CRM Project Rescue: 3 Ways to Turn it Around… Fast!

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52% of all CRM projects fail. Want to know how to rescue them?  Keep reading.

The most basic question to ask is which projects need to be rescued.

Does your project suffer from any of these issues?

  1. Late
  2. Over budget
  3. Struggling to deliver the expected benefits (ROI)
  4. Poor adoption

If you said yes to one or more, your project is a good candidate for a Rescue Mission!

Let's discuss the most frequent cause for project failure that I have seen.  This is not a complete list, just what I've noticed in many cases.

The Software Package

Software packages, even the industry specific ones, are designed for a large audience of companies looking to follow a template of best business practices. However, change is difficult and always resisted to some degree, so companies often decide to keep existing processes instead.  This leads to costly modifications and manual tasks.  This will require more budget, increase the duration of the project, and negate many of the expected benefits.  As a result, I often hear the argument that the company picked the wrong software package and, in some extreme cases, projects are halted.

Possible Rescue:  In my experience, the software package is very rarely the cause for project failure. No CRM solution will cover 100% of the business processes.  Where a gap exists, 3 options are possible.  They are:

  1. Change the process to better fit the software.  It makes sense where the process is not a competitive differentiator or where the old process was simply dictated by limitations in the legacy system.
  2. Find a workaround.  Used when the process must be maintained but where the cost to customize the system exceeds the expected benefits.  An example is for processes seldom used.
  3. Customize the system.  Realize that this is the right option for processes that provide a competitive advantage or where something occurs often and will require significantly more resources to handle in the new system.

The Project Manager

Once the project is chosen, the next step is often to find a project manager.  Unfortunately, the project manager is often part of the IT department, has no CRM project management experience, is not familiar with the sales and marketing needs, and isn't given the authority to implement necessary business process changes.

Possible Rescue:  The most successful projects are led by a member of the management team who has actively participated in the software selection. You can either change project managers, bring in a sponsor that has the most to gain from the system, or bring in an external project manager who will work with your existing project manager to help drive the process and reset the project.

The Implementation Budget and Schedule

Many companies set up their project and project manager for failure by setting impractical project schedules or by under-funding the project.  This is often compounded by inexperienced project managers who do not have the knowledge to determine if the numbers are realistic and lack the confidence to challenge senior management.

If your sole selection criteria were price and speed of implementation, know that you may have selected a team that will focus on generating change requests and finding ways to increase the scope of the project.

Instead, also look for industry expertise, expected benefits, and the partner's track record.  A project lasting a few weeks or months longer is quickly forgotten when delighted users quickly adopt your new system and drive more dollars to the bottom line.

Possible Rescue: If your project is consuming budget or timeline faster than it is progressing, re-plan the project.  Now that you are in the middle of the implementation and better understand what needs to get done, you and your partner probably have enough knowledge to define realistic timelines, budgets and expectations.  Don't wait until the end of the project to do this.  It will be too late at that time to mitigate the budget or timeline overage.

Avoiding the need for a "rescue" in the first place:  Taking ownership for your project leads to success

Now that we’ve outlined some of the reasons why implementation projects fail, let's ask "whose failure is it?"

None of the problems listed above can be attributed solely to the software or to the implementation partner.  It does not mean they are never the cause.  It just means they are not the most common cause.

Management and everyone in the company needs to realize that, once the software is purchased, its THEIR software and its THEIR responsibility to implement it well.  Be prepared to lead your project, not to follow your software vendor or consulting partner's lead.  You have the most to lose from failure, and the most to gain from success.

The most successful projects I have been involved with had an informed and engaged management team, a knowledgeable project manager or third party consultant to support the PM and everyone took ownership for the success of the project.

This is not just theory.  A recent software implementation I was involved with and where the client took ownership and drove the process, saw the project completed with only 60% of the consulting budget (40% under budget).  The go-live date had been pushed back to allow for proper training and process redesign, and to make sure the cut over would be successful.  Benefits were realized and the organization stabilized quickly.  There was never any need for a CRM project rescue.

Pierre is a senior CRM advisor working for a Gold Certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner head quartered in Mississauga, Ontario Canada (Toronto). 

For more information, visit CRM Dynamics

by CRM Dynamics Ltd.

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