It’s no secret that adopting any enterprise application is a risk, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are no exception. In fact, more than a decade of research by multiple analysts shows that 30-60% of CRM projects fail. Those CRM failure statistics put fear in the hearts of anyone in charge of CRM system success. Not only would a CRM failed project mean wasted time and money, it could even cost you your job.
While that’s a pretty bleak outlook, you can take comfort in knowing that many companies have avoided the pitfalls of adoption and come out on the other side with an efficient and useful CRM solution. Knowing the risks will help you avoid making mistakes in your own CRM project, and we’ve highlighted the 5 most common reasons CRM projects fail:
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They lack clear goals
CRM software can deliver value to many different departments in your organization. While that’s a huge benefit, the power a CRM provides can also tempt you to create a system that is all things to all people. Obviously, it’s good to have big dreams for your system, but when your project is just beginning, a lack of focus can spell failure.
Without clear and measurable goals for your CRM, it’s impossible to know whether you’ve succeeded. Start by asking yourself, “What problem are we trying to solve with this system?” You’ll likely have more than one answer, which will help you establish both short-term and long-term goals.
“If the target is not truly strategic, the organization will be hard-pressed to summon the vigor necessary to tackle entrenched business processes or retool its organizational structure and garner expected returns,” Darrell Rigby says in an article in the Harvard Business Review. “Before spending a dime on CRM, therefore, executives need to make sure they have the right targets in their sights.”
Leaders fail to involve end users
The ultimate point of a CRM project is to make life easier for your end users, yet a surprising number of businesses don’t involve end users until they’re ready to deploy the CRM solution. If you wait to involve users until your system goes live, they’ll be more likely to resist the change. Disengaged or resentful users can put your enterprise software rollout in jeopardy.
Instead, choose users from each group involved (whether by role, region, or department) and get them involved in the CRM selection and pre-implementation processes. This will give users a sense of ownership over the project and will ultimately help you get buy-in from their peers.
“Keeping your users involved in the build-out process and changes thereafter is critical,” says Gregg Baxter, chief technology officer of GBC, a Salesforce consulting firm. “The best way to increase CRM user adoption is to let the users tell you what they want in terms of the user experience and user interface and then build it.”
If your CRM project is already deployed, don’t give up hope. Users want to feel heard and see that their feedback is taken to heart. This can still be done after the project is off the ground. While it may be difficult to make changes to your systems after your launch, adapting to user feedback is crucial to seeing a return on your CRM investment. If users think the system is cumbersome or poorly constructed, they won’t see any reason to use it. In fact, Forrester Research says lack of user adoption is responsible for 70% of failed CRM projects.
No involvement from an executive sponsor
The terms “executive sponsor” and “project sponsor” might make you think of an executive who secures funding for the CRM project and then comes back for a victory lap once the work is done. But an engaged executive sponsor provides much more than financial support and is an essential piece of a successful CRM implementation.
Executive sponsors involved in the process should have a vision for what the company can achieve by effectively adopting a CRM. These sponsors must be committed to CRM success and provide ongoing direction and guidance from the beginning, through implementation, and beyond. They also serve as a project champion and secure executive-level buy-in.
“If sponsorship is absent, the risk of failure increases significantly,” William Band says in a report for Forrester Research. “The more closely aligned that CRM is to important business strategies, the more likely senior management will see it as important.”
The data is dirty
Too many CRM projects suffer from “dirty data” — a problem that pops up when you have duplicate, incomplete, or bogus data. In fact,a recent study by Experian showed the average U.S. company believes 25% of their data is inaccurate.
If users don’t trust the data in your CRM, they’re less likely to vigilantly and correctly enter new information, which only compounds the issue. Left unchecked, poor data quality can lead to poor customer service, inaccurate revenue forecasting, and misinformed strategic decisions.
Maintaining a clean and accurate database is no simple task, and it requires effort from end users, CRM administrators, and executive sponsors. System administrators are usually responsible for maintaining data quality, but they may not know what changes to make to improve the quality. While there are many different elements of data cleanliness, here are some best practices to adopt today:
- Simplify the data entry process, limiting the number of different screens and clicks your users must take to enter essential data
- Automatically populate fields whenever possible
- Define required fields
- Use validation rules to make sure data is entered correctly
- Use conditional rendering to only show fields relevant to the user
Business users disregard IT implications
Your CRM technology can have far-reaching implications you may not identify until it’s too late. It’s important to consider existing IT investments and infrastructure. Three-quarters of all SaaS-buying decisions are made by business unit managers instead of IT managers, according to Gartner research, suggesting current IT frameworks are rarely included in the CRM planning process. When business units acquire CRM systems without participation from their IT counterparts, they’re much more likely to face problems with integration, customization, support, and upgrades.
Selecting and implementing a CRM is a complex and risky process. Even once you’ve launched your system, there’s no guarantees users will populate it with the right data. But if you have clear goals in mind and involve users, executives, and your IT department, you’re more likely to see a return on your investment. How do you know you’ve achieved success? One great sign is when CRM becomes the first and last application your users check every day.