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What are the causes of CRM failure?

crm failure

After much investigation, we're implementing a popular system. I'm a little incredulous that actual crm failure happens often enough for folks to talk about "failure rates." What typically causes this?


Jane Levin
Title: Corporate Controller
Company: Private
(Corporate Controller, Private) |

Non-adoption is the killer for CRM. Integration with existing tools (e.g. MS Outlook and your financial system) and training, training, training. Also useful are metrics and rewards (or punishments, but the former usually work better) based on activity levels in the system. That is, use the system to report on whether folks are using the system.

You need a forklift to get folks fully committed to the new system and most will simply not use it, or will only partially use it as a contact manager and as a place to enter deals they are about to book. Thus the suggestions above to break through that wall. Good luck.

Sarah Jackson
Title: Associate Editor
Company: Proformative
(Associate Editor, Proformative) |

You might want to take a look at these two free whitepapers from the vast Proformative Library:

CRM: Improve Adoption, Improve Revenue

Salesforce CRM and PSA Integration

There are some good insights in there.

Good luck! Best... Sarah

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Every successful Sales person has some form of a CRM – Access database, Excel file, Daily planner, Post-its, To Do list... Issues with adoption from this population center around perception – the new system is not as flexible as the current process; the CRM will be used to monitor hours worked; the client relationship belongs to Sales, not the company.

The only successful way to implement a CRM, that I have seen, is to populate the system with leads. The message to the Sales Force - "If you want the quality leads, you need to use the system."

Good luck.

Patricia Hickey
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: CCS
(Chief Financial Officer, CCS) |

I think you first need to define what you consider failure. If 100% adoption plus using the system to its full capability is your definition of success, almost any CRM implementation would be a failure.

What I did was get a team together early on consisting of people who would be using the system. I asked what they wanted and needed from a CRM system. They were involved in helping design the system. So early buy in from the users was key.

Next was lots of communication to the firm on how the new system will help them develop business. We did a full data migration and created dashboards/reports that would be useful.

It takes time and a lot of effort. Make the system such that they have to go into it for at least some basic information/tasks. Once they are in, they may be more likely to adopt it for other sales related activities.

Topic Expert
Bob Scarborough
Title: CEO
Company: Tensoft, Inc.
(CEO, Tensoft, Inc.) |

In my experience the main cause of CRM failure is a lack of executive commitment. Front office systems, including CRM, are different than back office systems. Accounting and manufacturing systems are well accepted and required to get things done. The benefit to every user and the company is clear. This is not the same for CRM solutions. Yes every sales person may need a contact management system to help them manage their time – but that doesn’t mean they need a corporate system to help them with this task - integration is not a benefit to every sales person. Help desk or marketing functionality may be different in terms of the need for tracking – but even there they can often survive without a system in place.

The key to CRM is to understand the benefit is greater to the company as a whole than to many of the individual users of the system. Corporate visibility into pipeline, close ratio, sales activity, marketing activity, customer 360 reviews – all of these benefits are for the company. If you approach your CRM system as an end user tool rather than a corporate benefit tool you will usually struggle. If the VP of Sales and the CEO insist the system will be used because they understand the benefit to your organization then the CRM will be successful.

Sure – things like ease of use and fit for your industry purpose are critical items. Certainly integration with Office or other productivity tools is critical. However what I’ve experienced shows the issue is less about these productivity items and more about executive direction.

Bob Scarborough

Dan Feely
Title: President
Company: TSI-Transforming Solutions, Inc.
LinkedIn Profile
(President, TSI-Transforming Solutions, Inc.) |

Lack of adoption is usually a function of a few elements:

1. what process did you follow to define your needs and include key subject matter experts?

2. what criteria did you use to select the "best" system (and how did those SMEs weigh in)?

3. Did you establish a business case (often taking an improved process perspective) to drive this?

4. How committed are executives?

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I agree with all plus a) proper planning, which would provide the organization with a full understanding of both issues, Hazards or problems that will be encountered And finally the sheer amount of work that is necessary to accomplish the project.
b) Buy in from all aspects of the company and user groups, Without user group by in the can be no system implementation


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