Why CRM Projects Fail & How To Avoid These Pitfalls


CRM is notoriously tricky to deliver. Get it right, and you will see greater productivity and better reporting insights that will translate into higher customer satisfaction and increased revenue. Get it wrong, and you'll have an IT system that is barely used by your employees and wasted investment.

Studies frequently report high percentages of CRM projects that continue to fall short of expectations, and for many project leaders it can often prove a bumpy process.

At Preact, we've helped many businesses rescue a failing Dynamics 365 / CRM project and put them on the path to success but what are the main pitfalls, and how can these be avoided from the outset?

In this post we've shared the most common barriers to CRM success and how to effectively reduce these risks.

Lack of Research

It’s always tempting to go with a familiar solution by implementing a CRM product that you’ve previously worked with.

But what previously worked successfully might not be so effective in another industry, or a within an environment with different challenges and business needs. Consider who needs to use a new system, what data should be tracked, how it needs to integrate with other apps and what reporting is needed. Weigh these key requirements against prospective solutions to finalize your shortlist and avoid choosing a system that won't be fit for purpose.

Too much complexity

Large projects take time to get started and often never leave the planning stage. Prioritise the most immediate requirements and what level of investment is available to achieve expectations. Consider first introducing a new solution to one or two teams on a smaller scale that will lower upfront costs and deliver quick wins before embarking on an organisation-wide roll out.

Through careful prioritizing, project leaders can focus on the teams and processes where a new CRM app will have the greatest impact – and where it’ll have the highest adoption.

With a manageable initial phase, streamlined projects can be more easily budgeted and get underway quickly to generate early results that will instil confidence and give businesses a solid foundation to build on.

Overcomplicating things at the outset creates an immediate barrier to adoption. Start with a simple role-based interface that reflect only the features that individual user groups need.

Failing to sell the benefits

Few team members are likely to embrace the need for a new CRM solution unless they understand one key point. What's in it for them?

Specifically, they want to understand how a new system will help them and not just there to keep an eye on them - or to put them out of a job...

During the initial discovery stage, the message should be ‘We’re implementing a new system to make your working lives easier’.

Demonstrate in words and actions that their input at this early stage will be invaluable to making sure that the capabilities and functions that individual teams would benefit from is included in the choice of solution and system build.

For example, demonstrate how repetitive manual tasks could be automated to reduce effort so they can better focus time elsewhere. Similarly, how would their job satisfaction be improved if all their data was in one place?

Discover what is currently tricky or time-consuming for users today.

If initially sceptical employees can see from an early stage how a new CRM system will help them perform and reach their targets they'll be more motivated to embrace change.

Lack of executive support

Business owners and management teams have the most to gain from CRM success through better reporting, process efficiencies and increased customer retention. As a result, they should be visibly on-board and accountable when a case for CRM investment is made.

Few things undermine a CRM project as much as an executive who champions the need for a CRM system in the early days but doesn't support the project team in delivering their vision, or even using the technology themselves.

If a new CRM system is to be ingrained into the culture of the business, leaders must be committed and conspicuous users.

During the project design process, some requirements may be in conflict with the result of delays and increased cost. Difficult decisions may be needed and must be taken with accountability from senior managers.

CRM projects run solely by IT

Successful CRM systems are adopted throughout a business so it’s vital that key people across these teams participate in the decision-making process and are committed to the project.

IT teams should be fully involved but the project shouldn't be solely led by them. CRM is about managing customers, improving processes and driving business growth. Service, sales and marketing leaders have the most to gain from these improvements and should be included as the main stakeholders responsible for steering these projects.

Ownership and accountability for CRM projects should sit with its main beneficiaries. If teams who are expected to use CRM technology aren’t involved in the planning process and it is entirely left to IT, CRM will fail.

CRM projects that don't involve IT

On the flip-side, we’ve encountered projects that reached an advanced stage only to see plans delayed or deadlocked because of IT problems - in many cases because of incompatibility between the proposed CRM system and internal systems.

IT can have a significant bearing on which CRM solution will be effective especially if an on-premise system is proposed. Although the majority of implementations are now in the cloud, there are often IT considerations that sales or service teams aren't aware of so make sure that IT are involved at the early planning stage to remove avoidable obstacles later on.

Poor data quality

If you are struggling with poor quality data in your current CRM system, implementing a new technology won't change anything. This is the classic case of 'rubbish in, rubbish out'. Before any data migration there should be a thorough audit and clean up process. Undoubtedly this will reveal actions to deal with scenarios such as data duplication, missing field entries and outdated data. If unchecked, dirty data will prove costly.

Integration failure

An integrated CRM system provides a single location to activate connected processes across multiple channels which often span email marketing, finance and websites.

CRM projects won't fully deliver if they fail to account for data and process integration. Consequently, these doesn't tackle unconnected systems and the inefficiencies they create through duplication of effort, lack of scale and manual reporting.

Consider what systems your business users and how they should interface with a new CRM system, or if they could be replaced.

Whether it’s a single data source or several, lacking a big picture view creates more data silos and missed opportunities. To avoid this map out the information flows your business needs to run its processes from CRM. Visualising these flows allows users to highlight where blockage occur, and where integration can automate processes.

Scope creep

Once objectives and deliverables are defined there can be a temptation to address further requirements.

During the project, stakeholders may want to add capabilities that weren't previously identified during the scoping stage. Any added feature needs to be planned, fully tested and viewed in the context of the wider CRM business process. Late changes can have unintended knock-on effects and often mean that milestones are missed while incurring extra costs.

Some changes will be essential and dealt with through change control processes but once CRM objectives are set and documented with CRM partner, it is strongly recommended these are fixed. Where possible, plan your project in phases so that new requests aren't added ad-hoc, but instead built into the next stage.

Insufficient training

CRM is a business strategy supported by processes and technology that is used by teams. Technology is a vital component but overly focusing on this part increases the risk of failure if similar attention isn't given to how supporting processes will be mapped to CRM, or in creating a user adoption strategy.

For CRM technology to be relevant the product must be personalised to fit your processes and the needs of the people who'll use it.

The level of personalisation will depend on your unique workflows and the capabilities of the solution you are implementing.

'Build it, and they will come' isn't a successful approach for CRM. Although teams may have been consulted during the planning process don’t expect them to be fired up and effective users from day 1. The goodwill created through consultation will quickly evaporate if people don’t understand how to use the technology.

User training must be built in but the amount needed is frequently often under-estimated. As well as delivering tuition across the main functions, group training is an ideal format to confirm processes and secure collective buy-in.

This isn't a one-off event. CRM training is a continual process helping users learn more about the product so they are able to increase their knowledge and do more with the system, and be repeated as new people join the team.

At Preact, clients use our Dynamics 365 managed service to schedule training sessions whenever they want to explore new features and help on-board new users.

Insufficient testing

Once you have working system, begin a beta test with users – not just members of the IT team - before the ‘go live’. That way, if screens aren’t clear, if critical data input fields are missing, or process flows aren't consistent with their methodology – they can tell you early on what needs to be looked at again to make the system usable for them.

Lack of post-implementation support

Once initial training has been delivered and you go live, things can quickly unravel if users struggle with their early experiences and aren't able to find answers.

For projects that Preact deliver, we provide resources on-site to floor-walk and support new users by recapping training points, answering support questions and taking note of change requests.

Aside from this, successful projects will have super users across the organisation. These are ‘go to’ resources who teams and individuals can contact for internal help and support. These will be knowledgeable about the departmental area users work in – and understand the day-to-day tasks they encounter.

Super users will be able to identify what issues or challenges users are encountering so that project leaders can move quickly to review and fix these problems. This will go a long way to minimising any damage to user adoption or motivation.

Once the system has bedded in, CRM super users are your eyes and ears of project leaders as they'll provide valuable insight and updates about how the system should evolve to keep pace with new requirements and change requests from users.

Let's Talk

If you are considering implementing a new CRM system, we will help you avoid these pitfalls and implement a solution using Microsoft Dynamics 365 that will have a fast track to value.Get in touch today to discuss your requirements.

RELATED: Download our eBook, 'The Insider Guide to CRM Success'.

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