Skip to content

Implementing an enterprise Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be a complex undertaking. Don’t underestimate the work involved or the need for preparation. Avoid the mistake of thinking low code platforms are easy to implement because coding is limited.Choose a true platform that has long term viability. While these platforms offer advantages over custom-built, proprietary, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) point solutions, they still require a comprehensive deployment strategy owned by IT, and a roadmap owned by the business. Here’s a 6-step guide to ensure a smooth and successful CRM implementation for your organization.

1. Define Your Roadmap and Goals 

Shared Vision and Mission: Establish a clear understanding of the CRM’s potential impact on your organization, both now and in the future. Collaborate with key stakeholders to define desired functionalities, considering both immediate and long-term needs. Seek guidance from experienced CRM consultants to develop a comprehensive roadmap and product vision. It’s a CI/CD mission to continue adding functionality and enrichment/expansion over time. This roadmap will not only guide the initial CRM implementation but also future development and feature rollouts. 

2. Determine the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

MVP is the “goldilox” principle of solution scope, based on the principles of Agile, but with consideration to an enterprise class solution. It means the implementation of a set of functionality must include all attributes that are both necessary and sufficient to drive business value and adoption…and no more. Seeking MVP is an art as much as a science. The MVP represents the core functionalities of your CRM system, designed to be operational and deliver value from day one. The notion of MVP precludes pilots, POC’s and Power User Pre-releases. If you have a proper SDLC, the business and IT will agree to MVP and the release to Production will be confident and business-ready. This will save time and avoid uncertainties that can creep into your timeline.

Prioritization is Key: CRM systems offer a vast array of features, but attempting to implement everything at once can be overwhelming and counterproductive. It’s crucial to prioritize the mix of functionality that address critical business needs. This is where the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) comes into play. The MVP should encompass the essential functionalities that will deliver immediate value and drive user adoption. Avoid feature creep – resist the urge to include every available feature. Remember, you can always introduce additional functionalities later based on user feedback and evolving needs.

Addresses Critical Business Needs: The MVP should focus on the combination of functional attributes that directly address your organization’s most pressing challenges. This ensures a tangible return on investment (ROI) early on and fosters user buy-in.

Optimizes User Adoption: A streamlined MVP with clearly defined functionalities is easier for users to learn and adopt. This is crucial for driving user engagement and maximizing the system’s effectiveness. 

Enables Agile Development: An MVP serves as a solid foundation upon which you can build iteratively. This agile approach allows you to continuously introduce new features and functionalities based on user feedback and evolving business needs. 

Your initial project MVP will be larger than subsequent projects. This is needed to allow the new solution to drive enough value to achieve escape velocity over traditional tools and processes. Also, if you are moving from a mature in-house, complex CRM to a new cloud platform, incrementalizing may be difficult but still worth consideration, because MVP for a 100% migration can become impratcical and waterfall-ish. If you are using a collection of SAS and legacy systems that will move to a singular CRM, you are more likely to be able to iterate toward full conversion.

3. Identifying Needs and Gaps: Business Requirements Gathering and Analysis 

Leveraging Expertise: A CRM expert can be an invaluable asset during this phase. They can guide inform the gaps in your current state and help you identify and refine in-scope functional requirements that align with your strategic objectives. These are the user stories that will be covered in the design phase. This collaborative process ensures the CRM system truly addresses your unique needs. Many orgs make the mistake of making stories into specifications and skip design to go straight to development. Our recommended model is more aligned with the principles of Agile, but circumspect enough for enterprise applications.

Developing the BRD: The Business Requirements Document (BRD) serves as a blueprint for the CRM implementation. It documents the functionalities, workflows, and integrations needed to achieve your goals. 

Streamlining the BRD: Don’t let the BRD become an overwhelming document. During the analysis phase, eliminate redundancies, over-specifications, and ambiguities. This streamlines the development process and ensures everyone is on the same page. 

4. Building a Collaborative Force: Assemble the Project Team 

The success of your CRM implementation hinges on assembling a strong project team. This team should consist of a core team of business and IT roles. Our practice has this to a “T”, but be sure your business audience is the right user community targeted for this project, and it is right sized.

Defining Requirements: Based on the analysis and your strategic goals, define both functional and technical requirements for the CRM system. Don’t forget to consider any regulatory compliance needs your organization may have.

Leveraging Consultant Expertise: A CRM consultant can provide valuable insights during this phase. They can help you optimize technical requirements to ensure they align seamlessly with the capabilities of the chosen CRM software.

Once the BRD is complete, then stop. If this takes over 6 weeks, your product may be larger than MVP.

5. Building the Blueprint: Design and Architecture  

Future-State Design Document: This document should detail the functional components, workflows, data model, security protocols, and integrations needed to achieve your CRM vision. It should also encompass environment planning and governance, outlining the different environments (development, testing, production) needed for a smooth rollout. 

Collaborative Design Workshops: Conduct workshops involving both business and IT teams to ensure the designed solution aligns with user needs and technical feasibility. 

Solution Architect Expertise: An experienced solution architect should guide this design phase. Their expertise is crucial in creating a scalable, secure, and future-proof CRM architecture. 

6. Putting it into Action: Execution and Launch 

Now that you have a well-defined roadmap and a comprehensive design document, it’s time to translate plans into action: 

Decomposing the Solution Design Document: Break down the complex functionalities outlined in the design document into manageable work units or tasks.

Agile Development with Sprints: Whereas the discovery/requirements an design phases should be project driven, not Sprint managed, the execution phase is best managed in a time-boxed Sprint-based approach to the configuration and development phase. This allows for iterative and continuous development cycles where functionality is delivered in short timeframes, enabling continuous testing, feedback, and refinement. 

Resourcing the Execution: Assemble a team with the necessary technical and operational change management (OCM) skills to execute the development and deployment tasks outlined in the sprints. 

Collaboration and Testing: Development should be driven by the specifications outlined in the Solution Design Document (SDD). Regular testing throughout the development lifecycle, including User Acceptance Testing (UAT), is crucial for ensuring the system meets user needs and expectations. 

Phased Rollout and Cutover: Consider a phased rollout approach, where functionalities are deployed incrementally to minimize disruption. Develop a well-defined cutover plan for transitioning from your existing system to the new CRM. 

Launch and Post-Launch Support: A successful launch requires a comprehensive training program to ensure user adoption. Implement a post-launch hyper care period with a dedicated support team to address any issues and ensure a smooth transition. 

In conclusion, successful CRM implementation blends strategic foresight, iterative development, and cross-functional collaboration. By following these steps with diligence and expertise, organizations can unlock the full potential of their CRM investments and drive sustainable growth. To learn more about how CEI leverages these practices for impactful CRM solutions, visit our CRM practices page.