breadth of the CRM ecosystem and its capabilities are far and wide. CRM supports capabilities across many different functions—sales, marketing, service, analytics, supply chain, cash-to-quote, communities, contract lifecycle management, field service, mobile, etc. Unless you are a CRM expert, you may not fully understand the level of capabilities a CRM program can provide. Research different CRM platforms or use a CRM consulting firm to help navigate through the ecosystem and drive clarity in enabling capabilities that can solve business problems and process inefficiencies. Review the state of your current processes to identify pain points and challenges and identify areas of improvement. Use these findings to help identify and prioritise business capabilities that can be enabled by a CRM solution. 

4. Focus on adoption. 

“If you build it, will they come?”

This is a good question to ask yourself when planning for CRM transformation. Just because you design the Mercedes-Benz of all CRM solutions does not necessarily mean that end users will embrace it. In fact, if you build it, there is a good chance they may not come. Seventy percent of all failed CRM projects result from a lack of user adoption. CRM transformation is multi-dimensional and not just about turning on technology. Do not lose sight of the business impact of people and process. These two dimensions will help drive end-user adoption and acceptance and support the solution you deliver. 

Implement a robust change management strategy that can help align the organisation (top to bottom) on the expectations of the new program. 

  • Conduct a readiness assessment to determine how well prepared your organisation is to take on this new change. 
  • Conduct an adoption assessment to evaluate your current CRM program. 
  • Conduct focus groups and workshops or develop an online survey to determine the pulses of end users: How do they feel about their current program? What do they like? What don’t they like? Is it intuitive and easy to use? How can we make improvements? Are current processes clearly defined? 

Use your findings not only to help solve your CRM program but also to help develop a tactical change management plan, as well. The plan should outline all the organisational change activities that should occur during your CRM engagement, including stakeholder alignment, communication planning, engagement activities, adoption metrics, end-user training development, and delivery. Incorporating a robust change management plan as part of your CRM implementation plan will significantly increase the probability project success.

The pressure to improve operational performance shows no sign of slowing down. But do not panic. Instead of building from the ground up, retool what you already have, build a business case for it, look for help, and focus on your users. Your organisation will be smoothly sailing toward digital transformation in no time. Get in touch to see how we can help simplify your CRM journey.

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