8 Ways to Ensure a CRM Project Fail (Part 1)

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Having recently joined the ranks of Gestisoft as a sales productivity adviser, I decided to get involved in a team of highly creative and dedicated bloggers. Let me start by saying – Not only is this my first blog post as a Gestisoft team member, it is my first blog post. Ever. Please make sure to let me know how I do! Twitter: @Gestisoft

With more than 10 years of professional experience in the CRM world of solutions, I have seen many successful projects. I have also seen some major catastrophes that make you wonder how organizations buy and implement CRM

I’m writing this two part article to help organizations make the right decisions and plan ahead when looking forward to a CRM project. Many CRM projects out there fail and when they do, the toll is high.

Some of the reasons why CRM project go sideways are described in the two part article. My goal today is to help customers avoid pitfalls in the selection and implementation of CRM solutions. Here  are 8 ways you can sabotage your CRM implementation:

1. No value.

CRM is getting phenomenal traction on the market today which sparks the interest of many organizations. But that does not mean that you need to follow the market trends as a CRM project is not one to take lightly. A common mistake that I come across is that organizations fail to clearly define the value CRM will bring, no pain, no gain. Having not clearly defined the value of CRM within your organization will either result in a decision not to buy or stalls from the management team due to pricing objections. And if by any unlikely way it does not, it will result in a project failure.

At a very strategic level, the questions that you should ask are – What is the value of CRM for our organization? How will this solution help reach corporate goals? What is the gain that this solution will bring to your organization? The answers to these questions should be your project goals and indicators for success. A successful project is not only measured in budget and time gaps, it is also measured on how it helps you reach your goals.

Recommendation: Before evaluating vendors and solutions, do your internal research, build a business case, identify pains and gains, and align it to your strategic plan. Throughout the implementation, remind yourself of the project goals and the value that CRM will bring.

2.  No project ownership (or clearly defined roles)

Executives often take decisions such as the need for a CRM based on company goals or pain points. Then a team of delegates (a.k.a. The Steering Committee) is assembled and given the daunting task of choosing and implementing the right solution. Although committees and teamwork are exciting things, they can often lead to no accountability when roles are not clearly defined. The next thing you know, balls are thrown around, no one takes decisions, and no one is accountable for the few decisions that are actually taken. This often leads to implementations than stretch and become costly.

One of the reasons for failing an implementation is the lack of a true internal project structure and ownership. It is very important to identify early on, who will be the project owner, who will the team members be, what role will everyone play, and define measurement indicators for each roles. The team is identified at the very beginning of the buying cycle and the same team follows through the implementation and beyond. A team that takes ownership of what they do, is a team that will deliver results.

Recommendation: Put in place a selection committee, ensure that the very same selection committee will be responsible of delivering the project and supporting the solution. Ensure a structure with enough authority to allow quick decision making, clearly define every role and enforce accountability. Diversify the team and break it down with such roles as project manager, IT specialist, project pilot, super user, end user and so forth. The size of the team should vary with the size of the project. In other words, don’t under estimate it, and don’t overkill it.

3. Requirements?

Defining requirements may come as a surprise as it is a very obvious thing to do to ensure the success of your selection and deployment. But still, many people overlook this and the results are vanished budgets with incomplete solutions to show.

I often come across organizations that translate requirements as a set of functionalities that are desired, but it goes much beyond that. I believe that requirements need to be defined on various levels, although functionalities are crucial. So, how do you define requirements, and what do we need to consider?


Have a clear vision of where you are going: Know where you will be in five years from now. Incorporate your vision into your requirements. This prevents solution pitfalls down the road.

Define business processes: A good business process is one that works when applied manually, and gains value with automation. Obviously, replicating your exact process may not be the best thing as newer technology opens doors that may not have been there before. I encourage you re-imagine some processes with today in mind (such as portals, mobility, social and etc).

The global solution picture: Map all your business solutions. Even though you are looking at a CRM, it is important to have a picture of your current ecosystem of solutions and apps, and ensure perfect harmony in this ecosystem. Your CRM needs to seamlessly integrate in the big picture.

Prioritize, again, and again: What makes the success of a project is the ability to meet full expected benefits through predictable outcome. Going for a big bang and expect to deploy everything you will need at once is not realistic. Build your requirements in phases. Align each phase to a company goal. Prioritize the phases according to goal priorities.

4. Choosing a price.

Now that you have decided you need a CRM solution, you’ve assembled your team, you identified both value and requirements, you need to choose the right CRM. A common mistake seen is how disproportionate pricing weighs in a decision process. I have seen business owners outright eliminate a solution based on pricing. Organizations should look first for a solution that fits their organization, a solution that is simple to adopt and manage once the deployment is complete. Good CRM solutions are not cheap, and cheap CRM solutions are not good.

What most business owners don’t realize, is that saving a few thousand dollars now can end up costing much more in the end. A cheaper solution will most often be limited in functionality, user experience, flexibility and adaptability. Hence, the solution is not adopted, does not evolve, ends up down the rabbit hole and so does your investment.

Recommendation: When selecting a solution, plan your evaluation score based on ‘’fit gap” (ability to meet requirements, goals and visions), on the scalability, on the value that the solution offers. Then throw a bit of pricing in there. As there is absence of value, price becomes an issue. The typical reflex ‘’we don’t need all of this now’’ is truly representative of a vision lackluster that will cost you more down the road, as your organization is bound to evolve. Instead, make way for ‘’how can we simplify the deployment of your solution to address our needs today, and not hit a wall in the future’’.

In conclusion, putting forth a CRM project requires planning to ensure it succeeds, and a rigid selection process that takes into account things that matter most to your organization. If the project is well planned and executed, the following part, the implementation, will be much smoother.

by Patrick GouinGestisoft, www.gestisoft.com 



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