Preparing for a Successful Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Implementation

So the organization has seen Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 – or some functional piece of it – and they want it in their company.  Great to hear, but what are the steps a Project Manager should take (or avoid) in order to ensure a successful implementation?  Metaphorically, it is very important for the construction company to not start building the house without the architectural design .  After doing a large number of enterprise-level application implementations, I’ve identified some main areas of consideration that you should nail down before you start programming your Dynamics CRM environment.

Defined Scope:  Answer the question – “What do we want Dynamics CRM to do for us?”  Now this sounds straightforward enough, but if you ask people on the project this question, you might be surprised what types of responses you get from actual project team members.  Some are afraid to respond, for fear of giving a “wrong answer”.  Others, depending on what vertical part of the organization they come from, can give a rather wide range of answers, as they see certain areas of the application as “more important” than others.  The Scope of the project should be initially narrow, with 3-5 identifiable objectives.  If it is more than that, the objective of the project becomes unclear.  If needed, partition certain functional pieces into future CRM phases.

Project Manager:  Who is the ultimate “owner” of the project?  This person needs to be responsible for day-to-day activity, ensuring that people know their responsibilities and can hit their identified project marks.  It is important that this person have both the time to dedicate to the project, as well as authority within the organization to impose sanctions and make decisions as needed. 

Timeline:  What is the time frame that the company has for the implementation?  Is there a “stake in the ground” deadline?  Be careful if there is.  – and raise a flag if it appears to be unrealistic.  Companies might not want to hear the truth, but it’s better to be realistic around expectations.  If the project needs 12 weeks, then incorporate this in the planning and review with team members and management.

Users:  Who are the end-users of the system?  Is every end-user represented on the Project Team? Make sure this is the case, as their wants and needs should be incorporated into the planning documents.

Software Licenses:  Has the organization purchased the requisite licenses needed?  Provisioning for this doesn’t take a large amount of time, but installation could involve more steps, depending on if it an on-premise installation or CRM Online.  Just make sure not to leave this until a day before the beginning of the project.

Hardware:  If it is an on-premise solution, which servers are going to be used?  Is there a possibility that other servers and/or hardware upgrades will be needed?  Make sure certain team members are identified to answer these questions around hardware sizing.  Additionally, there can be costs involved and time needed if new equipment is needed. 

Testing, Training and Deployment:  All three of these items are distinct phases of the project.  – Do not try to combine them.  Even if the testing of the application involves only the project team members, go with that.  Training is training, not a meeting to change the application.  This goes hand-in-hand with the danger of “Scope Creep”, as it is important for system trainers to acknowledge user requests and comments, but it is not a forum to change the configured application.  Trainers need to be briefed on objectives and how to handle critiques of the system.

Communication:  Periodic reviews and goals are very important to a good implementation.  Review of the the project timeline, team accomplishments, project issues and important upcoming events should all be part of these reviews.  Project Management usually conducts these weekly.  If possible, conduct these meetings in a conference room setting, with all team-members present. 

Management Buy-In:  Ultimately, if the management of the organization does not champion the CRM application as a core/crucial project, the end-users of the system will not either.  Either through the Project Kick-Off Meeting, conference calls, online web meetings, e-mail announcement or a combination of all of these and more, it should be very clear to the organization that this project is “Important”.  If everyone doesn’t hear this loud and clear, then don’t be surprised when the company approaches it in the same way when it comes time for “Go-Live”.

The above points are not meant to be a definitive listing of things you “have to do in order to succeed”.  These are just some of the areas that typically cause CRM Implementations to go off-course and possibly not live up to the expectations of the users.  Change within a company is never easy.  People would rather continue to do “what they know” in a company.  We are all creatures of habit.  Therefore, as a member of the CRM Project Team, it is your job to show users how Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 can make their time working more efficient.  Once they see that, adaptation and user acceptance go up quickly.

the Microsoft Dynamics website is another great resource for project planning and other key project areas, which will help you in your implementation.

Good luck with your Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 implementations!