One of the most frequent inquiries I still get from clients is: “How do we avoid CRM technology project pitfalls?”

Forrester Research is collaborating with CustomerThink to conduct a study about the future of CRM. The goal is to discover, define, and quantify the critical success factors that lead to successful CRM initiatives. For the purposes of the study, CRM is defined as the processes and supporting technologies used to target, acquire, retain, understand, and collaborate with customers.

In the age of the customer, there is only one source of competitive differentiation: an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers. This means effectively managing the four key components of CRM: strategy, process, people, and technology.

Survey participants will receive a free report analyzing the results.

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The last time I conducted this study, I received responses from 133 organizations using at one least of 24 different CRM technology solutions. I found that the risk of a spectacular project failure was still high. These companies reported more than 200 problems, comprised of 27 risk areas in four categories. One-third of the problems related to technology; 27% spotlighted inadequate business processes; 22% related to “people” challenges; and 18% comprised CRM strategy and deployment issues.

Consider these statements as they portray your organization. A “Yes” or “No” answer will spotlight the hazards before they sink your program.


  1. The CRM solution we have chosen is mature and well-proven in use at other organizations with requirements similar to our company.
  2. The CRM solution we have chosen is flexible and can be easily adapted to meet unanticipated requirements in the future.
  3. The CRM solution we have chosen does not have any major functionality deficiency gaps relative to our requirements.
  4. We have clearly defined how the data required to support our CRM solution will be defined, transferred, maintained, and governed.
  5. We have determined that the CRM solution we have chosen can meet our specific system performance requirements.
  6. Our business and IT resources have sound understanding of the CRM solution we intend to implement.
  7. We have a sufficient number of technically competent internal resources available to implement our CRM solution.
  8. We have done due diligence to confirm that the vendor resources to be assigned to our CRM project have sound technical skills with respect to their company’s solution.
  9. The CRM solution we have chosen uses the most up-to-date role-based UI design principles so that it can be easily adapted to a range of user needs in our organization.

Business processes

  1. We have undertaken to define and document the business processes we expect our CRM solution to support.
  2. The vendor solution we have chosen is flexible enough so that the tool can be easily mapped our business processes.
  3. The CRM solution we have chosen can be sufficiently customized to meet our requirements with little effort.
  4. The CRM solution we have chosen is compatible with the technical architecture environment and future strategy of our organization.
  5. The CRM solution we have chosen has well-proven capabilities to integrate with specific important applications and databases within our organization.


  1. To be successful, the new business processes and CRM solution we intend to introduce will require little change in the culture of our organization.
  2. We have a well-defined program to support the changes to the new ways of working in our company, including visible leadership and communications from top management.
  3. The CRM initiative will require little change to the business processes used by front-line employees.
  4. We understand the challenges of gaining acceptance for the use of CRM solutions and have specific plans in place to mitigate these challenges.
  5. We are investing sufficient resources to provide adequate training and education for users to support their adoption of our CRM solution.
  6. We have complete CRM solution documentation and will provide sufficient ongoing help for users to support their adoption of our CRM solution.


  1. We have achieved clear and documented agreement between business and IT leaders about the project objectives for our CRM initiative.
  2. We have defined and documented the business requirements for our CRM initiative.
  3. We have defined a CRM deployment methodology based on best practices.
  4. We have a sufficient number of business and IT resources available for successful completion of our CRM initiative.
  5. Our schedule for implementation is realistic in light of the experiences of other organizations similar to our company.
  6. We have put in place a sound cost management governance structure and tracking system.
  7. We have negotiated a transparent contract with our vendor that clearly defines scope, cost parameters, and service levels.

For additional CRM best practices, check out the Forrester CRM playbook.