A CRM implementation project plan includes detailed workstreams with clear milestones for dozens of items: configuration, conversion, integrations, information delivery, testing, and so much more. However, a crucial component for success is vital to track and discuss throughout your implementation, and it doesn’t have a bar on your Gantt chart. That is: the transformation of a core group of your staff into the owners and experts of your institution’s new CRM. Like so many growth processes, it is gradual but essential to your success.

Early in the implementation, your team will lean on the expertise of the implementation consultants to advise, understand and retain the configuration decisions your team makes. Of course, your team cannot yet be experts. As the project  progresses, through configuration decisions and validation, developing information outputs, determining integrations, mapping and validating conversion, and more, your team will grow in expertise and step up into ownership of “our CRM.” 

If this growth doesn’t happen, and your team leans too heavily on consultants late in the implementation, the risks for adoption and success after go-live are high. Yet implementations don’t typically have particular steps or milestones to track that growth and development, and it doesn’t appear on the plan. Instead, this growth in ownership is gradual and disseminated throughout the implementation as an expected outcome without a dedicated workstream 

How do you know if your team is on track?

Here are some examples of what Zuri Group has seen when organizations emphasize and successfully achieve this quiet but critical development:

Conversion Mapping

The organization’s core team grows in their ability to bring configuration decisions into data mapping discussions. Initial mapping typically requires consulting expertise with configuration. As the work progresses, the institution’s core team deeply understands configuration choices and the implications for mapping historical data.

User Communication

Your team’s control, or lack of control, over the messages about the implementation is a helpful tell-tale to monitor. The communication plan typically includes sharing functional tidbits at routine junctures to inform and encourage end-users. Early communications may require the consultant to plan and drive a show-and-tell. But then, delightfully, your team grows in comfort with designing and leading these communications or demonstrations. When they confidently walk their colleagues through use cases as part of the communications, it exhibits ownership.

Leading UAT

By the time user acceptance testing (UAT) is planned and executed, successful teams are demonstrating their thorough understanding and ownership of their CRM. The core team is confidently writing test scenarios (perhaps adapting some starters provided by the consultant). They prepare sample records to match scenarios and test the use cases before end-user UAT. They provide orientation to UAT participants, and assess users’ findings. The consultants shift to support the core team with complex puzzles, tackle findings, and update configuration.

Design Information Delivery

Great CRM implementations start with the end in mind, and how users receive and consume information is a fundamental shift in CRM ecosystems. Successful organizations are able to design, develop, and deliver some reports in preparation for go-live. This demonstrates mastery of the new application(s), understanding of converted data, and knowledge of business needs. Consultants frequently start and create templates for reporting resources that the team can then transform to meet specific needs. 

How do you set the stage for this kind of success?

  1. Invite and identify the core team and super-users for project participation. The key staffer needed for configuration decisions may not be the future-facing super-user; you need them both. Find your future-facing super-users who are interested in learning and excited to support their department or area. Get them into the project early to work alongside the trusted expert of your current processes.
  2. Ensure staff has time for self-study and full participation in early project work like configuration decisions, validation, and initial conversion mapping. This sets the groundwork for ownership.
  3. Allow space for exploration, error, or imperfect knowledge. If the focus is on perfection at every step, the core team may miss out on learning opportunities. In many cases throughout a CRM implementation, it is possible to change your mind when presented with new or different information. Allow the team the flexibility to explore alternatives when possible.
  4. Set the expectation for understanding and taking ownership of configuration, reporting, and functionality. Successful project leadership demonstrates what is expected of the team, making and owning decisions with the consultants providing expert advice.

Think of this opportunity as a team of learning athletes with the consultants coaching. You don’t want the coaches playing in the competitions if you expect the young athletes to make up the team for the big tournament. Help your team stand up and grow in confidence as the project progresses. Your CRM implementation will be a winner!

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About Zuri Group

Zuri Group serves advancement clients in higher education, healthcare, and nonprofit arenas. We help organizations raise more money and build better relationships through implementing and optimizing best-in-class systems and operations. We help dozens of clients leverage Salesforce, Microsoft, Blackbaud, and other applications. Founded in 2007, Zuri has supported hundreds of clients who in 2021 raised over $25 billion.

As President of CRM Services, Ken leads the CRM team on custom client projects. He also develops software solutions, such as Aqueduct, that benefit nonprofit organizations.

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