In part one of a three-part series on common CRM implementation issues and how to avoid them, we explore project leadership and ownership.
For those embarking on a CRM project, it is critical to avoid the same mistakes others have so frequently, and innocently, made in the past.
Background on CRM Misconceptions
Before starting on the topic of project leadership and ownership, it is important to point out that Customer Relation Management (CRM) projects are not the same as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) projects. This generalization is easily offered by many due to the timelines, technical project plans, resource roles, and sometimes even the costs, but it doesn’t work.
Here’s why: ERP projects are governed by financial measurement and controls, while CRM projects have no underlying financial requirements or measurement. In short – you must enter specific ERP transactions to produce financials, but you are not required to create CRM transactions to complete a sale. So, the problem for many becomes an optional, if not occasional use of CRM data, which degrades its value and effectiveness.
Also, CRM is not a panacea for declining sales. In fact, CRM systems post-go-live can cause some sales activities to slow as the sales-force adapts to a change in the process. Many executives turn to CRM solutions as a way to grow sales and many sales managers believe a CRM will provide a secret ingredient to generating more leads and closing more deals. In the short term, CRM systems will likely not provide an immediate benefit to growing sales.
CRM is a long-game endeavor. Over time, CRM data, if managed properly and with an optimal adoption rate by all of the necessary people, will provide tremendous value for sales insights, activity management, sales performance, account management, and true insights into offered versus demanded products and services for marketing purposes.
Why Your CRM Project Needs a Plan and Proper Leaders
For a company without a CRM solution or CRM experience, all too often the demand for a CRM system is made without a real plan for how it will be used, who will “own” the processes and data, and what will be measured or documented.
Sales executives, for example, may request CRM system funding or budgetary approval without making a true business case for how the system will be used – except for making general statements such as “to grow sales in new markets” or “explore new opportunities.”
In these cases, it is all too common to see the IT Department assigned the task of implementing the new system, so the project quickly becomes an IT initiative. Many times, the CIO is considered the Project Sponsor and an IT manager or director is given the role of Project Owner with another IT resource assigned the role of Project Manager. This is, indeed and without a doubt, a recipe for failure before the project kicks off!
CRM projects must be, in all cases, business-led initiatives. This means they should always be sponsored, owned, and led by business representatives in the specific and associated departments involved in or impacted by CRM processes like sales, customer service, customer experience, etc. Oftentimes marketing also has a vested interest in how CRM data and customer touch activity can help enrich go-to-market strategies and marketing communications.
This group must define project success factors, scope, key business users (subject matter experts or SMEs), how to manage people and process change, and business metrics.
While IT Department resources should certainly play a key role and be considered important project resources, they should never own and drive a CRM project
The success or failure of a CRM project demands that affected business owners get involved to lead, participate, and support it longterm. Without their involvement, it is all too easy to create a solution that does not meet the desired business objectives. It will end up being a solution that will not be used properly or adopted fully; a solution that will, over time, be ignored and fail.
An example of a CRM project leadership and management matrix designed for success looks like the following:
- Project Sponsor: Vice President of Sales
- Project Owner: Director of Sales
- Project Manager: Sales Manager or PMO
- SMEs: Territory Sales Representatives, Customer Service
- Technical Sponsor: Director of IT
- Technical Manager: IT Manager
- Technical SME: CRM Administrator
Using this leadership matrix will improve project success and overall adoption because the control, decision making, direction, and more importantly, the responsibility lies with the people who will be using and benefiting from the system.