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Managing Your CRM Project

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The snazziest end-user interface and most enthusiastic marketing staff will never compensate for the CRM system that doesn't do what it's supposed to. Jill Dyche explains how to roll out a glitch-free CRM implementation.
This chapter is from the book

These days it's practically routine to pick up an industry trade magazine featuring a CRM case study on page 1. Somewhere amidst the paragraph about the company's new customer loyalty program and the part about sales uplift increasing 200 percent, you'll find a sentence or two describing implementation.

No, CRM development isn't sexy, and yes, it's fraught with hazards from technology glitches to hiring freezes, but it's the hub in the CRM wheel when it comes to ensuring a smooth rollout. The snazziest end-user interface and most enthusiastic marketing staff will never compensate for the CRM system that doesn't do what it's supposed to. Not to put too fine a point on it, the implementation project is a critical piece of the CRM puzzle.

A Pre-Implementation Checklist

I spend most of my time these days evaluating how prepared companies are to launch their CRM programs, be they departmental or enterprise-wide, single or multifunction. Sometimes this occurs at the requirements definition stage, where there is uncertainty about the perceived need and its implementation viability. Other times it involves evaluating a company's existing infrastructure just prior to implementation. What I do most is quiz key CRM stakeholders about their existing environment from both business and technology perspectives.

My company calls such evaluations CRM Readiness Assessment engagements, but I like to consider them "premortems." After all, what's more valuable than fixing problems before they occur? The best way to do this is to envision possible outcomes based on current circumstances, using experiences gleaned from successful CRM deployments. It's good old risk management, come home to roost.

Table 9-1 lists a series of considerations to be aware of before moving forward with CRM development. Make sure each of these items has been at least considered at your company, and the more complex your intended CRM program, per Table 9-1, the more mandatory it is that you resolve the issue prior to beginning development.

Table 9-1: CRM Pre-Implementation Checklist

Evaluation Question



Have you prepared a CRM business plan?

We discussed CRM business planning in Chapter 7. Regardless of whether management requires such a document, it's a very good idea to have one that represents CRM's baseline.

Do you know who your executive sponsor is and what she expects?

By the time you're ready to launch development, the CRM executive sponsor should be crystal clear. Moreover, her role in defining and validating requirements, managing executive expectations, and helping define success metrics should be well understood by all stakeholders.


Have high-level business requirements been defined?

In CRM this activity should be separate from the formal development project for two reasons:

business requirements will dictate whether the CRM program moves forward, and they require involvement from stakeholders who might not be available during implementation.


Have success metrics been established?

How will you know if your CRM program has been a success? Although many companies don't require success metrics—likethose we discussed in Chapter 7— to be implemented, they're an effective safety net for after the system is deployed.


Has the project been funded?

No use planning an entire CRM program if only a mere proof-of-concept has been approved.


Is there agreement on desired customer behaviors? Are the business functions slated to support these desired behaviors apparent?

Depending on the scope of your CRM program, you might include a description of desired customer behavior in your CRM business plan. Either way, building consensus on how you want customers to behave differently is important. For instance, if sales staff will be using CRM to manage the sales pipeline, it should establish the ideal response to an information mailing.


Does each organization agree on a common definition of "customer"?

The marketing department of an automobile company might consider a "customer" to be a dealer, but the call center might consider it to be a driver. Have consensus on this and other key definitions before you begin.


Can you map the desired functionality to data requirements?

Customer data is complex more often than it's straightforward. This usually means defining data requirements along with business requirements. At some point you'll need to know whether customer data is necessary and from what system it will originate. A firm understanding of the level of customer data—account, household1—is also critical.


Do you suspect that external data will be necessary?

Purchasing data from an external source such as Dun & Bradstreet, Axciom, Data Quick, or Experian might not initially be a high priority, but it can supplement customer profiles with such indicators as number of family members, estimated income, household-level psychographics, ZIP code breakdowns, real estate information, and other attributes that can reveal customer behaviors and preferences.


For customization, does the current workstation development environment support the CRM product?

What type of workstation configurations does your CRM tool's development environment require? Additional development tools (e.g., Microsoft's Visual Studio) or hardware (e.g., database servers) might be necessary to correctly customize the CRM environment.


Have you identified the other applications or systems with which the CRM product must integrate?

There should be an up-front understanding of the impact of CRM on other corporate systems and of how the data will move between systems effectively. In addition, staff members whose systems will be touched by CRM should be notified of the pending integration requirements.


Have the organizational or political barriers to rolling out CRM been identified? Have they been resolved?

Yes, it's a loaded question. (See the end of this chapter.) No, it's not meant to point fingers, but to establish up-front what the tactics will be when questions of ownership or disagreements about functional priorities rear their heads. An influential executive sponsor might be able to resolve such issues before they arise.


Have you truly defined your privacy policy?

Regardless of whether your CRM program will be Web-based, understand your company's boundaries for using data about your customers.

CRM must not only adhere to a corporate privacy policy; it should also be the flagship example of the company's behavior around customer data. See Chapter 10 for more about handling privacy.


The most valuable feature of a "premortem" exercise is that it's a lot easier to give bad news before disaster strikes than to say "I told you so" after the fact—and after the money has been spent. CRM assessment findings can alert the business sponsor to potential roadblocks. Such findings allow CRM team members to fix problems proactively rather than pointing fingers after the CRM project has failed, as 70 percent of all CRM projects allegedly do.

Ideally, the answer to each of the above questions will be "yes," with consensus on how each issue will be handled when it's encountered. At the very least, the CRM team should be aware of each issue and prepared to deal with it when it inevitably comes up.

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