5 Keys to Successful ERP and CRM Implementations

There are many reasons why some ERP and CRM implementations happen successfully, and there are many why some fail.   I’ve heard some people compare new software implementations to going to Vegas.   It’s a roll of the dice.   It’s risky.   You pull all-nighters.   What happens during a software implementation stays with the software implementation.  Huh?  Okay, not so much.

Regardless of what a software implementation reminds you of, there are things we can do to improve our odds of success.   There are definitely more than five of these, but for the purposes of today, we’re going to start with five key ones.  They aren’t necessarily in order of importance, although they are probably in the order in which they need to happen.

1.  Have a Clear Definition of Success Before You Start

Not defining clear objectives for the software implementation is a commonly cited contributing factor associated with failed implementations. A successful project is one that attains its objectives, but it is amazing how many business entities undertake a SugarCRM or Sage ERP or Intacct implementation with vague, unidentified, immeasurable goals.   Labeling a project unsuccessful requires some degree of measurement, and if a company does not calculate pre-implementation assessments of critical objectives, it becomes impossible to pinpoint the issues responsible for either success or failure.

Poor planning or project management will not only contribute to an implementation failure, but can also often result in staff embarrassment and job loss.   A contributing reason to implementation failures is when the implementation becomes overly disruptive to the organization’s daily business practices. There is a fine balance between dedicating the necessary time and resources to a new project and showing results.   Many times existing employees are asked to not only do their regular jobs but also implement the new software at the same time.  This is a tough road to travel.   One person from the company needs to be designated the Internal Project Manager whose job it is to liaise with the External Project Manager.   Regular status meetings over pre-defined intervals are critical especially in the early stages of the project.

2.  Start Small in Bite Sized Chunks

I cannot overemphasize this one.   Failing to do this may not cause a failure, but I do know that starting small almost always results in success.    Do not attempt to implement every feature inherent in the software right away, and do not attempt to implement the software in all departments at once.  In general, a phased approach is a more common tactic to achieve success, and this can be especially critical with CRM Software like SugarCRM.   Have a specific list of key success factors (see reason #1) and then focus on those specific features that will help you achieve that success.    Also, be careful with asking for too many customizations right away.   This can drag the project on and on, possibly over budget, and make success more of a moving target.

3.  Have a Champion

Who loves the software?   Who is in charge?  Who will run around and preach to all the other users about the greatness of the new software?     If there’s no one like this, and no one like this in authority, you’re going to have a hard time making it through the inevitable ups and down, bugs and hiccups that accompany new implementations.   A champion helps coach the rest of the team through these tough times and lets everyone know it will all be okay.

4.  Make Sure the Users are on Board Before you Implement

This may be the most common reason across all organizations that implementations fail.   All employees must believe in the CRM or ERP strategy and the supporting program and software. They must be educated in order to buy-in to the implementation and use of the software.  One of the most important quantitative gauges of success can be the user adoption rate.  If only the self-motivated utilize the system, it’s not successful.  Use a combination of rewards and procedures to spur users’ buy-in, and recognize that this is necessary for all personnel, including executives.  And, lastly, the most important factor in getting user adoption is the degree to which upper management supports and mandates the software implementation.   Significant communication from management is critical in this area.

5.  Don’t Skimp on Training and Go Live Support

Insufficient training and support delivered during key periods can bury a project. User adoption rates drop off for a number of reasons, but two rank high on the list – lack of training and support prior to and post implementation. Sometimes this occurs not because the training and support are absent, but because it is not provided in the appropriate format.  A remote sales force, for example, may not be able to rely on in-house personnel for remote support.   Make sure sufficient thought, planning, and budget is given to this area.


All in all, if you’re in good shape in these five areas, you have a great shot at success.   Nothing guarantees success, but you want to work to get the odds in your favor.    And, even though you don’t want your software implementation to be like a trip to Vegas, having the odds in your favor isn’t a bad thing.