CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 2, Planning and Budgeting

Last week we shared CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 1, Getting Buy-In. This is our CRM five part series:  1) Getting Buy-In, 2) Planning and Budgeting, 3) Implementation, 4) Data Management, and 5) Impact and ROI.

Part 2 – Planning and Budgeting

Since CRM software enables you to not only manage client contact information and mailing lists easily and efficiently, but also to integrate contact information with your time and billing system, Outlook, and VoIP phone system, as well as to schedule events and identify cross-sell opportunities, it can be very powerful.

But to get the most out of it, you can’t just plug and go. You need to determine what you want to do with CRM, budget for it, and then allow time for planning and preparation. Here’s what the panelists had to say about that.

View More: Hafley comments:
There’s a lot of baby steps involved in implementing CRM. We broke the process down into a couple of key projects so we could show what the current situation was and how CRM would make it better. We had hoped to get CRM going the same year we started, but because we moved slowly and methodically, it spread out over two budget years. It was about 10 months between when we started looking at systems and when we kicked off CRM with a firm-wide meeting.

Joseph_Barb_PP (1)Barbara Joseph comments:
We split our CRM startup, as well as the budget for it, over two years. Because of the recession when we started in 2009, and the fact that CRM would be a major purchase, it was about 14 months from the time we started the RFP process until we implemented the system.

Because our database was so bad, I started by doing an audit of our attorneys to find out how many contacts they had and how they were managing them. It ran the gamut from business cards, Rolodex, and Word document to Excel spreadsheet and Outlook. But we were pleased to find that 60% of our attorneys were using Outlook contacts, which showed they could use a system like ContactEase that integrates with Outlook.

 “By doing the cost-benefit analysis, I was able to show how we could reallocate personnel time, save money, and expand our benefits. For me, that was the most persuasive argument for investing in CRM. ”  — Joy Long

We then looked at a lot of different products and talked to a lot of people. Also, we did focus groups internally to find out what we would want besides basic contact information so we could categorize contacts. Then I wrote a detailed RFP that covered all the different items we were looking at and their costs. I was willing to push for CRM because I believed that once people could see the system in motion, they would support it.

Two months after the botched mailing I mentioned, the word came down that we were going to move forward. We purchased CRM a few months later, and then it took about two more months to get ready and start implementation.

One thing I’ve learned from doing three CRM implementations is that you need to keep your plan simple. You see so many bells and whistles and possibilities when you’re trying to buy a CRM. But when you get down to brass tacks, what do you really need?

Cole Valley was great about providing us with an implementation plan that gave us a base for developing one tailored to our firm. This is where you have to be absolutely realistic. I’m not saying to under promise and over deliver, but to be realistic about what your staffing is and what you can do and accomplish, knowing what your company’s needs are.

Another thing I’ve learned is to never say: “Let’s just get the product and I’ll worry about how to keep it running correctly later.” For me it’s important to have a full-time data steward, someone who is in charge of the database and has primary responsibility for data cleanup. This is something you have to think of when you’re budgeting for CRM. If you’re not looking at how you’re going to keep the data clean, I don’t know how CRM is not going to fail.

Stay tuned for next week’s article – CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 3, Implementation. For the full whitepaper visit our website –

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