Three Phases of CRM Projects

At the highest level, there are three phases to implementing a CRM system:

  • Selecting the tool, which includes defining requirements (covered in ), shopping for the tool (), and negotiating the purchase ().
  • Selecting the integrator. Most of the time, as we will see, it makes sense to contract out at least part of the tool implementation, since integrators can leverage their experience to make the implementation both faster and less error-prone. It doesn't mean you should completely give up control, however, as we will discuss in , "Selecting an Integration Partner." Some newer, mid-range tools may be able to be implemented without outside help. We will discuss when to make that decision in .
  • Implementing the tool. This is typically the longest phase by far, and its success depends much on how well the two other phases went. expands on activities and recommendations for this phase, whether you are working with the vendor, a third-party integrator, or alone.

Although the three phases are described sequentially, it doesn't mean that they occur strictly sequentially. In reality, there is quite a bit of overlap between the tool selection and the integrator selection phases: It's impossible to make a final decision on an integrator without having chosen a tool, and it's also very unwise to select a tool without having appropriate integrator candidates identified for the implementation. Moreover, there are many situations where implementation constraints influence the selection of the tool. For instance, you may choose to withdraw from consideration tools for which they are few qualified integrators available based on your evaluation of integrators. Even the implementation phase is not completely separate from the tool and integrator selection phases. While actual implementation cannot start until after the tool and the integrator have been chosen, there's much that can be put in place for the implementation before the other two phases are completed. One of the most important is selecting team members for the implementation, as you will want to include additional individuals who were not already involved with the selection phases. Although it's convenient to think of the three phases—tool selection, integrator selection, implementation—as separate events, remember that they all overlap and interact in important ways.