What's a Good CRM Project Team?

If you want your CRM project to succeed, you must create a great team to work on it. The quality of the team is the most important component for success and is even more important than the financial resources you have. After all, a great team should be able to justify getting the appropriate resources; conversely, it's quite possible for a well-funded project to fail for lack of a good team, for instance if there is not a committed executive sponsor. This chapter describes the various roles required on the team, who can play these roles, what roles can be contracted out and what roles should not, and how many people resources you need to complete a successful project. Let's start with an overview of the various roles on CRM teams. Depending on the type of project, its complexity, and its length, the various roles described here may be assigned to part-time contributors, to people working full-time on the project, or to multiple individuals for the larger projects. Some of the roles, such as the executive sponsor role, are by definition part-time roles and may not increase significantly in scope even as projects get very large. In smaller projects, some roles will be so abbreviated that you can dispense with them or combine them with others. And some roles will almost always be outsourced regardless of the type or size of the CRM project. We'll see details in upcoming sections. For now, let's inventory the roles regardless of whether they are played by employees or by contractors, whether they are part-time or full-time, or even whether they exist at all.

  • The executive sponsor. This is the executive who shepherds the project from beginning to end and who has both the vision to make it happen and the proper understanding, power, and influence to sell it and nurture it to a successful conclusion. This role is absolutely key to the success of the project.
  • The project manager. This is the individual who makes the project work by creating the project plan, driving day-to-day activities, and addressing issues as needed. This is obviously an important role but as we will see it's less key than the executive sponsor, and you can hire a consultant to do it if needed.
  • The business owners. They are the line managers in charge of the business functions affected by the project. Unlike the executive sponsor, the business owners may not have the vision or political savvy to push the project into existence, but they are the ones who need to embrace it so their teams embrace it, and they also will need to provide the input required to define good quality requirements for the project.
  • The super-users. They are end-users who are part of the project team and help define requirements and conduct user testing. The role is different from that of the business owners in that the super-users are hands-on practitioners of the particular functions being automated. You can't get away with involving only the business owners if you want real-life feedback on usability. Super-users also play a critical role in creating acceptance for the new system, which can be half the battle of CRM projects.
  • The IT owner. The IT owner is the counterpart of the business owners, representing the IT side. While it may be true that no CRM project can succeed when driven only by IT management, I have personal experience with several that failed because IT management was not involved early enough and deeply enough. IT management must be involved whether or not the project is outsourced.
  • The technical staffers. They include programmers, system administrators, database administrators, security specialists, and other individuals as required by the specific project. Many technical resources can and really should be outsourced, as it's unlikely that you will either have the required specialists on staff, or that you will need them for the long run.

Let's now examine each role one by one, analyzing its specific requirements and how they can be met in various project configurations.