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Switching CRM Systems? 5 Tips to Make the Transition Easy

Switching CRM Systems? 5 Tips to Make the Transition Easy

In the US, incumbent Presidents tell voters “not to switch horses mid-stream.” CRM providers haven’t tried the same tactics, but the prevailing fear is that switching CRM systems can be a headache for everyone involved, from IT through to sales & marketing. It is perhaps why many choose to stick with the tried and tested.

However, there are often valid business cases for switching CRM systems, some internal, and some provided by the CRM suppliers themselves. The business may be in a phase of significant growth, and may have outgrown its current system. There may have been a merger, or a change of direction, meaning that the old system no longer meets business requirements. Or, simply, the current CRM isn’t up to scratch, and there is finally a business acceptance of this fact.

Put yourself on the therapist’s couch

I call this stage the therapist’s couch stage, mainly because it involves asking yourself a lot of probing questions. About yourself. Consider it almost like buying a really expensive luxury item, such as a new iPad: “Will I need this? How will it improve my life? What productivity gains will I actually experience with this new iPad? How am I going to sell this to the wife when I get home?

Consider why you want to make the change – what is the gap between your current system and the goal system. If it’s just money, then you may be best off hammering down your current provider. If there’s a business case, make sure you’re asking yourself the right questions first and foremost. Only you know whether you actually need to switch, just as only you will know why you need that fancy new iPad.

Drill into the features & the gaps

Once you’re sure of the need, and of why you need to switch, it’s time to drill into the features that your ideal CRM software would have. It’s not a case of looking for alternative CRMs right now – don’t. Consider your business, your organisation, and how you would build your ideal CRM system around you.

There will inevitably be gaps between what you have now and what you want, so identify them, but identify who they impact. This will involve in-depth discussions around the business about how they use the CRM–or indeed, whether they use it at all. The discussion will involve how each department can work better with others, and how technology could help them improve current processes. Get this picture, and you’re developing an understanding of the system your business truly needs.

Harness the culture change

User acceptance is key to getting CRM switches through. Having already established some form of CRM acceptance gives you a head start – this is not like moving from a zero system situation to full-on CRM. You already have internal knowledge of CRM and its possibilities – and you’ve already established the wishlist (or the gaps) within each department, as well as the potential.

Now, sell the potential. Develop champions within each stakeholder department and engage them in engaging others around the business. Get them to help you source potential CRM providers, and ‘ride the wave’ of enthusiasm that you will no doubt encounter!

Fleshing out the detail

The technical switch between CRM systems is lengthy, detailed and fraught with complications. For example, the step up from Sage Act to MS Dynamics may have similarities, but is actually a significant change for a growing business. Users may be used to the way certain information is presented, and may have developed habits over time because of the incumbent CRM system.

Therefore, you need to balance out a customization of the new system that will make it easy for people to use, along with a detailed data switch-over plan. Remember, the data is held on a supplier environment, so it is essential that when fleshing out the detail, you do so with both the incumbent and the new provider, so that the transfer of data fields is seamless. Can you maintain those links that you have crated between contacts, companies & opportunities?

Test & Tease

The testing phase is absolutely critical, but so is the teasing phase. Remember those benefits? That wishlist and those gaps that you wanted to plug? Launch an internal comms campaign based around what was missing – those features that you didn’t have.

One of the major reasons CRM projects fail is a lack of communication, resulting in a lack of uptake. Use your champions, use your marketing team, and get the most compelling message you can out there, saying that you’ve all contributed, we’ve listened, and the business has invested.

Switching CRM suppliers is an art, as much as it is a science. Remember, while it’s all about technology on the face of it, it’s really all about the people!

Looking for more information on selecting or switching CRM platforms? Browse all exclusive content on CRM implementation tips, product reviews and industry news and events in our CRM software research center. To review your software options, check out one of our downloadable CRM software comparison reports

  • Consultant

Gareth Cartman

Marketing Manager, Clever Little Design
Business blogger with interest in CRM, IT, Marketing and HR.
Gareth Cartman is a business blogger with a particular interest in marketing, CRM, IT and human resources. With several years' experience managing acquisition and digital marketing for HR outsourcing, Gareth knows how to deliver value and success.