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Avoiding a disastrous CRM implementation

by Randall Craig on May 20, 2016

Filed in: Blog, CRM, Make It Happen Tipsheet,

Tagged as: , ,

CRM (Client Relationship Management) systems are known for two things: the promise of driving sales, and the almost inevitable disastrous implementation.  And the same is often true of other big tech projects.  But does this really have to be the case?

Here are 12 key items that can make a difference between a successful implementation… or a costly mistake:

  1. Executive Sponsorship:  This isn’t just a question of leadership buy-in to the concept, but also their active involvement in the implementation process itself.  The more active this group appears to be, the more buy-in there will be from both the rank-and-file, and middle management.
  2. Blueprint:  This is an in-depth marketing, sales, data, and business process review.  Contrary to what is said on vendor websites (and by vendor salespeople), there is never a plain-vanilla simple implementation.  Every organization has a unique history, strategy, structure, processes, and legacy systems. The blueprint defines the what, how, who, and when; it is more than a “requirements document”: it identifies gaps, opportunities, defines the to-be state, all while addressing the functional and technical integrations.  Building a house uses a blueprint: a strategic system implementation needs one too.
  3. Journey Mapping:  This occurs during the Blueprint, and identifies all touchpoints that prospects go through during their journey from awareness through to commitment.  Not only is this important during the implementation, but it lays the foundation for a common vocabulary throughout the organization.
  4. Lead Source Identification:  This will surface opportunities for integration with other systems (Marketing Automation, Web, etc.)
  5. Account Planning and Strategy:  This is a sales 101 requirement for any organization.  The trouble is that most organizations either haven’t formalized their account planning process, or they do have a process, but it is inconsistently used, or it hasn’t been looked at for quite a while.  It makes zero sense to automate an inconsistent or out-of-date process.  A successful CRM requires successful account planning, and often, significant change management.
  6. CRM Configuration:  This means customizing the system for the organization’s processes, setting up workflow, reporting, dashboards, etc.
  7. Integration with other systems: The CRM should never stand alone – it needs to be connected to other systems: Financial, ERP/Fulfillment, Marketing Automation, Social Media, Web, etc.  And then these connections need to be tested.
  8. Integration with real-world processes:  Whether it is a field sales organization, outbound call center, service processes, or with events, CRM (and all digital transformation technologies) need to be hooked into improved real-world processes – not just other technologies. 
  9. Data:  One of the primary reasons users don’t adopt a new system is that it surfaces defects in the organization’s (and specific individual’s) data.  Information that might have looked just fine beforehand (or was well-hidden beforehand), suddenly doesn’t look so good. Well before implementation, existing data needs to be reviewed, cleansed, and then migrated.  Post-migration it typically needs additional review and cleansing.
  10. Training:  This includes CRM concepts, the tool itself, and how the CRM plays a part in the organization’s processes.
  11. Building Front-line Buy-in:  If the implementation plan does not include specific steps to ensure that the system actually gets used the way that it is expected to be used, then you guessed it… the system won’t be used.
  12. Monitoring: This means everything from the data quality, staff behavior, enforcing accountability, and personal participation by the senior executives.
  13. Training:  There is no limit to the amount of training that will be necessary.  Whatever training you were considering, double it.

This week’s action plan:  With some minor changes, this framework can be used to implement just about any technology project.  This week, consider your latest project: what is missing from this list?  And is it too late to retrofit that missing piece?

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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