The 8 best ways to ensure your CRM project fails (Part 1)

Having recently joined the ranks of Gestisoft as a sales productivity advisor, I decided to get involved in a team of highly creative and dedicated bloggers. Let me start by saying – Not only is this my first blog post as a Gestisoft team member, it is my first blog post. Ever. Please make sure to let me know how I do!

With more than 10 years of professional experience in the CRM world of solutions, I have seen many great and successful projects. I have also seen some major catastrophes that make you wonder how organizations buy and implement CRM. For my first post, I propose a two part list of the Top 8 best ways to ensure your CRM project fails. The first part covers the purchasing cycle and setting yourself up for success. The second part will cover the deployment cycle. Both of these cycles go very much hand in hand.

Target audience for this post: Decision makers who have a daunting task, project and/or solution sponsors trying to get internal buy-in, selection committees who need to choose the right solution/vendor/integrator, and lastly, the project team and leaders who will deliver on the promise of CRM.

No value

No pain, no gain. CRM is getting phenomenal traction in today’s market. But that does not mean you need to follow market trends. A common mistake I come across is that the solution’s value is not clearly defined and/or understood. Not having clearly defined the value of CRM within your organization will either result in a decision not to buy, project stalls or budget objections. And if by any unlikely chance it does not, it will result in project failure.

At a very strategic level, the questions that you should ask are – What is the value of CRM for our organization? How will this solution help reach corporate goals? What is the gain that this solution will bring to your organization? The answers to these questions should be your project goals and success indicators. A successful project is measured not only in budget and deadlines, it is also measured by how it helps you reach your goals.

Recommendation: Before evaluating vendors, do your internal research, build a business case, identify pains and gains, and align it with your strategic plan. Throughout implementation, remind yourself of the project goals and the value that CRM will bring.

No project ownership (or clearly defined roles)

There was a time when, a business owner, or executive, would decide that the organization needed a CRM. Then a team of delegates (a.k.a. the Steering Committee) would be given the daunting task of choosing and implementing the right solution. Although committees and teamwork are exciting things, they can often lead to no accountability when roles are not clearly defined. The next thing you know, balls are thrown around, no one takes decisions, and no one is accountable for the few decisions that are actually taken.

One of the reasons for a failed implementation is the lack of a true internal project structure. It is very important to identify early on who the project owner will be, who the team members will be and what role everyone will play, and define measurement indicators for each role. The team is identified at the very beginning of the buying cycle, and the same team follows through to implementation and beyond. A team that takes ownership of what they do is a team that will deliver results.

Recommendation: Form a selection committee, and ensure that the same selection committee will be responsible for delivering the project and supporting the solution. Provide a structure with enough authority to enable quick decision making, clearly define every role and enforce accountability. Diversify the team and break it down into such roles as project manager, IT specialist, project pilot, super user, end user and so forth. The size of the team should vary with the size of the project. In other words, don’t underestimate it, and don’t overkill it.


Defining requirements may come as a surprise, as it is a very obvious thing to do to ensure the success of your selection and deployment. But still, many people overlook this, and the results are vanished budgets with incomplete solutions to show.

I often come across organizations that translate requirements as a set of functions they want, but it goes much beyond that. I believe that requirements need to be defined at various levels, although functions are crucial. So, how do you define requirements, and what needs to be considered?


Have a clear vision of where you are going: Know where you will be in five years from now. Incorporate your vision into your requirements. This prevents solution pitfalls down the road.

Define business processes: A good business process is one that works when applied manually, and gains value with automation. Obviously, replicating your exact process may not be the best thing, as newer technology opens doors that may not have been there before. I encourage you to re-imagine some processes with today in mind (such as portals, mobility, social, etc.).

The big picture: Map all your business solutions. Even though you are looking at a CRM solution, it is important to have the big picture of your current ecosystem of solutions and apps, and ensure that the ecosystem is in perfect harmony. Your CRM needs to seamlessly integrate into the big picture.

Prioritize, again, and again: What makes the success of a project is the ability to realize all expected benefits through predictable outcomes. Going for a big bang and expecting to deploy everything you will need in one go is not realistic. Build your requirements in phases. Align each phase with a company goal. Prioritize the phases according to goal priorities.

Choosing a price

Now that you have decided you need a CRM solution, you’ve assembled your team and you’ve identified both value and requirements, you need to choose the right CRM. A common mistake is the disproportionate weight given to pricing in the decision making process. I have seen business owners eliminate a solution outright based on pricing. Organizations should first look for a solution that fits their organization, a solution that is simple to adopt and manage once the deployment is complete.

What most business owners don’t realize is that saving a few thousand dollars now will end up costing much more in the end. A cheaper solution will most often be limited in functionality, hence, the solution is not adopted, does not evolve and ends up down the rabbit hole—along with your investment.

Recommendation: When selecting a solution, plan your evaluation score based on ‘’fit gap” (ability to meet requirements), on scalability and on the value the solution offers. Then throw in a bit of pricing. As there is an absence of value, price becomes an issue. The typical reflex ‘’we don’t need all of this now’’ is truly representative of a lackluster vision that will cost you more down the road, since your organization is bound to evolve. Instead, consider the following question: ‘’How can we simplify the deployment of your solution to address our needs today, so we do not hit a wall in the future?’’


In conclusion, proposing a CRM project requires planning to ensure it succeeds, and a rigid selection process that takes into account things that matter most to your organization. If well planned and executed, the next part, implementation, will be much smoother.

As this concludes part one of my two part blog article that I hope is insightful for you, our valued readers, please feel free to leave comments, suggestions and general opinions in our comments section. Remember to go easy on me, this is my first one after all!


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