Part 4 – CRM implementation essentials

CRMs for Associations Super Blog Series


  • The biggest mistake you can make when implementing a CRM project is to not be involved – success comes from engagement with the process.
  • Thorough planning is essential and must include timelines, project teams, communication plans, project scope and outcomes.
  • No project will ever be perfect but the more shared understanding you have in place from the beginning, the better chance of success you will have.

Focus Area 1: Timing is everything

Even the most well-oiled IT project demands the time and focus of your Association and staff.
Planning when to do the project is key. Associations often have busy seasons so make sure you choose the right time (most likely in your down season).

As we mentioned in the previous article, you must be confident that your partner has outlined a realistic timeline that works for you.

Focus Area 2: Building your team

You need to think of CRM implementation like any other transformational project. This means it’s not a case of ‘leaving it to the IT guys’.

Don’t just hand over the scope to the external project or partner team and expect them to come back with the solution. You need to be involved. And you want to have enough internal prioritisation and resourcing from your side so you can contribute to the project.

It’s important to build an internal project team that has management buy in. The project will require top down engagement to push forward, and to get similar buy from all staff members.

The team needs to be a multi-disciplinary ‘A Team’. By this we mean you need good representation from your entire organisation on the team. This ensures that the needs and requirements of every area are represented and heard, that the project will get input from all stakeholders and – again – that you will get good buy in across the board.

Focus Area 3: Communication. Communication. Communication.

Should we say that again? Communication is the bedrock of implementation success. Think of communication as a matrix:

  • Between the partner project team and your internal team
  • Between your internal project team and your management and board
  • Between your internal project team, management and any other key stakeholders

Digital transformation is heralding a steady evolution in how projects are managed and structured. Transformation projects traditionally had a very hierarchical or ‘command’ structure.

As we push into digital there is an equal and necessary push to adjust these structures. Think of the rise of the ‘Team of Teams’ approach. The structure is flatter, more collaborative and more interactive – ensuring better communication and more effective implementation.

Focus Area 4: Project scope

Do as much work on the project scope up front as you can. The clearer and more comprehensive it is, the better. It is extremely common for scope to change as a project progresses and the impact is nearly always negative.

You must develop a shared understanding of scope including:

  • Expectations
  • Parameters
  • Assumptions
  • Outputs

Any discrepancies in any of these areas between any project teams or members should be cleared up and resolved as soon as possible.

Keep up to date with project status. Regular check-ins and updates must be built into your implementation plan.

You need to focus on governance around ‘scope creep’.

It looks like this: We initially had a conversation and understood the scope to be a certain size and then new elements were introduced (often assumed to be involved but not clearly articulated) and those new elements mean there is more work to do.

Is this is a variation? Should it have been included originally?

This is why that time at the start of the project is so important. The better the conversation around scope up front, the more this can be avoided.

It’s impossible to have absolutely perfect design before starting a project. The way to avoid too much stress is – you guessed it – communication.

Be prepared that change may happen. And if it does, you have a plan in place for how to negotiate the impact. For example, you may choose to prioritise certain features and rule others out if they are going to impact the timeline too much.

A good rule of thumb is Pareto’s principle also known as 80/20 rule – to focus on the 20% of the project that will give 80% of rewards.

Finally, remember the GOOD FAST CHEAP rule we laid out in the previous article. You will need to keep an eye on managing these variables as implementation progresses.

Focus Area 5: 

Don’t become so focused on project management that you neglect to focus on outcomes though.

You must develop a set of measurable outcomes from the get go so you will have a way of knowing if the project is a success.

Continually track these outcomes all the way through the project.

Then, keep evolving your goals and outcomes. A good CRM implementation will continue to evolve and deliver over time. Tech will improve. Market forces will change. You don’t want to have to start a whole new CRM project every time this happens.

Continual support and maintenance must be built into your project and into your relationship with your partner.

Our next – and final – article in this series outlines the top features that associations are looking for and using in their CRMs.

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We’ve successfully implemented CRM solutions for Associations across Australia and have deep experience in working together for a smooth project outcome.

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