How Many Resources Does It Really Take?

Even after going through detailed guidelines for each member of the team, it may be difficult to visualize what the CRM project team should look like when you combine all the ingredients. To help you define the scope and shape of what you may need for your own specific project, here are some typical CRM project scenarios and their matching teams, together with comments on why and how the choices were made and what could be done differently depending on the particular circumstances. The scenarios are composite case studies, drawn from real-life situations that illustrate different aspects of CRM projects but without the restrictions or confidentiality issues of actual case studies. You may read through all the scenarios to gather inspiration and then design your own team. If you're pressed for time, start with the scenario that's closest to your particular situation and adjust from there.

New Support-Tracking System, Small Company

The Context

In this small company (300 people) the support team only has 15 people. The simple support-tracking tool that was put in a few years ago when there were only two people on the support team is bursting at the seams, and, most problematic, doesn't support an integrated knowledge base. It seems that a good strategy is to upgrade to a more powerful, more modern system that supports an integrated knowledge base and a customer portal. The support group reports to a support director who in turn reports to the VP of Services. He is relatively new to the company and is the one who spotted the requirement to upgrade the tracking system shortly after his arrival. There's only one support center for now, although a satellite center will be opened in Europe within the year to support local customers.

The Team

This is a relatively straightforward project, with only one business function involved, a small number of users, and a focused strategy. The project team is, therefore, small and simple.

  • The executive sponsor should be the VP of Services. The only potential issue is that he is a new player, but with a project of this size it shouldn't be a problem.

    The other potential candidate is the support director, but since the director did not identify the problem prior to the arrival of the VP of Services, she may not have the level of strategic vision required, nor may she have the required skills and connections to get the budget approved. However, considering that the project is squarely limited to the support team, it may be a good opportunity for the support director to get a first taste of executive sponsorship. This setup can work provided she has appropriate visibility and business savvy, and if the VP of Services is willing to step back and to provide coaching and assistance. It would be a great developmental project for a manager at that level. Because the scope of the project is limited, it does not make sense to have the CEO be the executive sponsor, although it sure would not hurt to have the CEO be squarely in favor of this project!

  • In such a small organization, everyone is very pressed for time, and no one has managed the deployment of a support tool before. The VP of Services has hired an independent consultant he has worked with in the past who will be responsible for the selection phase of the project. Once the tool is selected, and depending on the specific requirements for the deployment, the consultant may be asked to stay on and manage the implementation.

    It would be possible for the support director to be the project manager (but it looks like she's already over-scheduled), or for an IT owner to play that role (but it's very unlikely that there would exist a business apps manager in a company this size.)

  • The business owners are the support director and the support managers. They are all conveniently located in one location and are working so closely together that it will probably be easy to get them to agree on requirements. The only question marks are 1) whether they will be able to ignore the constraints that have been imposed by the current tool and "dream big" and 2) whether they will adapt to the customer-openness model that the VP of Services is driving for and that modern tools support. This last point is a clue that the VP of Services should probably be the executive sponsor, unless the support director has internalized that vision.
  • The super-users will be three support reps taken from the three support teams. One is quite new but she has worked with one of the tools being considered in her last job. The other two are senior members of the team and highly respected by all members of the support center.

    Note here the addition of a junior person on the team of super-users. She will probably be more sensitive to the requirements of less experienced reps, which is a good thing since the group is expanding. Watch out if the tool selected is not the one she used to work with. There could be some level of disappointment or even resentment. If the European support center were already in existence, a support staffer from Europe would need to be on the team, even if it meant enrolling the one and only European staffer. It's essential that all geographies be represented.

  • The IT owner will be the director of IT and the only manager in that department. The main issue will be to ensure that the tool that's chosen fits into the corporate standards and won't require much maintenance. This goal matches the goal of the support team, which has had a hard time getting any help for the old tool from an overburdened IT group and wants to find a solution they can administer themselves.

    An important note here is that the IT owner must be persuaded to devote enough time to the project and to fully commit to the selection. Even with the goal of no IT involvement there will necessarily be some level of resources required from IT and it's essential that IT not throw up any roadblocks. A good relationship between the IT owner and the executive sponsor is important in securing appropriate mind share.

  • Although the goal is to require very little help from the IT group, the IT staff will need to be involved at some level to set up machines, help with the testing, and provide ongoing support. Any actual coding or customization work required will be farmed out to the vendor.

New SFA System, Medium-size Company

The Context

In this medium-sized company, the direct sales organization includes about 120 people scattered throughout the U.S. and Europe. There is no sales-tracking system in place today, although various forecasting spreadsheets exist, developed in conjunction with the financial analysts. The goal of the project is to facilitate lead tracking and improve forecasting. All the account managers report to the VP of Sales, who herself reports to the CEO. There are four regional sales directors, one in Europe and the other three in the U.S., organized geographically. There is a small Sales Operations organization that processes orders, located at the headquarters in the U.S.

The Team

There are many ways to organize the team for this project, depending on the available talent within the organization. Here's a typical team, with comments on other potential configurations that could be used.

  • The VP of Sales is the executive sponsor. This is pretty much a requirement, although it would be possible to have the CEO be the executive sponsor. If the VP of Sales is strong enough, it's better to make her the sponsor since the project is focused on the sales team.

    Because the VP of Sales is very busy and travels widely, especially at quarter-end, she has asked the Sales Operations manager, who is located at headquarters and doesn't travel as much, to serve as her right arm on this project. This is quite common and will work properly as long as the Sales Operations manager has the respect of the sales directors (better check on that early on) and is able to quickly pass on issues that need her attention to the VP of Sales.

  • The project manager for the implementation phase will be supplied by the integrator and so will have done such implementations before. There is no one in the company that has gone through a project of this magnitude before, so it makes sense to get outside help. For the first phases of the project, the tool selection and integrator selection phases, the IT director will serve as the project manager since this is a high-profile project within the company. He will use one of the business analysts on staff in his group to put together the initial requirements.

    It's not unusual to change horses mid-stream, as it were, and to use different project managers for the selection and implementation phases, at least when there is no in-house resource capable of managing the implementation. It's really not that much of a problem, assuming that a good transition can be done, and specifically that requirements gathered at the beginning can be safeguarded and then enhanced for the implementation. Here, continuity will be ensured since the IT director will continue to be part of the project under another role, the IT owner (see below).

  • The business owners are the four regional sales directors as well as the Sales Operations manager. Some area sales managers (who report to the directors) will be participating as well, including one who went through a similar exercise with a prior employer just last year.

    The business owners are eager to get involved and reasonably enthusiastic about the benefits of the project, but they are concerned about their and their teams being asked to put significant time into the project, especially during quarter-end periods. This is a critical concern that must be addressed by the project manager. In this case, the project manager set things up so that the requirements definition workshop will take place during the first month of the quarter. A lot of sales training is occurring at that time too, but the time is better than quarter-end. Any testing and deployment efforts will also be scheduled outside the last month of any quarter.

  • The super-users have been identified as seven individuals, two from Europe and five from the U.S., including one sales operations rep, with a range of experience levels and tenure. All super-users were identified by their managers as good performers with an optimistic view of the project, except for one sales rep from the Central region, who is quite a skeptic. He is on the team because he's felt to be one of the informal leaders among the sales reps; if he can be won over he will influence many more to follow him. He's a good example of a dissenting informal leader. The situation has been discussed with the project manager, who had specifically requested that informal leaders be placed on the project team.
  • The IT Director, who reports to the CFO, is the IT owner for the project. There is a Manager of Business apps reporting to him, but the IT Director is concerned about the visibility of this project. He decided it would make sense for him to be actively involved in the project, especially since the Manager of Business apps was promoted from an individual contributor's position just a few months ago and needs some seasoning on the political side. Over the course of the project the participation of the IT director is likely to drop once he is satisfied that the manager can handle it. The IT Director feels that most of the value he can bring to the project himself is in the tool selection phase since he has a lot of experience negotiating contracts.
  • Most of the technical resources will come from the integrator, although the database administrator, network administrator, and system administrators from the IT group will be required to devote some time to the project. One of the individuals in the Business apps group will be apprenticed to the integrator's team during the implementation so she will be capable of maintaining the system single-handedly after the rollout, as well as performing minor upgrades as required. She won't have enough time available to handle major changes in the future, but she would be capable of directing contractors.

New Integrated CRM System, Medium-size Company

The Context

In this largish company, the sales organization has been run with ACT and Excel systems, and fairly successfully as far as these tools can go. With over 250 people now, things can get out of hand in crunch times, however. A big unresolved issue is that most sales are to existing customers and sales reps frequently find themselves unknowingly calling on accounts that have service issues because their access to the support system is very limited. They are forced to use an old, custom-made interface that makes it very difficult to extract the strategic issues even if all the details are captured. On the other hand, the service team (close to 50 people) has used a traditional client-server tool for years. The customer portal is severely limited, as is often the case with older tools, but after layers and years of customizations it's working. The support team is pretty much happy with the tool, except for a few mavericks who think that a migration to a new-wave integrated system is long overdue. The Client Services VP is not one of the mavericks. He used the same system at his old company for years and feels it does the job just fine. He doesn't want to upset things by doing a switch. A VP of Quality was hired a few months ago after the executive team unsuccessfully struggled with serious customer satisfaction issues and slow growth for close to a year. She has identified the lack of a common customer-tracking system and especially the barriers between the service and sales groups as a major reason for the corporate problems, and she has convinced the CEO to make a major investment to resolve the issue. The goal is to implement a unified, transparent system through which everyone would have access to all account information, whether sales- or support-related. The Sales VP, who had previously showed great unwillingness to adopt a costly tool that would require many process changes, has now rallied to the initiative and has committed to pushing new technology through his group, along with a massive sales training initiative that pushes solution sales. The sales team as a whole is not nearly as enthusiastic. The Client Services VP is very skeptical of the new project and doesn't think there is enough corporate will to accomplish the grandiose plans. In any case, his team is working very efficiently with the current tool and customers are happy with service, even if they are dissatisfied with the lack of responsiveness from the rest of the company.

The Team

This team is interesting to assemble because of the large political component of the project.

  • The executive sponsor must be the CEO, who is the only individual with enough clout, or at least enough power, to make the project happen. It would be a mistake to make the VP of Quality the executive sponsor since it's more than likely that there will be serious pushback from the Client Services VP, which she would not be in a position to handle fully. Even the Sales VP who seems so eager today may turn reluctant when resources requirements are defined or when the demands of the tool project conflict with the huge training program being undertaken.

    Without the political complications it would be possible to imagine the VP of Quality serving as the executive sponsor, but I for one would avoid that setup because she simply does not have the required political power. She could, however, serve as second-in command on the project for all practical purposes, as she will undoubtedly do even in this instance.

  • The project manager is an outside consultant with the appropriate background and experience, and plenty of business savvy, chosen by the VP of Quality. The VP of Quality has taken great pains to make sure that the project manager can work well with the CEO and has appropriate access to him when needed.

    The VP of Quality could serve as the project manager if, and this is an important if, she had the appropriate experience with such projects. Otherwise, a better role for her would be as a business owner (owner of the customers, in particular) and substitute and helper for the CEO who is the executive sponsor. Another possibility for the project manager would be a very strong Business apps Manager from the IT group, if there were such an individual. It's not clear that there is given the state of the current CRM tools, although the weakness may be due solely to the strategic choices of the business owners. If there is a Business apps Manager in place and if that individual has enough political visibility to both main business owners and has the appropriate project management experience, then the project manager job belongs there.

  • The business owners are the Client Services VP and the Sales VP, and their management teams. The divergent views between the services and sales groups could create interesting conflicts, which is why the choice of the project manager is so important (not to mention the choice of executive sponsor!). With appropriate focus on solutions and outcomes, the project manager could be pleasantly surprised that the two executives and especially their teams may welcome the new tools if they can see clear business benefits.
  • The IT owner can be the Business apps Manager if there is indeed someone with this title, and if there is not, it's probably time to create that position. The IT owner must be sensitive to the political situation with the business units, especially to create trust with the Client Services VP, so the Business apps Manager may need assistance from a higher-up IT executive. A good setup would be for the CIO to serve as the IT owner through the tool selection decision, and for the Business apps Manager to take over afterwards. However, the CIO cannot completely abdicate involvement in a key political project, especially if the Business apps Manager is new.
  • The technical staffers will include a blend of in-house IT staff and copious numbers of consultants. All the pure customization work should be farmed out for efficiency, making sure the individuals who will provide support and maintenance are involved for a smooth handoff.

New Support-tracking System, Large Company

The Context

This large company is about to get much larger because of a recent acquisition. The two support teams are to be merged. They both have traditional support-tracking systems in place, but one tool is on the verge of becoming orphaned after multiple acquisitions of its original vendor. The other has not kept up with modern technology and lacks basic amenities such as an integrated knowledge base and a functional customer portal. The two Services VPs agreed early on in the merger process that this would be a good opportunity to start fresh with an integrated system that is more robust and has a better future than either of the ones in place today. They discussed the issue with the CIO who agrees that they should replace what's in place today. Further, he thinks that they should proceed independently of the sales and marketing groups who are busy migrating the acquiring company to the existing system in the acquired company (which is much superior to the one that was used in the acquiring company). Eventually the support-tracking system and the sales-tracking system may be merged, but the CIO considers that it's best to go for a best-of-breed solution for support. The support teams are large (over 400 people altogether) and because of the merger there are multiple support centers in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and an outsourcer located in India. Part of the business strategy is to close some support centers and to merge others, but in all likelihood there will be multiple centers for a long time to come, maybe forever. Furthermore, the support team includes technical account managers, many of whom work out of sales offices or even from their homes. Both organizations are pretty open to a new system, since the old ones are not that good, but at the same time there is a lot of uncertainty about the mergers. There are also a lot of other issues to attend to, including reassuring customers that they won't be left behind. On the IT front, the acquired company has a fantastic Business apps Manager, who is the one who coordinated the selection and implementation of the sales-tracking system the company is now making standard. Her next target was a support-tracking project, so she's well versed in the topic already. She is not well known in the acquiring company, which is a problem, and furthermore she is located far from the new headquarters.

The Team

It's not unusual for CRM projects to arise out of mergers. Indeed, the acquiring company in this case is migrating its sales-tracking system. Is it too much to take on both the sales-tracking system and the support system? It is a lot, but it looks like the support systems just won't last, so once the sales-tracking project is on track there's no choice but to pursue a unified support-tracking tool.

  • The executive sponsor should be the new Support VP (that is, the Support VP for the merged support teams). There's no need to involve the CEO directly in this project since the project focuses on only one business function, and since there seems to be a surprisingly small amount of political heat around it. The new Support VP will undoubtedly be busy with other issues, but it would not be appropriate to delegate the executive sponsorship downward in this case since the CRM project is critical to the success of the merged teams.

    If the choice of the individual who will run the support team is contentious, the CEO may need to become the executive sponsor, but it doesn't sound like a reasonable alternative; better for the CEO to concentrate on choosing a strong Support VP in the first place.

  • The project manager can be the Business apps Manager, with two conditions. One, the sales-tracking project must be in good enough shape to allow her to devote enough time to the support project. Second, there is the issue of the remote location. It shouldn't matter so much with modern communication techniques, but it's essential for the Business apps Manager to build the proper alliances and to be visible, both of which will be much easier to accomplish with frequent visits to headquarters, and perhaps a temporary move there for the duration of the project.

    If the Business apps Manager cannot be available enough for the support project or cannot bridge the distance gap, it's possible to instead hire an outsider to manage the project. An outsider may be better accepted by both sides, and may also be more visible at headquarters. I would prefer to go with the Business apps Manager if her workload allows, both to make a positive statement that the acquired company matters, and because she has such a good track record.

  • The business owners are the support managers. Their involvement is particularly critical for three reasons. They already have solutions in place so the new tool must at least do better than the status quo. They come from two different groups, so getting to common ground is more delicate. It will be their first project as a merged team so it needs to be successful.

    Because the project manager comes from the acquired side, it's critical that the support managers on the acquiring side be very involved with the project, since the project manager presumably is more aware of and more sensitive to the other side. Also, any time the project manager is from IT, the business owners must make sure that decisions include the business side, not just the technical side.

  • The IT owner will be the Business apps Manager, with potential assistance from other individuals on the team depending on her workload. If she needs assistance, it would be good to pick someone who is located at headquarters. She should be able to play the role of the IT owner even if she is not the project manager since the IT owner's role is less time-consuming than the project management role.
  • Most of the technical work will be done by a system integrator. The existing support and maintenance staff for the current support-tracking apps will be given first priority to interview for a spot on the support and maintenance team for the new support-tracking tool and will be trained on the new tool. They are not expected to produce much of the customization work, only to receive enough on-the-job training to be able to handle the maintenance. System administration work will be handled by other existing IT personnel.

One last thought about selecting the team. Although this chapter may create the impression that the team is neatly identified and assembled prior to the start of the project, reality is rarely as well ordered. For starters, while it would be crazy to initiate a project without an executive sponsor, it's not uncommon for a business owner to create the initial inspiration so for a brief moment the project team may have a business owner but no executive sponsor. Once the executive sponsor is in place, the other key team members can be recruited: the project manager (for the selection process at least), the key business owners, and the IT owner. The first task of that small team would then be to identify the remaining team members, namely the other business owners, the super-users, and the technical staff, all selected to serve at least for the selection phase. Once the decision is made on the tool and the integrator, changes are often made to the team, and especially the project manager and the technical staffers as requirements become clearer. It's a very rare event indeed when the project team is assembled from the get-go and never changes throughout the life of the project. Once the team is assembled, it's time to get going with the project. The next chapter focuses on the very first step, requirements definition.