Sixteen things you should be doing to maintain the value of your CRM system over the long term

by Richard Boardman on April 27, 2014

So you’ve invested in new CRM software and successfully overcome the challenge of user adoption. What now?

Photograph courtesy of zzpza

Here are sixteen things you want in place if you are to maintain and grow the value of your investment:

  • Administration – someone needs to manage the day to day running of the system, adding users, changing security rights, creating reports etc. This is unlikely to be a full time role for smaller or mid-size systems, but it’s essential one, and having the right, appropriately trained, person can make or break the success of a system.
  • Usage monitoring – are people using the system the way they should? No matter how effective you’ve been in getting people to use a new system at first, you can’t rely on it over the long term. Monitoring usage patterns both through reporting and reviewing system data is key to spotting potential issues early.
  • Training – while everyone may have been trained when the system was initially implemented, what’s in place for new joiners? If good training and support isn’t available to new staff, then knowledge dilutes over time and usage will be impacted.
  • Maintain data quality – maintaining data quality is essential to realising a system’s value. Ensuring the people, processes, and tools are in place to monitor data quality and quickly address issues is critical.
  • Support – the easier it is for users to get questions answered and issues addressed, the more they will get out of the system. Ensuring that there are well trained and available in-house resources, coupled with access to a responsive, knowledgeable, external support when required, is key to maintaining value.
  • Ensuring there’s a system dimension to business decisions – I remember one project I worked on where the sales organisation was completely restructured shortly after the system when live. Unfortunately the software didn’t support the way the company wanted to work, a dimension that hadn’t been considered, and there was chaos as a result. While few businesses are going to remain static over time, considering how change will be supported by the CRM system allows strategy and systems to evolve side by side.
  • Tweak and tune – few systems are perfect, but constantly tweaking, tuning, and improving, can result in big gains over time.
  • Establish balanced governance – establishing an executive steering group, which, ideally, isn’t dominated by a single individual, raises the profile of the system, and allows it to be developed strategically, and in a considered, balanced way.
  • Look for new opportunities – the best users of CRM technology are always looking for new features, functions, add-ons, and ways to use the system better. Ensuring that someone has the responsibility to scan the horizon for new opportunities can allow organisations to benefit from new capabilities much earlier.
  • Establish effective change control processes – providing the means to gather, assess, and implement user change requests effectively can have a huge impact on the evolution of a system. Weak change control can result in missed opportunities to improve the performance, unnecessary expenditure on frivolous new features, and poor adoption of new functionality.
  • Manage transitions – key staff involved in the management and governance of the system will inevitably move on from time to time. It’s easy for systems to be destabilised by these changes, particularly if the success of the system has been driven by a single key individual. When someone leaves, understanding their role in the context of the CRM system, and making sure there is a succession plan to transfer those responsibilities is important to maintain continuity.
  • Have a plan – having and maintaining a plan of how the system will evolve over time is essential to maintaining momentum. A lot of CRM implementations stall out after the initial go-live because there’s no concrete vision as to where to go next.
  • Maintain the usage manual – I discussed the importance of the usage manual a month or two back. This document sets out how the organisation’s business processes will be supported by the system, and acts as an essential point of reference. It’s important that this is updated as the system develops over time in order to maintain the consistency of usage.
  • Review vendor performance – how are external suppliers involved with the system performing? Performance can change significantly over time, particularly as many CRM implementation partners are relatively small and can be reliant on key individuals. Reviewing performance on a regular basis, and addressing any issues quickly, can be key to getting the most out of them.
  • Get an outside opinion – having an independent review by a third party can be a very effective way of identifying potential issues and as well as new ways to generate value from your CRM investment. We offer an independent CRM health check, and I’m sure other organisations offer similar services.
  • Maintain adequate budgets – while your CRM system should be making big difference to the performance of your organisation, maintaining and developing it over time requires ongoing investment. Ensuring adequate budgets are in place to support these activities is fundamental to a system’s long term health.

Implementing an effective CRM system is in its own right a considerable achievement, but if this investment is growing to bear fruit, then the hard work needs continue across the planned life of the system. The problem with CRM systems is that they can be fragile, and it doesn’t take much inattention to put them into a downward spiral towards obsolescence that’s difficult to pull out of.

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