How to Make Your Next CRM Project a Soaring Success

January 18, 2019 Sebastian Barnes

Let’s face it, many companies see CRM projects as a necessary evil. The business capabilities enabled by technology are a means of improving company operating margins or creating a competitive edge that will bolster revenue. That’s why it’s critical for CRM projects not only to be on-time and on-budget but to also deliver the business value they promise. Why else would companies make such lofty investments? 

And yet a surprising amount - a whopping 63 percent of all CRM projects fail. This statistic contradicts the results-driven philosophy many companies have adopted, especially those that see CRM as a necessary evil. Why?

First, let’s understand what failure means.

The word Learn spelled out in magnetic letters against a teal background

CRM failure extends beyond a project’s go-live date. It doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of project managers, developers, and business analysts. It isn’t entirely dependent on whether a project is on-time or on-budget. 

  • An implementation can be hailed as a “success” even if it has low user adoption. 
  • It may not improve operating margins to save costs or sales cycles that could increase revenues.
  • It may not be an effective tool for customer insights or sales automation or service satisfaction.

CRM failure occurs when the intended outcomes (and value) aren’t realized. Many factors impact how value is realized, ranging from leadership misalignment to ambiguously defined success criteria, or at worst, a lack of definition altogether.

We need to rethink how value is defined.

Woman smiling and using colorful Post-It notes to explain the value of CRM projects

A CRM project that enhances a customer’s experience (such as field service or quoting or partner management) has explicit and tangible value. That’s because it will immediately influence how a company interacts with its customers and improve how they perceive a company’s brand. 

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce costs or increase revenue. But how do organizations know that their next CRM project is the right investment? Or that the outcomes they want to achieve from that next CRM project will move the needle? 

Uncertainty arises when there is a lack of investment priority and a clear vision, and it’s the primary reason why CRM project failure rates are so high.

Think strategically.

Two gray pencils against a yellow background

What is strategy? 

It's the path an organization takes toward a solution to a problem that is difficult to define. Most organizations struggle with defining the intended value of a CRM investment when they decide to make one, which means there is ambiguity in the expected outcomes and uncertainty if the outcomes will matter. To help navigate past the uncertainty, learn about the Appirio approach to strategy

Most often when an organization decides to kick-off their next CRM project, they either:

  1. Lack a clear vision or don’t understand how that project ties back to outcomes for their organization (i.e. they’re working project-to-project)
  2. Have a vision with intended outcomes but their next series of planned projects have no priority (i.e. priority is decided by 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease' mentality).
  3. Have structured programs with expected outcomes but lack confidence that those programs are defined correctly.
  4. Have complete confidence that their vision and expected outcomes will be effectively delivered through their well-defined programs and projects.

Which category does your organization fit?
Most companies will fit into one of the first three categories. And organizations that belong to the fourth category will universally have higher success rates for their CRM projects. This doesn’t simply happen; it requires an investment in defining how a vision will drive expected outcomes through programs and projects - in other words, it requires a CRM Roadmap

This takes us back to our original point: how do we define value?

Value is more than just projects. It's having a strategy that empowers organizations, drives their business transformation, and reduces the risk of failure - all critical factors for the success of their next CRM project. 

What is a CRM Roadmap?
To answer that question, we've developed a mature methodology that enables us to deliver powerful results through our strategic service offering: Appirio Phase 0: Actionable Strategy, a five-step engagement approach that typically spans eight weeks and includes:


  1. Engagement and Vision. This requires collaboration and buy-in from organization decision-makers to validate or define guiding principles, goals, and measures.
  2. Journey Building. Key users impacted by CRM are interviewed to understand the challenges with their daily activities and interactions. This analysis is the foundation for future decisions.
  3. Art of the Possible. Appirio facilitates innovation sessions where “BlueSky” Future State experiences are defined. These sessions enable customers/workers to imagine the best possible future without current challenges.
  4. Capability Inventory. The journey building step helps determine which CRM capabilities will improve customer and worker experiences. Identifying these capabilities is a requirement for creating a roadmap.
  5. Roadmap and Delivery. This step incorporates all findings into a comprehensive, program-by-program guide of how to drive your company’s business transformation. This includes feature highlights, business cases, expected customer value, and operational initiatives within a recommended timeline.

This simple, yet powerful methodology will guide an organization from a project-to-project mentality to a strategic approach that will enable greater CRM success. To discover Appirio thought leadership beyond strategy offerings and cloud implementations, visit the Resource Hub.

Message us on social media and tell us about YOUR next CRM project. 



About the Author

Sebastian Barnes

Sebastian has 15+ years of consulting and technology thought leadership experience. He was a CRM Director for a +$2B Technology Firm, overseeing a large, global team of technical and business architects. His specialties include leading large-scale business transformation initiatives and building organizations to scale that face growing demand and resource challenges. Sebastian has been a Strategist at Appirio for two years.

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