An evolutionary approach to CRM implementation

I have to apologize, this blog has been on my to-do list since last year and I have had writers block or procrastination in the way of getting it out there. Hopefully, you will see more content from me soon. SVN


The goal


Customer relationship management solutions have the potential to give your company a competitive edge in your market. CRM systems give you the ability to store and retrieve all information about your customers and prospects in a central repository (database) that is easily accessible to all appropriate staff from any location while being secure to protect this valuable asset. The benefits from this are potentially huge, as this gives any employee the intelligence they need to properly service any customer and talk to any prospect without having to call back, chase down someone who’s not the office, etc. To your customers and prospects, this makes it clear that your company has a together and is focused on their needs. Salespeople can know about problems and address them before meeting with clients. Customer service can now be aware of major pending deals and the details. All communications (including e-mail) with the customer are documented in a central location so that it’s clear who said what to whom and when. The side benefit is improved productivity for your staff because all the information is right there in one place. Happier customers and prospects, less time on the phone, less time tracking down information and solving problems. There are quite a few other benefits, but this is usually the starting point.


The problem with the traditional approach


It’s a known fact that CRM projects can be a risky business investment. The landscape is littered with huge monolithic CRM project failures. Since CRM solutions are not inexpensive, there is a tendency to create larger projects to try and maximize the return on the investment immediately. Unfortunately, larger projects increase risk (and cost) exponentially. Massive changes at one time also make it harder on your end users to adopt the system. Larger projects tend to get bogged down in ‘analysis paralysis’ and political issues.


The larger the project, the more resources required to manage, communicate status, and control scope creep. By the way, the longer a project takes, the more likely to the business processes it addresses changed in the meantime and that the results will no longer be relevant to what the business needs.


The Evolutionary Approach


Current generation CRM systems can be implemented in small, "bite sized" projects or phases. This phased process allows you to approach the problem using rapid application development (RAD) techniques such as Agile Software Development which deliver new functionality in shorter time frames and more cost effective while reducing risk at the same time.

While it’s critical to document and prioritize all of the major goals of a CRM solution for your company before you begin, these goals and priorities will evolve over time. Business conditions change and CRM functionality affects your business processes with each individual phase. This will cause an evolution in the way you think about your processes and how you do business with each phase.

The benefits

As you bring each new phase of a project of your CRM implementation online, you get immediate benefits and feedback. User adoption rates will be better because you’re making less changes at once and dealing with the highest priorities first. Poor user adoption is one of the highest risk factors in any software implementation. Maximizing adoption rates is key to realizing the benefits. Since the project occurs over a short time frame, it’s easier for everyone to remember what they asked for in the first place. This will also help to minimize learning curves.


A short list of benefits includes:

· faster realization of the new system functions

· faster and easier user adoption

· more user feedback for productivity optimization

· smaller project teams and lower project overhead

· reduced cost



While evolutionary CRM methodology can deliver substantial benefits, it is important to go into a CRM initiative with realistic expectations about the investment of your time and resources in addition to the costs of software, training and services. There is also a learning curve to the concept of CRM and how it can transform your business processes.


For your next CRM solution, consider breaking the project into smaller phases and evolving in a phased approach, rather than trying to do it all at once. The CRM 4.0 paradigm shift makes it much easier to evolve your CRM than traditional software. This approach can have many benefits including: reduced up-front management time requirements, less risk, faster/easier adoption of the new system, reduced training costs and more.


Steve Noe

About stephenvnoe

CRM & XRM solution architect and project lead. I provide CRM design, services, mentoring & support to all manner of front office solutions and CRM projects.
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