Why CRM Implementations Fail: The 7 Deadliest Tech Platform Killers

Any CRM implementation is a bit of a tightrope walk. Chances are, there are numerous stakeholders involved in the process,

5 min. read

Any CRM implementation is a bit of a tightrope walk. Chances are, there are numerous stakeholders involved in the process, and they each want different things out of the system — as always. The entire project is a game of give-and-take, making sure that each person is satisfied enough with the technology to buy in.

And the pit below your tightrope? That’s the possibility of failure. If you have a CRM or are implementing one, you likely don’t need me to tell you the risks. You’ve probably seen some eye-popping stat that says something like 70% of CRMs fail. Don’t worry, that’s almost certainly wrong. According to one meta-analysis, a more realistic estimate of CRM failure rates ranges from 20% to 40%, depending on what you mean by “failure.” Because complete org shut-down is an entirely different situation than “not meeting expectations.”

The risk of failure is significant, but not daunting. And luckily, we’ve seen a thing or two in the CRM world. Our experience has shown us 7 chief reasons why CRM implementations fail. And we’ve written about each of them. Consider this your definitive guide to any CRM implementation: Where risks pop up in the process, what you can do to prevent them from occurring and links to additional resources.

Why CRM implementations fail: Pre-project risks

1. Insufficient leadership buy-in

No matter what you do, your CRM will never get off the ground if the other leaders of your organization oppose it, actively or passively. Trust me, you’ll have enough on your hands during the implementation itself. The last thing you’ll have time for is hunting down delinquent VPs to build buy-in at the last second.

Instead, you need to make sure your entire leadership has bought into the technology and a shared vision for it before you purchase any licenses. This may extend the timeline of your implementation, but it’ll prove itself worthwhile over time.

Need more proof? Read this article on the power of leadership buy-in for a real-life example of the dangers here — and what individual leaders should do to show their commitment to the platform.

2. Lack of process behind the technology

CRM systems are process-driven tools. So if your team doesn’t define the process behind your technology before you begin building, you’ll end up with error messages, data loss, lousy reporting or worse. As you’re generating buy-in, ensure that you’re also getting the right people in the same room to define the core business processes behind your technology. Then keep those defined processes visible for admins, leadership and users alike to reference during the implementation and beyond.

Want more insight on this? Read more about the perils of undefined business process and why it might be the #1 reason your CRM strategy might fail.

Why CRM implementations fail: In-project risks

3. Building the CRM for leadership, not its users

Here’s where the path to success starts looking more like a tightrope than an interstate. You might recall that point #1 stressed the importance of leadership buy-in. And yet, if you build your tool exclusively for leadership, you risk killing user productivity and adoption. That’s why it’s critical to keep end users involved in all phases of the project too: Discovery and design, build and testing. Otherwise, you could end up with a CRM platform that offers the fantastic reporting that leadership demands — but that none of your employees want to use.

For a deep-dive here, check out this eBook on how your Salesforce strategy might be killing productivity. It offers two real-life examples and multiple tips & tricks that apply to various CRMs.


4. Overcomplicating your build

At the dinner table, biting off more than you can chew is a surefire recipe for discomfort. So save your company a whole bunch of heartburn by starting small with your CRM. Consider rolling out a pilot to a single team of users instead of building Rome all at once — it’s a safer investment, offers better ROI and aids adoption.

See the full article on why you’ll regret overcomplicating your build here.

Why CRM implementations fail: Post-project risks

5. Inadequate training

Cost-conscious companies too often skimp on user training for their CRM. Unfortunately, my experience has taught me that’s one of the most dangerous phases to overlook. Because when you force users into an unfamiliar system, they might encounter enough errors and confusion to dissuade them from using it ever again.

No, CRM training can’t be a one-time (or no-time) occurrence. You need to build it into your CRM strategy, offering periodic sessions to inform users of recent updates and onboard new employees. That’s the only way to ensure that your technology runs like a well-oiled machine.

For more tips, here’s an article on how business leaders can make training successful. Relevant to any CRM, it’ll help you make sure your employees are starting on the right foot with your technology.

6. No ongoing technical support

CRMs are more like cars than TVs. You can’t just plug them in and expect them to run flawlessly forever. Business rules change, and users identify new improvements and encounter issues. So to keep everything running smoothly, you’ll need a technical support plan past your go-live date. Otherwise, your CRM could break down after the first few thousand miles.

You have two leading options here: Hiring an internal admin or paying an implementation partner for managed services. The right choice for your business depends on your size and technology needs; this article walks through all the factors to consider when deciding on an admin vs. managed services.

7. Lack of adoption

This final item is more of a catch-all than a standalone point. Technology adoption is the largest marker of success for a CRM. And while avoiding all of the pitfalls above should help you build adoption, there’s always more you can do to encourage it after go-live.

Luckily, there are countless things you can do, large and small, to boost your team’s CRM adoption. Having trouble thinking of ideas? Check out these 6 adoption tips, these advanced adoption strategies or this on-demand webinar on adoption mistakes you might be making right now. Boosting adoption often feels more like art than science, but with the right approach, you can drive your users to your CRM — and drive your CRM to success.

Of course, while these are the most common reasons why CRM implementations fail, this isn’t an exhaustive list. If your team is struggling with challenges not mentioned above, send us a message or comment below. We’d be happy to help guide you to success.



Danielle Sutton

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