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Planning and managing a CRM System rollout


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Planning for a CRM system rollout whilst ambitious - need not be daunting. A few simple steps will smooth the process and help the rollout achieve a success. How you manage the rollout is as important as choosing the right CRM package. It is important that all departments need to commitment to adopting a customer-centric vision.

Manage the implementation properly and you will be well rewarded. CRM is high profile and when used well it can be very powerful for a business and deliver real, measurable value.


Prepare for Change

CRM rollouts fail when the organisation is unprepared for change. Becoming more customer-centric is, in itself a change. You should accept business practices will change – they have to. It is important that you don’t just automate your old bad practices. It is important that people learn to use the new CRM rather than continue to use their old systems and methods. An organisation can’t improve unless it does things in a new and improved way.


Create a CRM team

By creating a small CRM team you create a dedicated team that is responsible for representing the views and requirements of all your departments. They should be empowered to make decisions. The team must have someone who understands your company’s processes and procedures. Often this person will be the main user. Once the team has been formed get them to plan the implementation and rollout process. Get the Board buy into and accept the adoption of the new CRM system and the changes it will bring about.



Do everything incrementally. Do the rollout incrementally. Start with yourself trial some products and see what they can do. Find out how easy or difficult it is to do a few simple tasks.

Introducing change can cause upsets, so it is important to keep emotions under control. Start with marketing or sales. Get the managers who are to use the system to buy in by using the system early and creating ideas to its development. This will foster a collaborative atmosphere. Don't put in all the data in one go before you first run a report and start to use the system. Start using the system incrementally, experiment, test and repeat. Focus on giving first-time users a series of quick wins and add in complexity and depth iteratively.


Gather and add your data

Your data will be in legacy systems, spreadsheets, people’s heads and in email address books.

Many CRM systems will have an import wizard to import older data from ACT!, Outlook, GoldMine or dBASE. If you need to import data be aware that there is likely to be some data cleansing required. Make sure you start with your most important clients first.


Customer needs

Identify which features are going to help your biggest 5 customers the most and get that working first. Remember that a CRM system is not just a sales tool. Everyone in your company should use it to track customer information. So when evaluating what your customers need - get every department involved, ask them for their requirements and rate the features on importance. This will help you decide what CRM solution you will need. It will also create buy in from each of the departmental teams, as they see the benefits they will be getting from the new solution,.



You can’t miss this step. No matter how intuitive the system is to use, your users will need to be trained. You can either outsource this to a specialist training organisation or make it a function of your internal CRM team. During the selection process and rollout they will have become knowledgeable users. As a result, they are often the best people to develop and implement the training program. Once people have received their training, get them to do their work on the CRM system as a pair. This close team working helps users build confidence in the system and will result in knowledge transfer of different job roles. Two people working collaboratively increases the learning process as each half of the pair will remember some parts better than others.



After using the CRM system for a while and you are comfortable with its basic functionality, you are ready to customise it. You might want to create new fields or change a screen design to include more or less information. Customising a menu bar to give one click functionality for a user’s common tasks can add to user satisfaction and enhanced productivity.


Unless you know what you are doing don’t try to do this step too early – don’t waste time on customisations that you do not really need. Shortening a task by 10 seconds that you use 80% of the time is more valuable that shortening a 10 minute task to 5 minutes that you only perform once a month. However, developing custom reports can be worthwhile if it will allow you to mine really useful information from your system and help you look after all your customers more effectively.



Without a review process you can’t validate the success or know where to improve the system. After four to six weeks of use the CRM team should conduct a review. They should check that everyone is using the new system correctly – if they are not, perhaps more training is required. Now that they have some experience of using the system the users should be asked to suggest what additional functions and improvements to the system will make a difference in satisfying your customers’ needs. Keep doing reviews, regularly. These reviews will help you continuously enhance your CRM system and add business value.



Do everything incrementally – this includes adding data, defining new requirements, making customisations and training. Always ensure that each new step or iteration adds business value. Making the changes small and manageable will increase the chances of success. Incrementally adding to the CRM solution ensures you end up with the system that is really useful to you - not the system you thought would be useful when you first started out on the implementation.



For more information on choosing the right CRM solution for your company read selecting a CRM system.



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