Best Practices for Successfully Migrating to a New CRM Platform
Over the last few months I’ve received multiple inquiries from companies moving to a new CRM platform, asking for any best practices to make the migration efforts less painful, and to ensure a successful result. Most companies I talk to have 3-5 different systems in place, usually due to acquisitions and mergers, so they have an even bigger task of migrating everyone off disparate systems onto a single platform moving forward. Based on my experience working for CRM vendors, doing consulting projects as an analyst with companies implementing CRM, and many recent conversations with companies moving to a new CRM platform, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Change is hard. No matter how long you’ve had your old system, and how much people may grumble about using it, getting employees to embrace a new system isn’t easy. The #1 complaint from employees when I do system audits is “they shoved this new system down my throat.” This is one of those times when you should over-communicate with employees. Tell them why you are making the change. Give them demos of the new system. Buy everyone a mug or t-shirt with the new vendor’s logo. Do what you can to get them informed and excited about the new system before you start training them to use it. This will go a long way towards getting acceptance and rapid adoption for the rollout.
- Change is good. The biggest mistake I see companies make when they migrate to a new system is just replicating the old screens and process flows on a new platform. You need to take a very hard look at your legacy implementation and figure out what’s working, and what’s not. Do a real audit of the current system so you know what NOT to recreate in the new platform. I even recommend surveying employees about what they like and don’t like in the old system, which goes a long way toward getting them invested in a new system. Typically, a lot of fields and process flows were added over the years for one reason or another, and many of them need to be eliminated. Process analysis isn’t fun, but you need to look at all your customer-facing processes and identify where changes should be made. Implementing a new CRM system is a wonderful opportunity to change what’s not working.
- Minimize customizations. Popular CRM systems have thousands of customers, and their “out of box” capabilities and screens reflect the most common, i.e., best practice, approaches used by their customers. Try to stay “out of box” as much as possible. If you see areas—and you will—that need major customizations to meet your current processes, ask yourself if those processes are really providing competitive differentiation for your company. Maybe going with a common industry approach is the right thing to do. The other thing to keep in mind is that the traditional OnPremise CRM platforms are fairly complex, and customizations may require a highly trained system administrator with some programming skills. In newer cloud CRM platforms, customizations are very simple to do with little training. This is both a blessing and a curse. Because customizations are so easy, companies go crazy making constant tweaks, which can wreak havoc for users and degrade usability. Make sure you have a process in place to evaluate and approve every customization before implementing it.
- Prioritize integrations early in the project. I’ve done a lot of writing and inquiries about integrating CRM to other systems to enable “quote to cash.” There are many 3rd party applications you should consider integrating with CRM to streamline processes and avoid employees juggling multiple applications. Knowledge management is an obvious example, with integration performing automatic searches of the knowledgebase based on incident text and field values. PSA is another example, with integration to CRM automatically passing along new project information to the PSA system to enable resource and project management. The majority of the time, companies say, “Let me just get CRM up and running, and we’ll do the integrations in Phase 2.” The problem is, Phase 2 never happens. Hopefully, you have selected a CRM platform with integrations in mind, as each CRM vendor has a set of ecosystem partners with packaged integrations to minimize the effort required. Get a realistic estimate early in the project about time/costs to integrate each 3rd party system, and try to get as many integrations as possible into the initial project phase.
- Pick your implementor with care. I guess this goes without saying. But I’ve heard some horror stories about really bad implementors, so be sure you carefully evaluate their credentials and check several of their references. As I said previously, implementing cloud CRM may not require as much technical/programming skills as OnPremise CRM systems. A decade ago, most CRM implementors worked with big accounting firms, and you were assigned a project team with deep experience in process optimization and certified on the CRM platform so they knew every bell and whistle in the system. Unfortunately, today I see companies hiring some yahoo whose only experience was implementing a cloud CRM system for small non-profits or a 5 person insurance office, and they have no clue about “best in class” processes or any real depth of knowledge about the platform.
I know many of my readers know as much or more than I do on this topic, so please submit comments with any other suggestions you may have on what to do–or what to avoid doing–to make moving to a new CRM system successful. Thanks for reading!