To implement a successful CRM project, for a start, you need to have a good project manager that can manage the project (communications, scope, cost, time/schedule, etc.) and technically competent team to develop & deploy the CRM solution. That’s a basic starting point.
A seasoned project manager will leverage his/her past experiences and adopt various tools & techniques from one of the project management methodologies whether it’s SureStep Methodology from Microsoft, Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) from Project Management Institute (PMI), Agile, hybrid, or other flavors of project delivery methodologies, based on project requirements, to plan and manage the delivery of the project. By the way, the SureStep Methodology was derived from PMI’s PMBOK.
If you have experience managing projects, you will nod your head to the statement that Project Management is 20% science and 80% art. You need a well-defined framework of processes and tools (science) and experience in knowing what to use, when to use it, and how to use it effectively (art) to deliver a successful project that delights the customer.
Every project is unique and different. PMBOK defines project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.” Hence every project delivery needs to be tailored leveraging science and art to meet the business/technical requirements, navigate through customers’ culture, and deliver a solution that solves customers’ challenges.
Note that when I refer to the “customer”, I simply mean that whoever is the users of the CRM solution and “you” can be an internal (employees) or external (consultants) to the organization.
If you want to know or learn more about the science of project management, you can check out www.pmi.org. The science part of the project management is the foundation so you must be knowledgeable and capable of inserting appropriate science into your project implementation. I will not go into details of all the processes or knowledge areas of project management but will discuss on few of them below that I believe will have most impact to the success of the project and I will try to focus on them as it relates to CRM implementations.
Successful project starts with setting the right expectations and managing those expectations and communicating them to the right key stakeholders and future users of the CRM solution, in timely manner.
- Make sure you have the executive level sponsorship and that he/she clearly communicates the importance of the CRM to the rest of the organization to obtain buy-ins from all those that will be impacted by CRM deployment. This will help reduce, if not eliminate, road blocks during the course of CRM implementation and improve user adoption.
- Schedule a project kickoff at the beginning of the project and make every effort to have all of the major/key players attend the kickoff meeting. Set the tone at the kickoff meeting on your expectation of the team and the customer. Go over Project Approach, Communication Plan, Scope, Roles & Responsibilities, etc. and obtain customer acknowledgement on the rules of engagement. Basically ask for their permission that you/your team will be driving the project and that you will raise flags during the course of the project if you notice delays in the project due to delay in response or support. If you want more details on what goes into project Kickoff meeting, look into various project methodologies. It should provide examples/templates.
- Be open and be honest. Work to build trusting relationship with the customer and your implementation team. This will help you, especially, during challenging times.
- Provide timely project status to the key stakeholders so that there are no surprises. If you think there’s potential issue/risk, give them heads up as early as possible so that if the issue/risk does materializes they are not surprised by it.
- Engage key end users (pilot/power users) early on in the CRM implementation and keep them in the loop. They will become your CRM ambassadors.
- Walk through important communications with your CRM champion/sponsor and let them know first before sharing the information with general audience, especially if the communication is not good news.
Scope & Change Management
If you set the scope expectations using “Basic”, “Standalone”, or “Integrated” solution types during defining the CRM initiative, leverage that as you discuss scope on what’s in or what’s out. Sometimes, customer will ask for features that may not be as critical/important. Distinguish want vs. need and manage customer’s expectations.
- If you are put in charge to deliver the CRM solution, the customer will look to you to provide guidance on structuring the scope. Provide the leadership and guide the customer and make recommendations; however, always leave the final decision making to the customer/business unit.
- Never assume that a requirement must be met. Ask the business question of “why” they need it and what problem it is trying to solve and validate the need. Sometimes this will eliminate the requirement or lower its priority. It could save the project time and cost and allow resources to focus on features that really matters.
- Prioritize requirements into 1-Must, 2-Should, and 3-Nice category. This will be helpful during cost/trade-off analysis and locking down the scope for any given release, especially if you need to manage cost, resources, and schedule.
- Have Change Request process in place to handle any scope change requests. Even if it’s a minor change and has minimal impact to the scope, document them. Over the course of time, even little minor changes add up and sometimes they can have more profound impact to the overall solution. Having a good documentation of what’s been done, why, and when will become useful information to the project.
- Create list of deliverables based on the scope and obtain sign-off at designated milestones. This allows the customer to accept the progress to date at each milestone and allow project to move forward. You must manage scope and customers’ expectations throughout the project.
Put together a budgetary number for the project based on scope and obtain necessary funding and commitment from the management to implement the project.
- If your project does not have a budget or the customer has not made sufficient funds available, that’s a project with HIGH RISK for failure because that means the management has not made the commitment financially (and also from group/personnel commitment standpoint) to support the project.
- Factor in % of project estimate as contingency fund to be used when unforeseen scope changes or deviations/risk occurs. It’s not if but rather when.
Create schedule/roadmap of the CRM release. Do not recommend doing a big bang approach. Group the scope into multi-release schedule, especially, if there’s significant amount of work to be done. There are number of benefits to this approach including but not limited to:
- allows the system to be deployed as soon as possible for end users to use and enable the organization to start realizing the benefits of CRM early (Time to Value)
- improves user adoption by introducing CRM features in multi-stage and not overwhelm them with functionalities all at once (Help Manage user adoption)
- minimizes project risk by separating scope into multi-release and thereby reduce complexity (Manage scope and focus)
- allows support team to get up to speed gradually in supporting the CRM solution (Helps prepare support staff)
- smoothly roll over any adjustments/changes based on user feedback from prior release(s) into the follow on releases, etc.
Share the project schedule, at a high-level, with the customer and update them on the progress and get the customer scheduled for training, support, and Go-Live preparation.
Other knowledge areas of Project Management
Other areas which I did not explicitly cover are Risk, Procurement, Human Resource, and Integration management. They also deserve attention and needs to be considered during project planning and course of the project, as applicable to ensure that the project’s risk is minimized, all necessary equipment/supplies/services are procured in timely manner, right team members are identified and assigned work, and all of the moving parts in the project are managed and monitored by the project manager and the core team.