How Prepared is Your Organization for a CRM Implementation?

When you need a CRM transformation, the pressure is on and time is of the essence. One of the first questions you will get from your stakeholders is: “How long is this going to take?” As you well know, there are many factors to consider when identifying a timeline. Some factors include organizational priorities identified in your strategic plan, upcoming events or staff transitions, staff capacity for change, prior experience with implementations, and more. The answer to “How long is this going to take” also lies in your organization’s level of preparedness and experience going into the transformation effort. Let me share a comparison to illustrate what I mean.

You Need a Guide

I live in Bozeman, Montana. Yellowstone National Park is just down the road. I own a really great bike, but it had been gathering dust for more than a few seasons when I met up with some friends for coffee and pie at my brother’s restaurant (which you should definitely check out if you’re near Bozeman). On a whim, I announced that I would be taking a bike ride around the Yellowstone Loop. A friend who is an avid biker looked surprised and asked “How long have you been training for this, Tim?”

I replied, “Well, I haven’t. But I know how to ride a bike. How hard can it be?”

His eyebrows raised even further. “Well, when’s the last time you took a 150 mile ride?”

I grinned. “On my bike? Never. No better time to start, though, right?”

The next day, he sent me the links to a few websites offering group rides with a single line of introduction: “You need a guide.”

There is a significant difference between an experienced biker who can ride 150 miles in a day, and someone whose bike has been gathering dust in the garage for a few seasons. The most important factor in biking is the rider, not the bike. If someone asks “How long does it usually take to bike around Yellowstone Park?” a reasonable answer would be something like, “How much do you usually bike?”

In our work, the time it takes to implement a new system is determined almost entirely by the experience level of the organization – both with new systems, and implementation processes – not the logistics of the technology build itself. The answer to “How long will it take to implement a new CRM?” is “How long have you been training for this implementation?”

Experienced vs. Beginner: How Different Organizations Handle CRM Implementations

Organizations who implement new software frequently are like experienced bikers, who can focus on things like speed, gearing, braking, and obstacles, rather than whether they can just stay vertical on the bike and avoid falling if the dogs run in front of them (much like I was in the photo below).

Experienced bikers are oriented toward the future, rather than the present challenge. This is true for organizations that are experienced in rolling out new systems and platforms. They think about things like scalability and how to streamline their existing processes. They often have a CIO and a team of specialized staff. Experienced teams have established processes, release schedules, and change management best practices identified. Additionally, they are usually prepared to fund ongoing work with have an established revenue base. Organizations like can then focus more on the capabilities of the technology than on their organizational capacity for implementing it.

On the other hand, organizations new to implementing CRM software may be like beginner bikers who need to focus on the present moment because they are learning to combine momentum, steering, and pedaling. While riding soon becomes second nature, initially beginners need someone to ride alongside them or given them a boost to create initial momentum. An intermediate biker setting out on their first long-distance ride will need more than a dusty bike — they also need supplies, a map, and, as my friend so wisely insisted, a guide to help coach them on the way.

Organizational Challenges of Implementing a New CRM System

An organization less experienced with implementing new technology faces significant internal challenges when implementing a new CRM:

  • They usually don’t have a dedicated technology team, much less a CIO.
  • Technology strategy and execution often falls to the “most techy” of the staff – usually, staff who already have another role within the organization.
  • If legacy data has lived in several databases, the data is siloed. It will take significant work –dozens of hours –to merge, dedupe, and scrub the data in order to import a clean data set.
  • Management may be frustrated by the failure of the system to fix flawed processes.

For these reasons, it is extremely difficult to focus on the future (which is where the promised benefit is) when rolling out new CRM functionality as an inexperienced team. Although the long-term benefits are strategic, the initial efforts are primarily tactical. As a result, rather than reducing workload –as promised by the platform vendor – workload will likely increase and the process can become very disruptive to the team as a whole.

Preparing Your Organization for Technology Implementation

In considering your organization’s preparedness for a technology implementation, we encourage you to determine whether you are experienced and prepared or whether you are less experienced, having perhaps only implemented a new system before once or twice, or even not at all. If you fall into the latter category, you need a guide.

Your guide will help you establish the momentum you need and get you steering in the right direction. A pro-level guide will address the challenges and concerns you have now, while also providing a framework for addressing future concerns and incorporating user feedback. They will focus on what’s important now (e.g., momentum, steering, pedaling) and get you prepared for a future where you will be able to undertake more advanced tasks (e.g., picking up speed, switching gearing, navigating obstacles, or riding long-distance).

Now IT Matters’ Digital GuidanceSM program might be right for you – give us a shout, we’re currently enrolling a limited number of new Digital GuidanceSM clients.

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