Why are CRM implementations so painful?

By Jeanine Hage - November, 2015

I hear it all the time, almost on a daily basis: “We implemented CRM and it is painful!” After the implementation, teams are faced with multiple challenges: resistance to change especially from the most important users, incomplete (and hence irrelevant) data, complex reporting, duplicated data, cluttered interface and the list goes on.

So what went wrong? Check out the observations below.

Who is "we"?

Take any given organization and you hear management say “we need a CRM”. Define “we”!  The main pain point of a CRM implementation is that “we” is not properly defined. Is it Sales? Services? Management? Marketing? Support? Most of the time, the answer will be: “all of above, the beauty of CRM is that it is an organizational tool”. Soon after, you realize that your all-in-one answer turned the beauty into the beast. Take a look at any organization and you will realize that very often departments work in silos, do not have the same business needs, the level of technology knowledge and comfort among their resources vary tremendously… Trying to fit everybody’s needs into this one design is not a winning solution. So define your core “we” and go to the next question.

Is Sales on board? All of them?

Let’s face it, CRM is probably an organizational tool but it is mainly a sales tool.  Or is it? If it is, then why do most sales teams have some reserve towards it? Do not try to change the nature of a sales team, you should rather adapt your system. Poor adoption of the tool is a result of many factors: the tool is often perceived as a platform to allow micro-managing the team, forcing the sharing of account information when information is the key factor for closing a sale (with all the remuneration that comes with it). It is also perceived as being cluttered with screens and fields that are irrelevant to sales. Remember that with CRM you are trying to standardize a business\sales process that is mainly constituted of soft skills and human interaction… If you don’t have sales data from every member of your sales team, you don’t have a CRM. Your picture is blurred due to the missing parts.

Is reporting user-friendly?

Reporting capabilities of most of the CRM tools are meant to be powerful. It is a blessing for some users (mind you, I have yet to meet these users) and a curse for others. Elaborated tools mean complexity, and complexity means low adoption. Find a way to simplify your reporting.

Who is the pilot?

When you have two bosses, you don’t have a boss. When both the IT and the business units want to pilot CRM implementations, the parties involved often find themselves in a love triangle. We all know how this ends and most importantly what the impact on the implementation will be. Define this one pilot and get moving with your implementation.

Is high management involved?

If so, how much? Some systems’ implementations are simply disruptive. They go straight through the culture and the structure of the organization. Top management and teams are thrown outside their comfort zone. It requires courage and management abilities to get them adopted.

If your CRM needs a face-lifting, make sure you look closely and honestly on where the flaw lies.