‘Phase your CRM project’ is one of those frequently offered pieces of advice to would-be implementers of CRM technology, but what does this really mean in practice? So, seven quick tips for phasing CRM projects effectively:

Do the minimal amount that gets results – it’s easy to over-engineer CRM systems, but it’s generally better to implement something reasonably simple which generates quick results, and build on it. This approach reduces the risk of spending a lot of time and money creating capabilities that later prove to be white elephants.

The first phase must be value generating – whatever you do in phase one must create compelling value, otherwise you will struggle to get resources for later phases. I see a lot of vendors promoting the ‘suck it and see approach’, where customers are encouraged to buy some CRM software and then experiment. This might be good for short term software revenues, but rarely produces systems that clients want to continue to invest in.

Resources dictate phasing – getting users to use a system in a consistent and structured fashion is one of the key challenges of CRM deployment. User adoption requires people on the ground winning hearts and minds and this tends to be resource hungry, therefore one of the key determinants of phasing is the amount of resources available to do this. Try and do too much in one go and the implementation team can quickly become overwhelmed.

User micro-phasing to maximize adoption – there’s only so much change that users can embrace at one time so breaking down a phase into a series of micro-phases, for example by releasing capabilities over time, can be an effective way of addressing the user adoption bottle-neck.

Schedule subsequent phases in advance – if your CRM project is to be phased it generally makes sense to ensure that the timing, content, benefits and costs of future phases are broadly defined up front. This helps ensure resources are available when you need them and avoids the need to go through a lengthy capital allocation exercise for each subsequent phase.

Reporting must be phase one – for reasons that I explained here previously CRM vendors seem to discourage users from worrying too much about reporting in the early phases of a project. Since reports are the key way for the management team to ensure that the processes that the system supports are being followed, relegating them to the ‘manyana’ file virtually guarantees system obsolescence.

Manage ongoing system enhancement requests carefully – over time users will identify ways in which the system can be improved and enhanced. These requests need to be carefully assessed, managed and prioritized to ensure they will create genuine additional value. It’s easy to load up future phases with features that, while meeting the demands of a few vociferous users, fail to generate any return on investment.

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