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Predictive Indicators of CRM Success

After a few years of CRM consulting and quite a few CRM implementations, we have started to see some distinct patterns emerge which can help us predict which organizations have a better or worse chance at CRM success. Listed below are some of most significant indicators of an organizations ability to effectively absorb a CRM implementation:

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1. Executive Buy In – A project may not always have the full participation of the Executive Director, however, at least one valued executive should participate as a member of the project team. If a top level executive is not involved in the project, it either indicates that the project is a.) Not considered a high priority for the organization –or- b.) Will not lead to high impact for the organization.

2. Flexibility – The 80/20 rule applies here. It will take the CRM consultants 80% of their time to tackle the 20% of Organizational requirements which do not fit neatly into the CRM software’s capabilities. Organizational flexibility on the 20% can free up the CRM consultants to spread their time more evenly over the project and accomplish more for the budget.

3. Participation – CRM technology can only be configured effectively through an interactive design process. We typically state up front to our clients that we expect them to contribute X hours towards the project. Without this participation, your CRM consultant will be guessing and the more they guess the more likely they will be off target from your Organization’s expectations.

4. Clear Goals – An organization must have a clear understanding of what it hopes to gain from a CRM project. If the organization is struggling to define its direction or mission, then it cannot effectively embrace a new CRM platform. Clearly defined goals can lead to clearly defined requirements which are essential to a successful CRM project.

5. Quadruple Constraint – Any technology project faces four specific constraints: time, money, quality, and scope. At some point in every project one of those variables will need to be negotiated to ensure project success. Rigidly locking in on all four constraints is impossible and will doom a project to failure from the start.

6. Organizational Buy-In – The worst situation for a consultant is to enter an organization where there is heavy resistance to a project. The consultants will have to work twice as hard to make the project succeed and they will spend most of their time fighting through organizational resistance. Ensure that all of the key stakeholders (at all levels) are bought in to the process and understand the value of the project for them and for the entire organization.

7. Transition Plan – Has the organization identified a project owner or advocate to run the CRM project after the initial implementation is over? The most successful organizations typically identify a person to play this role and make it a substantial portion of their job description.

8. Reasonable Expectations – This is the most critical element to project success. An organization must have a reasonable picture of what a new CRM system can accomplish in the short term. The solution will evolve over time; however, there will definitely be bumps along the way. Sticking through the transition bumps and keeping reasonable expectations about progress is perhaps the single most important success indicator.

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The above list is not meant to be exhaustive. It is only a set of the most common success indicators we consider as CRM consultants. When the above attributes line up, we get pretty excited about a project. Those are the types of organizations which can most effectively embrace a CRM implementation and use it as a real innovation platform to accelerate their mission!

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