This is the first in a mini-series of posts aimed at picking out key problem points in the main stages of the implementation process. Today I’m going to focus on CRM feasibility and planning. So here’s my take on the six most common planning and feasibility snafu’s:
Undue focus on technology – while it’s important, technology tends to soak up a disproportionate amount of attention, to the detriment of other, more critical, areas. As a rule of thumb perhaps 20% of the feasibility and planning process should focus on technology, and the remainder on other key areas covered in this post. My best guess is that this ratio is reversed by most organisations implementing CRM systems.
Lack of clarity of objectives – too few CRM projects have well defined business objectives, and too few of those that are defined are compelling enough to attract the organisational support and resources to make them realisable. Many get shrouded in vague promises of productivity enhancement, or are predicated on the notion that hitherto unidentified benefits manifest themselves once technology is in place. In practice, unless you’re clear about what you’re trying to achieve up front, and set up the system with that objective in mind, then you’re unlikely to achieve anything particularly meaningful.
Failure to budget successfully – a nasty side-effect of the tendency to focus on technology, is that undue reliance is placed on the technology vendors for guidance on budgeting. Vendor pricing, naturally enough, tends to be err on the side of optimism over realism, on the basis that it’s commercially sensible to make CRM technology appear as affordable as possible. Secondly, as this piece on budgeting for a CRM project explains, there are a lot of hidden costs, that a vendor may not directly provide, that are none the less essential for a successful project. By failing to get the initial budgeting right in the planning stage, organisations are destined for awkward later conversations with the board to secure more funds, or a potentially fatal dilution of the original vision in order stay on track.
Underestimation of internal resource requirements – The demands that a CRM project places on internal staff is often significantly underestimated. Understanding these clearly up front, and planning accordingly, is key to avoiding implementation delays as staff involved in the project struggle to balance the demands of a project with the demands of their day job.
Undue optimism on project time-lines – again, perhaps as a consequence of vendors avoiding putting up hurdles for potential customers, estimated project time-lines tend to be unrealistically short. The following post describes the typical duration and phases of a CRM project in more depth, but suffice to say that setting unrealistic expectations as to when a project will be delivered will often generate pressure that leads project teams to cut corners – often with fatal consequences – and impact other key projects and initiatives.
Not making user adoption the number one priority – by far the most important dimension of successful CRM implementation is user adoption, yet, often this is an afterthought, rather than a key component of the planning process. It’s also a potentially huge hidden cost. Making this preeminent in the planning process is perhaps the biggest thing that organisations can do to improve the odds of a successful implementation.
In essence, CRM feasibility and planning tends to be somewhat cursory and often focuses on the wrong things. A more thorough approach, and one that places less emphasis on technology, will reward implementers of CRM technology, with a higher pay-back, and a lot less implementation drama.