What are the top challenges when implementing CRM? And how can you overcome them?

15 January 2024 by
Smart Information Technologies Limited, Alison Bubb

You’ve chosen the right customer relationship management (CRM) solution for your business. You’ve secured management buy-in and the budget. All that needs to happen now is to implement your chosen solution. Easy, right? 

This article discusses the potential pitfalls when implementing a CRM solution – and offers some suggestions for how to avoid or resolve them. 


The majority of problems encountered with implementing CRM fall into two categories: data and culture. While these two problems may seem very different, the solutions to each are intrinsically linked and, quite often, symbiotic.  

What are the data problems a CRM implementation faces? 

When it comes to data, quality is the number one priority. If you’re making business decisions based on poor-quality data, your decision making will also be poor.  

 Poor data quality renders your monitoring and reporting of key performance indicators effectively useless. It can negatively impact customer experience and, ultimately, profitability. 

Data security and data privacy are also key concerns in any CRM implementation. How do you maintain compliance while also making data available to those who need it? 

Data must also be exposed to other systems too, especially if you want to increase the level of automation in your organisation. One of the motivations for implementing a CRM system is often to reduce the number of data silos in an organisation and create a single “golden” customer record or “single view of the customer”. To succeed in this, it’s important that your implementation doesn’t create new data silos. 

AI – especially the latest generative AI tools like Chat-GPT – add a new dimension to your data strategy. If you are going to train your enterprise generative AI tools, rules to maintain data security and data privacy need to be clearly articulated to all CRM users. Plus, if you are using CRM data to train local models, you need to ensure you aren’t training the AI on poor quality data. 


What are the cultural problems which surround a CRM implementation? 

Enthusiastic user adoption lies at the heart of a successful CRM implementation. Ideally, your users should feel empowered by their new CRM solution. They need to understand its capabilities, buy in to its use and inspired to be thinking creatively about how to benefit from it. 

Yet user acceptance can be hard to achieve – especially when your CRM solution is replacing an incumbent system. Turning one’s back on the familiar in favour of the new can be stressful, disorienting and resisted if not managed properly. 

Users need to be involved at all steps of the implementation and contribute to its customisation, rollout and training. This way, potential problems can be identified and addressed earlier and buy-in secured. 


How can you ensure the success of your CRM implementation? 

To ensure your new CRM is implemented successfully, it’s important to have strategies in place for your data and for your users right from the beginning. 


Best practice for your CRM data strategy  

Your CRM data strategy must consider: 

  • Data privacy, security and compliance requirements 

  • Integration with other systems, including additional reporting tools and data storage, e.g. Data Lakes. 

  • What data needs to be imported into the new system? From which systems? How does the data need to be preprocessed or cleaned before being imported? 

  • If data isn’t being imported can it be deleted? If not, how accessible does it need to be? Where can it be stored? 

  • How will the quality of data be ensured moving forwards as the system goes into use? 


Your data strategy needs to be in place before you begin implementing your CRM. This might feel like a delay, but putting the time in early to get your data strategy right will pay dividends. 

For example, it may be that you need to embark on a lengthy project to map your existing data, assess its quality and invest in data cleaning and deduplication before you can embark on your CRM implementation. 

 Presenting users with a new CRM system full of poor-quality data, duplications or missing data will negatively impact the user experience and user acceptance and, therefore, the success of your implementation. 


Best practice for your CRM user strategy 

 Ideally, your users will have been involved throughout the process of defining your requirements and selecting your CRM solution. They should be equally involved in the implementation processes. 

One way to ensure the user voice is heard is to establish a community of early adopters in each of your business functions and/or locations. These users will guide any customisation of the solution and act as “super users” who can feedback early learnings about system adoption and use.  

It’s important to give voice to and take onboard their feedback and adapt the system and its implementation accordingly. This will ensure their buy-in and your super-users can then act as enthusiastic advocates and sources of knowledge for the system with the other members of their internal teams. 

You should also invest in: 

  • internal communication so everyone understands the change that is coming and why.  

  • internal communications about your data strategy together with training about compliance and how to ensure good data quality. 

  • training for all users so everyone feels confident using the system. 

  • feedback loops so that users concerns and feedback can be addressed and, where appropriate, implemented. 

  • support so users know where to turn if they experience problems that may interfere with their continued and successful use of your CRM system. 


If users feel empowered and part of the process, this will help to ensure high user acceptance and good practices. This, in turn, will help to you to achieve the objectives of your data strategy, especially in terms of data quality and comprehensiveness.  


Overcoming the challenges of your CRM implementation 

A CRM implementation can be a lengthy project with many complications, but with a clear data strategy and a detailed and proactive user engagement programme there is no reason why it cannot be a highly successful project. 

 If you'd like more information on how Smart IT can help your business with CRM implementation, contact us here

Smart Information Technologies Limited, Alison Bubb 15 January 2024
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