Why can’t you get that CRM project off the ground?


I met someone at a networking event last week who told me her organisation had tried several times to start using CRM software, and confessed that after many attempts, they were still managing all their customer data in spreadsheets.   I told her she wasn’t alone.  It’s a story I hear often – businesses that have been through one or more failed attempts to launch a CRM project.  In most cases, it’s not even that they’ve had an unsuccessful implementation of CRM software – it’s that they’ve simply been unable to get a CRM into their business at all.  This is despite a very strong need and business case for a CRM, and the enthusiasm and effort put in by many people.

So, why is it so hard to get a CRM project off the ground?

The requirements gathering phase usually involves multiple departments, multiple stakeholders, and results in a document extending over 20 or more pages outlining everything the CRM needs to do.  Different departments want different things.  Different people want different things.  The CRM also needs to be integrated with other systems in the business.  There will be diagrams and process flow charts.  There will be a lot of words.  At least one stakeholder or department will insist on a requirement that’s irrelevant or impossible.  If you are an IT Manager, Project Manager or Sales/Marketing Manager charged with leading a CRM project, you’ll probably recognise this scenario.  Chances are you’re being pulled in all directions negotiating and collating these requirements into a proposal, and then trying to weigh up the relative merits and costs of different CRM software options and vendors.

Demonstrate The Differences

But the project has already become too big and too complicated.  You’ll go through some demos and discussions with CRM consultants, who will provide a quote based on all your requirements, and tell you there is a lot of time and customisation required to achieve what you want.  You thought your requirements were pretty standard.  That your business could just use CRM out of the box.    It all starts to look expensive and scary.  The business has other priorities and the budget is looking stretched this year.  Back to the spreadsheets.

It really doesn’t have to be that hard.  CRM software offers a lot of functionality out of the box, and with some light customisation to get your terminology and key data in there, you should be able to get started very effectively using it that way.

Here’s where a CRM partner can help you

Rather than gathering all your requirements up front, work with a consultant to have a closer look at what the CRM software can do out of the box.  Let them suggest how you can tweak your requirements so that you don’t need heavy customisations.  And most importantly, let them say “no” – or at least “not yet”.   Keep it simple.  Start by getting your customer data out of the spreadsheets, and into a database which is secure, where you can easily create and maintain data standards, and allow your staff to access and edit (or prevent them from editing!) your customer data at the same time, from any location, including when they are mobile.  Make it easy to handle your valuable customer data, without juggling and scrolling through multiple spreadsheets.

Then work out what comes next.

Once your customer data is in a CRM system, you have a world of possibilities – email tracking, marketing automation, opportunity and sales pipeline management, sales process management, customer service and case management, project management, automation of routine tasks, automatic triggering of alerts, powerful reporting and analytics.   Once you’ve used your CRM for a while and got to know how it works, you’ll be in a much better position to know what else you really want it to do for you.  Now you’re ready to work with your stakeholders, gather the requirements, write up your process flows.

If you want to get your CRM project off the ground, the key is to start by keeping it simple.