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CRM Implementation Readiness Assessment

CRM Software Implementation Readiness Assessment
This customer relationship management (CRM) software implementation readiness assessment is based upon
fundamental lessons learned, critical success factors and influencing causes contributing to both successful
and unsuccessful CRM implementations. We've been updating this readiness assessment for almost four years
based upon our own experiences and the comments of many web site visitors. The most recent updates place
an emphasis on the web-based, software as a service (SAAS) CRM applications.

Are You Prepared for the Challenges of CRM Software Implementations?
The below characteristics are extremely common among failed CRM implementations. Recognizing them in advance
and identifying them at their earliest signals will permit effective mitigation and the elimination of project surprises.

  1. Inadequate implementation planning -   Failed implementations are normally associated with reactive
    decision making and lack of long-term planning. To mitigate these factors, all implementations should initially
    consider proven implementation methodologies, approaches and processes, including the following:
    • A project charter with clear vision, defined scope and executive authority
    • An identified project team with documented roles and responsibilities
    • An implementation and project management methodology
    • A specific and documented multi-phase implementation process supported by a detailed project plan
    • A Change Management Program (CMP) and Change Control process
    • A Risk Mitigation identifier, process and supporting tool set
  2. Poor project management -   Missing, incomplete or inexperienced project management is often a user-cited cause of failed implementations. Project management critical success factors include conformance to a proven implementation methodology, utilization of well thought through project plans, periodic receipt of executive sponsorship (from the steering committee), constant motivation of the project team members, staffing the project with expert consulting resources and a relentless focus on the closure of open items and lingering issues. The combination of these factors will promote the achievement of an organized and repeatable approach to delivering implementation project success. An experienced project manager will:
    • Maintain scope and prohibit 'scope creep' or unofficial scope changes;
    • Manage the project proactively and use metrics to measure progress and drive continuous improvements;
    • Respond quickly and efficiently to internal or external reported incidents or deviations;
    • Deliver the speed and predictability of an on-time, on-budget project coupled with a solution configured to the desired way of doing business and which achieves predicted results.
  3. Poor quality data for data conversion -   Garbage data from a prior system or legacy application is a common discovery. Verify the quality of data for conversion to the new on-demand CRM application early. Until you know otherwise, assume the data is of poor quality and will require data scrubbing before upload to the new system. Also recognize the scrubbing of data is a laborious process which consumes significant time.
  4. No provision for offline connectivity -   Although the Internet has become the preferred communication backbone among decentralized and global organizations, users are sometimes away from online connectivity and preparation must be made for offline or disconnected utilization as well as subsequent synchronization. Several visitors have expressed words of caution and frustration in this area. Although some SaaS CRM vendors simply redeploy their online CRM system to a local PC, the accompanying installation of a database and/or Web server on a fleet of PC's normally becomes unbearable in terms of support (for both the support sources and the users). Similarly, the Oracle On Demand approach of downloading online CRM data to formatted Excel spreadsheets or utility programs is a cheap and fast method, however, results in a loss of data integrity, security and functionality as well as presents the users with a different user interface (UI) and new learning curve.
  5. Integration difficulties -   Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) and XML web services have become the de facto standard for relatively simple CRM to legacy systems integration. Be wary of APIs for integration purposes. APIs continue to work, however, risk data integrity if not predicated with thorough business rules (which is normally the case) and are generally not as cost-effective when considering time for integration and recurring maintenance. Web services integration is generally more flexible and cost effective. Based on whether integration is inside or outside the firewall, you can determine how loosely coupled the XML can be and thereby lessen maintenance associated with future upgrades.
  6. Challenged user adoption -   User adoption is almost always a challenge in CRM implementations - particularly with sales staff - and often with the most senior sales staff. Mitigation techniques for this common challenge include strong executive sponsorship, key user testimonials, early and broad participation from user groups and financial incentives.
  7. Failure to identify change management -   For an organization to succeed at operational and organizational change, the project manager is well advised to implement a change management method which communicates change notices in a progressive approach and tactfully remediates those users who refuse to change. In many implementations, managing change of both systems and business processes can be one of the greatest challenges. To mitigate change obstacles:
    • The implementation approach must include a CMP (Change Management Program) which identifies potential resistance and creates a plan for change obstacles and incorporates as needed formal change management mitigation strategy.
    • Turn those affected into motivated creators and effect positive change in the minds of the key staff. Promote the conditions for the organization and employees so that they can take responsibility for shaping their own future. Recommend incentives as the effectiveness and efficiency of the CRM implementation increases with the active participation and positive attitude of the employees.
  8. Unorganized training -   Unorganized user training is a very strong contributing factor to troubled user adoption. User training should be performed by extremely knowledgeable resources, follow a well organized curriculum, leave the attendees with reference materials and use a survey to discover what went well and didn't go well in the training classes. Negative survey comments should be immediately followed-up with follow-on training or other response.
  9. Over customization -   Too much software customization is an extremely common factor identified in failed CRM software implementations.
  10. Insufficient bandwidth -   Bandwidth considerations much be analytically considered and measured in advance of go-live. Bandwidth continues to be the lowest common denominator with an Internet infrastructure. Page sizes, asynchronous transfer, query processing times, data volumes and file sizes must all be measured to ensure sufficient bandwidth. Consult your particular CRM vendor for specifics with their application. Also remember that slow online performance increases user frustration and decreases user adoption.