Finding the right CRM implementation strategy for a particular business can be tricky. Size, existing infrastructure and daily operations are different for every company, so installation plans need to adapt to those factors.

However, there are a few CRM implementation best practices that are consistent regardless of outside factors:

1. Audit current needs and expectations
Before creating an implementation schedule, a business must perform a complete inventory of IT assets and infrastructure needs. All departments should contribute goals for the software. Econsultancy advised companies exploring CRM software solutions to ask the following questions:

-What CRM features are needed?
-How much is the company willing to spend?
-Does the business have the necessary hardware?
-How tech-savvy are the employees?

These and many other questions dictate what kind of performance an organization is expecting from CRM solutions and make scheduling benchmarks easier.

Finally, companies have to be sure they have plenty of time available for an implementation schedule. The amount of time needed to fully implement a new system varies depending on how large a company is, but it is a good idea to allow for plenty of time no matter the size.

2. Clearly define steps
CRM software implementation is an incremental process. It’s not just a matter of installing a program and going to work. A system that performs at an optimal level is one that was implemented using a schedule with clearly defined steps.

Once again, the needs of different companies are unique, but B2B Marketing provided suggestions for basic schedule goals. A business has to start by prepping their existing data for migration and configuring current systems. Then the software can be installed and upgraded. After that, data is imported and integration of service can begin. The process should then be checked for any redundancies or unused services. A company needs to acquire the technology from a software provider that will work with it as each segment of implementation is performed.

Each one of these steps may take hours, days or weeks depending on the requirements of the business.  Managers should record how long initial adoption procedures take to create a standard to measure future progress. A software partner can help businesses decide what is an appropriate amount of time for each step in the timeline.

3. Check on progress
Tech Target advised companies implement CRM services with a “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst” philosophy. A schedule of adoption should be created assuming mistakes will not be made and the necessary resources will be available. At the same time, the schedule should contain buffer periods to check progress and reconfigure solutions.

Plenty of time for sit-down meetings has to blocked out on the implementation timeline. Companies want to schedule analysis and restructuring during the adoption periods that are the riskiest and show the most potential for difficulties. Regular meetings with the software partner should be arranged to provide assistance and schedule reassessment.

Users should be reporting constant updates. Tech Target indicated casual users may not be quick to voice progress. A project manager needs to stay on top of daily usage and find small successes in implementation. Any time a single process is improved or a new function is fully acclimated into business procedures, it needs to be reported.

4. Be flexible
Surprises during a software implementation aren’t always bad. Sometimes employees discover useful CRM services they had not expected as they use the technology.

Expanded use and new solutions can’t go ignored. Sticking too stringently to an implementation schedule may cause a company to focus on meeting deadlines created without proper insight into software performance. As the implementation proceeds, the buffer times arranged for meetings may host new ideas and participants can create augmented schedules.

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” The amount of work and forethought that goes into creating a CRM solutions implementation schedule prepares a company for a system shift. As adoption occurs, though, a business wants it to be performed by a project manager, implementation team and a CRM consultant ready to adjust for maximum performance.