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CRM Software Implementation Strategy

II. Assemble the Right Project Team


Unsuccessful CRM software implementation projects and weak project teams have been inextricably linked throughout countless failed project post mortem analysis. However, getting the right team members is often an exercise in political jockeying and making staffing compromises. Seldom are the right team members idle for any period of time and often they are viewed as the producers that can least afford to leave their primary roles. Coincidentally, those staff who do seem to have availability and can be sublet away from their core jobs often find themselves on these types of projects. When it comes to implementing Customer Relationship Management software, don’t confuse availability with capability. As the old adage says, ‘if you need something done right give it to a busy person.’

"Whenever you have chaos, high risk, and a large group of people who do not know what needs to happen, but trust that someone else does, you create the opportunity for all manner of circus acts to dominate your planning horizon." -- Source: P.T. Barnum

Roles and Responsibilities

CRM implementation projects require dedicated and organized resources. The roles and size of the CRM software project team will vary based on the scope of the implementation, the number of users, the level of sophistication and the amount of change introduced. The proposed hierarchy above should be considered a baseline project team assembly needed to achieve project success.

Steering Committee

The project Steering Committee includes management and other executive level stakeholders that will be directly impacted by the success or outcome of the customer management project. During the implementation, the Steering Committee will reach consensus or influence the most strategic objectives for CRM adoption as well as approve the implementation scope, approach, time frame and budget. The Steering Team emphasis is normally on CRM adoption, utilization, measurement and refinement. Common implementation benchmark activities include the following:

  1. Confirming all customer information is being centrally stored, shared and made available
  2. Verifying the users' are actually using, benefiting by and endorsing the system
  3. Ensuring the data is being correctly organized and processed for operational support and analysis
  4. Validating that data is accurate, available and in proper format/ structure so that customers are better served and are spoken to with uniformity across the organization, regardless of who is speaking

The primary Steering Committee responsibilities include the following:

  • Provide vision
  • Visibly and vocally sponsor the project and its objectives
  • Reinforce cultural change
  • Ensure resource availability
  • Resolve or influence policy issues
  • Provide interpretation of company or project vision, direction and execution of objectives
  • Confirm business direction and correlation of project to business direction

Executive Sponsor

The Executive Sponsor is normally the liaison from the Project Team to the Steering Committee. The Executive Sponsor monitors the activities and progress of the Project Manager and Project Team. This individual assists in communicating the project status to the Steering Team, ensuring milestones are completed in a timely fashion, and providing the overall supervision of the employees assigned to the project.

Other specific responsibilities may include:

  • Liaison to Steering Team; Keep Steering Team and project stakeholders updated as to project status, progress and/or any deviations
  • Identify and secure all required project team members for the project (e.g. Functional Champions, Key Uses, System Administrator)
  • Verify the dedicated participation of each required project team representative (available to commit full-time during peak periods or coverage and backfill of team members particular areas)
  • Regularly review project status and emerging risks and select/approve potential solutions from those presented
  • Provide direction on prioritization of emerging issues and risks
  • Provide advice and counsel on major project and policy decisions
  • Ensure the appropriate project team members and key decision makers are identified and available to fulfill their project responsibilities
  • Identify and secure access to additional end user staff as needed to support specific areas of expertise not represented by the project team
  • Ensure that a Steering Team and Project Leader has been assembled for this particular project and they understand their role
  • Attend regular project meetings to discuss outstanding issues, status and scheduled events
  • Communicate all project budget and financial issues to financial management and secure resolution for open items
  • Review deliverables at milestones for time, quality and accuracy in order to ensure progress and closure are achieved
  • Review schedule changes and identify the impact on the organization in order to identify whether the changes can be absorbed or require a change of schedule and resource assignment
  • Provide assessment of existing business practices and definition or guidelines for future practices or requirements
  • Facilitate process improvement opportunities and prioritize which opportunities are to be slated for achievement

Project Manager

This role will require an individual with strong management and communication skills who understands the operation and objectives of the customer management implementation. The Project Manager is the person responsible for the overall project planning and progress toward the implementation. This individual is responsible for monitoring, maintaining, and adjusting the project plan (based on the input and deliverables of team members), providing implementation leadership strategies to the Executive Sponsor, and ensuring the effectiveness of the application consultants assigned to the project. Other responsibilities include reviewing and assisting in issue resolution, coordinating task dependencies, and establishing milestone project goals that keep the project on time and within budget.

Other specific responsibilities may include:

  • Manage the customer relationship with the vendor
  • Confirm solid understanding of corporate objectives and expectations; if necessary, reset objectives and expectations
  • Approve the implementation schedule and project plan
  • Continually monitor scope, time frame, budget and risk
  • Manage project resources to assure maximum efficiency, effectiveness and resource utilization
  • Periodic risk management - project risks and people risks - and development of mitigating strategies. Significant or high impact risks should be addressed with the Executive Sponsor
  • Recognize change management issues and risks; develop recommendations and mitigating strategies
  • Periodically measure and confirm stakeholder, Executive Sponsor, Champion, Key User and System Administrator satisfaction
  • Validate that the deliverables from the project represent the views and meet the specific business needs of the Steering Team and/ or the Executive Sponsor
  • Define and monitor corrective actions where necessary
  • Validate resource allocation according the statement of work and level of effort
  • Assist in change management issues as they relate to users of the system
  • Monitor open tasks and issues list

Subject Matter Experts

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), sometimes referred to as Functional Champions or Team Leads, spearhead individual functional areaa (such as sales force automation (SFA), Marketing, Customer Service, a particular line of business or even a particular CRM software function). These individuals are stakeholders from the department or line of business most affected by the software module and related business process changes (e.g., SFA), have complete domain area knowledge and are dedicated to the project (and generally relieved of traditional day-to-day responsibilities for departmental operations while participating on their area of the project). SMEs must be empowered to make decisions for their domain area and their user community. They lead the configuration efforts and decisions during the Conference Room Pilot (CRP) phase with each software module. They further determine the current and anticipated transaction flows within the software module. Their primary objective is to gather process and configuration information from the key users and define the business system based on that information. These individuals may develop process flowcharts for the existing and new system processes, develop methods of resolving process gaps, identify report and data requirements for the respective modules to support the end users, and identify data conversion requirements to support their modules. SMEs are responsible for module testing, coordinating and facilitating key user meetings, scheduling key users for system tests, preparing process documents, approving training documentation, and the training of the end users. Other major responsibilities for this role are as follows:

  • Identification of user requirements within their functional areas
  • Provide expert knowledge of the subject area
  • Understand the "as is" environment and provide functional expertise and knowledge of the existing business practices
  • Responsible for the successful configuration, processing and implementation of functional area software modules
  • Reconciliation of user requirements to the new system capabilities
  • Liaison between user community and project team; Act as a mentor and liaison to other users of that functional area
  • Represent the user interests in system design and software configuration decisions
  • Design and configuration of software parameters for each module
  • Identify and implement business process improvements and changes
  • Act as the transforming agent to identify process improvement opportunities within the new CRM software application
  • Sponsor the change management required for cautious or resistant users
  • Work with users to develop necessary processes or procedural changes to accommodate the software application
  • Work with users to foster active participation in project and ownership of the new system
  • Schedule and provide dedicated end-user training without interruptions
  • Provide a communication link between project teams through attendance at regular Project Team or Team Leader meetings
  • Contribute to status reporting
  • Thoroughly test the software and associated procedures to confirm that the primary business requirements are met

System Administrator

In order to assume ownership of CRM software utilization and long term success, you will need to appoint at least one System Administrator (SA). Although technical experience is not required, the SA is a more technical resource to the project team and actively involved throughout the implementation project and post production processing. Common SA tasks include the following:

  • Configuration and Setup
    • Data importing: Validate cleanliness of data, scrub data and perform imports of accounts, contacts and/or sale opportunities into the CRM system (e.g. uploading user's data from prior systems). Reconcile and verify import results
    • Application configuration options.
  • Implementation
    • User and role management: The creation, modification and removal of all user's and roles within the customer management system. Resetting user passwords when necessary
    • Security administration: Assigning and managing overall system security, user security and account-level security
    • Field level data list management: Assist management or Functional Champions with determining or modifying acceptable values from all data list fields throughout the customer management application
    • System training: Provide initial training to staff, and new-hires on an ongoing basis, for system usage
    • Query and reports management: Provide users training to create or modify queries and reports throughout the system
  • Management and Administration
    • Troubleshooting: Provide first level response to user issues or problems. Most issues or problems that are user-oriented will be resolved by SA, all other issues and problems may be escalated to the software vendor help desk
    • Monitor system usage: Verify utilization and enterprise-wide access (subject to business need and security) and viewing of customer information
    • Continued user and role management: Updating memberships and deleting outdated users and roles
    • Resetting user passwords
I. Start with Business Strategy (not Software Technology)
II. Assemble the Right Project Team
III. Leverage an Implementation Methodology
IV. Insist Upon Structured Project Management (not Project Administration)
V. Prepare For Change Management
VI. Plan Early For Dirty Data
VII. Consider Best Practices Utilization
VIII. Don't Forget Risk Management