Is Your Organization Ready for CRM?

The title of this post poses an interesting question as some organizations may think they are ready to add a CRM system, but they may not be at the stage in their development to handle the demands of a CRM system.  The purpose of this post is to discuss some of the issues an organization may face and help you check your organization's “CRM Readiness” before starting a major CRM implementation.

Organizational Development usually includes three components, which I will outline here:


People:  The key to any organization’s success is the people.  If you don’t have individuals within your organization that understand the base business, you will probably not be successful.  People are aligned across many functional areas, typically including sales, marketing, information technology (IT), logistics, and human resources (HR), to name a few.  Most of you are probably familiar with many or all of these areas, along with the general business responsibilities each has in a company.  An organization of 5-20 people may only have two or three organizational groups whereas an organization of 5,000 – 20,000 may have hundreds of groups, with many layers of complexity.  Relating to our CRM Readiness discussion, it is important to understand the people who will ultimately be using the system.   

Some key questions to consider when assessing the People portion of an organization’s CRM Readiness are:

  • Who will use the system after it is put in place?
  • Who will maintain the system after Go-Live?
  • Do we have people in key areas of our organization that are capable of handling the changes associated with a major system implementation?
  • Who will be affected by the implementation of a CRM system? 
  • Is it possible that some people’s jobs will be eliminated?

Processes:  Once the organization is confident in its people, the next level of an organization’s CRM readiness revolves around Business Processes.  Business Processes can range in complexity from creating Orders to creating an ERP / Order Management and Logistics Optimization engine.

Sometimes, the level of complexity isn’t the underlying goal, but rather efficiency and effectiveness.  Most business processes are evaluated on a quantifiable basis, such as “Total Sales for the Month”, “Hours Per Widget” or maybe “Profit Per Unit”.  The metrics enable organizations to evaluate the processes and define them as successful or unsuccessful. 

Now, how do you determine whether or not your organization's business processes are ready for CRM?  To answer this question, consider a few main areas:

  • Who are the owners of the business process?
  • What defines success for the process?
  • Are there any steps in the process that are bottlenecks?
  • What processes will change or “go away” after the system goes live?

Technology:  The final component to address in CRM Readiness is Technology.  Don’t get confused with the presence of technology versus the organization’s ability to use the technology.  It is not uncommon to come across companies that have very old applications, legacy programs, databases and systems.  In 2007, I was working on a Data Integration project where the company was still using data from tables in an IBM Mainframe that had been installed in 1979.  In this case, before implementing a CRM solution, consulting with the organization on their current Data Governance Strategy became priority number one.  Taking a top-down view of the company to assess Organizational Readiness for technology is very important.  Metaphorically, it’s the same as building a house on sand – not a very good idea – and this is why the foundation is so important.

When assessing technology readiness, questions to consider include:

  • Is there a good granular and documented understanding of all of the data in the organization across all systems?
  • How will the technology “help” the company become more efficient?  How will the company measure this efficiency gain?
  • How will the incorporation of a new application/system change the existing business processes in the organization?

This blog post is not meant to be a comprehensive “Check Point” for evaluating a company for Organizational Readiness for CRM.  Rather; however, I wanted to provide some examples of areas to check.  In many cases, it is worth taking the proverbial “1 Step Backwards and then 2 Steps Forward” for projects.  If you find yourself questioning the People, Processes or Technology capabilities of the organization that is considering CRM, take a few weeks (or months) to address your concerns with the management of the company.  This approach will save you from realizing “this company is not ready” eight weeks into a CRM implementation, which can be very costly, from many perspectives.

Good luck in your CRM implementations in 2011.