Critical Success Factors for CRM Deployments - Part 1 | Don't Boil the Ocean & Why You Need a Project Charter

Richard Duffy
Richard Duffy in Best Practices, Business Partners, CRM May 01, 2018

When it's done right and deployed well, an effective CRM solution can have a major impact on the success of a business. However, the war stories you hear from customers and consultants alike are not always glowing with victory. 

As we kick off our May focus on CRM, let's explore what factors contribute to a successful deployment and what you need to consider when utilizing an integrated CRM and ERP solution, such as SAP Business One.

The Success Metrics of CRM

In addition to financial success, in terms of revenue numbers, a successful CRM deployment can also lead to organizational success in terms of driving customer engagement and better customer satisfaction ratings. In short, happy customers, as well as happier customer support teams and sales workforce.

What follows are insights directly from my experience with CRM projects, so let's summarize: 

  • Small Businesses: At least ten CRM deployments, using solutions such as Maximiser, Goldmine, and ACT
  • Midsize Businesses: Projects leveraging solutions like Onyx, Pivotal and Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Large Businesses: Experience at software companies Microsoft and SAP, and other involvement on Siebel and SAP Business One CRM deployments.

Ask the Expert: CRM Best Practices| Join Richard and our ONE.Source community  for an interactive webcast on May 10

Having seen a bit of it all, successful deployments come down to three core factors. (It may come as no surprise, but these factors apply to ERP deployments as well.)

Three Critical Success Factors in CRM Deployments

  1. Don't try to "boil the ocean"
  2. Approach the project from both directions
  3. Avoid the "Big Bang"

I plan to break down each of these factors separately in its own blog post, so let's begin with number one:

Don't Boil the Ocean

Lets face it, in most small or mid-sized organizations, everyone is busy doing their day jobs and more. Most companies cannot afford the down time that comes with big projects that involve the whole of their business, as attractive as the potential benefits may seem. 

Most CRM projects end up as whole-of-the-business projects due to significant process re-engineering. This requires manyf people's time and focus, not just for the deployment teams, but also the folks in the design phase, as well as the people delivering the roll-out, and  those on the receiving end of the roll-out. The whole of your business becomes involved, taking up an incredible volume of time and focus. 

So what is the answer? For me, it can be summarized in three P's:

  • Product Fundamentals
  • Prioritization
  • Practicality

Product Fundamentals

Assuming that you have made the right choice of product, then you need to focus on the big components of the product features first and foremost. Hopefully, you set out with no more than three to five primary goals for deploying a CRM solution, so you should focus your attention on the product features that align most to those goals. This is not the time to get sidetracked with the flashy features that caught someone's eye during the buying cycle. Focus your energy on the features that drive your business outcomes; most of the time, those tend to be the fundamental components of the solution. 

Prioritization | You Need a Project Charter

Make sure to do a prioritization exercise with your stakeholders to align your deployment milestones to the areas of the business that will gain the greatest benefit. In this case, the squeakiest wheel should not get the first oiling (even if its the CEO). You will need a strong project manager to keep the project focused on the priorities.

Your prioritization exercise should become your project charter - a statement of what you are going to achieve, along with why it is important (for the business) that you achieve your goals.


Of course, there may be some core aspects of the product that need to be deployed first as the foundation of the solution; while there is no avoiding those early requirements, the rest of your early milestones must be tied to the business benefits you first want to achieve.

When push comes to shove and things start to go off the rails (which they will), these critical business benefits will help to keep everyone focused and get them back on track again. Priorities aligned around a project charter can help avoid the "death by a thousand cuts" approach that can sometimes undermine these projects.


Hand-in-hand with prioritization is practicality - or pragmatism, if you prefer.

Other than poor scoping or design, the biggest cause of failure tends to relate to resourcing. You cannot deliver 10 hours work within an 8 hour day, and heroic efforts on the part of the deployment teams are not sustainable over the life of a whole of business project. 

Something, or someone, will break. We all have seen that happen, and the costs to the business when it does, so you need to temper everything with a dose of pragmatism. Mistakes are made when work is rushed, so plan your time and resources appropriately.

I speak from experience here, as I am famous for underestimating the work needed and overestimating my ability to deliver - enthusiasm will do that. Hopefully, you have a lot of enthusiastic people in your team but be sure to balance that enthusiasm with practicality. 

Summary of Part 1

Remember, don't try to "boil the ocean." For this first step, your key takeaways are: 

  • Focus on the core product functionality, particularly what is critical to your project scope
  • Focus on what is most beneficial to the business in terms of ROI
  • Focus on what can be achieved with the resources at hand

More to come throughout CRM month.  In our next post, we'll look at the topic of approach, our second critical success factor; making things happen and getting everyone aligned as you approach your project from both directions.

Read Part 2: Approach the Project from Both Directions

Read Part 3: Avoid the "Big Bang"

Be sure not to miss our webcast curriculum throughout May: 

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