5 things you should be careful of while migrating your CRM system

With the IT ecosystem in a continuous state of flux, especially with new developments in social, mobile and cloud capabilities effecting paradigm changes in the way companies operate, changes have become the norm rather than the exception. In such a scenario, many companies look to migrate their CRM systems to a newer, more capable one.

Migrating the CRM system, however, is tricky business. Unless done right, the losses in term of high cost, disruptions to business process, customer dissatisfaction and more can overwhelm the company.

Pay heed to these five crucial aspects to ensure that you migrate the right customer data in the right way and thereby avoid the perils associated with the switch.

  1. 1. Have a Well Defined Plan

Many companies rush in to upgrade their legacy CRM system without a well-laid out plan. Make sure to draw up a plan that lays down the specific objectives of the migration and fixes responsibilities for each and every specific objective upfront, as this is essential to take control of the project from start to finish. A well-executed CRM project requires the right people to execute the right processes using the right tools.

An important priority is to make sure that the required hardware and software is in place. There is nothing more disruptive than having the old system uninstalled only to see the new system installation fail for lack of sufficient hard drive space, or else for the implementation to stall because there are not enough client licenses for the database system!

Also, the best CRM migration exercise is accompanied by a comprehensive sales process reengineering. Many enterprises, however, fail to grasp this opportunity and instead settle for a series of minor, tactical changes. This stifles, to a large extent, the possibilities provided by a new generation CRM, meaning that the pains of change, may not, in the end be worth its while.

  1. 2. Do Not Make Unrealistic Estimates

Many IT managers, in their eagerness to please their bosses, or simply to avoid being the conveyor of bad news tend to underestimate the time and cost required for the migration. This is a big blunder, for apart from the perils that time and cost overrun always attract, it would invariably result in having to make compromises. In the best-case scenario, this would lead to failure in realizing the full benefits of the migration. But in the worst-case scenario, it would require the process to be repeated, meaning that the entire exercise had been futile, costing the company even more time and money.

The biggest underestimations pertain to how much data and what types of data to migrate. Then there is failure to set aside time for unexpected data quality problems and other issues that pop up along the way.

  1. 3. Be On Guard Against Data Cleanup Mistakes

CRM migration is a costly affair, and the quantity of data that needs migration can influence costs in a big way. Small businesses with 10 users or fewer employees usually find the cost of data migration about 60% of the total cost of implementing new CRM software, and for larger companies, economies of scale notwithstanding, the cost of data migration is usually around 25% of the total cost.

Most companies undertake a data cleansing exercise prior to migration, to avoid migrating unnecessary or corrupted data and thereby reduce costs. However, a lot of things can go wrong during the data cleansing and migration phase, meaning that the system may remain offline longer than anticipated and worse, misunderstandings may result in implementing unintended things.

A critical point in the entire migration exercise is determining what data to migrate. Every little bit of customer related information would always look important but the enterprise runs the risk of wasting time, storage space and cash if they move too much information. This is especially true when migrating to a cloud based CRM when data beyond a certain threshold may increase storage costs exponentially.

The enterprise needs to take a call on what to migrate and what to abandon. Old contact records, customer service emails, history records such as mail merges and mass emails, and customer service reports are prime examples of what to abandon, but this ultimately depends on the business. The best practice is to analyze how the business actually uses any specific information. This offers insight on which type of information is likely to find use in future and which information is more likely to remain idle and would not be worth the time, cost and hassle to migrate.

At times, businesses fail to properly account for all the data stored in myriad legacy systems, such as local MS-Excel sheets, email lists and event management platforms and critical pieces of data fall through the cracks. However, it is not essential to include all legacy systems either. It makes sense to eliminate sources that are for all practical purposes deadwood. As a rule of thumb, companies usually retain about five or more years’ worth of historical customer information and delete the rest.

It is a good practice to keep the old system active for about six months after the migration is effected, so that any mistake committed during the data cleansing and migration phase can be revoked and the business need not come to a halt for lack of adequate information in the new CRM. Omitting important data, such as a table or field deemed as unnecessary, may not be retrievable and the loss of such data may be irreparable.

  1. 4. Garner All Round Support

Many companies consider the CRM to start and end with software, and in the process neglect the human element of the equation. CRM involves automation, and many enterprises make the mistake of assuming that automating the sales process is similar to automating manufacturing or finance. The degree of complexity in implementing a CRM system is significantly higher, and the biggest complexity relates to people. Companies would do well to take employees into confidence and involve the rank and file users of the system when going in for CRM migration. At the end of the day, it is such rank and file employees who would be using the new system, and these employees would be best placed to identify and highlight inadequacies of the existing system.

A big complexity that many companies do not cater for is resistance to change. It is natural for the rank-and-file to resist change, as people tend to prefer status-quo, however disadvantageous such status-quo may be. The need of the hour is a proactive effort to convince such resisters the benefits of migrating, and supporting them to bridge the skill-gap. Failure to do so might mean a lukewarm or half-hearted implementation, with many hold-ups, and the new system remaining underutilized.

Apart from the emotional resistance, shifting from a legacy system to a new system may create many genuine issues, and some issues may be too minor but yet have major consequences. Ignoring such issues can cause serious disruptions, and it is a good idea to work closely with employees who will be using the new system and keep them abreast of any process that may be affected as a result of the CRM migration. It is important to train the employees who would be using the new CRM system to ensure that such issues are preempted and the migration does not result in any serious disruptions.

Many companies pursuing a CRM implementation project get into a knot over budget, and as such tend to give training the short-shrift. This is a very big mistake that may significantly reduce the benefits of the new system.

  1. 5. Get Implementation Right

Many enterprises, even when getting the process right, mess up at the implementation stage.

One thing that many enterprises forget when undertaking a migration exercise is the reports normally generated out of the CRM. Most enterprises customize reports over and above the out of the box reports offered by the CRM suite. It is important to ensure that the new system would continue to offer such custom reports. The CRM migration exercise requires a detailed inventory of all of reports, including what the queries are, who gets the reports and what data needs to be captured.

Another, often overlooked, factor is ensuring that the networks and connections remain in place even after the migration. While ensuring that internal users remain connected even after migration is easy and straightforward, the legacy system may have many mobile and external users. It is important to plan ahead and test for remote access by end users before the final roll-out of the new system.

Finally, many enterprises approach implementation from an IT perspective, giving priority to the software, hardware and network over business processes. While such considerations are important, make sure that the focus is on making the actual business processes related to customer service, sales, and marketing smooth and seamless.

Migrating to a new CRM system is an adventure, and success depends on both principles and tactics. There is no one right way, but unless there is persistence and a strong will to complete the  process, the effort would resemble the fate of Sisyphus of Greek mythology, condemned to roll a rock up a hill all day, until it rolls down back to the bottom under its own weight at night.

Image Credit: pshab on Flickr

Author : Nayab Naseer Date : 12 Jan 2015