Getting Ready for CRM: A Pre-Implementation Checklist


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The following was excerpted from The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management

These days it’s practically routine to pick up an industry trade
magazine featuring a CRM case study on page 1. Somewhere amidst
the paragraph about the company’s new customer loyalty program and
the part about sales uplift increasing 200 percent, you’ll find
a sentence or two describing implementation.

I quiz key CRM stakeholders about their existing and desired
environments from both business and technology perspectives.
My company calls such evaluations CRM Readiness Assessment engagements, but I like to call them premortems.

No, CRM development isn’t sexy, and yes, it’s fraught
with hazards from technology glitches to hiring freezes, but it’s
really the hub in the CRM wheel when it comes to ensuring business
acceptance. The snazziest end-user interface and most enthusiastic
marketing staff will never compensate for the CRM system that doesn’t
do what it’s supposed to. Not to put too fine a point on it, the
implementation project is a critical piece of the CRM puzzle.

I spend most of my time these days evaluating how prepared companies
are to launch their CRM programs, be they departmental or enterprise-wide,
single or multifunction. Sometimes this occurs at the requirements
definition stage, where there is uncertainty about the perceived
need and its implementation viability. Other times it involves evaluating
a company’s existing infrastructure just prior to implementation.
What I do most is quiz key CRM stakeholders about their existing
and desired environments from both business and technology perspectives.

My company calls such evaluations CRM Readiness
Assessment engagements, but I like to call them premortems.
After all, what’s more valuable than fixing problems before they
occur? The best way to do this is to envision possible outcomes
based on current circumstances, using experiences gleaned from successful
CRM deployments. It’s good old risk management, come home to roost.

The checklist below offers a series of considerations
to be aware of before moving forward with CRM development. Make
sure each of these items has been at least considered at your company,
and the more complex your intended CRM program the more mandatory
it is that you resolve the issue prior to beginning development.

Evaluation Question Explanation Considered?
Have you prepared a CRM business
Regardless of whether management requires a CRM business
plan, it’s a very good idea to have one that represents a
CRM baseline for your company or department.

Do you know who your executive
sponsor is and what she expects?
By the time you’re ready to launch development, who the CRM
executive sponsor is should be crystal clear. Moreover, her
role in defining and validating requirements, managing executive
expectations, and helping define success metrics should be well
understood by all stakeholders.

Have high-level business requirements
been defined?
In CRM this activity should be separate from the formal development
project for two reasons: business requirements will dictate
whether the CRM program moves forward, and they require involvement
from stakeholders who might not be available during implementation.

Have success metrics been established? How will you know if your CRM program has been a success?
Although many companies don’t require success metrics to be
implemented, they’re an effective safety net for after the
system is deployed.

Has the project been funded? No use planning an entire CRM program if only a mere proof-of-concept
has been approved.

Is there agreement on desired
customer behaviors? Are the business functions slated to support
these desired behaviors apparent?
Depending on the scope of your CRM program, you might include
a description of desired customer behavior in your CRM business
plan. Either way, building consensus on how you want customers
to behave differently is important. For instance, if sales staff
will be using CRM to manage the sales pipeline, it should establish
the ideal response to an information mailing.

Does each organization agree
on a common definition of "customer"?
The marketing department of an automobile company might
consider a "customer" to be a dealer, but the call
center might consider it to be a driver. Have consensus on
this and other key definitions, or plan on developing them
as you define data requirements.

Can you map the desired functionality
to data requirements?
Customer data is complex more often than it’s straightforward.
This usually means defining data requirements along with business
requirements. At some point you’ll need to know whether customer
data is necessary and from what system it will originate. A
firm understanding of the level of customer data—account,
household—is also critical.

Do you suspect that external
data will be necessary?
Purchasing data from an external source such as Dun & Bradstreet)
Axciom, Data Quick, or Experian. might not initially be a high
priority, but it can supplement customer profiles with such
indicators as number of family members, estimated income, household-level
psychographics, ZIP code breakdowns, real estate information,
and other attributes that can reveal customer behaviors and

For customization, does the
current workstation development environment support the CRM
What type of workstation configurations does your CRM tool’s
development environment require? Additional development tools
(e.g., Microsoft’s Visual Studio) or hardware (e.g., database
servers) might be necessary to correctly customize the CRM environment.

Have you identified the other
applications or systems with which the CRM product must integrate?
There should be an up-front understanding of the impact of
CRM on other corporate systems and of how the data will move
between systems effectively. In addition, staff members whose
systems will be touched by CRM should be notified of the pending
integration requirements.

Have the organizational or
political barriers to rolling out CRM been identified? Have
they been resolved?
Yes, it’s a loaded question. No, it’s not meant to point
fingers, but to establish up-front what the tactics will be
when questions of ownership or disagreements about functional
priorities rear their heads. An influential executive sponsor
might be able to resolve such issues before they arise.

Have you truly defined your
privacy policy?
Regardless of whether your CRM program will be Web-based,
understand your company’s boundaries for using data about
your customers. CRM must not only adhere to a corporate privacy
policy; it should also be the flagship example of the company’s
behavior around customer data.

The most valuable feature of a premortem exercise
is that it’s a lot easier to give bad news before disaster strikes
than to say “I told you so” after the fact—and after the money has
been spent. A pre-implementation review can alert the business sponsor
to potential roadblocks. Such findings allow CRM team members to
fix problems proactively rather than pointing fingers after the
CRM project has failed, as 60 percent of all CRM projects allegedly

Ideally, the answer to each of the questions in
the above checklist will be “yes,” with consensus on how each issue
will be handled when it’s encountered. At the very least, the CRM
team should be aware of each issue and prepared to deal with it
when it inevitably comes up.

Jill DychÉ
Baseline Consulting
ill Dyché is a partner with Baseline Consulting, a business analytics and data integration services firm. She is the author of e-Data and The CRM Handbook (Addison Wesley) and is recognized for her articles in the trade press and her workshops on bridging the gap between business and IT.



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