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iStock_000026923153MediumAbout five years ago, the global economy was going through some pretty tough times. Economic activity was slowing in many industry sectors forcing most organizations into a defensive mode to control costs and stop the bleeding. During this time, we saw a large increase in companies looking to implement new ERP systems as a way to contain costs and more tightly manage the limited resources that they had.

Fast-forward to today and it appears that the economy is at least partially on the mend. Instead of solely focusing on cost containment and risk management, companies are again looking for ways to increase top-line revenue growth. This has been leading many to pursue CRM implementations – either as standalone projects or as part of larger ERP software initiatives.

Among the companies that are still struggling, many are looking to the sales increases that effective CRM systems can offer. For example, the energy, oil and gas industries are undergoing a time of severe turbulence with plummeting oil prices. With this unfamiliar change, many companies are more aggressively pursuing sales growth against the backdrop of softer prices and a more limited market.

Many companies are implementing CRM systems for the first time and don’t necessarily understand the complexities, efforts and risks required to make those initiatives successful. Fortunately, we have learned quite a few lessons from our CRM implementation experiences over the last several years. Some are similar to what you might expect from an ERP implementation while others are unique to CRM implementations.

Below are three lessons from some of our recent CRM implementation successes:

A successful CRM implementation begins with effective business process reengineering. Although Salesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and other common CRM systems offer robust functionality designed to automate sales processes, it is still imperative that implementing companies conduct business process reengineering prior to implementing the new software. These packages have been around for quite some time which has allowed them to become flexible and have very robust functionality. This functionality creates the need to define business processes early on to ensure that your business needs are driving the software rather than the opposite.

Successful CRM implementations don’t overlook organizational change management. At the risk of stereotyping and generalizing, sales types can be very difficult to change. After all, their job is to land new business and their livelihood depends on the commissions from closing those deals. With that said, it can be especially challenging to secure the involvement, buy-in and support required to make a CRM implementation successful. In fact, CRM implementations have a high likelihood  failure if you can’t get your key sales reps and team members involved, committed and in a position to clearly understand new business processes and expectations associated with the new CRM software. An effective and comprehensive organizational change management strategy is the most effective way to address this particular risk.

Successful organizations don’t back themselves into a corner with their chosen CRM system. Too many times we have seen companies choose and implement a new CRM system without considering how it will affect or integrate with back-office ERP systems in the future. While sales automation may be at the top of your mind at the moment, it is equally important to determine how that system and related processes will interact with inventory management, financials, product configuration, manufacturing and other functional areas critical to the effective delivery of sales processes. When selecting and implementing a new CRM system, it is vital that the decision and implementation plan are part of a more comprehensive enterprise systems strategy. If that is not accounted for, you are likely to back your organization and team into a corner by limiting long-term options and effectiveness.

While these lessons are similar to our extensive experiences from ERP implementations over the years, there are some unique nuances to CRM implementations. Defining new business processes and systems for sales reps can be especially challenging; while implementing a system focused on one functional area of the business has its own risks. With so many perils to overcome, it is imperative that these lessons and risks be taken into consideration.

Learn more about successful software selection by registering for our upcoming webinar, ERP Software Selection Success: 10 Tips from the Pros.