Implementation Overview

This chapter describes how to manage a successful implementation once the tool and the integrator have been selected. It's true that the success of the overall project is very much correlated with the quality of the tool and of the integrator, so if you made careful selections you should be on your way to a successful implementation. However, CRM implementations are long and can be a little tricky, so well run implementations definitely make the difference between very successful projects and not so wonderful ones. A strong implementation will make a fair tool work well, while a poor implementation can make even a good tool perform poorly. CRM implementations large and small include the following components:

  • Defining detailed implementation requirements. This goes beyond the requirements that you created to frame the tool selection, although the tool selection requirements are a very good start. A good implementation requirements list is not only complete and detailed, it is also understood and approved by all the stakeholders. We'll discuss how to get a quick and genuine buy-in in the next section.
  • Implementing the requirements through coding and integration work. The coding piece is often the longest phase of the implementation. It's most effective when preceded by effective planning and when accompanied by frequent and focused communication within the project team.
  • Testing. Testing needs to occur both for functionality and for load. We'll discuss how to leverage use tests to ensure that the business requirements are met and to improve the usability of the tool.
  • Training. Although I firmly believe that CRM systems should be "intuitively obvious" to use, a short end-user training program that covers both the process and the tool is usually required. We'll see how to combine self-paced learning and instructor-led training to deliver effective training without breaking the bank.
  • Communicating with internal and external users to ensure the acceptance of the system. This is an important and often neglected component of CRM projects. We will see that it's important to start early and to avoid an overly rah-rah approach that makes users suspicious and often sets expectations at an unrealistically high level, creating disappointment in the long run.

The two key principles for successful CRM implementations are to use rapid-development techniques that have proven to bring about high quality solutions faster than traditional techniques and to promote early customer acceptance throughout the development time. The techniques described below all relate to one or the other key principle. Because this tutorial is focused on the business side of CRM, this chapter discusses how to conduct the implementation and how to approach technical decisions from the business owners' perspective. The technical details of the implementation are only alluded to when they are relevant to the business owners.