Why CRM Implementations Fail: The Top Ten Killers

By Reuven Shelef, President | logo_ootb-c_icon OUT OF THE BOX Consulting


CRM solutions make big promises. Implement one well, and you’ll increase sales, improve support, and create loyal customers almost overnight. As a Salesforce Cloud Alliance Partner, I know that’s not universally the case. Over the years, I’ve become familiar with what can cause a deployment to work well, or fall short of expectations.Here’s my take on the top 10 problems that can derail a CRM system implementation. Please note that this list is in no particular order of importance, though I think that “poorly defined requirements” should be at or near the top of any list. Your knowledge of your organization will dictate what surfaces first.

#1: Poorly Defined Requirements

Some organizations leap into CRM deployments without carefully defining requirements. This move can be particularly problematic when you decide to change a process or requirement mid-stream. At that point, you’ve committed significant time and money to a project that probably isn’t going to deliver the results you want and you may have destroyed your credibility with key stakeholders. The lesson here is to know your needs upfront and build your solution in increments.

#2: Sloppy Business Processes

It’s tempting to adopt a CRM solution because it has great features. But if your business processes are flawed, a CRM system will only automate them. Make sure your processes are compatible with the solution you choose. If they are not, fix them. And make sure that the CRM solution you choose will actually help end users perform better. Your top performers are likely to be a good source of information about processes that work and best practices that should be built in.

#3: Expecting Too Much Too Soon

Put another way, trying to do too much too quickly is a recipe for failure. A CRM solution rolled out in manageable increments can deliver business value early on. Start with basic features and add advanced functionality as you proceed. This approach gives you the time you need to build user loyalty and it can avoid alienating customers.

#4: A Lack of Integration

Your CRM system is not—or shouldn’t be—an island of functionality. Integrating it with other systems and processes across your organization is critical to success. Understand how integration can be accomplished, as well as how long it will take and how much it will cost, before you invest. Then create an integration plan.

#5: A Lack of Accountability

This is a big one. Putting a new employee at the helm of a CRM implementation is problematic. So is putting together a taskforce with no locus of accountability. A new hire hasn’t developed sufficient authority to be truly in charge, and a committee is often simply unable to drive change. You need to identify the right person and assign them ultimate responsibility for success.

#6: Uncommitted Management

Without top-down enthusiasm and commitment—real sponsorship— your CRM implementation will falter. After all, it probably represents a big organizational change, and change is hard. Senior management must vocally support the project, communicate its value, and actually use it.

#7: Spotty Adoption

A truism, perhaps, but buy-in is key to success. (I think adoption also related to considering user needs from the outset, but that’s probably the topic of another post.) If potential users don’t use the system, it’s consuming expensive computing resources and is, frankly, an embarrassment. From the very beginning you should focus on adoption. Talk value to customers, employees, and shareholders. Train users and reward them appropriately for use.

#8: Ill-Defined Value

This issue is inextricably related to #1 and #7. If a business doesn’t define the value it expects a CRM solution to deliver—and communicates how it will help users do their jobs better and more easily— then it’s going to be a waste of time. At the very beginning of the solution discovery process, you should understand how CRM will drive value to all key stakeholders.

#9: Mobile Unfriendliness

Sales and service people and employees in all categories are increasingly mobile. A CRM system that isn’t optimized for tablets, notebooks, and smartphones is destined for problems. To fully engage mobile users, you should choose a solution that supports on-the-go updates and full functionality and that integrates with other enterprise systems.

#10: Non-existent Metrics

What metrics determine the success of your CRM system? A surprising number of companies don’t take the time to establish them upfront. As a result, some projects appear to be failures when, in fact, they’re not. You need to define your expectations in all areas impacted by your CRM solution and then measure performance regularly.

Do you have any cautions to add to the list?

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About OUT OF THE BOX Consulting
Founded in 2004 by Reuven Shelef, OUT OF THE BOX Consulting (OOTB-C) helps deliver the best ROI possible from CRM solutions. OOTB-C is a SFDC Certified Cloud Alliance Partner whose focus is on providing comprehensive services for Salesforce environments: system architecture and design, end-to-end implementation and custom application development, integration with other systems, and ongoing administration.

If you are interested in finding out how OUT OF THE BOX Consulting can help you, submit a request form.
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