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Three pre-technology steps to ensure your CRM success

Many – perhaps as many as 80% - of CRM projects are said to have failed. I have written about various aspects of this previously.

A CRM project should not be seen as an IT project. Yes, technology is important, but it is important in the same way that the engine is important to a car.  Without it, the car is not going anywhere, but a lot more than the engine is required to make it go anywhere.

Here, I will look at three steps that you, as project sponsor, business owner or manager, who wants a successful CRM project can do before technology becomes important and before IT people should be involved.  These three steps are:

  1. Education
  2. Understand your existing data
  3. Know what you need CRM to deliver

Three pre-technology steps to ensure your CRM success

For a CRM project to be successful, it should be implemented from three perspectives:

  1. End users
  2. Management and stakeholders
  3. Third parties – clients and suppliers


A CRM implementation will affect many people throughout and outside your organisation.  It is important that everyone hears about these changes from official sources, who know what is happening, not from the rumour mill. To achieve this, communicate with people in a way that works for them. My suggestions are:

  • Run a series of social learning sessions
  • Set up a simple newsletter
  • Distribute flyers

Social learning means holding breakfasts, lunch 'n' learns and / or cheese and wine sessions where participants listen to a short presentation about the project, and why it is being done, in terms of benefits to each person, as well as the benefits to the business. By providing lunch or other refreshments, your people are rewarded for the time sacrifice that they make to participate in these events. The food and drink also encourages people to share their thoughts and concerns more openly.

A simple newsletter does not require graphic designers, hours of time, or massive investment.  All that is required is an email that explains what is happening, highlights the benefits and offers an opportunity for questions to be raised and answered.

A simple flyer again does not require enormous effort.  It is not about being fancy, just a simple communication that is made available in places such as office kitchens and corridors.

This sort of education activities can extend the information beyond your office walls, which increases the feeling of inclusion.

Another benefit of this sort of early education is that sets the scene, and shows that the organisation cares about the people. The people will then be more willing to invest their time in the training that occurs before go live.

Understand your existing data

Organisations will have large amounts of data in a range of places, styles and formats before CRM.  If your CRM project is to be successful, this data should be in CRM before users use it.  Surprisingly, to many, this is not a technical project.  If you don't bring this data into CRM, there is a high chance that your users will continue to work in the way that they always have done, so all the metrics, reports and dashboards that CRM can give you, will be rendered almost useless. Your team members will also be very annoyed as, to them, the data is valuable.

I saw this, in a previous job, where to make it easier (for IT) people's contacts were not imported. They were told to retype them, because that would increase the accuracy of them. The users were furious, and the result was that the vendor had to redo the migration.

The steps to successful data management are:

  • Gather
  • Collate
  • Follow up


Typically, before CRM, you will have data from many of:

  • Leads and prospects
  • Clients or customers
  • Third party suppliers and partners
  • Event participation
  • Invoices and payments
  • Quotes and proposals
  • Documentation
  • Contracts and agreements
  • Correspondence including email

This data will be in a range of formats including:

  • Business cards
  • Spreadsheets
  • Documents – saved both locally, and in document management systems
  • Legacy systems
  • And perhaps, in people's heads

You will save time and money if before you start to design your solution you know what data you have. This means that you can then ensure that your solution meets these accurate data requirements, rather than meeting a vague idea of your data needs


Once you start to understand what you have, you should then bring it together and organise it.  If you have large amounts of hard copy data – business cards and documents, now is the time to convert to a soft solution, either by scanning or retyping.

Within this data, there will be duplicates and inaccuracies.  It is hugely beneficial to collate it into a few sources as possible.  Often, spreadsheets are the easiest tool for this. Using a spreadsheet allows you to see duplicates easily and once you have identified the duplicates, you can manage them.  For example, you can:

  • Standardise on items like phone numbers and addresses
  • Work out the most important values to put into picklists, options sets etc.
  • See what data is deemed important by all your different teams

In many organisations, different teams work largely independently.  So, when you gather their data there will be overlaps that need to be rationalised. This is often challenging as each team is likely to see their own data as top dog. If you have already achieved an overall understanding of why you are doing the CRM project, these inter-team discussions will be much easier.

Contact, follow up and validate

Many of the inaccuracies will not be because the data was entered incorrectly, but due to changes. For example:

  • The average rate of changing a job is 18 months
  • The average time at an address is 5 years
  • Companies merge and go out of business

How these data challenges should be managed is an important conversation that key people in your management team need to have.  It is rarely appropriate to bring in only current information - history is important.

You also have a perfect opportunity to follow up with clients and prospects to confirm their details. Since 67% of people who change supplier, do so because they feel unloved, this activity alone will likely bring in more business.

Know what you need CRM to deliver

CRM can be many different things to many people. So, before you engage your delivery partner, it is essential to know where you can get the most value from it.

CRM is most commonly implemented as a sales tool, but perhaps to you, there would be more value in focusing on:

  • Stakeholder manager
  • Internal support
  • Customer support
  • Event management
  • Interaction management
  • Marketing automation

If you already have a website, should your CRM communicate with it, or is it better for your organisation to keep the two separate? Similarly with your accounting system – there are benefits in bringing them together and benefits in keeping them separate. The senior management team, rather than your IT team or your users, should usually make these decisions.

Being clear about the areas of your organisation that will benefit the most from the CRM makes planning the early education much easier.

If you go into your scoping workshop with these three activities happening you will reap the benefits in many ways:

  1. Your CRM project will be quicker because of the understanding already achieved
  2. Fewer issues will be uncovered during testing and worse still during training and after go-live
  3. Your user adoption will be higher

therefore, you will save money – potentially a lot of money.

Published by Gill Walker

Who is Gill Walker?

Gill Walker is many things:

  • She is an author who loves spreading knowledge of CRM and specifically Microsoft Dynamics 365 via articles such as this;
  • She is an expert consultant who has been helping her clients with their Microsoft Dynamics 365 (and previously Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft CRM) challenges since 2002;
  • She is a professional trainer who shares her wide knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics 365 with her training delegates – so they can implement and manage their Microsoft Dynamics 365 more easily and effectively;
  • She is a speaker who shares her knowledge of varied CRM topics with her audiences;
  • She is a troubleshooter – who helps organisations with their sticky problems.

Please feel free to contact her via linked in (https://www.linkedin.com/in/crmconsultant/) or email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

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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.