CRM project foundations before implementing a new strategy

By Avishek Majumder & Abhinash on April 17, 2019

As implicated in the previous study, CRM implementation and integration into the objectives of a business comprises of 5 important phases. Building CRM project foundations are the second phase of the process (Buttle, 2013). This phase comprises of various activities for CRM project design and planning process.

The activities involve;

  • identify stakeholders
  • establish governance structures
  • identify change management needs
  • project management needs
  • identify critical success factors
  • develop risk management plan
Important components of CRM project foundations
Important components of CRM project foundations

Importance of identifying stakeholders for CRM project foundations

CRM project foundations involve identifying, analyzing and managing existing stakeholders of the business (Buttle, 2013). Identifying stakeholders involve stakeholder management. It involves assessing the existing relationships with stakeholders and findings the gaps to improve the activities, projects, and business performance. Stakeholders of business include senior management, marketing staff, salespeople, customer service agents, channel partners, customers and IT specialists (Bohling, et. al., 2006). Identifying stakeholders not only involves functioning but also to assess the wants of each and every group of stakeholders. Assessing the needs of the stakeholders determines the extent of success of the CRM foundation and implementation.

Companies such as ExxonMobil, SAP, and PeopleSoft use Stakeholder Management Systems. This tool helps to identify the need of the stakeholders. They also correlate the activities of the business in the fulfilment of the needs of the stakeholders. In addition, stakeholder management tools also improve the stakeholder knowledgebase. It allows in better capturing and complete history of every interaction with the stakeholders.

Since CRM implementation in businesses globally includes the adoption of software or tools. It is imperative that the needs of the vendors are well understood by the service providers (Buttle, 2013). Better the customer experience more likely is the chance that the business to adopt and promote the implementation of CRM. In this case, businesses use various forms of models to assess the perceived easy-to-use and usefulness by the customers.

For instance, a business associated with software development uses the Technology Acceptance Model to assess if the stakeholders are able to use the tool. They will also check whether their perseverance matches the intentions to use the tool (Askool and Nakata, 2011).

This way the business is able to identify if the stakeholder is right to implement a new CRM.

Technology Acceptance Model for CRM project foundations (Askool and Nakata, 2011)
Technology Acceptance Model for CRM project foundations (Askool and Nakata, 2011)

Establishing governance structures

Governance structures act more like rules and regulations for the proper implementation of the CRM (Dong, 2012). After identifying the stakeholders and their needs, the business set project roles and responsibilities. This allows different internal stakeholders with the allocation for appropriate implementation of tasks. In this section, the importance of the internal hierarchy of the business is put to test. The governance structures are made by the head of the CRM implementation and renewal projects. They also make sure that the project deliverables are achieved and costs are controlled (Buttle, 2013). Thus, comes the need of identifying the rightful stakeholders, mainly employees, managers and administrators that are capable to complete the CRM project and implement within the given time.

Governance structure in business according to Buttle, (2013), is not limited to supervision of the appropriate implementation of the tasks. It also extends to the management of the hierarchy of information flow and equal distribution of tasks. Usually, a CRM project is handled by a key steering committee comprising of board-level executives. It is responsible to make policy decisions about the CRM implementation. They are also responsible to assess technology to buy, consultants to hire, employees to work in the project, and expenditure distribution of the CRM foundation (Dong, 2012).

The committee is followed by a leading project handler and work in association with CRM consultants and members from different departments of the business. The main role involves implementing the project successfully. There will be another set of teams working on different aspects of sales, customer assessment, support systems, and marketing and information systems linked towards CRM project foundations.

Roles of different internal stakeholders in the governance structure

Each of the groups has a different role. Each group are aimed at identifying the characteristics of the customers so as to identify aspects to retain existing customers (Buttle, 2013). Sales and marketing team will work on aspects to attain or capture new customers. At the same time, each group assesses the usability and key users of the advocated method. The lead developer’s role ensures that the CRM tool is customized to meet the needs of users and external stakeholders. The database developer role ensures that customer-related data held in disparate databases are made available to end-users in the form required for operational and analytical CRM applications. Lastly, the front-end developer role ensures that the user interface is easy to understand and use.

Similarly, a systems integrator helps the CRM programme formation using an interface to link between different systems. Again, an experienced consultant associated with the CRM implementation helps to steer the committee overcome problems as the project progresses. These CRM consultants are usually third parties who expertise in CRM development and tool formation (Buttle, 2013). A systems implementer and systems integrator also acts an important role in the governance structure and is an important external resource. They are mainly responsible to help the third parties in integrating their CRM systems to the existing business. The complete governance structure in CRM implementation must answer only one question, “What would the customer think?”

Identify organizational change as management needs

Before constructing the governance structure; it is important to identify the needs of the management and change. A majority of businesses globally use John Kotter’s “see–feel–change approach”, to assess the changes needed by the management (Kotter and Cohen, 2012). To bring about change in CRM, it is necessary to see the need for change, as well as feel the need for change and if the change will be good for the business and ultimately make the change. There are two main needs for change in CRM. One is organizational culture and the other is John Kotter’s buy-in (Buttle, 2013).

The Competing Values model of organizational culture (Cameron and Quinn, 2011)
The Competing Values model of organizational culture for CRM project foundations (Cameron and Quinn, 2011)

Organizational culture has been found to affect business performances and organizational culture helps predict the success of a CRM. Businesses use the competing values model developed by Cameron and Quinn, (2011) to help change the organizational culture. According to Cameron and Quinn, (2011), cultural change may involve an adjustment to the organization’s structure, symbols, systems, staff, strategy, style of leaders and skills of managers. It also emphasize that individual behavioural change is the key to culture change. Using this model, businesses assess the behavioural changes amongst the employees as well as the high ranking executives. They then link the mentioned variables to customer needs and the performance of the business (Cameron and Quinn, 2011). The values are measured in the matrix and then the desired values are considered as the need for change in CRM.

Identify buy-in change as management needs

The next need for change is intellectual buy-in where people know what has to be changed and understand the justification for the change (Buttle, 2013). In other words, the business assesses that the changes needed by the management are justified and the change will improve the performance of the business. It’s contrary, emotional buy-in shows genuine heartfelt enthusiasm, even excitement, about the change in CRM or the CRM process. In this case, the changes needed remain usually irrelevant and does not cause any change in business performance. Changes are based on the needs and the type of buy-ins. Businesses use John Kotter’s model of Buy-in matrix to show the possibility of employee segments, reflecting the presence or absence of emotional and rational buy-in.

The buy-in theory for need of change (Kotter, 1999)
The buy-in theory for need of change for CRM project foundations

Champions remain emotionally and rationally committed and hence the changes needed remain considered logical. Weak links are neither emotionally nor rationally committed and hence the changes are not well implemented and the challenges reoccur. On the other hand, bystanders understand the changes introduced but feel no emotional buy-in to the change. These lead the changes in CRM to be irrelevant and may not even commit to making effective changes (Lambert, 2018). Lastly, loose cannons are fired up with enthusiasm, but really don’t understand what they have to do to contribute to the change. In this case, the changes are more made in a hurry and do not help the business needs or the needs of the management to make the changes.

Identify critical success factors for CRM project foundations

Critical success factors are attributes and variables that can significantly impact business outcomes from the implementation or renewal of CRM strategy. It is imperative that a clear customer strategy defines the company’s offers, markets and channels (Padilla-Meléndez and Garrido-Moreno, 2014). Success factors also comprise of an organizational culture that promotes coordination and information-sharing across business units. It is also imperative that pertinent, accurate, timely and useable customer-related information is available and a clear focus on people and process issues, not limited to technology is available. These factors too act as the critical success factors for the implementation of CRM. Business’ ability to focus on automating processes that reduce costs and improves customer experience, engagement of all stakeholders, including end-users and customers, also acts as success factors (Rahimi, 2017).

However, businesses measure the success factors on the basis of;

  • understanding goals,
  • retaining executive support,
  • motivating employees to make CRM work,
  • importing and migrating data,
  • user interface and related training,
  • understanding customer confusion and dissatisfaction,
  • employee resistance towards adoption of new technology,
  • market share and increased operating cost,
  • and business returns.

As Rahimi, (2017) implicates, businesses identify the critical success factors on the basis of people, process and technology only to maximize the relations with the customers. The mentioned measurement variables remain used and divided under the three main categories and measure them for the most successful factors while implementing CRM.

Develop a risk management plan for CRM project foundations

Critical success factors are not the end for the CRM foundation but end with the identification of the risk factors that may cause the failure of CRM (Torabi, Giahi, and Sahebjamnia, 2016). The failure reasons range from inadequate project management to the resistance of end-users to the adoption of new technologies. In fact, the critical success assessment indicates the risk factors of the CRM implementation too. Factors with poor valuation remain considered as the risk factors of the CRM. For instance, success factors were high for staff commitment and objectives definition, but poor for sales and marketing automation. Sales and marketing automation, in this case, indicates the risk factor to the CRM strategy adopted.

Four step risk management process in CRM implementation
Four step risk management process in CRM implementation for CRM project foundations

Identification of the risk factors helps in strategizing risk mitigation aspects. Businesses traditionally use a four-step risk management process (Buttle, 2013). Risk identification involves the identification of the potential risk factors from the CRM plan. Risk quantification involves evaluation of the risk factors as high, moderate and low. Response development includes pilot implementation and strategizing methods to mitigate the risks on the basis of their quantity. Lastly, response control involves the evaluation of the pilot CRM implementation and the mitigation capability of the risks identified.


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I am currently working as a Research Associate. My work is centered on Macroeconomics with modern econometric approach. Broadly, the methodological research focuses on Panel data and Times series data analysis for causal inference and prediction. I also served as a reviewer to Journals of Taylor & Francis Group, Emerald, Sage.