Critical Considerations for Successful CRM Software Implementation
The success (or failure) of software implementation at the enterprise level can have a significant impact on the bottom line. As critical as this is for companies, the implementation and subsequent adoption of that software are often at the mercy of disorganized and/or broken processes and planning schedules—not to mention an ever-evolving environment wrought with post-pandemic challenges, an impending recession, political turmoil… the list goes on.
This is especially true for CRM software implementations. If implemented incorrectly, it could result in several negative consequences for the business. For example, some significant risks we see most often revolve around user adoption. In the interest of getting up and running quickly, many enterprises focus only on the technology aspect of their implementation. There’s little time to focus on people and processes, and user adoption suffers. As a result, the technology doesn’t deliver the outcomes the company needs, and millions of dollars go to waste.
There is, however, a better way. It starts with meeting that risk head-on by addressing people and processes. You must identify the people that will be using the platform, and how they will need to leverage it on day one and beyond, as well as what their current processes are and how those will be impacted in the future. Then—and only then—can you determine how the technology solution will enable those changes and ultimately lead to a successful implementation.
Why Every Enterprise-Level Organization Needs an Optimal Software Implementation Strategy
The ultimate objective of any implementation, especially a CRM implementation is to free up time so sales, marketing, and customer support teams can focus on more strategic work. With more time dedicated to strategic work, go-to-market (GTM) teams can drive growth and increase revenue. Realizing that objective starts with the implementation process.
A well-executed software implementation project plan allows your enterprise to automate manual processes, streamline data capture, and improve handoffs between various teams and departments. These benefits manifest into an improved customer experience that can increase retention and streamline the acquisition of new customers.
To help paint the picture, if the implementation is executed incorrectly, it can result in the following issues:
- User frustration and dissatisfaction: When a CRM isn’t implemented with users in mind, or when users aren’t trained on how to properly use it, adoption rates and employee morale suffer. This can result in decreased productivity, a lack of buy-in from key stakeholders, and negative ROI.
- Data corruption and/or loss: Poor integration practices, incorrect settings, and a lack of data governance can cause data quality issues. Fixing these issues can quickly become a costly, time-consuming process.
- Underutilization of features: A dissatisfied user base is a disengaged user base. Depending on your CRM and implementation process, certain features may come at an additional cost. When those features go unused because of poor implementation, it leads to suboptimal performance.
- Security breaches or data leaks: While Salesforce and other leading CRMs come with robust out-of-the-box security features, they need to be augmented by security practices (such as limiting user access) and considerations for securing integrations and customizations. Without these considerations, data breaches can result in severe legal and financial consequences for the business.
These implementation pitfalls undermine your ability to realize the full ROI of the system. Instead of being a tool for accelerating growth and easing day-to-day workflows, it becomes another headache that users have to work around instead of with. It’s also costly—according to the Consortium for Information and Software Quality, poor software quality cost the United States $2.08 trillion in 2020 alone.
4 Considerations for CRM Software Implementation
Any CRM software can solve business challenges, but it isn’t as simple as plug-and-play. Implementing a CRM system requires careful planning and execution to ensure a smooth and successful launch. These are the elements of a successful process.
1. Software Implementation Project Planning and Preparation
Planning and preparation is critical to effective change management. It can be tempting to skip this step, especially when you already have a CRM in place. However, the software implementation process is an opportunity to rethink your current state and gather feedback from users on how to make the CRM effective for them.
To create your software implementation project plan, take the following steps:
- Gain consensus on the problems this implementation is trying to solve for and the scope to be addressed. This process will likely involve stakeholders from sales and marketing, as well as contributions from finance, operations, and any other departments that may interact with the CRM. This is an important step for ensuring the CRM meets the needs of your diverse user base.
- Develop a project charter that aligns project resources on the core business and technical objectives of the implementation. The project charter will act as your North Star. As you work with various stakeholders from different departments, you may need to reference the charter to help guide decision-making and resolve conflicts.
During this stage, it’s also important to ensure the proper executive sponsorship is in place and project resources are identified, with roles and responsibilities understood. Throughout the software implementation process, the executive sponsor will ensure that the project receives the attention and resources needed for success.
- Develop a project plan and timeline, outlining deliverables and due dates.
- Identify current and future users of the tool. Select champions or super users early in the process who will help drive user adoption.
- Document current and future state use cases and business requirements. While you may not know all of your potential future use cases, it’s a good idea to start thinking about them now. When you enter the selection and evaluation phase, you want to look for tools that are flexible enough to meet those future needs.
- Document current state technical designs to inform future state solution designs. With your current solution, how does data flow from system to system? Are there any APIs in place? What about security features? Documentation is especially important if you’re reliant on one person to be the keeper of this information. Taking the technical design from their head to an easily accessible single source of truth ensures that all parties involved in implementing the CRM system are on the same page.
- Document future state technical solution design to inform tool selection and evaluation.
2. CRM Solution Selection and Evaluation
Once you have established your requirements, use cases, and expected outcomes, you can start looking for a CRM solution that meets your needs.
- Identify and evaluate products and solutions against documented use cases and technical and functional requirements.
- Compare features and functionality of a CRM’s offerings and how easily it can expand to meet the needs of the business.
- Assess vendor support and service options.
- Determine budget and costs.
3. Deploying and Implementing the CRM
After selecting a solution, it’s time to begin the hands-on aspect of implementation. The steps of this phase are fairly straightforward, but there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth software implementation process.
- Install and configure software. While many CRMs are customizable, it’s important not to over-customize. Taking a configuration-first approach reduces the complexity of your CRM, which makes it easier to maintain and update in the future.
- Train and educate users and stakeholders on usage. This step is just as important as the installation and configuration process. According to Salesforce and Forrester, CRM users say better onboarding and training is the most powerful way to improve the effectiveness of the CRM.
- Migrate existing data into the CRM.
- Test and QA to ensure the system is working properly.
4. Maintenance and Support
After implementing the CRM, you will need to plan for ongoing maintenance and support. This includes dealing with day-to-day troubleshooting as well as performing major updates:
- Perform regular system and security updates. Many CRMs provide best-in-class security features, but it’s also up to the customer to protect the data stored in the system. On an ongoing basis, you will need to monitor the latest updates, perform regular health checks, and train users to practice safe CRM usage.
- Monitor and optimize performance. If your CRM is performing slowly or if you’re experiencing unplanned downtime, it can lead to lost productivity, decreased revenue, and user frustration. By monitoring your CRM on a regular basis, you can address customizations or data management issues that cause performance to lag.
- Provide user support and troubleshooting. Whether users are having trouble with a picklist or an integration keeps breaking, plan to address these unexpected day-to-day issues.
- Plan for backups and disaster recovery. Most CRMs include a backup feature, which can help preserve your data in the event of a loss. In addition to regularly backing up data, you need a disaster recovery plan that outlines what to do in the event of a natural disaster.
When to Bring in the Experts for Implementing Your CRM System
Working with experts like Kenway Consulting to help with implementing your CRM is a smart move for businesses that want to be sure that best practices are infused in the process. With the help of experts, you can avoid common implementation mistakes and achieve your desired outcome, which is to streamline operations, increase revenue and gain a better understanding of the customer journey.
At Kenway, we have experience implementing several popular CRM systems, and Salesforce is a particular specialty of ours. Here’s how we can help you ensure a smooth and successful software implementation process.
Our experts have the knowledge and experience to properly plan, design, and implement Salesforce in accordance with your company’s specific needs and requirements. For example, Salesforce users rely on our experts to identify the right modules and products and configure them to optimize performance. We also ensure that data migration is done in a way that adds to the quality of the data, allows for business continuity, and enables increased effectiveness post-migration.
User Training and Support
Training is a critical aspect of implementing any CRM, and Salesforce is no exception. Getting it right requires resources as well as insight into the questions and adoption challenges users may face. Our experts have years of experience onboarding users. We can provide the training and support that will support their buy-in and adoption.
Ongoing Maintenance and Support as Needed
For most clients, we believe that you should be able to manage your Salesforce org with your own internal resources. However, in the event that you need additional resources to help with ongoing maintenance and support, we’re happy to pitch in to ensure that the system is always up-to-date, secure, and running at optimal performance.
Get Help with Your Current CRM Solution
If you already have a CRM in place and you need help cleaning up errors incurred during the implementation process, we can help with that too. Here’s our approach.
Assess the Problem
The first step in cleaning up an implementation that’s gone awry is to assess the current state of the system and associated processes and identify the areas requiring improvement. This may involve reviewing system data and customizations, as well as identifying any missing or incorrect configurations.
Create a Plan of Action
Once the problem areas have been identified, we develop a plan of action to address them. This may involve cleaning up or removing incorrect data, updating or modifying customizations, or reconfiguring the system to ensure that it is properly configured.
Provide Training and Support
It may be necessary to provide training and support to users to ensure that they understand how to use the system correctly and effectively. Ongoing maintenance and support can also help to prevent future issues and ensure that the system remains functional and effective. We can recommend and provide the right solution for your business.
Beyond cleaning up errors, we can also help you make the most of your CRM. When a financial firm needed help implementing new processes for compliance, we developed a solution using their existing Salesforce org. The firm now automates the processes needed for compliance and, with a data governance plan in place, maintains data accuracy across platforms.
Ensure a Successful CRM Implementation
Implementing CRM software in an enterprise-level organization is a complex and multi-faceted process that requires careful planning and execution. Every phase of the process—from preparation to ongoing maintenance—can be an opportunity to optimize your solution. On the other hand, if any steps are overlooked, it can lead to poor user adoption, unplanned expenses, and potentially even purchasing the wrong CRM.
By following the critical steps for implementation and enlisting the help of experts, you can avoid these pitfalls. Kenway is ready to help you ensure a smooth software implementation that delivers the outcomes you expect.
To find out how our experts can ensure the success of your CRM implementation, reach out to us.
CRM Implementation FAQs
What is a software implementation plan?
A software implementation plan is a step-by-step roadmap that outlines what should occur at every phase of the implementation process. The plan should include CRM use cases and requirements, as well as an outline for training and educating users.
What is CRM implementation?
CRM implementation is the process of onboarding a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The implementation process is made up of multiple phases: planning and preparation, identifying the right solution, installation and configuration, and ongoing maintenance and support.
What are the steps for CRM implementation?
While every CRM implementation process is different, they should include the following phases:
- Planning and preparation
- Solution evaluation and identification
- Installation and configuration
- Ongoing maintenance and support
Why should you examine your current process before implementing a CRM solution?
Implementing a CRM is an opportunity to assess your current processes and decide what’s working and what isn’t. Without undergoing this evaluation, you may bring over bad habits or ineffective practices that undermine your ability to achieve the outcomes you want from the new CRM.