8 Common CRM Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

Ann All

Updated · Feb 20, 2014

According to Gartner, the CRM market will reach $23.9 billion this year after several years of strong growth. Given that level of investment, companies obviously want to get as much value as possible out of their systems. It's unfortunate, then, that so many of them make mistakes in selecting and implementing CRM software.

Much like Bill Murray's weatherman character in Groundhog Day, even companies with CRM experience seem to repeat their mistakes before finally getting it right. With the aim of helping them reduce their time to value, we asked several software analysts for their advice.

Here are eight of the most common mistakes and the experts' advice for avoiding them:

Putting IT Organization in Charge

With any software project, but especially one as reliant on user input as CRM, the business people who will actually use the software should lead the initiative while IT plays a supporting role, says Frank Scavo, president of  business and IT consulting firm Strativa Inc. Putting folks from sales in charge will help ensure they actually use the software. “Unlike some other apps, sales people really do not have to use CRM. They can do lot of work without even touching it and just use it as a record system when they close the deal,” he says, noting that if the system is underutilized, companies will see only limited improvements.

In addition, Scavo says, putting IT personnel in charge may result in a system that is based more on their desires, such as a standardized platform or use of a preferred vendor, rather than on business needs.

Emphasizing CRM Integration with ERP

While big vendors like Oracle and SAP push the idea of integrating CRM and ERP systems, many organizations simply do not need heavy integration, Scavo says. “It's better to have a CRM system that the sales and services people actually use that has minimal integration with ERP than to have very deep ERP integration but no one uses it,” he says. “If you get hung up on all of the possible integrations, you will end up with a long list. But if you are only doing five major sales a month, how much integration do you need? You can probably get by with a lot less.”

Not Getting CRM Requirements Right

Many organizations neglect to capture the needs of executive sponsors and broader business teams during the requirements stage of a CRM project, says Sanjay Sehgal, global practice leader, Enterprise Performance Management, for the Hackett Group. IT teams are sometimes so focused on the technical aspects of implementing software that they neglect to ask business leaders such basic questions as “What do you want to capture in reports?”

Sehgal says, “IT tends to get focused on the nuts-and-bolts of putting in CRM systems, but when it comes to the outcomes and what everybody wants, they often struggle to develop a strategy. You want to bake those kinds of requirements in upfront, so you can design appropriately.” Not doing so can mean lots of expensive reworking later, he adds.

Underestimating Users' Appetite for Change

Most companies know the necessity of change management and they even know their corporate cultures well, yet they do not always apply this knowledge to a CRM implementation, says Scott Holland, an IT practice leader for Hackett Group. To counter this, he recommends involving key business stakeholders as early as possible.  “If you get buy-in from influencers, it creates a snowball effect. Other users will have a choice of joining that team or staying on a team that is getting smaller, so that is usually a pretty clear choice.”

Frequency of communication about the project is important, Holland adds. “For a strong commitment, you want to get them engaged. That is not just getting in a room and making an announcement. It needs to be an ongoing process.”

Caving in to Customization Requests

Many companies accommodate more customization requests than they should, says Rebecca Wettemann, Nucleus Research vice president. It's important to understand the difference between CRM configuration and customization and avoid the latter when possible. Excess customization is “putting yourself on a path to pain,” Wettemann says, because it will limit your ability to take advantage of vendor updates. “Your understanding of the sales process and how CRM can support it will evolve over time, so it's better to limit customization and evolve over time so the software better fits your needs,” she says.

Making Mobile CRM Srategy an Afterthought

Companies should make mobility a central part of their CRM strategies at the outset of an initiative, Wettemann says. “It shouldn't be just about rendering your existing CRM on mobile devices. You want to take advantage of form factor, location information and functionality like the ability to integrate photos into CRM records,” she says.

Taking Wrong Approach to CRM Training

Though many analysts emphasize the importance of upfront user education, Wettemann advises buying CRM software that is intuitive enough that most users won't require a great deal of training. Then rather than scheduling mass classroom training sessions, conduct small-group sessions with individuals or groups that need a little extra help, offering usage tips geared to their specific roles.  

“If people sit in a classroom for an hour, they will only retain about five minutes of what they hear. But if you do a learning program at lunch focusing on one or two pieces of information they can use, that's a much more effective adoption strategy,” she says.

Making Price the Top Criteria

Though price is certainly a key criteria for evaluating CRM software, some companies give it undue consideration, says Nick Castellina, senior research analyst, Business Planning and Execution, for the Aberdeen Group. “You don't want to select a solution based on price. You want to find something that fits your organization, that is easy to use and that your IT can support,” he says.

Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.

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  • Ann All
    Ann All

    Public relations, digital marketing, journalism, copywriting. I have done it all so I am able to communicate any information in a professional manner. Recent work includes creating compelling digital content, and applying SEO strategies to increase website performance. I am a skilled copy editor who can manage budgets and people.

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