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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Pocket Guide to Successful CRM Implementations

The Pocket Guide to Successful CRM Implementations

Many sales managers and sales operations staff are looking at CRM as a way to manage and to report on sales activity. More frequently, marketing is also jumping into the fray with marketing automation tools integrated with CRM. In both cases, Mobile access is a huge value driver and productivity tool.
Sometimes this project starts with a Business Analyst and other times the tasks are done by the IT department (using similar process documents) and it really is a function of resources or the size of the project. It really is the team that makes it happen!

Regardless of the size of you company a successful Salesforce CRM project requires planning, commitment, and strong sponsorship from your company’s executive team. It’s also critical that you understand the needs of your managers and users before getting started. Without a detailed understanding of these needs, it’s easy to get derailed in customizing the application.

Here are the 5 areas to a successful implementation:

  1. Plan and prepare
  2. Set up and develop
  3. Deploy Salesforce CRM
  4. Drive adoption
  5. Continuously improve.

I am providing some guidelines based on past experience with various CRMs across different organizations that can help you achieve better success in your deployment journey.


The start of any project requires the following elements to be identified up front:
  • ·         Who is the executive sponsor?

The project’s executive sponsor should participate and support the initiative from the beginning, through the cutover and beyond.
  • ·         Who are my stakeholders?
  • ·         Do we have a scope defined and has it been documented?
  • ·         How will measure success?
  • ·         What are the resources available for this project?
  • ·         What is the communications plan for the project?
  • ·         Who is on the team?

The size and scope of your project will determine how many resources you need. However, all projects should include the following even if some participants wear multiple hats

System administrator - This person should be involved throughout the implementation and afterward. It’s important that the administrator understand the business processes and requirements from managers and users.

Project Manager - This person leads the implementation and makes sure the project tasks and overall timeline are on track.

Business Analyst – this key individual usually will develop the business case and requirements documents and work in conjunction with the PM to ensure project success.
One or more power users - These users help make sure your project will meet the needs of the end users, including management. Consider training these users first and then providing more in-depth training.

One or more trainers - Trainers need to identify relevant materials from or develop specific training materials (such as quick-reference guides). You’ll need to provide training guides for the initial implementation and to on-board new users and once the application is live.


Understanding your data is Critical

Whether you’re moving from another CRM application or simply tracking customer information in spreadsheets, you’ll already have existing data. Data always becomes a bottleneck if it’s not reviewed and cleaned early in a project. It is a critical element to success because I have seen so much bad data causing problems within CRM.

Most customers underestimate the effort it takes to clean up, map, and load data. Data shouldn’t be loaded until your system is set up, including setting up your role hierarchy, sharing model, and sharing rules. By taking the time to understand your data during at the start of planning stage you can avoid a lot of issues later on. Maybe have a sandbox CRM just to manage the and test the data loads.

Determine whether you can meet the requirement with out-of-the-box functionality or business processes (low effort) or whether custom development or integration is required (high effort).


The most important element of a project is the vision. This sets the foundation for success going forward.

  • ·         Set the vision and goals
  • ·         Define strategies for achieving the vision
  • ·         Prioritize the goals for achieving the vision
  • ·         Ensure the value drivers (goals) are aligned to the project

This could simply be to implement a CRM solution for managing sales leads and providing reporting. It could start with using the existing customer database then adding in new prospects. Provide reporting to management and train the users. You can then add increased functionality in a second phase. Do NOT START by making it too complicated with a lot of customization.


Success is measured by having 3 metrics that tie into the value the drivers. After setting a baseline measurement and realistic targets we can implement a performance measurement. The solution implementation will have to ensure we meet the measurements required.

Metrics are what needs to get done by when as an example.

This could be simply to ensure all customer data records are entered cleanly, the required reports are functional and training is delivered to each user.


The roadmap helps chart the course for the journey ahead of you. Once you have identified the core capabilities that align with the vision and value drivers you can then prioritize them. The priority is for the elements that offer the most value in order to achieve the desired state.

Good roadmaps include the ability to start and stop along the way or even take a detour. Usually this is where new requests are desired and can be added to the solution.

For our example the elements could be to also develop the account screens, sales entry screens, reporting and dashboards required.


The two most widely used approaches in the world of software are the “waterfall” and “scrum” implementation approaches. Waterfall is the traditional, phased, sequential approach that may lead to a drawn-out implementation timeline. The scrum approach is to constantly build and deliver small units of functionality and revisit and refine them with each cycle. is best served with the more iterative scrum approach for its implementation once installed. Start with basic functionality and then add new features and enhancements in an on-going fashion.

I think it is best to start with the waterfall approach for the initial implementation and then start using a more agile approach to add additional functionality. Delivering too much too soon leads to complexity and that is not a good approach


A project timeline will be required to manage all the tasks and show the stakeholders what the roll out plan looks like.

Once you’ve chosen an implementation approach and prioritized all requirements, you can build the project timeline. Every timeline needs to include the time required to design, build, and deploy. Prioritization of requirements is also key to ensure any “must-haves” are included in the first phase or rollout.

If you use a scrum approach, your timeline will consist of short iterations of the design, build, and deployment phases for a smaller set of requirements.

With the waterfall approach, the design and build phase includes all requirements prioritized for the initial deployment.

For both approaches, consider what tasks can be done in parallel, such as cleaning data and loading data.

The timeline you defined in the planning stage should define the deployment phases and associated schedule. At the first stage, your task is to get your instance of Salesforce CRM “production ready” by creating and adding users, loading your data, and training users.

It's important to communicate early and often, so users know about coming changes. Communication should come from the executive sponsor and focus on both the benefits to the company and what’s in it for the users. Build excitement and set expectations. As the deployment draws nearer, outline the deployment plan, including when users will be trained and how they’ll be supported.

Before loading your production data, first load all users. You can load users manually, one at a time, or with the data loader functionality. We recommend you first load all users and data in a sandbox environment before loading the final set of data into your production environment.


Because data is loaded at a specific time, the transition will be easier if the data load is as close to deployment as possible. Be sure you schedule enough time to map and test the data. Here’s a summary of the steps involved in importing data:

  • ·         Plan your data import
  • ·         Prepare your data
  • ·         Test the import
  • ·         Execute the import
  • ·         Validate your data


This is becoming more crucial because it ensures that decisions are made based on information and communication across the project teams. This really allows the stakeholders to make informed decisions.
  • ·         Develop guidelines for the project and who is the approver
  • ·         Develop a process for reviewing the scope and direction of the project
  • ·         Include any Subject Matter Experts (SME) or the prime stakeholder
  • ·         Establish how the information and project is to be communicated
  • ·         Ensure all key users are properly trained in the CRM product being implemented


Most if not all successful CRM installations are successful only because they had a solid foundation and shared design vision.

Since is in the cloud then the technology risks are removed from the equation. So with a resource defined as the architecture expert you can also identify and constraints and all the service that integrations will be required. Once done we can include the architect design in the project workbook.
Our example is straightforward as the customer data is coming from a CSV file and the solution is in the cloud. However, there is still accessibility to the information via the internet that needs to be addressed and any back up plans.

Ensure that proper certification and training is carried out ahead of time not afterwards.
Data and clean data is the king and one of the most important elements of the project.


Improvements in any organization comes from this section. There are 3 basic steps:

  • What is the current process?
  • Where can we make improvements?
  • Have gaps been identified?
  • List and prioritize and include in the roadmap

For our example the improvements is where the customer account information is visible to all users, the sale process and documentation is attached within the opportunity and reporting is available.

When starting with a new solution the PA tasks are usually up front in the project and the PA is more beneficial once a system is in place for some time that improvements can be made.

I love to use whiteboards and diagrams to show how the process and the day in the life actually is seen. It also beneficial to map this against the functionality available.

Reports and dashboards are also key deliverables.


The key to any program is the users actually using the technology. If you provide simplicity and proper training and the value is delivered easily, then user adoption increases dramatically. However, just because you built it does not mean they will come. A perfect example is a company that is so focussed on exploiting an internal social media platform that the time and effort involved actually takes away from face time with customers. The user sees the task as being encouraged to chat internally, sees no value in selling more so doesn’t bother with the tool. Management then tries to have users start to comply with “must send chat messages every day on internal forums”. The users start to see value when they can reach other experts to answer questions in an open chat forum that helps them answer customer questions faster than email. The way to start this properly is to:

  • ·         Use the SME and super users
  • ·         Have employee focus groups provide feedback
  • ·         Ensure that you have exactly what the user needs
  • ·         Communicate, communicate and communicate success stories

I think the Sales Engineer/Technical support  forum is an excellent example for a chatter group. Sales can ask or posts questions like “customer is looking to be able to import his current Act! Data into…can we do that?” and get a fast response among the community. Over time these forums become searchable.
If the users do not like the solution and use it every day then the project is a failure.

Do not forget to ensure senior management has the right reports and dashboards prepared for them.
They need to be properly trained to access them.

Although Salesforce CRM is easy to get up and running, proper planning and preparation is essential for a successful implementation. Start by securing executive sponsorship so you have support when building your project team and communicating with the end users. Set up and customize the application so it works for your company’s unique needs. And continually revisit and optimize the application, build and refine your metrics, and always keep your end users and overall vision in mind.

Good Luck!

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