You can prepare long and hard for your new CRM system, but the sad fact is that you can guarantee CRM implementation failure by the key steps you omit, regardless of the quality of those you include.

The rush to introduce a new CRM system into a business can quickly end in catastrophe. The good news is that being aware of the pitfalls and side-stepping them can pave the way to a genuinely turbocharged CRM implementation. I hope that by the end of this post, you will have identified at least one or two side-stepping opportunities and incorporated them into your CRM planning.

CRM Implementation Failure Guarantee No. 1

Skipping through preparation

I can’t stress this enough, but the most crucial stage of your CRM implementation by far is preparation. Your CRM will be a digital representation of your business processes. Therefore, it makes little sense to build it based on incomplete or inefficient processes, loosely notated workflows, and ill-defined data requirements.

Your CRM will willingly take the strain of a high workload and amplify the processes it is asked to follow. What your CRM can’t do is to take a collection of bad processes and turn them into good ones.

You may be tempted to apply a ‘light touch’ to preparation. Preparation is a grinding process, takes up valuable time and seems to provide minimal benefits. After all, it’s much more fun to jump onto a new piece of software and apply changes along the way. But here’s the problem:

Changes to CRM systems can be time-consuming and costly. The greater the change, the greater the time, the higher the cost.

The last thing you want is to engage your CRM vendor in a detailed patchwork of your new system soon after launch. The expense is unpleasant, probably un-budgeted and definitely unnecessary. So, if you are going to build a turbocharged CRM system; prepare, prepare, prepare.

CRM implementation failure is not inevitable. Preparing for CRM will save your business significant cost and boost your productivity multiple times.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln

CRM Implementation Failure Guarantee No. 2

Failing to investigate the full capabilities of a high-end CRM system

Everyone has their idea of what a CRM system is, and what it can do. For some, it is a place to store names and addresses. For others, it is a useful tool for automating parts of a sales process. But today’s modern CRM systems are highly sophisticated beasts that can do so much more for your business.

The tendency is to decide what business processes could fit the ‘known’ capability of CRM and design accordingly. But, the ‘unknown’ benefits could be so much more significant and to ignore them will have an opportunity cost for your business.

So, it must make sense to ensure that you understand the big CRM picture before starting to design your system.

The term ‘CRM’ – Customer Relationship Management – has become increasingly misunderstood over the last 20 years. Back in the nineties, it was known as Sales Force Automation, because that’s what it did. Rapidly increasing functionality of SFA systems meant that a more holistic term was needed. Customer Relationship Management was the result.

Here is a flavour of what a CRM system can achieve for you today:

  • Centrally store customer-related data
    e.g. names, addresses, next contact dates, orders and deliveries, conversations, communications etc.
  • Automate tasks
    e.g. prompting for action, requesting authorisations, handling repetitive tasks such as informational emails to prospects at the early stages of their customer journey, directing new leads to the appropriate salesperson etc.
  • Manage sales elements
    e.g. sales orders, contracts, quotations, invoices etc.
  • Manage sales & marketing processes
    e.g. automatically receiving leads from websites, segmenting data to provide personalised email content, providing a platform for outbound telemarketing, managing marketing campaigns etc.
  • Manage sales funnels
    e.g. administering leads, nurturing prospects, monitoring – performance, sales forecasting etc.
  • Carry out business anywhere
    e.g. mobile access, remote access etc.
  • Control security
    e.g. granular access control: who can create, read, write or edit fields and records by user; multi-site automated backups etc.
  • Receive real-time, pro-active business intelligence
    e.g. live updates of performance versus planned metrics via reports and dashboards, data analysis etc.
  • Integrate email & social media
    e.g. sending, receiving and recording all email and social media communications using preferred software but from within the CRM system.
  • Manage cases
    e.g. handling customer enquiries, complaints and ongoing projects efficiently.
  • Manage projects
    e.g. multi-step process to fulfil orders, perhaps requiring synchronisation of people, parts and processes etc.
  • Share customised portals with customers
    e.g. providing access to the Company’s knowledge-base to provide real-time visibility of their orders directly from the system.

The above list gives you a flavour of the capabilities of high-end CRM systems. To avoid CRM implementation failure, be ambitious about your expectations for CRM, learn more about the key features and benefits of a CRM system before moving on any further. You won’t regret it.

As an aside, when you come to consider which CRM is suitable for your business, bear in mind that there are hundreds to choose from. It makes sense to start by considering what types of CRM are available to refine your shortlist. Only then can you start thinking about specific CRM systems, but always be sure to avoid the CRM price trap.

CRM Implementation Failure Guarantee No. 3

Not carrying out a Business Operations Review

For many businesses, when preparing for a CRM implementation, the Business Operations Review is a step to bypass. It’s too much hassle, there is not enough time, or it is not considered important enough to worry. This position can be a big mistake, and here’s why:

Do you remember that we said earlier that a CRM can’t take a collection of bad processes and turn them into good ones?

A Business Operations Review is a run-through of all functional areas in the business, to understand whether they are still relevant. Are they adding value to the business? Could they be improved? Can we work smarter, not harder? Are they still within the requirements of the Company’s mission statement, objectives and strategy?

Businesses who don’t address this may discover that they have built their CRM on a foundation of bad processes, and it costs a lot of cash to put right.

So, with CRM implementation failure clearly in mind, it makes sense to ensure from the outset that your business operations are in good order and relevant for the short-to-mid-term. Let’s investigate how this could look:

The review should cover three distinct levels of business information, each drilling deeper than the previous:

Corporate Overview

… a big-picture look at the business, comprising Q&As to relevant directors, proprietors or perhaps senior operations managers. Questions will focus on a) the business plan (looking at the company mission statement, long/mid/short-term objectives and strategy) and b) the Directors/Proprietors (reaffirming that their individual goals are consistent with the long/mid/short-term objectives of the business.)


… comprising Q&A sessions targeted at senior operational management and including aspects such as sales, customers, marketing, delivery, after-sales service, competition, suppliers, infrastructure, I.T., human resources, accounts, cashflow, environmental and health & safety.

Operations Control

… comprising Q&A sessions targeted at the operational team, i.e. those immersed in the detail of operations on a day-to-day basis. Elements covered include processes/procedures, data management, reporting, documents/ templates, entities (i.e. how the data is segmented, worked and reported on) and accounts. Expect to see divergence between management and operations team’s view of operational detail!

The result should be a function-by-function summary of your current operational practices. As we have already seen, if you have understood the full capabilities of CRM and can relate this to your current business operations, then you are well on the way to mapping out your CRM system. Take a look at Preparing for CRM for more guidance on how a Business Operations Review can form the basis of a turbocharged CRM implementation.


Aside from supporting your CRM implementation, your Business Operations Review can do so much more for you. For instance, it can become;

  • a powerful checklist for all operational responsibilities
  • a record of business performance to highlight areas for development
  • the basis of an operations strategy
  • the agenda for an annual operations performance monitor
  • part of an induction programme for new operations team members
  • a foundation for performance-related pay

With so many benefits, it makes sense to get cracking with your Business Operations Review now, before you go any further with your CRM implementation.

So, as we have previously said, CRM implementation failure is not inevitable.  To give yourself a great opportunity to achieve a turbocharged CRM system and to minimise the overall cost of implementation: take time to learn about the capabilities of today’s best CRM systems; revisit your business operations to ensure they are in great shape, and allocate sufficient time to prepare, prepare, prepare.

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