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The Pangs and Pains of Implementing CRM Software

By Nick Anderson, The Crispian Advantage &  Terry Merriman, the Performance Suite

February, 2015

This outline summarizes our experiences with system implementation and sales management over several decades and provides the basis for our presentation on the Pangs and Pains of Implementing CRM Software. Although its specific focus is on CRM systems, the findings apply to virtually any system implementation or to any process being automated.

We describe three premises for failed change, five conditions often prevailing in failed CRM software implementations, a root cause common to these situations, and what you can do to improve your chances for successful system implementation. We also list a few of the many corroborating studies, research papers and testimonies from leading authorities on CRM Systems and Change Management.


Outline of CRM Software Implementation Challenges. 2

Premises. 2

Conditions. 2

A Common Cause. 3

A Solution. 3

Conclusion. 4

References. 4

Outline of CRM Software Implementation Challenges


Your change will fail to meet its objectives if:

Premise 1: You do not correctly identify the condition(s) requiring change.

Premise 2: You do not correctly identify and include every relevant team member.

Premise 3: You do not get every team member aligned on critical success factors (objectives), roles, and responsibilities; i.e., establish the requiring environment.


What does our experience and the research show about the pangs and pains of CRM Implementation?

The CRM System:

  • Doesn’t satisfy needs when there is a limited vison for CRM (viewed primarily or solely as a Sales Force Automation tool), rather than a broad vision as:
    • A customer outreach (life cycle) tool for creating customer awareness (marketing), establishing the relationship (sales), maintaining and growing the relationship (service), and providing customer connection (social media)
    • An extension of effective deployment of a full and complete customer database
    • A comprehensive tool for prospect and account management
    • A comprehensive tool for post-sale relationship management
  • Doesn’t satisfy needs when the proposal does not adequately address current process issues, problems or requirements, specifically:
    • Existing processes are ineffective or inefficient but automated anyway
    • Requirements are not completely defined
    • The solution doesn’t address the defined problem or requirements
  • Doesn’t get fully implemented
    • Phased implementation not completed
    • Process elements overlooked during implementation
    • Operating manuals/guides not published
    • User training not completed
    • Documentation not finalized and retained
  • Doesn’t work as intended
    • Users not fully trained in acceptance testing process
    • System not fully tested
    • Test results/ problems not addressed before implementation
    • Users not fully trained in post implementation operation of system
  • Doesn’t get used
    • Users not fully trained in system operation
    • Users resist using all or some features of the system
    • System outputs and reports not used as intended or at all

A Common Cause

What do these problem areas have in common?

A root cause of many CRM Implementation issues is that all participants are not fully aligned on the problem, strategy, solution, implementation, use (role changes, functional changes) and impact (benefits)

  • People who know the situation best, (team members who perform the work) often are not involved in defining the problem(s) and identifying potential solutions; i.e., the organization does not rely on its own internal consulting experts, the people who use the system daily
  • Not all people who should participate in the development and implementation of the CRM system are invited to participate
  • Clear expectations are not established between all participants including consultants, vendors, leaders, designers, builders, installers, and users including marketing, sales, and service
  • More importantly, the marketing, sales, and service team members don’t buy in and fully adopt the CRM system leading to a deeper root cause of failed CRM implementations: lack of team member competency development and team member – customer alignment

An added challenge is that many CRM systems do not provide tools for addressing the critical daily routines of documenting alignment activities; i.e., expectations, and supporting competency development.

A Solution

What can you do about alignment, competency development, and customer relationship management to improve your chances of successful CRM Implementation?

Within the CRM Implementation Team which is building and implementing the CRM system:

  • Validate the CRM Development and Implementation Process through alignment on:
    • The problem
    • The Strategy for solving it
    • The Needs and Requirements to be met
    • The Business Solution (CRM) to be implemented
    • The design and development process to be employed
    • The competencies, roles, responsibilities and authority of all participants and team members
    • The implementation and production turnover processes
  • Maintain a comprehensive list of agreed and completed tasks and behaviors, and unresolved issues.

Within the Customer Relationship using the CRM system:

  • Map formal and informal relationships.
  • Use alignment and competencies to gather values information about the decision makers.
  • Ask questions and uncover the problems necessary for the issues to be resolved.
  • Move people toward decisions using a framework which should be provided by the CRM system.
  • Address real alignment through development of core competencies, particularly marketing, sales and service competencies.
  • Remember that interpersonal skills competencies precede technical competencies.


Getting your people on board and aligned is not a guarantee for successful CRM Software Implementation but it addresses a root cause of many of the premises and conditions contributing to failed change and will go a long way toward improving your chances for success.



Selected Resources, Corroborating Research and Testimony: home page for the book by Nick Anderson and Kelly Nwosu Nick’s web site,, Terry’s web sites

Good insight into more extensive CRM and use as a data gathering tool to provide “non-creepy” insights into customer behaviors that the customer appreciates

What’s more important, the technology or the plan? Good Collaborate and Communicate points. CSO Insights Publication website note the comments, very telling! good observations on process improvement good notes on users as team members