Deciding amongst different customer relationship management (CRM) tools can get complicated quickly. Quite simply, it is very difficult to manage customers, projects, or programs spanning multiple platforms, tools, and teams. But let’s simplify the situation by first addressing the best strategy as a project manager to build a customer relationship management system.
1. Gather historical information
Identify as much historical information as possible. What tools has your team previously implemented, used, or researched in the past? What were the outcomes? Conduct formal and informal interviews with leadership, colleagues, and other important stakeholders.
2. Access stakeholder knowledge
Get your stakeholders together to determine the needs of your team. Reveal everyone’s perspectives and incorporate them into a new or existing tool. Facilitating effective meetings can be difficult to master, however, when done correctly it can be artful. During this meeting, your primary objective is to gather, observe, and collect knowledge.
“The way to get good ideas is to start with lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away” (Baker, 2010)
Not only will you discover solutions, but stakeholders will build relationships while the group works towards a common goal.
Now you have done your research, collected your information, and assimilated all the knowledge, so selecting a Content Relationship Management (CRM) system should be straightforward. If you have the budget – build your own. It will be more expensive up front, however, poor implementation of CRMs could cause project cancellation and restart. Expenses increase rapidly when you are forced to do it two or three times.
3. Connect with your executive sponsor
Do you think you’ve got a good idea? Try pitching it to your executive.
Research and know the desires of your audience. Which executive is most likely to be passionate about CRM? Do they appreciate slide presentations, or would they rather have a conversation?
Either way leader sponsorship and buy-in is pivotal to getting the project off the ground successfully. Keep your pitch concise and focused to ensure that they get excited. Here are some tips to help you get them engaged:
- What will you accomplish? In other words, what are the project goals. Don’t forget to add numbers.
- How will the project goals be accomplished?
- What is needed to ensure success?
4. Establish responsibilities
Will you be the project manager? It is important to determine your role based on your team’s size and the overarching objective provided by your project sponsor. I recommend having a dedicated project manager if at all possible, to carry out implementation and oversee core project management.
Power users may be an easily forgotten role in CRM implementation. However, regardless of buying or building, you will need a power user.
If you are building, include the original group of stakeholders as your power users and consider adding engineers. When buying hire a power user on contract as you build and customize the CRM. Consider keeping your power user on retainer while you work through bugs during the first 12-18 months.
5. Attain leadership commitment
Ensure that stakeholder’s needs are met. Check. Ensure your executive sponsor is excited and passionate. Check. Confirm that you have a reasonable budget and mitigated constraints. Check. Only after you have buy-in from leadership should you consider the next steps for implementation. Hold a meeting to get them excited about how and why this is going to make their lives easier is recommended. Get feedback and correct your course if needed.
6. Launch big
Conducting initial training for employees is a must. Determine the needs of your situation. Is it best to hold a company-wide training event or train individual teams? Make it fun and engaging, and get people motivated to make a change and work hard. Obviously changing behavior is difficult. You will be the one that starts the day of the launch and continue to motivate the team from there.
7. Educate. Educate. Educate
Deliver simple guidelines on how and when to use the CRM. Build documentation and serve it up on easy-to-reference FAQs. Confer with the teams regularly, and then transition to less frequent meetings.
Everyone must understand and use the tool. Ensure leadership attends the training and actively participate. Any project can fail fast if excitement is not reflected in leadership, stakeholders, and executives.
8. Make a solid commitment
In the end, commitment ensures happiness. Why should people commit? Tell them. Show them. Remind them to use the tool, and then remind them again.
Undoubtedly, there will be problems, bugs, complaints, and hard times. Prior to the launch, establish a clear process to fix any bugs. You will need it. Ask employees for feedback and then… Iterate. Iterate. Iterate.
Carefully consider any decision to start over. There are many great CRM choices. Most of them have similar features. If you go with a top choice, you will be picking from a good, better, or best situation. Starting over with the newest tool is not necessarily going to fix the problem. Pick what fits your team and iterate.
Baker, E. (2010). Project management tools and techniques that work! A baker’s dozen. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2010—North America, Washington, DC. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Megan Russell, PMP, is an experienced project manager with a demonstrated history of working in the technology and online education industries. She has consulted in the past and is a subject matter expert specifically in digital project management, remote project management, and project communications. Currently, she works to develop and maintain the curriculum at LinkedIn Learning in project management, product management, operations, and leadership. She enjoys volunteering on various advisory councils and working in leadership positions on women and diversity first groups. Megan writes about customer relationship management and remote project management.