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Seven steps to switching CRM

(Image credit: Image Credit: Zaozaa19 / Shutterstock)

Change in the corporate world isn’t always easy. When you think of big transformation projects, new leadership or restructuring, you tend to think of disruption and upheaval. But usually change – when it is done properly - is good. There may be teething problems and you might encounter resistance, but the end result will benefit everybody.

In our recent research we found that more than half of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK have changed customer relationship management (CRM) supplier and the main reason for changing supplier was a poor fit in terms of the business requirements. So how should businesses approach switching CRM and avoid another failure?

Understanding why

It’s important to understand why the implementation failed, so the same mistakes aren’t repeated next time. Draw up a list of the best and worst attributes in the old vendor and its implementation team – what they did right and what they did wrong. What is it about the solution that you like? What don’t you like? Is it too complex for your organisation’s needs? Too expensive? If you have outgrown your current solution, you need to comprehend the reasons why and what you want the new solution to do for you. You don’t want to have to repeat that process again in a year or two so look ahead and think long term and strategically.

The right leadership

Some organisations are happy to hand over the CRM switching process to the technical team – after all, they have been looking after the old solution so they can get on with making the switch themselves, right? Wrong. Switching CRM needs to be a collaborative process. CRM is a business enabler, so the executive team, the sales and marketing teams and your technical people all have to be involved. You need to think about CRM from a strategic business perspective – how do you want your new CRM to transform the organisation? By how much should it improve the productivity of the salesforce? If you leave it to the technical team alone, the risk is the approach will be too operational. It needs to be a holistic approach comprising all stakeholders if you are to get the right outcome.

Workshopping the business case

Holding a forum with key stakeholders will help you to map your business requirements, establish clear objectives, figure out the budget and the ideal ROI, as well as identifying any potential risks. The resulting business case has to be a ‘live’ document that is updated and referred to as the project progresses. It’s only by doing this that you will keep your eye on the CRM ball. Workshops are also great for assessing change readiness – ask your sales and marketing teams for thoughts on ideal functionality and any challenges they envisage. They will also help you identify any would-be project champions and any signs of change resistance.

Identifying the best solution

Firstly, the solution needs to be cost effective and customisable. It is important that the tool is easy to configure to your needs, rather than you having to change your way of working to fit the tool. So ask the questions – can you tailor it to fit easily with your processes? Will you be able to maintain it easily? What support will you need to make it your own? It’s important not to get distracted by fancy and flashy gimmicks - you need the functionality to deliver your business objectives and the applications your company will actually use. Be wary of over complicating your CRM environment. Ease of use will be the difference between adoption Vs rejection. It all comes back to your business case – if you know your requirements and also understand what you don’t need, you should be able to identify the best solution for your business.

Finding the right partner

Finding the right partner is crucial. And you are looking for a business partner, not a vendor. A CRM switch is something you need to work on together. The problem with a lot of CRM implementations is that you may be dealing with multiple parties - the vendor, the channel partner… but who do you go to when something goes wrong? You need to understand the relationship between the technology vendor and the firm that does the implementation, how it all works and how you’ll be supported post implementation. There are questions you need to ask potential suitors: Do you have clients like me? What’s your track record? Do you have recommendations from clients past and present? What is your implementation approach? Do you have a proven methodology for switching organisations from the CRM I am currently using? Once you have chosen your partner, you are at their mercy – so it’s vital to get it right.

Data migration

Data migration is the biggest concern for people – the pain of it, the risks associated with it. When it comes to data migration, the prospect of switching CRM systems can make even the most hardened IT manager wince with the prospect of what could go wrong.  Make sure you choose a vendor with a clear path and methodology, one who has done this many times before. To prepare switching CRM solution, from a data preparation perspective, identifying any aged data and making sure your pipeline is as clean as can be for example is imperative – start as you mean to go on.A key point is that you will be running your old CRM system at the same time you are building your new one and at some stage will be running them simultaneously - so a mechanism to synch the data between the systems is vital. With data, any fall over can have disastrous implications for your business, so it’s important to get data migration right. And keep in mind the benefits you’ll be able to gain once you are fully up and running on the new solution, with a clean set of data to work with!

Winning hearts and minds

Finally, the most important part is getting staff buy in. It’s all very well having a brand-new shiny CRM system but if you only have 20 per cent user adoption, it’s not working. Failsafe training - both at the point of launch of the new CRM and regularly afterwards, solution champions that can help “sell” the solution to their team mates and workshops to identify problems and detractors - this will also keep the feedback loop going... all of which can be fed into CRM system and process improvements. Your new supplier should help you with this – they should help you map the smooth transition from one solution to another and then help you communicate the benefits to your people. They should accompany you all the way. This is where a true partner, rather than a simple vendor - can make the difference. Waving farewell to your current CRM isn’t easy. You’re used to it, the sales team manage with it and quite frankly, you can do without the disruption. But can you? What could you be missing out on? What’s the opportunity cost to your business of not getting a better solution in place?

Sometimes, the right thing to do is to take a deep breath and jump in. But you have to be prepared and you have to have done your homework. This checklist is a great place to start.

John Cheney, CEO and Co-Founder, Workbooks