Since starting a sales career in the early 2000’s I have born witness to many different CRM implementations. From my first ‘CRM’ which was a copy of the yellow pages and a box of cards arranged in semi alphabetical order (to be updated strictly in pencil to enable effective editing of the contact records), to truly staggering advanced cloud CRM with integrations and apps touching every business function and every employee.
Some of these have been resounding successes and some unmitigated failures, all have come at a cost to the business. So what is it that makes for a successful CRM? What are the key ingredients which ensure the outlay will reap great dividends years down the line? Conversely, what are the common themes that have seen these projects flop?
In considering this, we should look at how you define a success or failure? At the end of the day success is somewhat in the eye of the beholder – one person’s triumph may be another’s disaster, however there are some basic rules you can follow – Do people use it? Was it on budget? Has it met the goals made when the business set out on the project?
It is of course possible to be far more detailed in any judgement – I have seen various complex formulas for assessing the level of success of a CRM project – scores for the initial tangibles of the project (on time, on budget, on scope etc) combined with vital measures such as user adoption, data quality, process improvement and the like combined into an algorithm to give a final rating of the project. The true measure of success is of course unique to each business and each project – all will have differing goals and will have their own nuances.
Success can also take time – often a change in CRM is also a change in culture, which will only happen with time and effort, so it can be years before a true assessment can be made, and we should not be too hasty to jump to either conclusion – I have seen customer testimonial videos on vendor websites lauding their new CRM a month after implementation – 2 years later i hear that CRM has failed, been ‘ripped’ and a new project started.
In considering the question, and reflecting on the good, the bad and the downright ugly, I have spent time with colleagues, customers, and peers. I have spoken with managers, day-to-day users, administrators and C-Level contacts, and through these conversations, and my own experiences, I have been consistently drawn to three primary causes for success and failure:
1. The level of sponsorship within the organisation
2. The capability of the people driving the implementation (both internal and external )
3. The Technology (software)
While there will be many other considerations, it is a consistent theme that these three factors over ride all others. While researching this, it has also become apparent that, much like my own experience, the most critical of these is sponsorship, followed by capability. Technology, though still greatly important, has marginally less of a bearing on success or failure in comparison.
Given that, over the course of a contract, the technology will usually be the greatest cost to the business, it may come as a surprise that it sits at the bottom of the three. It is undeniable that without the right technology the CRM would not function appropriately (my old yellow pages and box of cards hardly enabled automated task reminders, though with a big enough bag it could be considered mobile!). What has been consistent in my research and experience though, is that projects have succeeded and failed on all the major CRM platforms, and have done so for a variety of reasons – rarely though has the primary reason been due to the capability of the platform its self.
I plan on having a deeper look at each of these three primary causes in the not too distant future. To gain a better understanding of these will, I hope, give anyone setting off on a CRM project some food for thought and help guide their project to a successful conclusion.
In the mean time, I welcome any thoughts on this – what has your experience been?