Jordan, our CRM Senior Business Analyst, “I have learned a lot about what to do and not to do…learn from my successes and mistakes!

A CRM is a fantastic tool with a slick out of the box sales and marketing process.  By its nature, it has a  massive (and increasing) number of customization features that can allow you to “fast track” development of an application that may ultimately look nothing like what came out of the box.  Whether you are using a CRM primarily as a sales and marketing tool, or as a tool to facilitate rapid application development, here are a few “Dos and Don’ts” that can help you maximize the value of your CRM implementation.


  1. Get stakeholder support for implementing CRM.

Whenever you are considering changing process and technology (or changing anything, for that matter), you’re going to need champions.  It’s nice when you have a sales team can sell anything to anybody, but if you don’t actually have an engaged product owner that cares about the final product, you’ve got (possibly insurmountable) problems.

  1. Include a wide cross section of the end user community when building out the system.

Once you have stakeholder support, you need a few champions in the community that is actually going to be using it.  Find people that are engaged and excited throughout the process – from requirements to testing to implementation.  These people become evangelists for the system, as well as make sure it actually does the things the business needs it to do.  They also become your power user community when the implementation is complete.

  1. Understand the security scheme – and recognize how much security you do (and don’t) need.

It’s easy to overthink security and create more than you need.  Your security scheme does not need to (and almost certainly shouldn’t) mirror your business organizational structure.  People hear the term Business Unit and think “I have 5 Business Units in my organization, so I need 5 of them in my security scheme”.  No, you probably don’t.  If those Business Units are allowed to see each other’s data, you only need one.

  1. Understand the difference between “Configuration Data” and “Transactional Data” – and know how to move it.

This is a bit of a technical gotcha.  Your configuration data is the data that needs to be there on day 1, and without it the system doesn’t function.  As an example, if you’re implementing something called “Registrations”, the system isn’t going to function if you don’t have all the possible “Registration Types” available as data on day 1.  If you’re doing significant development or configuration, you’re likely going to have multiple CRM instances (Development, Testing, Production).    Make sure when you move this configuration data across environments, it’s done correctly – i.e. keep the GUIDs the same across environments.  Otherwise your workflows will break, and you won’t know why.  Here’s a (Dynamics specific) blog that goes deeper into the technical details.

  1. Work with a CRM partner that recognizes the importance of tailoring your business process as well as understands the full range of technical concerns

Successful CRM implementations require significant technical expertise and business process knowledge.  While you are the expert in your business, it helps to work with an expert in adapting CRM to business requirements


  1. (DON’T) Neglect the design phase.

People are generally aware of the importance of gathering “requirements” – otherwise no one knows what to do.  People are generally aware of the importance of “implementation”, otherwise there is no product.  But there’s a critical phase in-between called “design”.  Get your developers and architects in a room, and agree on HOW the “requirements” are going to be “implemented”.  Otherwise you may end up with a bunch of pieces that work separately, but not together.  Spend some time on it, and iteratively come back to it as needed

  1. (DON’T) Use your CRM implementation as a way to re-implement the status quo.

Your new CRM instance is an opportunity to streamline and update your processes and technology.  Don’t just reinvent what you already have.  If everyone is exporting the data out of CRM into spreadsheets and manipulating it there, just like they used to, you’ve missed a massive opportunity, and spent a lot of money for nothing.

  1. (DON’T) Use features just because they’re “new and shiny.”

CRM providers have been going heads down “impressing the feature lady.” But, just because something exists doesn’t mean it’s best for your business.  Don’t shoehorn every entity into a business process flow, or make every business process a dialog/wizard just because these features exist.  Let your business drive the requirements, don’t let features drive your business.

  1. (DON’T) Use CRM to replace email.

Everything that your email provider was good at before you got CRM – sending emails, setting appointments, updating your task list, etc – it is still good at.  Any good CRM will give you the ability to automatically integrate your tasks and activities into CRM.  CRM can be used to automate the sending of emails or the setting of appointments, but it’s not going to become your system of record for those things.  Everything should still sync to your email.

  1. (DON’T) Forget to clean your data.

CRM has some good tools to help you clean up your data, but there’s no magic “fix my data” button.  Anywhere.  Ever.  Your new CRM implementation is the opportunity for you to clean everything up, but it’s going to take some work.  CRM will identify duplicates for you, but you need to tell it how.  If you have too much junk data to manually clean with native CRM tools, you may need to develop custom tools to do the job or use third party tools such as Scribe.  But even then, you’re going to need to tell CRM how to identify bad data, and how to update the data automatically.  It’s going to take some time and energy (i.e. money), but the alternative is bad data.


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