How to implement a CRM system (part 4 of a four-part series)

Thriving with CRM

This is part 4 of a four-part series focused on how to implement a CRM system, “Installing your CRM”.  It is based on our comprehensive guide CRM Turbo – A Small Business Guide How To Implement A Turbocharged CRM System.

Before reading this page, I would encourage you to familiarise yourself with our previous posts; what is a CRM system, what can CRM do for my business, key features of a CRM system, How to implement a CRM systemPreparing for CRM, Selecting your CRM and Installing CRM.

Your journey to learn how to implement a CRM system is nearly complete.The implementation of your CRM system has been a significant and concentrated journey of discovery.  It has delivered highs and lows. It has uncovered strengths and weaknesses.  It has broken down processes to their essential components and rebuilt them to create a stronger and more efficient whole.  It has brought people together through a shared experience of change.  Hopefully, it has left stakeholders energised and positive about the future.

It might be tempting to think “that’s it”.  But of course, it isn’t.  As it is with the birth of a child, buying your first house or accepting your first job, going-live is something to celebrate.  However, success will be determined by how much planning, intelligence, energy and enthusiasm you deliver in the coming months and years.

“The success of your CRM implementation is a journey, not a destination.”

The renowned multi-linguist Michelle Thomas was mastering languages up until his death in 2005 at the age of 90.  Itzhak Perlman, the 74-year-old American-Israeli concert violinist, conductor and teacher is still mastering his craft today.  You must apply the same mindset.  Set off on a voyage of discovery to seek mastery of your CRM.  Continuously develop what it delivers for your business for as long as that system remains within your business.

This journey can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Housework
  2. The Search for Continuous Improvement
  3. Phase Two

1. Housework

Before you get too carried away planning the future for your CRM, it makes sense first to clear up the past and worry about the present.  Here are five areas to consider:

  1. Daily checks and balancesHow to implement a CRM system - you are part of the system
  2. Access control
  3. Backups
  4. Decommissioning old systems
  5. CRM vendor support

a. Daily Checks and Balances

The transition period will likely uncover a range of overlooked functionality where users feel less equipped than previously.  Typically, these may be in the form of reports, dashboards, checklists and quirky procedures that individual users relied on to carry out their daily responsibilities effectively.  Returning this functionality and beyond is partly an evolutionary process which will be looked at in more detail in part 2.

However, there need to be appropriate checks and balances in place from day one to cover critical issues for the business.

For example, are…

  • invoices reconciling against daily cash taken?
  • users only accessing areas within their security boundaries?
  • key data fields being populated on a record by record basis?
  • key processes authorised appropriately before proceeding?
  • the highest level key performance indicators easy to access and read?
  • sales deals falling within set parameters, e.g. gross margins, geographical restrictions, etc.?

The list will vary in length and content from business to business.  Make sure that you have identified those critical checks and balances from the outset and prioritised setting them up within the system to the satisfaction of those who need to use them.

b. Access Control

Amidst the excitement and novelty of experiencing the CRM system for the first time, it is easy to overlook a critical element of your data security, that of access control.  One of the problems all administrators share is seeing what different user groups can actually see.  After all, the administrator can see everything.  But how can they be sure what others are seeing? And apart from ‘seeing’, what about ‘creating’, ‘editing’ and ‘deleting’?

Before gross margins are shared with external partners, or director pay rises displayed on the shop floor, get on top of this one.  Set up a dummy user account and, from your administrator account, change the user category one at a time to interrogate viewing, creating, editing and deleting. Don’t forget to check the ‘exporting’ as well.  You don’t want to be responsible for a drain of the company’s primary asset – its data.  This process is time-consuming but necessary.

c. Backups

You have brought together multiple sources of company data and integrated them into a single source – your CRM system.  As a consequence, you can provide a much wider reach for this data. Users can access this data from anywhere on any device at any time.  They can view, create, edit and delete records at will (within the parameters of their access rights). They can share easily and engage with customers more efficiently. They are learning to input better quality data and as a result, are relying more on the information that the CRM can provide them.

In other words, the data has greater value and importance to the business than ever before.  Expectations of what data can deliver to the company are running at an all-time high.  And guess what? It’s your responsibility to guard and protect it!

Though that idea may seem quite daunting, don’t forget that you have selected your CRM with this in mind.  Your ability to keep data safe should comfortably match those expectations now placed upon it.  Your CRM should allow you to schedule automated backups regularly.  Depending on how much data is input daily, this may involve running a couple of backups each day.  Perhaps more commonly a daily backup would suffice.  This data is held offsite and probably in more than one geographical location.  It is pretty safe.

“Losing data and not having a backup is like losing your virginity. You can never get it back, no matter how much you might like to.”


So, you can guard and protect your data, but make sure you are actually set up to do so.  Make sure the automated backups are set as required.  Ask your CRM vendor to check also.  If you have a sandbox (i.e. a separate area of storage within the CRM where you can play around with a replica of the system without fear of crashing), it might make sense to test a full restore to it. Once done, you can rest assured that your backups are running and, barring the occasional scheduled check, your data is safe.

d. Decommissioning Old systems

One often-overlooked task after going-live is to ensure that all previous data sources and data management software, now superseded, are properly decommissioned.  These could be a combination of old CRM systems, spreadsheets, text documents, sales pipeline software, online subscriptions or even pieces of paper(!).

It is important to ensure that decommissioning takes place in an orderly way:

  1. identify which sources need to be kept open for a period as a comfort blanket or cross-checking tool for users while they gain confidence in the new system
  2. determine which sources should be archived immediately
  3. agree plan of action with original data owners
  4. inform users that old data sources will be removed on a specific date
  5. remove access to old data sources after a specified date
  6. archive data in a usable format

This process will guarantee that your historical data is safely archived and that CRM users will adopt the new system wholeheartedly as quick as possible.

e. CRM Vendor Support

During the implementation process, you may or may not have finalised the type of support you required from your CRM vendor.   You should expect a rapid (and free) response to any breakdown or malfunction with your system.  For all other support, expect the clock to start ticking.

Typical support requirements in this category would be;

  • minor modifications to CRM not initially briefed
  • specialist training
  • help with reports, dashboards, automation
  • issues with the system, but not breakdowns or malfunctions, e.g. running too slowly, storage running low

It is a good idea to test the quality of this support out at an early stage, to give you some comfort should a more pressing issue arise in the future.

If you’re not happy with the response, don’t be afraid to pick the phone up and talk to them about it.  Fix it now.

2. The Search for Continuous Improvement

You should instigate a process of constant reappraisal of your CRM setup and user performance.  CRM Turbo provides “21 Questions to Guarantee Continuous Improvement”.

These questions, with accompanying explanations, define the heartbeat of the process of continuous improvement.  As you become more familiar with your CRM system, you will pick up ideas for developing it on an ongoing basis.  The questions will hopefully enhance your plans for development and help you to create ever-better value from the system for your company.

The type of questions asked include:

  • Are users fully configured to access their CRM from anywhere at any time on any device?
  • Are your users scheduled to receive ongoing training regularly and often?
  • Have you scheduled a programme of continuous enhancements?
  • Is customer engagement demonstrably improving?

If you can stay on top of the sentiment of these questions, then your CRM will remain in top shape for many years to come.

3. Phase Two

You will remember back to the construction of your original CRM brief.  You wisely decided not to try and implement all identified requirements in one go.  Certain functionality was highlighted at the time but partitioned and side-lined to be revisited at some point.

That point is now.

It is not intended to go through a complete Phase Two process here.  The good news is that it looks very much like Phase One so most of the original graft will not need to be repeated.

Here is an outline suggestion of how to proceed:


  • CRM Features and Benefits. Remind yourself of the potential of a high-end CRM system.
  • Business Operations Review. Re-run the Ops & CRM Reviewer tool (for those with CRM Turbo) to see how your operational processes have developed and what CRM functionality may be relevant this time around.
  • Business Process Review. On the basis that this was interrogated thoroughly only a year ago, this should be just a reassurance exercise with perhaps a few tweaks.
  • Workflow & Field Mapping. Same as for Business Process Review.


  • Re-read the original brief to extract your original plans for phase two
  • Meet with relevant CRM stakeholders to discuss further potential enhancements
  • Discuss plans with CRM vendor
  • Draft and publish phase two brief
  • Follow Installing CRM, picking only the relevant sections
  • Pursue Thriving with CRM and incorporate phase two

Eat, sleep, rinse, repeat.



If this post has been helpful and you are contemplating how to implement a CRM system for your business, take a look over at CRM Turbo – A Small Business Guide How To Implement A Turbocharged CRM System. The guide is a Logical Business publication produced to help small enterprises introduce a CRM system into their businesses in the most cost-efficient way possible.

The result should be a CRM implementation of which they can feel immensely proud and, most importantly, that delivers real value for their business for many years to come.

The series of posts to which this post belongs (see below) consists of extracts from CRM Turbo to allow you to sample the value of the information.  I hope you have found it helpful.

All about CRM

  1. What is a CRM system?
  2. What can CRM do for my business?
  3. Key Features of a CRM system

How to Implement a CRM System…

  1. Preparing for CRM
  2. Selecting your CRM
  3. Installing CRM
  4. Thriving with CRM

Alternatively, feel free to contact me directly at