Why do so many CRM projects fail?

It’s estimated that around half of CRM projects either fail completely or miss their objectives. Whether you are considering adopting CRM for the first time, or you wish to upgrade an existing CRM system, this is an incredibly depressing statistic.

Rebecca Fawcett, Project Manager at Caltech CRM leads our CRM Project Rescue service and has helped numerous organisations to get their plans back on track. In this article she highlights the key factors which are all-too-often the root cause of CRM failure.

Why do so many Microsoft Dynamics CRM projects fail? As you would expect, this is a question we have examined continually over the past 20 years. Here at Caltech CRM, we have built a strong track record of successful CRM implementations, but this is perhaps because we’re so obsessed with our industry’s history of failure.

In our experience, CRM failures are entirely preventable. There are common potential points of failure within all CRM implementations. The key is to understand these issues and to put plans in place to mitigate risks at the outset, and to be able to recognise the warning signs before it’s too late.

Success factor #1: Clear goals

“There’s a well-known saying ‘Fail to plan; plan to fail’. Whilst it may be a cliché, it definitely applies to CRM.”

A successful CRM implementation will have crystal clear goals aligned to your organisation’s strategic objectives. At the outset, you must ask yourself: Are we trying to improve sales? Increase retention? Improve productivity and profitability? Are we seeking to increase the lifetime value of each customer? Or are we trying to improve management reporting to aid faster and more effective decision-making?

Of course, most CRM projects will seek to address a number of issues, but it’s important to prioritise. What aspects would make the biggest difference to your business goals? Once this is clear, we can clearly map the outcomes that need to be achieved. This helps on a number of levels: it means we can avoid scope creep; we get the right people on the team from the outset and we can keep your CRM project focused.

Success factor #2: Buy-in from colleagues

“Lack of user adoption is one of the most common causes of CRM failure.”

Another critical factor which will affect the success of your CRM project is buy-in from key stakeholders. Most CRM projects need a senior, Board-level sponsor and, in the case of CRM, the support of those who will eventually use the solution in their everyday work.

The Board sponsor must be fully behind the project, ensuring it receives the budget and resources it needs to be successful. The influence of this Board member on other stakeholders who are important to the project’s success should not be under-estimated.

The other key stakeholders are the people who are going to use the CRM solution on a day-to-day basis, typically the Sales and Customer Service teams. Lack of user adoption is one of the most common causes of CRM failure.

Your project can mitigate this issue by involving users in the design of your CRM solution, addressing training needs and re-designing organisational processes where appropriate. You may find it is helpful to appoint project ‘champions’ in your sales and service teams to help speed up user adoption so that your organisation can start to reap the rewards of your investment in CRM sooner rather than later. This team effort is pivotal to the success of the implementation and the ongoing value that your organisation can derive from its investment in CRM.

Success factor #3: Business first, technology second

“CRM is not about software. It’s about growing your business through great customer relationships and using technology as an enabler.”

Technology such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE is multi-faceted and highly functional, arguably the best CRM tool for organisations of all size. When you start to explore its full capability, it’s easy to see how the scope of your project can begin to creep, adding to the potential to increase cost and the time it takes to deliver.

We cannot stress how important it is keep focused on what your organisation needs to achieve from its CRM solution rather than on what the technology can do. CRM is all about relationships – using technology to build and enhance relationships with customers. If the functionality doesn’t help you to improve relationships, you can fall into the trap of simply collecting interesting data and spending too much time navel gazing!

Of course, if you see potential in the technological capability to address the issues your organisation is facing, you can enhance your CRM solution as your needs become more sophisticated and as your CRM solution becomes more ingrained in standard business processes. To this extent, we would encourage you to view CRM as a journey of continual improvement, not a single project to be implemented once and never revisited.

What to do next

Experience counts when it comes to reducing the risk of CRM project failure. No two organisations are the same, so each implementation is different. With 20 years of experience, we have a tried-and-trusted approach to ensure you get the best from your investment in CRM, now and in the future. To discuss how we can help your organisation with its first CRM implementation, or to arrange a free site audit of an existing CRM solution, please get in touch.