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The three keys to a successful CRM leadership team


It can feel somewhat daunting to be investing in a CRM solution in 2019.

Even though you probably realise that the project is essential, a few seconds googling will show you that the failure rate of these projects can be as high as 80% and that the cost of these failures can run into thousands or millions of dollars.  For people doing this for the first time, or without previous successes under their belt, this is hugely challenging.

This article covers information that will ease the process and reduce the stress - especially if you are a CRM project sponsor or responsible for the project budget.  I will take you through how to make sure that you are setting up a project team that ensures your investment stands the best chance of paying off.

The leadership of your CRM project – whether that is a Dynamics 365 project or otherwise - will make or break the success of the project.


Modern CRM leaders need to be half technologists and half business experts 

     This is because these projects sit at the crossroads of the business and technology. A successful implementation of any CRM technology will change the way that many users work, so being able to manage a change management project is a key skill of your successful CRM leadership team. Effective delivery of these projects also requires knowledge of the selected technology. Therefore, many organisations, especially smaller businesses, opt to let the project be led by their technical people.   crossroads

However, if the technical team members get too much freedom, the project can morph into one that it is serving the IT team members rather than one that is serving the business.  When this happens, the features that are implemented can be those that allow the technical people to extend their expertise rather than those that deliver value to the business.  I call this the technical playground project - and it happens far too often.

When this happens, it usually happens without the business realising as they do not have the knowledge of the technology platform to appreciate what is happening – and the ramifications of it.

Best practice says that the project should be highly business led because the reason for doing the project in the first place is to improve some aspects of the business, perhaps to save time or improve customer service, or increase the volume of sales made in a period etc.  But this also has problems.


Although the business leading the project is the ideal, care must be taken that the project does not become a vehicle for granting a smorgasbord of wishes in an uncontrolled way.
I have seen too many projects where business leadership turns into “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” to all requests. This unfettered granting of wishes almost always ends in tears, because many of the wishes are granted without understanding the effect that any given request will have on the project overall.

Three Bags Full
To avoid this, it is essential that the leadership of the project has enough knowledge of the technology to prevent impossible or problematic wishes being granted and to take advantage of the functionality that is already in the technology as well as enough knowledge of the business to keep the project delivering its aims and the project management skills to keep it and everyone on track.
For most CRM leaders,project sponsors and CFOs, the complexity is overwhelming, and they need help!   drowning

These three keys may be the life raft:

  • Your leadership team needs to have multiple, different people
  • Invest in Education
  • Keep the team small


Key one - Your leadership team needs to have multiple different people


The leadership of the CRM team must include technical expertise, business knowledge, solution design skills, problem solving skills combined with the ability to lead the rest of the implementation team. It is a very rare individual indeed who offers all of these.

The range of skills required means that it is unlikely that you can outsource the project entirely to a third-party supplier – although the right third-party supplier can be a huge help.  You will also probably run into problems if your external Project Manager is not a project manager with skills in your selected technology - although this also is surprisingly common.  Your project manager should have strong, specific technical knowledge or be highly knowledgeable in your business and willing to learn about the technology.  I have seen project managers whose knowledge of CRM is that they seen a different CRM technology implemented once before.  This is nowhere near enough.

 When one of these five, essential leadership team characteristics is missing – what happens?
  • If your leadership is lacking at least high-level technical expertise of the technology selected, you will find that the solution fails to take advantage of the technology in which you have invested. This often means that the project costs more and delivers less effectively than necessary. This may be deemed a project failure.
  • When the leadership team is deficient in the business knowledge of your unique business, the project runs the risk of delivering features that add no value to the business, or features that are difficult for the users to use – which in turn leads to poor user adoption. This will likely be seen as a failed project.
  • When the leadership has little solution design and technical problem-solving skills, you typically get what the business has asked for, but in ways that fail to leverage the solution. In technologies like CRM systems, there are usually several ways to solve any given problem. These will range from poor to fantastic. It requires solution design skills to work out the best solution of the several possible ways of implementing a requirement.  This includes helping you future proof your solution, by choosing techniqies that are most likely to upgrade readily. This sort of failure may not be obvious now, but it will eventually show its true colours

Key two – Invest in Education


It is highly unlikely that your team has the necessary skills to deliver the project successfully at the outset. This is overcome by including training early in the project.  I would strongly suggest that the business team leaders learn the technical and functional capability of the technology and the technical team members learn an overview of the business.  It is also essential that all team members understand the project methodology in use.  Agile methodology can quickly lead to a fragile implementation, without an informed leadership.

Recently I overheard a project manager of a third-party technical implementer failing to answer a question about what the end client sold – after he had been working on the project for about six months!

The result of this training is that all the team can speak the same language, which in turn speeds up many phases of the project, particularly scoping, design and testing. The time saved probably pays for the training, perhaps several times over.   speedup

You may be thinking that you cannot afford this training.  However, can you afford the failure that omitting this training is likely to cause? Only last week, one of my training participants told me that she wished she had received this training two years ago.

A philosophy of education also makes later aspects of the project much easier.

Key three – keep the team small


Some (too many) CRM projects become ‘bigger than Ben Hur’. They try to get into every corner of the business, everyone is invited to have their say about what should and should not be included. While the vision of the project should be an end goal of an implementation that links all customer and prospect facing parts of the business together, it is never feasible to do this in one bite.

This tends to happen more frequently when you find yourself with a project manager who cannot say “no”.

Breaking the project down into smaller bite-sized chunks means that a smaller team can deliver the results. The smaller team means that you avoid the Chinese Whispers effect – where information gets distorted between its source and implementation. Additionally, you are less likely to fall victim to key person leaving the team leaving a gaping hole at a key time.

The smaller chunks of the project also mean that you can deliver results to your users far more quickly, so you get the result of your investment more swiftly.


At the start of a project like a CRM implementation, you have your business on one side and your technology platform on the other side. Each of these has their strengths.

Successful projects are those where each side moves towards the other to a comfortable resting place in the middle. Achieving this move to the midpoint requires strong leadership and a willingness of everyone to learn about the business, the requirements and the technology. I like to think of this as ‘Move to the Middle’ model.

Can this ‘Move to the Middle’ model help you with your CRM success?

I don’t know yet.  We haven’t spoken.  I can’t prejudge what challenges you are facing with your CRM project or your CRM implementation.  You’ll have to tell me.  I’ll listen to where you and your people are on your CRM journey. If we’re a fit, I’ll suggest whatever works: whatever is right; training, mentoring, some troubleshooting, or perhaps a healthcheck.  Who knows? Email me and ask for a phone call with Gill.  I'll call you on the number that you give me within a day or so, or usually much less.

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Opsis is an expert Microsoft Dynamics 365 consulting company. Our focus is your Microsoft Dynamics 365 success - not licence sales or billable hours. As Principal Consultant, Gill oversees all business operations and strategic planning and execution, yet she still believes in offering personal attention to each and every client, so as to understand their needs and offer tailored solutions.  We are based in Sydney, with clients in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and across Australia.  We offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 strategy, Microsoft Dynamics 365 scoping, Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation, Microsoft Dynamics 365 technical support, Microsoft Dynamics 365 advice and guidance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 training and mentoring.