6 critical factors for a successful CRM implementation

A quick guide to a successful CRM system implementation


Failure isn’t an option when you’re making a significant investment in a new CRM solution. Yet, time and time again, we see businesses overlooking the most obvious (to us!) factors behind a successful CRM implementation and ending up with a half-baked outcome.

Through several dozen launches, we’ve narrowed down the ingredients for success to six critical factors. These are:

  1. Build the right stakeholder team
  2. Define your goals and the overall vision
  3. Discover how CRM integrates with your other systems
  4. Choose the right partner
  5. Provide user guidelines
  6. Plan training & adoption strategies

While the list can look a little daunting at first, when you break each step down, they aren’t so intimidating. With your bases covered in these six areas, you’ll be well on the way to a successful implementation.

1. Get stakeholder buy-in

A successful CRM project starts and ends with buy-in from users. A lack of support from your stakeholders, especially senior staff, will trickle-down through the organisation. The result – frustratingly low to poor employee engagement.

The implementation of a new CRM solution involves most, if not all, parts of an organisation. So, your senior executives and top levels of line management must be involved from the start and become champions of the software. This builds credibility and inspires and encourages other users to adopt it. When you get stakeholders involved from the get-go, their passion for the project will help ensure its success.

2. Define your goals

Defining the goals for the new customer relationship management system should be done by a team of people from across the business. Building the right team in the early stages of the project is vital, and will complement the stakeholder buy-in you have achieved in step one. The team needs to work collaboratively to agree on the overall vision and set the desired business goals. And of course, these need to be validated with your key stakeholders so there’s company-wide alignment.

Once you’ve collectively established your initial goals and vision, the project management team orchestrates the entire project; from ensuring user engagement to meeting KPIs and milestones.

3. Drive integration

If your new CRM consolidates several workflows, then it's highly likely that it will need to feed into, and receive data from, other systems. Luckily, integration is no longer a dirty word in the CRM world! A good CRM will integrate out-of-the-box with most popular line-of-business applications, or use APIs, and will be able to utilise a large ecosystem of plug-in functionality to meet specialised requirements.

In most cases, the same applies if you’re upgrading or replacing an older system. If you have the right partner (check out point 4 below) this side of things should be well and truly covered in the initial project discovery phase to ensure there are no surprises.

4. Engage the right technology provider

Choosing the right partner for your CRM system implementation will involve meetings with multiple providers. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s essential to do your homework, and do it thoroughly. There are many factors to consider in choosing a provider, and they’re often specific to the needs of your organisation. TIP: Ask them how they’ll help you with the points above.

No matter your size, needs or budget, it’s essential to have your CRM provider there for you from your initial planning stage to well past the actual implementation. A great partner will:

  • Share their vision of your vision! They’ll show you what technology is needed to bring your project to life.
  • Provide you with the overall architecture and the underlying technology – and explain how that aligns to the goals you have set.
  • Elaborate on the services and solutions they and their partners provide, and see how and where they can assist your organisation.
  • Explain the total cost of ownership in black and white. A good partner hates ‘surprises’ just as much as you do!
  • “Explain and train” in detail the functionality of the application, and how to utilise it.

5. Provide user guidelines

A CRM is only as good as the data that’s entered into it, which is why it is essential to have a set of common usage guidelines. If your users are unaware of how to enter data in the correct format, it’s going to be difficult to make the most of your new application. The ability to track sales progress through pipelines, deliver accurate and speedy reporting, send email communications or offer the right customer service is contingent on having the correct data in the right place.

When preparing user guidelines, take a prescriptive approach – there should be no room for ambiguity. State clearly and precisely how data should be input and managed within the CRM system. And once done, make sure the documentation is easily accessible from a shared document repository.

6. Plan to train, train and train some more!

While the written guidelines you have set up in step 5 are important, if your users are unaware of ‘how, why and when’ to use the system, then there’s just no point.

We all deal with change in our own way. So, while you’ll have early adopters who will love a brand-new system, there are almost always some who are downright reluctant to accept it. Your project manager needs to have strategies in place to be able to handle the enthusiast, the extremely reluctant and those simply sat in the middle. One thing is for sure, no matter where they are on the adoption curve, everyone will need training!

Given that we all learn in different ways, it’s best to offer your users options. Some people thrive in a classroom situation, while others prefer on-the-job training from your partner, online courses, or learn-at-your-own-pace documents. It’s a good idea to have passionate experts (aka super-users) internally, who can mentor other employees through the first three months of adoption.

And of course, new employees inductions should include an introduction to your CRM the essential role it plays in your organisation.


The implementation of a CRM requires detailed, in advance preparation, a high level of commitment from senior stakeholders and cooperation from all levels within your organisation.

A CRM software will transform the way you do business, so it requires an organisation-wide change in mindset. It’s not a plug-and-play solution, but a new way of thinking, putting your customers front and centre.

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