Why Do CRM Projects Fail?

February 20, 2010

CRM ProjectNearly one-third of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software deployments end in failure, according to independent research firm AMR Research Inc.

In this article Bob Sullivan lists some useful tips from both executives who have failed and from those who have succeeded in turning projects around. It is always reassuring to see that what we have been saying for other scenarios still holds true for successful user adoption:

1. There must be value for the end users – A CRM cannot have a “big brother” watching goal. How does it help the sales reps do their job better, and do they recognize the value?

2. CRM cannot be a technology project – Yes, you need IT involvement, but the ownership and direction of the project must be driven by sales or marketing.  I have stopped counting the number of moans I have heard from sales mangers saying “We were forced by IT to put in XYZ and everyone is ignoring it. Maybe someday we will be asked what we need”.

3. Software selection, surprising, has little to do with project success – Documenting your marketing, lead and sales process must be your number one concern.  If you cannot show how your processes work on paper, don’t expect that a computer system will magically figure it out or sales reps to help.  Users will sit on their hands until you get it right.

4. Phased plan with measurements at each step – Know all that you wish to accomplish but set priorities and rollout a system in phases.  What must users know how to do in the first 30 days?  How do you they were successful? How do you let them know that they were successful or support them in becoming successful?  Build on success for the next phase.  A full day training program covering every aspect of the system is a receipt for failure. Rather plan three-hour sessions, every quarter for the next year and consider a weekly, one-hour, webinar – user group session.

Finally, with sales managers who are necessarily focused on hitting their numbers each month, do they have time to drive a CRM project?  I suggest that they do not.  If the goal of CRM is to breakdown the silos between marketing, sales and customer service, maybe marketing is better position to bring up the system.  Often a deterrent to a successful rollout is data conversion from other systems, everyone’s Outlook and purchased lists. When the CRM data is incomplete, users have another excuse for not using the new system. Marketing has a stake in getting customer and lead information complete.  Let them drive the project and phase in sales and customer service.  This approach also provides you with a base of user to call upon for one-to support.

To be successful, it must be remembered that a CRM implementation is not a one-time event. It is an on-going process. You will never do business the same. You will change the culture within the organization with every sales and marketing meeting looking to the CRM system for knowledge and ways of using your customer informational asset better to sell more.


Bob Sullivan is the President of InfoGrow Corporation, a sales and marketing solutions provider that enables clients to leverage resources, expand sales, and improve marketing ROI. for sustained growth.